The nation seemed to stand still during the special broadcasts, as the Recovery 7 craft was sent into space to link up with Mars Probe 7. City streets were virtually empty and cinemas complained of a massive drop in attendances. They blamed the Mars Probe crisis - why should people go to the cinema to see simulated drama when the real thing was being beamed directly into their homes 24 hours a day? The event turned presenter John Wakefield into a television star overnight as his intelligent and thoughtful commentary gave simple explanations to the complex manoeuvrings going on behind the scenes.When I first read this in 2007, I wrote:
An unusual spinoff novel this: investigative journalist James Stevens (fictional, though listed on the cover as a co-author) decides to write up The Truth about UNIT and the mysterious set of individuals going by the code name of "The Doctor". He ends up playing a very "Rosencrantz and Guidenstern are dead" role, as the man on the far end of the Brigadier's yelling at journalists in seasons 7 and 8; and Bishop explores what the TV adventures would have looked like from the outside point of view - how the authorities would have covered it all up. Dodo comes into the picture because the very first Doctor Who story set in the "present day", The War Machines, sees her brainwashed and written out of the series by being sent to the countryside to recuperate. Who Killed Kennedy? picks up her tragic story from several years later. Bishop describes her as "a late addition to the cast of the [book] and was originally only going to appear in [one] chapter, passing on information to Stevens. But once she appeared on the page Dodo wanted to stick around. It's a strange experience when a character takes charge of their own destiny while you're writing and Dodo was the first time this had happened to me." Certainly the relationship between Dodo and the narrator is a core element of the story, in a way that (as the author admits in his on-line notes) the actual assassination of JFK, which is after all the title, is not. Some would probably accuse this novel of too much "fanwank", ie obsessive references to continuity with the TV series, but I think that would be unfair; Bishop is actually doing something very different here, telling familiar stories from a different angle, and I think it largely works.I would add that although the actual Kennedy assassination itself is rather detached from the plot, Bishop successfully applies the same narrator-as-observer approach to it as he did to the 1970s in Doctor Who canon.
His commentary and notes for the online publication of the book seemed to me more engaging than any others I have read. I wonder if this is because Bishop, a native Kiwi, was writing for the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club, rather than for the BBC; so it's a letter home about the book that he wrote, rather than an extra element in the official website for the programme.
Bishop has now rewritten the last chapter (still available on the New Zealand Doctor Who fan Club website) to give the book a different (and happier) ending, bringing in the Twelfth Doctor to enable the dénouement. I agree with him that it works better now.