I’m trying to change my future… It’s a physical impossibility and in absolute contravention to the First, Second and Every Law of Time.
One of the most interesting concepts that Doctor Who has thrown out across 50 years is, I think, the Valeyard. A dark mirror of the Doctor, with all his capacity for cruelty and violence, all of his intelligence and his abilities, but without his moral code or his values. It’s pretty compelling stuff.
Admittedly though, the show did drop the ball a little bit with the Valeyard, in part due to some unfortunate behind the scenes consequences, and also because of Colin Baker being wrongly removed from the role. What that means, essentially, is that a lot of the potential of the Valeyard wasn’t really examined. (Personally, I’m hoping that he’ll return to the show again with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. It’s not all that unlikely, I don’t think; the Dream Lord from a few years ago was the Valeyard in all but name, after all.)
Because, however, a lot of the potential of the Valeyard wasn’t used in the show, he turns up a lot in the Expanded Universe… which brings me, finally, to the subject of this review.
Steve Lyons’ Missing Adventure novel, Time of Your Life, is set immediately after Trial of a Time Lord finishes. The Sixth Doctor has dropped off Mel, and has had his mind wiped. He doesn’t remember most of his trial, only bits and pieces – but he’s desperate to change the future. The spectre of the Valeyard is hanging over him; he’s exiled himself to the planet Torrok, living as a hermit, and refuses to take on companions, avoiding any red headed computer programmers he comes across.
But then, of course, the Time Lords have a mission for him. And a young girl, Angela, wants to travel with him…
The most interesting thing about this novel is reading about the Doctor struggling with his future. It’s always really compelling stuff, seeing him weigh up the consequences of his actions, wondering if the means (saving these lives in a violent fashion) justify the potential ends (becoming the Valeyard and doing untold damage), and his guilt over what happened to Peri (because of the mind wipe, he doesn’t know) as well as his fears about what may have happened to Angela when they’re separated. It’s one of the best portrayals of the Sixth Doctor I’ve read in a long time; not necessarily because this characterises him as he is typically, rather that it shows exactly how he would behave in one of the most trying periods of his life. One of my favourite scenes comes at the novel’s denouement, and it’s related to how the Doctor defeats the villain… I won’t say how, other than that it’s very, very fitting.
The rest of the novel has quite a few shades of Bad Wolf to it actually. Torrok is a planet which has gone to waste because it’s populace are addicted to bad soap operas – that’s where the Doctor lives as a hermit. The Time Lords then want him to investigate the broadcasting planet (it’s the usual thing; technology they shouldn’t have) and so along he goes (not without some complaining though).
The broadcasting planet, the Network, is a hell of a lot of fun. All the different characters are really well written, and you get a real sense of them and their existence. There’s Zed Martinelli, talk show host; Ray Day, soap opera star; Miriam Walker, campaigner against corruptive Television shows, and the fans of TimeRiders, a science fiction show unfairly cancelled, which suggests the Network bears a grudge against it. (Interestingly, there is no disclaimer suggesting that any similarities between the characters and real life people are entirely accidental. Odd that)
All in all, this is an absolutely excellent book. More than that, I’d say it’s an essential book; it’s a key part of the Doctor’s life, and it explores the consequences of his trial extremely well.