Every so often, there’ll be a Doctor Who novel or audio which you are reading or listening to (moderately) attentively and suddenly realise where the author is taking you – usually, certainly in the case of the latter, as the first cliffhanger approaches – and it’s not at all what you expect. That’s the trick that Matt Fitton pulls off successfully in this middle story of the new E-Space trilogy, which seems to be mirroring its TV predecessor structurally with a tale of a medieval-type society which is not what it seems.
It’s no spoiler to say that this doesn’t feature Aukon and his cronies, but the society which the travellers visit is in its only particular state of decay. It’s a delicately balanced world, where any sort of change has an effect, and the kinds of actions that the Doctor is so good at taking have equally strong reactions. There are echoes of Castrovalva here, as well as Terminus.
Fitton’s first tale for his TARDIS crew achieves what some of the earlier stories (and indeed many of the TV stories of the period) failed to do: give strong plotlines to each of the time travellers, which derive from their characters and their reactions to the situation, rather than purely being plot-driven. Their roles aren’t interchangeable, and each of the performers brings their A-game as a result – including guest stars Annette Badland, Nickolas Grace and Joanna Kirkland as the central trio, and John Albasiny and Ella Kenion as the villagers.
Verdict: A gripping yarn with clever twists and strong characterisation. 9/10