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 The Doctor has

 always been wary of

 meddling with

 established history.

 But what happens

 when the history

 books lie?


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 The Wages of Sin







“The Wages of Sin” by David A McIntee is a delightful incongruity, the reasons for which are very succinctly summed up by the moody Black Sheep cover illustration – Liz Shaw and Jo Grant together; the third Doctor back in time.


And not only is the third Doctor back in time, but he is - for what I believe is the first time – engaged in a full-length historical adventure. Even in the face of the Tunguska red herring there are no aliens to be found here, nor are there any monsters or time loops or any other apposite accoutrements. The net result of this would have been marvellously refreshing in any event, but seen as it is through Liz’s TARDIS-virgin eyes, this story feels even more invigorating still. And McIntee wastes no words with pleasantries here – the reader is thrown headlong into the Russia of 1916, where the expanded TARDIS crew have already been for some time.



“The Wages of Sin” pivots on the strength of its characters, and as such it is fortunate that McIntee gets it right where it really matters. His third Doctor is well-drawn, though perhaps a little underutilised, and Liz and Jo are both portrayed terrifically. I love how these two women bring out the very worst in each other; Jo causing the condescending, priggish snob in Liz to rise to the surface, and Liz’s belittling manner forcing Jo to behave even more defiantly and foolishly than usual. This clash is demonstrated best of all through their respective relationships with this novel’s key player, the ‘mad monk’ Rasputin.


Just how close McIntee got to capturing the real strannik we will never know, but it has to be said that the Rasputin on the page is really something. He is not just a three dimensional character, but dimensionally transcendental! He is fiercely intelligent; obsessed with women, drink, and, funnily enough, God; and best of all outrageously confident (almost to the point of being hypnotic). He is also virtually indestructible; the onslaught that he survives at the end of this book prior to ultimately expiring truly beggars belief. So much so, in fact, that I was expecting the debauched religious charlatan to reveal himself to be an alien, or to regenerate, or some such like!


Of course, the drawback of this type of story is that nothing really happens beyond the ‘old survive and escape, and try not to muck up history’ axiom, but to give credit where it is due, “The Wages of Sin” is not all political intrigue and character moments. The Doctor’s James Bond-esque sequence on the train, for instance, really injects this one with the vigour that it needs for the reader to be able to go the distance.


More than anything else though, reading this book put me very much in mind of one of McIntee’s earliest novels, “Sanctuary”. It is a historical tale through and through, but with no punches pulled. Indeed, “The Wages of Sin” is not tapered for the children watching on a Saturday tea time; on the contrary, it has the volume turned right up. And when it comes to telling the story of Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, that is surely the way that it had to be.


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.



According to this novel’s blurb, this story takes place between the television stories The Three Doctors and Carnival of Monsters. Within this gap we have placed it ahead of the audio book The Mists of Time, which was released later.


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