The faded glamour of a hotel in space, spinning in an all-but-forgotten orbit round the Earth, is host to some unusual visitors this weekend - including a party that claim to travel in a battered blue police box...


It is the year 2146. Answering a distress call from the dilapidated Hotel Galaxian, the TARDIS crew discover a games enthusiast is using the hotel to host a murder-mystery weekend. But it seems someone from his motley group of guests is taking things a little too seriously.


While the Doctor, Ben and Polly find themselves joining in the shadowplay, it becomes clear that a real-life murderer is stalking the dark, disused corridors of the Galaxian. But worse than this: there's a sinister force waiting silently in space for events to unfold. A terrible secret is hidden on board the Galaxian, and if it is discovered nothing - least of all murder - will ever be the same again. If this is a game, the stakes just got higher.






The Murder Game

JULY 1997






To be frank, I felt rather let down by The Murder Game. In the past I’ve always found Steve Lyons to be amongst the staunchest Doctor Who authors, but this misguided attempt at demonstrating versatility very nearly falls flat.


The first half of the book is confined to a hotel in space that’s hosting a murder mystery weekend when, shock horror, the guests actually begin murdering one another, and it’s up to the second Doctor, Ben and Polly to solve the mystery. Patent predictability aside, this could’ve been a half-decent premise were it not for the fact that Lyons’ characters are not even half as remarkable as the clichés that you’d find in Cluedo. Fortunately about a hundred and fifty pages in the Selachians show up and the quality of the novel improves spectacularly. The idea of the computer virus / super weapon may not be particularly gripping, but the Selachians themselves more than make up for this through their sheer inimitability.



Simply put, the Selachians are humanoid sharks that have to wear armour filled with water to breathe, not unlike how human astronauts have to wear space suits. The concept may not sound that radical when summarised so brusquely, but on the page it really does work remarkably well. Some of Lyons’ prose – for example the passage in which he describes what the Ockorans do to themselves to fit into their Selachian armour – is pretty gruesome, and even the Selachians’ ship - which is full of water rather than air - smacks of ingenuity. And if that isn’t enough for you, the literally-anthropomorphosised sharks’ monstrously overbearing personalities are pulled into sharp focus by Lyons’ morally ambiguous ending. Oh yes, and they refer to humans as “plankton”. Brilliant.


There are a few other nice little touches littered throughout the novel, though they are few and far between and generally centre on Ben. His loose-fitting romance with the duplicitous Terri is rather interesting; I like how Lyons portrays what goes on inside Ben’s head as being much more hesitant and guarded than his gruff exterior might suggest. The veiled references to Ben and Polly’s presumably mutual descendants are also quite fascinating, though hardly all that surprising.


Nevertheless, the strengths of The Murder Game don’t quite make up for the novel’s fatal flaws. The only way that I managed to drag myself through its 284 pages was by playing ‘spot the fanwank’: Terra Alpha, UNIT, patchwork coats and yellow pants… Those who frown upon novels replete with winks and nods will have a field day in dissecting this one. I suppose at least, if nothing else, Lyons has managed to craft a novel that perfectly replicates the pace of a 1960s six-parter, though whether that’s a good thing or not is very much in the eye of the beholder.


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.



This novel’s blurb places it between the television serials The Power of the Daleks and The Highlanders. Within this gap, we have placed it between the novels Invasion of the Cat-People and Dying in the Sun, which it was released in between.


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