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By John Peel

Reviewed by Paul Scoones

I was not impressed with John Peel's New Adventure Timewyrm: Genesys but didn't want to let this influence my impression of his Missing Adventure. Whilst I do not rate this novel quite as badly as Peel's previous foray into original Doctor Who fiction, it still has some major faults.

A Missing Adventure is, as I understand the publisher's brief, intended to capture the style of the particular era of the programme in which it is located. Evolution is placed between The Brain of Morbius and The Seeds of Doom and does indeed reflect the gothic horror and pastiche elements of the Hinchcliffe years. The Devon moors and coastland of 1680 make an excellent backdrop for this adventure. Peel has successfully conveyed a strong impression of both the location and time period.

The book falls down in several major ways. The plot is astonishingly slight and straightforward and necessitates the inclusion of much wandering around by the characters and a painstakingly slow process of uncovering clues to the mystery in order to reach the required word count. Told perhaps as a long short story, Evolution might have been a gripping tale, but to sustain interest over the course of a full-length novel, it requires more complexity than Peel has included.

The much-touted inclusion of real-life historical figures Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling seems to have been given almost no consideration, particularly in the case of Kipling, whose presence adds little to the adventure.

Peel's failure to capture the characters of the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane with much success is most unforgiveable. The Doctor featured in Evolution is not the character Tom Baker played in his second season. That Fourth Doctor is occasionally recognisable in certain passages, but on the whole Peel's Doctor seems better suited to that of two or three seasons later. Sarah is equally unconvincing, though this seems less surprising given Barry Letts' remarkable failure to capture her character in The Paradise of Death.

Evolution has atmosphere and an interesting plot, but ultimately is likely to leave the reader dissatisfied. I hope that the precedent for future Missing Adventures will be set by Goth Opera rather than Evolution.

This item appeared in TSV 41 (October 1994).

Index nodes: Evolution