The winter of 1963 brings a biG FREEZE THAT EXTENDS INTO APRIL WITH NO SIGN of letting up. And with it comes a new, far greater menace: icy creatures stalking the streets, bringing UNTOLD death and destruction.


The Doctor seems to know what iS GOING ON, but is detacheD and furtive, almost as if he is losing hiS memory...


Susan, isolated from her grandfather and finding it hard to fit in witH THE HUMAN Teenagers at Coal Hill School, tries to cope by recording her thoughts in a diary. But she too feels her memory slipping away and her past unravelling. Is she even sure who she is any more...?







Time and Relative







2001 saw the start of a new format for Doctor Who. Telos Publishing’s range of novellas may have been short-lived, but during their run they won a great deal of acclaim. I myself originally planned to collect the set, but the relatively high price tag put me off. Whilst ten pounds is by no means expensive for a well-made hardback publication, my budget had to be spent wisely and so buying one short for the price of two full-length novels didn’t seem too attractive. After buying the first three releases, I then dipped occasionally into the range to purchase those which had been recommended to me. Now I’ve come back to my small collection, having not read these books in some time. With the proliferation of Doctor Who material, how well do these works stand up?


Time and Relative kicked the range off in fine style. Immediately upon receiving the book, I was impressed by just how classy the thing was. A beautifully produced, sleek hardback, with the words Doctor Who boldly embossed on its surface as if daring anyone to say that this wasn’t respectable literature. If I’d have been richer, I’d have paid £25 for the deluxe version with the frontispiece. As it is, I settled for the standard edition. Telos pointed out when they announced the range that they were eager to try story concepts that would not normally make it into the Who canon, and Time and Relative is a perfect example of that – a story set before the series very first episode, an area normally considered out of bounds except in the most auspicious of occasions.


Novelist and film / television critic Kim Newman is a very wise choice of author to start the range. Newman is a talented author and a huge fan of black and white Doctor Who, and as Justin Richards points out in his opening foreword and closing analysis of the book, he also seems to have a perfect grasp of what Doctor Who was when it first began. This story really feels as if it was created just before An Unearthly Child was broadcast in November 1963.


The author chooses to dispense with the third person narrative structure that is common for Who novels, instead giving us a story narrated by Susan, ostensibly taken from her diary entries. Apart from raising the obvious question of when she found time to write this all down, this is a very effective device, allowing us a glimpse into the mind of one of the series’ most mysterious characters. Somehow, beardy old man Newman gets into the head of a fifteen year-old girl very convincingly, realistically fleshing her out with the niggling worries and concerns that an adolescent would surely have had to deal with as a schoolgirl in the 1960s. Yet he also manages to give a feel of Susan as an alien, somehow balancing the naïve schoolgirl and the mysterious extraterrestrial in a way the television show never managed. Particularly evocative are the passages in which she describes the ‘Fog’, a sort of painful mental barrier that blocks any thoughts of her homeworld and past life now that she has settled on Earth.


There are several minor characters, most noticeably John and Gillian, clearly named after Doctor Who’s plucky grandchildren in the earliest comic strip tie-ins, but just as clearly not intended to be the same characters. Both are schoolmates of Susan, at Coal Hill. John is an awkward but highly intelligent boy, an outsider at school, nicknamed ‘the Martian’ due to his vague resemblance to the Mekon from Dan Dare, who John is quick to point out is actually Venusian. Brought up by his militaristic yet caring father, John is caught between family expectations, pier pressure and his own interests in life. Gillian is equally an outsider. A girl with a good mind, pulled down by her dyslexia, she also has to deal with an abusive father. While this detail adds a poignancy to Gillian’s story – she can only truly function when caring for someone else, as she can then ignore her own problems – it also raises some of the novels themes, in that the way teachers and friends pretend not to know about the abuse mirrors their later refusal to believe what’s happening to them.


After an opening third that deals almost exclusively with Susan’s school life, the novella suddenly kicks into gear, transforming into a horror-thriller. A severe cold spell affecting London turns out to be the work of an ancient ice-based intelligence, referred to as the Cold Knight, or simply the Cold. Having been awoken by some mining or some such, the being is dismayed to find hot little humans running all over its planet, and sets about ridding itself of them. Cue a great deal of truly horrific moments, as flesh is stripped by razor-sharp snowflakes, icicles impale children and animated snowmen go on the hunt. It’s powerful, chilling imagery (excuse the pun). Even more disturbing than this, however, is the reaction of the adult populace; unlike the children, they seem incapable of registering the threat, so far is it beyond their experience. It’s up to the youngsters to fend for themselves, fighting off not only the Cold Knight, but also the idiocy and bigotry of the adults they are trying to save.


Thus, finally, we come to the Doctor. Despite only appearing in the closing parts of the book, his presence is felt throughout. Susan writes about him frequently in her diary, as one would expect. However, it’s surprising that, alongside her affection for him, she sees him as quite a distant, sometimes frightening figure. She admits that even she doesn’t know much about him. Nevertheless, Susan is certain that her grandfather is the only one who can help fight off the Cold. The problem is, the Doctor has already made contact with the intelligence. He has at his fingertips an easy way to stop it – but sees no reason too. Earth was the Cold’s planet first, and the Doctor, as he’s only too happy to remind everyone, is forbidden to interfere in any circumstance. This is the Doctor as he was back at the very beginning, cold and aloof, and he’s never seemed more alien.


In the end, of course, the Doctor comes round, turned to our side not by human protest or even Susan’s insistence, but by the simple creativity and kindness of a small boy. There’s a wonderful moment where you can practically here something snap in the Doctor’s head, as the Fog lifts and the barriers break. He takes the Cold to Pluto (with a potential side-trip hidden away during this trip), and suddenly, the transformation into the hero we will later love is possible. However, the vents have certainly not been without cost, and Susan’s life will never be quite the same.


Powerful, chilling and moving, Time and Relative is an excellent start to a range that, while not always delivering on its initial promise, was never afraid to try something brave and new with the raw materials of Doctor Who.


Copyright © Daniel Tesier 2009


Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design

 and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.





As it’s now getting on for nine years since the first of Telos Publishing’s Doctor Who novellas was published, I thought it was high time that I finally scoured eBay and found out what all the rumpus was about. Having originally been put off by high prices and low word counts, now that I’ve read Time and Relative - the first of what would eventually prove to be fifteen decidedly contentious releases – I wish that I’d have taken the plunge much sooner.


These novellas are the most beautifully bound of any Doctor Who books that I’ve ever come across, new series tie-ins included. Hardbound in plain, textured covers, sullied only with the classic series logo; the title of the story; and the author’s name, these books have a sense of elegance about them that eludes even the most discerning of their full-length counterparts. The whole package reeks of care and attention to detail – we have glossy frontispieces (in the deluxe editions); forewords from distinguished writers and actors; heck, there’s even a built-in bookmark! And so whilst these novellas (particularly the ‘deluxe’ editions) may cost a small fortune when compared to standard Doctor Who pulp fiction, it isn’t hard to see where the extra money went.


However, as important as a book’s binding and presentation is, it isn’t worth a jot unless the story that it houses is worth its salt. It is fortunate, then, that noted scribe and pundit Kim Newman’s introductory effort is one of the most engaging and refreshing pieces of Doctor Who fiction that I’ve read in years.


© Telos Publishing 2001. No copyright infringement is intended.Set around eight months prior to the series’ iconic first episode, An Unearthly Child, Time and Relative was a bold - and I dare say inspired - attempt to recapture the initial magic and mystery that is commensurate with the Doctor’s initial spate of black and white adventures. But if handled poorly, a Doctor Who prequel could have had exactly the opposite effect – it must have been so tempting to flesh out the tentative framework fashioned by those such as Marc Platt in earlier books, but doing so would have all but killed the magic that this novella strives so hard to bring back. You won’t find any references to Gallifreyan Academies, cousins or progenerative chambers here; indeed, even the words ‘Doctor’ and ‘TARDIS’ are noticeably absent.


In the same vein, Newman also resists the urge to pander to certain prequel traditions, such as having Susan name the TARDIS here (it remains “the Box” throughout) or explain how the travellers came to be on Earth. He does, however, include some suitably nostalgic, but nonetheless potentially baffling, elements. For instance, John and Gillian (erstwhile stars of the series’ Action! and TV Comic strips) appear here as school chums of Susan, and Susan reveals that she has two hearts (a facet of Gallifreyan physiognomy that wasn’t revealed on television until Spearhead from Space in 1970).


Furthermore, coming to these novellas many years after the event, I was delighted to find that the pace and economy of the format suited my ever-diminishing attention span quite perfectly – in fact, the structure and speed of Time and Relative put me in mind of a new series episode (albeit a Doctor-lite one!)


What I think makes Time and Relative so remarkable though is how it manages to capture what I imagine the London of 1963 must have been like. The author’s use of Susan’s diary as a conduit allows him to instil his story with so much flavour – the journal is positively flooded with references to the Beatles, the cane, detention, bullies, and even the atom bomb.


And Susan certainly makes for an interesting narrator; the character is drawn better here than she ever has been. Newman circumvents the potentially mystery-killing problem of her revealing too much about herself by having her afflicted by “fog patches” in her memory – “fog patches” that are evidently shared by her grandfather. This device also allows Newman to be rather liberal with some of the series’ basic tenets, deepening the intrigue further. For instance, here Susan isn’t even sure whether she is actually from another planet, or another plane of existence altogether. It certainly makes you think…


Further, Newman’s menace is one that could have plausibly sprung from the Big Freeze of 1963 – the Cold itself. Snowmen coming to life with hostile intent, animated by a dormant life form that inhabited the Earth long before humans (or indeed Eocenes) ever did, is an enchanting proposition in so many ways. Thought-provoking, eerie, and wholly redolent, Newman could not have come up with a better hook to hang his story on.


And although the idea of a pre-existing life form laying claim to the planet may not be an original one, the dilemma that it creates for the Doctor allows Newman to explore the dark and mysterious aspects of his character that, inevitably, have since been despoiled. The author’s portrayal of the pre-Unearthly Child Doctor is even darker and more ominous than the man that would pick up a rock with murderous intent on the TARDIS’s next journey. When we eventually meet Susan’s mysterious “grandfather” here, he isn’t trying to save the world from the Cold Knights – in fact, he’s desperately trying stop his ship tipping the balance of the conflict one way or the other. “Fog” or no “fog”, that’s not our Doctor.


“You’d let your own granddaughter die rather than throw a switch.

You’re worse than anyone in history ever. Don’t you have feelings at all?”


And, although the Doctor does ultimately decide to meddle (presumably) for the first time, more than anything else his decision to do so appears to be based on his granddaughter’s counsel. This is particularly interesting given that, by her own admission, Susan’s decision to champion humanity could quite easily have gone the other way on a whim; on the back of something as fickle as horrendous session of “Double Geog”, or the ill-timed attentions of the school bully, “F.M.”


Overall then, I found Time and Relative to be an unremitting delight; if not one of the best, then certainly one of the most thoughtful and evocative Doctor Who stories that I’ve ever read. Fair enough, it may be a little bit liberal when it comes to the droves of continuity that inevitably accompany a forty-odd year old franchise, but even so I think it feels more like a natural extension of the canon, as opposed to a Death Comes to Time-style reinvention of it. Besides, as the Doctor himself says here, whilst lost in the throes of a beautifully apt rant: “We mustn’t be too consistent…”


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2009


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design

 and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.



This novella takes place several months prior to the television serial An Unearthly Child, during the Doctor and Susan’s time in 1963 London.


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