THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
AUDIO DRAMA "DOCTOR
WHO AND THE
PESCATONS" AND THE
TV STORY "THE MASQUE
RELEASED IN JUNE 1995.
It’s 1998, and The
Doctor and Sarah
must foil an
The first thing that struck me about “System Shock” was how strange it was to have Tom Baker’s Doctor wandering around in the near future – particularly a near future portrayed so accurately. In theory, the Doctor can visit any place in any time, but the writers and the producers tend to limit his escapades in so far as that they do not know what will happen in the future. They can make educated and informed guesses, but could a Doctor Who writer in 1975 really have sat down and written a techno-thriller set towards the end of the millennium, chocker-block full of CD-ROMs, ‘global information superhighways’ and desktop PCs? Not unless that particular writer had spectacularly accurate foresight!
However, writing for the fourth Doctor in the early nineties has allowed Justin Richards to give us something that feels fresh, new and exciting. His IT day job has permitted the author to write this novel with an extraordinary level of technical detail, but that is not all.
As if it is not strange enough reading about the fourth Doctor hacking into servers and juggling CD-ROMs, Richards breaks another half-taboo and has the Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter Harry Sullivan out-of-sequence, as it were. Now I am sure that like many other people I was delighted to see the old season twelve team reunited, but I especially appreciated the unique nature of the reunion. A story with these three characters would have been well received anyway, but having Harry twenty years older and working for MI5 – yet
still the same old bumbling Harry – is a masterstroke. It also creates one of those beautifully troublesome temporal conundrums that we all love so much.
For the meat of the story itself, were it not published under the auspices of Doctor Who, “System Shock” it would have techno-thriller stamped all over it. Parts of it reminded me
very much of the Terminator movies, although arguably Richards’ Voracians are far more fascinating than the machines of those films. There is a sublime plot twist about the origins
of the Voracians that I will not spoil here, so you will just have to take my word for it – it is ingenious!
Flaws? Well, in truth I found “System Shock” slow moving in parts, and I also found a lot of the technical stuff a little too dry; the author’s evident enthusiasm for the subject matter could have perhaps done with being curbed every so slightly by his editor. On the whole though, I found that “System Shock” was an immense improvement upon Richards’ first novel, and fourth Doctor fans are sure to really get a lot of mileage out of this one.
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 states that it takes place between the television serials The Seeds of Doom and The Masque of Mandragora. Within this gap we have placed it after Doctor Who and the Pescatons, simply
to reflect which story was released first.
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