Doctor Who

Author: Tom Arden
Telos Publishing
10.00 (standard hardback),
25.00 (deluxe hardback)
ISBN 1 903889 06 5 (standard hardback),
ISBN 1 903889 07 3 (deluxe hardback)
Available now

The Doctor and Jo land on the wooded moon Verd, drawn down by its fluctuating gravity. It is Perihelion Night, a time of strange sightings, ghosts, and celebration before the marriage of Lord Esnic to the beautiful - though entirely unwilling - Lady Ria. The Doctor is mistaken for one of the terrifying Nightdreamers of Verd. But what are the Nightdreamers...?

This novella is simply brimming with allusions to the works of William Shakespeare, with particular reference to A Midsummer Night's Dream. Nightdreamers makes use of the Bard's typical style of word play, much of which springs from the lips of members of an amateur company of players, who enact a narrative within the narrative out in the woods. Shakespeare's oft-used device of having a female character disguise herself as a man is also in evidence here. There is even a forest of Arden - that is, the forest moon created by the author, Tom Arden!

Duke Altero, the ruler of Verd, makes a theatrical entrance by rising from the floor seated on a throne upon a dais, as though by some elaborate stage effect. And several characters, including the Doctor himself, give voice to their own thoughts, as if for the benefit of an audience.

This is a more whimsical kind of tale than the third Doctor ever occupied during his television tenure. Among his prose fiction appearances, only Paul Magrs' Verdigris was wackier than this (although the not dissimilar alien setting of Paul Leonard's Missing Adventure, Speed of Flight was almost as bizarre). The strait-laced nature of Jon Pertwee's incarnation only helps to accentuate the eccentricities of the characters he meets and the circumstances - including gravitational anomalies that allow humanoid beings to fly - in which he finds himself.

Companion Jo Grant manages to take events in her stride with a bit more success than the Doctor does. The author captures the more mature Jo of Who's tenth season, rather than the stereotypical failed Science student. She takes a few moments to reflect upon the potential lover she left behind on Spiridon at the end of Planet of the Daleks, paving the way for her desire to settle down with the man of her dreams in The Green Death. Katy Manning, who portrayed Jo on TV, has provided a characteristically zany foreword to this book.

Telos Publishing has given us another dreamy novella - and I don't just mean in the sense that the last one was Dave Stone's Citadel of Dreams! Arden's book exudes a magical quality, thanks to its literary allusions as well as to the mysterious qualities of Verd and the Nightdreamers themselves.

Richard McGinlay

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