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Nightshade

by Mark Gatiss

Book review by Jessica Smiler

Bit of a curio' all round, this one. The ending is... puzzling. Where did Ace wind up? I'm confused.

Otherwise the story was very good with a welcome return (for me anyway) to the traditional setting and style of story. Set in an English country town where mysterious things are abroad. Ghosts turn up, mysterious scientific readings, force barriers - the game is afoot! The characters were very strong and much more interesting than in some of the other books - especially my personal favourite, Edmund Trevithick, who's ageing 'Professor Nightshade' bears a faint resemblance to the Doctor as he used to be. And indeed bears more of a resemblance to the Doctor than the Doctor himself.

As for the Doctor, he certainly shows his age in this story (life begins at 900? No, I didn't think so). He's tired, mentally and emotionally exhausted, with reason too, but you don't think the Doctor will age. Time is something that happens to other people. It's not in the story, but the Doctor appears to be going through a mid-life crisis - or a crisis of faith (or both). I think a regeneration might be a good idea - either keep to the original ideas and merits of Doctor Who or sweep free of the original and head off in a new direction entirely, not this half-life. The Doctor needs a bit of new life, new blood, although he does revive a little at the end thanks to Ace.

All in all, the book was exceptionally well written, the characters were stronger and more endearing, the setting excellent and the plot and science impeccable. Ace and the Doctor as time-weary travellers got on with things and the bad guy was (eventually) defeated, but at what cost? The end got a little confusing with all the travelling in time round in circles.

This story has a lot of the old flavour and shows the Doctor as more human than ever, but is that a good thing? After all, just because he's an alien doesn't mean that he's not human!

Book review by Graham Howard

I found Nightshade to be an extremely readable and thoroughly enjoyable addition to the New Adventures. Gatiss seems to have gone to great lengths to create believable characters with whom the reader can relate to and empathize with. However, in the early stages, I did wonder whether the number of characters was slowing the pace of the plot down - especially as it became apparent that we were only being given insights into a person's character because they were going to be killed!

The 1968 England setting was used effectively, capturing convincingly that distinctly nostalgic 1960's feel. The story's adversary was suitably horrific and unpleasant. The invasion of a person's most private memories in the manner described is a scary concept which would be good to see used in any future television Doctor Who.

One aspect of the book which did bother me slightly was the fact that at times I felt Gatiss would have preferred to have been writing a book in which Edmund Trevithick was the star rather than the Doctor (this could possibly have been done with a different ending and a bit of adjustment to Trevithick's character). Especially in the early part of the book, the Doctor, when he appeared at all, seemed to be just another character, and what is more he seemed to be trying to avoid becoming involved.

This item appeared in TSV 33 (April 1993).

Index nodes: Nightshade