Doctor Who

Author: Terrance Dicks
BBC Books
5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53822 8
Available now


1951: Cold War tensions between East and West are threatening to bring about a nuclear holocaust. The extra-dimensional Players, bored with using Earth as their plaything, are keen to bring such a catastrophe about. The Doctor doesn't remember who he is or who the Players are, and doesn't wish to be involved. But despite himself, he soon is involved...

As with their previous appearance, in Dicks' Sixth Doctor novel Players, the mischievous entities are once again influencing Earth politics for their own deadly entertainment. In fact, together with Virgin Publishing's Timewyrm: Exodus and Blood Harvest, this is the fourth Doctor Who novel written by Dicks to be concerned with extra-terrestrials interfering with prominent people and events of the 20th century. The prominent people on this occasion include US President Harry S Truman, Soviet dictator Stalin and the infamous British defector to the Russians, Kim Philby. Philby, who also made a fleeting appearance in the previous book, Paul Leonard's The Turing Test, is depicted here as a complex individual whose allegiances are difficult if not impossible to weigh up. The author offers a convincing motivation for the man who would be condemned as a traitor to his nation.

A character who is decidedly less enigmatic is, oddly enough, the Doctor himself. For the first time in several books, we are allowed to be a party to the Eighth Doctor's thoughts, instead of observing him through the eyes of others. Although this denies him an air of mystery, it does allow us to witness the rebirth of his love of life and hatred of wrong-doers, aspects that lie dormant at the novel's outset. We also see how confused fragments of the Time Lord's repressed memories, which will nevertheless be familiar to the majority of fans, are beginning to break through.

Like many a spy thriller, this novel has a distinctly episodic plot, with the Doctor flitting from London to Washington, back to London, then to Moscow and back to Washington again like a veritable James Bond. Slow to get going, the story's conclusion is then let down by these shifts in location, which dissipate the sense of a satisfying resolution.

The novel also betrays signs of its late delivery and hasty editing, both in its slapdash punctuation (you can tell that I proof-read for a day job, can't you?) and occasional editorial blunders, such as when Kim Philby drinks his "second" glass of whisky twice on the same page.

However, if you wish to while away an entertaining few hours without taxing your mental processes too much, then this could be the book for you.

Richard McGinlay