Doctor Who: The Visitation by Eric Saward

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Doctor Who: The Visitation by Eric Saward

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: This story was one of the reasons I really liked Peter Davison's Doctor. All I can say now is, 'what was I thinking?!'
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 160 Date: April 2016
Publisher: BBC Books
ISBN: 9781785940392

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Have you ever given your children a time machine? No? Are you sure? What about that thing in the corner upstairs called a dressing-up box – have they never been transported bodily to the 1970s by some orange cords and wide-collared shirts or whatnot? Have they never been in a museum and put on a mediaeval smock and told they're now in the middle ages? Well, adults can get involved in that, too, of course – the cast of this Doctor Who adventure had to put on 17th-Century garb, and that was pretty much it as far as looks go. Yes, there is an evil-seeming alien, yes there are some control bands he makes us poor humans wear, and yes there is a giant android dressed as Death, but on the whole, it was one of the more simple episodes. Still, who's to say the novel isn't much more substantial, rich and varied?

Well me, and everyone else who's read it. Yes, this novel version is the baby of the initial screenplay author, who would go on to be much-loved in some corners of Who fandom – he did reach the status of script editor, for one. But this is a straight replication of the series, and it's really not that exciting. The plot is just a series of contrivances to keep the Doctor and his companions, and a new one-off semi-heroic bounder, apart, only to reunite then split up into different configurations. The alien is doing nothing aliens haven't done countless times before, even if they do it in a slightly different way. Certainly, on the page there is little greatness to be had from the controlled yokels, however creepy they may have appeared on the screen.

What is most creepy is the way every beat comes from a hammy, Hammer-styled sci-fi/horror film that's come before – the heralded lights in the sky that turn out to be bad news might as well be Triffids landing, the robotised dummies the humans become remind you of the Body Snatchers, and so on. In fact, scratch that. What is most creepy about this whole shebang is the fact that I loved this story and book when I was a youngster – I must have liked it enough on TV (alongside many millions of others) as I do remember asking for, and getting (and keeping to this day), the original published version with the on-set photo on the front cover (clearly, Peter Davison's agent had seen the awful artwork on the front here). BBC Books have decided to give us one of these novelisations fresh from the vaults for all of the first seven Doctors, and the fact they look superb together on a shelf has to be noted. The go-to-guy Justin Richards gives us some small notes for each book, as well. But as a grown-up, I have to frown at my younger self. Even the most memorable thing, the final line of the whole piece, strikes me as misguided and childish now.

Clearly this has some scope for appealing to the young Who fan, but I really don't think it's matured well. My memories are reduced to mediaeval rags.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The young fan can certainly catch up with a lot of the series' aliens with the help of Doctor Who: The Dangerous Book of Monsters by Justin Richards and Dan Green. You might also enjoy Doctor Who: Vengeance on Varos by Philip Martin.

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Buy Doctor Who: The Visitation by Eric Saward at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Doctor Who: The Visitation by Eric Saward at


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