|Author||Craig Hinton and Chris McKeon|
|Synopsis: Gallifrey is under attack and the Keeper is seeking answers within the Matrix. President Romana is helpless: no one is who they seem and the conspiracy goes even deeper than she can imagine. She needs the Doctor... But the Doctor is on Earth in 2008, fighting to save the life of a child who must survive at all costs. As Gallifrey is attacked by ghosts from the past, the Doctor, Mel and Benton find themselves in the middle of an epic and final battle as the ancient Gods choose their Champions and allow chaos to reign across all of time and space.|
A Review by Matt Haasch 13/11/08
You know, there's something to be said about a Doctor Who novel that's twice the size yet reads in half the time. At a whopping 400-ish pages, Time's Champion went by in a comparative blink - but does that make it any good? Let's throw out any notion that there's going to be a short answer to this, and instead I will explain some of the preconceptions and possible misgivings of the book. Firstly, with two authors, one not around to lend his talents in any physical sense, I was afraid there was going to be some stylistic mismatching. With the late Craig Hinton's name on the cover, and reading the names "Benton" and "Romana" on the back, I was both delighted and at the same time a bit afraid that the fanwank may be taken a little far.
To deal with these two items in reverse order, the great thing about this book, and in some ways a large majority of things given the term "fanwank", this book manages to weave certain (okay, a lot of the) previous characters and events from the books, audios and the series into something new. While I would say fresh as well, this is a book with a lot of baggage, with a MA spine and two book series to link. Really, it's a good thing that Craig and Chris get as much mileage out previous Doctor Who characters and events; they already exist, may as well use them. As with the double authorship, this book had a cohesive voice, albeit used on a frantic book with many disparate events. This book acts as a prequel to the NAs and a sequel to Craig's Millennial Rites and The Quantum Archangel (which themselves were continuations of events from Trial of a Time Lord and the several Great Intelligence stories, and The Time Monster, respectively). There are ties to The Apocalypse Element and The Brain of Morbius, the Doctor's days at UNIT and so much more. Anyone without knowledge of these stories would have a tough time reading, but in the end, it's an endearing book, with such a passionate, heroic sixth Doctor as its protagonist, that it would be hard not to love, just based on that fact. Indeed, I could almost hear Colin speak the dialogue.
The story itself, with its war amongst Gallifreyan gods, wars in the heavens, a Matrix under siege and the Doctor's grappling with his darker self, is so full that, really, it deserves the page count. This book is a layer cake of conflict, with so many different converging plot threads that it's a credit to the authors that it came across as understandable. It's not the greatest Who story ever, but it's certainly epic, a bit convoluted, with the Doctor running around like a chicken with his head cut off trying to prevent at least three catastrophes - but it's his confrontation with the Valeyard which is what everyone wanted to see, and it really makes the book. Although they spar so much throughout, it's the unveiling of the Valeyard's nature, and the way the Valeyard essentially emboldens the sixth Doctor that surprises and delights. The characterization of both is excellent, with the Valeyard coming across as murderous control freak as opposed to the senseless foe of Matrix.
I could imagine John Levene as Benton throughout - although he doesn't do that much, except act as someone who the reader can empathize with as all these inexplicable cosmic events unfold. Mel is sidelined quite a bit in the book, but she does at least stay in character by being either plucky or the kind of screamer companion the Doctor gets saddled with. Romana fails to come across as her television persona; she's given a lot of portentous and long-winded dialogue that I suppose you'd have to say too, if you were President of the High Council. The villains, Clacice and her brother, make decent enemies, with Clacice making a better impression than the mustache-twirling Chaplain. Death and Time make an appearance, and their interaction with the Doctor takes second place in the most interesting segments of the book. With at least four or more different villains, a pantheon of heroes to combat them, and several planes of existence in which this fight takes place, there is some padding, a fair amount of redundancy in character confrontations, and some lack of focus, which is probably the book's biggest failing. And after a while, the continuity references get tiresome (cameo by Maxil and mentions of Ashley Chapell?!)
This is really an event book, a story that had to be told, a story of the Valeyard's origin and fate, and the Doctor's ascendancy as Time's Champion. It gets a few of the Virgin era's facts wrong - wasn't the Seventh Doctor meant to take control and make the Sixth commit suicide? - but aside from that and knocking the books Spiral Scratch and Matrix down a peg, it's a solid adventure with many moments which bring a smile to the face of this long time fan - especially the Sixth Doctor's first and only use of the sonic screwdriver (yeah, a bit pathetic if that gets a rise out of me). 4 out of 5.
And, as a side note, this book manages to reference a Doctor Who story that hasn't even been televised yet. Is that a first for a Whonovel?
Another side note: Wonderful cover, shame about the font though.