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on 4 July 2013
Mission: Impractical is David McIntee's second offering in the BBC Books Past Doctor range. His first, Face of the Enemy, got widespread acclaim and is probably my favorite novel of the range so far, so the bar was set pretty high for this novel. Straight away McIntee makes it clear this is not a serious novel by putting a statement of intent before the prologue. Personally I prefer the novels which don't take themselves too seriously and are just pure fun, so I was looking forward to starting this book.
The main plot device of the novel is an artifact, stolen from the Veltrochini's by a team of professional criminals. It turns out the artifact was stolen for a shady Government and the Veltrochini now want it back, and are threatening war. Time has moved on since the theft though, and the current Government are unaware of the artifact. Therefore a dodgy agent called Mandell hires Sabalom Glitz to steal the artifact from the Government's high security facility and return it to the Veltrochinis. Meanwhile a bounty is put on the Doctor's head and investigating the attempted assassination leads him to Mandell who forces him to help Glitz. It's all very spy fiction, with good guys and bad guys, and plot twists abound. Very entertaining.
The only slight disappointment is that Mission: Impractical claims to be a light read where you leave your brain at the door, but features massive amounts of technobabble. The facility where the artifact is held is phased 5 minutes in the past, with the vault itself phased a day different to that. Once you get your head around that, McIntee just flows with yet more time travel stuff, which requires more concentration than it really should.
The Doctor in question is the often overlooked 6th. I mentioned in my review of Business Unusual that I feel the 6th Doctor gets a raw deal and that authors usually portray him far better than the script writers did. McIntee does a good job in bringing out the best of the 6th Doctor, arrogant and brash but with an obvious good heart. This is the 6th Doctor I wish got shown on TV.
Companion wise we have Frobisher, a character who only exists in spin off media. For those not in the know Frobisher is a Whifferdill, a race which can change their shape at will. Frobisher however likes the form of a penguin. He is also a private detective who joined the Doctor for a few adventures. The character of Frobisher and the Doctor work well together, and he is infinitely more interesting to read about than Mel who is usually the stock choice for companion to the "nicer" 6th Doctor. I'd like to read more novels with Frobisher as the companion.
Mission Impractical also sees the return of fan favorite rogue, Sabalom Glitz and his sidekick Dibber. I adore the character of Glitz, and do wish we had a 6th Doctor season with him as a regular. Both rogues are written well, exactly as you remember them from the TV. Dibber's fate is revealed but you really struggle to feel much for him, which is a shame. Glitz's crew are bog standard criminals, although McIntee does try to hint at romance between Chat and Glitz to spice things up a bit, but it doesn't really work, nor is it needed.
The other cast are not really noteworthy. Mandell is a Government agent who seems to be double crossing everyone, again McIntee tries to liven him up by adding a pregnant wife who is also a police woman, but again this doesn't work, and isn't really needed. The bounty hunters after the Doctor show early promise, and there bits are entertaining, but neither really shine. Likewise the Veltrochini are an interesting race, comparable to the Draconians, but they only really serve as a threat to the Government.
Mission: Impractical is a jolly jaunt through a 6th Doctor TV story with the added bonus of Frobisher. It sometimes tries too hard to be something it's not, but overall McIntee has grafted an entertaining story which is well worth the read. It isn't going to challenge you, but much like the previous book, Catastrophea, it's perfect holiday reading, and who can complain about that.