In 1920s London the Doctor and Rose find themselves caught up in the hunt for a mysterious murderer. But not everything is what it seems. Secrets lie behind locked doors and inhuman killers roam the streets.

Who is the Painted Lady and why is she so interested in the Doctor? How can a cat return from the dead? Can anyone be trusted to tell - or even to know - the truth?

With the faceless killers closings in, the Doctor and Rose must solve the mystery of the Clockwise Man before London itself is destroyed...







MAY 2005






Though most fans would agree that the pros of having Doctor Who back on our television screens by far outweigh the cons, the biggest ‘con’ is still a bitter pill to swallow. After well over a decade of almost untainted fan service in the spin-off media, the Doctor’s adventures in print must now tie-in with the television series, and unfortunately this means no more new companions or story arcs; no more Wars in Heaven. It seems that our fears for BBC Books’ past and eighth Doctor ranges were well-founded.


The actual physical quality of the book is a tremendous improvement on the last fifteen years worth though - The Clockwise Man is bound in a beautifully illustrated hardback cover which looks great on the shelf beside its two fellow releases.


The story itself is not as immediately impressive. As I approached it with a sort of tentative reluctance, inevitably this meant that it took me several chapters to get hooked, though I do think that the story is slow to start in any event. Whilst veteran Doctor Who author Justin Richards creates a delicately woven tapestry of intrigue surrounding each of his characters, not enough happens in the first instance to suck the reader in. As such, I found that The Clockwise Man failed to evoke the pace and the vigour of a television episode.


However, once I had reluctantly dragged myself through the first few chapters of the book, I couldn’t put it down. To my surprise the novel’s relative lack of continuity felt refreshing, as opposed to barren; I was able to simply immerse myself in a good old fashioned Doctor Who mystery, and a rather well-written one at that. Every time that I thought I had one of the characters sussed out, I was proved wrong. The true identity of exiled tyrant Shade Vassily was particularly well concealed.


“Even machines need something to die for...”


The idea of ‘Clockwork Men’ and ‘Clockwork Cats’ of various motivations and allegiances is also a fascinating notion; one that you can quite easily imagine being magnificently realised on screen. The cats in particular work very well, though I would say that one of the best scenes in the book is towards the end where one of the ‘Mechanical Men’ sacrifices himself to save the day. Remarkably poignant.


I was also impressed with Richards’ cast of supporting characters. Even those that ostensibly border on cliché, such as Melissa ‘The Painted Lady’ Heart, are interestingly drawn. Heart’s horrific appearance and her wearing of different masks to convey different moods is very creepy indeed, and Rose’s obvious discomfort around her is very convincing.


Stealing the show though is little Freddie Romanov, a survivor of the ill-fated Russian ruling family. Like Vassily (ultimately the villain of the piece), this heroic little boy is living in exile. At first you feel that he is potentially a dangerous character; he has many traits that make him rather an eerie little boy to read about. The way that he spies on people, for instance, as well as many of the things that he says, are really quite disturbing. However, as the novel progress we learn that this isolated, haemophiliac child wants nothing more than to be an ‘ordinary person’, and although he ends up a hero (and much to my surprise, alive!) he is a reluctant one – the author cleverly conveys Freddie’s conflict between thinking it would be good to be a hero, and thinking ‘I don’t want to get hurt’. There is a scene where the Doctor asks Freddie to climb in through a window surrounded by ripped metal mesh where you really feel for the young boy, and dislike the Time Lord for even asking him to, even though you understand that it is for the greater good. There is something really brutal about Freddie flatly saying “I could get scratched. Cut”, and the Doctor still putting him to task. As I read it, I could just imagine Christopher Eccleston’s resigned expression.


“You do keep turning up. Like a bad wolf...”


In fact, Richards seems to have the characters of the Doctor and Rose both pegged pretty well; no small feat considering that he had probably never seen a completed episode of the new series when he wrote this. It was nice to have a few subtle references about this ‘Time War’ in there too, as well as the usual cryptic Bad Wolf comment. Both really help to imbue the novel with a sense of belonging that, thanks to its pace and tone, it would otherwise have locked.


And so although it is supposedly aimed at a younger audience, I certainly did not feel like this novel had been dumbed down; on the contrary, The Clockwise Man is a very clever, moody and suspenseful novel. Richards has done a tremendous job of creating a science fiction ‘whodunit’ that, once underway, throws all these criticisms about these tie-in novels being ‘dumbed down’ right out of the window. Fair dues, it isn’t fireworks; but provided that you don’t go into it expecting something like The Gallifrey Chronicles, I don’t think that you will be too disappointed.  


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design

 and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.

Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.

Doctor Who is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.