24 Messidor, XXII: the TARDIS has landed in post-revolutionary France, or so it appears. But the futuristic structure of the New Bastille towers over a twisted version of Paris. And First Deputy Minski, adopted son of the infamous Marquis de Sade, presides over a reign of terror that has yet to end.


Revolutionary soldiers arrest an ailing Doctor as a curfew breaker. Dodo is recruited by a band of wandering players whose intentions are less than pure. Deep in the dungeons of the Bastille, Prisoner 6 tries desperately to remember who he is. And outside time and space, a gathering of aliens watch in horror as their greatest experiment goes catastrophically wrong.





The Man

in the

Velvet Mask







Well this is a strange one. A strange one that, I have to say, I enjoyed much more than I expected to. I’m more liable to throw a dart at any book bearing Dodo’s image on its cover than I am to read it, yet here, against all known laws of the universe, Daniel O’Mahony has actually managed to make one of the most unspeakably dreadful companions of all time appealing.


Initially winning me over with his cruel descriptions of her physical attributes (were actress Jackie Lane ever to read about “dumpy Dodo” and her “crooked smile” she would almost certainly weep), O’Mahony went on to take Dodo’s asinine, exasperating (I could go on…) character and push it in a whole new direction. Innocence lost. Senseless shagging. Doctor Who purists would probably sob even more feverishly than Lane were they to tackle this text, but for me, reading The Man in the Velvet Mask was illicit fan service of the most compelling kind.


© Virgin 1996. No copyright infringement is intended.The debauchery does not stop with Dodo, either. The plot revolves around the Marquis de Sade – the original sadist. And he is perverted. One scene early on, which sees a terrified young blonde sent to Sade’s bedchamber, encapsulates the tone of this novel quite deftly. The poor girl knows that she’s going to be raped, tortured and mutilated, and it’s this knowledge that makes it so much more chilling than any spontaneous suffering. Heavy stuff, it has to be said.


With this novel O’Mahony once again creates the same sort of claustrophobia that he did in Falls the Shadow; his dark, vicious prose lends itself brilliantly to the savage barbarity of post-revolutionary France. Although it isn’t post-revolutionary France, actually, and this is where it all started to go a bit off beam in my view. The events of this story are set within a sort of virtual reality, which effectively debases most of its torments. The Man in the Velvet Mask should have been a straightforward historical story, free from the science fiction trappings that threaten to undermine its horror.


On a final note, it’s worth mentioning that this novel portrays William Hartnell’s Doctor uniquely. Besides controversially positing that originally the Doctor had just one heart, and that his second was grown during his first regeneration, O’Mahony uses the magic of the written word to show us a side of the original Doctor that we never got see on television. He’s dying and he knows it. We get a fleeting glimpse of his portentous thoughts, his mindset, his fear of his impending renewal. I find myself reaching for that word again – illicit.


An absorbing, macabre torture chamber of a novel, The Man in the Velvet Mask pushes the envelope about as far as is practicable within the format of Doctor Who. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted, and definitely not for those who have a very clear-cut idea about what should and what should not go on in the series. Those who enjoyed Falls the Shadow though, not to mention the more adult of the Virgin novels out there, just might love this. It’s well worth a look if you’re feeling brave.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006


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