Still on the hunt for the Brotherhood the Doctor, Chris and Roz trace reports of cocaine infected with an alien substance to a council estate in London during the 1980s. There they get caught up in the family dramas of the Tylers.
Discovering the lives of those within the council block is harder than they thought and time is running out. A Gallifreyan weapon has been reactivated and it has found new targets.
Russell T Davies makes a very distinct impression in his first Doctor Who novel, foreshadowing the focus of the New Who. Peoples ordinary, sad little lives are intruded upon by the otherworldly and while the Doctor might be able to save lives he can’t fix them.
Even without the aliens people are doing a good job of ruining their lives, whether it be selling their children, doing drugs or hiding the truth of their own sexuality. This can be seen in the ethos of the New Who, were only a select few are ‘good’ enough to travel with the Doctor, with the rest too caught up in their own petty lives.
The story is steeped in tragedy and it is inspired to use Roz and Chris, two outsiders, to explore these notions. The trials and tribulations are just as alien to these police officers fro the future as any exotic beings.
Time travel is used well, with the reader shown events in chronological order, just not quite how the Doctor experiences them. Chapter 1 opens in 1977 where a young Bev Tyler watches her mother apparently giving away her baby brother Gabriel. She is watched by the Doctor and sees the TARDIS, although she doesn’t recognise what it is. The next day Gabriel is still there and who thing seems to have been a dream.
10 years later and the Doctor finds out about the events of that night. He travels back from 1987 to witness the meeting and discovers that Gabriel had a twin, and it was that child that was sold.
From our perspective we always knew that the Doctor would be involved in those events, we just didn’t know why. We just have to wait until the characters catch up to us and return to those moments.
The community of the Quadrant is well described, although it isn’t some where you would want to visit. The rich mixture of characters give the Doctor and his companions plenty of people to mix with.
The ending is nightmarish, tying the various plot strands together. Particularly of note is the clever meaning of the adventures title and the closing epilogue that provides closure for many characters and one final revelation.
It does feel that the fun has gone out of the New Adventure books. Things were always dark but it feels even more so with this stories more mature tone. This is by no means a bad thing and this novel works perfectly in combination with ‘Bad Therapy’.
The main threat in this story is provided by an N-Form. These were artificial life forms created by the Time Lords to hunt and destroy vampires. They normally reside in a pocket dimension, linked to our world by gateways no bigger than a molecule. This almost certainly a variation of the transcendental technology of a TARDIS.
The N-Form itself used a hosts body to maintain its presence in our dimension, taking the form of a mass of metal tentacles, tendrils and blades. With only basic intelligence it detected vampires by the function.
The sad events in this adventure occur because it mistakes the link between twin brothers, one psychically draining the strength from the other, as evidence of vampirism. It is possible that such N-Forms could mistake any similar alien ability in the same light.
There would appear to be many N-Forms left over from the Vampire Wars. At least three are found on Earth and so there could be many more across the universe, just waiting for the PCs to stumble across them.
In this book we discover that the 7th Doctor and Ace had previously encountered one in Caquetá in 1983 and that the 3rd Doctor and Jo fought one in 1985. For those who like to use previous incarnations of the Doctor these could be fleshed out into full adventures.
It is noted that the N-Form is programmed not to attack any Time Lord, even if they are infected with vampirism. Is this an oversight or did the Time Lords consider that they might eventually loose the war and become vampires as well. In such an eventuality they wouldn’t want their weapons turned against them.
This could be the source of an adventure or campaign, with a possible future where this happens. The Vampire Time Lords might take steps to ensure that their time line occurs, accidentally encountering the PCs who must stop them. Or the PCs could be vampire PCs who try to change events, even if it means wiping themselves from existence.
We learn that some humans have low-level psionic talents. Those with ‘Glamour’ can make people see them as more attractive, seeing what they want to see. Gabriel uses this innocently but an adventure could be built around someone who uses this to their advantage. Luckily Time Lords are immune to such powers.
We also find that psionics are able to drain strength from others. Gabriel has unknowingly being making his twin brother sick. If this is limited to only family members an adventure could be built around a head of a large family who uses is power to stay young and healthy while his children wither.
The Doctor learns about the N-Form infected cocaine from his network of informants. This is an interesting idea, with Roz imagining that when she is an old woman she’ll join these informants, carving clues into the bark of trees for the Doctor.
PCs might build up their own network of informants, stretching across the ages. Everyone they help is another new recruit, told that if they ever discover evil they should leave a message for the PCs.
This could form the basis of campaign. The PCs are all people who the Doctor, or other Time Lord, has saved. Now they try to repay him. Adventures would focus on obtaining information and making sure it reaches the Doctor. They just sit back and watch him save the day, knowing the part they played.