Perhaps sensing the Doctor's deepening mood of loneliness
and introspection following his battle with the Master on
Gallifrey, the TARDIS lands in the most haunted place on Earth:
the luxury ocean liner the Queen Mary in the year 1963...
this novella, Keith Topping has taken a daring step. Examples
of first-person narratives in Doctor Who prose fiction
are few and far between, with David Whitaker's novelisation
of The Daleks being probably the best-known example.
But Topping has done something that no Who novelist
has ever done before, by conveying his story entirely from
the Doctor's point of view.
is worth noting that the fourth Doctor has acted as a narrator
on a number of previous occasions in other media. On audio,
Tom Baker has spoken the Doctor's mind on the Genesis of
the Daleks and Doctor Who and the Pescatons LPs,
as well as on the Power of the Daleks and Fury From
the Deep cassettes. He fulfilled a similar role in the
linking material on the Shada video release. For me,
these examples serve to make the fourth Doctor seem all the
more suited to airing his thoughts in Ghost Ship.
owing to the Time Lord's dark mood and the unsettling events
that befall him during this book, we do not encounter the
zany personality that the reader might have been expecting.
Nevertheless, the author's intense insight into the Doctor's
mind is convincing. Topping suggests, as Simon Messingham
did before him in his BBC Books novel Tomb of Valdemar,
that the time traveller's eccentric behaviour is, at least
partially, a front that he puts on. The Doctor's assertion
that ghosts do not exist - a belief that is tested to the
limit during this tale - is entirely in keeping with the character,
echoing his constant disparagement of Leela's superstitions
on the television series.
are a fair few horrifying and/or tragic moments in Ghost
Ship but, surprisingly for a ghost story, I didn't find
the book as scary as might have been expected. Nevertheless,
this is a bold and interesting experiment in Doctor Who