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Foreign Devils (Doctor Who Novellas)

by Andrew Cartmel

(Telos Publishing, £25, 149 pages, deluxe signed limited edition hardback, also available as standard hardback priced £10, published 23 November 2002.)

Foreign Devils is another in the series of Doctor Who novellas from Telos. cover scanThis 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 stories.

Review by Matthew Charlton.

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