THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The King's Demons
Planet of Fire
Goth Opera
the Ultimate Treasure
Virgin Publishing
The Crystal Bucephalus

Author Craig Hinton Cover taken from the excellent Doctor Who books home page
ISBN# 0 426 20429 8
Published 1994
Continuity Between The King's Demons and
The Five Doctors

Synopsis:When a notorious crime boss is murdered in one of the universe's most presitigous restaurants, the Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough are the prime suspects. To clear their names, their investigation takes them across time and space.


Reviews

The Title Should Be A Warning by Tammy Potash 15/6/00

The title (herein referred to as CB) should be a warning that Craig Hinton's book will not be an easy read. Though I suppose calling it Doctor Who and the Big Green Horsie just wouldn't have worked... ;)

This book could make an interesting double act with Demontage. In both cases the Doctor has too much money for his own good and decides to invest it in something "harmless."

It is interesting to note how often religion is the source of problems in Dr. Who. CB, Zeta Major, Love and War, City at World's End, Beltempest, and Death and Diplomacy are just a few examples. In CB, trouble can be laid at the feet of the Lazarus Intent. To say more than that would ruin the mind-boggling plot.

The setting seems to be Craig Hinton writing as Douglas Adams; a time-travelling fabulous restaurant. Nothing is what it seems to be in this book, save the regulars: not the people, not the places, not even the Bucephalus itself. The Legions from Lucifer Rising make a reappearance. There are some nice injokes here, though nowhere near as many as First Frontier. This may be the only Missing Adventure to refer to another that isn't a direct sequel (such as Matrix/Storm Harvest); Tegan reflects on how she was changed forever by incidents in Goth Opera.

The writing for the characters is outstanding. The regulars are depicted perfectly; Hinton seems to have a better grasp of the Fifth Doctor than he does of the Sixth in Millennial Rites. The Doctor is by turns charming and irritable. Even Kamelion is the pain in the behind you remember from the King's Demons and Planet of Fire, not the useful presence he was in The Ultimate Treasure (which I actually liked, so sue me). Thankfully Tegan and Turlough get to do more than get tied up and act shrill. The originals are well fleshed out and you'l never get anyone confused with anyone else. Why they do what they do is always clear, even if what they're doing isn't. There's enough technobabble in this book to warm a Trekker's heart. People are thought to be dead an awful lot, though the reader usually knows better, one of the flaws of the Missing Adventures; you know for a fact the regulars wil come through it OK, because of the book being sandwiched between televised adventures (we'll just leave Interference: Book Two out of this, all right?). As usual, we have a book that could never have been made, owing to budget, but that fully deserved to be.

Well written and a great cover; fans of the Fifth Doctor in particular will want to check this out.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 16/10/00

Despite the title, reasons for which one can only ask the question Why?, The Crystal Bucephalus by Craig Hinton is a great read.

PLOT: A time travelling restaurant, the said Bucephalus, (brings a whole new meaning to the term fast food) allows diners to travel back in time and sample cuisine from days gone by. Unfortunately for the TARDIS crew they are drawn into the web of the restaurant and accused of murder. Basically a very simple premise, things get complicated thanks to a techno-jargon overload, but it didn`t spoil my enjoyment too much.

THE DOCTOR: Spot on, charming and irritable, Craig Hinton has got a good take on Peter Davison`s incarnation.

COMPANIONS: Not overly recognisable, but at least we are given some idea of Tegan and Turlough`s motivations, and reasons for behaving like they do. Best is Kamelion, who still manages to be a pain, but also play a role in the novel.

OTHERS: Arrestis is okay, but nothing special, the owner of the Bucephalus, it stands to reason that he wouldn`t be investigated, which he wasn`t of course. Lassiter is the only other character who has any depth to him, the others are too simplistic.

OVERALL: For capturing the regulars so well it gets high marks, but The Crystal Bucephalus isn`t a book destined for rereading and for that reason it gets 7/10.


A Review by Finn Clark 24/4/02

I found this charming. It's a bit dappy, but rather sweet.

With hindsight, The Crystal Bucephalus is full of trademark Hinton touches. There's lots of technobabble which I suspect is actually genuine high-level physics (e.g. "infarctions", which I recognised from The Quantum Archangel). There's an enormous sense of scale, this time in a straightforward historical sense. This story spans millennia of galactic history, leaping blithely from the 63rd century to 60,000 BC to the year 10,764 (probably, despite an irritating confusion of "10th millennium" with "year that begins with a ten").

The ideas are incredibly rich, almost enough for three books. Making the Doctor the Crystal Bucket's owner isn't at all necessary for the plot, but it's thrown in for fun anyway. This one time, it's great. (When reused in Demontage, it's less great.) The Lazarus revelations are a hoot, delightfully cynical and worth the price of entry on their own. There's a really weird theory of temporal projection which I can't imagine being reused by anyone else, ever.

There's also lots of continuity. Roaming around on the Crystal Bucephalus are:

  1. Ice Warriors (which once worshipped Claatris, the God of War)
  2. chilled-out Cybermen (though p174 shows that the Cyberlord Hegemony has an empire in the Milky Way)
  3. Chelonians
  4. Alpha Centauri
  5. Legions (see Lucifer Rising, and they did horrid stuff in the 28th century)
  6. Silurians (which once worshipped a lizard god and have a couple of famous temporal theoreticians)
  7. Draconians (who have an empire called the Draconian Republic)
  8. Thals
  9. Terileptils (despite the destruction of their planet in The Dark Path)

    And important to the plot are:

  10. Sontarans, whose empire is currently a radioactive wasteland but 5000 years previously were doing deals with Lazarus (before killing him) and destroying the planet Tersurus with an earthshock bomb from the Cybermen. Oh, and "Sontaran Throneworld" appears to be an alternate term for Sontara.
My brain should have exploded from ridiculous continuity overload, but somehow the book manages to hold it together. I think it's the scale. Any book which thinks this big should mention the big galaxy-shaping events. This book has a breathless charm (lots of exclamation marks!) which makes you forgive what might elsewhere be irritations. There's also plenty of original continuity, so much that even Lance's History couldn't hoover it all up. Gubbage Cones briefly ruled the galaxy circa 59,236 BC, employing mercenaries like Ogrons (!) and perhaps Ice Warriors. For a look at 'em and/or their Throneworld of Pluvikerr, see pages 178 and 268. They seem a bit Lovecraftian to me.

The regulars are okay, mostly. The Doctor has flashes of McCoyness, though this only got on my tits in the bit where Davison does some "those aren't the droids you're looking for" hypnosis. Personally I'm going to assume that nurse was ultra-suggestible or doing drugs, then I'll do my best to forget the whole scene ever happened. Tegan is appropriately stroppy, though Turlough's a bit bland (except when talking to Kamelion, when he's deliciously nasty).

It's a very enthusiastic book. However its story is largely propelled by: (a) blatant soap opera, or (b) doing something very complicated with the laws of physics while saying long words. The latter means nothing to the readers and the former is groanworthy. But at least there's a balance between the two, unlike GodEngine - largely type (a) - and The Quantum Archangel - largely type (b). It might be bollocks, but it's interestingly varied bollocks. Also the plot's cleverly constructed.

The Crystal Bucephalus doesn't quite hold up on rereading. Its story lies more exposed, while its ideas are inevitably less impressive second time around. I found myself skimming the last hundred pages. To be honest it's not particularly good, but I have a sneaking regard for it anyway.


A Review by Brian May 16/4/06

There's precious little to be interested in, intrigued by, or even be remotely inclined to care about in The Crystal Bucephalus. It's a dull, dreary and sleep-inducing experience which was a chore even to finish.

It's saturated with technobabble. But so are other Doctor Who novels; look at Transit, which is excellent. However Ben Aaronovitch's cyberpunk extravaganza actually succeeded in engaging the reader: you are bombarded with incomprehensible improbabilities, but it's enjoyable to take it all in, if not completely understand it. That's not the case here. You get tired and exasperated when subjected to all the time travel concepts. You can only take so many calm substrates, collapsar annihilators, double-hoops, denaturalizations, topological transformations, paradox wavefronts and time zone annuli - and that's just a sample. To quote Robert Smith? in his review of The Quantum Archangel, "Craig's got a physics degree and he's not afraid to use it". Well, I haven't got a physics degree. In fact, I'm hopeless at maths, but that's never stopped me appreciating Doctor Who's science, whether theoretical, empirical or just plain nonsensical. But the science here is inaccessible to an average reader like me. (Unless, of course, every other Who fan except me is a science nerd; if so then I'll just have to concede I'm below average.)

But this excess of technical jargon doesn't really matter in the long run, for the story itself is not that interesting. The idea of a time travelling restaurant could have worked, in spite of its unoriginality, but its realisation is flat. The entire novel feels inconsequential and is not very well written. The characters are one-dimensional; it's a sorry sign that the best drawn individual is only thus because he's a walking cliche in the first place: Sebastian, the snooty Maitre D'. The rest are quite awful, the fact that they dominate the narrative doesn't help at all. It's impossible to be concerned about any of them, nor Hinton's attempts to create a soap opera what with all his attempted "revelations". Lassiter and Sebastian are brothers! Who cares? Matisse and Lassiter were once lovers! Who gives a toss? Byson is their son! Big whoop. Arrestis is really Lazarus! Whatever.

The backdrop is also frustrating. The convoluted intertwining of the Union, the Elective and the Lazarus Intent congeal to form a monotonous mess. Intended action pieces fall down simply because of bad prose: the Suit pursuing Tegan and Diva; the subsequent time trips of the two women; the Doctor's journey into the Grid whilst mind-linked with the Legion. The Time Lord's five year exile on Pella Satyrnis is completely unconvincing. The disintegrating TARDIS didn't rivet me in the slightest, but when Marc Platt did the same thing in Time's Crucible it was heart-stopping. There are some purely ridiculous moments as well. When Matisse is in the TARDIS console room she operates the door control: the text explicitly states that she knows its function (p.219). A few lines later she panics, "suddenly realizing" the doors are closing! On p.232 Byson presses a button, with neither rhyme nor reason as to his motivation - but the author needs a race against time "we've got to get out of here now!" plot catalyst, and so he accordingly contrives one (and I mean contrives!)

Oh, and there's the fanwank. All right, so Craig Hinton invented the word, or so he says. He wears "Fanwank God" T-shirts at conventions. He even wrote the ultimate, deliberate fanwank novel, the aforementioned Quantum Archangel, several years after this. I reviewed it about eighteen months ago; I felt compelled to list all the fanwank. I could have done the same here, but frankly I couldn't be bothered. But rest assured there are enough references to Doctor Who's past to cause the average reader (or below average like me, remember!) to groan, grimace, gurn and give up.

If I was to consider any positives in this book, it would be the portrayals of the fifth Doctor and Turlough. The former is well depicted indeed; not necessarily in what happens to him (Pella Satyrnis) or what he's already done (his financial ownership of the Bucephalus is too seventh Doctor-like to convince here), but the basic characterisation is good. In fact, his passionate speech to Lassiter at the end is excellent. Turlough is a more than passable rendition, although nastier than usual, especially towards Sebastian and Tegan. The stroppy Aussie is whinier than ever and Kamelion is wasted.

In short, The Crystal Bucephalus is a garbled mess. Dull characters and a dull plot are held together with weak writing. It's also a fusion of technobabble and fanwank - a combination Craig Hinton has almost made into a trademark feature. 1.5/10