Doctor Who: The Nameless City review

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Review Andrew Blair 28 Feb 2013 - 07:30

Andrew checks out the second of Puffin's Doctor Who 50th Anniversary year ebooks, The Nameless City by Michael Scott...

Well, hands up who thought that Puffin would ever publish a Lovecraft homage? 

Michael Scott (author of the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, lets his love of myth and folklore seep through in this tale which pitches Jamie McCrimmon and the Second Doctor against evil from the dawn of time. 

It's not the first time that the work of H.P. Lovecraft has inspired a Doctor Who story (novels and audioplays have evoked the style, and occasionally incorporated some of the more abstract villains into the mythos), but it is the first time it's been aimed at children. In this respect, Scott is taking horror tropes and concepts and filtering them through Doctor Who, an approach that worked wonders in the mid-Seventies. 

It also features a lot of continuity references (cunning aliases, Atlantis, alliances with untrustworthy alien races, The Highlanders, and Vengeance on Varos all crop up), and an ending that will divide opinion;  I thought it worked quite well, the explanation combining seemingly disparate plots points, but possibly for those of you of the 'No, stop that. It's silly' persuasion it will prove irksome. It may already have inspired one of the songs on the new My Bloody Valentine album. 

In trying to appeal to the wide audience of Doctor Who, Scott's writing is diverse in tone, and the changes sometimes jar. We have unnatural geometry and a race of Old One-type beings complete with creeping dread, but we also have the Doctor and Jamie undercutting this by just being themselves. It's not a typical story from their era (if anything, Jamie is the one putting a base under siege), although it does have elements of cosiness to it. The characters of the regulars are well drawn. Troughton's Doctor goes from morose to bumbling to 'Oh my giddy aunt', and Jamie gets to yell Creag an tuire before accidentally bringing a copy of the Necronomicon on board the TARDIS. 

Working with Lovecraft, Scotland and Doctor Who to draw mythology from, Scott has written something that doesn't add up to more than the sum of its parts. While he evokes the Second Doctor and Jamie's era well, anyone familiar with the sources Scott is drawing from may find The Nameless City unoriginal. This is, I think, a great introduction for people new to the ideas, but if you're already a fan then it's merely a pleasing iteration, rather than any sort of revelatory enhancement.

Read Andrew's review of the previous Doctor Who Puffin ebook, A Big Hand for the Doctor, here.

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