‘Empire of Death’ (Book)

Empire of Death


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Nyssa’s Journey and Queen Victoria

This is one of the best and loveliest Nyssa stories I’ve ever read!

‘Empire of Death’ is a BBC Past Doctor Adventure novel by David Bishop, featuring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa. I purchased this book as part of my sale on Amazon over Christmas 2011. I’ve read it during the spring of 2015 and enjoyed indulging into another adventure with the Doctor and Nyssa.

Set between ‘Time-Flight’ and ‘Arc of Infinity’, this story takes place before the Big Finish audios with the Doctor and Nyssa. This is the only ‘Doctor Who’ book that features my favourite duo as I’ve been so familiar with them in the audios. It’s well-written by David Bishop as he develops the characters.

I’ve had my copy of ‘Empire of Death’ signed by the lovely Sarah Sutton at the ‘York Unleashed’ event at the York Racecourse, York, August 2017. Sarah was amazed when I showed her this ‘Doctor Who’ book and told her it’s a story where Nyssa meets Queen Victoria, as this appeals to her tastes.

The book is divided into eight lengthy chapters with a prologue at the start of the story. The prologue begins in 1856 with a young boy named James Lees before the story moves on to ten years later in 1863 with the Doctor and Nyssa meeting Queen Victoria and discovering a strange mystery.

The Doctor and Nyssa encounter a ghost of their dead friend Adric in the TARDIS. They arrive on Earth in 1863 where they meet Queen Victoria. She takes part in a séance to reunite with her dead husband Prince Albert. The mystery ends up in a Scottish village where the revelation is very sinister.

I’m very pleased with how David Bishop has enhanced the characters of the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa in this story. He writes well for them and enhances the story with the historical setting as well as an intriguing plot for the Doctor and Nyssa to discover the afterlife and find out whether it’s real or not.

The whole afterlife aspect of the story is very intriguing. It puts questions to the reader about whether there is a life after death or not. Speaking personally, I believe there’s a life after death. It certainly felt real when the Doctor; Nyssa and other characters were meeting their dead loved ones.

This book has a creepy and ghostly feel to it. Having the story set in Victorian times with men, including the Doctor, in diving suits as they go underwater (according to the book cover) is very dramatic. I’m surprised this wasn’t chosen for ‘The History Collection’ of ‘Doctor Who’ books in 2015.

The story also focuses on the Doctor and Nyssa who are coming to terms with their recent losses. They grieve over the loss of Adric who got killed aboard the space freighter in ‘Earthshock’. They also deal with the departure of Tegan who was recently left behind at Heathrow Airport in ‘Time-Flight’.

Nyssa is my ‘Doctor Who’ favourite companion. I liked the journey that Nyssa goes on in this story and am very pleased with what David Bishop does with Nyssa. Her anxiety is touched on as she grieves the loss of her father and home-world of Traken that happened during the ‘New Beginnings’ trilogy.

Nyssa writes a journal based on her observations and analysis in the story. Many sections are written from her perspective when she writes her journal. It makes it feel like a Companion Chronicle in the book and I could hear Sarah Sutton’s lovely voice when I read entries of Nyssa’s journal in the story.

Nyssa reflects on her loneliness in the TARDIS when she goes through her journey. She’s coming to terms with loss of Adric and Tegan as well as the loss of her father and home planet of Traken. I enjoyed reading it when Nyssa writes her journal entries as they’re true to her character in the story.

There’s a scene I liked where the Doctor challenges Nyssa on not expressing her remorse over the deaths of her family and friends. He diagnoses her with post-traumatic stress disorder and admits to have read her journal entries, knowing of her loneliness. This angers Nyssa when she confronts him.

The Doctor forces Nyssa to let her emotions out which is a very unusual and a quite cruel thing for him to do. Nyssa gets angry and beats the Doctor with her fists before she breaks down and bursts into tears. It’s a very touching; moving scene, especially when the Doctor embraces Nyssa in a hug.

I liked it when the Doctor and Nyssa are on the journey up to Scotland and they discuss about whether there is an afterlife or not. It’s a fascinating discussion and it adds new light to their characters which I enjoyed reading. Nyssa hugs the Doctor at one point which I found very sweet.

I liked the scenes where Nyssa is in the afterlife world and she reunites her father Tremas on Traken and meets her mother Lucina. It transpires her mother died during childbirth giving Nyssa life, as her physic abilities killed her mother. This adds more depth to Nyssa’s family background in the story.

I also liked it when Nyssa interacts with the supporting characters like James, the young boy who can speak with voices of the dead. I also liked Nyssa interacting with Mary the servant at Windsor Castle, and her reaction to Victorian attitudes such as bathing; clothing and interacting with the male sex.

Queen Victoria makes an appearance in the story. ‘Empire of Death’ takes place before the Tenth Doctor meets Queen Victoria in ‘Tooth and Claw’ in 1879. I liked how the Queen’s grief is touched upon over the loss of her husband Prince Albert and how she deals with it during the events of this story.

The Queen meets the Doctor and Nyssa here and she makes the Doctor her scientific advisor as he investigates this ‘strange phenomena’ of contacting the dead in the afterlife. This is quite a different interpretation of Queen Victoria compared to the recent version in the TV series of ‘Doctor Who’.

I liked the supporting characters in ‘Empire of Death’ as they’re strong and really well-developed in the story. The characters that come to my mind include James Lee; General Doulton and Sergeant Vollmer. They all have interesting character twists since things aren’t quite what they seem in this.

I liked the last scene between the Doctor and Nyssa in the TARDIS, as they reflect on their experiences in the afterlife world. The Doctor checks on how Nyssa feels and she assures him that she’s alright. She’s convinced by his previous diagnosis on her, but wants to have a hug from him which is sweet.

Just to point out, this story features Nyssa and the Fifth Doctor riding a steam locomotive. I admit I didn’t ‘Empire of Death’ before I wrote my fan-fiction story ‘The Railway of Time’. I read the book in 2015 after I wrote ‘The Railway of Time’ in 2010. It was interesting to discover when I read the book.

I still place ‘The Railway of Time’ after ‘Empire of Death’ though, since I feel Nyssa has progressed beyond her early stages of travelling with the Doctor. There could be a reason for why Nyssa forgot she was on a train in ‘Empire of Death’ in ‘The Railway of Time’, but that’s a story for another time. 🙂

At the end of the book, there are some historical notes by David Bishop on places and characters featured in the story. There is also an acknowledgements page by the writer and blurbs/synopsises for upcoming ‘Doctor Who’ books including the ‘Scream of the Shalka’ novelization and two Eighth Doctor stories.

I would love it if ‘Empire of Death’ was adapted into a Big Finish audio drama. I’m sure it’s a story that Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton would enjoy doing. I wonder who they would cast for Tremas in the story. Would they get Pauline Collins to play Queen Victoria in this story from the TV series?

I also would love it if they made a BBC audiobook of ‘Empire of Death’ and to have Sarah Sutton as the reader. It would work well with Nyssa’s character involved especially with her journal entries should Sarah be the reader. Sarah also has a lovely, clear voice from doing the Big Finish audios.


‘Empire of Death’ has been a fantastic ‘Doctor Who’ book to read. I’m very pleased with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa’s character development and David Bishop writes a gripping plot. Reading the book has made me imagine hearing Peter and Sarah’s voices as the Doctor and Nyssa in the story.

‘Empire of Death’ rating – 10/10

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