Book Review – Doctor Who: Downtime

  • Title: Downtime
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Marc Platt
  • Characters:  Victoria, Sarah Jane Smith, The Brigadier, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 8/08/2014

Downtime is a bit unusual even for the Doctor Who Missing Adventure series. The Doctor isn’t actually in the book as a character, and he’s not even really mentioned directly. The story is a sequel to two Patrick Troughton stories, The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear and features Victoria, The Brigadier, Sarah Jane Smith, and the Brigadier’s estranged daughter – Kate Lethbridge-Stewart. It begins in the 1960s, with Victoria trying to adjust to a new century, and the Brigadier being approached with a new idea, a UN-led force to counter alien activity and invasion (UNIT). Victoria’s landlady suggests she take a vacation, and she does – to Tibet. Victoria had been having dreams about her father. In Tibet she visits a old Buddhist monastery but instead of finding her father, she’s taken over by one of the Great Intelligence control units.

Next we know it’s the 1990s and Victoria is the headmistresses of a new university, called New World University. New World teaches it’s students by computer, and the students come to be known as Chilly’s in the popular press. Sarah becomes involved because she’s hired to find out information about a number of people who were directly involved or witnessed The London Event (see The Web of Fear). Sarah, however, doubts the PR man who’s second only to Victoria in the hierarchy of the school. She also gets suspicious when the Brigadier’s name shows up on the list of people she’s to investigate.

The Brigadier, meanwhile, is still teaching at Brendon Boys Prep School, though he’s due to retire at the end of the next term. He’s also having strange symptoms and dreams as Victoria did.

Kate is living on a houseboat and being watched and harrassed by the Chilly’s. She later meets Sarah Jane and is also reunited with her father, The Brigadier.

The book, Downtime is actually a novelization of an “independent drama presentation” – a play or video (there’s a coupon to order the video in the back of the book). There’s also a series of black and white still photographs glued in the center of the book. They are quite nice. The forward briefly describes the “dramatic” presentation and cast: Deborah Watling (Victoria), Jack Watling (Prof. Travers), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart), John Leeson (K-9, & also the New World DJ), Geoffrey Beevers (Harrods), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith). The forward actually bemoans, “With, at this time, no certainty Doctor Who will reappear on our television screens…” which is ironic, as here I sit in 2014, and Doctor Who is more popular than ever – and globally so. But that was written in 1995 before the 8th Doctor FOX/BBC TV movie, before the BBC Past Doctor Adventures and Eighth Doctor Adventures original novel series, and even before Big Finish started their regular monthly Doctor Who audio productions.

I enjoyed reading this, some of the in-jokes were marvelous (at one point the Brigadier tries tells Sarah to give a message to UNIT – “Codes NN and QQ” — the story codes for The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. There were other moments that make a knowing fan smile. Overall, the story moved very fast, though parts of it was a bit confusing (I think having not seen the lost story The Abominable Snowmen caused some comprehension problems; though having recently seen The Web of Fear definitely helped. Recommended, especially for Doctor Who fans.

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