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The Dark Path

By David McIntee

Book review by Paul Scoones

As Virgin reach the end of their tenure as the licensed purveyors of Doctor Who fiction, ideas that might have previously have been rejected as treading sacred ground have become acceptable fare. The Dark Path, like Lungbarrow, is a prime example of this. Here we have our very earliest encounter with the character who will become known as the Master, going by his own name, Koschei. This is the long-awaited revelation of the falling out between the Doctor and the Master, two old school friends when they first encounter each other, but by the end of the book Koschei has become the Doctor's arch nemesis.

McIntee is not usually an author whose work I admire. With the possible exception of his debut effort, White Darkness, I have found his books dull and plodding. The Dark Path is however very readable. McIntee pays homage to many other science fiction movies and television series in the creation of his characters and situations, notably the Predator-like Veltrochini, and especially Captain Gillian Sherwin, whom I instantly mentally cast as Captain Janeway in Voyager.

Many of Troughton's mannerisms are present in McIntee's descriptions of the Doctor, and the usually poorly written Jamie is for once skilfully captured in print, perhaps assisted by the fact that McIntee himself is a Scotsman. Victoria's emotional vulnerability is highlighted to great advantage as she falls under Koschei's influence, and the effect this experience has on her paves the way for her departure in the following adventure, which as the closing page of the book establishes, is Fury from the Deep.

The characterisation of Koschei himself was however disappointing. It is unclear as to exactly why he chooses to take the path of evil as a result of his experiences in this story. Astonishingly, McIntee neglects to explain this all-important aspect of the plot clearly and as a result the reader is left guessing at the source of the catalyst for the dramatic change of direction in this pivotal character.

An extremely readable book, let down only by the portrayal of the Master, this is McIntee's second take on the Doctor's arch-nemesis; unfortunately the previous effort, in First Frontier, was equally unsatisfying. Here's hoping it's a case of third time lucky.

This item appeared in TSV 51 (June 1997).

Index nodes: The Dark Path