Doctor Who
Wishing Well

Author: Trevor Baxendale
BBC Books
RRP: £6.99, US $11.99, Cdn $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84607 348 9
Available 27 December 2007

An old well in a Derbyshire village seems like just a curiosity, something to attract tourists intrigued by stories of lost treasure, or visitors merely wanting to make a wish. But could something alien and terrifying be lurking inside the well, something utterly monstrous that causes nothing but death and destruction? Who knows the real truth about the well? Who wishes to unleash the hideous force it contains? What terrible consequences will follow the search for the legendary treasure hidden at the bottom? No one wants to believe the Doctor’s warnings about the deadly horror lying in wait, but soon they’ll wish they had...

Martha Jones fans rejoice! She may have left the Doctor’s side sooner than expected at the end of Series 3 (though she will be back for a few episodes in Series 4 and in Torchwood), but she’s certainly making her presence felt in the book series. That’s because from this year BBC Books is issuing an extra batch of three hardback Doctor Who novels, bringing the annual total up from six to nine.

Wishing Well is the first of the batch, and, like its predecessor Forever Autumn, this present-day Earthbound tale taps into some primal fears. Trevor Baxendale, the man who brought us the unnerving Eater of Wasps, Fear of the Dark and The Deadstone Memorial skilfully weaves with archetypes such as a doomsaying tramp, an ancient skeleton, a very unfortunate cat, a surly lord of the manor and a couple of villagers from the Miss Hawthorne school of eccentric but helpful old ladies. The Doctor’s descent into the dark depths of the well, complete with assorted creepy-crawlies and alien vines, truly made my skin crawl.

The author further keeps us on tenterhooks by leaving certain characters in the midst of a dramatic situation and then not revisiting them until several chapters later. For instance, we have to wait for more than 30 pages to learn the fate of a possessed treasure-hunter, while the Doctor is left quite literally hanging for a good 20 pages - though ultimately the cliffhanging chapter ending in question is a bit cheeky (it had me expecting an old enemy).

The plot flounders a little towards the end of the book, so the final few chapters are unfortunately not as riveting as the earlier material. The characterisation of the Tenth Doctor also fluctuates during the closing chapters, between atypically impotent pacifism and callous disregard for the welfare of the locals.

While I’m nit-picking, Lee Binding’s cover illustration doesn’t match the author’s description of the well. In the text, the construction lacks a roof and, for the most part, a rope.

But I’m being harsh - well harsh. Overall, this is a well-written book, and I wish Baxendale well with his next one!

Richard McGinlay

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