SEE AUTHOR'S NOTE.
CRAIG HINTON &
RELEASED IN JULY 2008.
1908: GEORGE McKENZIE-
TRENCH IS SUFFERING
FROM WRITER'S BLOCK,
UNABLE TO FORESEE THE
ENDING OF HIS NOVEL,
9908: THE PLANET
CALIBAN IS UNDER
ATTACK FROM CYBER-
FORCES, AND GOVERNOR
TRENCH ATTEMPTS TO
SAVE THE WORLD BY
A POWERFUL COMPUTER
VIRUS. BUT ABADDON
IS THREATENED AND THE
KEEPER IS SEEKING
ANSWERS WITHIN THE
ROMANA IS HELPLESS:
NO-ONE IS WHO THEY
SEEM AND THE
CONSPIRACY GOES EVEN
DEEPER THAN SHE CAN
IMAGINE. SHE NEEDS THE
BUT THE DOCTOR IS ON
EARTH IN 2008, FIGHTING
TO SAVE THE LIFE OF A
CHILD WHO MUST
SURVIVE AT ALL COSTS.
AS GALLIFREY IS
BESEIGED FROM GHOSTS
OF THE PAST, THE
DOCTOR, MEL AND
THEMSELVES IN THE
MIDDLE ON AN EPIC AND
FINAL BATTLE AS THE
ANCIENT GODS CHOOSE
THEIR CHAMPIONS AND
ALLOW CHAOS TO REIGN
ACROSS ALL OF TIME
On the 'correct' time placement relationship
between "Time’s Champion" and "Spiral Scratch"
“Time’s Champion” is essentially the ‘true’ regeneration story of the sixth Doctor, but by the end of the story, “Spiral Scratch” is the ‘real’ one. After the Doctor makes his deal with
Death to save Mel from being her champion, he knows he will become Death’s Champion, and eventually a creature even worse than the Valeyard. He also knows that Death will kill Mel just to toy with him. To save Mel from this fate, he over-writes her timeline so that, for h
er, “Time’s Champion” never happens. (Mel also ‘awakens’ into her new timeline just as the Doctor bangs his head on the console, if anyone wonders where that really comes from.) Since the Doctor uses his new-found powers as Time’s Champion to do this, his control
over the new timeline is not perfect, so what he creates is a world of countless parallel Doctors and Mels, in which the ‘prime’ timeline is the one the real Mel experiences. Since this overwrite only encompasses this one story, Mel immediately returns to the Doctor’s real timeline of “Time’s Champion”, except now she remembers the events of “Spiral Scratch”
as what happened, and, in a way, that is exactly what happened to her. To seal this substitution, the Doctor regenerates, choosing the Rani’s location at Lakertia as the perfect cover story.
On the placement of “Time’s Champion” relative to Gallifrey’s timeline, this story is set after “The Apocalypse Element” and before “Happy Endings” and “Lungbarrow”. The sixth Doctor is not out of order with Gallifrey; Romana, however, has met the seventh Doctor before in “Blood Harvest”. I indicate that it is the seventh Doctor who returns her to Gallifrey in that story, but to the sixth Doctor’s era of Gallifrey, with the foreknowledge that she must be in
that era to assist his previous incarnation with the Dalek invasion of Gallifrey and the Chaplain of Spite’s attack on the Matrix through Abbadon. For any who note that Romana has only recently been elected President in “Happy Endings”, I bring to attention that time is relatively slow for Time Lords, especially Gallifreyan bureaucrats. I should also point out that Craig Hinton himself once wrote a short story set during “Remembrance of the Daleks” which featured Romana as the President in that period, so assuming she is the President in the sixth Doctor’s ‘proper’ era is not without precedent.
Finally, on the Master being the War Chief. I opened a worm can, I know, but this is quite simple to resolve. In regards to “The Dark Path”, that story deals with the potential origins of the Master, the War Chief is simply a pre-Delgado incarnation of the Master; they are not intrinsically contradictory. In regards to “Timewyrm: Exodus”, the seventh Doctor meets the Master (as Kriegsleiter) out-of-order, exactly as the eighth Doctor does with the Delgado Master in “Legacy of the Daleks”. In regards to “Divided Loyalties”, the early years of the Deca are in a dream sequence, which are not always totally literal in Doctor Who fiction, particularly in regards to the sixth Doctor’s regeneration. In the end, the answer is simply Brayshaw regenerates into Delgado, but the theorising is always more fun. J
28TH JULY 2008
Copyright © Chris McKeon 2008
Chris McKeon has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
The “Book which could never be written but which must re-write the existence around it”. Part of me wonders if it was Craig Hinton that wrote those words and, if it was, whether he had any inkling as to how prophetic they were.
“Time’s Champion” seemed fated not to be. In a post-new series world, the chances of such a impenitently bald-faced piece of fan service seeing publication were slim to say the least, and when Gary Russell’s 2005 novel for BBC Books, “Spiral Scratch”, pipped “Time’s Champion” to the post in depicting the sixth Doctor’s regeneration, the game looked to be over. And then when the author of “Time’s Champion” sadly passed away on 3rd December 2006 with his magnum opus unfinished, the chances of the story ever seeing the light of day all but died with him. However, thanks to Hinton’s friends “Time’s Champion” has now finally been made available (albeit in very limited numbers) as an ‘unofficial’ charity paperback, with all proceeds of sale being donated to the British Heart Foundation.
“There is a violent storm approaching, Doctor.
A storm that will consume time and space – unless Time has a champion,
someone with the strength of his convictions,
the courage to make the difficult decisions and carry them through.
Even if those decisions demand the greatest of sacrifices.”
- Craig Hinton, "Millennial Rites"
Completed by new writer Chris McKeon, “Time’s Champion” is an absolute delight in every respect. It is so impressive, in fact, that it has really made me realise just how unadventurous the new series tie-in novels are as a range. Although many of them are absolutely superb, there is no changing the fact that when you pick up a new series tie-in novel you are not going to get anything pioneering or exceptional. “Time’s Champion”, conversely, is bound in the style of the Virgin Missing Adventures range, immediately engendering that inimitable thrill that comes with knowing that something big could happen (as well as pleasing the more neurotic of us as it lines up beautifully on the shelf alongside the Virgin books, see below!)
And despite the absence of any Doctor Who logo on the cover or the spine, “Time’s Champion” is pure, unadulterated Doctor Who through and through. In a way, it is even a
little bit better than that because it is Doctor Who unsullied by the need to make it palatable for mass appeal. It is Doctor Who for the hardcore fans. Doctor Who undiluted, if you will.
One of the things that I did not like about “Spiral Scratch” was that it sought to needlessly shoehorn each of the various Doctor Who ranges into different universes. For me, it is important that the Doctor I am reading about, or listening to, or watching on television is the Doctor, not some constantly alternating parallel version. And so as good as “Spiral Scratch” was, it could never have the same sort of payoff that “Time’s Champion” does. This novel feels like an end to the sixth Doctor’s life – all of it. The Dalek invasion of Gallifrey, in “The Apocalypse Element”; the Doctor’s bully, Anzor, from the unmade television story “Mission To Magnus”; Paul and Arlene Kairos, from the novel “The Quantum Archangel”; and the Valeyard, from “The Trial of a Time Lord” (not to mention quite a few other adventures both on audio and in print) are just a handful of examples of the authors taking the rich and vibrant history of the Doctor and using it to make their story feel all the more cumulative and momentous.
But the wallowing in continuity is not limited to the sixth Doctor’s native era - Kar-Charrat, Fenric, the Eurydice, Benton, the Brigadier (well, General…), Jo Grant, Sarah Jane Smith, the Celestial Toymaker, the ten years of hell leading up to the Doctor regenerating in “Planet of the Spiders”, the second Doctor’s post-“War Games” adventures, and even the burnt orange skies of Gallifrey, just as vividly depicted recently on television, all appear at some point. Of course it is inevitable that this will draw a glut of criticism from those that cringe at the merest hint of one story referencing another, but I found the authors’ indulgence both refreshing and delightful. Besides, after just watching the last two seasons of Stargate (SG•1 and Atlantis) on DVD and reading a few ‘post-finale’ Star Trek novels, “Time’s Champion” feels veritably restrained in comparison. Except for the Master potentially being the War Chief, that is – I am certainly not sold on that one!
There is a passage very early on the novel that really set the scene for me. Mel is walking through the TARDIS’ labyrinthine corridors when she discovers a room full of portraits depicting all the sixth Doctors companions (even Grant Markham!), several notorious Time Lords, and even those of the Doctor’s companions that died whilst travelling with him. It is an elegant little scene that in many ways sums up what is to come for the reader – an unparalleled and unabashed saunter through the history and the future of the show that they love.
All of the above would be nothing though without a half-decent story, and I am pleased to say that “Time’s Champion” is not just decent but downright fantastic. The plot is complex and engrossing, and most important of all massive. For those like myself who are spellbound by notions like the Time Wars, Gallifrey, and its Six-Fold-Gods, “Time’s Champion” is a godsend.
In a nutshell (no doubt an imprecise nutshell, mind, considering that I rush-read the whole book in less than a day, keyed-up as I was), in 2008 a child is born that threatens the very fabric of reality and breaches an ancient covenant between the Eternals and the Chronovores, prompting a terrible and bloody war in the Six-Fold-Relam – Calabi-Yau space, a plain of existence even above that of Time Lords. This war triggers what Rassilon called ‘the Breakdown’ – the complete collapse of the multiverse. In a desperate attempt to prevent this collapse, the Gallifreyan gods each chose a ‘champion’ to do their bidding in
the mortal realm and help stave off the Breakdown. Fate chooses Morbius’ son, Leofric DeSale, the self-professed ‘Chaplain of Spite’, whilst Pain opts for his sister, Clacice. Life chooses Kronos, the titular “Time Monster” of the 1972 Jon Pertwee serial, and Hope decides on Paul and Arlene’s mystical child. And though Time’s preferred choice is wholly predictable, Death’s choice of champion will really shock the reader.
“And in the moment that all things began and ended the Valeyard created himself…”
Perhaps the one thing that “Time’s Champion” does best of all though is flesh out the Valeyard. On the practical side, the authors reveal the hows and whys behind the Valeyard’s existence. Now I do not propose to go into too much detail on this as at least one major plot point hangs on why the Valeyard came to be, but I do not think that I am giving anything away by saying that the Valeyard’s timeline is a time loop.
More remarkably still though is what Hinton and McKeon do with the character. No matter how vaingloriously Michael Jayston played the character, the Valeyard was always a rather crude and one-dimensional villain. Indeed, by definition he was “an amalgamation of the darker sides” of the Doctor’s nature. But here, in “Time’s Champion”, the Valeyard is far more than just a closer-to-home Master. Rotten to the core though he still may be, the Valeyard of this novel is far less polarised and far more appealing than he was in any previously released story.
“It was you, Valeyard.
You, the very antithesis of my self, became the source of my redemption.
You have made me more of who I am, and I am better for it.”
One of my favourite moments in the book comes when the Doctor reveals to the Valeyard that, over time, he has learned to use his fear of becoming the Valeyard to make himself a better man; to stop himself going too far. And looking back over the sixth Doctor’s life – all
of it! – you can really see the steady, measured change. For something that has evolved piecemeal over three decades, it is a remarkably coherent and logical character journey.
“At the moment that creation halts, the Maverick Jester,
though weary with Time’s Advances, will rush bravely into the future with no apologies.”
Rumour has it that Eric Saward wanted to end the last episode of “The Trial of a Time Lord” on a cliff-hanger, with the Doctor and the Valeyard locked in mortal combat, Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty style. I always loved that image, and as such I was elated when in “Time’s Champion” the Doctor and the Valeyard fall into the abyss together, locked in mortal combat…
Only it does not end there; not for the Doctor or the Valeyard. The Doctor would go on to become Time’s Champion, using his brand new powers to cheat Death of her prize by overwriting the recent events of his life with those depicted in “Spiral Scratch” – perhaps the most satisfying deus ex machina in the history of literature. And why does it work? Because the events of “Time’s Champion” happened, at least for a while, and even if Mel does not remember them, the Doctor does. And as for the Valeyard, I understand that McKeon’s epilogue for the novel – which apparently deals with the Valeyard’s survival - never made it into the published book due to a cock-up at the printers! I guess we will have to wait until another day to find out how he made it to “Matrix”…
By the time that I had finished “Time’s Champion” – in a single sitting, I might add – I felt like a morbidly obese fatty that had just wolfed down six of the sweetest and richest chocolate cakes known to man. Completely satisfied, offensively full, exceedingly guilty, and, perhaps, just a little bit sick. Chris McKeon’s writing debut could not have gone better in my view (unless, perhaps, the publishers had remembered to print his epilogue!) and Craig Hinton, the man who purportedly coined the term ‘fanwank’, has left us all with a thrilling and magnificent unfinished symphony that will live on for as long as Doctor Who endures.
This book has been my tale and I finish it.
I am Time’s Champion.
I am the Doctor.
And this story is no more.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2008
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
And so, finally, the sixth Doctor’s story reaches its conclusion (not that there aren’t plenty more earlier adventures to come). Much maligned over the years, Doctor No. Six has received a new lease of life in recent times. So, is “Time’s Champion” a fitting end? Absolutely.
This novel is, unashamedly, a work by fans, for fans. In fairness, who else is going to buy a limited edition charity Doctor Who novel? The numerous references might get a little baffling for a reader without an encyclopaedic knowledge of previous works, but that doesn’t get in the way of the story. Whilst reading it’s intriguing to wonder how much is the work of the late Craig Hinton, and how much is newcomer Chris McKeon. However much belongs to each author, the work shouts Hinton throughout. Indeed, it really feels like a Missing Adventure (and not simply because of the matching typeface and spine layout), so much so that the references to modern Big Finish stories feel bizarrely out of place.
Throughout the characterisation is spot on. The sixth Doctor is a particular joy to read; now
at the end of his life, a full fifty years on from the events of his trial, he has come to terms with his own flaws and failings. There’s a particular moment, when the Doctor faces up to the Valeyard (finally the two get to go head to head, as equals, without the destruction of Gallifrey or whatever getting in the way), in which he thanks the Valeyard for giving him the strength to face his demons. Knowing what he might become, he knows that he has to be a better person.
The Valeyard, of course, is this book’s raison d’etre. We all have our own ideas as to who the Valeyard is and how he came to be, and “Time’s Champion” puts forward its own theory. Without spoiling the mystery too much, the concepts here match both the idea that he is, simply, the Doctor’s future self, with the more abstract possibility that he is the distillation of the Doctor’s dark side. The idea of the Valeyard’s timeline being a self-enclosed loop is rather ingenious, and fits the novel’s revelation of his origin and purpose perfectly. More than that, however, the Valeyard’s characterisation is excellent here. For the first time, it’s possible to believe that he is in fact the Doctor, despite his protestations to the contrary. He doesn’t lack morality, as has been previously stated; it’s simply that his morality is different
to that of the younger Doctor. He comes across as a genuine character, a villain with a true purpose, rather than a one-note cipher. The reader actually gets to feel sympathetic for this most callous of characters. He also gets a snazzy outfit.
The characters aren’t perfect; marrying the sixth Doctor and Mel with Benton and Romana feels a bit random – Benton in particular seems superfluous for much of the book. Nevertheless, he’s always an enjoyable character, and does become an important part of proceedings later in the narrative.
It isn’t only the characterisation that deserves credit. The plot, taking in an assault on Gallifrey, a war in heaven, and the potential destruction of reality, is exciting and unrelenting. Characters old and new are added into the fray, and there seems to be a real scale to events here. The Time Lord gods - here revealed to be not mere Eternals as previously hinted, but beings above even the Guardians themselves - are fleshed out into rather frightening entities. We get to meet Time, witness a hundredth century Cyber-assault, experience a regeneration (or two) and even spend time with the final Doctor. There’s no stopping for breath here.
The Doctor’s final moments, without giving anything away, fit the story, and his story, perfectly. The previous ‘final’ adventure for the sixth Doc, “Spiral Scratch”, gets a look in, although I’m still unsure as to whether this means it actually happened, or whether characters merely think it did. Still, as I said before, in an infinite multiverse all things can happen. The various mutterings regarding the sixth Doctor’s end are paid heed, although I don’t see how the idea that the seventh Doctor sacrificed the sixth, an idea started in the New Adventures, fits in here. Such fannish worryings aside, “Time’s Champion” ends the Doctor’s sixth life on a very satisfying note.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2008
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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