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The Ghosts of N-Space

By Barry Letts

Book review by Paul Scoones

Those who enjoyed Barry Letts' last outing in the Pertwee era will no doubt be delighted to learn that this is of much the same standard. My impression however is that The Paradise of Death did not go down terribly well with most fans and I can see this second novel - soon also to be released as a radio play - getting an equivalent thumbs-down.

The characterisation of the regulars is an improvement on The Paradise of Death, but only the Doctor really stands out; he is undeniably Pertwee to the extent that I could almost see him periodically rubbing his nose or his neck as he expounded yet another long-winded explanation. Sarah on the other hand was never as daft and frivolous in the television series, and the concept of the Brigadier's Italian family ancestry was almost too much to swallow. The fourth 'regular' is Jeremy Fitzoliver, whose one previous Doctor Who appearance was in The Paradise of Death. Letts clearly feels that the series works best when spiced with some comic relief, and it is usually Jeremy who provides this through his bumbling innocence and well-meaning manner yet almost hopeless ineptitude.

The story moves along at a tediously slow pace. Perhaps as a result of the story originally being developed as a six part radio serial, the book reads a little like a padded novelisation. The generally simplistic nature of the plot is also perhaps unavoidable, given that Letts must have had to pitch the scripts at a general radio listening audience. The concept of another dimension breaking through into our own sounds promising, but fails to realise its full potential.

What irks me most about The Ghosts of N-Space is Letts's writing style, which is too informal and 'conversational' for my liking. It reads as if Letts has written himself into the book in the role of an omnipotent yet rather jovial storyteller. An example of his prose style is as follows: 'But what was that curious little noise, from the far end of the room? Why, it was a bubbling giggle of delight...' The style is similar to that of another Doctor Who novelist, Donald Cotton - but in Cotton's case there was an acknowledged (fictitious) narrator of the story.

Barry Letts has a surprising tendency to accentuate the silliness of Doctor Who, which provides a perhaps disquieting insight into his vision of the series he helped shape in the Seventies as a producer, writer and director.

If the book is anything to go by, I think I'll give the radio serial a miss.

This item appeared in TSV 43 (March 1995).

Index nodes: The Ghosts of N-Space