THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
TV STORY "ARC OF
INFINITY" AND THE
NOVEL "THE SANDS
OFFICIAL BBC 'PAST
RELEASED IN DECEMBER
An age-old terror is
about to be reborn.
Forced to confront
his own worst fears,
even the Doctor will
be pushed to breaking
point - and beyond...
Fear of the Dark
“Fear of the Dark” has one of the greatest covers that I have seen on a Doctor Who novel in a long time, if not ever. The Doctor’s half-silhouetted face, with the slightest hint of something ominous lurking beneath the unlit side, is such a stark and simple image; yet it is also one that really sets this book apart from its peers on booksellers’ shelves. Regrettably though, the novel itself spectacularly fails to live up to the promise of its binding.
In fairness, Trevor Baxendale’s story does open very well indeed, the author inducting us
into his tale by way of Nyssa’s nihilistic nightmare about her father, Tremas, and her lost home world, Traken. The opening passages are marvellously written, playing upon the most primal of human fears whilst at the same time elucidating on a traumatic experience so profound that it beggars belief another writer has not tackled it head-on before now.
However, once the Doctor decides to pursue the psychic energy that incited Nyssa’s nightmare, “Fear of the Dark” soon finds itself treading a very pedestrian beat. In the blink of an eye, Baxendale’s story goes from being intriguing and even quite disturbing to utterly banal. The twenty-fourth century archaeologists on Akoshemon’s moon are an insipid bunch (save for perhaps bionic ‘Bunny’, the lone exception), and their environment is even less ambitious. In fact, “Fear of the Dark” is so limited in scope and purpose that it represents with stupendous accuracy the type of cheap studio-bound serial that the BBC would often churn out during Peter Davison’s era – it certainly is not hard to imagine the poorly-realised jabolite caves and the cardboard spaceship interiors!
THE DOCTOR Well, let’s see. I’ve never much enjoyed the company of Daleks. Or
Cybermen. I’ve crossed swords with the Master more times than I care
to remember, and the Black Guardian is bound to catch up with me one
day… but do I fear them? Not really: but I do fear the harm they intend,
the misery and destruction they can cause.
NYSSA And your greatest fear?
THE DOCTOR Ah, that’s easy. Being out for a duck.
More positively, the regular characters are all portrayed well, and followers of the fifth Doctor’s Big Finish audio adventures will probably be very impressed with how Baxendale rather dexterously weaves the two ranges together. Set shortly after “Arc of Infinity”, this
novel is the first that I can recall that really conveys the considerable amount of time that passed for the Doctor and Nyssa between “Time-Flight” (when they left Tegan at Heathrow) and “Arc of Infinity” (where Tegan rejoined them). Some parts of this novel also tie in delightfully with this January’s Doctor Who Magazine Big Finish freebie, “No Place Like Home”, whilst others foreshadow the ensuing “Snakedance” splendidly.
Nevertheless, no amount of fanwank can make up for what is, in a nutshell, a prosaic and utterly uninspired novel - a real disappointment, given the potential that “Fear of the Dark” seemed to have.
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 opening scene places these events the day after Tegan rejoined the TARDIS crew, as depicted in the television serial Arc of Infinity.
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