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The Crystal Bucephalus

By Craig Hinton

Book review by Paul Scoones

'It's pronounced Bew-sef-a-luss' as Craig Hinton says in the introduction. At first the premise of a time machine restaurant seems uncomfortably close to a certain radio play/novel/television series/towel, but this impression is quickly lost as the adventure unfolds into a maze of temporal paradox and intrigue.

Tegan and Turlough are very close to their on-screen selves in that they are as they might have been had they been given sufficient time to develop on television. The Doctor is unmistakably Davison's version; all breathless enthusiasm and reckless optimism, but some of his actions are a little suspect; he displays remarkable powers of hypnotism and is involved in financial investment and banking for apparently personal gain!

One of the main 'rules' regarding the Missing Adventures as set down in the Virgin writers' guide (see TSV 39) is that the books are not supposed to attach themselves to the end of one television story or the beginning of the next. This is so that other writers may utilise that gap without fear of contradicting the earlier work. No more than four books into the series, and already this rule has its first exception - the book is firmly anchored to both The King's Demons and The Five Doctors.

As indicated by the cover, the underused character of Kamelion makes a contribution to this adventure, and indeed goes some way to explaining why the shape-changing automaton, which at this point has only just joined the TARDIS crew, doesn't rate an appearance in the following five television stories. Over half way through the novel however, you might be forgiven for thinking that the robot had been included on the cover by mistake, but although making a late appearance in the proceedings, Kamelion nevertheless plays a valuable role. Hinton gives Kamelion the character and motivations it was always denied on the screen, and if any future Missing Adventure author feels the urge to use Kamelion in their fifth Doctor novel, I feel sure Hinton's treatment of the robot will have provided the inspiration.

The most irksome thing about the novel is that the reader is asked to accept that the Doctor has no less than five years pass for him between chapters. It's a fascinating idea that a character stranded without a time machine must wait around for events to occur, but five years?! It's nowhere near as mind-boggling as the length of time Marvin spends parking cars in Hitch-Hikers but the idea's the same. After so long away from the action, the Doctor slips back into the fray with relative ease and this severely strained my faith in the story. Perhaps we'll one day see a book set within those five years, but personally I doubt it.

Craig Hinton is best known to readers of Doctor Who Magazine as the resident book reviewer. After critically assessing the pros and cons of previous Doctor Who novels, Hinton has turned out a book which ably demonstrates that the New and Missing Adventures can be intelligent, enthralling and well-written. Future Fifth Doctor entries in the series will undoubtedly be judged by this book.

This item appeared in TSV 42 (January 1995).

Index nodes: The Crystal Bucephalus