Saturday, 24 October 2009

Heart of TARDIS by Dave Stone

Plot: The universe is about to ripped apart by an unstable dimensional rift but that sort of thing happens every week so the Doctor is far more interested in answering a call to his old pal Lethbridge Stewart. Another Doctor entirely has landed the TARDIS in an American town which wont let him out or even back into his ship. How on Earth can these two events be related?

Oh my Giddy Aunt and Teeth and Curls: I am so glad that the second and fourth Doctor’s don’t meet up in this story (although they nearly do, skip down to the Funny Bits section and see how the fourth Doctor hilariously manages to stop from meeting himself!) not only because they are both such terrible scene stealers and the dramatic structure of the universe cannot hold with the pair of them attempting to steal the limelight…and also it means there is a reasonable explanation as to why the fourth Doctor does not remember the events of this story because the second Doctor is caught up in an entirely different part of it. The 2nd Doctor is captured rather well, his manic energy and contemplative nature both used to good effect. He only has a passing acquaintance with the technicalities of the TARDIS and insists on divining them himself usually with tragic results. An otherworldly genius the Doctor might be but it was a genius and otherworldliness, on occasion, of an idiot savant or a child. A fumbling, if fundamentally good intentioned intelligence with no real sense of it’s actions. If the Doctor ever met God he would pull on his beard to see if it came off! He carries a vague and innate sense of shabbiness. When emerging from some violent danger, he acts as if he fully expects himself to be some other form at times and is surprised when he is not. He never seemed to get along with America. He possesses senses of remarkable acuity. He switches personas, a silly little hobo (he was most comfortable with this one and took pains to preserve it), a man of action, a scientific genius and a stern patrician. His attitude is if you simply lived in and enjoyed the moment it left you confident and relaxed to deal with whatever it was that moment might bring.

The 4th Doctor is better, I feel because he is more at home with his surroundings (spatial and temporal madness) than the 2nd (psychotic America). His eyes said, continue to impede me any further and anything could happen. He owns the place, getting others to do his bidding by simply asking with the air that refusal was unthinkable. He brisks through the story with absolute confidence and smugness, tapping off one witty statement after another, thinking up ingenious schemes to escape from situations and refusing to be intimidated, even by higher beings who could turn his mind to raspberry jam. You’ve gotta love him!

Victorian Orphan: Astonishingly, the best piece of characterisation in this entire book comes with a little package I like to call Victoria Waterfield. Despite being largely peripheral to the overall story I was amazed at how good her scenes were. I expect Dave Stone’s books to be crazy, brimming with unutterable madness and over the top characterisation. I do not expect a portrayal of a televised character so far in advance of anything anyone has done with her before, written with clarity, honesty, a touch of sauciness and radical alienation. Colour me damn well impressed! Victoria is recording certain events appendant to her latest adventures in the style of a Jules Verne romance, just in case anyone every finds it, reads it and thinks she is certifiable. Pages 163-166 are amazingly good, seen through Victoria’s eyes an American mall is as disconcerting and weird as an alien city. She keeps experiencing culture shocks such as toothbrushes and electric stairs! Much of the magic of the 2nd Doctor is seen here through the eyes of Victoria. She is portrayed as being slightly haughty, extremely intelligent and surprisingly versatile. Very impressive.

Who’s the Yahoo’s: There was something reassuring about Jamie’s solid, kilted form. Every period after his own is magical in Jamie’s eyes, no matter how much the Doctor tries to convince him otherwise. He kills the last ever Gallifreyan wolrat because Victoria screamed at it, leading the Doctor to set him an assignment at the books close to repeatedly write out: I MUST NOT STICK BIG KNIFES IN EXTINCT ANIMALS JUST BECAUSE I DON’T LIKE THE LOOK OF THEM. Except he makes lots of spelling mistakes.

Universe Virgin: Romana is Stone’s other surprise hit. It is unfortunate the because of the Key to Time’s linking season that Romana I is given little room to breathe in the novels, of all the characters that could do with some character and livening up, it is her. However Stone pitches practically perfect here, miles away from the innocent intelligence from Tomb of Valdemar (as good as that was!) and more of a super intelligent, hyper arrogant and utterly unimpressed space baroness. Basically this is Mary Tamm’s performance in The Ribos Operation times 100, 000, 000. And a million times funnier. And hugely perceptive. Here Romana rivals her predecessor for sardonic wit and omni-intelligence (a feat I would have thought impossible). She’s also a bit of a babe. Romana decides to regenerate herself a smaller, more compact body when she can find the time. She broadcasts a sense of flat disdain as though she had seen everything your world has to offer and was, frankly, unimpressed. She finds idyllic countryside unconsciously sloppy and wasteful and can divert poisons straight into her waster producing organs. She is quintessentially English, oh so superior in a way that sets your teeth on edge. Foreboding: The fourth Doctor gets to experience the other half of this adventure and realise his part in the interior of the singularity. The second Doctor, for now, remains blissfully unaware that his other self is involved but to his credit the fourth Doctor slaps his own hand when he realises he was tinkering with his earlier selves TARDIS. Oh my god ive gone boss eyed.

Twists: Is it me or are the covers getting better? Who wouldn’t want to read this? Never underestimate asterisks. The Pit of Utter and Excruciating Torture is mentioned but we never get to visit. In a moment of brilliant self-awareness, Norman realises that movies never touch on the things that are real and important. The Collectors are a brilliant invention, the way they talk is hilarious and the Big Huge and Educational Collection of Galactic Old Stuff might just be a diversion, but it’s a damn clever one. It is revealed that in Russell T Davies’ Queer as Folk, when Vince is given a K.9 for his birthday it is in fact the real thing! Because the Doctor keeps leaving him behind and turning the universe upside down trying to retrieve him, K.9 might very well be the single oldest lump of matter in the universe. Thatcher thinks UNIT is: a disruptive, internationalist holdover from the bad old days of labour government, using its unearned status time and again to block and countermand the processes of the nations central government. Apparently Rassilon came across the glorious secrets of Time Travel by way of pinching one of the translation belts of that species who attacked us in the Time Wars in retaliation for things we did to them before we’d ever heard of them in the first place. Lychburg bears a remarkable similarity to Springfield. The Brigadier is kidnapped and Provisional want to take over from UNIT, using this subversion as an excuse to move in. The 2nd Doctor and friends are trapped in Lychburg; they can never enter the TARDIS or leave the town and to make matters worse the citizens are brutally murdering each other, casually. It is revealed that the 4th Doctor is the man the entire raid on UNIT was set up to snare. High Councillor Wblk and the Time Lords allowed the Doctor and Romana to escape because they were heading exactly where they wanted them! [The answers are long awaited in Heart of TARDIS and for a while you might think that Dave Stone has just been making this all up as he goes along (hehehehe, no seriously). After World War II the military captured the town of Lychburg and brainwashed its citizens into believing whatever the military wanted. They made them believe hell was arriving and in doing so opened a dimensional rift. The rift turned unstable when a prototype Gallifreyan TARDIS, one of the many experiments they sent off into the universe until they perfected the devices, collided with it with a lone Gallifreyan woprat on board. The States dropped a warhead on Lychburg to tidy their mess under the carpet and shunted it into another dimension and the woprat became the focal intelligence for the thousands of minds still trapped in Lychburg. Unfortunately the 2nd Doctor’s collision with the singularity destabilised Lychburg again. There I hope that’s perfectly clear now!]. Romana materialises the TARDIS in a space containing itself to create a nexus point. Crowley summoned a Jarakabeth demon who has been using his body ever since his death. He wants to break down the curtains between dimensions and engulf the universe in primal chaos. The image of 1000’s of people screaming making a giant humanoid shape, also screaming, attempting to crack the TARDIS open like a coconut is absolutely boggling. When Jamie kills the woprat, Lychburg collapses in on itself but fortunately the 2nd Doctor fiendishly saves everybody by rushing them all into the TARDIS. The fight between the two Jarakabethan’s is astonishing and the Brigadier gets to save the day just by being human.

Funny Bits: Its not a matter that the Doctor cannot steer the TARDIS, more a case of the Time Lords have set up a failsafe should anyone steal such a device that you should never end up where you want to be.
It is suggested that the Daleks faked the destruction of their own planet just to hide from the Collectors (hahaha…in your face War of the Daleks!).
The Doctor is taken out of time because the universe is on the brink of being torn apart: “Once again. That’s all the only reason you people in the High Council ever seem to want to talk to us these days and I really wish a subjective fortnight would go by where you don’t!”
When the Doctor cannot enter the TARDIS he tries the cat flap and then climbs on to the roof and attempts to prise off the central beacon (I would love to see Troughton try this!).
“Yon lads had it in their right minds to try a bit of monkey business but they thought better of it when I showed ‘em me dirk.” “You did say dirk, didn’t you?”
Victoria thinks she might die on the spot from a apoplectic seizure when the Doctor books the three of them one room in a sex hotel and worse tells the attendant he’ll let him know if they need an extra hand!
There is a brilliant Stone-ism on page 98, the sort of thing only this writer could come up with (The Doctor turned to look out of the page at the reader with no amount of small concern. “I only hope we can get there in time without doing something completely stupid.”)
The 2nd Doctor is so shocked that he hasn’t informed Jamie and Victoria about the murders the only way to actually tell them is to pretend he has already done so, that they have forgotten and that (tiresome though it is) he has to tell them all over again.
Thatcher is described as a ‘rabid old trout’ and the UK government: “do you really think this tin pot little island has any say in anything?”
The 2nd Doctor gets bored with watching the grace of the ice skaters so half inches a pair himself and reduces the ice rink to complete and utter chaos!
The Doctor realises that things are going horribly wrong when the TARDIS swimming pool fills with marmosets and blue custard and the walls decorate with tartan.
Brilliantly the transit between this dimension and Lychburg means the Doctor and Romana have 15 years worth of adventures before they get there, and unfortunately 15 years of adventures on the way back (hey, there’s a lovely excuse for more 4th Doctor and Romana stories!). Hilariously, the 4th Doctor and Romana are hiding under the console and the 2nd Doctor, Jamie and Victoria bustle around.
Romana realises with some disdain that hers and the Doctor’s only contribution to this entire endeavour is to get the 2nd Doctor’s TARDIS doors open so they can save the day. The Doctor reminds her that it is the little things in life that count.
Result: Potty in a way we never knew existed; his time away from writing Doctor Who novels has clearly done Dave Stone the world of good. Whilst his posterity for asides in favour a fast moving plot still seems very much apparent this novel is far too innovative and imaginative to be criticised. If you are a patient reader you will eventually be led to a stunning conclusion with the rest packed like sardines with insane but clever ideas, armpit tickling gags, crisp writing and some pretty marvellous imagery. You would have thought Stone would be made for the unpredictability of Doctor(s) two and four but whilst they are good the real wealth of this book lies with Victoria and Romana, both of which are written with astonishing honesty. If you like to be spoon fed read on because Prime Time is coming, those of you who like a challenge (and a laugh) will adore this: 9/10

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The Shadows of Avalon by Paul Cornell

Plot: Compassion is going through some changes, the Doctor discovers a backbone, the Brigadier considers suicide and Romana has turned into a right bitch. And those are just the sub plots…trouble is brewing in Avalon, when the land of dreams is invaded by the real world, a meeting that can only lead to war…

Top Doc: Good grief the man has finally found his backbone! After a half dozen or so books where the Doctor is completely impotent to the plot he finally decides to muck in and have a positive role in the stories conclusion. He admits that humans taught him everything he knows and tells the Brigadier there would be no one else he would rather be stranded with. He is compared to his other selves, suggesting he is much more involved with the peoples lives he meets than he ever was. He condemns the Brigadier and the human race (“You dare to do this to the land of dreams?”) and rides off to the enemy lines to have a positive impact, saving lives, claiming small but important victories. His riding of the dragon is truly magical; as he sense the fate of the creature he shares its crushing pain for a moment. He admits he really doesn’t know what winning is anymore. By the end of the book he has saved his companions lives, helped to solve a terrible crisis and is on the run from his people once again, for the first time in ages I get a sense of who the eighth Doctor is and what he is all about, it might have taken an admission from himself that he is a bit rubbish overall but to see him pull his socks up and turn his life around is astonishing.
Scruffy Git: The one character Cornell seems rather aimless with, for once it is Fitz who is surplus to requirement.

Stroppy Redhead: This is it, this is the one all those hints and clues have been leading up to. Yes that’s right it’s the book where she finally winds up in bed with Fitz! And she screams! No I’m only joking…this is the one where she becomes a fully sentient TARDIS, the very first of a new breed. She is so scared about the change brewing up inside she hugs the Doctor with delight when they are reunited. She tries to hold back the change until the last possible moment and when it comes it is terrible and wonderful at the same time, the death of Compassion and the birth of her too. She discovers the change makes her everything she has ever wanted to be and allows her to finally be at one with the time vortex.

Stiff Upper Lip: The characterisation of the Brig is so special I have to include a section just for him. He has been severely wounded by the death of his wife and is described as being dead on the inside and still walking about. He wants the Doctor to heal him, to go back and save her but finds when the time comes he cannot ask him. He no longer fights for fair shares all around, life isn’t fair and every one has to look out for their own. He is described as being only human and that is the beauty and the horror of him. When he thinks the Doctor is dead too it is the final straw and he snaps, choking on maniacal laughter, a control freak to the last who refuses to let himself heal. He attempts suicide, which is so sensitively written it brought tears to my eyes but when he doesn’t go through with it considers the act dishonest and foolish. He realises with grim determination that the enthusiastic soldiers around him are going to die. “Every day moments became moments of great pain” he admits, “I can’t move on because I’ll never stop loving you!” He realises that loving Doris so wholeheartedly made him incredibly vulnerable but he wouldn’t have had it any other way. He realises with great sadness that the reason life, and his relationship with Doris, was so special was because it doesn’t last forever. The very first choice he makes when he has chosen to live is to save Mab’s life and it is very touching to experience them beginning a new life together. He is described at the climax as a warrior turned peacemaker. Amen to that. As the Doctor says, “Alistair, you continue to astonish me.”

Foreboding: “You can kiss my TARDIS…” the Doctor opens a life up for himself, one where he is constantly on the run from the Time Lords…

Twists: Compassion is let loose upon humans and given eight tasks including snogging somebody and writing a poem and amazingly, she succeeds. The dream of Doris’ death is shocking a nightmarish. The TARDIS is destroyed! Literally blown to pieces! And t isn’t put back together again at the end! When the portal opens between Catuvelanuni and Earth you can sense the doom coming. The Brig is responsible for killing the dragon. The war in Avalon gets into peoples dreams, a regime of fear in the world. This book brilliantly pulls the EDAs into shape, grabbing hold of what I thought were nothing more than sloppy loos plot ends from other books and turning them into something surprising and exciting and deceptively plotted to shock (The reason Iris kept the Doctor away from the Obverse was because the Time Lords were observing the mess he caused and they would be after Compassion. The reason the scanner exploded on Skale was because it could not recognise what Compassion was becoming. The human TARDISes of Alien Bodies and The Taking of Planet Five were a prelude to Compassion’s big change. The reason the TARDIS has been hopping to all these dimensional disturbances because it was aware of its own death and wanted to find out how and why. The TARDISes in the TOP5 were talking to Compassion, not the Doctor’s TARDIS and that’s why they saved him…WOAH! Never saw any of that coming…)Even better is the appearance of uber-bitch Romana who wants to force breed Compassion so they can slave them to their current conflict with the People and their coming war with the Enemy.

Funny bits: ‘The shock was so great some of them regenerated on the spot.’ Well I laughed. Embarrassing bits: Cavis and Gandar basically. I like why they are there and their insidious plans but they read like a fanboys wet dream, childish Time Lords who cat a bit spazzy and sleep with each other. Paul Cornell was never known for his subtlety but “I’m the Doctor and I’m here to save the world!” is perhaps taking things a mite too far.

Result: It might be a bit awkward in spots but that doesn’t matter at all as this is one of the few EDAs to this point to be touched by a sense of magnificence. For a start the prose is beautiful, rich with magical sights and dripping with emotion and the characterisation is the best we have seen in this series (outside of a Kate Orman novel) with the reader going through every stage of the Brigadier’s tragic road to recovery. The EDAs get a wonderful kick up the ass and it is so joyous to reach the last page (that is meant as a compliment) because I was desperate to know what happened next. It is the novel where the eighth Doctor is finally nailed, as a people person who saves the day by getting close to people and the dawning realisation that this fascinating character can actually work in print is the icing on the cake. Very encouraging: 9/10

Friday, 16 October 2009

First Frontier by David A. McIntee

Plot: Just what complications could a genuine UFO make for the space race between the US and Russia? Warheads are being stolen, traitors discovered within the military and a mysterious scientific advisor seems to have all the answers. For the Doctor and Ace, it will be a reunion with an old, old enemy…

Master Manipulator: Faced with his arch nemesis, the Doctor is back in Sherlock Holmes territory. He is authorative and has keen investigation skills. As a two-finger salute to the Time Lords the Doctor has already sorted out their accommodation before they have arrived (something, he admits, has a habit of doing in this body). He has majestic clearance within the US government. When confronting the master of his lunatic scheme he admits he will not kill in cold blood, that it is harder to fight for life than to surrender to death.
Boozy Babe: Bernice is interested in mankind’s first steps into space. She wondered if visiting every bar in the history of the universe and acquiring one of their glasses was a frivolous hobby for an archaeologist but her answer to herself was invariably no. Her head often felt like MC Escher’s waste bin! Although she is reluctant to admit, the truth is that the Doctor and Ace were the only family she had now. She had already lost both of her parents to raw hostility and was beginning to realise of late she couldn’t lose these two in the same way. Ace was almost like her adopted kid sister.

Oh Wicked: Interesting to see a comparison of Ace and the Master when it comes to the killing stakes! I remember a time when we used to compare the Doctor to the villain but it seems Ace is despicable enough to take on that role now! Ironic in a book that sees her at her best. First Frontier is essentially an action novel for all its pretensions of examining the Cold War and Ace is the perfect companion to shine when bike chases, fist fights and shoots outs are the order of the day! She even admits her preoccupation with death and destruction has become an occupational hazard! There is a scene where the Doctor and Ace discuss Segonax and obviously all the dealings with the Master reminds us of the events of Survival – it is astonishing to think this is supposed to be the same character. I suppose some people might call it development. Gone is the petulant cynic of previous novels, this Ace is simply hardened by her adventures but still enjoying them…and even having some fun with Benny! Exactly how it should have been from Deceit onwards! She used to borrow Midge’s bike occasionally, more to spite her mother than anything.

Foreboding: The Master’s return is the first use of the Master since Survival so it should be the newly regenerated Master that next appears in Happy Endings. The Master from Legacy of the Daleks is Delgado so no problems there. However the Master from Matrix and Prime Time is clearly the Ainley version again – yet the 7th Doctor PDAs are clearly leading up to the NAs. If First Frontier is to be believed the Master hopped from the Cheetah Planet to Earth thus voiding those Perry/Tucker novels (I can hear you chuckling Styre). The TV Movie sees him in a globulous state, exterminated by the Daleks. He pops up again in Adventuress but that could be any version of the character. And then of course he has been resurrected and hidden away in the New Series…only to be killed again. Lets just chalk it all down to the fact that lots of writers like using the character and nobody cared what anybody else did with him.

Twists: Within the first few pages the Doctor and Ace are both shot down. The Tzun are split three ways – pre-space travel humanoid looking Tzun, Pantropic (S’rath) Tzun who are 3 or 4 foot tall and blue and Ph’Sor – Tzun who have mixed their genes with the species whose planet they are colonising. The idea of Ace and Benny disarming a nuclear warhead hidden in the Washington Monument is so cool it could only have come from this range. Ace shooting the Master in the chest is way cool. The fact that the Master called the Tzun to Earth just to cure his genetic disorder and then promptly discredits and attempts to destroy them is brutally perfect for his character.

Result: There is a great story to made out of mixing Doctor Who and the Cold War and First Frontier makes a good stab at it but ultimately this novel is too long and too detailed to make the impact it deserved. It is one of the few Doctor Who novels where the ideas are all pretty good (the Master setting up shop in 50’s America tricking an alien race into curing his illness and then attempting to wipe them out) but the writing style fights the thin plot and drags practically every scene out far longer than they needed to be. It is almost as though McIntee wanted to let you know how much research he had done into the period and the amount of effort he put into creating the Tzun Confederacy. If it doesn’t develop the story, don’t include it. The location is fabulous and the regulars all shine in the setting, especially Ace who feels like a real person rather than a writers wet dream. The book hinges on the twist reveal of the Master and McIntee makes both the Ainley version and the nasty regenerated version stand out amongst the blander, less well-developed guest cast. If the plot moved faster and McIntee cared as much about characterisation as he did about period detail this would read far better, as such it is a fun idea that is just too serious and educational to really strike home: 5/10

Friday, 2 October 2009

Grave Matter by Justin Richards

Plot: The islands of Dorsill are a calm and peaceful backwater, free from technology and the chaos of modern society. The Doctor and Peri arrive in need of a holiday but soon realise things are not quite as tranquil as they seem. Bodies are being exhumed from graves, madmen roam the shoreline and a dangerous experiment is nearing its completion…

Theatrical Traveller: It is a beautiful take on the blustering sixth Doctor, as much as I admired Gary Russell’s softer version in Business Unusual it felt a tad too cuddly to be the same guy who exploded across the telly in the eighties. Here Justin Richards (who more than any other writer I feel managed to capture his regulars with frequent success) writes a warm and friendly sixth Doctor, but one who can turn nasty and dangerous on a whim. He frequently chides Peri but there is genuine concern for her safety. When the Doctor says: “You may not like me. You may not like what I do, what I shall have to do. But I’m here to help and that maybe that I am the only help you have” Justin Richards has summed the sixth Doctor’s entirely existence most eloquently, I think. He can metabolise alcohol with no effect, thus he can down several pints of the infamous Fisherman’s Ruin without making a tit out of himself. You can’t but help loving him when he turns embarrassing mishaps into calculated diversions with comic results. He is surprisingly flattering and charming, especially with local gossip Mrs Tattleshell, he knows what its like to be old and under appreciated. He likes children, there is an innocent charm about playtime that attracts him, where the definition of suffering consisted either of detention or boiled cabbage! The Doctor laughed with the children while they played and for a few seconds life was wonderful. In a lovely scene he is seen calming rowing across the sea enjoying the peace. He is the sanest person he knows. He makes people realise their mistakes, throwing in their faces when they try and make excuses, far less patient and understanding than other incarnations. “What right do you have to deny them Doctor?” “Because its wrong.” – Richards takes on board one of the most important feelings Colin Baker himself has about his Doctor, the fundamental sense of right and wrong in the universe. He will step in and act if he thinks things are wrong, even if it means people will suffer and experience pain (such as here where the human race could never have to grieve or suffer any sort of pain again). He loves flying about in the helicopter at the end of this tale, and swings it around for another just for the hell of it.

Busty Babe: There is something rather wonderful about the Doctor and Peri staying up late in a pub and enjoying themselves with the villagers of Dorsill, a warm scene full of character that they were denied during their busy and gaudy adventures on the telly. Since meeting the Doctor Peri had wondered whether she was dreaming or sleep or mad. From experience she knew now that the event she was witnessing were horribly, undeniably real. She also knew that more often than not it was up to the Doctor and herself to confront the bizarre and the horrific and stand against the forces of the night. She used to want to change the world but now she just saves it. Peri says she gets confused mostly and the Doctor is the one who does the confusing. I love how Peri stays silent even when she realises that she has been infected with the alien virus, not wanting to distract the Doctor with concerns for her safety.

Twists: There is a lovely gothic opening, a shambling wreck of a man being pursued over the moorland until he falls over a cliff. Peri nearly goes the same way but is rescued by a man with only two fingers. The Doctor and Peri witness a funeral and one of the pallbearer’s slips and the coffin cracks open on the cobbles, the face staring up at Peri. There is something hilarious about watching sheep shepherding the sheepdog! In the first of many macabre scenes Edward Baddersley digs up William Neville’s body and lugs him home in a wheelbarrow. When they re-bury him, Neville splits open his coffin and rises from the dead. When Dave Masden realises he has been infected with alien material he takes desperate steps to kill himself, all with no effect. First he tries an overdose, then slitting his wrists and finally he slips a shotgun into his mouth and blows half his head away…but alas he keeps waking up. Dead fishermen rise from the sea and strangle Mike Neville. There is a glorious chase across the beach, Janet trying to cough the motorboat into life but dead men attempting to drag them all under the waves. The Gatherer Space Probe came back with alien genetic material- Denarian (after DNA)- a universal cure all. The cultivated the Denarian in a human incubator (Christopher Sheldon) and bought the islands to and moved Dave Masden to test the material and its affects on the villagers. But now it has skipped a generation and is actively taking over people in order to survive. The image of the dead Neville serving tea to the Doctor and friends is grotesque. There is a great cliffhanging chapter end that sees the Doctor and co trying to escape and opening the front door of the mansion and watching the possessed villagers approaching, led by Dave Masden, his head a mass of blood and broken bone. Packwood X-Rays himself to death to kill the alien inside of him. Chapter thirteen is absolutely brilliant, Peri is attacked by owls, foxes, sharks, zombies…the works as she attempts to make it to the mainland and call for help. When she gets through to Madge we realise that Sir Anthony should be in a wheelchair and he is in fact the controlling Denarian influence! Peri shoots Masden with a flare gun! The Doctor develops a strain of Denarian, which just cures, doesn’t control and administers it by having a while of a time riding about in a helicopter.

Funny Bits: Justin Richards has a great time playing with all the horror clich├ęs. “We don’t have strangers here,” says a villager but what he means is tend not to get rather than actively discourage.
Richards sets his gag about the date up beautifully, with no modern trappings the Doctor and Peri believe they are in the Victorian era. So the Doctor is hugely embarrassed when a helicopter flies overhead and the Doctor attempts to explain this amazing ‘flying machine’ to astonished villagers when they are in fact just gasping because it is out in the fog!
Janet Spillsbury, under the influence but still trying help, exaggerates her lies so they know they are truths: “That is not, I repeat not a coal chute behind there and there is no way you can get out through it.”

Result: One of the most unpretentious books in years, expressing its influences with pride rather than embarrassment. Justin Richards can write this sort of tale in his sleep, which is hilarious because it’s much better than a huge chunk of the PDAs; it is a wildly entertaining and cosy tale of horrific goings on. The Doctor and Peri are actively involved in the plot and get to enjoy some lovely character moments they were denied on the TV. From Richards you expect the clever plotting and ideas but what I really liked was the mixture of horror and the scientific, there is a good reason for every one of the disturbing moments in this book. The highlight for me was Dave Masden blowing his brains out…his hands scratching at the floor as he gets up again: 8/10