Book Review: Past Doctor Adventures – The Murder Game by Steve Lyons
The Murder Game by Steve Lyons
Past Doctor Adventures #2 – Second Doctor
Featuring the Doctor, Ben, Polly & the Selachians
The Doctor and companions Ben and Polly find themselves answering a distress signal from a space station orbiting 22nd century Earth. When they arrive, they are thrust into a murder mystery game with nine other people, using this nearly abandoned space hotel as the base of operations for their fun whodunnit. Things get serious quickly, however, when a simulated murder becomes the real deal.
I feel like you can measure how good a Doctor Who novel is based on a few simple criteria points. The first and most important of these is: Does the writer have a good grasp of the characters he is writing? The answer, in the case of The Murder Game, is a strong yes. The Second Doctor is a hard Doctor to pin down in the written word, and Lyons does well. Most impressively, though, is that he actually manages to make companions Ben and Polly interesting. In my limited experience with them prior to reading this novel, I was nonplussed by them. Lyons’ story in The Murder Game actually makes me like them both more, and being one of the weirdos that thinks of the books as part of the canon, it will extend to when I see their television stories as well.
The second criteria is the story, on two points. Is it original (some Doctor Who novels obviously borrow heavily from already existing stories, Justin Richards’ recent Apollo 23 comes to mind), and is it engaging? Absolutely. If the plot of The Murder Game were made into a television serial, I feel like it would have made one of the better ones, easily on par with some of the Second Doctor’s better stories. Although not quite on the level of classics like “Tomb of the Cybermen” and “The Invasion,” it is worthy.
Lastly, and the criteria that sets great Doctor Who tie-in apart from the decent ones, is whether or not the book or audio play manages to contribute anything to the background of the Whoniverse. The answer to this is once again a strong yes. We learn more about Ben and Polly’s back stories, as well as their relationship with each other. And, without spoiling anything too big, the origins of one of our favorite time-traveler’s favorite gadgets is explored.
Being the first of the Past Doctor Adventures I have read, I would hazard to guess that I will continue to enjoy them. If this is any indication, I will be enjoying the stack of these I have sitting on my bookshelf quite profusely.