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The Nightmare Fair

by Graham Williams

Book review by Joshua Preston

For the unenlightened Graham Williams, although a newcomer to the Target range, has a firm backing in the series. He was the producer from 1977-80, Seasons 15-17. These were the seasons that sported some of the worst stories in the series history - The Horns of Nimon, The Invisible Enemy, Underworld, Nightmare of Eden and The Invasion of Time. It did include City of Death and Image of the Fendahl which were minor classics.

When Season 25 (the original) was in preparation, JNT approached Williams with the idea that grew into The Nightmare Fair. When the events of February 1985 caused the season postponement, JNT kept hold of the rights to the whole season in case the chance arose for the series to be made, but in 1988 released his hold, whereupon Target approached the various authors and commissioned the Missing Episodes series (the four books announced so far are The Nightmare Fair, The Ultimate Evil, Mission to Magnus and Penacasata, whatever that is, probably the Chris Bidmead story), which has been awaited with great anticipation, due to the fact that nobody knows the plots of any of these.

The first one is surprisingly good. I was riveted the whole way through by Williams' fresh, vivid, colourful writing style. For once the Doctor and Peri came across amazingly well in print, although Peri does manage to grate on my nerves after awhile. The plot is detailed, easy to understand and easily as good as Dragonfire, making these the two best books in the past few years.

The plot has the Doctor and Peri dragged off course (again!) by the Celestial Toymaker, who is determined to gain revenge for his defeat by the first Doctor. He is manipulating the people of Earth from his base in Blackpool, where he controls a carnival. Kevin Stoney, the customary earthling, discovers the Doctor after having had his brother taken over by sinister forces and been made fun of by the police. Kevin joins forces with Peri, and what happens to the Doctor, is what nightmares are made of, if you hate roller coasters that go underground...

The Celestial Toymaker is so called by the Doctor, but everyone else refers to him as the Mandarin, probably due to his associations with the Japanese and Chinese computer experts. His evil cunning produces a marvellously sinister game which... What the Doctor discovers about him is so easy to believe, he is so powerful it is only right he comes from... But I won't reveal any more.

There are disappointing discrepancies of plot. The Sonic Screwdriver reappears after it was destroyed in The Visitation. If the Doctor has this why doesn't he use it to escape the cell? The Toymaker conveniently leaves an arcade game in the Doctor's cell, which the Doctor is able to cannibalise to create his world saving device, and other holes, which I prefer to disregard and just enjoy the story. I felt the sequence with Kevin, Peri and the 'little people' could have been left out, as it was tiring to read.

The grand climax is excellent, creating sympathy for the poor Toymaker, but realising that what he gets is only fair. It is just such a shame that this was never made. It could have beaten every Season 25 story by miles. I hope that the Robert Holmes 'Rani/Autons in Singapore' story will be written too, with another companion novel, as these original novels are the future of the Target range.

This item appeared in TSV 14 (July 1989).

Index nodes: The Nightmare Fair