Back to Vortis, twice
My obsessive scheduling of Who books and audios sometimes throws up interesting moments of convergence. (Actually I think last time was more interesting than this time, but there you go.) For the last few weeks I’ve been reading Christopher Bulis’ Twilight of the Gods, and today I listened to Return to the Web Planet, billed as “from a story by Daniel O’Mahony” (and thereby, presumably, hangs a tale), both of which take us back to the planet Vortis, originally featured in the 1965 series The Web Planet and its novelisation Doctor Who and the Zarbi. Actually, the Doctor had already returned to Vortis twice, in the 1966 Doctor Who annual which featured the planet in two stories. None of the four returns to Vortis is particularly consistent, in continuity terms, with any of the others (including the two which appeared within the same set of covers forty years ago), so canon purists will just have to suck it up.
Twilight of the Gods (which I should also note is my 18th book of this month) seemed a bit clunky in places and seemed to take forever to read but is basically OK (which was essentially my assessment of Bulis’ First Doctor novels too). I liked the battle of the two ideological human factions over the resources of Vortis (and note that several other reviewers are too young to realise that it’s a reference to Cold War turf fights in Africa and Latin America). I think he also draws quite consciously from several elements of the 1996 Annual stories – the colonisers from offworld and movable planet Vortis in “The Lair of Zarbi Supremo”, and the huge intruders of “The Lost Ones” (though Bulis’ aliens are a lot bigger than the Atlanteans of 1966, and remind me a bit of some of Isaac Asimov’s creations). It is also, I now realise, the adventure on Voris referred to in The Dark Path. The characterisation of the Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria is pretty satisfactory, but the pace, as I said, is a bit slow.
Return to the Web Planet, which is a one-disc special released by Big Finish just over a year ago, takes Five and Nyssa back to Vortis to help the Menoptera scientist Acheron and his daughter Hedyla to deal with mysterious goings-on among the local Zarbi herds. This turns out to be due to a human intervention, whose details I found rather implausible even by Who standards, but the acting and soundscape – especially the soundscape! – help carry it off successfully.
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