August 25th, 2019


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Doctor Who: Scratchman, by Tom Baker [with James Goss]

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Harry backed away from them, diving into the shadows. He could hear rats scrabbling frantically overhead. He heard a distant scream, carried on the winds from the farmhouse.
At long last, a project discussed between Tom Baker and Ian Marter in the mid-1970s sees the light of day, with a lot of heavy lifting from James Goss (who as my regular reader knows is my favourite of the current Who writers). Unusually, it is told by the Fourth Doctor in the first person. Goss has done this successfully a couple of tines before - with the Tenth Doctor in Dead Air and Rhys from Torchwood in Ghost Train. It's been done less successfully for the Fourth Doctor by other writers, notably Keith Topping, the venerable Terrance Dicks, and to an extent Jim Mortimore. The collaboration between Baker and Goss has worked well here, with the authentic voice of Baker's Doctor coming through strongly.

The book itself has two very different halves. The first is a bleak and effective horror story with killer scarecrows on a Scottish island, some excellent taut writing and grim visuals. In the second half, the Tardis crew are brought to the realm of Scratchman (ie the Devil) for a succession of surreal adventures which don't really work quite as well, but are none the less entertaining to read. It's a fascinating exercise in reviving a 1970s dream, and although it is not perfect it works well enough, with some nice nods to more recent Who and to the Sarah Jane Adventures. You can get it here.