I fully expected to dislike this. Having thought that Oli Smith’s recent Eleventh Doctor audio adventure “The Runaway Train” was absolute garbage, I rightly expected Nuclear Time to not be my cup of tea. As it turns out, Nuclear Time is my new favorite Doctor Who novel, with the only other one coming close being Steve Lyon’s Second Doctor adventure The Murder Game. Smith’s prose is strong, and his grasp of the main characters very good, but more notably the plot and supporting characters of Nuclear Time are outstanding.
The Doctor, Amy, and Rory find themselves in Appletown, a mysterious and quiet little cookie-cutter village out in the middle of the Colorado desert in early 1980s. They quickly realize something is awry: all the residents of the idyllic neighborhood happen to be androids, and the village was built for the sole purpose of being nuked to wipe out the robot threat. In trying to escape and prevent the nuclear explosion that could lead to the escalation of the Cold War, the Doctor gets trapped in a strange time phenomenon, and begins going backwards in intervals through time as he tries to peace together all the information he needs to change the course of events once his backwards motion through time crosses the point at which everything goes to hell.
I was thoroughly impressed with the two major supporting characters of this novel. Doctor Albert Gilroy is a brilliant scientist well ahead of his time who invented the androids that have now become a menace. Gilroy has spent the majority of his adult life dedicated to these androids and struggles with the idea of their destruction, no matter how much trouble they have caused. Major Geoffrey Redvers is a military man involved in the project, and the closest thing Albert has ever had to a friend in his adult life. Isley is the first android, and the most sophisticated, of whom Albert is most proud and dedicated, who Albert may try anything to save from the blast.
I was astonished at how well Smith developed the supporting characters; I genuinely felt invested in the stories of Doctor Gilroy and Major Redvers by the end, and was really left wanting more. I feel so strongly about this novel that I would say, despite series five been excellent, if this were an episode from that wonderful year, it would easily make my top two or three episodes. Any Doctor Who fan should read this novel; it is an absolutely indispensable tie-in.