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Wonderland (Dr Who Novellas)

by Mark Chadbourn

(Telos Publishing, £25.00, 92 pages, hardback, deluxe, signed, limited edition, standard edition also available priced £10.00, published 24 April 2003.)

The Second Doctor, Ben and Polly meet Summer, a groovy hippy girl in the thick of the hippy movement of the 60's in San Francisco.

Told from Summer's point of view the novella tells of a popular new drug, Blue Moondreams. But she isn't here to tell of what such a fantastic trip you get from them, she wants to know if the Moondreams are behind hundreds of people going missing, including her 'other heart' and her lover, Denny.

This is the newly regenerated Second Doctor, complete with all that nervous energy and extra-mysteriousness seen particularly in 'Power of the Daleks', although not as spot-on as Andrew Cartmel's characterization in the Foreign Devils novella. The Doctor's use of a hypodermic needle on himself and Summer actually made me blink in disbelief. However, I'm not saying this is an 'outrageous' piece of writing, just that it felt odd, but when considering the book's style and events, is perfectly acceptable. Like previous novellas this story keeps the Doctor out of the action for most of the book before taking the centre of the action towards the end. Although this is a great 'different way' of telling Who we need a bit more of the traditional too in these novellas.

This story is quite adult in its content and it's this that really gives it a slightly darker and misty tone which always seems to work well for Doctor Who.

Ben and Polly make good companions in this tale, Ben is much more of a tougher character and a confident person here and isn't afraid to get 'physical'. Ben and Polly are never really quite independent though and spend most of their time together and following Summer or the Doctor around.

The story's narrator, Summer, is, for me, difficult not to get annoyed at, with her changing attitudes of optimism and pessimism. The story is told from her younger self as well as a matured and reflective counterpart many years later whilst in hiding.

The reader's attention is grabbed with cameo appearances from some of the series' previous villains which makes you eager to continue reading. Thankfully though, the book doesn't prostitute itself by having lots of cameos of monsters for the sake of nostalgia etc and instead makes use of it with positive effects.

If buying the deluxe edition readers are treated to Wonderland's lavish front piece from Dominic Harman which is a very nice 'scene-setter' upon opening the book and is my favourite from the novellas so far. Graham Joyce also pens a fitting foreword discussing Chadbourn's writing and his memories of watching Who.

A great read nonetheless which may have benefited from a more 'dominant' Doctor. I feel that description is a strong point of Chadbourn's, more so than characterization which is still very strong in this tale.

Fans of Mark Chadbourn will enjoy this too as it isn't too far into the Doctor Who universe. A strong story in what has become a line of strong stories from Telos' output.

Here's to the next novella!

Review by Andy K Kitching.
This review first appeared in Shockeye's Snack.

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