THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
HEA" AND "DANCING
OFFICIAL TELOS DELUXE
HARDBACK (ISBN 1-903
889-07-3) RELEASED IN
Perihelion Night on
the wooded moon
Verd. A time of
sightings, ghosts, and
the morn, when Lord
Esnic marries the
beautiful Lady Ria.
However, Ria has
other ideas, and flees
through the gravity
wells which dot the
moon to meet with her
true love, Tonio. When
the Doctor and Jo
arrive on Verd,
drawn down by the
they find themselves
involved in the
But what of the
And of the
Nightdreamers is the third in Telos’ range of Doctor Who novellas, and the first real failure. Its author, Tom Arden, is most famous for his five-volume fantasy series The Orokon, an epic of over a million words. He is, apparently, a big fan of seventies Who. He cannot, however, claim to be able to write it.
Nightdreamers is a science fiction take on Shakespeare’s classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Nothing especially original there, but nothing wrong either. However, it’s incredibly dull and dreary. There are some interesting ideas: it is set on the moon Verd, which orbits a planet named Galaxis Bright, under economic domination by its sister world Galaxis Dark. An interesting set-up, but one that isn’t developed well. Verd has variable gravity across its surface; there’s potential for a fascinating bit of high-concept science fiction there, but sadly it goes unexplored. Verd has a quasi-mediaeval society, one which is beset by the titular Nightdreamers (read ‘elves’ or ‘fairies’); creatures that delight in mischief and trickery of a most unoriginal kind.
astonishing, but it’s his dialogue that makes this one hard to
stomach. Poncy romance novel characters with names like
Tonio and Peterkin deliver drivel like “Cursed, cursed be this wretched moon!” and “I weary of this worldly folly”. The thought
extracts are even worse. “Tonio, Tonio! Oh, Galaxis Bright,
Galaxis Bright!” Arden seems to think that repeated words
signifies powerful emotions. Rather, it just irritates. The Doctor
and Jo are just as bad. The Doctor really lacks character, and
is dropped into a story into which he doesn’t fit, while Jo spends
her whole time wibbling on about that Thal she fancied in Planet
of the Daleks, something that everyone apart from Arden would sooner forget about, and probably had.
The Nightdreamers themselves might as well be elves. The puck figure, Sly, performs precisely the same sort of deeds as in the original play, talking in poorly written verse as
he goes along. It all turns out that the dreaded Nightdreamer King is a Norebo Worm (an anagram of Oberon, you see), a larval creature that is altering gravity as it nests within the moon, incubating prior to its hatching as a huge space moth. By the time this is revealed,
I’d long lost interest in the plot.
The only interesting or entertaining part of Nightdreamers is Katy Manning’s very humorous foreword. Another million words from this guy? I think I’ll pass.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2009
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Prolific fantasy author and English Literature buff Tom Arden’s contribution to
the Telos range is certainly one that got a few backs up when it was released in 2002, and
it isn’t hard to see why. Despite the fact that Nightdreamers lives up to the Telos mantle of presenting us with something that wouldn’t normally find itself published under the auspices of Doctor Who, there is very little else commendable about it.
Denigrating prose relays a hackneyed, cipher-strewn world of cod-Shakespearian dialogue and impish, prosaic creatures. Needless – and very distracting – continuity references are shoe-horned not only into the dialogue, but also into the thoughts and feelings of the regular characters; it’s as if the author is trying to bear out his knowledge of the series. And the less that I say about the perfunctory plot, the better.
I will concede though that in the briefest of flashes, I did recognise a glimpse of Jon Pertwee in Arden’s characterisation (“the fool!”). Sadly though, his portrayal of the lonely and still love-struck Jo Grant is hopelessly dreadful. Even Katy Manning, who played Jo on television, was unable to make any meaningful comment on Arden’s portrayal of her much-loved character in her foreword. As a one-off bridge between Planet of the Daleks and The Green Death, I might just have bought it; but lost amongst a sea of other stories set within the same narrow gap, the Jo of Nightdreamers isn’t at all convincing.
In the end, the only satisfaction that I derived from Nightdreamers was via my amusement
at the robustly scientific Doctor being stuck on a world that is utterly anathema to his usual stomping grounds; the old “science not sorcery” chestnut. Nevertheless, this gimmick alone couldn’t sustain Arden’s insipid story even over the shortest of page counts.
On a final note, with both Time and Relative and Citadel of Dreams I was fortunate enough to be able to track down pristine copies of their respective ‘deluxe’ editions, but more by chance than design, Nightdreamers happened to be the first ‘standard’ Telos novella that
I purchased. The most apparent distinction between it and a deluxe edition is the lack of a frontispiece, but the signatures of the author and his cohorts are missing too, as is the built-in bookmark (which irked the most, truth be told). To be fair though, the quality of a standard edition doesn’t seem to be all that different to the quality of a deluxe edition – definitely not £15 different – though in the case of this novella the point is academic, as I couldn’t count-enance shelling out for either.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2009
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
According to this novel’s blurb, this adventure takes place between the television stories Planet of the Daleks and The Green Death. Within this gap we have placed it after Catastrophea, as the text dwells heavily on Jo’s feelings for the Thal Latep, whom she left behind on Spiridon at the end of Planet of the Daleks. We could not place it any earlier due to the tighter relationship between Planet of the Daleks and Catastrophea.
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