Book Review: Virgin Missing Adventures – The Scales of Injustice by Gary Russell
Although not a Doctor Who novel I would have picked randomly, I ended up reading it because of it being chosen as the next discussion book for The Doctor Who Book Club Podcast, which I have recently become infatuated with. As it turns out, I ended up enjoying The Scales of Injustice greatly, and I really can’t figure out why I didn’t think I would.
“The Silurians” and “The Sea Devils” are two of my absolute favorite Doctor Who serials. I love the idea of an alien whose role as a villain or a friend is ambiguous. The Earth Reptiles (as they refer to themselves in this novel) are neither good nor bad; there are some among them who think that an alliance with humans is the right thing to do, and others who, much like the humans, believe the only answer is to eradicate their opposition. This conflict in the television serials and in this novel throw away the standard “good vs. evil” mentality of a lot of Doctor Who stories. The ambiguity is really what makes it interesting.
Not long after the events of “Inferno,” the Silurians appear to be causing trouble around England again. A handful of people suddenly go missing, and naturally, the Doctor and UNIT spring into action to find the source of the disappearances. It quickly becomes apparent what is behind the incidences, and the Doctor once again tries to negotiate a peace between the humans and the reptilian humanoids who previously ruled the planet.
The Scales of Injustice goes a long way to fix some perceived continuity errors that would pop up in the later Fifth Doctor serial “Warriors of the Deep.” Although I haven’t seen the Fifth Doctor story in question, there are apparently some issues in that the Doctor in “Warriors of the Deep” appears to already have a previous relationship with characters that hadn’t previous appeared on the show. In this novel, the first meeting of the Doctor and some of the characters later in that serial is shown, thus fixing the problem. It is a good example of a tie-in working to benefit continuity, rather than mess it up.
Gary Russell’s greatest strength is his quality of characters. He has a perfect grasp of who everyone is, including both the characters that had already existed in the show, and his own characters are as interesting and three-dimensional as the ones we are already familiar with. Among his created characters are the villains, who I won’t go into detail about for spoilery reasons, and the Brigadier’s secretary Maisie Hawke, a headstrong and intelligent woman who is written in such a way that she feels like a character we’ve known all along. Although apparently she is based on an unnamed character who has a minor appearance in “Day of the Daleks,” this is for all intents and purposes her creation. She, and the aforementioned villains, are well-written and interesting characters that I found myself wanting to know more about.
The best part of the novel is the character development of Liz Shaw and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. In Liz’s storyline, we get to know a lot more about what is going on inside of her head, especially in the events leading to her departure from UNIT. Russell is loyal to who she is in the television show, with adding just enough to make her an even more likable character than she already was. It makes me wish even more that we had a chance to see more of her on the show.
In the Brigadier’s storyline, Russell writes a bit of his private life. We see him interact with his wife and daughter, as his marriage slowly begins to fall apart as the result of the strange hours he is required to keep in his role as UNIT. It is a common story of a working man whose focus is perhaps in the wrong place, but it is made all the more poignant to see it happening to a character who most Doctor Who fans have some affection for, and who is seen mostly as just the military man with occasional moments of affability.
Perhaps most important of any part of the novel, is that we get a departure scene for Liz Shaw. Her farewell in the final chapter of the book is perfectly done and memorable, as good as any of the departures we have seen on the screen. Although there are occasional issues in this novel with the plot getting a bit jumbled, and perhaps too many characters to keep track of, it is still a worthwhile and quite great novel because it adds so much to the story without getting in the way. We get to know the characters better because of the book, and that’s really what these sort of books should be about.