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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Doctor Trap


Author: Simon Messingham
BBC Books
RRP: £6.99, US $11.99, Cdn $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84607 558 2
Available 04 September 2008

Sebastiene might once have been human. He might look like a 19th-century nobleman, but in truth he is a ruthless hunter. He likes nothing more than luring difficult opposition to his planet, then hunting them down for sport. And now he’s caught them all - from Zargregs to Moogs, and even the odd Eternal. In fact, Sebastiene is after only one more prize. For this trophy, he knows he is going to need help, so he’s brought together a collection of the finest hunters in the universe to play the most dangerous game for the deadliest quarry of them all. They are hunting for the last of the Time Lords - the Doctor...

Surprisingly, the “Doctor Trap” of the title does not refer to the lure set by Sebastiene to capture and kill the last of the Time Lords. Rather, it refers to a defence plan the Doctor is thought to have at his disposal - something that, whether it exists or not, gives him a psychological advantage. The explanation does make the brain start to hurt, and appropriately enough, The Doctor Trap the novel is similarly complicated.

From the synopsis, I assumed that this book would take as its central concept a notion that’s hitherto only really been touched upon briefly, in Dalek and The Last Dodo: the fact that the Doctor is the last of his kind and would therefore be a prized acquisition for a collector. However, that’s only the starting point for this convoluted tale of double bluffs, deceits, disguises and duplicates.

One of the duplicates (the others being robot soldiers) is a surgically altered double of the Doctor, called Baris. Many of the plot twists hang upon the question of which Doctor is which (or perhaps I mean Who), though surprisingly we are privy to the Doctor and Baris’s thought processes much of the time. Author Simon Messingham gets around this to an extent during the early chapters by interfering with the characters’ memories and missing out certain events, but I can’t help thinking that it would have been simpler just to tell the story from other characters’ points of view until the question of identity has been resolved. The use of a doppelganger is also unfortunate in that a duplicate Doctor is also pivotal to the plot of Journey’s End.

As for the TARDIS’s other crewmember, the author mostly gets Donna right, from her very vocal protests about a loud distress signal and the cold climate of the ship’s landing site to her strength of character later on in the book. For some reason, though, she considers the Doctor handsome, despite the fact that she resolutely doesn’t fancy him in the TV series (does Messingham believe that the lady doth protest too much?), and she is largely absent for half of the book.

Donna’s complaints about the weather - “You did this to me on that Ood planet. We’ve done snow,” - explicitly place this novel after Planet of the Ood.

The Doctor Trap certainly has some points of interest, but overall Messingham’s book is a messy ’un.


Richard McGinlay

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