Book Review: Past Doctor Adventures – Players by Terrance Dicks
Players is a Past Doctor Adventure by Terrance Dicks that features the Sixth Doctor as played by Colin Baker, and Peri, his first companion, is in many ways a Doctor Who continuity nut’s wet dream. In one sense, it is the predecessor to the series five episode “Victory of the Daleks.” In “Victory,” Winston Churchill shows previous experience with the Doctor, and this novel features their first several meetings. Being that the episode is written by Mark Gatiss, who has written many audio plays and tie-in novels himself, it is perfectly reasonable to think Gatiss wrote “Victory of the Daleks” with the continuity established in Players under some consideration.
Another storyline in the novel causes it to serve somewhat as a sequel to Dicks and Malcolm Hulke’s epic season six serial “The War Games,” featuring the Second and later Sixth Doctors meeting Lieutenant Jeremy Carstairs and ambulance nurse Lady Jennifer after having their memories wiped and being returned to their own time following the events of “The War Games.” To make things even more fanboyish, the novel places the Second Doctor cameo storyline firmly in Season 6B. Being that the novel is written by Terrance Dicks, long time writer of the classic series and script editor for the brilliant Jon Pertwee era, this novel is really as close to surefire canon as can be.
Despite never having written an episode during Colin Baker’s era as the Doctor, Dicks perfectly encapsulated the Sixth Doctor in the novel. His characterization overall is excellent, especially if you can just allow yourself to accept that being an English writer, Dicks doesn’t have anything bad to say about Winston Churchill. Reading about the future’s of Lady Jennifer and Lt. Carstairs, whose personalities are re-captured perfectly, is probably my favorite part of the novel.
Dicks’ prose is nothing extraordinary, but something I can overlook. The biggest issue with the novel is the plot: it just doesn’t really go anywhere. I was so engrossed in the fanboy continuity references that it wasn’t until about page 150 or so that I realized that the story had gone nowhere. The villains are barely present, and aside from a few minor action sequences, the entire flow of the story is practically non-existent. It ends up being just a generic Doctor-goes-to-war romp, with not a lot else to say.
The Doctor Who fan in me still enjoyed Players for all its continuity goodness, but the reader of fine literature in me has to say that this is kind of crap. Big Doctor Who fans will find something to enjoy here, but I couldn’t recommend this to a casual fan.