Doctor Who: The Spear Of Destiny review

Andrew takes a look at the third of Puffin's Doctor Who eshort stories, this time from Marcus Sedgwick, taking us up to Jon Pertwee's era...

Another Doctor Who ebook, and with probably the best characterisation of the sort-of-titular hero yet, The Spear of Destiny comes complete with UNIT-dating jokes and Action by Havoc. Unlike the previous two entries in the series, it feels like an adventure from its televisual era, with many nostalgic nods and references. 

The Spear of Destiny concerns Norse mythology, mined to varying effect in Terminus, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy and The Curse of Fenric. As with much of the Letts/Dicks era of Doctor Who, a rational scientific explanation is sought for the magical or fantastic – in this case the pantheon of Viking gods, incorporating the spear that pierced Jesus’ side for good measure. 

Intermingled with this is a yarn that feels like a tick-list of Third Doctor era tropes may have been compiled in advance. The result is a story that will make new readers feel more familiar with any DVDs of Pertwee stories they may watch, compared with any readers who watch the first two Doctors based on Eoin Colfer and Michael Scott’s stories. 

Sedgwick’s characterisation of the Third Doctor is fun, capturing his arrogance, bombast and compassion nicely without undercutting his occasionally ugly edge. Jo Grant’s sarky side gets more of an outing than it generally did on television. While this isn’t entirely representative of Telly Jo, it does play up some qualities that perhaps could’ve been better utilised on screen. Anyway, she also spends a fair few chapters asking questions, getting kidnapped, and accidentally breaking stuff. 

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The Spear of Destiny is unashamedly attempting to replicate the tropes of the Pertwee era, if not the feel of it. Being a short story, the action sequences last only a page and the ‘Get kidnapped, escape, then get kidnapped’ routine only occurs once. There are not six episodes to fill here, and the style of adventure – into the past and into Earth’s mythology – is something new to this Doctor. 

It raises the question of whether a nostalgic ticklist, something cosily familiar, is a better strategy than the more novel (for Doctor Who, anyway) elements previously utilised in this series. If the aim is to entertain, it doesn’t really matter as long as the books themselves are good. As Puffin ebooks, its fairly obvious that these stories are aimed at introducing younger readers to the earlier Doctors, and so any fan-pleasing references or stylistic imitations are not going to be picked up by many. Still, as an older fan it’s fun to spot them when they do crop up, and Sedgwick has dropped in dozens into this story. 

In this case, The Spear of Destiny is a fun, undemanding read, but not a story that rises to exceptional levels.

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3 out of 5