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Millennial Rites

By Craig Hinton

Book review by Nicholas Withers

Millennial Rites is the first Missing Adventure to feature that creature known as Mel, and thus has the unlucky task of having to supply her with a character as well as a set of lungs. Set after The Trial of a Time Lord, but still within the Sixth Doctor's tenure, Millennial Rites also attempts to untie of the temporal continuity knots generated by the Trial story. Although to a large extent it does succeed in both these functions, the story does suffer slightly because of it.

The first noticeable thing about this novel is the fact that Mel finally becomes more convincing as a character. Her struggle to come to grips with a reunion with old friends back on Earth helps in this respect. However while her annoying scream is less audible, her annoying idealism is louder than ever.

The Sixth Doctor is definitely toned down and more brooding than his usual flamboyance, featuring sparsely until about half way through. Where upon he is promptly taken to hell and back.

The first half of the book is by far the best. Craig Hinton carefully builds up an atmosphere of foreboding mixed with the expectation generated by the turn of a millennium. Neither the human nor alien villains of the piece are particularly evil, but merely deluded or in need.

The second half does not quite match the first. Even with a paradigm shift in the universe, fantasy elements are still hard to swallow in the Doctor Who universe (as seen in Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark and The Sorcerer's Apprentice). The struggle the Sixth Doctor undergoes could also have been handled better, especially with the ramifications for future novels.

The unravelling of the continuity problems from The Trial of a Time Lord is handled in a predictable way, although the idea of the Doctor trying not to follow the sequence of events of his future self as outlined in the trial in order to avoid becoming the Valeyard is an interesting idea.

Overall Millennial Rites proves that beneath the irritating surface of the Mel and the Sixth Doctor pairing, there are characters that can be used well. It is a good Sixth Doctor story, but only slightly more than an average Missing Adventure.

This item appeared in TSV 46 (January 1996).

Index nodes: Millennial Rites