Shroud of Sorrow by Tommy Donbavand

The Doctor and Clara arrive in Dallas 23rd November 1963, the day after the assassination of President Kennedy. But mourning a popular leader isn’t the only problem to face, as people around the world are being visited by those they have lost.

It’s an observation regularly made that Doctor Who can be at its most effective when it puts a twist on the familiar and everyday. The human brain does this too, in a process called pareidolia, where an image or sound is perceived as significant. Pareidolia is what is happening when you think you see a face in a cloud, in a wallpaper pattern or wood. This is the clever starting point for Shroud of Sorrow, as these faces are not random at all, but the alien Shroud. It’s a classic example of the series exploiting childhood fears.

The people of Dallas are seeing the faces of deceased loved ones, and there are some surprisingly adult themes here; grief, suicide, infidelity and the Doctor delivers a baby! Interestingly, the Doctor sees visions of Astrid Peth from Voyage of the Damned. in the Virgin New Adventures in the ’90s the Doctor occasionally sees visions of Adric or Katarina when he’s shown to be feeling angst or guilt. It’s surprising that Astrid would be the modern equivalent, but shows the Doctor does not forgot the fallen on his adventures. There’s plenty of lightness in the story too, and an inspired trip through a wormhole with some heroic clowns. A former clown himself, the author cheekily includes his own clownish alter-ego, Wobblebottom, into the narrative here! He ‘does a Gatiss’ and manages to write for and star in Doctor Who.

This is the first Doctor Who novel to feature the character of Clara, and the friends are a little snappier with each other than we are used to seeing in the early scenes. The story is very much home among it’s series 7B stablemates. As each story in the most recent TV run have featured homages to the show’s history, Shroud of Sorrow also is a great 50th anniversary celebration, as you might expect from a tale taking place on 23rd November 1963! As every fan knows, An Unearthly Child was broadcast the day after JFK’s death, and it’s a clever idea to use this as a catalyst for events. The Doctor here is at his most garrulous, and a lot of what he says consists of references to his past lives and adventures. By the climax the story goes much, much further in celebrating Doctor Who‘s illustrious history. In this way the story seems to satisfy two of the broad camps of fans: For younger fans for whom it’s all about ‘feels’ things are solved by the judicious deployment of emotions being harnessed to save the day, as often happens in contemporary stories; while there is a tonne of twentieth-century Who stuff for those grumpy older fans bitterly complaining because they think the anniversary is being too reboot-centric. The two elements dovetail beautifully.

A very entertaining, fast-paced story with a huge dose of 50th anniversary nostalgia.

Order Doctor Who – The Shroud of Sorrow by Tommy Donbavand from Amazon:

Shroud of Sorrow (Doctor Who) (Dr Who)

On Kindle:

Doctor Who: Shroud of Sorrow (Dr Who)

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