‘FEAR OF THE DARK’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
A Dark Adventure with the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan
This is one scary; creepy and ‘dark’ story!
‘Fear of the Dark’ is a thrilling BBC Past Doctor Adventure with the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan. This book by Trevor Baxendale was originally published in 2003. It has now been reprinted for the 50th anniversary collection of ‘Doctor Who’ books in 2013 and also to represent the Fifth Doctor era.
This story in book form takes place between the TV stories ‘Arc of Infinity’ and ‘Snakedance’. It also takes place (I feel) after ‘The Lost Stories’ trilogy by Big Finish with the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan. The trilogy includes ‘The Elite’; ‘Hexagora’ and ‘The Children of Seth’ (I’ll talk more on this later).
The story is about the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan visiting a moon of the planet Akoshemon that has a dark history. They meet a team of archaeologists searching for a special kind of mineral. But their discoveries unearth something terrible as everyone, including the Doctor, is forced to face the Dark.
The reprint book contains a good introduction by Trevor Baxendale about the story and the supporting characters. The book is divided into 23 chapters with a prologue and an epilogue. The book is unusually structured as a three-part adventure instead of a four-part adventure which is odd.
I liked the prologue sequence that focuses on Nyssa waking up in bed in the TARDIS. Nyssa is my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ companion and I like how she gets the centre of attention in these early scenes of the story. In ‘Fear of the Dark’, Nyssa is troubled since a dark force or presence is with her.
Trevor Baxendale writes well for his supporting characters before he kills them off one by one. The themes of darkness and fear are strongly resonant here and the descriptive detail is very harrowing. I did wonder how the Doctor and his friends would survive as it is pretty bleak throughout this story.
The Fifth Doctor is well-written in this story. The Doctor faces his own fears and it is interesting how this Dark monster affects him and changes his personality. It makes him vulnerable and he doubts his self-confidence. It was disturbing to read and is a side never depicted in the Fifth Doctor before.
Tegan is well-established as a companion in this. I found Tegan isn’t the bossy, combative companion as she was in the previous stories. Here, Tegan is well-balanced and shows compassion to others, especially to Bunny Cheung. Tegan also gets to face her own fears when the Dark is coming after her.
Nyssa is reasonably well-written in this story. Although I sometimes felt her character is rather side-lined, since she’s used as a medium by the Dark for most of the story and is temporarily taken-over to unleash its horrors. But Nyssa is always a joy for me and I enjoyed reading her scenes in this book.
I’d like to outline a few inconsistencies with Nyssa, Tegan and the Doctor in connection to the Big Finish audios. This isn’t the fault of Trevor Baxendale, as the book was published before the audios. Mind you, it’s a surprise BBC Books didn’t update the reprint version to tie it into the Big Finish audios.
Firstly, Tegan remarks on peashooters and elephants at some point to Nyssa. Nyssa doesn’t seem to know about elephants when Tegan mentions them. Yet recently, Nyssa encountered a few elephants in the 2014 audio story, ‘Moonflesh’. I’ve also written a fan-fiction story called ‘Junglos 4198’ where Nyssa sees an elephant.
Secondly, Nyssa observes Tegan dancing with Jim Boyd and she wonders what it must be like to feel so close to someone. But Nyssa has been close to someone since she had a romance with Andrew in ‘Circular Time: Autumn’. I’m sure Nyssa has had many romances before Tegan re-joined the TARDIS.
This story indicates that this is Tegan’s first story directly after ‘Arc of Infinity’ since Chapter Two begins saying it is her first morning in the TARDIS. But from ‘The Elite’, this doesn’t seem to be the case. I would prefer to place this book sometime after ‘The Lost Stories’ trilogy with the Fifth Doctor.
Somewhere in ‘Fear of the Dark’, the Doctor is questioned about what his greatest fear is. But as already established in ‘Psychodrome’, the Doctor’s greatest fear is that of letting his companions down. But as Nyssa rightly pointed out from the audio adventure, ‘you can have more than one fear’.
The supporting characters are also superb and very intriguing to read in ‘Fear of the Dark’. There’s Jyl Stoker, Bunny Cheung, Vega Jaal, Ravus Oldeman, Captain Lawrence and Silas Cadwell. Every one of these characters goes through various and interesting journeys as well as experience their own deaths.
Jyl Stoker is the no-nonsense leader of a team of archaeologists who turn out to be miners on this moon of Akoshemon. Stoker is a tough and bitter woman, who enjoys smoking her cigars and doesn’t trust the Doctor when they first meet. She also tolerates Bunny Cheung’s moral stance in this.
Bunny Cheung is a big guy who has a big heart. Bunny is a reluctant member on this mission to Akoshemon’s moon. He wants to be reunited with his family after the Akoshemon moon mission since he wants to see his daughter Rosie again. I really liked Bunny’s scenes with Tegan in this story.
Vega Jaal is a Vegan who works for Stoker on her ‘archaeological’ mission to the moon of Akoshemon. Vega Jaal is a gloomy, alien mining expert and he can predict that death is coming for all of them. He has an interesting connection with Nyssa and is the first character to die during the tale.
Ravus Oldeman is an ancient scientist, who the Doctor and his friends find in a stasis tank that is buried deep within the moon of Akoshemon. Ravus is from a previous scientific research project. He keeps a very dark secret since he was involved in the creation of the deadly monstrous Bloodhunter.
Captain Lawrence is the commander of a Consortium starship called Adamantium. The Adamantium responds to a mayday call that was sent from the moon of Akoshemon by Bunny Cheung during the story. It transpires both Lawrence and Stoker once fell in love together. Can they rekindle their love?
Silas Cadwell is Lawrence’s second in command aboard the starship Adamantium. Cadwell seems to be a very efficient officer aboard Lawrence’s ship. But Cadwell has a secret mission of his own since Lawrence doesn’t know him well. Cadwell is intending to sort out the Dark by any means necessary.
There’s a monster in this story called the Bloodhunter. The Bloodhunter is a creature that can kill instantly and drain blood from people’s bodies for the Dark to devour and become a physical presence. The Bloodhunter was terrifying to read, especially when it killed a lot of characters in this.
The real monster is the darkness itself called the Dark. I did not expect this monster to be literally darkness itself. It makes this book very dark indeed and I was afraid for Nyssa, Tegan and the Doctor. The Dark spreads from beneath the moon of Akoshemon and it seem to be so impossible to defeat.
I would like Big Finish to adapt this novel into an audio drama someday. I wonder how Big Finish would adapt the book into a three-part adventure for audio. This is because the first two episodes are very chunky whereas the third episode isn’t so. How would they fill the gap of a fourth episode?
However, this book will probably get a BBC audiobook release someday with a ‘Doctor Who’ star reading it. I’d very much like either Peter Davison; Sarah Sutton or Janet Fielding to read this story for the audiobook. It would be so nice to read the book again with the audiobook in the background.
‘Fear of the Dark’ is one unnerving and creepy book to read. I don’t think the book develops Nyssa well as a character compared to the Doctor and Tegan; but it is a gripping read. Be warned about reading this book in a dark room as the Dark may come through. I hope my review hasn’t scared you! 😀
‘Fear of the Dark’ rating – 8/10
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