When Peri is mortally injured, the Fifth Doctor has little
choice but to return to Karn, at a point in time before his
previous visit, when the planet hosted a famous hospice. But
the TARDIS crew are soon embroiled in a galactic war against
a cruel general, whom the Doctor suspects to be a renegade
Time Lord. The Doctor must tread a dangerous path if he is
to end the General's expansionist ambitions without altering
Dicks has built up a reputation for writing nostalgic novels
that are invariably sequels to previous television and prose
adventures. Well, this one is different - it's not a sequel,
it's a prequel! A prequel to The Brain of Morbius to
be precise, the 1976 Tom Baker serial which Terrance himself
wrote under the pen name of Robin Bland.
don't need an encyclopedic knowledge of Who to realise
which characters are likely to put in an appearance during
this story. Dicks also throws in a glut of old monsters and
characters, including Draconians, Sontarans, Ogrons, Cybermen,
Ice Warriors, and the Doctor's old teacher, Borusa. Fortunately,
all of these figures are used in entertaining new ways.
Doctor and Peri also undergo some surprising and refreshing
changes. By hardening the Fifth Doctor, this tale continues
a trend that began in Big Finish's Primeval (which,
coincidentally, also had the Doctor taking an ailing companion
back in time for a prequel to a well-loved Tom Baker adventure).
If you are dubious about the possibility of the Fifth Doctor
taking an active role in a war, remember that is the incarnation
who took on a Cyberleader hand-to-hand in Earthshock.
This is the Doctor who has killed or attempted to kill Omega
(Arc of Infinity), Davros (Resurrection of the Daleks),
Kamelion and the Master (Planet of Fire), and memorably
lost his rag with Salateen in The Caves of Androzani.
One is only left unconvinced by the transformation of Peri
because we know that she quickly reverts to being a wimp in
subsequent TV adventures.
not surprisingly, given the convoluted history of Gallifrey
that has accumulated over the years, the author gets a few
elements muddled. This novel depicts Gallifrey at a point
in time before the Doctor has even been tutored by Borusa,
so then how does the Celestial Intervention Agency's spokesman
Ratisbon know of the Doctor's theft of the TARDIS, since this
event will not occur for many years? On a similar note, why
does the General claim that the Doctor is a wanted renegade
- how does he know that he will be? (I posed these very questions
to our resident nit-pick solver Johnny Fanboy. He suggested
that Ratisbon gleaned the information from a Matrix prediction,
and that the General could have gained his knowledge from
a mind-touch with the Doctor.)
prevent the book from becoming too bogged down by such continuity
issues, Dicks lightens the mood with his wicked sense of humour.
For instance, he trots out what is now a customary Sontaran
catch phrase: "The hair is finer..." Watch out also for a
song which another Sontaran sings, as well as allusions to
Douglas Adams and even Carry On Up the Khyber!
an attention-grabbing opening section, the lengthy and complex
plot flags a little in the middle, but this escapist romp
recovers long before its conclusion. In fact, a return visit
to the Doctor's prolonged participation in the war would not
be unwelcome - Mr Dicks, please take note of this idea for
a future sequel! Until then, this is his most enjoyable Who
novel since the New Adventure, Shakedown.
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