THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE TV
STORY "THE ICE
WARRIORS" AND THE
PAPERBACK (ISBN 0-
IN AUGUST 1998.
The history books
were clear: the once-
weakened by civil
war, was finally
brought to its knees
by a catastrophic
explosion. But, then
again, history books
Dreams of Empire
It is perhaps fair to say that Dreams of Empire is a ‘love it or hate it’ kind of
novel. Whilst its advocates may wax lyrical about author Justin Richards’ marvellous characterisation, meandering plot, and subtle subtext; its detractors fervently attack the gaudy characterisation, sledgehammer-obvious plot twists, and dumbed-down chess metaphors. Having now read the book, I find myself leaning towards agreeing with the latter group, albeit with one or two caveats.
The first is that I did not find Richards’ depiction of this particular TARDIS crew embroidered in any way. His second Doctor in particular is instantly recognisable; granted, amidst these page he is oft to be found running aimlessly from pillar to post spouting “Oh my giddy Aunt!” or any number of other Patrick Troughton aphorisms, but is that not what Troughton’s Doctor did? It is one thing to say that no-one can successfully capture the second Doctor in print,
but quite another to lambaste a largely faithful depiction that does not happen to fit with how one might have romanticised Troughton’s portrayal since the event.
Jamie and Victoria, similarly, are captured accurately on the page by Richards, though whether this is for better or for worse really depends on the individual reader’s opinion of
the characters. In my view, Jamie is one of the most memorable and distinctive of all the Doctor’s companions, and so here - as ever - it is a delight to read about him heroically stumbling through an adventure. Victoria, conversely, I had very little time for on television, and so the same applies to Richards’ depiction of her character. Fair dues, he could have tried to take her somewhere new and do something interesting with her, but when you are working within a tight net and have to put all the toys back in the box afterwards, you are limited as to what you can accomplish. As it turned out, the best Richards could do was to focus on some of Victoria’s concerns about the sort of life that she has suddenly found herself leading, foreshadowing the events of Fury From The Deep rather aptly.
Plot-wise, however, I have to say that Dreams of Empire really disappoints. Whilst a
robotic army of VETACs trying to free the deposed Emperor of the Haddron Empire from
his internment had something in the way of potential, ultimately I found that the supporting cast of characters were just not compelling enough to really draw me into Richards’ deftly-crafted web of political intrigue. Of them all, only the burned mask-wearing Hans Kesar
stood out for me, and that was only because of his patent similarly to a certain Dark Lord of the Sith that I could mention (and, if I were to be kind, because of one beautifully-written mirror scene). This is probably one of the main reasons why views of this book have been
so discordant - it’s not that Dreams of Empire is a poor novel by any means, it’s just that unless the reader is able to engage with the vast array of supporting characters right away, then Richards’ plot is going to wash completely over them.
Moreover, the chess theme is perhaps a little too obvious for most adult reader’s tastes, particularly when compared to a story like The Curse of Fenric which handles the imagery much more thoughtfully.
And so in all, I do not think that Dreams of Empire is quite as bad as some would have you believe, but on the other hand it is also far from being the diamond-studded gem that Richards’ eager acolytes claim that it is. A prolific author Richards may be, but Dreams of Empire is the perfect example of why this is not necessarily a good thing.
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 Ice Warriors and The Enemy of the World. Within this gap, we have placed it prior to the novel Combat Rock, which was released later.
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