THIS STORY IS SET
"THE ROOM WITH NO
DAVID A. McINTEE
OFFICIAL BBC 'PAST
RELEASED IN AUGUST
Hong Kong, 1997. the
handover to Chinese
rule is imminent, and
Sarah Jane Smith is
on the trail of Far
around every corner.
And when one decides
to confide in Sarah
JANE, she is thrown
headlong into danger.
What are UNIT doing
in Hong Kong, and why
are they following
What is causing a
spate of strange and
And how is the
whose side is he on?
told, and the outcome
of Sarah's ENQUIRIES
revealed. But will
her world ever be
the same again?
Whereas David A McIntee’s Mission: Impractical gave Frobisher a new lease of
life, and his Face of the Enemy probed profoundly into the affairs of both Ian Chesterton
and the Brigadier, his latest offering - Bullet Time - is Sarah Jane Smith’s authoritative companion piece.
Sadly though, the novel’s most enthralling element by far – the Doctor himself – remains absent for much of the action. Indeed, it is not until around the halfway mark that the Time Lord makes his first proper appearance. It is fortunate, then, that when the Doctor features, his presence is felt in earnest. In fact, Bullet Time may well be the most thought-provoking depiction of the seventh Doctor that we’ve seen since the days of the New Adventures.
“There, you’re disarmed. What now?”
It really has to be said that here McIntee absolutely nails Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor. The gulf between the character’s preposterous exterior - “Granville from Open All Hours”, as it is delightfully described at one point – and his dark and brooding “Time’s Champion” interior
is perfectly encapsulated in the text; having the Doctor pose at Mr Pendragon, leader of a Hong Kong Triad, really brings his often rather questionable morality into sharp focus.
Regrettably though, the novel’s setting left me feeling rather lost for long passages. Much in the same way that reading about different characters within even the most well-defined alien context can be difficult to follow, I really struggled to visualise the various eastern characters of Bullet Time. This really marred the first half of the book particularly for me, which is largely carried by these eastern characters and of course, Sarah Jane.
That said, McIntee’s depiction of Sarah here is certainly intriguing. Something of a C-list celebrity, Sarah Jane is a world-renowned reporter with a handful of science-fiction novels under her belt. This really sets this Sarah Jane apart from the struggling young woman that we are used to seeing on television and reading about in the spin-off media – she isn’t only older, but also successful, and more seasoned.
And much more willing to stand up to the Doctor.
“How could you? After all the time we’ve known each other,
all the travelling and all the times we’ve worked on the same team?
You’re not the Doctor I knew.”
Sarah Jane’s face to face
meeting with the Doctor, for
which we have to wait right
until the back-end of the tale,
is actually soul-destroying to
read. The reader really feels
for Sarah; after all, the Doctor
was her best friend, and even
on his worst days he only ever
pretended to be cruel to her. But here the Doctor is actually cruel to her. To be perfectly blunt, he throws her to the lions to save the world.
“Perhaps you never knew the Doctor.”
This will doubtless come as a real slap in the face for those that say the Doctor “should
never be cruel or cowardly”… but those people really ought to dwell on the word “should”.
He should never be cruel or cowardly but, in this incarnation, he so often is. And it is not because he gets off on it, as ‘New’ Ace might have us believe; it’s because he is trying to look after the bigger picture, trying to save the world. If anything, Bullet Time shows us that the seventh Doctor is perhaps more selfless than his past selves, as he is prepared to risk losing a friend and taking a personal hit rather than risk the whole planet. I really like that.
The novel’s climax is suitably affecting, albeit somewhat ambiguous. After Barbara Wright bought the bullet in The Face of the Enemy, I wasn’t at all surprised by Sarah’s apparent death at the end of this one, and to be fair it rounded off the novel on a poignant note… as a stand-alone piece of fiction. But for those of us that have read System Shock, Millennium Shock, Christmas on a Rational Planet, et al, we know that she survives 1997, sullying the blow just a little bit.
In summary, whilst Bullet Time contains some truly inspired ideas and passages, I was not entirely convinced. The first half of the book dragged terribly for me, and the second, though irrefutably action-packed in a 007 sort of way, contained only a few short scenes that I really got anything out of... but I really did get a lot out of them.
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 guidance as to when these events might take place. However, authorial intent places them during the New Adventures novel The Room with No Doors, between the Doctor digging his
way out of his grave and his reappearing to continue the narrative.
The ending of this story heavily implies that Sarah Jane perishes. She doesn’t, as evidenced by numerous novels, her appearances in the new television series and – of course - The Sarah Jane Adventures.
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