THIS STORY TAKES
place BETWEEN THE
NOVEL "THE ROMANCE
OF CRIME" AND
PAPERBACK (ISBN 0-426
-20466-2) RELEASED IN
It’s the summer of
1930, and Londoners
are enjoying the
heatwave. BUT What
is the truth behind
the infernal vapour
known only as
Way of Death
“The English Way of Death” is without doubt the best Gareth Roberts novel that I have come across to date by a long, long way. It leaves the likes of the inexcusable “Zamper” in its wake.
I remember reading Roberts’ first season seventeen novel, “The Romance of Crime”, and being astounded as to just how well he was able to capture the very essence of that season. I hailed that novel as being “the Graham Williams era of Doctor Who incarnate’” it even felt like contemporary script editor Douglas Adams has given the manuscript the old once over, and then Tom Baker had stuck a few of his own ad-libbed jokes in on set!
Well, whereas “The Romance of Crime” succeeded fantastically on that score, “The English Way of Death” goes one better. It is everything that “The Romance of Crime” was, plus it actually manages to be a really good, compelling story to boot.
‘He plans to destroy the world, next Tuesday.’
‘How vulgar,’ replied the Doctor. ‘Nobody does
anything of importance on a Tuesday.’
Once again Baker’s Doctor and Lalla Ward’s Romana leap out of the page at you. Roberts’ fourth Doctor is especially good here – “Pah!” K-9, too, is again an amusingly accurate depiction, David Brierley voice and all. I love his verbose speeches and his unfathomable vocabulary; his scenes with the delightfully straightforward Colonel are laugh-out-loud funny.
The 1930s is an evocative setting for the story, and Roberts’ characters are both an intriguing and an entertaining bunch. The Colonel, who I have already mentioned above, has to be my favourite. He may be a shameless caricature but he works splendidly; you could
just imagine him in a late 1970s Doctor Who serial! Percy Closed and his time travelling retirement crew are also fun to read about, as is novelist Felicia Chater who becomes Percy’s lover over the course of the adventure. Moreover, the villain – Zodaal – is rather charming in an unashamedly nostalgic way which, when combined with the Target novelisation-style illustrations, just about sums up the tone of the whole novel really. We even get an unbearably happy ending. Textbook!
All told then, this is the first Roberts novel that I would actively recommend to other fans. “The Romance of Crime” was certainly remarkable, but this one is downright unmissable; in a different league entirely.
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, and after the earlier novel The Romance of Crime.
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