Doctor Who
The Clockwise Man

Author: Justin Richards
BBC Books
RRP: 6.99
ISBN 0 563 48628 7
Available 19 May 2005

In 1920s London the Doctor and Rose find themselves caught up in the hunt for a mysterious murderer. Secrets lie behind locked doors and inhuman killers roam the streets. Not everyone or everything is what they seem. Can anyone be trusted to tell or even to know the truth...?

Part of an initial batch of three novels featuring the Ninth Doctor and Rose, this book is very clearly distinguished from the usual run of Doctor Who novels. For a start it is hardback and consequently a pound dearer. It also runs 30 pages shorter than the regular paperbacks. The type within is larger, so in fact the story feels like it is only about two-thirds of the usual duration.

With the family audience of the new television series in mind, this range is evidently pitched at a younger readership. This book isn't just for kids, but there are none of the overt sexual references or instances of strong language that you occasionally get in the more adult paperbacks. The author also throws in a child character, a tragic boy called Freddie who gets involved in the very thick of the action.

The new range also reflects other aspects of the television series' ethos. Each book begins with a "pre-chapters" sequence, akin to the show's standard pre-titles sequence. All the stories take place on or around Earth, or at the very least deal closely with human characters. No knowledge of the old programme or of any of the other novels is required. This book's theme of all things clockwork has nothing to do with the clock-faced people from the Eighth Doctor novel Anachrophobia. In line with the new show there's a passing reference to the Doctor's experiences in the Time War and there's even a "bad wolf" moment.

Another strongly held belief of the show's writer and executive producer Russell T Davies is that no piece of merchandise (unlike certain recent Matrix tie-in products) should ever be perceived or promoted as being essential to the understanding of the series it is based upon. Unfortunately, Justin Richards seems to have taken the "not essential reading" edict a bit too far, because The Clockwise Man just isn't as inspiring as his usual work. My excitement at the very fact that I was reading a Ninth Doctor book kept me going most of the way, but my attention flagged during the second half of the book. Fortunately, things pick up during the last 50 pages or so, which deal with exciting events in and around the bell tower of Big Ben - scenes in which John Buchan's Richard Hannay would not have seemed out of place.

The Doctor and Rose are well characterised throughout the book, though the Doctor's defensive comment about having changed his shirt before stepping out into the past is too similar to his comment about having changed his jumper in The Unquiet Dead.

Time will tell (no pun intended) as to how well this new range of books will fare.

Richard McGinlay

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