BBC eBooks, out 4 September
Returning from Metebelis 3 after his encounter with the Great One, the Doctor is surprised to find himself in a rather surreal world…
Over the years we’ve had a number of Doctor Who stories which have claimed to be “adult” in tone; often, that’s simply meant that sex and/or swearing have been shoehorned into the tale, sometimes with as much justification as Kenny Everett’s character Cupid Stunt when she claimed that it was essential to the plot when “all my clothes fall off”. It’s been very rare to find a story which has been truly adult in terms of the themes explored; it’s even rarer to find one that is presented in such a way that younger children can read it and still come away with a satisfying Doctor Who adventure.
Joanne Harris has achieved this in this beautiful tale of the third Doctor at the end of his life, arriving in a land where “the D-word” is banned, and those who aren’t happy are taken away by the Gyre. People there no longer have names – they’re the Milkman, or the Policeman – but the Queen remembers hers, and tries to help the Doctor to find the TARDIS… which seems to be in an impossible place.
We’re never allowed to forget the state that the Doctor is in, or what has brought him to that situation, and Harris makes us wonder how much the Time Lord truly learned from his talk with his mentor, and subsequent trip back to the cave of the Great One. He has faith, though, and that is justified – leading to the final scenes which I will admit (knowing others in the situation that is set up there) brought tears to my eyes, particularly the last line.
There aren’t many Doctor Who writers who can quote Goethe and Yeats alongside references to the Daleks’ Time Vortex Magnetron without appearing pretentious. If you know the Alan Sillitoe story from where this Time Trip derives its title, you will have an idea of some of the themes Harris touches on. But they are all wrapped up in a tale that brings Jon Pertwee’s Doctor back for one last hurrah, and reminds us of the power of story.
Verdict: An absolute gem of a Doctor Who story. Not to be missed. 10/10