With its combination of the early days of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in his post Web Of Ear but pre-UNIT days with sci-fi thriller plots that revisit elements from the Doctor Who canon, the Lethbridge-Stewart series of novels seems to be off to a strong start. Continuing in very much that vein is this third entry in the series, Beast Of Fang Rock, written by series editor Andy Frankham-Allen from a story by Terrance Dicks. It's a tale that mixes one of the most highly regarded stories of Classic Who with a plot straight out of the New Series with smashing results.
Much of the novel's success comes to its mixing of elements from across not just televised Doctor Who but its spin-off media as well. As the title may suggest, the story uses elements from the 1977 story Horror Of Fang Rock, namely the lighthouse at the titular location that served as the setting of that story. More than seventy years after the events of that story, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart gets drawn into events, as does Anne Travers who know works at the Vault (introduced by Gary Russell in the Virgin Missing Adventure novel Scales Of Injustice) who has come across a century and a half year old later than leads her to the newly renovated lighthouse. Tying in elements from Dicks' original story, elements introduced in Wilderness Era novels as well as characters introduced in earlier novels of the series of the series sets up a plot that ties together large parts of the show's history.
Where the New Series influence kicks in is the plot. Andy Frankham-Allen has crafted a story of time travel, alien invasion and paradoxes that could give Steven Moffat a run for his money while also successfully telling a coherent story. Without the presence of the Doctor (or should I say the Cosmic Hobo?) and his TARDIS, the novel nevertheless finds a way of tying the pre-UNIT Lethbridge-Stewart with not just the events of Horror Of Fang Rock but also the back story of the lighthouse mentioned in that TV story. Even better, it does so without creating large plot holes or confusion at the novel's end about what has happened and why. It's a triumph of plotting and my hat is off to Frankham-Allen for his accomplishment.
Of course, there's more to the novel than that. There's the character for one thing though, if I have any major niggle with the novel, it is the fact that Lethbridge-Stewart ends up being relegated somewhat though he is the major character who anchors the 1969 portion of the novel's plot. Instead the star of this particular work is Anne Travers, the proto-Liz Shaw character from Web Of Fear. It's Anne who sets much of the plot in motion including the time travel elements and once that happens we're introduced to her ancestors who are on Fang Rock in 1823. Elsewhere, Frankham-Allen's prose is well suited to the tale with a slight a breezy style that evokes Dicks best Target and Virgin prose while also dealing with the complexities of the plot.
Beast Of Fang Rock then is a success. It ties together elements from across Doctor Who's large canon together in a story that never feels superfluous in its references but instead creates an engaging tale of time travel and alien invasion. Like earlier novels in the Lethbridge-Stewart series, it both harkens back to the Who novels of old while also being more grown-up at the same time, as a result of that mixing of elements. It also leaves the reader eager for more and builds up to the finale of this first run of novels in the series Mutually Assured Destruction and the return of another of the Doctor's old foes...
(Thanks to Candy Jar Books for supplying an advance copy of the novel in return for an honest review.)
I just completed this moments ago. Returning to Fang Rock was magical. Horror of Fang Rock is one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes. Beast of Fang Rock is a spell binding story. It was hard to put down. I found myself staying up late, and seeking every available moment to continue reading. Mr. Frankham-Allen did a wonderful job continuing the tale at the lighthouse.