Official Secrets contains two stories and sees the Ninth Doctor finally get his Brigadier story, and UNIT era Brig to boot! Apart from the always powerful tool of nostalgia though, is there any reason to track down this volume of the “Ninth Doctor Adventures” beyond the extreme close-up of Christopher Eccleston on the cover? Well…
Team TARDIS are in hot pursuit of a monster they accidentally sent back to the 1970s (or was it the 1980s?), but there are more monsters than they ever could have imagined… and they’re being controlled by an unknown source! Then the search for Jack’s missing memories takes the TARDIS to 17th Century Brazil! Will Jack find what he seeks, and keep the trust of his friends?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
Harry Sullivan, The Brig and the Ninth Doctor… Some might say “fanwank”, but I say… “don’t care, I liked it.”
The Doctor (Christopher Eccelston) – The Doctor arrives in a familiar time period and meets familiar faces, although the giant monsters attacking London aren’t quite as familiar, it’s not exactly new ground for the Time Lord either…
Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) – Rose is back in England! … in the past… surrounded by giant monsters. Oh and trying to care for the gargoyle-like monster that was once her friend. So not really happy times, then…
Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) – Captain Jack’s stint as a Time Agent is still a blank to him, but a mysterious picture of his in the UNIT archives could lead to a clue, at last.
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) – The Brig is used to seeing different Doctors pop in and out, but this time seems different. This Doctor is harsher, harder, more… Northern. Still, a Doctor in a crisis is better than just a crisis!
Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) – Harry was left in charge of UNIT while the Brig was in Geneva, but he hasn’t been the best leader, probably because he still talks like he’s from the 40s, old bean.
Sergeant Benton (John Levene) – The tall, kind and loyal UNIT soldier who has seen many Doctors come and go.
Tara Mishra – A UNIT medical soldier who has dreamed of having a go in the legendary Doctor’s TARDIS, and wouldn’t you know it, right in the middle of a crisis a certain blue box appears…
Alex Yaxley – Promising young scientist who ended up injecting himself with a serum that allowed him to create constructs of pure thought… if provoked suitably enough…
Yiara – Member of the Sereia race who took issue with her race’s ways of slavery, deciding to do something about it during their trip to Earth…
Plus many more!
Given that it turns out it pretty much works, I wonder why the army stopped all research?
“Official Secrets” itself is a fun story, and not just because seeing the Ninth Doctor and crew interact with most of the UNIT cast, though that is great fun (a scene at the end where The Brigadier comments on how The Doctor, or this Doctor, reminds him of himself, like a general leading his troops, was great. Especially as The Doctor tries not to think about it…) The main crux of the story, giant kaiju-like monsters attacking London, is a good laugh, and the kind of UNIT story you certainly couldn’t do on TV in the 70s! It manages to mix in a story of a tortured man who just wants to be with his family, and even weaves in some Captain Jack Time Agent teasing as well, and it doesn’t really stop the whole way through.
Even the emotional side of the “scientist with a family who injects himself with prototype serum” is well done, if not equally on the clinched side. New companion Tara is fine, got a bit of a unique hook of being a UNIT medical officer, and her taking down rival UNIT-like organisation Albion Defence via a bogus interview was really well handled. With the exception of continuing with Rose and her gargoyle friend (see below!) I really enjoyed reading the story overall.
“Slaver’s Song” is one of those stories that straddled the middle, so I’ll put it here, I guess. It has some aquatic beings land on Earth and start to take human slaves, who are ironically Portuguese slavers in the Brazil. The Doctor and co. befriend Yiara, one such alien slaver who is actually against the slave trade. Eventually the evil aliens are defeated and the equally unpleasant humans are either dead or have learnt their lesson. It’s fine, but it’s nothing to write home about. I enjoyed reading it, and the brief glimpses into Jack’s Time Agent days were interesting, but I’ll forget about it pretty quick.
You could show me this picture in a few months and I’ll probably not remember anything about it…
I didn’t really care about Rose’s Gargoyle man, who she barely met in the previous story, being kept as a thing in “Official Secrets”. We, much like Rose, barely know who he is, and I just didn’t feel any attachment. Far from a deal breaker of any kind, but it was definitely the weak part of a good story.
As I said, “Slaver’s Song” is on the dull side, but I can’t decide whether it’s so dull it should be in the bad, or just interesting enough to still be good, so I’ve written about it in both!
Hey look, it’s Sgt. Benton in the background… sounds about right.
With the obvious exception of all the UNIT stuff from late-Pertwee / early-Baker, not much! (though that is quite a bit, though non-episode specific…) The story follows on directly from the previous one, “The Transformed”.
There is a reference to Harry Sullivan having created another deadly weapon, which is a reference to Fourth Doctor TV classic “Terror of the Zygons”, where he created gas that was poisonous to the titular aliens. Also The Doctor and Jack mention having previously faced a child with special powers and a want for their mum, which is a reference to Ninth Doctor TV story “The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances”.
Official Secrets best part is the titular story itself, with some blending of the Ninth Doctor era with the late Pertwee / early Baker version of UNIT, plus it had a good story to tell anyway. “Slaver’s Song” on the other hand was pretty unremarkable, so… I guess this will have to be another split score kind of wrap up!