on 14 March 2009
*I actually wanted to give this four stars*
The first of the Virgin Missing Adventures series to feature Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor, Steve Lyons' novel protests against the axing of his beloved show with the unsubtle but humourous `Tiemriders', a much loved Sci-fi programme that has been taken off air causing its many diehard fans to protest and demand its reinstatement. Lyons' next target is Mary Whitehouse, whose criticisms of Doctor Who's escalating levels of violence in the 70s and 80s is lampooned through the creation of Miriam Walker, a self-appointed moral crusader and self-righteous TV critic, whilst Lyons also hits out at reality TV; a somewhat prescient move in the mid 1990s before the likes of Big Brother and Hell's Kitchen had become TV stalwarts.
As for the Time Lord himself, after the shenanigans of his trial, The Doctor attempts to settle on the planet Torrok, a world where televisual entertainment is the only escape. However, soon enough the Time Lords come pestering and The Doctor finds himself investigating the `Meson Broadcasting System', which is suffering from some unusual computer breakdowns. Without a companion, and much like the current crop of Tenth Doctor novels, the Time Lord teams up with the adventurous Alison, and the pair soon get their fingers burned as they try to get to the bottom of an another insidious plot.
Overall this is a pretty good read and Steve Lyons clearly understands what makes the Sixth Doctor tick, with the world of television an appropriate match for his boisterous personality and violence levels that wouldn't have gone amiss in the likes of Vengeance on Varos and Attack of the Cybermen.
This early 'missing' adventure was the first to be set in the post-Trial of a Timelord gap caused by Colin Bakers sacking, and Lyons takes the opportunity to ditch future companion Mel and introduce his own character. The 6th Doctor remains the same as his TV counterpart however - moody, surly and generally un-likeable. The story plays out very much as a 'disaster' story - a rogue artificial intelligence infects a broadcasting station and it's a couple of hundred pages of characters running around getting killed by robots. There are far too many characters here, none of whom have the readers' sympathy, and the allusions to BBC TV-land are obvious and crude (fans campaigning for the return of their favourite axed science fiction show, a Mary Whitehouse 'ban all TV' caricature, etc). During all this the most interesting thing to happen to the Doctor is that he becomes an unwilling contestant on 'Death-Hunt 3000', which is a rather familiar mortal combat game. Add to this a 'let's not fight among ourselves - we'll build a better world together'-style sickly ending and you have a real dog of a novel. If you thought the 6th Doctor's TV stories were often below par, you 'aint seen nothing yet.