I finally got a chance to sit down and write a review of this book. It had taken me a bit longer than I’d expected to finish it (not the fault of the book at all; I’d had lots of things going on in between – mainly dealing with illness and being away on vacation), but I did want to share my thoughts on it.
I enjoyed it very much. I guess most people know that it originated from a screenplay written by Tom Baker and Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan) for a possible Doctor Who film back when they were both on Doctor Who. I did get that impression from it while reading and the portrayals of the three main characters (the Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry) were perfect, exactly as I’d expected them to be. Within the story are references to serials from Tom Baker’s first series as the Doctor, as well as a few from the second series, and it would seem to me that this takes place sometime after The Android Invasion, since events from that story are alluded to.
Just as a brief synopsis: The TARDIS lands on a remote island (somewhere off of Scotland, it would seem). The Doctor, Sarah, and Harry are ready for a picnic and some fun when they notice things seem a bit off. The area is quite desolate and it turns out people have been turned into scarecrows with the help of some nasty fertilizer (which coincidentally seems to be made up of ground up human bones). They encounter some rather shaken humans and try to protect/defend them as much as possible, but they sadly end up being turned into scarecrows and other similar beings who attack the remaining humans (including Sarah and Harry). The Doctor discovers a tear in the fabric of this universe and a portal leading to another dimension ruled by Scratchman. He must travel there to find his friends and save their own dimension. Interspersed throughout are scenes of the Doctor coming before the High Council of the Time Lords as a result of what’s happened in this story and discussing fear with them. He discusses his own fear(s) and ultimately gets them to admit their greatest fear: dying. It’s very well done.
Scratchman is basically the Devil (coming from the nickname “Ol’ Scratch”). The land he rules is literally like Hell. In fact, the cabbie who gives him a lift is named Charon (and is an amusing character who makes a few cracks about the Doctor’s previous incarnations). Scratchman has a rather crude castle floating in the sky. He’s dressed in a business suit and has a fiery globe for a head. He’s also got a large group of yes-men who look exactly like him. Scratchman is quite charming and has some interesting interaction with the Doctor. His portrayal kind of reminded me of Roger Delgado’s Master.
What I also found pretty neat was the inclusion of the Thirteenth Doctor. She meets the Fourth and in a way gives him some encouragement. I thought it was a nice touch. His three former incarnations also appear, in scarecrow form actually. They seemed to be there mostly for comic relief, but they were a bit instrumental to the plot as well, especially as far as Scratchman’s fate is concerned. Another interesting bit featured Sarah in the TARDIS attempting to evade the scarecrows that have gotten inside. There’s a room in the TARDIS called “The Jigsaw Room” which has a floor laid out as jigsaw pieces she must run across. Parts of the floor show different stages of her life and there are references to later events in her life, including some from The Sarah Jane Adventures. I thought this was nicely done as well.
Things do resolve themselves in the end. Sadly, the villagers who were turned/killed were unable to be saved, but the Doctor, Sarah and Harry are back together, and the Doctor has another small, poignant encounter with his 13th incarnation. The Doctor pens a small “Afterword”, with Sarah adding her own little bit at the end. Both bits were very amusing and totally in character. Tom Baker did a wonderful job (and he does give a nice, short acknowledgement to Ian Marter in the end as well). The book really held my interest. I can’t recommend it highly enough.