BBC Books, out now
The Fourth Doctor discovers some very unusual creatures in the vicinity of Arbroath…
I’ll admit quite freely that of all the short stories in the recent Time Trips series run by BBC Books (and collected in a handy volume, as reviewed here), A.L. Kennedy’s The Death Pit wasn’t the first one that I’d’ve thought of as the basis for a full-length novel. It didn’t quite gel in that format for me – and perhaps that’s because it simply wasn’t the right length for the story and the characters involved.
Because The Drosten’s Curse is one of the most fun – and unusual – Fourth Doctor novels that you’re ever likely to read. Set between The Deadly Assassin and The Face of Evil, it’s told, for a large part, by a young receptionist who becomes embroiled in the Doctor’s encounter. Kennedy uses her to give us one of the most rounded portraits of Tom Baker’s Doctor that we’ve had in print (and between this and James Goss’ City of Death, fans of the fourth incarnation are being positively spoiled this summer). She suggests reasons for some of the trademark idiosyncrasies, and adds in some of the melancholy of the later years of this incarnation.
There’s quite a hefty focus on the TARDIS through the second half of the book, and Kennedy extrapolates from all we’ve learned about the Ship across the past six decades to make her a central character in the story. The Doctor may have slightly more control over the TARDIS’ wanderings than is common for this period – although equally, Kennedy doesn’t need to spell out the reason why the Ship might be behaving (and indeed why it does at some times and not others in the years to come).
The style is very different from the “normal” Doctor Who book (if such a thing exists) – as with many of these hardbacks (and indeed the Time Trips), the sensibilities of the author come through and while I’m not sure I’d want every Doctor Who story to be told this way, it makes for a very pleasant change.
Verdict: An enjoyable tale of love and loss, with help from various octopuses (or octopodes). 8/10