1918: Hawkswick Hall is a psychiatric hospital for First World
War victims of shell shock. When the Doctor arrives to investigate
why certain patients have been behaving murderously, mutilating
local livestock and domestic pets, he realises that an unseen
force is at work...
is it with ghost stories just lately? Taking into account
Big Finish's recent audio adventures The Spectre of Lanyon
Moor and Winter for the Adept, as well as BBC Audio's
re-release of The Ghosts of N-Space, Doctor Who
fans have been experiencing a surfeit of spooky stories of
late. This novel is no exception, depicting a rural English
community menaced by the gruesome "ghosts" of soldiers recently
killed in the Great War.
these so-called corpse soldiers are not the only casualties
to which the title of this book refers. Injuries can be mental
as well as physical, as is the case with the inmates of Hawkswick
Hall. Their afflictions are echoed by that of the Eighth Doctor,
who is still suffering from amnesia following his own traumatic
battle in The Ancestor Cell.
It's not all doom and gloom, however. A touching romantic
subplot sees local nurse Mary Minett developing feelings for
the Doctor. A real sense of sexual chemistry is allowed to
develop, which is aided no end by Paul McGann's "touchy-feely"
performance in the 1996 TV movie. The relationship is tastefully
handled, thanks in part to the fact that the Time Lord doesn't
even realise that he is not of this Earth. In later scenes,
however, the Doctor proves amusingly unresponsive to Mary's
main criticism of this book (by another first-time author)
is that the plot progresses rather slowly. The Doctor's role
is largely investigative and he has minimal contact with the
monsters of the piece, the corpse soldiers, until very late
in the day. Then - boom! - explanations and resolution follow
in rapid succession.
from that structural flaw, however, Casualties of War
is an engaging story that is rich in human interest.