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Timewyrm: Exodus

by Terrance Dicks

Book review by Felicity Fletcher

Exodus is a vast improvement on Genesys (although perhaps that isn't saying much). It is a well constructed and well written, entertaining story. Dicks writes a fast paced story set in a particularly interesting time period: Nazi Germany and an alternative future where the Germans won the war.

The novel is written in four unequal parts (plus prologue, epilogue and coda); the bulk of the book being contained in parts one and three. Part one is a little disjointed, with Ace and the Seventh Doctor not completely in character - in fact the Doctor behaves a lot like the Third Doctor in his treatment of the Britischer Freikorps (military) and in his impersonation of a high ranking official. However it is easy to believe that he is drawing on his experiences as the Third Doctor to handle the situation. Ace's reaction to occupied Britain is strangely detached, but later her hatred at first sight for Hitler comes across as strongly realistic and her character remains consistent after this point. In part three the Doctor is completely in character (for this regeneration) and the compassion which is lacking in part one (and totally missing from Genesys) is back. In fact the Doctor has sympathy for everyone, including Hitler!

The advantage of choosing the Third Reich as the scenario for Exodus is that all readers must have some familiarity with this period. However to provide a science fictional basis for Hitler's motivations almost takes it too far as it seems to be excusing his actions. This is the only aspect of the book I did not like, but fortunately the story is so good it makes up for this slightly jarring element.

Plenty of time is spent with the Doctor and Ace rather than with introduced characters as was the case in Genesys. This is more in keeping with the style of the Seventh Doctor's stories where the viewer is generally seeing things as experienced by one of the two main characters.

Exodus is an adult novel in a far more subtle way than Genesys. It is comparable in length with other novels designed for the adult market, with a vocabulary to match. (It is said that Terrance Dicks originally wrote a 140 page book and scribbled in an extra 100 pages at short notice - if this is the case it is impossible to detect where.) In terms of the other definition of 'adult' novels Dicks does not feel the need to state that Ace is naked from time to time (as with Genesys), but is still able to acknowledge Ace's vulnerability to sexual attack without either spelling it out or trivialising it. Also the assumption that Ace is the Doctor's lover (made by a few strangers they meet) is smoothly and humorously handled: "Terrific, Ace thought bitterly. It was bad enough being taken for the Doctor's bimbo. Now I'm not even a bimbo up to standard!"

In conclusion I would thoroughly recommend Exodus. It can be read completely independently of Genesys and provides a far better introduction to The New Adventures.

An Historical Perspective by Murray Cramp

What a waste of time it is trying to achieve continuity in a programme such as Doctor Who. In recent years continuity has often been seen as more important than good story telling. This has contributed to the decline of a very good television series. If only more stories could be like Exodus. This exciting story gains its 'continuity' from sticking firmly to established reality and this makes it an interesting read. In many ways Exodus is like a purely historical tale reminiscent of earlier stories. The dangerous anachronisms which threaten the timeline take a back seat to the well crafted Nazis who steal the show completely.

Terrance Dicks' knowledge of established historical fact is great but not without faults as I will point out. But before I do it must be said that despite this, it in no way damages the story or my enjoyment of it (at least not very much). 'Operation Sealion' (the planned Nazi invasion of Britain) is written accurately according to plans which fell into allied hands. If Hitler had destroyed the Dunkirk pocket instead of allowing over 300,000 personnel to escape back to Britain this invasion would doubtless have been much easier. Also if the radar installations and airfields had been bombed instead of the centres of population (like London) then what happens in the alternative timeline would almost certainly be as Dicks decides. It is good to see that Dicks realised that it is always the victor who writes history, as the various war propaganda seen in Exodus clearly shows. Occupied Britain is the most original part of the story and one gets a good feel of what life under the Nazis was all about. I liked the stuff about the Duke of Windsor (who was a 'German sympathiser') and it was already perfectly obvious that Mosley (founder and leader of the British Union of Fascists) was going to end up P.M. (at least to anyone knowing anything about the relevant historical facts). But I liked it just the same. All that carry on about ersatz (substitute) food was straight out of episodes of Colditz, and so was the line 'You have the illusion of liberty' (or was that Hogan's Heroes?)

I would dispute what Dicks says about the German rocket sites. "If the Allies hadn't overrun the missile sites Hitler might still have won." Bullshit! But it does add a little dramatic tension to boring historical detail. The political rivalry which occurs throughout the story is well written and realistic. Perhaps Dicks indicates a little racism when he says "German is a much better language for screaming at people." As for the line "No one expects the Reichinspektor General", this is very clichéd. No one expects the Spanish inquisition either and they are mentioned later (page 199). It is excellent how the Doctor joins up with the BFK in a similar way to his joining UNIT. He even calls himself Herr Doktor Johann Schmidt (very funny). I debate whether the Doctor would have succeeded in faking his I.D. The Nazis were very particular about these things. All I.D. papers included an officially stamped photo. But this is essential to the plot, so no photo, and the Doctor assumes the role of Reichinspektor General without a problem. Berlin is now 'New Berlin'. In fact Hitler wanted to call it 'Germania', but who cares? The Nazi racial policies are accurately recreated. One gets the feeling that the destruction of British culture is only a matter of time. Clearly there would be no TV series called Doctor Who in this Britain!

The SS is well crafted by Dicks. We get a sense of the mystic mumbo-jumbo which was the motivating force behind their brutality. In the section on the 1923 Putsch, Hitler comes across as a little boy lost. The preceding events were all historically accurate. Hitler in one instance screams with pain. In fact he appears to have been able to shut pain off. It is well known that when he had a wisdom tooth removed he refused to have even a local anaesthetic - but again who cares?

Having seen old footage of the Nuremburg rallies I feel I have some idea of the emotional barrage they created. Terrance Dicks certainly does! Even Ace is totally swept away by it all. It was difficult not to be impressed by Dicks' writing of this. Most people lack the will to resist the feelings inspired by such events. Needless to say the Doctor does, but even he has difficulty.

One can't help but feel that Ace is lacking in basic historical knowledge. She is a useful medium for explaining things to those readers who need to be reminded. But sometimes this makes her seem a little dumb. At times her character is more like that of Jo Grant (not that I mind).

At last I have found a major error! If it's 1939 then Hitler's deputy should be Hess (you know, that guy who hung himself in Spandau prison). He was a key figure at the Nuremburg rallies, but he never even gets named at any time. Of course no one who reads Exodus will give a damn about that. It becomes clear that the Doctor's knowledge of the Third Reich rivals even Terrance Dicks'! Nazi Germany became a little tiresome eventually, Dicks does go on a little too far with his historical detail.

There are many things I could say about Dicks's interpretation of the Nazi lifestyle. Instead I'll point out a few more errors because I find that more fun. We are told that the place of women in Nazi Germany can be defined as "Church, Kitchen and Kids." Cut out church and you've got it right. The Nazis were born again atheists. As a child Hitler hung this old message over his bed: "Without Judea, without Rome, we will build Germania's Dome."

Now for some needless moralising. Hitler is seen as both a genius and a mad man. In truth he wasn't mad, just very, very evil, and that made him all the more dangerous. He was an ordinary human being with ordinary human ambitions (power, greed, etc.) Fascism did not suddenly die out in 1945 when Hitler did the world a favour. No way! I have anti-semitic Grandparents and some of my best friends have been racist bastards! I still have feelings for them and they are not mad, just deluded.

Lastly; interesting, the bit about the virgin sacrifice. Is Ace a virgin? Send your replies to the NZDWFC. I personally doubt that she would be, but you may think differently.

Basically Exodus is a rather good book. This is what 'adult Doctor Who' should be like - well done, Terrance Dicks.

This item appeared in TSV 25 (October 1991).

Index nodes: Timewyrm: Exodus