Doctor Who: Verdigris Review

Verdigris Cover

By Will Barber – Taylor

While staying at The Doctor’s country home in Kent, Jo Grant meets Iris Wildthyme and her latest companion, Tom. They soon become involved in a group of aliens who are trying to take over the Earth dressed as characters from works of fiction. Tom soon becomes a member of the mysterious Destiny’s Children. They believe that The Doctor and Iris are frauds. But they have been manipulated by an even greater force, the being known as Verdigris.

The characters in this book are excellent.  Paul Maggs get The Third Doctor down to a tee. He truly is the same Doctor we saw in the TV series, sophisticated, action loving and very much an authority figure. Indeed, you can hear Pertwee saying the lines, particularly in the end scene in the book where he confronts Verdigris and the Galactic Council. This is a Pertwee novel and not simply a Colin Baker story with Peter Davison’s face on it. (You know what I’m talking about Terrence Dicks.)  This is also not the Pertwee we see in the failure of an episode, Dimensions in Time. This is 70’s Pertwee at his best.

Iris Wildthyeme, Maggs’s own creation, is excellent in this story very much playing of against Pertwee’s Doctor. It is interesting how through the course of the novel, The Doctor and Iris’s relationship changes from frosty disapproval into one mutual admiration.  Iris’s character evolves from mad renegade into a fully formed character, as we see her quietly slip away without saying goodbye. Iris is sorry for the events of Verdigris and not being able to say goodbye is her way of showing how ashamed she is.  I hope very much that Iris will be mentioned or better yet appear in the next series.

The problem with this novel is it is too long. The alien invasion takes up too much of the book and though the Children of Destiny (most likely influenced by the 70’s TV show The Tomorrow People.) are fun at first, they get gradually more and more annoying. The true problem of the book though is that it does have a stop and start feel to it.  It’s almost as though the book is a collection of ideas, some good and some bad which have been put together. However, they don’t all fit together. Verdigris  could have come up with a better plan. Why use the race you first encounter? Like I said, Verdigris is a bit of a muddled book. However, it is a very enjoyable, muddled book and I highly recommend it.

The descriptions are excellent.

“And then, clutching our burning brands and our tambourines, we all went dancing and skipping about in the cavern; each of us ancient novices keeping one, perfect gold and black painted eye attentively fixed on the rapt, ecstatic High Priestess and the gambolling fluid flames that shot out of the of the sacred crevice and leapt fully five feet tall into the humid gloom, thrilling us all –I can tell you- to bits.”

The above quotation, when Iris is in a dreamlike state, beautifully conjures up the pace and manner of the book.

Verdigris is a great book if like some people it is slightly confused about its identity. Is it an action book? Is it a slapstick comedy? Really it’s a bit of both and in some parts, it does not work well. But as Iris might say “It’s a bit mad, but it’s wonderful.”

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