BBC Books, out now
What’s the connection between trouble on an oil platform and people having difficulty remembering…er… Time Lord… goatee beard… you know who we mean…
Alastair Reynolds has clearly had fun writing this epic story for the Third Doctor, Jo, UNIT and the Master, which lives up to the old New Adventures tagline of ‘adventures too broad for the small screen’. Even if a whole season’s worth of budget had been given to this one story, it could never have been told on TV in the 1970s.
As with the best of the recent Doctor Who novels, Reynolds regards the show as one whole canvas, and there are references to elements of the show that were introduced much later than the Pertwee period. In some hands that can lead to stories that feel wrong for the era in which they’re set, but Reynolds has got such a strong handle on Pertwee, Katy Manning and Roger Delgado’s performances that he can quite cheerfully take them out of their normal comfort zone and it still feels authentic.
It helps that there are a number of touchstones from the period which are referenced – the Master is in prison, even if it’s one that’s a thousand times more secure than Colonel Trenchard’s in The Sea Devils; the Brigadier reassures Jo when it seems the Doctor is probably dead; Jo refuses to give up; the Doctor rubs the back of his neck (well, I think he does – the scenes are so well brought to life that it almost feels as if you’re remembering something you saw years ago).
Reynolds doesn’t confine this to an Earthbound adventure. There are invading aliens whose point of view we get to experience, and some timey-wimey shenanigans. He doesn’t cheat with the clues either – some of the revelations towards the end of the book shouldn’t surprise attentive readers – and there’s even some hints as to why the Master’s behaviour becomes more erratic in later years.
Harvest of Time doesn’t play with the Pertwee formula as some of the Missing Adventure/Past Doctor books did (yes, Rags, I’m reluctantly thinking of you), but if you loved Gatiss’ Last of the Gadarene for its recreation of the era, or if you simply love the period, this is for you.
Verdict: An enjoyable SF novel, and a great romp for the Third Doctor. 8/10