The idea of the Doctor growing weary of his travels is an intriguing one, but here it just seems to come out of the blue. The Doctor? Quit travelling--and go back to Gallifrey? What?! It's so wildly out of character that it's distracting. Had this been a thread through previous releases, Monthly Range or Novel Adaptations, it would've been easier to swallow, but here it just seems bizarre.
And Ace all of a sudden deciding she wants to stay where she is, aren't we all a bit tired of that 'surprise' by now? We've already seen it in the Monthly Range shortly before they met Hex and then again when Hex died, then again in the Love and War adaptation... It's old. It's tired. It's not shocking anymore; I find myself thinking, "go, or stay, but shut up about it!'"
That's the trouble with doing these releases out of order, the New Adventures kicked the everloving crap out of these characters in Timewyrm: Revelation and Warhead other stories leading up to this story. Ace falls in with a group of Kurdish mercenaries in the latter where she punches a hole clear through a man's face with a laser to keep alive and I honestly thought that she was going to die in Revelation because she was so beaten to pieces. She walks out onto the airless surface of the Moon and has her lungs explode. There's a lot of lead up and grief in the other stories that honestly makes sense that the Doctor and Ace are sick of it. The Seventh Doctor especially, he's visited by the frozen carcass of Katarina and the smoldering corpse of Adric -- the "sacrifices" -- in one of the novels who condemn him for his actions.
They are very changed people by the end of the Timewyrm saga but unfortunately with this standalone release, you just don't get to see it.
What is it about these Big Finish novel adaptions? I have absolutely no problem with the main range - especially at the moment, when it seems to be on something of a high - but these adaptions seem slicker, somehow. I'm not sure whether they have more time lavished on them, but the actors seem more rehearsed, the sound design seems 'bigger', even the covers seem more grand. There is something 'special' about these releases, and 'Nightshade' is no exception. I'm halfway through at the moment and loving everything about it. Sylvester seems on especially good form; his melancholy ruminations about Gallifrey were rather moving. And Ace has never been better - her boisterousness has been toned down, and Sophie plays her as a more 'real' character than the television episodes encouraged her to do. This is an intriguing story and is highly recommended.
I downloaded it just now and was thinking of starting it tomorrow but I own the book and haven't read it and have just decided on a whim to do that first. It'll be the first novel adaptation I've read first - although I now have copies of four of the five McCoy novels they've done before so I'm bound to read them all at some point.
So my thoughts will probably come in a week or so after some subway-bound reading to and from work.
Well, here we are, a week later. Finished up the novel on the subway yesterday and powered through the audio adaptation today. Best to talk about both, I suppose. Spoilers for both within!
One thing that I've noticed with quite a few Doctor Who novels is a tendency for the author to write about tons of characters and then kill most of them off throughout the story. Sometimes it feels a bit superfluous, but in this case, it works very well. You really get the sense that this is a bustling village at the beginning of the novel and practically a ghost town at the end.
There are a few obvious plot points, of course, but they're par for the course once you realise how the monster works. After the first couple attacks, you assume that when someone mentions a lost loved one or a special time in their life, that's going to come back to haunt them. That's true in most cases, but there are some subversions.
Vijay, in particular, is good at not dwelling on the past and while he still holds a bit of nostalgia for the old days, is never attacked. Robin is having trouble dealing with the death of Betty and his dad and can't quite process it - so he never sees a ghost along the way. My personal favourite subversion, though, is that Edmund Trevithick never sees his dead daughter. And Gatiss doesn't just mention her in passing. She's mentioned again and again and yet, it's the monster from Nightshade that Trevithick sees. Maybe it's because he still has hope for that, but has moved on from his daughter's death. Maybe it's something darker than that - the work is what he truly cares about. I'm inclined to think it's the latter, given that even in his final moments, it's Nightshade he's talking about, Nightshade he's longing for.
There is also some fantastic imagery in this novel. There are two particular deaths that stand out for me as gruesome and horrifying - the monk, who misses his strong faith, embracing a false Christ and the death of Hawthorne, where he is killed by the racist image of a "tar baby" which had informed his xenophobia as a child. Two very different images, one heart-rending (the monk is a rather nice character for the most part) and one oddly satisfying (the novel's Hawthorne is not a nice guy) but still utterly horrific.
But the biggest emotional moment to me is when Ace summons the image of her mother. This works so well following Timewyrm: Revelation (her mum calls her Dorry and mentions Chad Boyle) and so well leading into Love and War. This is also an example of when something comes out of nowhere but works fantastically. Ace might mention her mother briefly in one of the early chapters but there's no major discussion of resentment or estrangement. It's something that relies on a reader's knowledge of the character from the TV series and previous novels and it works beautifully for me.
The only thing I might say against the book is that the ending happens so quickly that we're not given very much closure for Ace and the Doctor. This would be fine if Love and War started directly after Nightshade, but it doesn't. I've only skimmed it in the past (and listened to the audio twice) so I went back to read the first chapter or so to look for anything that resolved the cliffhanger here. There isn't anything. In fact, the novel says it "had been a long time since Ace had been kissed" - so not only do we not get a resolution, "a long time" passes between the two books. Whether that's down to Mark Gatiss or Paul Cornell or Peter Darvill-Evans is a mystery, but it just seems odd.
The abruptness of the ending aside, the book is a great example of great Who and it deserves its established status as a classic.
Most of the changes between the book and the audio spring from a simple truth: There's only so much you can do with two hours of time, limited money to hire actors and a complete lack of visuals. So, yes, they cut a lot of characters - the monastery is mentioned once in passing and the monks are never seen, Vijay and Dr. Cooper are absorbed by Hawthorne, Holly's role is sort of split between Hawthorne and Jill, Betty is completely replaced by her husband Lawrence, Billy Coote is removed entirely and many of the early disappearances are related rather than seen.
A couple of these choices tighten up the story. Hawthorne's original story in the novel would be very hard to realise on audio, and while Abbot Winstanley was a major part of the novel, removing him is understandable. Removing Vijay and Holly is a little more troublesome for me, because their story definitely does add something to the pacing and tension - Hawthorne's racism is completely removed and Holly is no longer one of the first people to be attacked by the monster. But I suppose if you're going to only pick one of the four radio telescope characters, you'd pick Hawthorne. He's the kind of ornery cuss that keeps dialogue flowing.
The only change that baffles me is swapping Betty out for Lawrence. In the novel, Lawrence is Robin's father and Betty is his step-mother. Lawrence's original role in the story largely revolves around what happens to Betty and as such, that original role is largely gone here. So why keep Lawrence at all? Why not just cast someone to play Betty instead? I don't think this is a major problem for the story or anything, I just think it's kind of strange, especially because another female voice would add a little diversity in the audio mix.
But basically, the audio keeps the core of the story - there's a monster feeding on nostalgia, Ace falls in love with Robin, the Doctor considers retiring and Robin loses a parent along the way. It does it well and I could see someone really liking this story from just the audio, but I definitely preferred the novel. A lot of the best imagery is gone, because this is a very description-based story. Someone said that in a previous thread about novel adaptations, actually - that they were surprised that Nightshade was being produced because of all the descriptive passages - and I totally agree. It would have made one heck of a TV story, but even then, I think it was in the best format to begin with. Of course, this is the first audio adaptation where I've read the original book, so these thoughts might in fact be common to all of the stories produced so far - after all, my entire criticism is basically "They only had two hours to work with and had to do it on audio" which is more a description of the range than a real critique.
I will add three final points where I thought the audio improved on the book significantly, the first being the moment when Robin picks up on a couple of Ace's anachronisms. In the novel, the scene goes nowhere and Ace later explains to Robin that the Doctor is an alien and she's from the future, a conversation which also goes nowhere. In the audio, Szikora combined the two and it feels a lot more natural.
While reading the book, I also really hoped that Sylvester would read out the "One day, I will come back." scene from The Dalek Invasion of Earth in the audio, as it does appear in the text as he's trying to summon Susan at the end - and he does, and it works quite well.
Finally, the end with Ace deciding to stay. Oh, it's so much better. The Doctor and Ace actually talk instead of the abrupt, ambiguous ending of the novel. You can even see it as a sort of What Happened Next for the original novel. It's well-written and completely original to the audio production and is the biggest improvement therein.
Spoiler-free/Shorter version: The book was fantastic, the audio was a good adaptation but didn't quite reach the same heights for me. I'd recommend both, in either order and if you like one version, you'll probably like the other.
I found this quite enjoyable. I haven't read the novel so I have nothing to compare, however judging strictly from my experience with the audio I felt it was a neat story with some excellent music and sound design and some great moments of subtly from Sophie Aldred's performance. I thought the way that Ace's story mirrored Susan's story in "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" was some pretty smart storytelling. I particularly liked how the Nightshade TV series was depicted. Actually getting to hear snippets of the show was a neat way to pull the listener into the story. It gave me some fond flashbacks to watching Kolchak and The X-Files.
Loved this adaptation, McCoy does weary Doctor brilliantly & the story was a gripping Quatermass type adventure.
My only gripe was the tv episodes segments of Nightshade which were more of a intrusion to the pacing & weren't necessarily needed but that's just my own personal opinion it's still a cracking enjoyable audio drama.
Even in the Main Range directing last year's Shield of the Jotunn. She did a pretty good job considering the time restraints (not the worst American accents I've heard in a Big Finish) and I'd be interested in hearing another full-cast she directs.
Be sure to check out the indexes for the various Big Finish ranges!
So I just finished listening to this. Overall, it was enjoyable, and I understand most of the changes that were made to adapt a novel to audio.
I agree with constonks that it made no sense to swap out Betty for Lawrence, however, not sure why that choice was made.
I was actually disappointed that they changed to ending; to me it was a significant change.
I gather from the comments in this thread that the Nightshade program spoken about in the story was a sort of stand-in for Quatermass? Quatermass is one of those things I've heard about for years but have never seen
To be honest, I probably would have enjoyed this more if I hadn't just read the book, as I wouldn't have gone into it with certain expectations (sometimes unfulfilled) of how it was going to go. But I did enjoy it anyway.
"You're all irresponsible fools!" Doctor: "But we're very experienced irresponsible fools." _____________________________________
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