THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Ice Warriors
Enemy of the World
BBC Books
Dreams of Empire

Author Justin Richards Cover taken from the excellent Doctor Who books page
ISBN# 0 563 40598 8
Published 1998
Continuity Between
The Ice Warriors and Enemy of the World

Synopsis: The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria become swept up in the events of the final days of Haddron Empire, where they discover the history books may not have presented exactly what happened.


Reviews

Dreams of Greatness by Robert Smith? 26/9/98

I was quite surprised by this book. I wasn't really sure what to expect, which is always a nice way to go into a book. Unlike Richards' recent books, the story here is utterly focused and superb. There's political intrigue aplenty, but it's all very well thought out and the reader is constantly rewarded. This really feels like the epitome of the Justin Richards approach.

Characterisation is also a strong point. The Doctor is incredibly over the top and ridiculous -- and never once does this feel out of place. The Doctor is every inch Troughton, something I never thought I'd see in Past Doctor fiction. I'm astounded by the feat that's been pulled off here; it really puts the other writers of second Doctor fiction to shame, proving that you can capture his character, if only you're willing to put a bit of work in. I'm still in shock.

Indeed, one of my few complaints is that the energy level dipped a bit as the book went on. This isn't such a problem, really, as the early chapters really set the tone with a deceptively simple authority and subsequent chapters continue to ride on the crest of this wave. The Doctor becomes slightly more subdued (though only slightly), but it's a testament to Richards' wonderful approach that I was crying out for more.

The politics of the Haddron Empire are very well set out in the first chapter. It's a bit of a struggle to get through, with the (initially) unfamiliar characters, but it really pays off again and again throughout the book (and I'll guarantee that you'll find yourself flipping back to it again and again to discover more and more clues that were in plain sight).

The plot twists and turns expertly and for the first time in ages I felt that the author had pitched it just right. I saw some things coming, but only when I was supposed to (and a few things I really thought I'd pegged earlier than I should have... only to turn the page and realise Richards had been toying with me). Even the back cover blurb is in on it, cleverly misdirecting attention away from the really obvious things that aren't obvious at all until you know about them. Indeed, the whole book has the really satisfying feel of a professional magician smoothly guiding your attention exactly where he wants, but making sure you're having lots of fun all the time.

In short, I loved this book. The PDAs have been doing some wonderful things and Dreams of Empire maintains the high standards the line is aiming for and so consistently achieving. There are so many wonderful things about this book that I cannot recommend it strongly enough. A superb piece of Doctor Who magic.


A Review by Michael Hickerson 12/10/98

For some reason, the second Doctor has been very elusive when it comes to capturing his character in print. The Virgin series tried it four times with varying degrees of success and now the BBC books have attempted it three. So far, I've only had time to read the third offering, Dreams of Empire, but if this book is indication, I think the BBC Books may have finally found a way to pin down the second Doctor in print.

Dreams of Empire is a good little book that does several things extremely well.

As I've said before, it captures the second Doctor reasonably well. Not perfectly, mind you. There are times in this book, which draws strongly on the game of chess, when it seems as though it might be better suited to the seventh Doctor's chess playing, darker persona, but those are relatively easy to get through. Richards does a good job of capturing the duality that was the second Doctor in print--showing the second Doctor going from deadly serious one moment to his light-hearted self the next.

Richards also gives us a rich tapestry of background characters. When the story starts, there are quite a few peripheral characters and it's interesting to read about them and get to know them over the course of the first third of the novel before they start getting killed off.

Richards sets the novel up like a chess match with standard opening moves to put the pieces in play and then he slowly knocks them down. Towards the end there are some twists and turns to his strategy--some of which I saw coming a mile away, others I completely missed and some that I thought I'd figured out only to have Richards completely throw me for a loop by novel's end. It works well and it helps to keep the pages turning a bit.

The major problem with this novel is that like the middle of a chess game, the middle section drags a bit. There are major sections where it seems nothing happens to forward the plot. There are minor diversions such as an attempt on Victoria's life and the Doctor's investigation of a murder, but they really serve as filler until the mysterious space craft this is hurtling toward the planet arrives. At times, I found myself wanting to skip ahead just to see if the plot would ever start moving forward again. Once the ship shows up, things take off at a breakneck pace with dramatic revelations coming left and right from Richards.

Overall, however, Dreams of Empire is a far more satisfying attempt to bring the second Doctor to the printed page than most of the other efforts I've read. It's an enjoyable little read, but it's not on par with the classic BBC past Doctor books such as Face of the Enemy or The Witch Hunters.


A Review by Finn Clark 2/8/99

This is a very good book. Justin Richards hasn't written much better than this. It's tense, it's gripping and it's clever. I have a feeling that it might have been rejected by Virgin as too linear, since it doesn't have much in the way of subplots, settings or maneuvering factions. On the other hand, it's a good deal better than many Virgin books, simply for its drive and focus. Like the other book this month, from Christopher Bulis, this is an unexpected treat from an author I hadn't necessarily expected much from. I loved Theatre of War, but hadn't really been impressed by anything else from Justin Richards until now.

As I've said, this is a very good book. It does, however, have flaws.

Firstly, it's an archetypal base-under-siege story... set in Season Five, where six of the seven TV stories were also base-under-siege. This really is gravedigging. We've seen Troughton, Jamie and Victoria do this before, again and again. Even the "deadly robot troops" (to quote the back cover) aren't a million miles removed from the Yeti or the Ice Warriors. It's far more than just a rip-off, but the degree of homage involved in the plot is almost uncomfortable.

Secondly, the TARDIS crew are wrong. Sometimes they're perfect and you can almost hear the regulars saying the lines... but elsewhere they're so bad it hurts. Victoria is done pretty well. Jamie however is rather uptight, given to bursts of annoyance and letting things get under his skin. Huh? Whatever happened to the cheerful, happy-go-lucky fellow I remember? But worst of all is the Doctor.

Portraying Troughton has often been cited as a particular problem for writers. The best attempt so far in a novel has come from Mark Gatiss... and I don't think it's a coincidence that Mark's an actor too. I don't know who's meant to be playing the second Doctor in this book, but he gives a dreadful performance. He goes over the top. The comedy is grotesquely overdone, before suddenly switching to really intense moments where the Doctor shows us just how knowledgeable and threatening he is. He shows off and has sudden bad-tempered outbursts. Justin Richards's implication seems to be that there's a "real" second Doctor underneath and that the clowning is all affectation. No, no, no, no, no! It's not a horrible portrayal and I've probably overstated my case here, but I wasn't impressed at all with Justin Richards's Troughton.

But having said that, it's still a very good book. It's a base-under-siege story... but it's also far more than that. It's epic in its scope, bringing to mind Caesar's Rome while at the same time painting its empires in the most convincing detail possible by keeping them firmly offstage. There's all the ingenuity we've come to expect from Justin Richards, but none of the complexity and confusion. Everything is crystal clear from start to finish.

Highly recommended.


Well, that was fun! by Eva Palmerton 5/6/01

I really enjoyed this one. Justin is a very competent writer who knows how to tell a pretty good story. There was nothing spectacularly amazing about it in terms of really cool writing experiments or shocking plot twists. It was just a good, old-fashioned straigthforward action romp.

A couple of comments on the characters... The Doctor was a bit over the top, but that's okay for the Second Doc. It worked pretty well. Jamie was far more exciting than I remember him being, but that also worked quite well. Most of the other characters were exceptionally well done, except for Victoria.

Victoria was practically non-existent, which annoyed me. It's as if Richards was hindered by continuity on this one. The story was set between two TV stories that include Victoria, so she couldn't really be left out. But I don't feel that she really added anything to the story. The writing suggested that Richards was stuck with a character that he didn't really want to use. But just as she didn't add anything to the story, she didn't really take anything away either. So I can forgive the annoyance.

I enjoyed the plot very much. Chess was a very appropriate choice for comparison throughout. The majority of plot "twists" were highly predictable, though a few caught me by surprise. The story itself was very well-paced... I didn't find it dragging on at any point and I had a hard time convincing myself to put the book down.

Overall, I had a lot of fun reading this one.

9/10


A Review by Terrence Keenan 16/5/02

The 2nd Doc, Jamie and Victoria arrive in a castle-cum-prison in the Haddron Empire, where politcal intruge and chess run hand in hand and a ship is coming to free a prisoner who might not want to leave....

It's well known that the two most difficult Doctors to capture on the printed page have been the 2nd and 4th, mainly because Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker gave such deep and complex versions of the character in the TV episodes. Of the two, Troughton might be even more difficult, due to the lack of surviving stories.

Leave it to Justin Richards to get it right. His version of the 2nd Doctor is amazing: a complete goofball one second, the heroic genius the next. It all rings true from the opening scene in the TARDIS with the sandwiches to the very last page. He also gets Jamie right as a man of action, and gives Victoria some much needed spunk (although the Victoria in Heart of TARDIS is better).

The story combines the season five base under siege story that the 2nd Doc was known for with the usual uber-twisty political machinations that Justin Richards has made a trademark. As with most JR stories, the twists come fast and furious: some foreshadowed nicely if you pay attention, others slap you in the face and call you Susan. None ring false.

The guests are a bit on the thin side, although not so thin that they are one dimensional. Cruger makes an interesting villain, if only because he wants to be the power behind the throne, instead of the figurehead. Milton Trayx has depth, the man of honor forced to duplicitous methods to prevent the destruction of the Haddron Empire.

The VETACs were an interesting and formidable monster. Relentless, intelligent, and possessed with a strange sense of honor, they come across as something more than just fighting robots.

I enjoyed the chess motif that JR employed thoughout the book. It meshed with the politics of the Haddron Empire, and, towards the end, became a brilliant red herring for a few of the biggest plot twists.

In the end, Dreams of Empire features the best version of the 2nd Doc in print. It's another Justin Richards winner; a great tale by one of my favorite authors of DW fic.


The faceless King by Joe Ford 29/9/03

There is a myth amongst Doctor Who fans that the second Doctor is remarkably difficult to capture in print. This was borne from a number of desperately poor interpretations that littered the Vurgin Missing Adventures. The point that nobody seems to take into account is that these books were written by poor authors. Gary Russell, Martin Day, Chris Bulis and such like, writers who haven't found it in them to write a decent book despite several attempts (except possibly Bulis on the odd occasion). The BBC books have been a lot more fortunate in this respect by not only giving us some well written second Doctor books (The Murder Game, The Final Sanction, Combat Rock) but some spot on characteriations of the main man too.

Justin Richards has always been my favourite Doctor Who writer and this is another superb book in one hell of a run. And one of the best features of this story is his near perfect take on the second Doctor. It's so good in places you can actually hear Troughton saying the dialogue and goofing about throughout. It's so Doc 2 to improvise this much, he always seemed to guess his way through his stories and hope for the best. He always seemed to hop about sheepishly when he realised he had made a big mistake. Of course he always had a plan after all and triumphed with a wicked smile on his face. All those characteristics are here but it was his movements and mannerisms I was so impressed with. Justin has him lacing his fingers together, shifting from a smile to looking utterly crestfallen, dancing about as things get exciting, pulling faces as though he is sucking a marble (come on you ALL know that face Troughton pulled!)... it's so vividly Troughton. Most of all he seems to be enjoying himself and that is the biggest asset of this book, the Doctor's lust for adventure is quite infectious. His quick flaring temper too (ooh I better stop or I'll be here all day).

Jamie and Victoria are also well developed. His protection of Victoria reaches levels of insanity as it did in the series to the point where he doesn't care if his life is in danger just so long as she is safe. His sulks when the technical talk starts up felt very real, Jamie nods and smiles as though he knows exactly what everyone is talking about but in reality he is embarassed to know so little. Of course the gorgeous scotsman was always a man of action and he gets to flex his muscles quite a bit in a book that throws him in a heroic light. Victoria was always a favourite of mine and not just because I always wanted to give her a big cuddle what with all the horrible monsters she was always facing. She was actually tougher than she looked and Justin captures that well, her exploration of the castle to find a quick escape route should things turn nasty felt very realistic. It's typical Troughton fare to thrust all these horrors in her face, burnt corpses and such like and Victoria's horrified reactions are always good for raising the tension.

I always thought Justin was better at plot than he was at character but this book has proven me wrong. His secondary cast are all well done. Cleverly he sets up the whole book in the first chapter, a little confusing at first as we are expected to get involved with these people instantly but it is soon clear that this is a good approach to storytelling, not only because when we skip years ahead in chapter we are already familiar with the political machinations and relationships but it also helps lays the seeds for the barrage of twists in the last third.

The four major characters Trayx, Kesar, Crugar and Helena are especially thoughtfully written. The book hinges on their relationships and much of what they have done in the first chapter affects the rest of the book. It is worth taking note that not everything is as it seems with these characters and Justin is renowned for playing tricks with the reader so paying close attention to what they say and do is important. The Helena/Kesar affair is sensitively handled and I was waiting on tenderhooks for Trayx to find out. It is one of the smaller (yet biggest in terms of the war) twists when we find out his reaction. Trayx was my favourite character of the bunch just because Justin seems most comfortable telling his story, his immediate belief that the Doctor was not the murderer won me over straight away.

Smaller characters were just as good and strenghtening the chess motive you can feel them circling each other on the board which is the novel. Hints of relationships, whispers of rebellions... it is impossible to know who to trust but is intense fun trying to guess who is involved. Darkling and Haden are quite memorable despite their scenes being kept to a minimum and Prion was also worth keeping an eye on, his bizarre behaviour not just spotted by Jamie.

Did I mention twists? Oh come on this is by that git Richards! He knows how to play with you in the most wonderful way. He always leaves a few twists out in the open which I jump on immediately and once again proclaim I have outfoxed his tight plotting. But there are always two or three MAJOR twists in the last few chapters that catch me out. It is one of the most fun things about reading his books. I kind of guessed who was behind the killings in Dreams of Empire but was entirely unprepared for the shock identidy twist in the last chapter. Very sneaky and yet painfully obvious.

The book thrives on its claustrophobic atmosphere and small setting. A castle in space is an easy location to picture and Justin does his best to make it as atmospheric as possible. This is everything Peladon should have been. Once the VETACs arrive there is plenty of action to go around especially if you found the ponderous chattiness of the first third a little slow. The robots themselves are very cool, fast and scary just as they should be.

I really can't find much to fault this book, it is just the right length to keep you interested, the chess motif is discreet and not at all overdone and the prose is quite fluent. It is another old PDA that is worth a second read and proof that Mr Justin Richards is a master storyteller.


A Review by Brian May 12/10/04

You've got to hand it to Justin Richards. Whichever era of Doctor Who and whatever combination of TARDIS crew he writes, they're all pretty true to their televised memory. In Dreams of Empire he gives us the second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria in a season 5 tale - the famous base under siege and monster season. He captures the characters with a terrific authenticity while also staying faithful to the feel of the surrounding stories.

In regards to these characterisations, there are a couple of exceptions. The first appearance of the Doctor is not very good - he seems too absent-minded and clumsy even for Troughton standards, and placing his sandwich in a used handkerchief is a bit gross. And Jamie's mentions of Toberman and Kemel are just a little forced and too continuity conscious, which is a pity, because the rest of the story - aside from the monster gallery on p.109 - remains free of this, and is all the more better for it. However for the rest of the adventure, it's an excellent rendering of the team. In almost every scene they're in, you can imagine Troughton, Hines and Watling speaking the words. The Doctor is cunning and resourceful, yet gentle; Jamie is, as ever, protective of Victoria, loyal to his companions and ready to fight. Victoria is her usual na´ve but spirited self.

Richards also creates interesting, well rounded non-regular characters - not necessarily warm, but sympathetic, as we get with Trayx, Helana and Kesar. Trayx is fleshed out particularly well. The struggle of conscience and divided loyalties between his friend and the greater good of the Republic reflect his depth and sense of honour. He is quickly convinced the Doctor and his companions weren't responsible for Remas's murder - not in the usual contrived ways that various TARDIS crews quickly become allies after initially being suspects - but because he's an intelligent, rational man who can spot the obvious. Of the others, Cruger and Prion are brought to the page with consummate care. The former is loyal to his master and his beliefs. He becomes primary antagonist, but in no way can he be simply be labelled a villain. A fanatic, maybe, but a man driven by principle and conviction. Darkling and Haden also benefit from excellent writing. Their relationship is a genuine one, marred by tragedy, and their deaths are very sad moments.

As well, Richards succeeds in creating a terrific atmosphere. The descriptions of Santespri are intricate and evocative. A castle in space is a wonderful idea, and the scenes in the Observation Room and the Stardial Chamber are gorgeous. The rest of Santespri is outlined as your typical castle should be, with lots of flickering shadows, dark corridors and ominous suits of armour. Victoria in the Banqueting Hall is reminiscent of old Gothic novels (Walpole's The Castle of Otranto comes to mind). Of course, the author is writing all this as a season 5 adventure - monsters and a base under siege. So you know those suits of armour aren't going to be still for too long, and the obligatory siege is soon underway. The VETACs, while not as memorable as some of the nasties in the surrounding television stories, still make for an effective enemy. There's lots of capture, running round and flights of escape, but of course that's all part of the fun! But Richards also includes a skilfully arranged set of twists and turns, saving the best for last, without ever cheating (just go back and read Kesar's scene on pp.134-135!). The chess analogies are peppered throughout, but they're never overbearing and cleverly reflect the wider game that's going on.

Dreams of Empire is a wonderfully small story. By which I mean it involves the concerns and affairs of a relatively small section of the universe. Of course, the Haddron Republic/Empire is fairly sizable - the civil war results in the deaths of millions; its expanse is never given an exact measure, but by suggestion it encompasses a substantial amount of territory - in chapter one Kesar moots about the subjugation of "a thousand worlds", but this is probably exaggeration. But, compared to the Who universe, it's tiny. It's an assortment of planets in some corner of the galaxy; the Doctor has heard of it, but he's not up-to-date in its affairs.

And that's what makes the adventure so refreshing. It's nice to have a "small stakes" story for a change. Like the Graff Vynda-K's dreams of his empire in The Ribos Operation; Count Grendel's dastardly plan to rule one planet in The Androids of Tara; or the squabbling over wealth and political power in The Caves of Androzani. Small, piffling matters in relation to the fate of universe, in which the outcomes affect a similarly small number of people. The Haddron Republic, likewise, is unimportant in the grand cosmic scheme of things.

Justin Richards has delivered a faithful rendition of the TARDIS crew in a story that very much belongs in season five. Add to this strong supporting characters, a great setting and intelligent plotting and you have a delightful read. 9/10