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Return of the Living Dad

By Kate Orman

Reviewed by Paul Scoones


In the last four years we've gotten to know Bernice Summerfield's life story rather well. Ever since her debut in 1992's Love and War there have been frequent references to her father, Isaac Summerfield, whose disappearance during the Dalek Wars was shrouded in mystery. Refusing to believe that he was dead, Bernice had spent years of her life trying to find him before she met up with the Doctor. Return of the Living Dad, as the title implies, is the story of Bernice's reunion with her father.

Reminiscent in places of Happy Endings, Return of the Living Dad is an often humorous read packed with characters, subplots and subtle references to past New Adventures. At times the narrative teeters on the edge of 'plausibility', especially when the Doctor encounters a fan with a collection of fanzines which debate the dating of his UNIT adventures. Fortunately the suspension of disbelief barrier is never quite shattered. A developing trademark of Orman's novels is the physical pain and psychological torture the Doctor endures, and her latest adventure is no exception to this trend. Though when the Time Lord suffers from hypothermia and Bernice strips off and embraces him to restore warmth to his body, it would seem that at least some of this suffering is simply a means to bring about a sort of wish- fulfillment scenario.

The most impressive aspect of this novel is the superb characterisation of the humans and assorted aliens, each with their own well-developed set of motivations and personal agendas. The Doctor's past visits to Earth have left a multitude of scattered and demoralised aliens stranded on the planet and consequently many of them have a score to settle with their old adversary.

Return of the Living Dad is a skillfully crafted adventure told with style and panache. Regular readers will delight in the fact that the reappearance of Bernice's dad is just one of several loose ends tied up in the course of the course of the story, but unlike Happy Endings, the book can still be enjoyed with little prior knowledge of the New Adventures.

This item appeared in TSV 49 (November 1996).

Index nodes: Return of the Living Dad