AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
4 out of 5
Doctor Who: Mawdryn Undead
The novelisation of the author's own script for a Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) adventure featuring Nyssa and Tegan. When an emergency forces the TARDIS to materialise aboard a seemingly-abandoned spaceship, the Doctor has to take a transmat pod to Earth in 1983. The TARDIS is supposed to follow him, but arrives in 1977, where a desperate and ruthless alien entity plans to use it for his own ends.
For a programme that features a time machine front-and-centre, Doctor Who never used to play around too much with stories that involved complicated time travel plotlines. There just wasn't much of the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff that fans of the revived show are so familiar with. Here, however, we get one of those rare stories where the author genuinely has embraced all the twisty potential of non-linear time and I loved this aspect of it.
What makes the time-bending plot work, however, is the fact that it all revolves around two different incarnations of a beloved returning character. This was the Fifth Doctor's first encounter with the Brigadier and the meeting (and subsequent adventure) is every bit as satisfying as the return of Lethbridge-Stewart needed to be. I liked seeing him as a slightly broken version of himself and then having to unpick the details of how that happened by following the exploits of his younger self.
Added to this is an alien antagonist whose motivations and desires aren't standard Who villain fare, plus the introduction of a new companion in the form of the enigma that is Turlough, and you get what is, so far at least, the best Fifth Doctor story I've read.
4 out of 5
Doctor Who: Time-Flight
A novelisation, based on Grimwade's own screenplay, of a Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) adventure featuring Nyssa and Tegan. When a Concorde disappears in-flight, the Doctor is asked to investigate. Enlisting the crew of a second Concorde, they are sent hundreds of millions of years into Earth's past where a source of immense power is waiting, along with an old enemy.
The last Who book I read was 'Castrovalva' (by Christopher H. Bidmead), which is a generally well-regarded Fifth Doctor story that I, personally, hate. Here we have somewhat the opposite; 'Time-Flight' is not particularly well-loved and yet I actually found this book pretty enjoyable.
The Doctor is compelling here, something I haven't always found with the Fifth, and his companions are also engaging in a way that they are often not; Nyssa actually has some personality on show and Tegan is more than just a reactionary mouthpiece. In fact, Tegan gets the last scene in the story and it's something of an emotional gut-punch that made me empathise with her in a way I never really have before.
Two other things swung me in favour of this book too. The first is the fact that the plot is built around Concorde. As a life-long lover of planes, it still makes me sad that we, as a society, have stepped down from the boundary-pushing high-point in commercial air travel that was Concorde, so to get a story so prominently featuring them in their prime really resonated with me (I've been aboard one of the surviving ones, incidentally). The other thing I liked here was the Master. All too often the Anthony Ainlee incarnation of the Master is an unsubtle, campy pantomime villain of a character (that being something I hated in the aforementioned 'Castrovalva'), but here we once more get the sense of the Master being the Doctor's peer. He's more understated and scheming here than in other appearances and actually feels more in line with the iconic Roger Delgado incarnation. I also liked that, whilst the Master doesn't win, he also doesn't lose and the best the Doctor can do is force him to a draw.
4 out of 5