FOR THE DOCTOR, THIS
BETWEEN THE NOVEL
AND THE TV STORY
"THE FACE OF EVIL."
PAPERBACK (ISBN 0-
IN MAY 2001.
The town of Oxford in
AD 1278 seems a
the proctor of
friary, has only two
minor problems: one
of the friars has gone
missing, and there's a
calling himself the
Doctor, with a pretty
young noblewoman by
his side, attracting
crowds in the
Built on the most contrived of premises, Peter Darvill-Evans’ third Doctor Who book is only marginally better than his calamitous second. Asylum is one of those novels that appears absolutely fascinating at a first glance yet, as soon as you begin to scratch beneath the surface, you suddenly realise that there isn’t really much of interest there at all.
Darvill-Evans’ peculiar – and happily curt – storyline sees the fourth Doctor helping his future companion, Nyssa, to fix a glitch in the timeline that has apparently buggered up her technographical thesis. This involves the pair of them dropping in on thirteenth century Oxford and, for the most part, steering clear of each of other.
The story’s historical setting allows Darvill-Evans to shine in a way that he has not before. Almost every page is dripping with a surfeit of painstakingly-researched period detail and, just in case you fancy being clever and disputing Asylum’s historical accuracy, the author has even included a 22-page essay to back up pretty much all of his contentions. This diligence just gives Asylum the edge on the appallingly featureless Independence Day but, regrettably, I still found the main thrust of the plot to be unreservedly dreary.
I was particularly disappointed by the author’s portrayal of the fourth Doctor; how anyone can make Tom Baker’s overstated (and at times almost cartoonish) Doctor come across as a generic is absolutely beyond me. So poor is the attempt at characterisation that I can only assume that Darvill-Evans was consciously trying to paint the Doctor differently, perhaps
with a view to lending the proceedings a little more weight. Whatever the reason, there is little here that fourth Doctor fans will find familiar.
Darvill-Evans’ stab at the older, post-Terminus Nyssa is superficially much more intriguing, but unfortunately as the novel progressed my sympathy for the morose little madam gradually waned until I reached the stage where I was indifferent to her fate. That said, I did find it interesting how over the course of the book the Doctor begins to realise that something he does or doesn’t do in the future will leave Nyssa longing for an introverted life of dedicated research and study, but even this facet wasn’t fleshed out satisfactorily; the author preferring to waste his words describing the ins and outs of the TARDIS’ translation circuits. Because Nyssa is posh, to the thirteenth-century serfs she sounds French, see…
On the whole then, Asylum is another avoid from the erstwhile Virgin editor. Given the choice between this and Darvill-Evans’ notorious debut novel, Deceit, I’d have to go for the violent, lesbian-laden Daak-fest any day.
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 novella’s blurb offers no guidance as to its placement, however the text suggests that these events occur in the lacuna between the television serials The Deadly Assassin and The Face of Evil. Given that the novella Ghost Ship apparently takes place straight after The Deadly Assassin and Millennium Shock was released earlier, we have therefore placed it after both.
This novel is also notable in that it sees the fourth Doctor and Nyssa encounter each other out of sequence. From Nyssa’s point of view, her travels with the fifth Doctor ended many years ago, but for him they have yet to happen. Presumably that’s a poker face that the fourth Doctor’s wearing when he meets her “again” in The Keeper of Traken. It is unclear whether this older Nyssa has yet been reunited with the Doctor, as depicted
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