Top positive review
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on 19 March 2015
This is an original Doctor Who novel, which was first published in 2002. In 2015, eight original Doctor Who novels have been released as the ‘History Collection’, a series of novels featuring different Doctors and their companions in historical storylines.
This story features the Third Doctor, as played by Jon Pertwee, with his companion Sarah Jane Smith, an independent young woman journalist of the 1970s. The title of the book is inspired by the medieval morality tales, where the characters in the tales represented virtues and vices and played out those roles for the audience in their narrative. In this tale, the author has offered a number of characters who offer an alternative, more amoral, viewpoint. Some are characters who normally operate outside the law as any state would recognise it, but have their own code of ethics and responsibility. Others are those who operate within and for the law, but who face terrible decisions and tests of their own ethical standpoints.
The story starts with a Prologue set in 1946. The reason for this Prologue becomes very clear later in the story. The narrative then moves to London in 1952, and the chapters take place over the course of just six days, from Wednesday, December 3 to Monday, December 8. Sarah Jane Smith and the Doctor have come to 1952 after Sarah, researching an article, finds a photograph showing the Doctor. The Doctor sees something in the photo which makes him determined to follow through on the ‘historical’ photo immediately. The evidence seems to point to a focus on a local gangster who has just been released from prison, Tommy Ramsey.
The first part of the novel reads very much like a London gangster story. Hard men, who have lived lives of crime, or who have come back from the War to find nothing is as they had left it, living by their own rules under the protection of their boss. The gangs struggle for territory, and local businesses are forced to offer ‘protection’ money. But then the focus of the story shifts, as something far more dangerous than gangs makes its presence felt in the city. The Doctor and Sarah must face terrible danger and violence, but even then they do not know if they can survive this threat.
This is most definitely not a Doctor Who story that is suitable for young readers; there is violence, and some of it is graphic, and there are references to adult themes. But for a mature audience, the story is a real winner. I found the whole mix of historical and ‘other’ (which comes into play part way through the story) to be very effectively and convincingly woven together. The author has presented a wonderful story, and a really fantastic Doctor Who story. The Doctor and Sarah Jane are characterised perfectly, the setting of the story feels ‘real’, and the supporting characters, both the good guys and the bad, are all wonderfully written. Great stuff.