By Terrance Dicks
Book review by Brad Schmidt
Seemingly, John Peel's two Dalek novels earlier in the BBC series were apparently the result of previous editor Nuala Buffini's commissioning. Indeed, no further rehashing of Dalek stories has emerged since - but a more-than-worthy subject for strong criticism has taken Peel's place. Having produced such a vast amount of dull ‘novels’ in the past and been acclaimed for them seems to have justified Terrance Dicks' right to bore us ever further, as again he competently manages to do with his latest work, Players.
Dicks seems to have been given extended deadlines for this work, and equally seems not to have used them. The Sixth Doctor and Peri - apparently - arrive in South Africa during the Boer War, narrowly escaping such oh-so-exciting and imaginative escapades as a derailed train and a mysterious assassin, which take up far too many pages. The Second Doctor then picks up the tale, in what reads like yet-another episode of The War Games. Finally, the Doctor and Peri - seemingly - return to the novel and arrive in post-World War II London, a setting that is presented in such a textbook manner I expected essay questions at the end of each chapter. Winston Churchill is the main supporting character, present in each locale, though any historical figure from any country in any time could have been used equally - or more - effectively.
Players is not quite boring enough to give up on entirely, because each amusingly childish chapter keeps the reader guiltily longing to know which hackneyed plot device Dicks will revive next. Clear links are made to his Virgin novels Timewyrm: Exodus and Blood Harvest, showing Dicks only acknowledges Virgin continuity when it's his own. The event (or lack of one) that finalised my disgust that such a book could ever see print was the resolution about who exactly were the mysterious - and barely present - Players of the title.
There was none. [1/5]
This item appeared in TSV 57 (July 1999).