Book Review – Doctor Who: The Well-Mannered War

  • Title: The Well-Mannered War
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gareth Roberts
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Romana II, K-9
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/19/2015

The Well-Mannered War is one of the best TV tie-in novels I’ve ever read, and the best I’ve read so far in Virgin Publishing’s Missing Doctors Adventures. It isn’t often that a tie-in novel makes you think, but not only does this novel do that – it is a deeply philosophical work.

The novel begins in a typical way, The Fourth Doctor (as played by Tom Baker), Romana II (as played by Lalla Ward) and K-9 are in the TARDIS when something goes awry. The Doctor manages to materialise the TARDIS successfully, and he and Romana decide to look around where they’ve landed, even though they have hit the Temporal Boundary – past which no Time Lord should explore. It seems even Time Lords shouldn’t see their own future. However, what seems to be a typical “excuse” to start the adventure is returned to at the end of the novel – and the accident and the Doctor’s reaction to it – wasn’t as much of an accident as it seems.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Romana are on Barclow, which is meant to be a colony planet. However, for over 100 years a war has been brewing on the planet – between human soldiers from nearby Metralubit who claim the small rock as their colony, and alien Chelonians, turtle-like intelligent beings. But it an novel twist – no one has actually fired a shot at the other side for all that time. In fact, the two “armies” have actually become close enough friends to attend teas and similar gatherings – while preforming their tours of the war zone, and pointing deadly weapons at the other side.

Romana with K-9 and the Doctor are separated and each end-up visiting the other side. However, video of K-9 attempting to save the life of the Metralubit candidate for the premiership surfaces – allowing K-9 to claim the principle of “Constitutional privilege” meaning he gets to assume the place of the dead political candidate and run for office against the sitting premier. K-9’s political campaign is rife with political satire – and a lot of humor. This novel is quite funny especially in what is basically the first and second parts of the novel (there are no formal parts designations).

Romana and K-9 journey to Metralubit, where K-9 runs his campaign, and Romana begins to figure out what is going on. She, however, makes one miscalculation. And Stokes, the artist from The Romance of Crime, also takes an action with far-reaching consequences. When more is revealed – it’s a race to stop an ancient, unassuming, and very surprising enemy. To say more would spoil the fun – so I won’t reveal it.

For most Doctor Who books that would be it – and it would be enough – a fun read, lots of humor, lots of action, an intriguing plot, and a truly original enemy. But perhaps because this is chronologically the last book in the Missing Doctors Adventures series of original Doctor Who novels, Gareth Roberts goes farther – and it’s the final few chapters of this book that made me really love it, despite the bittersweet tone, and give this book the highest rating possible – something I seldom do for tie-ins and original novels based on a TV series. I don’t want to spoil anything – so I won’t go into details. But the end is truly philosophical, it’s brilliant, it’s bittersweet, and it makes you think. Highly recommended!

The Well-Mannered War is also available as a full-featured audio play adaptation from Big Finish, available on CD or as a download.

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