On a blasted world, the Doctor and Susan find themselves in the middle of a war they cannot understand.


With Susan missing and the Doctor captured, who will save the people from the enemies from both outside and within?













Have you seen Rock & Chips?


I approached the feature-length Only Fools and Horses prequel tentatively, desperately trying to suppress the colossal expectations that such an audacious enterprise inevitably provoked in me. How could they ever hope to breathe life into Del and Rodney’s almost-legendary mother, let alone charge a young actor with the unenviable task of stepping into David Jason’s shoes? Fortunately, John Sullivan managed to hit the nail right on the head with his humorous, edgy script, and as prequels go, Rock & Chips was something of an unlikely triumph.


And then I read Frayed – the earliest Doctor Who prequel, save for a select smattering of short stories and flashbacks. Unlike Rock & Chips, the pseudonymous Tara Samms’ tale chose not to explore and extend its parent series’ mythology, instead providing us with a superficially traditional (but occasionally very indulgent) base under siege story. And unlike Rock & Chips, I found it to be something of a disappointment.


In fairness, of course, no-one could ever write a bona fide prequel to Doctor Who; not unless they were prepared to run the gauntlet and risk laying waste to the intrigue surrounding the Doctor’s origins, that is. Kim Newman pushed the envelope as far as it was safe to do so with his stunning piece Time and Relative, but to go one step further and present us with an essentially traditional story but starring a thoroughly unheroic Doctor seemed a little wanton, and inevitably leads to a measured softening of the character ‘early’, at odds with how he is portrayed in Time and Relative and indeed in An Unearthly Child.


Tamms’ initial portrayal of the “old man” in Frayed is frank and suitably detached – all he wants to do is find his granddaughter and escape – but as the story progresses he softens to the point where, by its end, he is waxing lyrical about humanity’s positive traits and even planning a trip to Earth to carry out “further study”. Worse still, this novella sees the “old man” first adopt the title of “Doctor”, and his granddaughter the name “Susan”, again flying in the face of what had been established previously and, perhaps even more importantly, clashing with the book’s otherwise overwhelmingly murky theme.


© Telos Publishing 2003. No copyright infringement is intended.Had Samms wanted to write an ‘alternative’ prequel to the series, then in my view he should have gone the whole hog made it much more alternative, à la The Infinity Doctors. However, he may have been better advised not to make this story a prequel at all as what really sets Frayed apart from most Doctor Who stories is not its prequel status but its tone. Prolific spin-off scribe Stephen Cole’s adoption of his Tara Samms pseudonym for this piece suggested that it was going to be outside the box, but it is actually probably more accurate to describe it as being both inside and outside the box simultaneously. The novella is divided up into chapters and counter-chapters, numbered, for example, ‘Seven’ and ‘VII’ respectively. The traditionally-numbered chapters deal with the story’s action and drive the plot forwards, whilst those headed by roman numerals usually take the form of reflective - and often exceptionally horrific - interludes. Whilst Frayed might leave a lot to be desired, images of maggot-ridden babies and lips falling away from characters’ faces only to lay like red slugs on the ground really linger.


Taking everything into account then, Frayed certainly has its merits, but they are eclipsed by the crushing disillusionment caused by this title failing so spectacularly to live up to its prequel billing. Had Samms poured some of these deliciously grotesque ideas into a ‘later’ novel, then I suspect that this review would read very differently indeed. As it is, I would much rather see Time and Relative sat at the beginning of the canon, but I suppose them’s the breaks.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010


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 charts the Doctor and Susan’s earliest known adventure together. Controversially, it even sees them take the names the Doctor and Susan”.


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