THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

City of Death
Theatre of War
Dragons' Wrath
Tears of the Oracle
Virgin Publishing
The Empire of Glass

Author Andy Lane Cover taken from the excellent Doctor Who books home page
ISBN# 0 426 20457 3
Published 1995
Continuity Between The Time Meddler and
Galaxy Four
(and after The Three Doctors)

Synopsis: A mysterious invitation brings the TARDIS crew to the year 1609. While Vicki is kidnapped and Stephen accused of murder, the Doctor discovers a race of aliens who want to invade Earth, but must first ask his permission.


Reviews

A Review by James Ambuehl 3/6/98

I've never watched a Hartnell video all the way through, and still have no idea who Ian and Barbara and Vickie are -- but having read this book I think I have a pretty good idea of who underated companion Steven Taylor is!

Adventurous, dashing, engaging, Steven is the kind of companion I'd take along on my journeys through time if I were the Doctor (well, Peri too, but this isn't really the place to air such base fantasies, is it?). In fact, he sort of reminds me of Harry Sulivan, another severely underated character in my book.

The plot, too, was engaging, although perhaps it wouldn't have worked too well on the television program, and I feel the author taught me a good deal about history along the way.

Really, this book has everything: swordplay, aliens, monsters, yet strangely enough, it's also a love story as well! I won't mention here who the very unxpected love story concerns, suffice to say that it was so touching and deftly examined that it almost made this blustery UNIT soldier (I wish!) cry!

If they are anything like this book, it seems that there may just be something to those old Hartnell's after all....


A Review by Rueben Herfindahl 8/8/99

Andy Lane manages to combine the eccentricity of Hartnell's Who with some of the galactic hero elements of the later Doctors quite well. The nice tie in with The Three Doctors also works well, and manages to pave over the continuity problems which would have otherwise arisin had the Doctor's memory not been wiped.

His characterization of Vicki is a bit off. She does seem far too much of an adult, whearas in the episodes she always seemed to act as a bit of a child. It is a nice touch however to explore her feelings about the events that transpired on Dido, and the death of her pet at Barbara's hands.

Steven's characterization is great. He's exposed to the drinking habits of Galileo, and tries to keep up, quite unsuccesfully.

Also including Galileo and Shakespeare as a spy is also a nice touch.

Not an earthshattering revelation novel, simply enjoyable Who, with a touch of the humor elements from The Romans. This is the book that brought me into the MA's and I still think it ranks right up there as one of the best.


A Review by Shaun Lyon 17/8/99

I am not a William Hartnell fan. Truth be told, I think I've seen maybe four complete stories from that era, and even less from Troughton (but that's not surprising, given how little remains from his seasons). I always found Hartnell stories to be trite and uninteresting, a reflection on the innocent 1960's (relatively speaking, of course), his companions dull caricatures with no depth and personality except a nod of approval and a scream here and there.

That's one of the many reasons that The Empire of Glass surprised the heck out of me. Maybe it was the cover blurb that caught me, but I was dragged in as soon as I started. Andy Lane, the writer of some of the most popular New Adventures (including Original Sin, where he introduced new companions Chris & Roz), has really created a wonderful backdrop, adding his own little touches to make a nice mystery story.

One of the continuing subtexts of the post-TV book series has been that of Braxiatel. Originally mentioned in the Tom Baker era ("the Braxiatel collection"), it was the Braxiatel collection that Benny went to at the end of Theatre of War, and culminating in a visit in Legacy. It's been mentioned several times since. Empire of Glass finally introduces us to the man behind the collection: Irving Braxiatel, a Time Lord in exile just like the Doctor. Braxiatel has come to Earth in the late 1500's to set up a peace conference between some of the galaxy's most hostile alien races (Lane tries to explain why it's held at Earth, but never does quite satisfactorily), in order to get them to see the light. He's invited the Doctor here too, but the Doctor's missing parts of his memory. (This is the wonderful part: we at last have a date point for the First Doctor's sage counsel in The Three Doctors. Just before Empire of Glass, which takes place between The Time Meddler and Galaxy Four, the Doctor is pulled out of time in the bubble he advises his second and third incarnations from. After that, Braxiatel invites him. Then, the Time Lords return him back without his memory; he steps out of the "bubble" at the beginning of the book.)

The Doctor, Vicki and Steven make their way to Earth to investigate the now-mysterious invitation and end up in Venice in the 1500's. They discover, almost immediately, some unusual goings-on. Steven's implicated in a murder of a landlord and is befriended by a man who turns out to be Christopher Marlowe, the author, now undercover -- like the rest of the authors of England, who have gone abroad to be spies. (Later, Shakespeare himself shows up.) Meanwhile, the Doctor and Steven become quite chummy with Galileo Galilei, who's waiting for an audience with the Doge about his "spyglass". Vicki, unfortunately, has had a few nightmares that turn out to be real nightly visions of an alien who later abducts her... and uses her in a ploy to stop the peace conference with sabotage -- a result that Braxiatel never expected.

The wonderful thing about this is that Lane plays Hartnell exactly like the way I remember Hartnell from the few stories I've seen all the way through (those being Unearthly Child, Edge of Destruction, The Aztecs and The War Machines, plus some of the episodes of incomplete stories)... and yet the Doctor sounds EXACTLY like Sylvester McCoy. It's a very engaging style that also makes perfect sense in the course of the book, and leaves the reader with a straightforward story that unfolds well. The writing is first rate, too. There are, of course, unanswered questions (like the aforementioned reason why the conference is happening here in the first place) but they're few and far between. I'd very heartily recommend this book to Doctor Who aficionados... and not just fans of Hartnell.


Trip To The Past Triology Part 1 by Robert Thomas 27/11/00

Recently I have ordered 3 books that came out a few years ago which I did not pick up at the time. This was mainly because I was a poor student, now however I am a less poor student. So I ordered 3 books that I always felt I would like to read and starting here I will review them all.

First off I must say that this is the first book I have read by Andy Lane. And I have no opinion of his work except that I have heared that he is much missed by regular readers of the range.

This is altogether a fun book, it's not dull or brilliant, just fun. I was not expecting this to be a comedy but a tale of horror set against the back drop of Venice at the time of 1609. When the regulars appear it becomes blatantly obvious that its a comedy.

Lane's abilities are strongest however in his descriptions of Venice and the scenes set here are the best. The palaces, taverns and alleys of Venice are brought to life vividly. But the only real fault in the book is the description of the island. It seems both myself and the cover artist asumed it floated for the whole book. The scene where the island starts to float come as an anticlimax since I allready thought it was floating. This also means that we are let down about how The Doctor and friends get to the island as this seems to be a big build up to this in the plot.

But enough slating the story is fun and imaginative. The first Doctor's first mix of aliens and Earth is handled ok, but it feels that the author couldn't decide which to focus on -- Venice and the past or the island and aliens.

All the characters are brought to life fantastically. The Doctor has a priceless line when he see's the controls of the island and asks, 'Can I drive?'. He is perfectly Hartnell throughout. Stephen is brought to life well and his angst is pictured well, his end line is nice too. Vicki who I have always thought as Susan Mark 2, is handled all right and given some good scenes as she is caught by events happening around her. The regular guest character from the book range was brilliant and completely took me by surprise. Marlowe and Galileo were spectacular, Shakespeare hysterical and Albrellian was a nice touch.

All in all a nice book. I slipped through it in a fortnight. Watch out for some cameos and what happens to a kidnapped priest.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 19/2/01

Surprisingly enjoyable. Read on for more...

PLOT: Aliens, Galileo and Venice. A clever idea from Andy Lane helped along by continuity touches, such as The Three Doctors intro for The Doctor.

THE DOCTOR: Cleverly portrayed and very much in the vein of William Hartnell`s characterisation.

COMPANIONS: Steven plays the dashing hero particularly well and Vicki gets a bit more background; such as her life on Dido; although being kidnapped did nothing for me.

OTHERS: We finally get to meet Irving Braxiatel, who is just like The Doctor, in exile. Shakespeare, Galileo and Marlowe also greatly impress.

OVERALL: Very little to find fault with, the descriptive writing is top notch, characterisation strong, and the story whilst not being earth-shattering in any way is still greatly enjoyable.


A Review by Finn Clark 7/4/04

This book feels more significant than most of the Virgin MAs, possibly thanks to its rich cocktail of continuity and pivotal historical figures. Here you can read about the Armageddon Convention, a pan-galactic conference in 17th-century Venice, Irving Braxiatel, Shakespeare, Galileo, Christopher Marlowe, the Roanoake colonists and more. This feels like a story that's unfolding on a grand canvas, which helps no end. It's also a lot of fun!

The level of research is impressive, even before you read the bibliography in the Acknowledgements. Andy Lane works hard to conjure up Venice in 1609, coming up with more period detail and historical insights than most authors despite the fact that he's 'only' writing a pseudo-historical. Bursting with aliens, flying saucers and technobabble, this book could have been set in any era. Nevertheless its portrayal of Venice is as vivid and fascinating as the view of Victorian London in All-Consuming Fire; had this adventure had a blander backdrop it wouldn't be half the book it is. Shakespeare, Galileo and Marlowe are lively too, each playing important roles in the story. That's all good stuff.

My biggest nitpick involves lack of continuity with a book that hadn't yet been written! To a post-Virgin reader The Empire of Glass feels almost like a sequel to The Plotters, set only four years later (1609 and 1605 respectively) and coming close on its heels in the Doctor's timeline. (Only The Chase and The Time Meddler come between them.) It's thus odd when Vicki doesn't recognise King James I/VI despite spending an entire book trying to keep him out of her knickers, while one might also expect the Doctor to be worried about possibly meeting Robert Cecil again. Presumably Vicki can't see their faces on p230 (perhaps she's standing behind the audience?), while one could perhaps read unintended resonances into the Doctor claiming to be a friend of the King four pages later. If you squint, it just about works.

The regulars are well portrayed, except that Andy Lane occasionally has fun with his low opinion of Steven and Vicki. Nevertheless he tries his best, fleshing out their backstories when necessary. Thus we learn that Steven was fighting the Krayt when he crashed on Mechanus (p163) and he might be gay. Dunno about that last one. The Doctor is great, as usual with Hartnell. Overall Andy's TARDIS crew is pretty good and fun to read about.

There's plenty of continuity, though I'm still wondering whether the John Dee references are a deliberate nod to Birthright. However there are also plenty of original throwaways... the fate of the Aaev on p157 is pretty bizarre, for instance. Irving Braxiatel doesn't feel like the version from the Benny books, but that's not unreasonable since this is a different part of his life. The Empire of Glass is rich, detailed, strong in all departments and always enjoyable. I found it lots of bubbly fun. By managing not to blow its foot off with fanwank and other such missteps, it's probably even my favourite Andy Lane book.