The Drosten’s Curse by A L Kennedy

  

When  the Doctor checks into the Fetch Brothers Golf Spa Hotel in Arbroath he quickly discovers there’s something nasty lurking in the bunker on the thirteenth hole.

A.L. Kennedy returns to the Doctor Who fold following last year’s Time Trip, The Death Pit, with The Drosten’s Curse. This full-length novel takes the former as it’s first few chapters then fleshes it out into a bigger adventure.  The Death Pit did stand out as an odd entry, in that it introduces elements and characters that didn’t go anywhere, and now seems more like an audition piece for this larger story.

This a Fourth Doctor tale, set between The Deadly Assassin and The Face of Evil sees the Time Lord travelling alone. Kennedy introduces two de facto companions in the form of Bryony and Putta. Bryony is a receptionist at the Fetch Brothers Golf Resort, while Putta is an alien bountykiller.  The Doctor and Bryony’s relationship is much in the mould of a twenty-first companion; in the way the modern Doctors laud humans, particularly those he sees some crucial element if inquisitiveness and bravery in them. Russell T Davies seems to have taken the inspiration for this from favourite story, the Fourth Doctor’s sophomore The Ark in Space, with the famous “Indomitable!” speech. On screen he was rarely poured adulation on his human companions though.

Kennedy’s writing style in The Drosten’s Curse pays homage to the work of Baker-era script-editor Douglas Adams. Putta is a human-looking alien visitor in the vein of Ford Prefect, even down to a mix-up with his name. It’s easy to think he would own a copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide.  One of the characters is called David Agnew (the standard pseudonym for script editors who substantially rewrote the work of others at the Beeb), credited with writing The Invasion of Time and City of Death. It’s a neat joke that a character named for someone who doesn’t exist is a solipsist in this story.

The Doctor himself is here the Fourth incarnation infused with some of the characteristics of the Tenth and Eleventh, as seen with his eulogising about the human race. Other elements from the modern era see the TARDIS as a pro-active character in proceedings and emotion being key to neutralising the threat.

Kennedy treads a fine line; making the reader privy to the Doctor’s thoughts, while successfully describing his delivery and mannerisms utterly faithfully. Here his quick-witted, disarming persona masks the deep-seated fear and uncertainty he feels at facing the Bah-Sokhar, a being of God-like power. Ancient powers manifesting themselves evokes the Hinchcliffe era of the series that The Drosten’s Curse is set in the dying embers of.

The Bah-Sokhar is a monster who provides a physical threat as much as psychological one. There are great ideas here, the way this powerful creature can manipulate memory and emotions make it a unique entry to the Doctor Who villain pantheon, and one that works best in a book, where we are privy to the characters’ thoughts. An intriguing and witty story, this sits as an ideal companion to the more-familiar recent City of Death novelisation.

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Order The Drosten’s Curse from Amazon:

Doctor Who: The Drosten’s Curse (Dr Who)

On audiobook:

Doctor Who: The Drosten’s Curse: A 4th Doctor novel (Dr Who)

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