BBC Books
World Game

Author Terrance Dicks Cover image
ISBN# 0 563 48636 8
Published 2005
Featuring The second Doctor

Synopsis: The Doctor has been captured and put on trial by his own people - accused of their greatest crime: interfering with the affairs of other peoples and planets. He is sentenced to exile on Earth. That much is history. But now the truth can be told - the Doctor did not go straight into exile. First the Time Lords have a task for him. From the trenches of the Great War to the terrors of the French Revolution, the Second Doctor finds himself on a mission he does not want with a companion he does not like, his life threatened at every turn. Will the Doctor survive to serve his sentence? Or will this adventure prove to be his Waterloo?


Running out of time... by Joe Ford 20/10/05

In many ways this is Terrance Dicks by numbers. There is the historical element, exploring famous historical characters ala Players and Endgame. He also cannot resist using elements from his previous television stories, a factor that has turned up in every one of his books so far. And of course his fascination with the season 6B second Doctor was already mildly explored in Players.

But in lots of ways this completely new territory for Mr Dicks. It's a full-length second Doctor novel, and one with the unusual but brilliant idea of the man working for the CIA or being condemned to death. He is "supervised" on his missions by Serena, a hoity toity Time Lady who is trying to improve her political career, travels in a type 97 TARDIS with a functioning chameleon circuit and control console (which manages to get them exactly where they want to go). And for once a fluffy Terrance Dicks adventure has a genuinely audacious, shocking climax.

I have to admit it I was in agreement with Finn Clark when I moaned about the authors that were lined up for 2005. It has certainly been a surprising year, the authors I thought would deliver something special let me down (Stephen Cole's To the Slaughter was good but hardly a patch on Timeless, Jacqueline Rayer's Winner Takes All was really boring and Chris Boucher's Match of the Day was a good read let down by a terrible, terrible ending) and authors I have never expected great things of have wowed me over (Gareth Roberts' Only Human is his most hilarious adventure yet and Gary Russell's Spiral Scratch was a brilliant and wacky adventure for the sixth Doctor). Terrance Dicks is an author who is capable of two types of book; the morally unthinkable (The Eight Doctors, Endgame, Warmonger) or the sugary nostalgia rush (Catastrophea, Players, Deadly Reunion) and World Game doesn't fit in either category. It is actually a fine piece of storytelling, well plotted and characterised and proves, finally, that Terrance Dicks can live up to his reputation when he fires on all cylinders. His reputation has been bloated out of all proportion by his influence on our childhoods, with a child's critical faculties being far less fussy than an adults, but hardly supported by his original fiction (thus far). Even Timewyrm: Exodus isn't the masterpiece it is made out to be.

This is the best original book the man has written, it doesn't feel as though it has been knocked up out of cliches (although there are more than enough of them in there) but a novel aimed for an intelligent audience trying some interesting things out on them.

Is anybody shocked to discover that the Players show up this book? Not me. I groaned hopelessly when they started droning their creed thinking this was going to be another fluffy yarn Terry spins so well. Being the climax of a trio of books featuring these elusive beings, it actually manages to do something special with them. For the first time I felt they were a real threat and that their gleeful machinations could do some serious damage to our world. When the Doctor pops forward into a future created by the Players, with them altering a pivotal moment of history, the results are terrifying, a world of pain and terror. This time they are playing for high stakes and the prize is the manipulation and torture of the entire human race. Great stuff to hook a book on.

I love how Terrance manages to place you directly into history. He is one of the few authors who remembers Doctor Who can be educational fun, and he manages to squeeze in a lot of detail without skimping on plot or making it sound like a lecture. Endgame was an awkward piece of storytelling because it featured key members of history spouting out speeches about themselves and other key characters delivering speeches about organisations and plans. We were being talked down to. World Game works from the opposite angle, the Doctor already knows the history of the planet Earth and he has a time machine, which can tell him where history has been altered. Serena on the other knows nothing about the Earth and we discover most of our history through his tutoring of her. Together they nip forwards and backwards in time attempting to erase the changes the Players are making to the timeline.

Napoleon is a guy I know very little about so I enjoyed this educational trip into France all the more. Terrance exploits the chance to explore history with a time machine and shows us Napoleon at several different periods of his career. We meet him as a Citizen General, about to be excuted, and then as Emperor has he plans to attack Britain by sea, then as he plans to attack Brussels and wearily fights Wellington at Waterloo and seeing him at different moments of his life builds a fascinating picture of the man. The (fictional) visit to a world where Napoleon defeated Wellington at Waterloo is an intriguing glimpse into a world where the man never got his comeuppance and let his ego get the better of him. He is painted as an intelligent but intense man, deeply suspicious but warm-hearted towards those who are loyal to him. His thirst for power is paramount and his lust for a dictatorship beams from every page.

Meeting Wellington and Nelson was also a treat, both are strikingly realised on page, especially the former who is treated as a fun character but one who isn't afraid to face battle with his men. I loved the contrast between seeing him at the reception (dancing, enjoying the attention of the ladies) and seeing him in battle (an excellent tactician, calm under pressure and close to his men). We are constantly reminded about the importance of these people and helps to make them that bit more memorable.

The story is extremely fast-paced with plenty of action and good humour. Somewhere in the middle I was scared it would go off the rails, there is a special appearance by two of Terrance's favourite monsters (which threatens to derail the historical element) which I initially groaned at but they were both handled really well, with some lovely payoff for those with a more forgiving nature (I'm thinking garlic pies and torpedoes!). They also provide some juicy action for a book that has been mostly talk until that point. The Players' schemes are ingenious this time around, a plot within a plot within a plot... I loved the desperate lengths they went to to make sure their version of history comes true.

What I was most shocked by was how well the second Doctor and Serena were pulled off. He gets that cheeky, impish humour of the Doctor perfect but couples it with the angry defiance he saves for the most evil of his opponents. There is one fantastic image where he is described as rushing onto a scene like a bullet out of a gun. His idea for defeating the Players' final scheme is ingenious (and exploited brilliantly on the excellent cover) and this pulling an ace out of his pocket at the last minute feels very right for the second Doctor. Considering this is their one and only story together I really liked his partnership with Serena; from their initial hatred (the Doctor's reaction to being told he is a convict is priceless!), to their practical natures entwining beautifully (Serena's calming influence and politeness gets them through several awkward moments) to the intimate moment when they admit how fond they have grown of each other. Something stunning is achieved with Serena's departure, a genuinely jaw-dropping moment in a Terrance Dicks book is not something I ever expected to experience.

His prose is as simple as ever but peppered with some lovely jokes and surprisingly gory moments. "Smoke drifted over the battlefield and through it the setting sun glowed blood red" - occasionally he comes up with a description that knocks you for six. This the master of storytelling who introduced you to the power of prose in your childhood. I enjoyed every page of the book over two delightful days, pleased with the knowledge that an adult or a child could pick this up and both find such pleasure in it. I hope children do pick this up; it really is a fantastic educational read.

I have tried to avoid talking about the season 6B issue because it really didn't bother me either way. It certainly makes this book stand out from all the other Terrance Dicks ones on the shelf (actually the masterful storytelling does that on its own) and provides an intriguing glimpse into a period of the Doctor's life we have never explored before. I did like the idea of the Doctor being kept on a leash and his mischievous thoughts of escaping Time Lord control; it really highlighted his rebellious nature. There is a throwaway explanation of The Two Doctors that will please those irritating fans who can't watch a story unless it fits into their idea of canon, but to be honest the best feature of this post-War Games Doctor is that we get to read a second Doctor book without Jamie (who turns up in ALL of them except two). We get to see him highlighted against a different companion, which shows up some unexpected new colours to his character.

A delightful read with a climax that proves very satisfying. Terrance Dicks is finally living up to his name and has delivered his most effective piece of storytelling in original fiction.

Oh and it introduces an element of the ninth Doctor's tenure, which is an impressive piece of continuity!

A Review by Dave Roy 18/1/06

Terrance Dicks' Who novels have almost always fit one of two types: nostalgia-fests that are pretty good but nothing great, or books that try so hard to be adult that they are either laughably bad or almost offensive. So it was nice to see something like World Game, a nice historical piece with some interesting characters and a bit more adult content that doesn't quite pass over into something that might be written by a sick uncle (though a couple of things did make me roll my eyes). It's an average novel compared to most other Who books, but it's decidedly one of Dicks' best.

It's a Season 6B book, and the Celestial Intervention Agency recruits him to investigate some historical anomalies on Earth before finally exiling him to Earth. Someone is messing with Earth's timeline, and the CIA does not want their fingerprints on anything that happens. They assign a Time Lady to him, Serena, to keep an eye on him. As they go back to 1794, Napoleon is about to be executed, but another woman intervenes and saves him. Is this part of some elaborate game through Time? Why is somebody trying to assassinate the future Duke of Wellington? And what can the Doctor do to stop it? He is only supposed to investigate and then report back, but that doesn't sound like the Doctor, does it? The amoral Players are back, and it's time for the ultimate game, which could wreck Earth's timeline forever.

I'll concentrate on the negative first, because I did really enjoy the novel and I'd like to end on a positive note. First, and the most minor, it wouldn't be a current Terrance Dicks novel if there wasn't a threatened rape in it. This is really becoming tiresome in Dicks' novels, as if he thinks that's the best way to be "edgy". Thankfully, it doesn't even come close to happening, but it still made me stop and say "not again, Terrance" when I hit that part.

Secondly, the prose and the plotting need a bit more work. Three times in the first thirty pages, a woman is described as either "startlingly beautiful" or with "startlingly blue eyes." You really need to find another word, Terrance. Then, the Countess trusts somebody who apparently turns against the Doctor way too easily, which is very out of character for her. Of course, the counter-betrayal was so predictable anyway that it didn't really harm the book that much. Finally, the Players are immortal beings playing this game with humans, but they apparently don't have very good time travel, as the Countess wants the secrets of the Doctor's TARDIS. Unfortunately, the Countess also recognizes the Doctor from the game that was being played in 1915, which would seem to indicate that they are able to go to all time periods. Which is it?

That's about it for the negatives, though. While the prose is rather pedestrian, it more than serves its purpose and it has some interesting stuff in it. He seems to want to showcase his historical research, as he has the Doctor (or others) educating Serena about everything to do with Napoleon and the Napoleonic wars, as well as the French revolution. There is a lot of history packed into this book, and while occasionally it drags the book down when Dicks explains it, overall it was quite interesting. Unfortunately, the wealth of historical detail makes one of the non-historical details stand out even more. He references Sharpe (from Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series) by name, which completely threw me out of the book for a moment. Evidently, in Sharpe's Triumph, Sharpe saves Wellington's life. Dicks has to namecheck him, which was really annoying. There's so much real stuff in here, why throw in a fictional reference? I guess Sharpe fans will be happy.

Dicks' characterization is pretty good in this book too. He usually gets the Doctor right, and this time is no exception, though he's not exceptional. I could see Troughton doing this, though it doesn't quite sound like him. The other characters are rather plain, but serviceable. Serena is exceptionally well-done, though. She starts off as the haughty Time Lady but is soon being almost as revolutionary as the Doctor is. The interplay between her and the Doctor is quite good, and is the best part of the book. Napoleon is done well too, and Wellington, though not quite as much.

It also wouldn't be a Terrance Dicks novel without references to two of his favourite television stories, with the appearance of the unkillable Raston Warrior Robot and the vampire. Both of them are almost superfluous, though they do make for an exciting sequence or two.

With the interesting plot that Dicks gives us, it's almost a shame that there isn't really a lot of tension in the book (though this lack of tension does make the ending even more shocking, at least to me). Most of the sequences had all of the tension wrung out of them by the pedestrian prose. However, the plot itself was good enough to overlook that. If you're looking for the Terrance Dicks of old, World Game is probably the book for you. However, it's not that exciting.

A Review by Lance Bayliss 6/2/06

I call to order the trial of BBC Books' World Game. Standing in the dock is Terrance Dicks, prolific author, script writer, script editor, novelist of more television stories than you could shake a Zarbi at. This court is now in session.


In Doctor Who Magazine Issue #252 (that's "June 1997" for those of you with short memories, or those whom have joined Doctor Who fandom since it's revival on television last year - hello to you all!), regular reviewer Dave Owen reviewed the very first of BBC Books attempts at original Doctor Who fiction, written by he who now stands accused. Owen's (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) review of The Eight Doctors pointed out that Terrance Dicks has several things that are almost trademark to his style, going way back into his days in novellising the television stories for the Target imprint.

For the benefit of the court, the following evidence is submitted for detailed analysis by judge and jury:

I submit to the court that these, amongst other stock phrases, are amongst the catalogue with which the accused commits some of his most heinous crimes against good literature, plotting and common sense. However that alone is not enough to see a guilty verdict. So one is forced to move onto the plot. World Game is light, and takes next to no time to read. The beings known as "the Players" are up to mischief in time again, and it's down to the Doctor to stop them. Add to this an attempt to solidly canonify the Season 6B theory, and you have the basic plot.

The characterisation is nothing special, and there are several moments which leave the reader remembering much better stories from which certain elements have been stolen. It says something that the book is a Doctor Who novel, yet guest characters like Napolean, Wellington and the tramp living in a post-apocalyptic backalley are better characterised than the hero.

Although the accused tends to appeal to a reader's memories of their childhood experiences in reading his novelisations (or of his own era on the television programme), the usage of perhaps overcolourful descriptions of bodily dismemberment and death sit uneasily within the narrative. Had this story appeared in the actual Patrick Troughton era, it would have had most adults back in 1969 hiding behind the sofa, let alone the children.

The prosecution submits that no crime in literature is more hideous than basking in one's former glories, and requests - nay, demands - that the rest of the accused's life be used in the art of creating new and interesting scenarios.


I thank the learned prosecutor for his administrations, for it is many of the elements that have already been mentioned that make the case for the defence that much easier.

World Game is a brisk read, as has already been pointed out. It's typical of this author. Those who have bought the book already have foreward knowledge of what it contains before they hand over their 6 quid. And I submit - respectfully - that he can not be held accountable for simply "writing in his own style". No more than other noted authors such as H.G. Wells, C.S. Forrester, J.R.R. Tolkein, J.K. Rowling and... oooh, heaps of other 'proper' Initial-Initial-Surname type authors. Surely the point of writing a book, whether fictional, biographical or several other words ending in "al", is to put across the author's own point of view, the author's own particular 'spin' on a subject. If Uncle Terry's style seems stale to some, it is only through the familiarity of his work.

Yes, the story is basic at best - the beings known as "the Players" are up to mischief again, and it's up to the second Doctor to stop them - but on the plus side it can be finished over a rainy weekend without any real effort. The characterisation is not so much lacking in substance as it is "open to interpretation" on the part of the reader (or readers) concerned. And unlike other authors, Terrance keeps to the remit of the original series as an opportunity to 'teach history in an entertaining way'. To this effect he not only features real accounts of actual historical people, but kindly provides a "Historical Notes" section at the back just to point out the bits where he deliberately deviated from real history (but still make sure we learn something about it). Very few other authors are as substantial as that.


Not guilty, but with a suspended sentance. World Game is nothing special, but by Terrance Dicks' standards I have to admit that I rather enjoyed this one. And I admit to finding myself unexpectedly hooked at the start of chapter twenty-seven, but then I'm a sucker for a good post-apocalyptic-future type storyline. And Terrance really does tell a good post-apocalyptic-future storyline.

Final rating: 4 out of 5.

Eight Out Of Ten by Jamas Enright 8/5/06

Season 6B gets off to a bang, and several other explosions, in this rollicking Boys Own adventure story by Terrance Dicks. (At last, a chance to use the word 'rollicking'!) Terrance Dicks grabs this opportunity to give us a Second Doctor historical novel like no other, a full blown chance for Terrance Dicks to show off his knowledge of the rise of Napoleon and the major battles he fought against the British. And, best of all, give it a Doctor Who twist with interfering aliens and the Doctor hobnobbing with all the big names... hang on, didn't we already do this in Timewyrm: Exodus? And Players and Endgame? Ah, but therein lies the continuity. Clearly everyone loves the characters of the Players and have been clamouring Terrance Dicks to bring them back in yet another adventure, especially the Countess... or, at least, the author believes so. (Although I have to admit that I'm nearly tempted to go back and reread Players after this...nearly.)

But who cares about that? This is just one roller-coaster ride after another as Terrance Dicks takes us from the trial at the end of The War Games and into the Doctor working for the Celestial Intervention Agency, and thereby into his first Season 6B adventure, all to explain why Patrick Troughton looks older in The Two Doctors (although there's no explanation possible for why Jamie should think of Victoria and not Zoe). And it's all just so much fun! This is the reason we forgave him for Warmonger, the pace is just so fast, the prose so light and frothy, the narrative sweeps you up and you can't help but enjoy the ride. The Doctor meets Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Nelson? Why the heck not? He rides in a submersible, fights off a vampire, attends fantastic balls? Bring it on! Terrance Dicks even manages to make the huge slabs of historical exposition bearable.

And historical exposition there is. Terrance Dicks treats us to several moments in history (and even a history that doesn't exist), and brings them all alive. This is partly why Doctor Who got approved in the first place, to teach children about history, and it can't be any worse than the latest history revisionist movies from Hollywood... although it is likely more accurate! I have no idea if Terrance Dicks truly captured Napoleon, Talleyrand or the Duke of Wellington correctly, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and not do my own research.

Then there is the Second Doctor, captured by Terrance Dicks in all his capering glory. I have to admit I couldn't quite picture Patrick Troughton in the role, but you can't have everything. Terrance Dicks also gets to provide the Doctor with a new companion, and introduces a female Time Lord of haughty air and graces. That's right, I'm talking about Romana Rodan Serena. Terrance Dicks treats us to his take on the Ice Maiden Time Lady, and its amazing how quickly she adapts to the typical companion role.

(Oh, and watch out for the reference to the new series!)

World Game is a great read, despite the inclusion of the Players, and I managed to get through this entire review without making the obvious joke about the tagline under Terrance Dicks' name on the cover.

A Review by John Seavey 22/5/06

I have to say, after finishing World Game, I'm eagerly awaiting Terrance Dicks' next novel. I'd imagine it will be called, Just Read My Previous Novels, OK? and will consist of the title sentence, plus 279 blank pages. I think that's about the only place he can go from World Game, which turns recycling one's old material into an art form.

This isn't to say there's nothing left in the tank -- the novel, for all its faults, does make you want to see how it ends, which is certainly more than you can say for Island of Death -- but it's so completely all "stuff we've seen before" that it becomes almost a joke. There's a three-page section that is a word-for-word lift of Players, which was possibly the last "original" plot Terrance Dicks came up with. (I put "original" in quotes because "bored immortals playing games with human-kind" is a trope so common to Doctor Who that I can't really call it original without some caveat involved.) Beyond that, we get more of the same: the Countess playing games with human history, and the Doctor having to stop her using only his wits, his technology, and her unfortunate habit of telling him everything she's going to do before she does it. (This is known, in some circles, as "Riddler Syndrome.")

Oh yes, and there's more Raston Robots, more vampires, more Death Zone, more "No, not the mind probe"... more, basically, of everything Dicks has already done before and better. (Or other people have done before and better: Serena, his Time Lady companion for this outing, is basically the first Romana with less personality. But I suppose that after decades of collaboration, we can forgive him taking a page or two out of Robert Holmes' book as well.)

And, ultimately, "forgive" is the word I have to use for this novel. Because it's hard to dislike. The only amazing thing about Terrance Dicks' habit of cribbing from himself is that I keep letting him get away with it; sure, it's the same story I've been reading since I was eight, and sure, it reads like he's still writing Doctor Who for bright eight-year-old children, but somewhere there's enough of an eight-year-old Doctor Who fan in me that I chuckle as I finish the book. He's still Terrance Dicks, Uncle Terry to a generation of Doctor Who fans, and I may be a sucker for it, but I do have to admit to an affection for World Game, albeit a grudging one.

A letter to Terrance's mum by Finn Clark 8/6/06

Dear Mrs Dicks,

I'm writing to express my concern about your son, Terry. As you know he's been attending our remedial classes for fifteen years, but any hope of forward progress seems to have been long abandoned. There was some evidence of actual effort back in the early nineties under the previous headmaster, but I think none of us were ever the same after the regrettable incident of The Eight Doctors.

I'd like to discuss his latest work. World Game is actually quite slick and enjoyable in its own low-rent way, but it's as lazy as anything he's done. It's a hotch-potch of his recurring tropes: the Players, Gallifrey, and gratuitous continuity. The story is just random mini-episodes. Even after all this time, Terry still hasn't mastered the intricacies of a full-length novel's plot. The Players try to disrupt history and the Doctor foils their rather unimaginative schemes. Cut, paste and repeat. Stop when you hit the required word count and you have a book. The only exception is a section where he travels forward into a Player-changed future to learn what happened so that he can go back again and prevent it, which flies in the face of everything the Doctor should be allowed to do but is still probably the book's highlight. That bit was good.

I liked the history. It's educational. Napoleon, Wellington and Nelson are fun and it was particularly nice to go further back than the 20th century. This is Terrance's third Players novel and on the whole they seem to be better received than his non-Players BBC Books (The Eight Doctors, Catastrophea, Warmonger, Deadly Reunion). Admittedly the main difference is that he's wanking with real history instead of the Whoniverse, but to us that feels fresher and perhaps a little more grounded too.

Unfortunately all this has been fed through the Terrance Dicks sausage machine. The continuity is horrifying. The Gallifrey chapters reference The War Games, The Five Doctors and for one particularly brain-wrenching moment The Eight Doctors. I'd offer a page reference, but unfortunately at that point my eyes started bleeding. I wouldn't even mind that so much if Terry's view of Gallifrey wasn't so depressingly mundane. They're just like us. There's not a hint of grandeur in their unimaginatively capitalist society with its propertied classes and all-powerful dirty tricks department. Did Lawrence Miles die in vain?

Similarly the prose is full of Terrance-isms. "Such was the authority in his voice" on so many occasions that one might be forgiven for thinking that the 2nd Doctor was being played by William Hartnell. Terry also jokes about rape (yet) again. Might I suggest that this obsession of his is unhealthy and might perhaps suggest a visit to the school counsellor? At the very least, a cold shower. More fundamentally, Terry's seemingly incapable of having an original idea when he can plagiarise himself instead. I'd cite examples if they weren't minor spoilers. Either he's exhausted his reserves of creativity, or else he just doesn't see Doctor Who as something upon which it's worth wasting original ideas. Perhaps a still more horrifying possibility is that he thinks continuity is cool. I projectile-vomited when I read the bit about psychic paper.

There's a temporary companion who appears to be ripping off Romana in The Ribos Operation, but I didn't mind that. Firstly at least the original is good and secondly I'm not convinced that Terrance knows of the existence of The Ribos Operation in the first place. The book also makes it explicit that the Players have a kind of time-travel, which I regretted but had to admit was necessary upon thinking about it. It's hard to lay detailed plots exploiting your foreknowledge of history if you haven't already seen it.

In conclusion I fear that Terry will need expert help (or possibly surgery) to let go of his inner schoolboy. Physically he's past that age, but mentally he's stuck at an immature level of slightly smutty runarounds. This is a perfectly readable book, helped no end by its real-world historical background with Wellington and Napoleon, but it's still shallow and trivial. Sadly it's also one of 2005's best BBC Books! Of course I realise that since Terry was born in 1935 and has thus already seen his 70th birthday, as his mother you are probably a decrepit old crone and statistically unlikely to be still alive. Nevertheless I felt it best to write to you on the offchance that you might still have a couple of functioning brain cells and thus be ahead of the game compared with BBC Books. I don't suppose you'd be interested in penning a Doctor Who novel?