Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Undertaker's Gift [Torchwood]

The Undertaker's Gift is the 14th book in the Torchwood novel line, and although I really like writer Trevor Baxendale, I think the line is being formulaic: as far as I can tell, it seems that every book must take place wholly in Cardiff, must include all the main characters from the t.v. show, cannot develop original supporting characters across multiple books, and must include an alien menace who can be defeated at the end. Even the comic strip from Torchwood Magazine, as bad as it usually is, at least has had stories set in Scotland, in an airplane, and in strange dimensions accessed through the Rift. Torchwood audio plays have been set in Switzerland and India. The bottom line is that anything that can be done to freshen up the formula would be much appreciated.

As I said at the beginning, I like Baxendale's work--he has a nice way of integrating supporting characters into the story and a penchant for bloodthirsty gore that I find quite fun. He also slips in details, some drawn from established continuity (an appearance by Detective Swanson, mentioning the trip to CERN from The Lost Souls radio play) and others introduced for the first time (Jack as having fought in the trenches in World War I and on the battlefield in World War II; hints that the Time Agency may have been reponsible for the sinking of Atlantis).

The Undertaker's Gift features two related threats: 49th Century lawyers named Hokrala who want to sue Jack for messing up Earth in the 21st Century; and a group of aliens nicknamed Pallbearers (because of their penchant for hanging out in graveyards and general creepy appearance) who believe that Jack has misused the Rift and that therefore humanity should be destroyed. The ending, unfortunately, is very much in a deus ex machina vein: Cardiff is pummelled by earthquakes and all manner of catastrophe, but a "Vortex Dweller" alien "resets" everything so no last harming takes place. All in all, rather disappointing stuff.

1 comment:

Commonperson said...

I've not read the Torchwood books, Who are actually pretty good. I'm curious as to how much the supporting material will impact the main canon as up until now even some fan fic has been canon in the Whoniverse I wonder if it will pan out the same for Torchwood. I honestly always found Torchwood a bit samie any how. I mean it always has at least 3 Jack snogs some one, 2 pensive Yanto looks and 1 Gwen and Jack stare meaningfuly at each other scene. The rest is just filler unfortunately. I think in their effort to sex up the Doctor Who universe they are missing some good oppertunities for stories (sort of like Buffy's great stories and minimal but present sexual undertone and mature sexual matters vs. Hex's sexed up teenage nudie scense with poorly hashed out concepts of actual story. Sadly it's like Torchwood is falling in to that trap.)