Novel Review: Legacy

We’re back! Today, we’re reviewing the next entry in the New Adventures series of Seventh Doctor novels, Gary Russell’s Legacy. The twenty-fifth novel in the series, this book was published in April 1994 (nearly 27 years ago!), and features the Seventh Doctor, Ace, and Bernice. Let’s get started!

Some spoilers ahead! For a more spoiler-free review, skip down to the line divider, below.

The Doctor is in pursuit of a murderer. That would be bad enough, but there’s a complication: The victim was the daughter of the leader of the Galactic Federation. She was killed due to her pursuit of an ancient, and possibly evil, artifact called the Diadem—on a world very familiar to the Doctor: Peladon.

The Doctor takes Bernice to Peladon to search for the murderer in the midst of King Tarrol’s Restatement ceremony, an occasion with delegations from across the Federation in attendance, including a delegation of Ice Warriors, much to Benny’s delight. Meanwhile he sends Ace to the planet Pakha, home of the slain woman’s partner in the archaeological expedition, to follow up on the Diadem itself.

But one murder is never enough for the power-hungry, and more people fall victim to the murderer. Nothing is as it appears, and the real villain (or villains, perhaps?) will not be who anyone expects—least of all the Doctor.

Not that anyone is worried about the Doctor’s opinion—after all, he just became the next victim.

I fear that I’ve waited too long to review this story—about fourteen months—and won’t really be able to do it justice. To refresh my memory, I’ve been reading through the excellent and thorough plot summary over on the Doctor Who Reference Guide, and constantly shaking my head at all the details I’ve forgotten. Still, we’ll give it a try!

We revisit an old friend here: the planet Peladon, from the Third Doctor’s era. The Doctor has been here at least four times previously; however, he only mentions two. Out of universe, this is because two of those stories–The Prisoner of Peladon and The Bride of Peladon–are Big Finish audios which had not yet been recorded at this novel’s publication. The two mentioned appearances are television’s The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon, both Third Doctor serials. Placing this story in time is a bit of an exercise, but with a cheat sheet at the end; one could nearly nail it down from various clues, but then later, in the Eighth Doctor Adventures novel Placebo Effect, Russell places this novel in the year 3984. This makes it the third of a series of four visits to Peladon roughly every fifty years: Curse in 3885, Monster in 3935, Legacy in 3985, and (as hopefully one day I’ll cover) Bride in 4035. (Prisoner doesn’t seem to fit the pattern.) Most characters have changed or been replaced since last time; the notable exception is our giant-eyed friend Alpha Centauri, who seems to be particularly long-lived.

It’s perhaps a bit unfair to compare two unrelated stories in this series, but I find it useful here in order to illustrate what I liked about Legacy. The previous book, Tragedy Day, I would describe as complicated; but this one, as complex. Tragedy Day was complicated largely because it was so ambitious; it tries to do, well, everything, and as a result it’s chaotic. It has…I’m trying very hard not to use the phrase too many, because that would be unfair. But, it has a great number of villains, plot threads, and twists, and as such it’s a bit hard to follow. It’s certainly fun along the way, though. Legacy, by contrast, is much more streamlined, but there’s layer upon layer within each plot thread. No character is without secrets here, and you never know until late in the game just who is trustworthy and who isn’t. Every turn of the plot is fully justified—nothing is just for show—but you won’t fully get the justification until the end. It’s a great piece of work.

I was especially pleased with the portrayal of the Ice Warriors here. This didn’t have to be an Ice Warrior story—as a bit of a tell, if you look at the wiki page’s book details box, you won’t find Ice Warriors listed under “Main enemy”. Certainly there’s precedent; they were on Peladon previously. But the Ice Warriors as seen here are not one-dimensional enemies. They’re seen as an honorable society with a certain degree of guilt that they must live with—which is, I think, a view very in line with their occasional portrayals in NuWho. And let’s face it: Doctor Who has enough villains who are always evil, or at least evil from the perspective of the Doctor and his companions. Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels, the list could go on; we get the occasional individual whose nature is changed in some way, but as a group they remain villains. The Ice Warriors are better than that, and as such a bit more believable when portrayed fairly, as they are here.

Continuity References: So many that I certainly won’t be able to cover them all, which seems to be a thing with Gary Russell (not that I’m complaining!). In addition to the frequent references to previous Peladon stories, here’s a sampling: Mavic Chen (The Daleks’ Master PlanNeverland) becomes the Guardian of the Solar System. The Dalek War in The Daleks’ Master Plan is noted to be thirty years in the future. The Doctor mentions the events of The Ice Warriors as six hundred years ago (which may or may not be accurate). Space Station Zenobia is seen (The Mysterious Planet. Time Rings are a recent development (recent in Time Lord terms, anyway; Genesis of the Daleks; also Who Killed Kennedy, in which a dangerous prototype was used). The Horus ruins were recently discovered (Pyramids of Mars). Windchimes from Deva Loka make an appearance (Kinda). Cybermen appear to be extinct, although we know that’s not actually true; both New Mondas and Telos have been destroyed (Telos). A Felinetta appears in flashback, their actual first appearance (Invasion of the Cat-People). Various Federation species are mentioned: The Ogri (The Stones of Blood), the Lurmans (Carnival of Monsters), and the Cantryans (Destiny of the Daleks). Benny has memories of Mars that are not her own (Transit). Kaldor City (The Robots of Death) is mentioned as being on Japetus, which is contradicted by later stories. Sontaran fragmentation grenades first appeared in the novelization of Terror of the Autons. There’s a description of unarmored Ice Warriors which will much later prove to be consistent with their portrayal in Cold War. The Time Lord CIA (Celestial Intervention Agency) is mentioned in connection with Chancellor Goth (The War Games, et al.) The Pakhars—whom I haven’t discussed, but whom I find greatly entertaining every time they appear—have a legend about a Daemon asleep on their planet (The Daemons). The Diadem entity is compared to the Mind Parasite from The Mind of Evil. Draconians are mentioned (Frontier in Space). And none of this is getting into references to the recent books in this series!

There are also a few out-of-universe points worth mentioning. An in-universe book is authored by one Grith Robtts, a reference to Gareth Roberts. This story, like Sword of Orion, was originally intended to be audio in the Audio Visuals fan series (Sword actually was produced as an AV; the Orions get a mention in this novel). The TARDIS is seen to have a room that is very much a holodeck, a la Star Trek: The Next Generation, if not called that.

Overall: This novel is a continuity porn dream, something that fans in our fandom tend to love (myself included). Honestly, it amazes me that it’s Gary Russell’s first Doctor Who work (I’ve read others, but out of order), given how thoroughly connected it is. The downside is that it means it’s not very approachable for fans who aren’t well versed in classic Doctor Who. But then again, not every novel should be a jumping-on point for new fans; and there’s nothing wrong with having a story that caters to those of us who have been with the series since time immemorial. If you fall into that category, you’re going to love it. And if not, well, stick around; we have better options for you coming soon!

Next time: We’ll check out one of my favorites so far, and a good Benny story to boot: Justin Richards’s Theatre of War! See you there.

A prelude to Legacy can be found here.

The New Adventures series is currently out of print, but may be purchased in previously owned form via Ebay and other resellers.

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