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The Romance of Crime

By Gareth Roberts

Book review by Paul Scoones

There seems to be two distinct schools of thought regarding the Missing Adventures. Some say that the books should emulate the themes, concerns and above all style of the era in which they are located, whereas others say that the Missing Adventures should provide for earlier Doctors what the New Adventures has done for the Seventh - that is, to broaden the canvas on which Doctor Who is painted. Personally I believe there is a place for both approaches within the series, but most books I've read fall into the latter category. The Romance of Crime is however a shining example of the former.

Gareth Roberts has made no secret of the fact that he has been itching to write for the Fourth Doctor and Second Romana pairing for a long time. In doing so, he has written an adventure perfectly attuned to Season Seventeen. There is no way it could be mistaken for belonging anywhere else in the series' history. It even reads like the story has been edited by Douglas Adams and the dialogue re-written by Tom Baker and Lalla Ward.

The humour is spot-on. Roberts has a natural affinity for writing for this era. I did not enjoy Tragedy Day because I felt the Doctor was too out of character and the plot too absurd for the seventh Doctor, but with The Romance of Crime Roberts is completely within his element and the book is as close to perfect as it is possible to get. It is so strongly evocative of the era that the inclusion of the Ogrons jars slightly, for the simple reason that Tom Baker's later seasons had almost no returning monster stories. This said, however, Roberts writes for the Ogrons brilliantly, accentuating their stupidity to create some very funny moments.

All three regulars are perfectly in character. The unique rapport between Tom Baker and Lalla Ward has been precisely captured and K9 is as insufferably smug as ever. The cast of guest characters (this is so much like a television story that I almost want to say stars) range from clichéd stereotype to outrageous camp; the schemes of the villains are typically over-ambitious. The only people whom this book won't appeal to are those who fail to enjoy Season Seventeen on any level. I'm not a great fan of that particular style of the series - but I loved this book. I dearly hope Roberts writes another Missing Adventure as he clearly has a talent for capturing the style of an era.

This item appeared in TSV 43 (March 1995).

Index nodes: The Romance of Crime