Grab a pot of ersatz tea or some fine German Riesling and join Mark as he continues his readthrough of the New Adventures novels with Timewyrm: Exodus
Terrance Dicks is what you would call “a safe pair of hands” when it comes to both Doctor Who scripts and novelisations, so it was no real surprise that New Adventures publisher Peter Darvill-Evans secured his services for the second book in the range.
Tracking the Timewyrm to London in 1951, the Doctor is expecting to visit the Festival of Britain but something is very wrong indeed. A swastika hangs from the Skylon, Oswald Mosley is Prime Minister of Great Britain and the tea tastes like cat’s piss. Something has gone very wrong with time, but is it the work of the Timewyrm or of another time meddler?
In his afterword for the novel’s second edition; Peter Darvill-Evans points to Timewyrm: Exodus as one of the best regarded of the New Adventures and it’s not hard to see why. The novel barrels along at a fair old pace and is full of memorable imagery; the Doctor’s spider legged assassin, Adolf Hitler as a poltergeist, the 7th Doctor in leather trench coat and monocle(!)
Perhaps another key to the novel’s success is that it’s the first time Doctor Who has tackled the Nazis head on. Sure, we’ve had an edges rubbed off modern day version in Silver Nemesis and numerous allegorical conflicts in various Dalek stories. But here we have the Doctor face to face with the horrors of Hitler’s regime, forced to put history back on its proper course.
Terrance Dicks is clearly relishing the opportunity to write a weightier, more grown up Doctor Who novel but never for a moment does it feel like it is at the expense of the tone of the parent show. Much has been written about Dicks’ formulaic style and there is a hoot of joy when “A smallish dark-haired man” dressed in “…shabby brown check trousers, a brown sports jacket with a garish fair-isle pullover beneath, and a jaunty straw hat” exits the TARDIS. That, dear reader, is Terrance Dicks 101.
After the muddled feel of the previous novel, Dicks’ description and characterisation of the Doctor and Ace is bang on the money and this feels unequivocally like a Doctor Who novel. And a really really good one full of big, exciting show-boating moments that they would never have dared attempt on TV, this is Terrance Dicks at the absolute height of his powers; something that’s always a joy to behold.
NEXT TIME: “…writhing in its own excrement, blood and vomit”