In London, 1949, a "fixer" called Honoré Lechasseur is hired
to find a woman's missing husband, a man known only as the
Doctor. Who is this semi-mythical figure who seems to have
appeared off and on throughout history, and why are certain
people searching for a "cabinet of light" that is associated
haven't been kind to Daniel O'Mahony over the years. Back
in my DreamWatch days, I found his short story The
Parliament of Rats, part of the Doctor Who anthology
Short Trips, fairly incomprehensible. More recently,
Kill the Mouse!, his contribution to the Bernice Summerfield
book A Life of Surprises, made even less sense to me.
But perhaps in the novella format he has found his perfect
canvas. Here he has the space to develop a comprehensible
plot while throwing in plenty of unusual connotations.
Kim Newman in Telos' Time and Relative, O'Mahony intrigues
us with subtle references to earlier Who narratives,
particularly the very first one, 100,000 BC (a.k.a.
An Unearthly Child). For example, we are given a feminised
account of the First Doctor's encounter with Neolithic humans;
we are taken to a location that is almost certainly Totter's
Lane; and the very end of the book echoes the final line of
Terrance Dicks' novelisation, An Unearthly Child.
allusions to the origins of Doctor Who are entirely
appropriate, since this novella marks the debut of Honoré
Lechasseur, a character who is about to embark upon his own
series of adventures in Telos' Time Hunter range. In
case you didn't know, Telos is about to lose its licence to
publish Who fiction, just as Virgin Books did back
in 1997. (If you didn't know, then you should read our David
J Howe interview right away!) Just as Virgin
prepared its readers for the solo adventures of Bernice Summerfield
via the almost Doctor-less New Adventure, Eternity Weeps,
this hard-boiled detective-style tale is very much Lechasseur's
story. A very engaging and sympathetic protagonist he is,
the lengthy absence of the Doctor, Lechasseur's assignment
is to find that very person. Therefore the Time Lord's essence
permeates the narrative, aided by the aforementioned textual
references. The fact that the woman who seeks him claims to
be his wife renders the case even stranger, and is perhaps
a witty allusion to The Doctor's Wife, a fabricated
story title that '80s TV producer John Nathan-Turner once
pinned to his notice board for the sole purpose of provoking
the Doctor finally does appear, he is not in an incarnation
we are familiar with. This has been a year of new Doctors,
what with the hiring of Richard E Grant for November's BBCi
webcast and the various actors who have assumed the mantle
for Big Finish's Doctor Who Unbound series. The incarnation
described in The Cabinet of Light could be the Nick
Briggs version from the fan-produced Audio-Visuals series
of many moons ago. Quite coincidentally, he also resembles
Richard E Grant - spooky!
frustrating aspect of this book is that we never really learn
what becomes of the Doctor. And since this is presumably a
future incarnation of the Time Lord, we probably never will.
Nevertheless, this is an intriguing and idiosyncratic work,
which bodes well for the Time Hunter series.