What I love about DOCTOR WHO is its ambition. That it can take any genre of story in any place or time and turn it into a DOCTOR WHO story.
But the thing with vaunting ambition is that you have to coalesce it into something meaningful. If you don’t, you just end up with a big mess.
This Terence Dicks novel is really messy.
The majority of it is The Doctor and Ace with Al Capone in Prohibition era Chicago. That’s fine, I suppose, even if the idea of The Doctor hanging out with vicious murderer Scarface is a bit of a leap. But it’s clearly the section Dicks is most engaged with, although that engagement might not be anything more than “Hey! I’d like to write an old fashioned gangster story like Warner Bros used to make!”
There’s another section where Bernice Summerfield finds herself with Romana on a feudal vampire planet, which probably needs to be a bit better developed.
And it all ends up in full-on Time Lord lore, back on Gallifrey – which is supposed to be an ambitious conclusion but all ends up too cluttered for its own good.
(There’s also what you would call an adult section – where Ace is drugged, stripped to her underwear and nearly raped – which yuck! It’s a weird mis-step that I’m amazed got through the editing).
The problem is that none of these things come together in one book. (Nor are any of them unqualified successes.) Yes, there’s the same villain in Chicago and the vampire planet and he escapes to Gallifrey, but the narrative still feels awkwardly jammed together. Undoubtedly Dicks is trying to create a big story here, but it’s a big story that just doesn’t work.
My debut novel, THE WANNABES – which has been out of print for a little while – is now available for free. A supernatural thriller of beautiful actresses and deadly ambition in London town, it’s well worth your time. You can get your copy here!