THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
TV STORY "THE
CREATURE FROM THE
PIT" AND THE NOVEL
"THE ENGLISH WAY OF
PAPERBACK (ISBN 0-426
-20435-2) RELEASED IN
The Doctor, Romana
and K-9 VISIT the Rock
of Judgment WHERE
embroiled in an
investigation by the
connects the macabre
gallery of artist
Menlove Stokes with
the slaughter of a
survey team on a
distant planet? And
which old enemies of
the Doctor are
aboard the unmarked
spaceship making its
way towards the
Well, first off I have to say that I am impressed. If Gareth Roberts intended to write a story that you can actually see being played out before you in a 1970s BBC Television Studio, then the man is a genius. “The Romance of Crime” is the Graham Williams era of Doctor Who incarnate.
Of course, the inherent problem with this is that “The Romance of Crime” is the Graham Williams era of Doctor Who incarnate! Dodgy plot, obvious twists… outright comedy! It even feels like contemporary script editor Douglas Adams has given the manuscript the old once over, and then Tom Baker has stuck a few of his own ad-libbed jokes in! This is how frighteningly close to the real thing that “The Romance of Crime” is. Baker’s Doctor and Lalla Ward’s Romana literally leap out of the page at you exactly as they were on television – the one-liners, the sexual chemistry; it is all there. Even K-9 is an accurate portrayal of his television character, David Brierley voice and all.
Roberts’ supporting characters are also a memorable bunch. I particularly like the villainess, Xais; her power to kill with a single look really makes her a terrifying adversary. Sadly though, she has no real depth; she is just a killing machine. There is only one short passage in the book explaining her ‘origin’ story, and even that appears to have been derived from the old X-Men / Magneto story. It is a shame because there seemed to be a lot of room to explore the roots of her all-consuming hatred of ‘normals’. That said, had Roberts gone further with the character, then “The Romance of Crime” would not have read like a 1979 Doctor Who television serial, thus quashing its overriding charm.
The rest of the characters are equally frustrating; each and every one of them has a lot of potential, but the author appears to have deliberately held back in order to evoke the apposite feel. Pyerpoint’s dual identity is as obvious as the whole Tryst and Dymond drugs racket in “Nightmare of Eden”. Well, perhaps not quite that obvious, but it is certainly somewhere towards the lower end of the same bracket. The Nisbett brothers are a nice bit of comic relief – the Ronnie and Reggie Kray of outer space – but as convincing villains, you just cannot take them seriously. This pair even makes Soldeed in “The Horns of Nimon” look menacing!
Menlove Stokes, one of the ‘goodies’ is quite an amusing character to read about, especially as he cannot remember Romana’s name despite being obviously besotted with her. Spiggot is the best of all the lot though – he is an interesting spin on the American cop / ‘wife and kids waiting at home, never gonna make it back’ done-to-death stereotype. Neither Stokes nor Spiggot though are up to the standard of Duggan (“City of Death”) in season seventeen’s ‘Best Supporting Character’ category, although with these two you have to give Roberts full marks for trying.
Oh yes! Ogrons. Roberts uses them as the henchmen of the Nisbett brothers – a role that they are, arguably, far more suited to than being the Daleks’ whipping boys. I never thought that I would find reading about Ogrons interesting, but Roberts handles them superbly… Seriously, he does! We know that they are stupid, clumsy, simians; Roberts knows they are stupid, clumsy, simians; even the humans on the Rock of Judgement know that they are stupid, clumsy, simians... and that is why they work so well here.
At the end of the day, you simply have to take your hat off to Roberts. Who else would even dare to tackle a season seventeen novel, let alone make it entertaining?
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This novel’s blurb places it between the television serials The Creature from the Pit and Nightmare of Eden. Within this gap, we have placed it prior to the novel The English Way of Death, which was released later.
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