Foreign Devils (Doctor Who Novellas)
Publishing, £25, 149 pages, deluxe signed limited edition hardback,
also available as standard hardback priced £10, published 23 November
Foreign Devils is another in the series of Doctor Who novellas
from Telos. This
one focuses on the Second Doctor, as portrayed on television by Patrick
Troughton, and his two companions Jamie and Zoe.
While at the British Trading Consortium in China in 1800, Jamie and
Zoe disappear through a spirit gate. Following them in the TARDIS, the
Doctor arrives in the grounds of an English mansion in 1900, where the
descendants of the English merchant the TARDIS crew met in 1800 are
assembling. But, when a murder occurs, the Doctor teams up with Carnacki,
a paranormal investigator, to solve the crime. But is their foe too
powerful for the pair of them to defeat? And where is the missing Jamie?
Andrew Cartmel is best known for his associations with the Seventh
Doctor and his numerous 'New Adventures' for that range of books. Here,
he puts his own handle on the Second Doctor. I think that in terms of
the characterisation of the Doctor, Cartmel is hit and miss. Personally,
I can imagine the dialogue in this story spoken by Patrick Troughton.
When the Doctor teams up with Carnacki, there are clear shades of other
partnerships during Troughton's tenure, although this time the Doctor
and Carnacki hit off from the start.
Cartmel creates a convincing atmosphere, with situations not too dissimilar
from those found in Sherlock Holmes and the hit Doctor Who story, "The
Talons of Weng-Chiang". His prose is easy to read and not too heavy,
unlike some of his other Doctor Who work.
However, there are elements to the characterisation of the Doctor I
didn't think was in keeping with the tone of both his era and the show.
The Doctor's attitude to Zoe becoming a maid and the reaction of the
other characters to his frequent and prolonged meetings with her --
or at least the way I read it -- almost made the Doctor look like a
dirty old man. The implication is that the Doctor is seeing Zoe for
sexual relations, and the problem I have with this is that barely nothing
seems to be done about it, in the context of the plot. But it just seems
to me that Zoe is a pawn in sex games during this novella, both in her
position with the Doctor and in her scenes with Thor Upcott. Perhaps
the ethos of Telos is being upheld here, to create something that is
Doctor Who, but yet not Doctor Who, but it still feels wrong.
Plotwise, without giving too much away, the prologue initially appears
to have little to do with the unfolding murder mystery plot. With no
obvious discernible plot holes, this is an enjoyable romp, which you
should allow yourself to be swept up into and enjoy the ride presented.
The pairing up of the Doctor and Carnacki makes the story enjoyable.
However, the plotline seems to lose its way at times, and the ending
is somewhat rushed and unsatisfactory, though seemingly like so many
of Patrick Troughton's stories where the Doctor and his companions disappear
without a proper ending.
Overall, Foreign Devils is another decent read from Telos, and
will be enjoyed by supernatural, Carnacki and Doctor Who fans alike.
This story feels in keeping with the feel of the Troughton era, while
keeping to the ethos of the Telos novellas by advancing Doctor Who and
tackling different views of the series through these new stories. Bonus
marks must goto Telos for the inclusion of an added short story by William
Hope Hodgson, "The Whistling Room", which is one of the original Carnacki
Review by Matthew Charlton.