and The Clockwise Man
by Justin Richards
This novel by Justin Richards marks the first entry in the BBC’s New Series Adventures range, designed to tie-in with the 2005 revival series. These novels were (and are) released in batches of three novels, usually with them being one set in the past, one in the future, and one in present day. I’m not sure if that’s entirely true, I haven’t checked, but it seems about right from where I’m standing. The first set are The Clockwise Man by Justin Richards, The Monsters Inside by Stephen Cole, and Winner Takes All by Jacqueline Rayner. Despite being released at the same time, this is generally considered to be the order they go on because it just is. All three of these writers are old hat at Doctor Who prose, and I’d say all of them are pretty good at it. As this series went along with the TV series, the contents of the novels would mirror what is going on in the TV show, from companion changes to relationships. The Monsters Inside was also referenced in Boom Town, making it clear from the offset that RTD wanted these novels to be a firm and accepted part of his Doctor Who extended universe, possibly because of his huge amount of love for the Target novels as a companion to the series growing up (which he talks about in his lovely introduction to the reprint of Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion). The New Series Adventures novels are quite short, and their first and most common printings are in these quite nice little hardbacks.
The Doctor and Rose arrive in 1924 London, where they come across a man being attacked by a mysterious, ticking figure. As they escort the man to his place of work they are watched by the attacker and another figure, who quietly move the TARDIS. The attacked man is Dickson, the butler of Sir George Harding and Lady Anna, the latter of which’s son is actually the rightful Tsar of Russia. Invited into the circle the Doctor and Rose meet a cast of conspirators, including Aske and Repple, who are embroiled in a strange conspiracy regarding a country that doesn’t exist, and the Painted Lady, a woman who only wears emotion masks. Stranded, the Doctor and Rose take up rooms in the same club as Aske and Repple, while they try to figure out what’s going on with the string of attacks similar to that on Dickson.
There are some really cool ideas in this, which would be hard to believe didn’t inform The Girl in the Fireplace, from the clockwork faces behind glass to the “what’s that ticking?”. Not much time is spared here, the New Series Adventures are not much longer than the Target Novelisations, forgoing some of the length of the Virgin New Adventures and Eighth Doctor Adventures lines. This is a range firmly aimed to be approachable to younger audiences yet again. No pandering to adult fans exclusively. The novel hurtles to its conclusion as soon as it gets going, making it an easy and pleasant read, even if it’s not always top tier stuff. There are a few bits of odd phrasing and character moments that feel just a bit off, maybe in the latter case because this is both from the first set of releases of the New Series Adventures. Rose seems unusually dim in places, and the Doctor is a touch too scatter-brained, at one point getting words confused.
Allegedly the writers of this first set of releases didn’t have too much to go on when writing these. If that’s true it would explain some things. The Doctor does feel almost like an assumed Doctor, how you would expect Ecclestone’s performance to maybe behave, informed by some of the previous Doctors. Rose seems to have suffered the most, however. The release date of the first “batch” of NSA was 19 May 2005. I’m not sure how much of this rumour to believe, and if you know more please let me know.
Overall it’s a pretty solid first showing for the NSA, but there are better ones later in the series, including from Justin Richards himself. While it’s not bad, it’s not the NSA I would point to for a first time reader to the series, which is a shame as that’s exactly what it should have been.