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1908: writer George McKenzie-Trench is suffering from writer’s block, unable to foresee the ending of his novel, Time’s Champion, nor the consequences of its completion... 9908: the planet Caliban is under attack from Cyber-forces, and governor George McKenzie-Trench intends to save their world by unleashing Abaddon, a powerful computer virus. But Abaddon has other instructions... Meanwhile Gallifrey is under attack and the Keeper is seeking answers within the Matrix. President Romana is helpless: no-one is who they seem and the conspiracy goes even deeper than she can imagine. She needs the Doctor... But he is on Earth in 2008, fighting to save the life of a child who must survive at all costs. As Gallifrey is attacked by ghosts from the past, the Doctor, Mel and Benton find themselves in the middle of an epic and final battle as the ancient gods choose their champions and allow chaos to reign across all of time and space...
Time’s Champion is the final Doctor Who novel to be penned by Craig Hinton, who died suddenly in December 2006. The book has been completed by his friend and fellow writer Chris McKeon and released as an unauthorised publication to raise money for the British Heart Foundation.
The novel, which deals with the final adventure of the Sixth Doctor, is a thematic sequel to Hinton’s earlier Millennial Rites and The Quantum Archangel, and to The Trial of a Time Lord. Though this is Hinton’s last book (he proposed the story to BBC Books in 2004, but it was rejected, though he continued to work on the manuscript until his death), at least one story element dates back to his first ever novel proposal, Cascade, which he pitched to Virgin Books back in the days of The New Adventures. This rejected idea would have involved an exploration of the complex relationship between the Doctor and his mysterious “darker side”, the Valeyard.
As you can see from the above synopsis, in addition to the Valeyard, Time’s Champion also features the return of Benton, Romana and some Cybermen. So, a typical Craig Hinton continuity-fest? That’s not the half of it! This 400-page tome also features, among others, Paul and Arlene Kairos (from The Quantum Archangel), Kronos, K9 Mark I, Vansell, Spandrell and various transcendental beings, including the Time Lord gods Time and Death, and there are references to many other characters and concepts, including the seemingly obligatory Great Old Ones. The authors have kept the book up-to-date with a few sneaky allusions to the new television series, and they haven’t overlooked the fact that the Sixth Doctor’s “final adventure” has already been documented in Gary Russell’s Spiral Scratch. It’s all a bit much at times, so it’s almost a blessing that an epilogue, which rationalises the Valeyard’s “subsequent” appearance in Robert Perry and Mike Tucker’s Matrix, is accidentally missing from the first edition (though it is available in PDF format on the Time’s Champion web page).
A few of the continuity references are not only unnecessary but also just plain wrong in my opinion. Magnus aka the War Chief is not the Master - or at least if he is, then you must remove the novels Timewyrm: Exodus, The Dark Path and Divided Loyalties from the equation.
I also had problems with some of the book’s more metaphysical passages, finding them difficult to grasp and hard to commit to memory. Many of the events in the story are created by virtual and/or mystical forces and solved in a pseudo-magical way. Aspects of this, and clunky sentence structure in general, might have been improved if McKeon and his editor, David J Howe of Telos Publishing (who published the novel using Telos facilities, though not as a Telos book), had been less reverential about the narrative and Hinton’s authorial intentions. On the other hand, perhaps the very problem is that too many cooks have stirred this particular broth.
Nevertheless, their hearts are in the right places, and the story’s conclusion gives the Sixth Doctor a suitably honourable send-off, though I don’t think it’s any better or worse than the one Gary Russell wrote. The plot as a whole is arguably less silly than that of Spiral Scratch, and, with a cover by former Virgin Books artist Alister Pearson, Time’s Champion is also a fitting prequel to The New Adventures.
The book can be obtained only via the web page www.timeschampion.co.uk. Please note that the first and second print runs quickly sold out, but further printings may be possible if sufficient orders are received to justify another edition.