THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVEL "DYING IN THE
SUN" AND THE TV STORY
OFFICIAL TELOS DELUXE
HARDBACK (ISBN 1-903
889-15-4) RELEASED IN
San Francisco 1967.
A place of love and
peace as the hippIE
movement is in full
swing and everyone is
looking forward to
the ultimate festival:
the human be-in.
Summer, however, has
lost her boyfriend TO
a drug nicknamed Blue
Moonbeam, AND Her
only friends are SOME
English tourists: Ben
and Polly, and their
The seventh of the Telos novellas, Mark Chadbourn’s Wonderland, isn’t what I’d expected it to be. The prospect of a second Doctor adventure set during the swinging sixties suggested a bright maelstrom of colour and sound, but what Wonderland actually delivers is something much more hard-headed and thought-provoking.
“There was this other box of inner space, larger on the inside than it seemed on the outside, and the door to this alternative TARDIS was opened by a chemical key…”
- Graham Joyce
Narrated many years after the event by Summer, a hippie crushed not only by the inevitable rise of “fascist pigs and bread-heads” but also by her own much more personal misfortune, Chadbourn’s tale skilfully conveys both sides of 1960s counter-culture. Groups of stoned people dance naked under the stars in a veritable hippie’s paradise, whilst at the same time long-term users and pushers leach off the movement for their own reprehensible ends. Indeed, Haight-Ashbury of 1967 is horrifyingly real.
At its best, Wonderland put me in mind of Andrew Cartmel’s three War novels for the Virgin range. Certain scenes, such as where Summer confronts the Goblin in his room, are almost impenetrably bleak, and even when Chadbourn is looking to convey something ‘positive’, he does so very matter-of-factly, ensuring that the novella never loses its gritty edge.
Regrettably though, Chadbourn’s handling of the regulars is poor
– it’s almost as if they’re an afterthought, bludgeoned in rather than
fashioned around. Ben and Polly acquit themselves reasonably well when they feature, but they feature very little, and the Doctor’s appearances are even sparser still. Now I can see what the author
was trying to do here - looking to play upon than dark thread that
we occasionally glimpsed running through Patrick Troughton’s
Doctor by casting him in a remote, seventh Doctor-type role – but
it just doesn’t work on the page, particularly when followed by a
peculiar metafictional coda featuring a badly-drawn fourth Doctor.
And so whilst Wonderland is without question an intriguing and insightful story, it is most probably a step too far outside the box for most fans’ tastes. Had Chadbourn been better able to integrate the regulars into his vividly-realised world, then Wonderland would have been a really good little Doctor Who novella. As it is, it’s just a really good little novella.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Neither this novella’s blurb nor its text offer any firm clues as to its placement. Given the companions used and how they are portrayed, we suspect that this story is set somewhere between the television serials The Power of the Daleks and The Highlanders. Within this gap, we have placed it after the novel Dying in the Sun, which was released earlier.
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