Doctor Who

Author: Jacqueline Rayner
BBC Books
RRP 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 48609 0
Available now

When Harry wanders from the TARDIS, the Doctor and Sarah accidentally leave him stranded in 1936. They search for him, but arrive several weeks too late and find evidence that Harry is dead. Looking for further clues, they hear tales of werewolves, moving trees and an eccentric stranger known as the Doctor...

This beautifully written book unites one of my favourite of the Doctor's companions - the bumbling, chivalrous Boys' Own style hero that is Harry Sullivan - with an era from the Doctor Who novels that I have been longing to return to - the "trapped on Earth" saga. The other Doctor whom Harry encounters in 1936 is none other than the amnesiac eighth incarnation, who was himself stranded for the whole of the 20th century.

As readers, we already know that Harry isn't really dead. This tale is set between Revenge of the Cybermen and Terror of the Zygons, in which Sullivan was, of course, alive and well. But the mystery of what became of him demands an answer, and the author expertly intertwines Harry's story with the Fourth Doctor and Sarah's subsequent search for clues. Sometimes the stories parallel each other in theme and tone, as when both the Eighth Doctor and Sarah contemplate the grisly prospect of digging up a grave. On other occasions the concurrent plot strands contrast dramatically, as when Harry's comical discomfort regarding the amorous attentions of a German immigrant, Emmeline Neuberger, is followed by Emmeline's tragic life story, which she describes to the Fourth Doctor.

There are some particularly fantastical elements in this novel, which involves werewolves, dryads (tree spirits) and the Holy Grail, but Who has dealt with werewolves before, as well as the Arthurian legend, so the presence of dryads shouldn't be considered too much of a leap.

As a Doctor Who fan, it's not very surprising that I tend to enjoy this series of books, but it's been a while since I read one as compelling as Wolfsbane, which I frequently found difficult to put down. The plot's momentum flags a little towards the end, as the mystery begins to fit together, but not by much. I wolfed it down!

Richard McGinlay

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