Doctor Who
Fear of the Dark

Author: Trevor Baxendale
BBC Books
RRP 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53865 1
Available now

On the very edge of the galaxy lies Akoshemon: a dead world of legendary evil. An excavation of the labyrinthine caves within the planet's only moon awakens... something. Can this be the same something that has drawn the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa to the moon...?

Continuity fans should have no difficulty working out where this novel fits in with the rest of the Fifth Doctor's adventures. Baxendale informs us on page 11 that this is Tegan's first day back on board the TARDIS following her reunion with the crew in Arc of Infinity. Throughout the book, the Australian finds herself thinking about snakes, dreaming about them and imagining them in the darkness of the lunar caves, thus paving the way for the Mara's repossession of her in Snakedance.

Meanwhile, both Nyssa and the Doctor fall foul of a different evil intelligence. Peter Davison excelled at playing a usually strong character who is seen to be dramatically weakened, both physically and mentally, in Castrovalva, The Five Doctors and The Caves of Androzani. The author captures a similarly disconcerting degree of mental infirmity during the latter part of the book.

Nor is this the first time that Nyssa has fallen under an alien influence. In fact, the Doctor Who novels have made a habit of having the pure and innocent Trakenite become "possessed" - by the vampire infection in Goth Opera, by the mind of an Osiran in The Sands of Time and by anti-matter in Zeta Major.

The fear factor in this story is two-fold. As well as the ghostly mental presence, there is a more tangible horror in the shape of the Bloodhunter, a hideous creature that can drain all the vital fluids from its victims. Add to this a sense of claustrophobia inspired by the caves, which is accentuated by the darkness and a coffin-like stasis chamber, in which poor Tegan has to hide at one point.

Baxendale grips the reader from the outset by alternating the timeframe of his opening chapters between the moments just prior to the TARDIS' arrival on the Akoshemon moon and the calamitous moments just after.

Among the lunar explorers is a Vegan called Jaal. Presumably he is a member of the same race as Vega Nexos, the mining engineer who came to a sticky end in The Monster of Peladon. However, whereas the practically minded Nexos poured scorn upon Peladon superstitions, Vega Jaal's mind seems entirely open to ghostly extreme possibilities. Still, the range of human credulity can be just as diverse, and I suppose one being's devout belief is another's primitive superstition.

All in all this is a good, old-fashioned, scary Who story.

Richard McGinlay

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