THIS STORY TAKES
BETWEEN THE NOVEL
"TWILIGHT OF THE GODS"
AND THE TV STORY
"FURY FROM THE DEEP."
DAVID A. McINTEE
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'MISSING
RELEASED IN MARCH
The Doctor, Jamie and
Victoria arrive IN THE
find that the
Federation has at
last come to
reintegrate thEIR lost
colony, whether they
like it or not. But all
is not well in the
changing. The fierce
Veltrochni – angered
by the murder of
their kinsmen – have
an entirely different
agenda. And someone
else is manipulating
the mission for his
reasons – another
time traveller, a
suave and assured
master of his work.
The Doctor must
uncover the terrible
secret which brought
the Empire to this
desolate sector, and
find the source of the
society. But can a
Time Lord, facing the
control his own
The Dark Path
I don’t think that many fans would argue that The Dark Path is anything other
than the most ostensibly appealing Missing Adventure of them all. David McIntee’s sixth Doctor Who novel proudly boasts the images of both Patrick Troughton and Roger Delgado on its cover and what is more, as the title makes plain, this is the big one. This is the one where Koschei starts down the dark path which will forever dominate his destiny. This is the one where the Doctor’s oldest and dearest friend becomes a monster; becomes the Master. This is, without doubt, the most significant Missing Adventure of them all. But is it the best?
Truth be told, probably not. Like any other story that promises so much, The Dark Path is ultimately lacking. Don’t get me wrong, it is very good; in places I would go so far as to say outstanding. It is no classic though, and by rights it should have been.
To look at McIntee’s plot firstly, my main reservation about it is that it feels incredibly drawn out. Although throughout a lot is always happening, it is only in the last fifty pages or so when planets start blowing up and the space battle kicks off that things start to get really interesting. The bulk of the novel is replete with typically enthralling McIntee characters dancing around each other, together with a bucket load of continuity and Whoniverse lore. Whilst it makes for some remarkable reading, it distinctly lacks that ‘oomph’ or ‘x-factor’ that truly great stories have. As the backdrop to what should be one of the greatest tragedies in Doctor Who, the whole Darkheart setting is adequate, but far from magnificent.
Fortunately though, McIntee writes for Koschei so very well that all else seems to fall by the wayside. McIntee has captured those traits that have always been synonymous with Delgado’s suave, gentlemanly Master, and written them in isolation. On television, everyone sort of liked Delgado’s Master even though he was clearly the most evil man that had ever lived. He had a certain charisma that made him impossible to dislike; an almost hypnotic equanimity that endeared him to the audience. Here, Koschei retains all these winning characteristics, but lacks the Master’s devastating flaws. More than that though, McIntee really stresses to the reader that Koschei is not just the Master without the evil corrupting his soul, he is actually a positive influence on the universe. Like the Doctor, he travels the universe with his ‘human’ companion, Ailla, fighting wrongdoing wherever he goes. In an earlier Missing Adventure (set later), The Menagerie, the Doctor suggests that once upon
a time he and Koschei were so similar that they were “the same person”. The Dark Path take this idea one step further, showing that they were both, by virtue of how they lived their lives, identical. And this makes what is to come all the more sad.
This novel really is Doctor Who’s take on Star Wars: Episode III. Much like the young
Anakin Skywalker, Koschei is seduced by power. He is seduced by the power to do good. He wants to seize the power of the Darkheart and use it to ‘surgically remove’ pain and suffering from the universe. But, as the Doctor points out, power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. Through his desire to make things better for all, Koschei becomes the very thing that he sought to destroy. By definition, it is a tragedy.
“My people mistrust me, I kill one of my best friends who was sent to me by the other,
and both betray me. I have found myself, Doctor, and I am the stronger for it.”
But here is the rub. After a couple of hundred pages dwelling on what a thoroughly decent chap Koschei is, literally within the blink of an eye he has destroyed Terileptus and his journey down the dark path has suddenly reached the point of no turning back. But why? Whilst McIntee quite successfully shows how Koschei has been so completely seduced by the power at his fingertips, it does not quite work for me. Ailla betrayed him. The Doctor will not join him. The Time Lords are spying on him. Fair enough, these things are bound to aggravate him a bit – but to make him turn so suddenly in the way that he does here? It does not seem like enough somehow; McIntee might as well just have said that Koschei did not
like Mondays and left it at that. There has got to be more to it; some underlying psychosis. Maybe we will never know for sure what was going on inside Koschei’s head here, and maybe that is why The Dark Path works as well as it does. But I wanted to know what was going on inside his head. I wanted to see those cogs turning. I wanted to see what could turn a good man to the dark side.
The above notwithstanding, there was one element of The Dark Path that actually worked out far better than I thought that it would – Victoria. As this novel is set immediately prior to Victoria’s departure in Fury From The Deep, McIntee quite masterfully brings together all the threads surrounding her character in a very satisfying manner indeed. Her affection for Koschei is one of the story’s strongest elements. Won over by his old school charm, Victoria is put in the interesting position of watching Koschei’s fall from grace from a near equal footing. Koschei offers her the chance to destroy Skaro before the Daleks ever left the planet, preventing not only her father’s death but untold billions more. And she thinks about
it. And it tears her up inside. The reader can see the cogs turning in her head. Her own dark path towards Downtime begins in earnest here, and her reasons for choosing to leave the TARDIS crew in the subsequent story are made far more explicit than they ever would be on television.
And so all told, The Dark Path offers much. An Empire becomes a Federation and a Time Lord becomes a monster, yet sadly something still feels lacking. This novel is one that was never going to be able to live up to the lofty expectations build up around it but, even so, in showing us The Dark Path McIntee has certainly made the tapestry of the Whoniverse that little bit richer.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This novel’s blurb places it between the television serials The Web of Fear and Fury from the Deep. Within this gap, we have placed it after the novel Twilight of the Gods. Whilst the audio books featuring Victoria were released later, both Twilight of the Gods and The Dark Path clearly build towards Victoria’s departure in Fury from the Deep.
This story was the first to offers us insight into the chain of events that saw the Master start down the dark path towards evil. The 2007 episode Utopia would suggest that from the moment the Master looked into the Untempered Schism as a youth, his every thought was punctuated by the sounds of drums – a sound that slowly drove him mad - while the 2003 audio drama Master suggests that the Time Lord Goddess of Death claimed the Master as her champion following a killing perpetrated by the Doctor. None of these ideas are mutually exclusive, of course - the Master’s fall appears to have been a gradual one. The Schism is simply where it all began, and this novel’s Darkheart System was his Mustafar...
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