Amorality Tale by David Bishop

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The Doctor and Sarah-Jane go undercover with cockney gangsters in the East End of 1950s London to investigate events surrounding the Great Smog of 1952.

Amorality Tale is set during Jon Pertwee’s final season as the Third Doctor, soon after the events of The Monster of Peladon. We find the Doctor undercover as a watch-mender in post-war London; while Sarah Jane Smith is working as a waitress trying to get close to local gangster Tommy Ramsey. It’s an unusual scenario to find this duo in; but the premise, that of putting an alien invasion story into a totally unlike story, like one about a turf war between east-end gangsters, is pure Doctor Who.

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An impending sense of doom permeates this story, just as the deadly fog pervades London. The Doctor and Sarah arrive in December 1952 knowing what is about to happen. The Great Smog was a real-life long weekend of such bad weather and severe pollution that the resulting air quality killed up to twelve thousand Londoners. It’s a shocking event, and led to the introduction of clean air laws. Even more shocking is that smog still kills half-a-million people a year in China.

David Bishop posits an otherworldly explanation for the tragedy of the Great Smog: that the Earth is once again the target for an alien invasion. The events evoke the spirit of the Blitz, with the characters having to pull together to survive both the smog and the invasion. This is only a few years since the end of the Second World War, with most the men here having seen active service. Another aspect of that conflict is touched upon when the monsters process civilians in gas chambers. It’s a brutal story, with levels of violence you’d never see in television Doctor Who.

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The Doctor spends much of the book aboard the TARDIS, working on a way to defeat the alien Xhinn. While this incarnation is not averse to a bit of lab work, for example finding a cure to the Silurian plague, it’s odd for him to be out of the action for this long. This is really Sarah Jane’s story, as she discovers the real people behind the historical headlines. Her bravery in overcoming fear, and the way she stands up for herself within Ramsey’s household, all ring true for Sarah’s character.

The title Amorality Tale evokes the old medieval morality tales, which depict a straight-forward battles between good and evil. The amorality here comes from the main opposition to the alien invasion being vicious gangland boss Tommy Ramsey. Ramsey is a gangster in the Krays-mold: leader of a gang of thugs, but with a twisted code of honour and a veneration of his mother.

The Xhinn are the Ramsey gang writ large: brutal and violent, with their goals both being aggressive expansion into the territory of others. The Doctor and Sarah are forced to ally themselves with the latter, with the police depict as both corrupt, and literally corrupted by alien possession. In this way the story feels it is aiming for that 1980s template that began with The Caves of Androzani, and continued by script editor Eric Saward, of having Doctor and companion as the only sympathetic, heroic characters surrounded by self-interested people in a brutal world.

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Order Amorality Tale from Amazon:

Doctor Who: Amorality Tale: The History Collection

On Kindle:

Doctor Who: Amorality Tale: The History Collection

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