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BOOK
Doctor Who
The Time Travellers

Author: Simon Guerrier
BBC Books
RRP: 5.99
ISBN 0 563 48633 3
Available 10 November 2005


When the TARDIS lands in London, 2006, Ian and Barbara are eager to explore their future. But they have arrived in the middle of a war - a war that has left London in ruins. His friends mistaken for vagrants, the Doctor is press-ganged into helping the military refine its ultimate weapon. The British Army has discovered time travel, and the consequences are already devastating...

From the moment the TARDIS touches down in the abandoned Canary Wharf tube station of a ruined London, this parallel world story grips the reader's attention. What has caused history to change so drastically, even though the Doctor claimed it was impossible to alter history in The Aztecs? Why do duplicates of experimental time travellers keep materialising?

After a while, however, the narrative strays over that fine between "intriguing" and "confusing". Complex theories about alternate branches of time are offered to explain the temporal duplications. Science teacher Ian Chesterton finds these difficult to grasp, so what hope does the reader have? Though these theories coincidentally provide us with a get-out from the Blinovitch Limitation Effect witnessed in Mawdryn Undead (because the doubles aren't from the exact same timeline), the reason why all the duplicates converge upon a single branch of time could have been explained more clearly.

(SPOILER ALERT: the idea that the TARDIS acts as a lodestone appears at first glance not to hold water, because at least two other timelines are known to have an Ian and therefore a TARDIS in them. However, I reckon the fact that Bamford sends the TARDIS back in time to 1972, so that the Ship is at both ends of the time corridor acting as a doubly powerful lodestone, is what makes that particular branch of time so attractive.)

Nevertheless, author Simon Guerrier makes good use of his cast of characters: the morally aloof Doctor, the heroic Ian, the compassionate Barbara, and in particular Susan, who is by disconcerting turns patronising yet immature. He sows the seeds for Ian and Barbara's romantic involvement in David A McIntee's The Eleventh Tiger and The Face of the Enemy, and provides the Doctor with motivation for leaving his granddaughter behind at the end of The Dalek Invasion of Earth (this book appears to be set between Planet of Giants and Dalek Invasion).

The author also plays fast and loose with series continuity with sneaky references to the repercussions of adventures the Doctor hasn't even experienced yet.

Despite some temporal confusion, this book is an impressive debut novel and well worth your time.

Richard McGinlay

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