|by Steve Lyons|
"Killing Ground" returns to the set-up provided by TOYL, with the Sixth Doctor now travelling with Grant Markham. I didn't think we really learned a lot about Grant and his personality in TOYL, and the situation, sadly, isn't particularly improved upon here. At best, it is difficult for the reader to become acquainted with Grant; at worst, he comes across as a wimpy and annoying individual who lets himself fall into the usual cliches.
The Doctor, on the other hand, is capably handled, as he was in TOYL.The major downfall with regards to his portrayal is that he is kept locked up for much of the first half, and this tends to mute his influence in the book as a whole. Nonetheless, the Virgin stable continue to demonstrate themselves as being far more capable writers for the Sixth Doctor than the TV bunch ever were, with the probable exceptions of Robert Holmes and the Bakers.
The other characters, meanwhile, are largely disappointing, falling into easy science-fiction stereotypes which can be seen a mile off. Particularly unfortunate is Lyons' portrayal of ArcHivist Hegelia, an interesting enough character in David Banks' "The Cybermen" book (well, as interesting as you can make a character in a largely non-fiction-esque book) but here reduced to a histrionic old matron who does a bad impression of Kaftan of Klieg from "Tomb Of The Cybermen". The Cybermen themselves aren't bad -- Lyons does some interesting things with the race as a whole, and the description from within of the Cyberconversion process is chillingly effective -- but don't make for very interesting characters.
The plot itself is nowhere near as bad as "Time Of Your Life", but it doesn't really do much for me, either. It's rather horribly predictable (makes "GodEngine" look like a tangled web of intricate plotting), and slams its themes into your face with a sledgehammer quality putitng "Survival" to shame.
While "Killing Ground" is a step up from TOYL, it does little to fire my optimism for Lyons' next Doctor Who effort. And if this is the last we see of Grant Markham, well, I won't be shedding any tears.
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