Review: Doctor Who: Books: Who Killed Kennedy? (20th Anniversary Edition)

20cover_bigBy David Bishop

TSV, available now

One of the great mysteries of the age – finally solved?

If you haven’t heard of Who Killed Kennedy? then you’re in for a treat when you read this novel, one of the last to be released by Virgin Publishing before they lost the licence in the wake of the Paul McGann TV Movie. It interweaves real history with the Doctor Who world, and incorporates a journalist, James Stevens, into the stories of the late 1960s and early 1970s (so we finally learn who it is on the end of the phone on at least one critical occasion in an early Pertwee story). It was controversial at the time because it seemed to reinforce Virgin’s, shall we say, less than kind attitude towards the character of Dorothea Chaplet (aka Dodo), who had suffered indignities in the Missing Adventure The Man in the Velvet Mask before the events of this tale.

From the comments in the accompanying material, it’s clear that David Bishop felt he had unfinished business with Who Killed Kennedy? and often contemplated reworking it in part – but was concerned he’d be seen as a George Lucas figure, constantly tweaking his original. If anything, though, this new version of Kennedy is more like Steven Spielberg’s revised version of Close Encounters of the Third Kind: I’ve lost track now which is meant to be the proper version, but originally audiences didn’t see inside the UFO that takes Richard Dreyfuss’ character away, until Spielberg added that sequence. For those who wondered what happened next to James Stevens (did he carry out the mission he seemed to be on the verge of starting?) we can now find out – and Bishop provides the story with an emotional closure that feels truer to the characters he created. It also, as a bonus, gives him a chance to pen a scene featuring Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, as well as an extra appearance for Liz Shaw.

If you’ve not read the original in some time, refuse the temptation just to read the extra bits; go back and enjoy this very unusual Doctor Who story in its new form. If you’ve not read it before – head to the TSV site now!

Verdict: One of my favourite late Virgin novels given an extra twist. 8/10

Paul Simpson


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