Doctor Who
Festival of Death

Author: Jonathan Morris
BBC Books
RRP 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53803 1
Available now

The Doctor, Romana and K9 arrive on a space station that has recently been overwhelmed by zombies. What is even stranger is that unfamiliar people, who claim to know the TARDIS crew, inform them that the undead threat has already been dealt with - by the time-travellers themselves...

We all know that a good story needs a proper beginning, middle and end. This novel includes these structural elements, though not necessarily in that order. All to often the endings of Doctor Who novels can prove to be anticlimactic, but that's no problem here, because Morris (an author new to this series) gets his ending over with first!

Having arrived on the space station, the Doctor and Romana soon realise that they need to go back in time and experience the adventure out of sequence. This is an idea that has been touched upon before in Who fiction (in The Space Museum, for instance) but never explored as fully as this. It gets confusing at times, and is best read in as few sittings as possible, but such confusion is necessary for the structure of the narrative to work. Only at the end does everything make sense, and thus the reader gets a sense of resolution.

Up until that point, confusion is offset by humour. The author's background in sketch writing is apparent in his situations and characters. For example, the time-travellers narrowly avoid meeting their previous selves, as happens to Marty McFly and Doc Brown during the more amusing moments of Back to the Future - Part II, while Romana echoes Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure by devising a retroactive jailbreak. A sensation-seeking news reporter called Harken Batt brings to mind Damien Day from the Channel 4 sitcom Drop the Dead Donkey, while Hoopy, the name of a "really together" hippy reptile, is an adjective originally coined by Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

This is a witty and challenging novel, and a worthy successor to Gareth Roberts' Fourth Doctor/Romana Missing Adventures.

Richard McGinlay