Synopsis: In an English village, a historical re-enactment of the civil war begins to take a threatening tone. Some of the players are taking things far too seriously, in particular Sir George, who seems particularly driven towards making the event as accurate as possible. When Tegan Jovanka comes looking for her grandfather, she learns that he has disappeared, while the Doctor joins forces with a local schoolteacher and a time-displaced boy to uncover something terrifying in the church crypt…
- 1. An Unexpected Aura
- 2. The Devil in the Church
- 3. The Body in the Barn
- 4. Of Psychic Things
- 5. ‘A Particularly Nasty Game’
- 6. The Awakening
- 7. Tegan the Queen
- 8. Stone Monkey
- 9. Servant of the Malus
- 10. Fulfillment
Background: Eric Pringle adapts his own scripts from the serial broadcast in 1984, the first novel based on a two-part story since The Sontaran Experiment.
Notes: Little Hodcombe is in Dorset (everyone on TV affects that ‘just outside of London’ accent that covers anywhere from Norfolk to Cornwall). Sir George’s ancestors have governed over the region since before the civil war; Will Chandler was in service to one of them and it’s that ancestor that he sees when he pushes Sir George into the Malus. The conclusion suggests that, as he promised to Tegan, the Doctor does indeed stay in the village for a holiday.
Cover: Andrew Skilleter’s original cover is a handsome portrait of the Malus, free of its crumbling wall frame. Alister Pearson’s 1992 cover adds the Doctor and Tegan to a walled-up Malus.
Final Analysis: This is a fun one: Back when this was first published, I wrote a review for a local fanzine in which I moaned about the padding that was evident in the fact that it took ten pages just to get past the first scene. Impatient youth! So, 35 years later, Eric Pringle’s sole contribution to the range is indeed a slow build as he takes his time to describe every detail that we might have seen on screen… and that’s the issue really. Although made as a two-part story, it was commissioned as four episodes and one might have hoped for an expanded novel that featured loads of extra scenes. As it was, the reason the story was reduced in size was because there wasn’t enough to sustain 90 minutes of drama, so apparently very little incident was actually cut. There was one short scene with Kamelion in the TARDIS that was recorded but subsequently removed, but that doesn’t make it into the novel either.
Of course, I didn’t know there was material missing in 1985 and what we have is a very thorough and accurate adaptation of the story as broadcast. Far from being padded, this novel makes good use of the increased page-count that’s been the standard since Frontios. The characterisation is strong, particularly for Will Chandler.
Will had given up being surprised. When he had been bobbing and swinging about in the cart and feeling sure that his bones were splintering inside him, he had made up his mind that if he survived he would take everything in his stride from now on. He had discovered that when absolutely everything is extraordinary, nothing is astonishing any more. Running into a blue box, therefore, was simply another wonder to be accepted without demur, and he shrugged as he ran in through its door, as though this sort of thing happened to him every day.
Oh why wasn’t he a companion?! There’s one thread that gives us a hint of WIll’s backstory, as he explores the Little Hodcombe of 1984 and is appalled that the events that he remembers from 1643 – which must be just a day or so ago in his own timeline – are happening again. He even notes that this current time has its own Squire Hutchinson, just as his own did. The Squire who pressed him into service and whose actions led Will to hide in the church. Come on, Big Finish, surely there’s a gap you could fill with a mini-series? The Will and Jane Adventures!