The Murder Game is the 2nd Past Doctor Adventure released by BBC Books. It features the 2nd Doctor who never really gets as much exposure as the other Doctors, mainly due to a high number of his TV appearances being wiped so it is always nice to read stories featuring him.
The book reads just like a 60's 6 parter. Whether this is a good thing or not is entirely up to the reader but don't expect in depth characterisations or challenging story lines. Personally I quite like the simplistic novels, they hark back to a time where Doctor Who was just a really good story.
Talking of story The Murder Game breaks absolutely no new ground and the first half really isn't surprising at all. The TARDIS crew get an SOS call to a desolate space hotel but they arrive to find seemingly nothing wrong and the few guests that are there are taking part in a murder mystery game. Naturally this means real murders start taking place. This scenario has been done to death and it does feel like cliché after cliché but it is surprisingly enjoyable. The story does move on from that premise with the introduction of a race of space sharks (the Selachians) and the second half of the book does get less predictable.
Character wise it's a mixed bag. The TARDIS crew are spot on, Ben and Polly are given a huge role and there relationship is explored brilliantly. Likewise there is no question that the Doctor is Patrick Troughton, Steve Lyons has him down to a tee. However the supporting cast are barely even 2 dimensional, let alone 3. This was obviously going to happen when you are dealing with that many characters but a couple of them may as well have been called guest A and guest B. It's only a minor gripe though as Ben and Polly are the stars of the book.
As mentioned the stories villains are the wonderful Selachians. Basically sharks in water filled armour. The idea is great, but they do come across as stock villains at times which is a shame as they have tremendous potential.
For me The Murder Game was far more enjoyable than The Devil Goblins From Neptune and in my opinion should have led the range. Quite simply it is a story which doesn't take much getting into and holds your interest throughout. It could be a Target novel from an unbroadcast 60's story, but it does it's job brilliantly.
Reminds me of Colin Baker's Doctor and Mel aboard the spaceship and their adventure with the Vervoids (sp?) - it has that same claustrophobic feel. Here, instead of lying about their motives outright, the participants have the luxury of using 'The Murder Game' as a cover for their true actions. The only thing missing is Polly forcing carrot juice on Troughton's Doctor! Unlike others who have voiced trouble in visualizing the Second Doctor in character, I actually could hear his Troughton-esque ramblings and rumblings. I also enjoyed Ben's uneasiness of character in playing dress-up, and Polly's enjoyment of same. Overall, an appealing adventure!
This is a cracking read. It is not unique in its combination of Doctor Who and the whodunit genre: the episodes Robots of Death, Black Orchid and The Unicorn and the Wasp have all done it (the latter featuring Agatha Christie herself, no less). Even among the BBC Doctor Who books, there has been Five Little Aliens, a First Doctor adventure, though the companions, Polly and Ben, are the same as in this one.
I think this one works better than Ten Little Aliens (reissued last year for the 50th anniversary), which is over-egged, a bit arch, more plotty and with rather too many underdeveloped characters - excusable in this genre, perhaps, but it makes it more of an effort, rather than a pure pleasure.
Here you can just sit back and enjoy as the TARDIS lands in a fading hotel in space, just as a murder mystery game is starting...and (of course!) a very genuine murder is about to take place. I have always thought that Polly and Ben were the best double act of the Doctor's companions ever, and they play a very enjoyable and active part here. Patrick Troughton's Doctor is very fondly remembered, and here he even gets to wear drag!
A superb read - light but very engaging. Joy Swift's Original Murder Weekends frequently feature an actor who is a massive fan of Patrick Troughton's Doctor. I must recommend this to him (though I bet he's already got it!)...