Fiction Reviews

Doctor Who: The Drostenís Curse

(2015) A. L. Kennedy, BBC Books, £18.99, hrdbk, 361pp, ISBN 978-1-849-90826-9


Now this an oddity, I say that because 2015 not only saw the release of this book, but also of another BBC Doctor Who collection of short stories called 'Time Trips' which brought together stories previously published in e-book form in 2013 and 2014.  One of the stories Ė in fact, the very first Ė in this collection is 'The Death Pit' by A. L. Kennedy, featuring the 4th, Tom Baker, incarnation of the Doctor.  The collection itself features stories by the likes of Joanne Harris (the 3rd Doctor), and Jake Arnott (the 6th Doctor) and five other tales.  Kennedyís 'The Death Pit' is actually the short story version of The Drosten Curse, so strange that the novel and the story it came from should both appear in hardback in the same year.

Not odd, though, is the fact that Kennedy penned the story and the novel, she is a big fan of the TV series and caused a bit of controversy earlier in the year by saying that the Doctor should never regenerate into a woman, and this novel can be seen as one of those that the BBC have brought out by 'heavy hitters' like Michael Moorcock and Stephen Baxter, although these are well-kent faces in the worlds of science fiction and fantasy while Kennedy is more from the literary mainstream. He has twice appeared in Grantaís list of Best Young British Novelists in 1993 and 2003, and also a Costa Award winning novelist in 2007 for her novel Day.  Kennedy has also dabbled with the world of stand-up comedy and 'The Drosten Curse' does contain some funny descriptions and scenes and in its most frenetic moments can be likened to farce and slapstick, unfortunately the pace can also slow down to almost a standstill in places.

Kennedy is Scottish, and her novel is set in Scotland and heavily features the Royal and Ancient game of golf and some disappearing golfers at the Fetch Brothers Golf Spa Hotel in Arbroath, and if you havenít disappeared then you are likely to be acting very strange.  Quick, is there a Doctor in the hotel? And why are the Fetch grandchildren so obsessed by octopuses?

We do not have a familiar companion but we do have a resourceful hotel receptionist in Bryony and an alien called Putta Pattershaun, and Kennedy clearly knows her Who because a few familiar faces do crop up during the action and there are references to other things Whovians as well as some definite Lovecraftian overtones to the plot.  Those in the know might also spot some references to Kennedyís more literary works.  One thing that is noticeable is the big cast of characters. Too many, perhaps, which can be a bit confusing at times, perhaps a consequence of expanding a short story into a novel.

All in all, I suspect if you have read the original short story you probably would not want to read this, and while enjoyable with a good rendering of Tom Bakerís Doctor, ultimately you have to wonder whatís the point of a book like this? There is no real sense of jeopardy, it is a fourth Doctor tale and we know there are regenerations to follow and it is hard to care much about companions we are meeting for the first, and only time.  Perhaps, the point of the exercise is just to sell a few more units, or maybe that should be UNITs? If I was scoring this book, it would be a three out of five, better than average, but not a must read.

Ian Hunter

See also Andrew's take on Doctor Who: The Drostenís Curse.

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