Doctor Who
Bullet Time

Author: David A. McIntee
BBC Books
5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53834 1
Available 06 August 2001

The year is 1997, and Hong Kong is facing its final days under British rule. While on assignment, Sarah Jane Smith is approached by a young man who claims to have seen a UFO. Then the local branch of UNIT informs Sarah that the Doctor has become the head of a Triad business front...

Following Justin Richards and Stephen Cole's The Shadow in the Glass and Peter Darvill-Evans's Asylum, this is another novel that chooses to play mix-and-match with the Doctor and his companions. However, whereas reacquainting the Time Lord with one of his old friends is a typically BBC Books tactic, the role played by the Seventh Doctor comes straight out of Virgin's New Adventures. In this book, we see him being particularly shady, mysterious and inscrutable, and McIntee plays upon these established characteristics to convincingly set up a situation in which neither UNIT nor Sarah feel that they can trust him.

As a political/crime thriller, Bullet Time comprises a complex web of intrigue, lies, mistrust and suspicion, in which simple misunderstandings often have deadly consequences. For instance, the Doctor inadvertently puts both himself and Sarah in danger by misinterpreting Triad codes of conduct. Confusion also leads to UNIT, the Drug Enforcement Agency and Triad security guards becoming embroiled in a tense shoot-out.

The author also plays around with the notion that one cannot necessarily rely upon the accuracy of reported information, or even trust the veracity of one's own memories. One particular scene ends with a character's narrative suggesting that he has made a sexual conquest, but subsequent scenes expose this claim as mere boasting. On a more literal level, certain other characters find that their memories have been tampered with by alien beings.

As is often the case with McIntee's novels, there is a hefty dose of movie-style action. In addition to the aforementioned shoot-out, other scenes include an opening sequence that owes much to the James Bond film, Moonraker. And talking of 007, the author makes a fleeting reference to a possible explanation for why Bond's appearance has changed almost as often as that of the Doctor!

The ending of the book may cause some annoyance to readers who have followed Sarah's life story as told in Justin Richards's System Shock and Millennium Shock and as postulated in Lawrence Miles's Interference. However, the very nature of this narrative means that the closing scenes are open to interpretation. For those of you who are not concerned with continuity between novels, the climax will shake and stir you all the more.

Richard McGinlay