The TARDIS materialiSes at a crucial moment in British history.


As a history teacher, Barbara thinks she knows what to expect when she encounters a man called Guy Fawkes.


But she is in for a very unpleasant surprise.





The Plotters







The Plotters is probably best described as being the literary counterpart of The Romans, in that it is fundamentally an old-school first Doctor historical, yet with a decidedly comedic twist. Disappointingly though, whereas The Romans entertained me far more than it irritated me, Gareth Roberts’ novel leans more towards the latter.


Plotwise (if you’ll pardon the pun… Though I suppose that if the author can do it ad infinitum in the text, I should cash in at least once), The Plotters is a straightforward “we’d better be careful not to alter history” sort of adventure. The Doctor and his companions arrive in the London of 1605 and soon find themselves caught up in the momentous events going on around them. Ian and Barbara get mixed up with Guy Fawkes and his gang of plotters, while the Doctor and Vicki infiltrate King James’s court under the aegis of being pilgrims from York Minster.


© Virgin 1996. No copyright infringement is intended.Now whilst his plot may be formulaic in the extreme, Roberts does shake things up a little bit by putting the Doctor and his companions in situations that we would never have seen them in on television. Dressing Vicki up as a boy may be par for the course, having her chased round a castle by King who wants to sodomise her / him is pushing the envelope even farther than David Whitaker did with this subtext-laden Crusade. But as much as this amuses, it just doesn’t feel right in the middle of a William Hartnell historical. Dennis Spooner just about got away with it with Nero and Babs in The Romans, but only just, and only when his words were buoyed by two priceless performances.


However, one area where The Plotters does excel is in its atmosphere. Bizarre Benny Hill skits aside, the author really nails the Season 2 feel. Although I don’t always get on well with his novels, those that I’ve enjoyed the most have been those such as The English Way of Death where he evokes the spirit of the television series almost faultlessly. And here Roberts’ first Doctor is every bit as evocative as his fourth – he even has Hartnell fluff his lines in print! Ian and Barbara are each recreated impeccably too, with the author even taking the time to sow the seeds of their future romance. It’s a nice touch, I feel, especially given the propinquity of their mutual departure in The Chase.


With a bit of bowdlerisation, The Plotters might have made a half decent four-parter back in the day. I certainly think that I’d have warmed to the story more were it a televised serial; dutifully forcing my way through almost three hundred pages of droll but dreary prose kind of took a lot of the fun out of it for me. And ‘fun’, at the end of the day, is supposedly what The Plotters is all about.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006


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