Doctor Who: The Time Travellers Paperback – 10 Nov 2005
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About the Author
Simon Guerrier has written countless Doctor Who books, comics, audio plays and documentaries. As research for one of his Doctor Who stories, he studied GCSE astronomy at the Royal Observatory Greenwich - which resulted in an A* and the plot for another Doctor Who story. Simon regularly writes for Horrible Histories Magazine and medical journal The Lancet Psychiatry. With his brother Thomas, Simon also makes films and documentaries - most recently The Fundamentalist Queen, about the wife of Oliver Cromwell, broadcast on Radio 3 in December 2014.
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Top Customer Reviews
An intriguing opening shows just that as the tardis arrives in modern london. But it's not quite the london we know. A world ravaged by war has new hope thanks to the discovery of time travel. But as with everything, there are consequences...
An excellent recreation of the style of stories that the original tardis crew faced, all of whom are well characterised, this is a very clever and intriguing bit of work which really gets to grips with the fact that the tardis crew travel in time and the effect this has on the universe around them. And to say much more would spoil it.
You have to work hard in the middle as there's an awful lot going on, but it's worth it. And there are some excellent surprises to be had near the end. A terrific read and highly recommended
There are a lot better Doctor Who books out there.
Definitely worth it.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
What makes "The Time Travelers" fresh is the as-told-in-1963 approach. It goes beyond obvious to say that, in the reader's world, the London of 2006 has not been at war with a distant foreign power ever since a cataclysm that struck the city in 1966 and crippled humanity's growth. However, for the Ian and Barbara of 1963, whose lone vision of the future was the 28th Century of the TV adventure "The Sensorites", this apocalyptic 2006 is the inexorable future they must one day face.
The reader also learns early on that this future history is triggered by events that happened in the much later, post-Ian and Barbara, First Doctor TV adventure "The War Machines". What becomes obvious then is that the Doctor can in fact rewrite history. We know going in that this awful vision of 2006 is not going to be completely resolved at the end of the book -- the Doctor will have to wait for several companion changes to go by until he lands at the Post Office Tower in June 1966 in Episode 1 of "The War Machines". The ending to "The Time Travellers" is destined to be bittersweet rather than happy.
The first 200 pages are a bit dull, with several characters named after the author's friends fighting a desperate rearguard, both military and scientific, against the approaching foreign power. Things take a sharp left turn, however, when we learn who the titular "Time Travellers" are. A few big plot twists are revealed all at once. The action doesn't exactly get more interesting after page 200, but the character revelations, primarily about Susan, and Ian & Barbara, are worth the wait.
An odd book, then, one that on its surface is very similar to the EDAs of a few years' past, but which in the end proves to be much more imaginative than it may seem at first glance. You'll have to be familiar with a wide range of 1st Doctor TV stories (and catch a tangential reference to the 7th Doctor actioner "Remembrance of the Daleks") in order for all this to hang together in the way the author intended... but there's nothing wrong with any book that begs you to watch more 1st Doctor stories.
The downfall of this book was the story. The paradoxes of time travel can be confusing, which I admire the author for taking on the subject. However, they should at least make some sense, which at times, the story doesn't make sense at all. I'm not sure if it was the actual concepts involved or just the amateur writing skills of the author. In time, Simon Guerrier has the potential to be a great writer, but considering this was his first novel, it did read as such. Coupled with the concepts involved & the fact this was the author's first book, led to this novel being average at best, but very much worth the read.
One other final note, I'm also unsure how I actually felt about the author's portrayal of the feelings Ian & Barbara had for each other. In the actual TV series, they are nothing more than friends. Though, it is likely after all they had been through, after they got back home, they had become much more... so perhaps this story is a glimpse into their life after their travels with the Doctor. Its also a glimpse into the Doctor's desire for his grand daughter to begin a normal life. Again, overall its a fun if not confusing read.
First Doctor adventures are interesting because at the time the show was more an ensemble cast with a serial nature, so at least in the first season or so you got to watch Ian and Barbara and Susan and the cranky Doctor all kind of learn together and grow into a weird sort of family, as opposed to the focus being on the dude with allegedly two hearts who's out to save the world because he's a genius, while everyone else is along for the ride and conveniently around to ask questions or have things explained to them. Thing is, I'm not sure how well that reads, which puts an author in a weird position of recreating the creaky halcyon studio bound days of 1963 or rendering it so modern as to sandpaper away all the charms it once has.
To his credit, the author here makes a valiant attempt and really only fails by being too ambitious, which you can probably chalk up to First Novel Syndrome. The Doctor and his sprightly companions land in London in 2006 and instead of being greeted by a cheeky blonde with a dead-end job, they encounter a London that has been destroyed by war (again, presumably) and in fact realize that the war is still going on. Immediately after arriving they find a man dead but soon after discover him alive again. As it turns out, both things are true simultaneously. Did someone say time travel paradox?
For the most part it seems that the only way to make time travel paradoxes work is by sketching out notes for all the shifting timelines in a way that would probably take up the entire room of a house. And maybe he did, but it doesn't come across here. He's attempting to do two things here when he should have just stuck with one concept and brought it all the way home. On the one hand you have the time travel experiments, which result in multiple copies of one person from all different parallel timelines (and all you Eighth Doctor readers thought we were done with that stuff) and seems to be capable of breaking down time. On the other hand you have the idea of a world in peril and twisted beyond recognition, with England's enemies making plans to finally fix things once and for all. Oh, and did I mention it's all the fault of a certain homicidal computer?
The problem is everything feels vague. Once we have the initial situation, the book more or less treads water, giving us various people doing various things, but none of it really moving the plot forward so much as getting us page-count wise to the point where the plot can start to matter. We have hardnosed generals, double agents, the dark threat of war, some history to learn but in the finest tradition of a four part episode given two extra parts it didn't need, there's an awful lot of vamping going on here. And what's worse is that the threat never feels specific, the Doctor keeps insisting that time is broken but he never goes into detail (and there's at least two points where we've given something to be believed at face value and at the point where it would get in the way of the plot, the Doctor simply says "I lied" and we're in Opposite Land suddenly). We see preparations but it's just generic war, we don't get a sense of what's at stake. If time is broken the multiple copies of Colonel Andrews should be a symptom but instead it seems a way to kill him over and over while still having ones left around to be useful. It's not even played for absurd comedy, despite comments about their differences. There's very little spark given to the concept, as if we're supposed to be dazzled by the concept of Broken Time (and the Doctor suddenly saying that his bold statement of not being able to change history by one line was just him being over-enthusiastic, extra fiber and all that, you know) and not notice that everyone surrounding the concept is a bit drab.
The shift in scenery about two-thirds through is welcome but doesn't really improve things too much. Multiple copies of Ian attempt to shake things up but we'll get to that in a moment. Our heroes have to change history but it seems it's simply easy enough to change the course of history by going out for a few drinks. Not the world's greatest climax, unless it's one of those Simon Pegg/Nick Frost movies where everyone's a right bloke at the end, wot? Nor is there any sense of history actually changing, as everyone just leaves, content that everyone is okay now and they're not going to emerge from a TARDIS into an Earth where the currency is clown noses.
Otherwise, he's pretty good. He gets the tones right, with the Doctor being all cranky and grandfathery, Susan not as fluttery and screamy as she could be, and Ian and Barbara being the steady levelheaded presences they all were, best friends and noth-
Actually, about that. While the aims of the plot itself aren't so detailed, the book doesn't devote large sections of text to Ian and Barbara musing on their feelings for each other, which turn out to be rather deep. And in case you missed that, we have future versions of Ian who seem to be married to Barbara and discussions between the two of them about said feelings and futures together. It's hard to argue with any of this on the face of it, since if you're going to put together anyone who ever traveled on the TARDIS, it might as well be them and in fact they make a better couple based on the chaste televised evidence than a couple seasons of Amy and Rory actually being a couple. By now it's probably an accepted piece of fanlore that they're together after travels end (and if "The Romans" proved anything it's that it probably didn't start when they left the Doctor) but having our usual stiff upper lip heroes spend pages wringing their respective hands over their feelings for each other feels oddly out of place, like a fan-fiction draft that got mixed in with the other stuff. This isn't the first time the BBC novels have delved into this and once that door was kicked in everyone probably felt obligated to put their personal stamp on it, but as much as I like these people on paper, I just can't imagine William Russell and Jacqueline Hill mooning over each other like this. For goodness sakes, they were adults, not lovestruck children. If I wanted to experience a real mediocre time traveling romance, I'd watch "The Lake House" in all its glory.
Still, for all my complaining, he manages to extend their farewell scene in "The Chase" a couple more minutes and get a perfectly charming romantic ending, as well as a nice point to say goodbye to these two, so I can't say that I mind it completely. It just seems that at some point during the writing he became so interested in making connections to other stories and setting those little balls in motion that he forgot to put as much passion into the plot. As it stands, he conjures up the spirits of these people just enough to make it roll pleasantly along fueled by our affection for them and to a lesser degree by their open affection for each other. It's a good effort from a first time writer, but if there was a need for an inaugral book for the "TARDIS Romance" line, we wouldn't have to look much further for a good candidate.
Guerrier manages to recreate his TARDIS crew splendidly. That TARDIS crew being the very first featuring the first Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara. Their reactions to the world(s) they find themselves in throughout seem spot on to what fans have watched and listened to for close to half a century. In a way, Guerrier is at something of an advantage by writing for this TARDIS crew. The novel gives the reader the chance to get inside the character's heads in a way a TV story never can and Guerrier puts that to full use here with a TARDIS crew that is still getting to know one another. You have to remember that this was a time when the Doctor was more mercurial if not downright mysterious then later incarnations and we're reminded of this at moments throughout the novel where Ian and Barbara worry about the Doctor possibly leaving them behind. Guerrier also foreshadows some things still in the character's futures as well such as Susan leaving the TARDIS crew in The Dalek Invasion Of Earth (for which we are given a reason why the Doctor let her) and even get a mini-sequel to the final minutes of The Chase as well (one that thankfully isn't as cringe-worthy as that story). The result of all this is that the characterizations are all spot-on in a way that is both familiar yet surprisingly fresh at the same time.
There's also fine supporting character's as well. With such spot-on work on the TARIDS crew, it would have been easy to make the supporting characters bland and barely noticeable. Yet Guerrier chooses to invoke one of the things that the Hartnell era would occasional do right: create supporting character's as interesting as the regulars. Bamford, Kelly, Griffiths, Andrews (splendid chaps all of them) and Wu all come across as three dimensional characters rather then possible cardboard character's. That sense of realism is heightened by Guerrier choosing not to delve into their motivations though we are given plenty of glimpses into what those might be. Plus, like all good supporting character's should, they give the protagonists something to bounce off of. In fact the novels best character moments come out of such moments with Barbara's moment of realization on page 162 being one that stands out most clearly in my mind. The result is a series of fascinating characters populating the novel throughout.
It is in the plot that the book truly becomes a true mix of past and present. Whether Guerrier intended it to or not, this novel has the feeling of being one that puts the earliest TARDIS crew in a story that could be right of the New Series of Doctor Who. The characterizations of the TARDIS crew, the scientific explanations, the occasional runarounds and even the title itself are all evocative of an era of Doctor Who that occurred nearly fifty years ago now. Yet elements like its time travel paradox, a big reveal involving one member of the TARDIS crew that comes out in the final chapter as a consequence, its Canary Wharf setting during much of its length (if not the whole embattled 2006 London setting in general), pacing, even the prologue and epilogue all seem to be from the New Series. These styles should clash, at least in thought, you say? In practice though, Guerrier makes them work together to create a story that both honors the show's past while embracing its present without hesitation.
The icing on the cake is the fact that the novel is both a sequel and prequel to a first Doctor story still in his future that also has references to a few other stories here and there that are done in a way that is great if you get them but aren't necessary to understanding the story really. Yet Guerrier keeps in mind that this is a novel set during Doctor Who's earliest days and as such when he references things he keeps them vague such as not naming the Doctor's people for instance. Plus he takes one of the most (in)famous lines from the show's earliest days, "You can't rewrite history! Not one line!" and gives a much needed explanation for it that is truthful not only to what was originally intended when it was said and what ended up happening in the show's future as well. In short that means it's fan-wanking done right.
Even being a first novel The Time Travellers proves to be a standout novel. While the characterizations of the TARDIS crew, the scientific explanations, the occasional runarounds and even the title itself are all evocative of an era the past other elements such as the time travel paradox, a big reveal that comes out as a consequence, its setting during much of its length, pacing, even its prologue and epilogue bring to mind the Who of the present day. As a result Guerrier achieves a rare thing in either runs of the BBC;s Past Doctor Adventures or the Virgin Missing Adventures: a story that blends the past with the present and comes out all the better for doing so.
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