BOOK
Doctor Who
SynthespiansTM

Author: Craig Hinton
BBC Books
RRP 5.99
ISBN
0 563 48617 1
Available 19 July 2004


The Sixth Doctor and Peri arrive in the 111th century, where nostalgia is everything. Reef Station One is receiving broadcasts from 20th-century Earth, and shows such as
Dixon of Dock Green are ratings winners. But another force needs Reef Station One, and millionaire Walter J Matheson III sees this as a marvellous business opportunity...

There are many fascinating ideas in this book, not least of which is the tantalising notion that mankind could one day travel to such distant stars that he might overtake the transmissions that left Earth during the 20th century. Oh, wouldn't it be lovely to catch up with those missing Doctor Who episodes? In reality, the signals would be degraded beyond repair, but the people of the New Earth Republic enjoy the benefits of a mysterious new technology called Redux (which the BBC's Restoration Team would no doubt love to get their hands on) that allows ancient broadcasts to be restored to pristine clarity.

The media-based subject matter allows for plenty of in-jokes. For example, the character of Walter J Matheson III is clearly based on Victor Kiam, the man who, in his famous commercials, claimed to like Remington shavers so much he "bought the company".

In addition to real television programmes such as Dixon of Dock Green and EastEnders, Craig Hinton refers to numerous made-up shows, including Executive Desires (a Dynasty-style soap opera), The Secret Files (The X-Files), Space Journey: Traveller (Star Trek: Voyager) and Dusty the Fearless Monster Killer (you don't really need me to explain that one, do you?). The familiar Doctor Who analogue Professor X also crops up, as Professor X: The Next Generation. Allusions to the new series of Who make their debut in a Past Doctor Adventure as debate rages over whether the latest incarnation of Professor X is actually the Ninth or the Tenth (a reference to the arguable validity of Richard E Grant's webcast "Ninth" Doctor).

The author also pokes fun at the more detailed classifications that the BBFC has taken to issuing these days. "Mild peril?" asks the Doctor at the screening of a cleaned-up print of George Pal's The Time Machine, "What's mild peril?"

The subject of nostalgia is a fitting one to deal with in a story that takes place during Season 22 (some time after Vengeance on Varos, since the Doctor is still running in his new supply of Zeiton 7). That season was renowned (or reviled, take your pick) for its copious reuse of elements from the show's past. Fittingly, this novel puts an inventive new spin on another old enemy.

Sadly, following a good beginning, the book appears to run out of steam, and very soon seems rather slow and shallow. Also, despite supposedly having toned down his propensity towards continuity references, Hinton shoves in an entirely unnecessary precursory scene to The Trial of a Time Lord. We don't need to be given a reason for the Doctor being put on trial, Craig, the reason for that was explained perfectly well back in 1986.

As I said, this book boasts some fine ideas, but its execution could have done with being less long-winded.

Richard McGinlay

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