Doctor Who

Author: Mark Chadbourn
Telos Publishing
RRP 10.00 (standard hardback), 25.00 (deluxe hardback)
ISBN 1 903889 14 6 (standard hardback)
ISBN 1 903889 15 4 (deluxe hardback)
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San Francisco, 1967 is a place of peace and love. The hippie movement is in full swing and everyone is looking forward to the ultimate festival: the Human Be-in. Summer, however, has lost her boyfriend, and fears he has become a victim of a new drug nicknamed Blue Moonbeams. Will three English tourists - Ben, Polly and the Doctor - be able to help...?

I wonder what this story would have been called if it had really been made during the Patrick Troughton era of the Doctor Who television series. The Hippies perhaps? Hmmm, perhaps not - that title conjures horrid visions of Star Trek's dreadful foray into hippie culture, The Way to Eden. In fact, this tale could never have been told in the black and white era of the show, and not just because the monster of the piece is a psychedelic Colour-Beast.

What makes this story such a controversial one for Doctor Who is its honest and well-researched depiction of a drug culture. Remember the hoo-ha when Kate Orman's debut New Adventure, The Left-handed Hummingbird, had the Seventh Doctor taking a mind-altering drug (albeit for a very good reason)? I doubt that Mark Chadbourn's book will cause such a stir, since Orman well and truly broke the ice, but it is surprising and refreshing to see the Doctor taking a non-judgemental stance on the use of hallucinogens. He points out the fundamental connection between drug use and religious experience in cultures as diverse as the ancient Egyptians and the Aztecs.

This is not to say that Chadbourn advocates the over-use of addictive substances. The first-person perspective of the hippie Summer acknowledges, in some disillusioned flash-forwards, that they can be harmful. And, of course, one of the main plot elements is the danger posed by the "bad acid" that is Blue Moonbeams. Appropriately enough, some hallucinogenic descriptions of weird events permeate the narrative, even when Summer is stone-cold sober.

That hip chick Polly fits right into San Francisco, 1967. The endearingly square Ben is more of a fish out of water, but Summer perceives that his heart is in the right place, especially when physical action is required. The Second Doctor is also well characterised, harking back to Troughton's earliest episodes in which the Time Lord was often as irritatingly distant as he was eccentric.

Don't be put off by the more controversial aspects of this novella - it's, like, cool, man.

Richard McGinlay

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