Prime Time
BBC Books

Author Dale Smith Cover image
ISBN# 0 563 538?? ?
Published 2002
Featuring The seventh Doctor and Ace

Synopsis: Nobody visits Heritage. Why would they? Dry, dusty and hot, it's nothing but a failed mining colony too stupid to realise that it's actually dead. No-one wants to visit, least of all Ace. But the Doctor's got his hearts set on a flying visit, just while they're in the neighbourhood. That's when he finds out that Heritage wants visitors just as much as visitors want them.


A Review by Finn Clark 17/10/02

Heritage is a lot like Dust. They're dead-end frontier planets at the arse end of nowhere in the distant future, populated by a handful of sad loners. They resemble the Wild West, with few natural resources and no law or civilisation except that which their inhabitants make for themselves. Which isn't to say that Dale Smith's novel is anything like Interference, but it's interesting to see that in the 21st-century Doctor Who is at last starting to do Westerns rather more wholeheartedly than it did in The Gunfighters.

This isn't a Western in the cliched gunslinger sense, but instead something rather more historically faithful (despite the fact that it's set in the 61st century). Heritage's cast is a hodge-podge of ill-matched characters who came out for the gold rush... er, actually for Thydonium mining. A cast run-down might make Dale Smith sound like Stephen Wyatt (a cyber-armed Geordie, a talking dolphin called Bernard, etc.) but in fact Heritage is a very measured piece of storytelling from someone with a distinguished theatre background. The high concept characters aren't gag machines, but people. The cast all gets room to breathe and grow into three dimensions, and the story is serious and poignant rather than daft or wacky.

This is a fine book with one flaw: the Doctor. Dale Smith has a good take on the 7th Doctor (both McCoy's interpretation and how he's evolved since), but here he turns him into a brooding stick-in-the-mud who's having second thoughts about interfering. Up to a point, that's fair enough. There's a good reason for it (in fact a great reason). That's the story the author wants to tell... but still I felt that the Doctor's moping went on too long. Let's face it, we all know that our hero will eventually get his arse in gear. The 7th Doctor is prone to the odd crisis of conscience, but this particular bout of introspection gets dragged out for a good hundred pages longer than necessary.

That aside, the regulars are well done. In particular there's one peculiarity with this TARDIS crew which I think Dale Smith might have been deliberately exploiting. The 7th Doctor and Ace have appeared in so many different media in so many contradictory stories that they've almost become Schrodinger's regulars, a kaleidoscope of fragmented alternatives rather than straightforward icons as with most of the other Doctors and companions. Even on TV you've got McCoy's Season 24 characterisation as against the later Cartmel-inspired developments and the TVM. You've got the DWM comic strip, at first dovetailing with the NAs and then breaking away with Ground Zero. You've got New Ace. You've got the PDAs and the revisionism of Perry-Tucker, Darvill-Evans and more. You've got Gale versus McShane. It's a whirling maelstrom of contradictory Doctors and Aces, and at times Dale Smith seems to reference them all. Since these days the back covers merely say "This adventure features the Seventh Doctor and Ace", I had extreme difficulty working out where chronologically this book was supposed to fit.

Take Ace. p113 foreshadows Ground Zero and/or Prime Time. There's rather nice reference to Survival and Ace's history as a Cheetah Person, suggesting that Heritage follows straight on from the TV stories, but then p186 makes you think of New Ace. Eventually p271 nails it with an explicit Storm Harvest reference ("the last time she'd met a Cetacean"), but for me the uncertainty of the preceding pages added a certain frisson to the character.

(Incidentally, Bernard the talking dolphin is merely picking up a Perry-Tucker development. The Cetaceans appeared in Storm Harvest, complete with spider-legged mechanical walkers and a fondness for smoking cigars through their blowhole. However you'll remember Bernard long after Storm Harvest's Krill-fodder have slipped from your memory. In a book populated by some magnificently self-deluding bad guys, Bernard stands out as the no-contest winner of the award for Most Fucked-Up Dolphin In A Doctor Who Story.)

The Doctor is interestingly done. He's powerfully described - almost too powerfully at times, but the text mostly steers clear of groanworthiness. (Random note: p108 is not inconsistent with and may even be deliberately reminiscent of Kevin Clarke's conceit for Silver Nemesis that the Doctor was God.) However it also picks up on Sylvester's notion of the Doctor as an ancient character, weighed down by memories and all the bad things he's seen. It's an interesting experiment, though it wears out its welcome in this book alone. I trust this isn't set to become the latest characterisation fad. But having said all that, if I'd known from the beginning that Heritage comes soon after Prime Time then I'd have had no problems with it. The Doctor's development here is slap in line with Prime Time's epilogue, though Dale Smith makes only the most oblique reference to it. There's also a plot twist that makes us compare this older 7th Doctor with his more carefree Season 24 self, so in the end I admit that this is a fine, thought-provoking portrayal of the Doctor.

It's interesting to note, incidentally, that the Seventh Doctor PDAs seem to have been more interested in exploring their hero's character than Virgin's NAs were. I've always felt that the NA Doctor evolved largely by accident, being shaped by cock-ups, caricatures and bad characterisation. The better writers simply found themselves exploring the direction in which the character was being taken, like it or not. Occasionally the books even passed direct comment upon it. The results were interesting and virtue grew out of necessity, but many of the McCoy PDA authors have had specific things to say about the regulars they've chosen to work with.

The setting is a strong one, and I liked the use it makes of continuity. There are references, but Dale Smith almost always does something with them. Adjudicators in the 61st century made my eyebrows go up... but then p180 gives this a twist. A minor aspect of The Invisible Enemy gets revisited and turned into important background.

Oh, and Heritage's economy is so small that it doesn't even have money. Instead it's a favour-barter system. I liked that too.

Sometimes the best characters are the smallest ones. I loved Arabella the raven, and the Fussies are cool as all hell. I like the way the Doctor and Ace ride into town rather than simply materialising in the TARDIS, though I can't work out for the life of me why they put themselves to all that trouble. It's not as if the 7th Doctor ever had trouble steering his time machine. And I love what's underground, which is deeply symbolic of what happened up top. You'll see what I mean.

On the downside, I saw the big revelation coming well in advance... and I'm not normally the kind of person who guesses this kind of thing. In fact, I guessed it so far ahead that I'd almost forgotten about it again by the time the truth was revealed. But this isn't a book about excitement and plot twists, so that's okay.

This is a deliberately small-scale novel, guaranteed to disappoint anyone looking for space opera and bug-eyed monsters. The secret isn't what you expect, or what we'd normally see in Doctor Who. Occasionally the author's choices got in the way for me, but I suppose that's partly my fault in bringing my Doctor Who expectations to the table rather than simply appreciating the book I'd bought. (The misleading cover doesn't help; whoever created that is on drugs.) I call this a well-written story with much to recommend it. I wouldn't at all mind seeing a second book from Dale Smith.

Not worth thinking up a witty title... by Joe Ford 281102

Could this be the nadir of Doctor Who fiction? I certainly think so. A Doctor Who book has never wound me up so much in all my years of immersing myself in these imaginative words!!! Judging the book on its cover (which I so often, much to my bitter disapointment, do) I was expecting a real chiller. The black and white effect has often been a favourite of mine and add to it the surreal effect of the little girl staring up at the 'camera' with the big horrible teeth thingy coming out of the sand behind her... brrr... I just knew this was going be a treat.

Huh, yeah right.

I will already admit that I didn't finish the last eighty pages so I cannot comment on the ending but I have to write this to warn all you respectable readers out there to steer clear of this travesty. Forget Divided Loyalties, forget Warmonger, this is the WORST book published under the Doctor Who banner.

What could possibly be the reason for all this hatred I hear you ask, especially when I usually trip over your tongue to praise anything under the BBC books banner? All I ask for in a book is to be kept interested, that's all, a simple thing that even the worst of Who authors have managed. In the first 100 pages of Heritage NOTHING happens. I mean nothing. The Doctor and Ace arrive on Heritage, it's a dried up old Western cliche of an alien town and they meet the locals. The Doctor is in his New Adventures contemplative mood and Ace is horrified that he doesn't want to have adventures and solve the mysteries of Heritage (which is... umm some horses have vanished). Hardly thrilling stuff is it? If it had been confined to the first chapter, that would be fine but this spit of a synopsis is stretched to the first eight or so chapters! There's a brief assasination attempt on the Doc but even that's tediously predictable.

To make matter worse Dale Smith seems to think we should privy to every though rattling around in his characters' heads. The seventh Doctor and Ace had a good run in the NA's so to hear they're every thought about their lives together, re-hashing so much of the past is hardly thrilling. Ace, in particular, grates in this book, giving us a step by step account of everything she does in her head and then spends six paragraphs taking us through the consequences. There was several whole pages of exposition of what was going on in her head. I just wished she'd do something!

There's even a gay subplot, talk of incest and a talking Dolphin who kills people... how can somebody make these things boring? To Mr Smith's advantage he has obviously thought his characters' character out well (if you know what I mean) but he just fails to do anything with them.

The prose is okay, there are some nice descriptions here and there but the the tone of the piece is so dry and insipid I just couldn't draw into this world he has created. I hate it when writers repeat things as though we didn't understand in the first place and his constant whining about the sand getting everywhere (it laces the buildings, gets in the water, goes down your top...). Yes we get it, it is a desert planet and it is sandy and hot. And there were several scenes that began with 'The Doctor walked in the sweltering heat with the brim of his hat low...' It just strikes me as sloppy and that due to a serious lack of plot it was all he could do.

Ooh dear aren't I being nasty? Was there anything good about Heritage... not really. There was one moment where I thought some tension might arise when the people of Heritage start talking about bumping off the Doctor but it just comes to nothing. And the less I say about the terrible characterisation of the Sherrif, the better.

To top it off this actually reveals the fate of an ex-companion, a potentially glimmering moment amongst all the tedium but once again nothing is done with this plot. It's a nice surprise but then it seems forgotten about. And the indentity of the little girl on the cover is OBVIOUS!

I shan't go on. I threw Heritage out my second story window leading to the proclamation "That's 5.99 down the drain!" from Simon so I picked it up and put on my bookshelf. I scowl everytime I spot the spine. Thankfully it's grey and doesn't stick out too much.

Seriously folks, don't waste your time or money.

Three out of Five by Jamas Enright 9/4/03

This book has one amazing property. This story flows well, pages pass by really quickly, and yet... and yet... not a single thing happens in it. No major battles, barely a confrontation or two, sweet - as they say - Fanny Adams.

Which isn't to say the book isn't without some surprises. There were many revelations I didn't see coming, I doubt anyone would, but they come across as a slow series of unveilings. Not, mind you, by any real depth of investigation and courage on the behalf of our heroes, but just because the beans get spilled. In fact, the Doctor and Ace don't really do anything at all, other than be there to listen as the next bit of the story is given out. It's just amazing how much of the book is like this.

It's not like we haven't seen something like this before. The Also People was also light on actual events, instead giving up detailed characters to entertain us. And so, with little story to Heritage, we now must turn to the characters. Unfortunately we don't get detailed insight into the minds of humans, but instead get lots of wallowing self-pity. Not angst, through which we might get actual character development (or close enough in today's fast paced short-attention-span world), but just people pitying how they are.

These pitying people get to be the stars of the books, or at least the focus. We have Cole, the barman with a secret that keeps him miserable. We have Lee, the furniture maker with a secret that keeps him miserable. They take up most of the book, pages flying past of hearing them moan.

Fortunately, the book isn't entirely reliant on them. Bernard, the dolphin with a walker (very hard to picture, in fact a picture would have been nice) is an entertaining creature, fitting in well with the whole overall western motif Heritage has going on. Wakeling, the 'villain' as such, is also without a need to wallow. Ace, too, comes into this category. She's the main reason that the beans get spilled, as the Doctor...

Well, the Doctor starts rather morose, but it's hard to tell if this is because the author intended some bigger picture event to be happening in the background, or if it was a convenient reason to keep the Doctor out of the way then bring him back with a bang later on. Either way, this characterisation of the Doctor has trouble working, as to me this story comes just before Survival and that placement makes this Doctor rather out of character. Perhaps if there had been something else going on...

However, despite this wallowing, despite the complete lack of story, despite the rather odd characterisation, this book isn't really all that bad. The narrative does flow well, and the revelations are nicely spaced through-out the book, with plenty of time to get used to them (and some of them do take getting used to) before the next one pops up. There are some elements I'm not entirely sure about (objects and people seem to turn up a bit too easily), but outside of that, this is a perfectly readable piece of work.

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 6/1/04

The Western genre is not a favourite of mine. I wasn't going to buy it simply because of that. But then this book started getting some pretty good reviews, and I took the plunge with it - superior PDA and all that. Apparently there was some nice character bits in there, and an unusual setting.

The first few chapters left me hopeful for the book as a whole. As the Doctor and Ace arrive on Heritage, the whole sleepiness of the place made for a very sedate and pleasant read. The book also is set over one particular day - and I liked that idea. We would clearly be shifting between the Doctor and Ace, together and apart, throughout that day.

The characters were interesting - that is the Doctor's and Ace's characters. The NAs, BBV Audios, Big Finish have all left many feeling overexposed to this pairing - but it remains a good one. You only need to look at the Past Doctor Adventures from the BBC to see how popular it remains - they pop up at least every 6 months - more than any other team I would wager. Most of these books really are excellent too. They use the TV characters, and not the New Adventures ones.

The 7th Doctor is broody, wanting a rest to think - but there's no manipulation involved. Ace just wants things to be interesting, and goes here there and everywhere in search of some life. The planet itself is the other great character. Thanks to Westerns we know what this kind of town looks like - but this is one of just a few small settlements on this dustbowl planet. This is far more isolated than any American frontier.

The locals of Heritage are a strange breed. Bar owner and horse owner are interesting enough for very different reasons, but the inclusion of Bernard the talking Dolphin is mighty weird. Was it meant to be funny? Whatever the reason for its inclusion, the gun-toting Dolphin spoiled the book. It was just so out of place and far too wacky for my tastes.

Heritage overall though is an interesting place to be, the isolation - but familiarity mix well. The story takes a while to get going, but that didn't spoil the book - I actually enjoyed the opening episode (the book is split into 4) better than all the rest. I used to prefer the opening episode of a TV story more than episodes 2, 3 and 4 usually too. Seems I get fidgety for a new place more than most - so that's why I like the 2-parters so much!

Heritage is a pretty good PDA - though I wouldn't call it superior. Again the 2002 PDAs are proving far better than I expected. It really shows that every individual must make their own mind up. If you take on board a lot of the PDA reviews for 2002 books you wouldn't touch them with a barge pole. Turns out they're just as good as the 8th Doctor books. They're just different - and that's exactly what a range of DW books should be. 7/10

Clown Without Pity by Jason A. Miller 27/1/04

This gorgeous color-illustrated coffee-table book by Abba Eban, along with the PBS documentary, tells the inspiring story of how a nomadic tribe prospered against incalculable odds and insurmountable foes, and made the desert bloom. Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses, to Sandy Koufax...

Oh, wait. Wrong Heritage.

Heritage, Doctor Who style, is a novel-length short story with the kind of aggressively off-putting cover illustration that has plagued the book line since its inception. A scrawny, barefoot, sepia-colored child, squints at the reader, while a leering mouthful of teeth (think Coldheart or Return of the Jedi) gapes in the sand behind her. Who wants to look at this? Why sell 20,000 books, when you can sell 8,000?

Anyway, don't be put off by the atrocious cover, or by the suffocating prose. An old Doctor Who friend has been murdered, and Heritage is all about the aftermath. Every scene is about how people reacts to that murder. For example, I've just finished with the Season 3 box set of Homicide. After actor Jon Polito was fired following Season 2, an early Season 3 episode, "Crosetti" was entirely dedicated to the aftermath of his character's suicide. That's a bold move, and it's an effective episode. Heritage follows the same funereal theme. The only difference is that Crosetti;s body was discovered at the start of Act One. Here, we don't learn the body's identity until page 110, so it takes a while to realize we're supposed to care.

What takes Dale Smith 280 pages to tell could have been done in "Crosetti"'s 48 minutes. The villain is not the anatomical beast featured on the cover, but rather a mad scientist who'd have been well-played by some Philip Madoc type on TV. There's also a Clifton James-type Wild West sheriff, a cyborg bartender evidently played by Brendan Gleeson, and a 61st-century dolphin reminiscent of the gangster shark demon from a Season 6 episode of Buffy. This is a good small cast. The Doctor figures out who's good and who's bad in a hurry, and everyone gets their just deserts (as opposed to "desserts"). Except for the dolphin, whose fate is not specified. What happens to him after he doesn't die? Maybe there wasn't enough room to say, as if the author couldn't have omitted three chapters full of descriptions of red sand.

Really, I needed to rinse my mouth out after reading Heritage. The descriptions of the desert sand mount toward silly proportions, like the out-of-control descriptions of snow in Drift. Anyone who's read the Dust portions of Interference has already tread this ground.

The subplot is the ongoing 7th Doctor-Ace conflict. References are made to most of the Season 25 and 26 McCoy/Aldred series, so this takes place after Survival. There's no explicit mention to the Tucker/Perry Season 27 "arc"; nor is there reference to Relative Dementias, which presumably predated Tucker/Perry. The Doctor does make reference, somewhere among all the red sand, to a storm coming. Is that the Timewyrm? Or the TV-movie? Honestly, I can't tell if the New Adventures are even supposed to have taken place anymore. People keep piling more and more stories in between Survival and Love and War. At this point you'd think Ace traveled with the Seventh Doctor for thirty years. Anyway, if 7th Doctor angst hadn't already been the subject of literally 70 other books, this would've been satisfying. Instead, like the characters in the desert, it keeps treading the same old ground.

Another weird narrative trick is the use of epigraphs. I mean, one chapter ends with a revelation about the tow-headed child on the cover. The very next page gives us a quote from her autobiography, which spoils the ending of the book, telling us, as it does, that she's not going to die, and also who's going to adopt her. A later chapter ends on a mini-cliffhanger, as one character contemplates suicide in an abandoned mineshaft. On the next page, however, Smith gives us his obituary, 14 years hence. And then goes back to resolve the cliffhanger a chapter later. Remember how the US sitcom "Growing Pains" used to solve its characters problems by setting its final scene six months in the future to show how everyone wound up happy again? Of course you don't. No one remembers "Growing Pains". Anyway, don't do it again, guys.

What I took away from Heritage, apart from dry mouth, was a sense of justice. Ended, finally, is the old Virgin/BBC/Short Trips trend of killing off Dodo, Liz or Sarah Jane, or showing us how miserable Barbara, Victoria, Jo, Romana, Nyssa, Tegan, Peri and Mel were after leaving the TARDIS. Here, finally, when an old friend is killed off, the Doctor swoops in furiously and makes the situation right. Believe it or not, he's never really done that before. Thank you, Doctor.

A Review by John Seavey 2/2/04

First, a brief qualifier -- I am an unabashed fan of the McCoy era of Doctor Who, beginning with season 25 and ending with the spectacular Lungbarrow. For me, the New Adventures more than any other era of the canon defines the Doctor, and I consider the seventh Doctor to be the most richly and deeply defined of the incarnations. All this goes some not inconsiderable way towards explaining why I so loved Heritage... although I think that crisp prose, a plot that neatly defies the cliches of Doctor Who, and strong characters also helped make this book a joy to read.

For me, the wonders of this book began with the covers. The front cover is a wonderfully evocative image that is truly one of Black Sheep's best efforts -- the monochrome image of the little girl, gazing suspiciously out at the reader, while behind her a mouth gapes in the desert... it gives one a sense of tingly anticipation. The back cover, meanwhile, hints at monsters beneath the desert surface, sucking things underground and devouring them. The two together put you in the perfect frame of mind to read Heritage.

Once you get into the book, you find a lot of characterization packed into the story. The Doctor is in an introspective, melancholy mood, and doesn't seem to want to dig deeper into the mysteries of the mining colony. In some ways, this is the perfect way to handle the seventh Doctor -- I've always felt that his greatest weakness was his own sense of melancholy, his continual doubt at his methods and ethics, and that the only way to keep him from overpowering the book was to keep him emotionally off-balance. Here, Smith does exactly that, and best of all shows it to us through the eyes of others. (There's also a wonderful nod to Remembrance of the Daleks when the introspective Doctor is offered sugar for his tea, and declines it with "Don't get me started.")

The plot... I'm loathe to describe it in detail, because the book so perfectly sets up expectations and then uses them against the reader, playing on previous Doctor Who stories to make us believe one thing -- then turning the truth into something far more simple, yet no less profound and affecting. The entire story builds nicely, with several well-realized characters on both the heroes' side and the villains... if you can tell which is which. (The exceptions would probably be Ed and Christa, the stock henchpeople... still, every story's allowed a stock thug or two, and Smith makes up for it with Bernard, the dolphin who wants to be human.) Oh, and for once, we get a companion death that we don't mind one little bit. :)

Ultimately, if I wanted to, I could nitpick here and there -- the Doctor's claim that he doesn't know how Melanie wound up in the year 6048 does beg the question, "How did Melanie wind up in the year 6048?" Not to mention, I do question the whole "cloning technology has been repeatedly discovered and suppressed over the centuries" idea. Oh, and the epilogue seems to tie into the "Dead Ace" plotline that Prime Time started. Guess we'll have to see how Loving the Alien deals with that. Still, though, these are mere nitpicks -- the book as a whole is a glorious piece of writing that would feel right at home next to Nightshade in the old New Adventures. Highly recommended.

Utterly fantastic by Robert Smith? 4/2/04

I'd like to make a confession, before I begin. It's a bit of a shameful one and I know I've got a rep to protect and all, but... well... I loved every word of this book, from beginning to end.

Seriously, this might just be the most perfect Doctor Who book I've ever read. Not a single thing feels out of place, clunky, awkward or wrong. You might as well skip the rest of this review, because it's basically just going to be me dribbling on about how much I loved this book.

How fantastic is this? This book lives and breathes by its prose, which I adore. It's a stately-paced novel, for sure, but it's so well written that the lack of action doesn't matter. In fact, the slow pace really allows the characters to come to life, not least of which are the Doctor and Ace.

This is the Doctor and Ace who worked so well together on screen and in the NAs. However, unlike Relative Dementias or Independence Day, this is set firmly within the midst of the Tucker/Perry "Season 27" arc -- and manages to blow every single Tucker/Perry book away at the same time. Not only is there Bernard the talking Cetacean, who beats every dim memory from Storm Harvest without even trying, there's direct followup to the ending of Prime Time, which pervades every scene featuring the Doctor.

I really love the portrayal of the Doctor we get here. It's very seventh-Doctor: he's incredibly powerful and everyone around knows this. He's also extremely confident in his own abilities; when Cole tells him he can't take on the entire town, his quiet "Yes I can" speaks volumes. However, this is very nicely contrasted with his inability to prevent what happened in the past and his fears about Ace, which make him much more vulnerable and really humanise the character. It's fantastic stuff, one of the best past-Doctor portrayals I've seen.

The rest of the characters are really well developed as well, helped in large part by not killing too many of them off and even then not doing it too quickly. While Sheriff could have been a bad stereotype, he transcends this through the loss of his name and the parallels we get to the Doctor's own title. Cole gets a lot of POV scenes, which help to establish him. Wakeling is scarily plausible, both for who he was back then and who he is now. His smile when he realised he had the townsfolk in his grasp is just chilling. Indeed, the whole flashback sequence is utterly gripping, especially Ben Heyworth's fate, which had me reeling in shock.

For a while I wasn't quite sure what the point of Sweetness was, but the book lets you figure it out for yourself. The actual 'revelation' of who she is is presented in a throwaway line that comes a bit too early for the characters, but it works because the reader has already figured out how she connects. This is delicious stuff. I was also extremely impressed that she didn't even get a line at the end, which she would have in the hands of a lesser author. Lee gets a little disconnected from the rest of the cast by the end, but him being lost in his own thoughts works to bring home the ramifications of what happened.

Only Ed and Christa don't get as much development as they could have, but they're pretty minor anyway. Even the Fussies and Arabella the raven get POV passages that manage not to suck. And then there's Bernard, everybody's favourite wannabe human, who excels in every scene he's in, even when he loses the power of speech. The small cast really helps with the scale of the novel, which is painfully human. And I can't tell you how long it's been since I cared this much about the nonrecurring characters in a Doctor Who book.

Oh, but there's one more character: Heritage itself. Unlike the snow motif in Drift, the red dust of Heritage works fabulously. It literally gets everywhere, clogging machinery, invading clothing, getting under fingernails. We get a lot of descriptions of it, yes, but none of them are overdone and they really help set the scene.

Except -- and this complaint doesn't really count -- what the hell is up with the cover? Okay, Sweetness is quite good, especially because the lighting works well to disguise her hair colour just enough until you're looking for it, and the angle of the shot is really creepy. I'd already heard that the cave-with-teeth came from the description of "a cave with teeth-like rocks" which is unfortunate, but mistakes do happen. However, my big complaint is the sand. It's supposed to be red. I mean, anyone who's complained about the descriptions of the red dust being overdone in the novel clearly hasn't glanced at the cover, because they bounced right off Black Sleep. It would take about five minutes' reading to find a passage that mentioned the colour of the dust. Honestly, you'd have thought the BBC could afford professionals to do their book covers.

The slow unearthing of events past is really, really well done. The page 110 revelation is excellent, although if it were there just for shock value I'd be most upset. But the ramifications are dealt with extremely well, especially as they then consume the remainder of the novel. And it works really well with the theme of Ace's Prime Time fate. Oh, and I just love the fact that it all takes place over the course of one day.

The little mentions of other eras involving Ace are great: there's the reference to forthcoming futuristic shades that she wears in the NAs and nothing in the universe can convince me that the words "ground zero" on page 65 are a coincidence. Then there are the Doctorish touches, from the double-headed Drachma from the novelisation of The Three Doctors, Sylvester's stage act on page 229 and unlimited rice pudding. But best of all is the Doctor's answer to being offered sugar in his tea on page 162, which had me laughing out loud.

I also really, really liked the use of the epigraphs. They give the book a slanted, uncomfortable feel, because they don't play by the rules. Cliffhangers are set up and then resolved by casually mentioning that the character in question, along with another character, survived well beyond the novel's conclusion, or said character is idly killed off many years in the future. If this were an adventure romp, it would be unforgivable, but instead it answers questions about the future of some of these characters that needs answering -- yet those answers would be extremely awkward if placed at the end of the novel where they'd more naturally fit, so this really works.

Heritage is sublime. It's not just a Doctor Who book, it's a novel. It'll probably get overlooked by fans wanting yet another throwaway adventure, but in actuality this is something very special indeed. My review really can't do it justice, so if you haven't read it, rush out and buy a copy now. And if you have, read it again and savour every word. It's that good.

A Review by Dave Roy 17/2/04

Heritage is extremely atmospheric and really delves into the characters, sometimes too much. Character development is a wonderful thing but sometimes it gets in the way of telling a story. Such is the case here. Add a melodramatic ending to the whole thing, and you have a great attempt, but a so-so novel.

One of my favourite Doctor-companion relationships has always been the seventh Doctor and Ace. No matter what you think of the last few seasons of stories, you have to agree that the series tried to do something different with Ace. She was made a dynamic companion, someone who doesn't scream, who changes and learns things in each story. The individual writing of the stories may have suffered at times, but the idea behind Ace was wonderful. The books have carried that further, creating a wonderfully rich relationship between her and the Doctor. She sees herself as a companion (one of many, as she well knows), but she also sees herself as a student of the Doctor. Thus, her first thought when the Doctor gets all moody and doesn't want to get involved on Heritage is that it's an initiative test for her, to see what she will do if left to her own devices. This quickly subsides, however, and she starts to get seriously worried about the Doctor.

Smith examines this relationship very closely, with long, introspective sections of the book from both Ace's point of view and from the locals' seeing these two in action. It can be quite interesting, though sometimes Smith overdoes it. These passages start to drag on and on with no conclusion in sight, and you realize you've just read a couple of pages and nothing has happened. It's a valuable tool, I just wish there had been a bit less of it. The story, when broken down into its components, feels very insubstantial, and that's a shame. However, I did like the atmosphere that the passages told from the locals' side gave to the book. It really brought back the "who the hell is this guy?" feeling that the very beginning of the television series evoked. The Doctor is a mystery, wrapped up in an enigma (to borrow a phrase). He should be presented like that at times. These are the passages where the introspection succeeds handily.

Given the paucity of characters (there are only 7 Heritage residents who are on screen at all, which gives the impression that Heritage really is a ghost town), you would think they would be well done. Unfortunately, that's a hit or a miss proposition. While Lee and Cole are great, the Sheriff is fairly one-note. He feels tremendous guilt about what happened, and how Wakeling and his goons have him under their thumbs. As is usual in stories like this, he eventually gets a bit of a backbone. But that's about it. Wakeling and his cronies are the worst, though, evoking little interest in the reader and becoming very cardboard villains. There is no reason that I can see to have Bernard be a sadistic dolphin in a walker with automatic weaponry in it, besides the "wouldn't it be cool" factor. Sure, the fact that he needs a mechanical translator becomes an important factor late in the book, but overall it comes over as Smith trying to be cute.

Thus, Ace and the Doctor have to carry the novel, and they do a fairly decent job of it, however it's not flawless. I guess the best word would be "overwritten." Smith tries so hard to examine these characters that you just want to tell him to get on with it. He never really tells us why the Doctor has been moody for these long months. I got the impression that it was because of the events in Prime Time. However, that book was written by a different author and there's no clue that this book takes place right after it, so you're left hanging. He does have the Doctor say that he's been thinking of hanging up the Save-the-Universe shoes and retiring, but he doesn't give any indication of why he would be feeling that way.

I haven't said much about the story, but that's because there isn't a whole lot to say. It's your typical "visitors come to Western town that doesn't like visitors and is hiding a secret and everybody's hostile to the heroes until the heroes finally reveal the secret" kind of story. It's been done many times, and this story doesn't add a lot to it. The prose is pretty good, but not outstanding. It's a fairly quick read and if you're a Doctor Who fan, it will give you a sense of nostalgia (especially if you're fans of the 7th Doctor). Otherwise, though, there's not much meat to it.

This is your typical middle of the road Dr. Who novel. It won't make you a fan of the show if you're not already one. If you didn't like the 7th Doctor, then you will probably find the relationship and overwriting to be very tiresome. If you like the 7th Doctor, it's a passable read.