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The Sorcerer's Apprentice

By Christopher Bulis

Book review by Matthew Dentith

'There's no such thing as magic,' the Doctor said.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a First Doctor Missing Adventure, is, on the whole, decidedly average. While written like an early First Doctor show, it does not work when compared to most of the excellent New Adventures, but this perhaps is the point; it is the First Doctor's era, and should be seen this way. But all readers will find themselves judging it on today's terms.

The premise, that the Doctor is faced with a land where magic works, and electronic technology does not, at first seems the perfect place to put the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara, as it fits the educational tone that the First, and to a certain extent the Second, Doctor had. Yet from the very beginning the reader is confronted by stock figures from 'sword and sorcery' mythos. Within 19 pages, the reader is confronted with a dragon, in ten more we meet a knight in shining armour, whose shield can deflect the dragon's potent breath. While this serves to highlight the fantasy, it seems to remind the reader of the apparent shallowness of this popular stereotype, whose honour is perfect, and is well versed in the ideals of chivalry. The archetypes continue; an old, grumbling mage, the pleasant Queen, the foolish lover, the headstrong Princess. And then, to add the confusion, there are the Imperial characters. At first their chapters amount to only a page or so, but as the mythical world of Elbyon develops, the Imperial Military force becomes more real, while the Elbyians lapse more and more into stagnation and predictability.

Of greatest importance in the Missing Adventures are the Doctor and his crew. In this book they seem to fit in almost perfectly, with the Doctor being his blustering self, and Susan serving to highlight the differences between the crew and the alien duo. This is one of the strengths of this book. While dining at the Castle, Ian tells Susan that she really shouldn't be drinking too much wine, to which Susan replies, "Oh, it doesn't matter what I drink. We don't get inebriated. Unless we want to, of course."

It is these glimpses of the yet to be revealed Time Lords that bring this story up to par. Yet these strengths are let down by predictable characters and plot devices, even if the storyline's obviousness becomes part of the plot. And then there is the most grating part of all, the overuse of exclamation marks! Nearly every line of speech uses exclamation marks! I see this as a weakness of the writer; being unable to make a sentence stand as a powerful line of dialogue, a piece of punctuation is used to liven it up.

This book receives five aardvarks out of ten for being average. Perhaps the era of the First Doctor is past, the style being captured too accurately, showing the shallowness and weakness of the Sixties television era. Perhaps the First Doctor is right, there is no such thing as magic; not in Elbyon, but in his era.

This item appeared in TSV 45 (September 1995).

Index nodes: The Sorcerer's Apprentice