Doctor Who
Ghost Ship

Author: Keith Topping
Telos Publishing
RRP 10.00 (standard hardback),
25.00 (deluxe hardback)
ISBN 1 903889 08 1 (standard hardback)
ISBN 1 903889 09 X (deluxe hardback)
Available now

Perhaps sensing the Doctor's deepening mood of loneliness and introspection following his battle with the Master on Gallifrey, the TARDIS lands in the most haunted place on Earth: the luxury ocean liner the
Queen Mary in the year 1963...

With this novella, Keith Topping has taken a daring step. Examples of first-person narratives in Doctor Who prose fiction are few and far between, with David Whitaker's novelisation of The Daleks being probably the best-known example. But Topping has done something that no Who novelist has ever done before, by conveying his story entirely from the Doctor's point of view.

It is worth noting that the fourth Doctor has acted as a narrator on a number of previous occasions in other media. On audio, Tom Baker has spoken the Doctor's mind on the Genesis of the Daleks and Doctor Who and the Pescatons LPs, as well as on the Power of the Daleks and Fury From the Deep cassettes. He fulfilled a similar role in the linking material on the Shada video release. For me, these examples serve to make the fourth Doctor seem all the more suited to airing his thoughts in Ghost Ship.

However, owing to the Time Lord's dark mood and the unsettling events that befall him during this book, we do not encounter the zany personality that the reader might have been expecting. Nevertheless, the author's intense insight into the Doctor's mind is convincing. Topping suggests, as Simon Messingham did before him in his BBC Books novel Tomb of Valdemar, that the time traveller's eccentric behaviour is, at least partially, a front that he puts on. The Doctor's assertion that ghosts do not exist - a belief that is tested to the limit during this tale - is entirely in keeping with the character, echoing his constant disparagement of Leela's superstitions on the television series.

There are a fair few horrifying and/or tragic moments in Ghost Ship but, surprisingly for a ghost story, I didn't find the book as scary as might have been expected. Nevertheless, this is a bold and interesting experiment in Doctor Who storytelling.

Richard McGinlay