THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE TV
DAVID A. McINTEE
OFFICIAL BBC 'PAST
RELEASED IN MAY 2004.
WHEN The TARDIS crew
arrive in 1865 China,
they find rebellion,
BANDITRY and foreign
oppression. Trying to
maintain order are
THE BRITISH EMPIRE
AND THE Ten Tigers
of Canton, the most
arts masters in the
ancient vengeance be
coming true? Why
does everyone Ian
meets already know
who he is? The Doctor
has his suspicions,
but he is occupied by
challenges of his
own. Soon, the COAL
HILL SCHOOL teachers
must learn that the
greatest danger is
not from the enemy,
but from the heart.
love can OFTEN be a
an illusion, and ten
Tigers not enough.
The Eleventh Tiger
The Eleventh Tiger is ostensibly a good old-fashioned William Hartnell histor-
ical, though the reader doesn’t have to make much of an indent on the page count before it becomes apparent that there have been a lot of atypical bells and whistles thrown in to the mix here too. David A McIntee’s twelfth (count ’em) Doctor Who novel may be a historical adventure in principal, but it’s also a ghost story with a science-fiction twist, not to mention
a conundrum. It’s even something of a romance.
As The Eleventh Tiger is set in 19th century China, a place and time that I know very little about, before reading the book I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t be my sort of thing. Having read McIntee’s previous novels The Shadow of Weng-Chiang and Bullet Time,
I’m well-acquainted with the author’s fascination with the orient, but unfortunately I can’t say that his enthusiasm passed to me through reading his works. If anything, I found both of the aforementioned titles hard going, particularly given that I had to keep track of numerous, similar characters with authentic oriental names.
However, I’m pleased to say that The Eleventh Tiger is in a different class to its predecess-ors. For starters, McIntee’s native characters are each as distinct as their western and extra-terrestrial counterparts; Fei-Hung especially so. Furthermore, McIntee distils what feels like the essence of 19th century China and insidiously weaves it into the fabric of his story. The reader is never bombarded with protracted passages of descriptive prose; he doesn’t need to be. The flavour is there already, in the characters and in the air.
Just as importantly though, this novel has one hell of a narrative. Quin Shi Huangdi’s bid for immortality is hardly anything new or inspiring, but the means by which he seeks to achieve his goal – through a ‘Stone Tape’ which is capable of recording a consciousness – is abs-olutely riveting stuff. All the supernatural accoutrements are nicely executed too, particularly the possessed monks.
“What Ian said next, he would have been sacked for
saying in front of his class at Coal Hill School”.
Of more interest to me though was the subplot concerning Ian Chesterton and his apparent future self, Major Chesterton. The intrigue surrounding the two Chestertons is handled super-latively by the author; so many fascinating questions are raised as the tension progressively builds up until the mystery is finally paid off in one outrageously rewarding (and really quite Douglas Adamsy) scene towards the end of the novel.
McIntee’s portrayal of the lonely, amnesiac Major also ties in beautifully with the Ian and Barbara love story, which I feel has been exceptionally well fleshed-out in this book. I’m
sure that most readers wouldn’t object to the notion that the pair have always been in love
(as the same was evident from the actors’ performances on television), and even the idea they would marry some time after The Chase is more or less taken as canon these days, given McIntee’s Face of the Enemy novel and subsequent releases. Bringing sex into the equation makes it a thornier issue of course (I thought that the pair of them seemed unduly happy at the start of The Romans…), as does their evident candour about their mutual affection, but it also makes their nigh-on two year stint in the TARDIS much more credible.
“Those kids are as fast as lightening...”
That’s certainly not to say that The Eleventh Tiger is emotionally overindulgent or lacking in action though. The Doctor in particular is given an unusually dynamic role, at one point even taking on Ian’s mantle as “the man of the outfit”. The Doctor’s duel with Jiang is my favourite part of the book by far - reading about the serene and apparently fragile first Doctor besting a hardened warrior in combat is truly delightful, and what’s more the execution is sublime. The real beauty of it is that William Hartnell could quite easily have performed the skit in a 1965 television studio. There is no implausible ‘CG Yoda’ moment; it’s just an honest case of brains over brawn.
Ultimately, my only gripe with this
novel is its poor handling of Vicki,
who reads like a poor man’s Zoe;
all tech support and exposition. It’s
understandable I suppose, given the
word limit imposed, but disappointing
all the same. The little madam isn’t having the best run in print, is she?
On the whole then, The Eleventh Tiger of Canton is McIntee’s finest effort since Face of the Enemy. A thoroughly absorbing and at times even mesmerising tale, this is one first Doctor adventure that I must vigorously recommend.
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 offers no clues as to its placement, however the dialogue makes it explicit that the TARDIS crew have arrived in China straight from Rome, suggesting a placement in the tight gap between the television serials The Romans and The Web Planet.
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