Chapter By Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
Last time we saw that something’s happened to Barbara. It’s an older Ian but they returned to England at the end of their TARDIS travels two years after they left. I kind of wonder how they explained to everyone why they went missing for two years? Did they return to teaching? Were their family and friends concerned? We may never know, certainly not from this tale.
This is the first proper chapter of the book, so things should start happening here. Let’s find out. I’m sorry this intro is so short.
Our tale begins just after a previous adventure. I’ll get more into it in the analysis but this would make sense given the show went from adventure to adventure, teasing the next installment even if it was a new arc in the traditional cliffhanger sense. It makes putting stories like this into a proper order a bit difficult but the events of “The Aztecs“, where Barbara thought she could change their sacrificial religion despite what history said. I sense this will play into the theme as the question of whether or not time can be altered versus whether it should comes up later. This would go up against New Who’s idea of “fixed points in time” that cannot be altered, but whether this comes into play in this story we have yet to see.
Speaking of time altering, someone crashes into the TARDIS, which is odd given that they’re still within the Vortex, though something stops their progress before their strange outdoor visitor. After landing they find themselves in a subway tunnel but there are some changes. The tracks are on blocks, which Ian says is to hide under if a train comes, there’s “toughened glass” around the tracks, which the Doctor jokes is to keep people from being pushed onto the tracks during rush hour, and it’s at a place called Canary Wharf, which is new to them. Now I’ve never been to London, being from America and barely leaving New England, never mind visiting Old England. so I’m sure these nods mean more to someone over there than they do here, which is fine. I follow enough to understand something is unusual. Like the man from the Vortex ended up dead in the ticket hall.
Ian and Susan go to see if they can get help since there are no phones around they can see. Susan insists there will still be some in 2003, the latest date on the money the man had. That’s one of their first clues as British currency from different time periods are on his person, along with a card identifying him as Colonel Andrews. The money, which is explained in war time history, and the bombs seem to indicate there’s a war going on. The pair also find the stoplight tree from the cover and a police box, but it isn’t the TARDIS. The calling systems is now the type of hose communication that Ian remembers from the Navy so he’s able to call it in. However, when they arrive back at the station the Police are taking The Doctor and Barbara away and after their gone someone else walks out. It’s Colonel Andrews, looking rather spry for a corpse. And thus our mystery begins.
What I find interesting going is is how well Guerrier seems to be trying to give this the feel of the early serials. We’re coming off one story at a point that would make for a good cliffhanger to the previous episode (a man crashing into the ship from outside while in the Vortex), Barbara clearly shaken after the previous adventure, and the Doctor still referring to the TARDIS as “the ship”, something that happened in the early days before everyone just called it a TARDIS. This was back before the Time Lords were invented for the show and we only knew that the Doctor and Susan were exiled wanderers in time and space. Guerrier also understands the voices of the characters. It would be easy to mess up the dynamic of the Doctor and Ian’s occasional arguments or how the First Doctor would sometimes end a question with “hmmm?” but it’s only used here as often as it might in the show. It helps sell the examination of 2003 or whenever they are (the book cover says 2006) viewed through a 1963-65 lens as well as making it feel like this is an episode of the show. Outside of maybe the stoplight tree this wouldn’t be beyond the budget for the first three seasons.
We’re off to a good start, but what do the police want with the Doctor and Barbara? How is Andrews not dead? How is there a war going on in 2006 when it isn’t Christmas? (Does that still happen in New Who? Do Londoners still abandon the city each Christmas? This is one of my issues with Russel T. Davies run on the show.) Maybe something will be answered in chapter two, or maybe there will be more questions. We’ll find out next time.