Fiction Reviews

Doctor Who: City of Death

(2015) James Goss, BBC Books, £7.99, pbk, 315pp, ISBN 978-1-849-90676-0


'The City of Death' is a classic Fourth Doctor serial and is well known for being the first story to be filmed outside the UK and is also loved by fans for its introduction of more humour. The story was originally written by David Fisher, Douglas Adams and Graham Williams. For many years a novelisation of the serial has been in the works. The lack of interest from Douglas Adams to commission a novelisation created heavy delays. However, James Goss has now penned a successful adaption of the work which reads like a loving tribute to the episode. It is also able to fill in some plot holes to be found in the original TV serial.

This story follows the Fourth Doctor and Romana as they journey to Paris, but they travel to 1979, which is littered with cracks in time. The Doctor encounters Count Scarlioni and reveals a plot that has caused time distortions and is somehow linked to the Mona Lisa. This leads to a fun story with The Doctor needing to travel through time to fool the plot to the Jagaroth.

'The City of Death' is considered one of the best classic Doctor Who serials, so the novelisation was highly anticipated and fans have been eager to find out whether the adaption was a success. Upon writing this novel, James Goss needed to provide a new interpretation of the work that felt fresh for long-time fans whilst also allow a one off read for more casual fans of the series. By doing this, he has added to the plot and added more depth whilst filling in and advancing plot points that were needed for a novelisation. He has fleshed out the role of Countess Scarlioni and offered more in depth detail of the marriage of the Scarlioni.

Readers will also be keen to know whether James Goss has managed to incorporate Douglas Adams' humorous one liners. He also goes above and beyond this and allows for a more detailed look at the Doctor's and Romana's relationship. In fact, this novel has been based off the scripts used for rehearsals, and James Goss has incorporated Douglas Adams stage directions into the book, whilst also adding all the deleted scenes. There are only a handful of classic Doctor Who TV serials that havenít been novelised and 'City of Death' was one of them. It has to be said that this has done more justice to the story than a Target novel (Target produced the 1970s Dr Who novelisations) would likely have achieved. This adaption has allowed for a more fleshed out and detailed story which would not have been achieved in previous years by Target. It almost seems like an original Doctor Who story.

One other thing to take note on is the extraordinary way that James Goss has been able to capture the character and personality of Tom Baker's Doctor, adding a real sense of value when reading the novel. Douglas Adams famous sense of humour combined with James Goss perfect understanding of Doctor Who and this particular story has enabled a faithful and stunning adaption of a much loved Doctor Who serial.

Andrew Musk

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