A terrifying alien army is sweeping across the landscape, decimating towns and subjugating everyone and everything in its path. With their astute military tactics and advanced weaponry, the invaders seem unstoppable.


But this is no distant star, no alternate timeline. Trapped in a frightened city, the Doctor and his companions discover that this is Earth history, and they are powerless to intervene. The impending slaughter of thousands is a matter of grim historical fact.


Not everyone within the city is prepared to accept their fate. Desperate people embark upon desperate courses of action. They may even succeed.


For, deep beneath the city, something truly alien is stirring...



Bunker Soldiers







Bunker Soldiers is perhaps the most peculiar first Doctor novel that I’ve read to date. By all outward appearances it is a completely routine affair, irrespective of whether you look at it as a BBC Books adventure or as a Season 3 Doctor Who story. Even as I read the book, Martin Day’s story utterly failed to feel even slightly contentious, yet now that I’ve come to write this review, and pass comment on disease-riddled corpses being launched from catapults as primitive bio-weapons; fathers chastising their “slut” daughters; Steven’s odd first-person narration; and even an alien threat rearing its head in a first Doctor historical, I begin to see that Bunker Soldiers is something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.


The early passages in particular really emphasise the redolence of the novel. With the Time Lord and his companions stranded in medieval Kiev, so faraway but yet so close to the ship, the only factor that seems to set Bunker Soldiers apart from its peers initially is the unusual length of time that their situation has endured.


Similarly, the rich backdrop painted by the author positively reeks of the series’ inaugural jaunts into the past; even his relatively kind depiction of the Mongols is reminiscent of the series’ often quite tempered representation of real-life events and people. Moreover, the story is saturated with enough well-researched historical detail to fulfil the Doctor Who’s early educational mandate. I certainly learned a thing a two here, ranging from the Mongol absorption of the Tartars to the real cause of the Black Death.



Yet, almost unconsciously, Bunker Soldiers has a lot more grit to it than first appears to be the case. Whilst Day’s portrayal of Ogedei Khan and his Mongols is almost Klingon in its nobility, at times the Mongols are as monstrous as any alien creature that could have been thrown into the fray, and this is reflected in the novel not only through their actions but through sheer repute. I was particularly fascinated by the notion that the people of the world viewed the Mongols almost as being aliens, with rumours of their “dogs heads” and enthusiasm for raping virgins “to death” being passed from village to village almost as myth.


Furthermore, Dodo’s role here, though probably the weakest aspect of the story, is equally forthright. Her friendship with Lesia and the associated subject matter would never have even made it close to a 1966 television screen, yet to Day’s credit I didn’t even blink as I read it. Somehow it just felt seamless.


Steven’s role in the proceedings is similarly unconventional as he narrates most of the book in the first person. Why the writer chose to present much of his story in this fashion I have no idea; perhaps he relished the challenge of trying to infuse one of the Doctor’s most brash and least developed companions with a little soul. Sadly, he didn’t quite manage it for me. Steven’s narration offers the reader little in terms of fresh insight into the character and, to my surprise, doesn’t even have much to say on Steven’s long standing moral debate with the Doctor about interfering in history (as explored on television in The Massacre, and more recently in print in Salvation). That said, this narration does at least add a little colour in that the discomfort and squalor of the Dark Ages is really made grotesquely explicit, but this is hardly anything to get excited about.


Day’s alien threat – the “Dark Angel” or “Bunker Soldier” – is more successful, in my view, though it really doesn’t come into its own until very late on in the story. Even then, it is more the idea of what this creature is in principle and the unique way in which it fights its battles that entertains, rather than anything that it actually does.


In some ways, I can’t help but think that Bunker Soldiers might have been more of a hit had Day made it a pure historical; at least that way, it might have really appealed to devotees of William Hartnell’s Doctor, as opposed to just moderately so. For me though, this novel’s greatest achievement is that it manages to tell a surprisingly modern and mature story yet maintain an overridingly traditional feel, and for that alone it is well worth the read.


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.



Neither this novel’s blurb nor its text offer any firm clues as to its placement. Given the companions used and how they are portrayed here, we suspect that this story is set somewhere between the television serials The Gunfighters and The Savages. Within this gap, we have placed it shortly after the audio book Mother Russia, which was released later, but has stronger ties to The Gunfighters.


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