THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Inferno
The Timewyrm Series
Virgin Books
Timewyrm: Revelation
Timewyrm Part Four

Author Paul Cornell Cover taken from the excellent Broadsword home page
ISBN# 0 426 20360 7
Published 1991
Cover Andrew Skilleter

Synopsis: Many years ago, young Dorothy was killed in the playground by her schoolyard torturer, Chad Boyle. Now, the Timewyrm has teamed Lt Hemmings with Boyle so they can do it all over again. A sentient church and its occupants are transported to the moon after the destruction of Cheldon Bonniface. In a surreal datascape inhabited by a number of very familiar figures, it looks like the Timewyrm might finally be winning as she seeks to erase Ace from history and finally overcome the Doctor. Who's going to save them this time?


Reviews

A Review by Keith Bennett 7/7/99

So much for my suggestion in my review of Timewyrm: Apocalypse that the multiple Doctors "thing" shouldn't be overdone. This is, thankfully, the last chapter in the "Timewyrm" series, and the Timewyrm is a different character from the ranting and raving one it was in Genesys. Now it is more sinister and shrewd, but there are few other positives to be brought out of this, Paul Cornell's first Doctor Who novel.

Full of images from the past and images in dreams, the Doctor and Ace are trapped in a nightmarish place that might be Hell, but turns out to be the Doctor's mind, where his past is forever conjuring up guilt, like from his companions from the past who died, while he meets most of his other selves who have been trapped by the Timewyrm. While this is going on, a church is sitting on the moon's surface, inhabited by a young couple and a baby, a faithless pastor and, absurdly, a sort of good "spirit" called Saul that inhabits the church - well, it really IS the church - and has helped the pastor throughout his life. Hey, why bother with a boring concept like God? They are all trying to help the Doctor, but spend a lot of the time just hanging around doing nothing.

While the revelation of what is happening at the end eventually helps matters, this is really a hard slog. Again, the Doctor seems to use Ace, again she learns to hate him while trying to love him... This book is totally tedious for much of its length, and also tastelessly unpleasant at times too, like Hemmings (from Exodus) who returns to his body from the Doctor's mind, only to find he, albeit briefly, just inhabits his severed head.

Certainly the least of the Timewyrm series.


Revelation of the Doctor by Matt Michael 10/8/00

Every so often there comes a Doctor Who story that is so different from everything that has gone before that you just have to sit up and take notice. The Deadly Assassin is one. Timewyrm: Revelation is another. As the conclusion to the Timewyrm cycle, the first "season" of novels, it works very well indeed. the Timewyrm comes across as more interesting than before, largely because her battle with the Doctor feels so personal. The stakes are raised, and with the Doctor's psyche as the battleground it's time for a climax that's definitely worth waiting for.

But Revelation is more than just the conclusion to the Timewyrm series. It marks the point when Doctor Who reached its full and considerable potential. It took twenty seven years and a dedicated (and talented) fan for Revelation to be told, but once Cornell opened the floodgates Doctor Who was never the same. Is it too much to say that Revelation set the style for the New Adventures? Certainly Time's Crucible played an important part, but I think it's the innovations of this novel which affected writers from Kate Orman to Lance Parkin. Revelation lays bare the Doctor's angst by having Ace enter his mind and encounter his guilt in the form of dead friends and travelling companions. Perhaps the most astonishing scene in any Doctor Who story is the moment when she encounters the Doctor's conscience, and symbolically restores the Doctor's faith in himself. After this novel, neither the Doctor nor the series could ever be quite the same again.

Although Cornell has gone on to even greater things, and although the New Adventures have produced a long list of groundbreaking and highly enthralling novels, Revelation remains the trailblazing book that proved Doctor Who stories didn't have to be told in four twenty-five-minute episodes to be genuine. It's a revelation in the sense that it showed Doctor Who had so much more scope and so many more possibilities than were ever explored on television. Touching, thrilling and ultimately brilliant, Revelation is both an outstanding debut novel and one of the finest Doctor Who stories ever told.

10/10.


A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 3/12/01

The Virgin New Adventures promised much upon their initial release. Unfortunately, while the first three books had varying degrees of success at holding the readers' interest, they hadn't done much in the way of fulfilling their back cover promise. The closest thing they'd done to being "too broad and too deep for the small screen" was (apart from having a lot of night filming) to include characters who had been played by on television by actors who were now dead.

And then, on the fourth book, came Timewyrm: Revelation.

Instead of cleverly sidestepping the Timewyrm Arc in the way that Exodus and Apocalypse had, Paul Cornell dove right into the elements and constructed the story right around the Timewyrm and her mysterious powers. Instead of having cameos of previous Doctors just for the sake of it, here we have the Doctor's past popping up to give us a different point of view. These sections are excellent. These are enduring images that capture the very essence of the Doctors that they are displaying. Apart from a few places of awkwardness at the conclusion, this whole concept works very well -- which is a relief, since in the hands of a lesser writer one could imagine this going horribly, horribly wrong. Thankfully, it works well here.

The book splits its time between doing things that don't work well if you think about them too hard and doing things that work exponentially better the more you think about them. It's a strange combination, but one that ultimately succeeds. Several characters are drawn quite realistically. We really get inside the Doctor's head, of course, but we also get some excellent characterization out of Ace and a handful of the secondary characters. The Reverend Trelaw and Saul are some of the most interesting people we've seen in Who. Even the characters without much to do have several enjoyable exchanges, although one wonders while reading if Emily and Peter are ever going to have anything to do.

This is a story about growing up, about transforming oneself from one thing into another, while still retaining the core and beliefs of the person that was there before. (Any similarities to the process that the books were going through -- trying to establish themselves after the glories of the television series -- can only be entirely circumstantial, I'm sure.) For the most part, the book succeeds at what it's doing. The sections where Ace grows up, both physically (due to age regression and progression) and emotionally are quite well done, being powerful and surprisingly subtle in places. The difference in viewpoint between the child Ace and the grown woman are done quite well. Cornell had a lot to say about growing up and everything works exactly as it should in the context given.

There are a few areas where the TV series background of the book is apparent. The action is very fast and there are many quick-cut scenes. It's an odd mixture of literary Who blended with televisual Who, but I think it's an experiment that mostly succeeds. The book is fast, furious and surrealistic. It's a head trip that almost completely works.

So, what we end up with is a book for which it is impossible to downplay its long-term influence. Revelation left its mark on the books from that point forward. The books suddenly looked like they really could hit that goal of being "too broad and too deep for the small screen". The future was bright.


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 16/12/01

Call me a traditionalist, but I hated this book when it came out. It was so diverse from the Doctor Who I loved as a child, through my teenage years, and into adulthood.

It was a mish-mash of far-out concepts, strange behaviours and convoluted writing. Cornell was trying to push the boundaries of what Doctor Who was, and ended up a million miles away from what I saw Doctor Who to be.

Cheldon Bonniface was wonderful, a quaint English Village we know and love – the representation of the ideal Doctor Who setting. The first part of the book was great. Then Ace reaches the town’s edge, and the book turns into something very strange indeed.

The exploration of the Doctor’s mind is weird and strange. The Doctor is constantly at War with himself and his multiple personalities. This was so opposed to the quaint, the cosy Doctor Who I knew. I didn’t like it, but I now accept that Doctor Who can accept a vast amount of diverse story-telling, in many mediums. A lot of people do like it, but I am not one of them.

Apparently Revelation marks the start of the New Adventures proper – I strongly disagree with this. It is one man’s take on the Doctor Who mythos. It did inspire a good many books, but most New Adventures were not like this, pushing the boundaries to their limits. It did not start the ball rolling on a glut of Radical Doctor Who novels – the majority are still traditional fare, and I am mighty glad they are.

Cornell can be a fine writer. He wrote one of the best New Adventures – Human Nature, a more traditional novel. There are some good points to this book, the quaint English village, some of the stuff inside the Doctor’s mind (the dead companions confrontation was very good)

But Revelation was not a new dawn for Doctor Who. It did not become the norm, and I for one breathe a huge sigh of relief for that. 5/10


A Review by Finn Clark 8/4/02

Cool opening line! I'm impressed already, and Saul the sentient church is a stonking idea. This book is written with love and artistry, and it's clearly from someone who loves the Seventh Doctor, unlike many of those who'd come afterwards. It's a shame about the namechecks (the first is on page six: Alan Barnes!), but you can't have everything. What's particularly impressive - and it astonishes me more every time I think about it - is how this book succeeds in the face of elements that should drag it down into the deepest pits of wank.

I mean, really. What the hell's going on?! There's dreamscapes, owls and roses, all of which would probably mean more to me if I'd studied English instead of mathematics. The Doctor goes to an unreal world and there finds his previous incarnations. There are fan namechecks and Johnny Chess references. This should be utter bollocks!

However it's not.

It successfully violates Finn's First Law ("one plane of reality at a time, please") by grounding the story with Peter, Emily, Trelaw and Saul. These people are: (a) real and human, (b) connected with what's happening to the Doctor and Ace in their alternate realities, and (c) interesting in their own right. Fumbling any of these elements would have wrecked the book.

The past Doctors also enhance the story, something I wouldn't have believed if I hadn't seen it for myself. For me they lent structure and progression to what might otherwise have been a straightfoward quest. Timewyrm: Revelation might be that rarest of beasts, a Doctor Who book which only fans can appreciate properly.

This book works because it's so beautifully written, and because it's about Doctor Who - not the mythos and its accretions, but the Doctor himself. Can there have ever been a more literal destruction and rebirth of our hero? (Hmmm... possibly in Human Nature.) And the bad guys are bullies, the most primal embodiment of what the Doctor opposes. You couldn't repeat the tricks of Timewyrm: Revelation, but here it's fabulous.

And Davison as the Doctor's conscience is so right. I loved this book to pieces.

[FOOTNOTE: page 36 prefigures the whole Gale-McShane-Sorovna thing. Ace has gone through so many names, both Christian and surname, that I'm starting to think of her as the equivalent of Anne from the Buffyverse. This girl has labelling issues. I don't listen to the audios, but I understand Dorothy just shed her Ace name there too...]


A Review by Clive Walker 30/4/02

The fourth New Adventure and final part of the Timewyrm series was actually the first Who novel genuinely worthy of the word "new". For the first time the publishers risked using an author who did not have a track record with the Target range. Paul Cornell turned out to be an inspired choice - a "revelation" indeed. In this novel Cornell gives the whole Doctor Who concept a complete makeover and provides us with a story that really is "too broad and too deep for the small screen".

The story is, first and foremost, a wonderful work of the imagination. Cornell takes us to the village of Cheldon Bonniface and introduces us to Saul, the village's "living church". The Tardis also visits a facsimile of Cheldon Bonniface created by the Timewyrm in an air bubble on the moon, to which Saul and its occupants are subsequently transported. The core of the book though, is a breathtaking battle for supremacy fought within the Doctor's own mind.

Cornell's conception of the Doctor's mind is daring, and through it he succeeds in giving the Doctor a depth that was never achieved on the television screen. This is a Doctor whose past personae live on within him, providing their own unique insights into events, and often in conflict with each other. Through Ace's eyes we meet the wise librarian (1st Doctor), the wily boatman (4th) and the Buddhist seeker of inner truth (3rd). We see a Doctor tortured by the memories of his dead companions and other lives lost fighting his battles. Most movingly of all we meet the pacifist 5th Doctor symbolically bound to a tree and tortured because of his unwillingness to join in the 7th Doctor's war against evil. Freed by Ace from his bonds, the 5th Doctor eventually shows the 7th that there is "another way" to end the menace of the Timewyrm.

Not content with reinventing the Doctor, Cornell also gives Ace some much needed character development. Alive only within the Doctor's mind she is forced to face up to her innermost horrors - the school bully, the teenage fear of being a "misfit" and, worst of all, the fear of being betrayed by the Doctor. By facing these horrors Ace exorcises her demons and is a far more rounded person at the end of the story than at the beginning.

Even the supporting characters in this novel are excellent. Paul Cornell succeeds in making each of them - Saul, Trelawn, Emily and Peter Hutchings - into a perfectly drawn, fully rounded and believable character about who's fate I found myself caring very much indeed.

When first released this novel really polarised fan opinion. For some it was just too different to the Doctor Who they knew and loved. Reading it now though, I'm struck by how traditional it is in many ways. Beneath all the high concept this is still an exciting adventure full of incident that keeps the reader gripped throughout. This is a totally recognisable 7th Doctor, willing to manipulate his companion to achieve his ends, but equally willing to risk everything to save her life. It is in fact an extremely moral story with a strong pacifist message and in which there is ultimately only one death.

It should be pretty clear by now that I really like this book and I have struggled to find any fault with it at all. Just occasionally, however, Paul Cornell appears to be trying a little too hard to please the crowd. The most glaring example comes at the climax of chapter 10 where the Timewyrm mockingly informs Ace that she is inside the mind of the Doctor. Cornell clearly intends this to be a classic revelatory "episode ending" but it falls a little flat for the simple reason that the discerning reader has already been fully aware of Ace's location for several chapters.

Minor quibbles aside though, this is a marvellous, engrossing book with hidden depths in which I spot something new every time I read it. I have no hesitation in it giving it 10/10.


You're Twisting My Melon, Man! by Matthew Harris 5/10/02

Here's a summation of Timewyrm: Revelation in one simple quote.

"She and an intelligent church known as Saul have helped me to trick the Timewyrm. It was expecting me to go down the pit, not up out of it. It thought it had brought the church to the moon for its own ends..."

So, gritty realism then. Could have been directed by Ken Loach.

Actually, it was earlier. Page 109. That's when it hit me. Suddenly, thousands of demons from the Doctor's past turned up, and stepping forward we have Katarina, freezing cold and murmuring "I am the first sacrifice"; we had Sara Kingdom, withering away so much she technically shouldn't still exist, saying matter-of-factly "I am the second sacrifice"; then we saw Adric, running forward, legs akimbo (on fire) and yelling "I am the third sacrifice!"

And that's when it hit me. I mean, I'd suspected it all the way through, but this is where it really hit home. This - if you'll excuse the sudden lapse into vulgarity - is some fucked-up shit.

(Of course, there is the possibility that the above sentence in fact says "this is some darned-up crikey", in which case I appear to have achieved the impossible and offended Smith?'s sensibilities, and can therefore only apologise. Profusely)

Anyway, Jesus. I mean, cripes, lorks-a-lordy, oh my dear sweet God in heaven above. This, this is just... Jesus. Quick summation in vague probably-spoiler-laden-but-come-on-people-it's-ten-years-old form: most of this book takes place inside a surreal datascape which is later revealed to be the Doctor's mind (although, like Clive Walker, I'd worked it out from the year dot cos I'm a cleverclogs). The rest takes place inside a sentient church, a sentient church, which (well, it's not so much a sentient church as a church which was built around this big high-falutin' collective wisdom bloke thing), which has been plonked on the moon for no apparent reason. And there's this childhood bully wandering around, who spends half his "screen time" going slowly insane (since he's still only eight), and the other half wearing an ugly mask (which I really can't visualise) as the Wyrm uses him for a vessel. And the returning Lt Hemmings of the Britischer Freikorps, who seems to have got himself a new first name in the interim between this and Exodus (see also: Happy Endings). And some things. It's some goshed-up blimey and no mistake. By rights, I should be giving it a scathing review (littered with even more swears, natch), phoning up Paul Cornell to call him an arsehole, and finally setting fire to the book, stripping to the waist, painting myself with clay and dancing around the pyre.

But I'm not. Why? It's October, dummy. I'd freeze. Besides, and against insuperable odds, Revelation works. More than "works": it's great. It's even fab.

But where to begin? Well, I'm actually 471 words into the review, so if I haven't begun by now, I never will. But... oh, Christ. Okay... okay. First, I challenge the assertion that the Trelaw, Saul and the Hutchingses spend half the book sat around doing nuttin'. Not true. What the blooming gosh they are doing isn't explained until quite late in the day, true. But, it transpires, they are in fact (checks it isn't the middle of the night in Canada and rings up Dominique Boies) trying-to-make-a-whirling-vortex-in-order-to-get-inside-the-Doctor's-brain-and-rescue-him. It, as you can imagine, is a massively important plot point. Besides, the four of them are so completely... great.

The prologue's brilliant, as well. A stopoff in Gallifrey, a priest talking to his church, then the disturbing climax (er, to the start), whereby an eight-year-old brutally kills young Dorothy No-Fixed-Surname, and is then led into a blue police box by a short somnambulist, wherby his mother decides she's gone mad, and it's a nice day for it, and collapses screaming on the ground. It does the necessary, in other words, as far as prologues are concerned. Prologues are there to get you to read the rest of the damn book, and this one practically grabs your hand and forces you to turn the page. Well, me anyway.

I'd like you to know at this point that I'm having huge amounts of trouble with this review (oh, you could tell?). This is just such a jaw-dropping book that it's almost impossible to do a critique of, whether you liked it or not. The book gives me headaches, for god's sake.

The Multiple Doctor thing works, too. Leaving out Pat and CB allows it not to go overboard. Of the rest, Baker (T) is there all too briefly, and is probably the least recognisable of all. I'm guessing "not Cornell's favourite to write", but I could very easily be wrong. Anyway, for the four or so pages in which he does appear, he makes a very telling contribution, in the guise of a floppy-hatted Bohemian Ferryman. Pertwee is, oddly enough, Buddhist Inner Truth Guy, but it - sigh - works. Again.

Meanwhile we have Davison the conscience, strapped to a tree and looking marginally worse than the end of Caves of Androzani, who is saved by Ace and helps the, er, Doctor to defeat the Timewyrm - finally finding "another way". "Neat" would be an understatement when describing this wonderful little tribute to the Fifth Man Bound. And Hartnell, who probably has the least to do plot-wise, is just... well, Cornell has placed the hmms and the spurious Yeses in exactly the right places. He's got the bluster down pat, in fact, he's come as close to getting old Bill back as possible, without actually resurrecting him from the dead. Come on, Paul, write a PDA for him.

That's about all I can do without having a haemorrage. It's a massive book, with massive themes, a plot that defies reality itself, and it's completely and utterly great, consarn it. It gives me a tension headache, but I'd rather reread the book with a joblot of asprin than give up such a compellingly insane, singular work. If this is the least of the Timewyrm series, then bring on the other three.

After I have a little lie down, that is. Ouch...


Where The New Adventures Really Began by Matthew Kresal 14/11/10

It's hard to imagine that nearly twenty years ago the idea of original Doctor Who novels was just getting going. With four novels, Virgin launched a continuation of the then-canceled TV series with four novels connected by the title villain called the Timewyrm. The first three books had their hits (Exodus) and misses (Genesys and Apocalypse). It was with the fourth novel, Revelation, written by newcomer Paul Cornell, that the New Adventures really got their start. And what a beginning it turned out to be, as Timewyrm: Revelation would prove not only to be the end of the Timewyrm saga but the true beginning of the New Adventures.

One of the strongest attributes of the novel is in its characterization of its lead characters, the seventh Doctor and Ace. While the previous novels had been very much off on the characterization and a good reproduction of them at best, Revelation (for the first time) really pushed these two characters to their limit. For the first time, we are given insight into the seventh Doctor, the grand manipulator, who we all thought we knew so well. The seventh Doctor isn't just the grand manipulator, he is a man haunted by his past and by what he may have to do not only in the present but in the future as well. For the first time the Doctor isn't just a mysterious time traveler but an actual person and it is this insight into the Doctor that makes the novel so revealing. Cornell also takes Ace to her limit as well as she faces threats not only from her past (in the form of a childhood bully) and present but from the Doctor himself. Yet it is Ace who brings out what is best in the Doctor in the end in one of the most dramatic pieces of Doctor Who writing ever. Yet, despite all this new material, the characters feel and even sound like they are continuations of the characters as played by Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred.

The characterization of other characters fares well for the most part. At last, the Timewyrm comes into her own as villain and it is far from the almost cliched writing of some of the previous novels. The Timewyrm is at last a genuine threat and has considerable presence within the pages she occupies. Cornell takes us inside the mind of a child bully whose thoughts are taken to horrific extremes by the Timewyrm. Cornell also manages to bring back a character from Exodus, who gets a fine exit and a nice bit of fleshing out as well. While all this is good, Cornell then brings us some ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances in the forms of Emily Hutchings, her husband Peter and the Reverend Trelaw. Even more surprising is how well Cornell makes a truly odd character work in the form of the sentient church Saul. While some of these characters do very little for much of the novel (true especially in the case of Emily and Peter), they each get a moment to shine and Cornell doesn't waste it.

Cornell also handles two of the biggest problems of the previous novels very well and turns them into plusses: previous Doctors and continuity references. While these two items had caused considerable problems previously, here they are put to fantastic use. The revelation of the title also refers to the previous Doctors as well and especially the third Doctor (which will make you watch Inferno in a different light) and the fifth Doctor. Cornell takes the series mythology (as it was in the early 90s) and creates some truly chilling sequences including one where the Doctor faces those who have died because of his actions. Cornell doesn't litter the novel with references but when he makes one he uses it for maximum effect. Cornell even manages to slip in a reference to the Other who would later on play an intriguing role in the Doctor's history as the New Adventures went on. Combined together the results are truly amazing for a fan of the series to behold as things that had previously weighed down novels lift this one up in ways truly unexpected.

If the previous Timewyrm novels were conventional stories, Revelation goes as far in the opposite direction as possible. It is a surreal story where nothing is quite what it seems and the line between reality and fantasy becomes increasingly blurred until the final pages. Much of this is down to the novel's two major settings: the church on the Moon and the twisted landscape that the Doctor and Ace find themselves in (which will come as something as a shock if you aren't already aware of it). The novel also gets off to an start which leaves the reader guessing as a major character dies off TWICE in short succession. Yet, despite all this, Cornell never loses sight of his characters though there is some rather odd naming of characters after fellow fans and writers (some more obvious then others). Or, to put it all another way: Revelation is a page-turner and paced very quickly.

While it does have some minor faults, Timewyrm: Revelation is still a fantastic read. It also represents a rather historic moment in Doctor Who fiction as well. For the first time, the story's lead characters had their limits pushed and given some major development along the way. It very much set the tone for other more experimental novels to follow in the years to come. It also represents the first "official" piece of Doctor Who writing by Paul Cornell whose reputation as a writer on the series should speak for itself. But above all, Timewyrm: Revelation represents one thing: the place where the New Adventures really began.