These were three stories originally commissioned for the 23rd season of Doctor Who, which was then cancelled and reconceived as the Trial of a Time Lord season. Target, at the point that they were running out of stories to publish, latched onto them in 1989-90 and got the writers of the unbroadcast scripts to write them up in novel form. Two of them are apparently to be released as audios by Big Finish later this year, kicking off a new sequence of Six/Peri “Lost Stories”.
This is a comeback story in a couple of ways: Williams had been the producer of Doctor Who in the later Tom Baker era, now returning to try his hand at writing a script for the show; and the villain is the Celestial Toymaker, who had featured in a 1966 story turning William Hartnell’s Doctor invisible and subjecting companions Dodo and Steven to playing a series of deadly games. This time round the Toymaker has set up shop in Blackpool, and the Sixth Doctor and Peri have to pursue him through a deadly amusement arcade to prevent him from Taking Ovar The Wurld, helped by a young man named Kevin Stoney (who must have been named for the actor who had portrayed the two great early Who supervillains, Mavic Chen and Tobias Vaughn).
It’s not hugely inspiring stuff, but no doubt would have been rescuable with decent performances and effects (and coming at the start of the season it would probably have got them). I have heard a fan-produced audio version which is utterly deflated by the poor performance of the person playing Peri, and of course didn’t have the resources that Big Finish will bring to it. Fans of the Toymaker, if there are any, will probably find The Magic Mousetrap, the recent Big Finish play with the Seventh Doctor, more satisfying.
This is an odd case – probably the best of the three Missing Episodes books considered as a story (so it’s unfortunate that Big Finish won’t be doing it), but the worst written by some way; Daly, who is basically a TV and radio scriptwriter, has followed the by-the-numbers novelisation method of the Target books at their least compelling.
The story, as I said, is decent stuff: there is a planet whose two halves are at an uneasy peace with one another; there is a bad guy who is using Evil Tech to make them go to war and has subverted an ambitious aristocrat in one of the planet’s hemispheres; the Doctor is also subjected to mind control, and Peri almost gets some romance from a guy whose girlfriend, presumed dead in the first chapter, she resembles. I thought the Doctor let the bad guy off a bit lightly in the end, but basically enjoyed it apart from the clunky style.
It will be interesting to see what Big Finish manages to make of this story, because on the page it is a confused and confusing mess. We start with the Doctor being uncharacteristically terrified by a fellow Time Lord, who we are told was the class bully in Gallifrey, and who is in any case dispatched before we are a third of the way through. We have a planet populated by women and boys, all the men having died off, but not much is done with this interesting setup. It’s a Philip Martin script, so we also have Sil just being generally villainous. For some reason we also have the Ice Warriors, who appear at the half-way point, keep changing their minds about shooting people, and try and blow the planet into a new orbit for their own inexplicable motivations. The Doctor and Peri get to run around between all these elements. Despite this rather rich menu of happenings, the 120-page novel still feels padded in places. For completists only.
So, in summary, none of these will make my Top Five Doctor Who books list: or even, I am sorry to say, my Top Hundred.