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 IN JULY 2005.





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Island of Death

JULY 2005






Believe it or not, I hate having to give a really bad review, particularly when the product on

the receiving end is a novel, responsibility for which often rests squarely with one person. It

is harder still when the novelist in question is the ever affable Barry Letts - producer and occasional writer of the series during Jon Pertwee’s tenure; executive producer during Tom Baker’s final season; writer of the two 1990s radio dramas, “The Paradise of Death” and “The Ghosts of N-Space”; and writer of one-third of the comparatively recent novel, “Deadly Reunion”.


But at the end of the day, a spade has to be called a spade and a turkey called a turkey, and “Island of Death” really is something of an unexpected turkey.


“Unexpected?” I hear you ask. Yes. As fashionable as it has become to lambaste Letts’ post-1970s contributions to Doctor Who, I thoroughly enjoyed “The Paradise of Death”, “The Ghosts of N-Space” and “Deadly Reunion”. Fair dues, the two radio dramas were lifted by some wonderful performances, and “Deadly Reunion” did have Terrance Dicks’ steadying influence brought to bear on it. All the same though, when I came to pick up “Island of Death”, my expectations were by no means as low as many people’s.



There is very little to say about this one, beyond that it is sluggish, utterly generic and at times appalling misrepresents the regulars. Sarah Jane and the Doctor fare particularly badly, although the Doctor does have one rather lovely scene where he speaks to some killer whales. Jeremy Fitzoliver also rears his head again, alas, although as in “The Ghosts

of N-Space” Letts at least sees fit to really but this dreadful character through the meat grinder and give his readers an opportunity to revel in his self-inflicted misfortune.


The Brigadier fares much better and carries a lot of the book, both in terms of what the character actually does and also as regards the introspective passages. The latter are written very unconvincingly, to be blunt, but they do still occasionally offer a morsel of insight into the Brigadier’s thoughts and reminiscences nonetheless – reminiscences that were doubtless shaped largely by the author’s own military experience. Indeed, as was the case with his third of “Deadly Reunion”, here Letts draws heavily upon his naval days to inform his writing. This really shines through in the half of the book set aboard the Hallaton, affording these chapters a gritty sense of realism.


Sadly though, it is not enough to save this one. “Island of Death” is simply not compelling enough to justify two hundred and eighty pages’ worth of anybody’s time, especially now that  we have the fantastic new series out there. “Island of Death” may have worked much better as a heavily-edited novella, and it would certainly have made for a more engaging audio drama than it did a novel. But regrettably, without the actors’ performances to lift the quality of the material, “Island of Death” is one to avoid.


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 clues as to its placement, however the text suggests that it takes place between the television stories The Monster of Peladon and Planet of the Spiders. Within this gap we have placed it after to the novel Amorality Tale, which was released earlier.


It is interesting to note that, in the version of history created by Faction Paradox’s biodata virus, this story never happened as the third Doctor regenerated on the planet Dust shortly after The Monster of Peladon.


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