3889-09-X) RELEASED

 IN AUGUST 2002.





 Perhaps sensing the

 Doctor’s deepening

 mood of introspective

 melancholy, the

 TARDIS lands in the

 most haunted place

 on Earth, the luxury

 ocean liner the Queen

 Mary on its way from

 Southampton to New

 York in the year 1963.


 But why do ghosts

 from the past, the

 present, and perhaps

 even the future, seek

 out the Doctor? What

 appalling secret is

 hidden in Cabin 672?


 And will the Doctor

 be able to preserve

 his sanity as he

 struggles to save the

 lives of the

 passengers against

 mighty forces which

 even he does not fully



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Ghost Ship








I’m beginning to think that I must be doing Keith Topping something of a disservice as his name never leaps to mind as being one of my favourite Doctor Who authors, yet (al-most) every time that I embark upon reading one his books I’m held spellbound. And Ghost Ship, despite the tumult of criticism that it has endured since its publication, is no different.


What sets Ghost Ship apart from a traditional Doctor Who story is that it lifts the veil on the Doctor’s thoughts and feelings: the lone, post-Deadly Assassin fourth Doctor recounts this unsettling tale in the first person. Back in 2002, such a proposition was not only completely unheard of, but largely frowned upon by readers. Contemporaneous reviewers lambasted Topping’s rich and flowery prose (which was purported to represent the Doctor’s thoughts),

as well as his supposed failure to get a handle on Tom Baker’s unfathomable portrayal.


“A repulsion from the hard-headed scientist within me

rose to a shouting crescendo of outraged disbelief.”


But considering this novella shortly after having listened to Paul Magrs’ eloquent Hornets’ Nest series, which has of course been narrated by Baker, such condemnation suddenly seems a little hollow. As I read Ghost Ship, I could hear Baker delivering Topping’s lyrical, almost Magrstian prose with suitable relish. And what’s more, it felt right.


“...there was a smile on my face as I did so. This simple act of destruction was

my release from the choking constraints of the last few days. From the

pain and the misery and the self-doubt and all those other things that

I thought I had left behind on Gallifrey and on Skaro. A feeling

of being helpless to change the course of events, of not having the

right answers when the cogs that turn the wheels of the universe

asked of me that I should be the one to do their dirty work for them.”


© Telos Publishing 2002. No copyright infringement is intended.And though Topping’s nautical ghost story is mostly unremarkable

– conventional almost to a fault, really – it’s flourishing climax had

me mulling over the events of the recent tenth Doctor special, The

Waters of Mars, and this idea of the “Time Lord Victorious”. The

Doctor of this story’s satisfaction at having come up with the “right

answer” here certainly makes you think. “Do I have the right...?”


“The time is out of joint, oh cursed spite,

that ever I was born to set it right.”


All told then, Ghost Ship is a telling glimpse behind the bluster; a

divisive but nonetheless intriguing experiment that I would strongly

recommend giving a dusting-down and reappraisal today. Though

hindsight may be “a luxury of those who never have the need for

the velvet embrace of adventure”, it’s certainly an insightful one.


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.



This novella’s blurb offers no guidance as to its placement. However, as at the start of the story the Doctor

is still ruminating on the events of the television serial The Deadly Assassin, we have placed it immediately afterwards.


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