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Looking backwards to death
on 23 September 2000
"Festival of Death" is a novel set just before the last season of the most popular of Doctors, Tom Baker. It's an odd place - Baker's second last season is (in my opinion) one of the worst in the show's history, while his last was a return to the excellence that accompanied Baker's arrival in the role.
This book therefore manages to combine some of the odd humour of season sixteen with the better production quality of season seventeen. Into the bargain, a story idea that should have been used in the show at some time is featured. The Doctor, Romana and K9 arrive at a place where they have just been, and must travel back in time to carry out the activities that they have been told they have done.
Like the last month's Past Doctor novel, Imperial Moon, the Doctor has some foreknowledge of what is happening but must act to preserve the web of time. And in this case, the Doctor is told he sacrificed his life to save the day.
Given the crossing of the timelines inherent in the story, Jonathan Morris does an excellent job in making the story plain when it could have been confusing. He does this in two ways: firstly, with strong and memorable scenes which stay in the reader's mind; and secondly, by use of somewhat cliched characters. Obviously, I approve of the former but the latter is another harking back to season sixteen.
"Festival of Death" is a good read, and given the similarity of theme to "Imperial Moon" it is interesting to compare and contrast the two different incarnations of the Doctor in their approaches.