THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
DAVID A. McINTEE
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'NEW
RELEASED IN APRIL
The TARDIS is caught
in the gravitational
field of a dark star.
The Doctor and BENNY
are forced to LEAVE,
and find themselves
stranded in medieval
France - a brutal time
of wars of succession
their lives Entwined
and heretics. While
the Doctor begins a
Bernice finds herself
drawn to an A MAN
who has made the
heretics' fight his
own. And they both
realise that to leave
they may have to
sacrifice far more
than their lives.
Unless you count a flying visit to a country house in the mid-1920s, Sanctuary is
the first purely historical Doctor Who story for almost three decades. Of course, the Doctor has been back in time on countless occasions since his fateful visit to Culloden in 1746, but on each occasion his ‘pseudo-historical’ adventures have been riddled with alien monsters or a plethora of similar science-fiction trappings. Now whilst that’s certainly not a bad thing, after a fairly long run of hardcore science-fiction novels, a well-researched, beautifully-written and thought-provoking historical drama is just what the Doctor ordered, offering the readers a little bit of sanctuary.
With little going on in the way of plot, this novel focuses on our two main characters – the Doctor and Bernice. The seventh Doctor as portrayed in Sanctuary is the closest that the New Adventures have come to capturing the essence of his televised character in a long, long time. A lot of this is due to author David McIntee lovingly plagiarising a number of lines from television stories, but there’s also something in the way the Doctor conducts himself, particularly when he’s around Benny. Yes, he’s scheming and manipulative – and this novel even addresses just how far the Doctor is willing to go to make sure history pans out how it should – but he also cares deeply about his companion, and it shows here in the same way that it used to show with Ace on television. For me, the way in which he delivers the simple line “perhaps” to a distraught Benny at the death says it all.
It’s Benny that’s the real star of Sanctuary though. Not only does the novel re-examine her traumatic childhood on Vandor Prime, but it also looks very closely at who Benny is now, as she finds herself falling for the most unlikely man and feeling the pull of impulses – impulses like revenge – that she has always considered herself above.
The lucky feller is Guy de Carnac, one of the all-time great supporting characters of Doctor Who. I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one rooting for him to make it into the TARDIS at the end to fill an Ace-shaped hole! Like Bernice, de Carnac (or “Conan” as Benny ungraciously re-christens him) has had a troubled past. His sister was raped and impregnated by a soldier, which led to her suicide. Following this, he deserted his Order to hunt down her rapist only to find him already dead. Upon his return to the Order, he was branded a deserter and coward. In truth, of course, he’s a rampaging and unforgiving warrior - as hard as “cruk” (a word that makes me cringe every time I read it. Either don’t swear at all, which would probably be the most sensible option, or fucking do it properly!) There’s certainly plenty of action here: lovely blood and guts, gory action, and it’s normally “Conan” dishing out the punishment in style. He even has a suspiciously lucky, almost magical sword, made by a sword master by the name of Wayland…
McIntee handles the romance between the two superbly. He builds it up slowly, and gives
his readers wonderful insight into these two very different people’s innermost thoughts and feelings. I don’t want to give too much away, but by its end this book has really given those old heartstrings a damn good tugging.
At least, it would, if you can
make it all the way through.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say
that a lot of this book is dull;
more that it’s leisurely paced.
I enjoyed the beginning of the
book, both the establishing
scenes in the 11th century
and even those set aboard the malfunctioning TARDIS, which were shameless padding! Towards the middle, however, I found my concentration waning. The ‘whodunit’ angle was interesting enough, but I just found it to be overlong and a little too exhaustive - McIntee has obviously done his homework once again. His villains, for instance, are utterly deplorable and utterly real. I find it far more disturbing to read about the dark side of human nature than
I do about Daleks and the like, and you don’t get any darker than the days of the Spanish Inquisition. People burned alive and persecuted. Holy wars. At times it’s easy to understand the Doctor’s frequent distaste for humans.
On a side note, Mark Gatiss will be pleased to read that the tertiary console room that he created back in Nightshade has had another airing, and the Jade Pagoda from Iceberg even makes an appearance. Best of all though, there is an amusing bit of dialogue about
a missing French ambassador – a certain Sir Giles Estram! If the reader hasn’t seen The King’s Demons, then about half a page of dialogue will make no sense at all to them, but
I’d wager that most readers of these books have seen just about every episode ever, so...
In all then, Sanctuary takes quite a bit of patience to get through but it’s ultimately worth it. If you enjoy the historicals of the William Hartnell era, then this story is in that mould. The plot is simply survive and escape, and try not to muck up history. The only real difference between then and now is that stories like The Massacre (which this novel has much in common with) were suitable for all, whereas Sanctuary would most definitely get an 18 certificate!
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.
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