“Someone is tampering with the fabric of the human cell” The Doctor said darkly, “Perverting its secrets to his own purposes.”
The Doctor and Sarah are attempting to meet Sarah’s fellow journalist, Rudyard Kpling, in India about 1900. Unfortunately, the Tardis brings them to Kent, England. Local children are disappearing. Doctor Arthur Conan Doyle has been called in to perform an autopsy on a local man who died mysteriously. A murderous hound is roaming the countryside of Kent killing the local cattle. The Doctor and Doyle join forces to discover the heart of the mystery, whilst Sarah Jane Smith and Rudyard Kipling face a terrible transformation…
This book is, in effect, a meeting of minds.
The story is an excellent fusion of the Sherlock Holmes type gothic novel with the sc-fi universe of Doctor Who. It works better than you can imagine. John Peel has obviously picked the right era to do this, the early Tom Baker era is known for being gothic. Close your eyes and envisage Baker as a brooding Holmes (Indeed he did play Sherlock Holmes in a 1985 TV version of Hound of The Baskervilles.) A master stroke was incorporating the costume he would later use in The Talons of Weng Chiang for the cover. (Take heart all you enthusiastic recyclers, Doctor Who does not miss a trick.) Even though the book was written in the 1990s it really does sum up the 1970’s era. I think the genius of it is that it feels like it was written in the 1890s rather than the 1990s and is immensely enjoyable.
The Doctor and Sarah are excellent; you can definitely see Tom Baker and Liz Sladen in the roles. The author encapsulates The Doctor as a brooding yet funny Time Lord with hundreds of years behind him. Sarah Jane Smith is written excellently by John Peel. She does feel exactly like the same character we saw on TV portrayed by the late, great Elizabeth Sladen. Doyle and Kipling are well characterised. Doyle very much feels like the Victorian writer who would create Holmes. There is a hint of the Nigel Bruce film version of Watson added to the character which makes him both interesting and amusing.
Throughout the book there are nice continuity references to The Brain of Morbius, Genesis of The Daleks, The Brigadier and the Rutan/ Sontaran conflict is very important to the book. It’s nice to see an author referring to previous stories.
“The graveyard was small and set on one of the hills overlooking Bodham Bay. An ancient, weather-beaten stone church guarded the high spot on the rise. The tower was definitely Saxon in styling and in need of a little work, and the windows in the grey stonework were small.”
The above quotation is an example of the setting and you can very much imagine that you are in the Kent of the Victorian era. The description of the landscape also ties in nicely with the description of Dartmoor in Hound of The Baskervilles.
This book is a true classic Doctor Who novel. It has a great gothic theme, style, action, adventure and a few good laughs. Evolution sums up the classic series of Doctor Who perfectly, darkly funny with a sense of style.
This review was originally posted on TheCultDen site. Why not check them out at: http://www.thecultden.com/
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