THIS STORY TAKES
LEAVING THE TARDIS
AND THE BIG FINISH
AUDIO DRAMA "THE
OFFICIAL BBC 'PAST
RELEASED IN APRIL
May 17th 1944: A
down an unidentified
aircraft over the
Dorset village of
routine operation. So
why is the village
village's dark secret.
When a television
break through the
cordon looking for a
story, they find
more than they'd
Stewart calls upon
his old friend the
demons watch from
the shadows as the
Doctor and the
the last, and
deadliest, secret of
the Second World
in the Glass
A hurriedly written replacement for Gary Russell’s tardy “Instruments of Darkness”, “The Shadow In The Glass” by Justin Richards and Stephen Cole is, against all the odds, an unqualified triumph.
Black Sheep’s exquisite front cover really sets the scene for this one – the sixth Doctor in full SS Uniform, looking into the Scrying Glass, with Hitler at his side doing the same. I must concede though that, at a first glance, I took Hitler for a young Brigadier! I think once I had heard that Lethbridge-Stewart would be appearing in this novel, my subconscious must have been working overtime!
Whilst “The Shadow In The Glass” is slow to start progressing its story, the level of detail is such that Richards and Cole manage to hold the reader’s attention throughout. Chapter Two, for example, is just a transcript of a fictional documentary, yet somehow it manages to be completely engrossing.
This is largely down to the subject matter being so universally fascinating. Almost everybody in the world has heard of Adolf Hitler and his heinous war crimes, yet relatively few are au
fait with the peculiar circumstances surrounding his suicide at the apex of the Second World War. Admittedly, Richards and Cole bend the available evidence rather considerably to make it fit their story, but nevertheless the fact that they have really done their homework shines through on almost every page. It beggars belief that such a meticulously researched and well crafted novel could be produced so quickly; it is certainly a real testament to the authors’ collective skill.
To be fair though, I am somewhat predisposed towards liking this story as one of my favourite Doctor Who novels to date has been the old Virgin standalone book, “Who Killed Kennedy”, which, as I am sure you will gather from the title, played upon similar ground. However, what sets “The Shadow In The Glass” apart from Doctor Who’s previous conspiracy thriller is that this time around, the Doctor is at the heart of the story, driving
things forward as only he can, and by his side is his oldest and most trusted ally – Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.
In my view, “The Shadow In The Glass” is the most successful of the three full-length stories to pair the sixth Doctor and Lethbridge-Stewart by a great deal. As good as “Business Unusual” was, the two characters spent the bulk of the novel apart, and although they would spend much more time together in the Big Finish audio drama “The Spectre of Lanyon Moor”, the play was hardly mind-blowingly good. Here, conversely, the two old friends are thrust into the adventure side by side – and what an adventure it is! At its best, “The Shadow In The Glass” even puts most of their UNIT exploits to shame - at one point they even end up travelling back to Nazi Germany where, for the purposes of their mission, Lethbridge-
Stewart is forced to exchange pleasantries with the Füehrer!
I also like that “The Shadow In The Glass” does not get too bogged down in the duo's ostensibly perplexing continuity. For “Business Unusual” and “The Spectre of Lanyon Moor” to be reconcilable, one has to accept that the Doctor and Lethbridge-Stewart encounter each other out of sequence – i.e. for the sixth Doctor, “The Spectre of Lanyon Moor” is the two characters’ first meeting, but for Lethbridge-Stewart, the events of “The Spectre of Lanyon Moor” took place many years after “Business Unusual”. Given that this novel is set in 2001 – twelve years on from 1989's “Business Unusual” and also, potentially, a few years
on from whenever “The Spectre of Lanyon Moor” is set (not to mention the Brigadier’s other meetings with ‘future’ Doctors, such as "Battlefield"!) – and also given that the sixth Doctor has evidently (though not definitely) met the Brigadier before in his own timeline by the time of this story, then from the Doctor’s point of view this adventure must take place after “The Spectre of Lanyon Moor”. Perhaps his touchiness about travelling alone here is a reflection on the mode of Evelyn’s ultimate departure.
It is therefore not difficult to envisage the amount of pages that could have been wasted clearing all of the abovementioned up, and as such I was eminently impressed when Richards and Cole simply opted for: “The Brigadier found this incarnation of his old friend something of an unknown quantity – the Doctor he knew least well.” That certainly nails it in far fewer words than I am capable of!
“From here we shall conjure up the forces that will help us. We summon the night. We bring the darkness.”
Better still though, Richards and Cole throw a third heroic element into the mix – spirited investigative journalist Claire Aldwych, Hitler conspiracy specialist. An unashamed reworking of Sarah Jane Smith, Claire joins the Doctor and Lethbridge-Stewart on their venture, giving an otherwise shadowy novel a much needed injection of vigour… and thus
making the novel’s concluding tragedy all the more excruciating. Even the Brigadier sheds a tear come the end of this one.
All told, “The Shadow In The Glass” is something of an unexpected gem. A must for any fan of the sixth Doctor and/or the legendary Brigadier, this novel is powerful, unrelenting, and absolutely ingenious. In short, I love it.
More rushed Richards / Cole collaborations please.
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 offers no clue as to its placement. As the Doctor is travelling alone, and particularly as
he seems a little wounded about the fact, we postulate that for him this story is set sometime after he and Evelyn part ways, as depicted in the flashback scenes of the Big Finish audio drama Thicker than Water.
When is now? This story is explicitly set in 2001. It therefore follows that the Brigadier has met the sixth Doctor at least three times previously: in 1989 in the novel Business Unusual, once before that, and circa 2000 in the Big Finish audio drama The Spectre of Lanyon Moor. For the sixth Doctor, however, the events
of Business Unusual have yet to occur. Accordingly, the authors keep any propositional dialogue between
the two protagonists to a minimum.
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