For years, the details of Doctor Who ‘s Time War were restricted to a few tantalising phrases. A smart policy, it seemed; could any on-screen presentation match the almighty conflict waging in our imaginations? Then “The Day Of The Doctor” pulled back the curtain, to widespread acclaim. Now this novel featuring John Hurt’s un-Doctor (in George Mann’s characterisation, basically a regular Doctor with added weary sighing and table-thumping; don’t expect a man drenched in blood) further dispels the mystique by presenting further skirmishes.
It’s an epic, widescreen tale in stretches, with space battles between swarms of “battle TARDISes” and sleek black Dalek stealth ships that are every bit as cool as, say, that shot from the 50th anniversary adventure of the TARDIS crashing through a wall and taking out a bunch of pepperpots. It fleshes out one of those tantalising phrases – prepare to finally meet the “Skaro Degradations”. It also plays with some pretty grotesque notions; it’s just a shame that some of the best of these (like a weapon which erases people from time, and Daleks grown from human flesh) feel familiar from TV.
What’s really surprising is how much it draws on 1983’s “The Five Doctors” (old-school fans may find themselves crying, “No, not the mind probe!”) There’s something jarring about crashing together the Gallifrey of that crowd-pleasing anniversary romp with the one of “The End Of Time”, but there’s method to the madness: the two stories are linked by the figure of Rassilon. How he went from being a legendary dead man to a living Lord President is explained; we also discover which of his decisions finally drove the Doctor to declare, “No more!”
Neither of these revelations is liable to prompt gasps of disbelief, though; nor is the fate of one-off companion Cinder (a Feisty Survivor who doesn’t really have time, in between the explosions, to win our hearts). And the way The Time Lord Formerly Known As The Doctor saves the day will likely rile anyone who regularly screamed “Deus ex machina!” at Russell T Davies episodes. Nevertheless, this remains a satisfyingly gruesome, action-packed and thrillingly fast-moving continuity-fest, on a scale surely way beyond the TV show’s effects budget.
Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman
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