Candy Jar, out now
In the aftermath of the Yeti incursion in London, Colonel Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart finds himself once more facing an alien threat…
I will admit freely that when this new line was announced, I was a little surprised that Andy Frankham-Allen elected to write the first novel himself, particularly given the track records of the other authors lined up for the series. However, he has done an excellent job with this book, introducing the set-up of The Havoc Files (do we really need two separate sets of branding for this?) and the version of Lethbridge-Stewart that we are going to be spending time with over the next few books.
Rather than the meta way in which Doctor Who has tackled the question of UNIT dating, Frankham-Allen has decided exactly what year this is set in (albeit with a few pieces deliberately out of place), and littered the book with period details. There is the odd anachronism of speech pattern (“invite” was not used as a noun then!), but overall the period is well-captured, with phone boxes, operators, and cross-references to various TV shows and music of the time.
He’s also decided which of the various versions of Lethbridge-Stewart we’re following, and, unsurprisingly, it’s the capable soldier the second Doctor spent time with. (There are a few references to the Doctor scattered through the book, but not to the detriment of the tale.) It’s a personal story for the Colonel, for reasons that become clear as the story progresses, and in the way that the recent BBC Books hardbacks have done, it ties in elements from all eras of Doctor Who in a story that’s set in the black and white series – one particular sequence evokes an incredibly recent scene and ties a lot of apparently contradictory developments together. This is a Lethbridge-Stewart whose mind has been opened to impossible things as a result of meeting the Yeti – and the Doctor – and who is quick to adapt to local situations, rolling with the blows and formulating new ideas speedily. It’s not the caricature that the character could later become, and you can often “hear” Nick Courtney speaking the lines.
Some of the choices that have been made for the series are going to surprise fans of the show, but that’s as it should be. If Candy Jar can maintain the standard of this opener, then those fans will be in for a treat.
Verdict: A strong opening that sets out the series’ stall very well. 8/10