Saturday 9 June 2012

World Game, by Terrance Dicks (BBC Novel)

In some ways World Game is a Terrance Dicks' greatest hits. We have his trademark simple prose, references to his televised stories, notably including the appearance of a vampire and a Raston Warrior Robot, interaction with historical figures, skullduggery on Gallifrey and that famous line about the Mind-Probe. If you are a long-standing Doctor Who fan, you are pwobably familiar with all these tropes and love them too. We also get Terrance Dicks' worst literary tendency, with a female companion being threatened with rape.

Yet World Game also does something very interesting. This is the only novel set in Season 6B, that hypothetical period between The War Games and Spearhead from Space. This makes for something quite interesting and different. It also gets the Second Doctor away from Jamie, allowing us to see a different side to him. I am a believer in Season 6B. I think this makes the most sense out of anomalies in The Five Doctors and The Two Doctors. It also allows us a time period in which the events of the Second Doctor TV Comic strips can be squeezed.

Dicks' prose is as simple as ever, but it reads very easily and makes for a light and entertaining read. Yet at the same time, there is a massive amount of historical information squeezed in. Anybody reading this novel is going to learn a lot about the Napoleonic Wars. Dicks has always taken the educational aspect of Doctor Who seriously in his novels. I remember when I was eleven years old, how Timewyrm Exodus inspired me to read lots of books about the Third Reich.

I don't think Dicks quite succeeds in capturing the Second Doctor. As with other Doctors, he tends to make him seem a little too much like the Third Doctor. His companion, Lady Serena was very likeable, even if she was an awful lot like Romana I. I think it was rather a shame that she was killed off.

World Game lacks the drama and intensity of Timewyrm Exodus, but it is still one of Terrance Dicks' best novels and is very enjoyable. The cover with Troughton dressed up as Napoleon is delightful too.


  1. I'm a season 6B believer too & I love the TV Comic strips from the Sixties & Seventies as well.

  2. Personally I dislike the "Season 6B" concept. The basic reason is that when Dicks and Hulke wrote The War Games it was as the last Second Doctor story. When Dicks wrote The Five Doctors and Holmes wrote The Two Doctors it was NOT to include a "Season 6B" character. Certainly, there is no chance that Patrick Troughton ever believed himself to be playing a "Season 6B" Second Doctor. Years after Holmes and Troughton were both dead and Doctor Who was off the air....a group of so-called "fans" created this idea out of whole cloth. Actually, that's not strictly true. It was put together by a mix of half-truths, ignorance, distortions, and pure fabrications. It grew like a disease, mainly amongst self-appointed "smart" fans.

    However, here's the big thing. Read World Game. It's clear that Terrance Dicks is...having a laugh. This book is an expert satire of Season 6B. And, like the very best of satire, many people fail to realise it is satire.

    1. What I like about the Season 6B concept is that it allows for the Doctor to have had an whole load of adventures which we haven't seen.

      It was not created by continuity fascists- the idea originates in the TV Comic, which was had very little concern for continuity.

      There is no doubt that Season 6B was far from Robert Holmes' mind when he wrote Two Doctors. Yet the picture he paints of the Second Doctor in that story is completely at odds with what we see in the Sixties serials. Given we have a ready explanation offered up in the TV Comic, it's reasonable to join up the dots.

    2. The thing is that the Second Doctor we see in The Two Doctors is very much the 60's Second Doctor.

      Some fans have a tendency to idealise the Second Doctor into a Victorian tramp who makes one-liners and says "Ooh!" a lot. Certainly the Second Doctor we saw in The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors was a boiled down, two-dimensional version of the real character. But actually watch(or listen to as many episodes are missing...) 60's Troughton. He can be very acidic and disrespectful. His putdowns and dismissals are often barbed. A big part of Seasons 4-6 also involved "monster" stories. Comic book evil monsters attack the humans. The Doctor saves the day...often by running around shooting Ice Warriors, blowing up Dominator spaceships with everyone on board etc. The previous multi-Doctor stories had distilled the "nice" elements of the Second Doctor into a caricature of who he really was. The Two Doctors distills the nastier elements, yet is somehow still closer to the real 1960's character. In fact, The Two Doctors also comments on the typical Troughton serial, in that the "monster" there(Shockeye) is disturbingly human, and when the Doctor(Six here) dispatches him with a one-liner it's grim and disturbing, yet that was the kind of thing Two did all the time. In fact, the only time Two DOE act like the fans were cooing for is....when he's an Androgum.

      There is also a train of thought that Holmes deliberately "spoiled" certain so-called fans' ideals. One was by purposely not utilising the Sontarans properly. The 80's fans were happy to have classic monsters back just for the sake of having them back. So that's exactly what Holmes did.

      More specifically, prior to the early 80's, the whole idea of "continuity", "timelines" and "the Doctor Who Universe" were unheard of. Nobody cared how the tv serials "The Daleks" and "Genesis of the Daleks" and the Comic "Genesis of Evil" all fit together. Nobody really bothered trying to figure out where the First Doctor's adventures with John and Gillian or his Annual stories slotted in. Where in the Fourth Doctor's timeline did his adventures with Sharon fit in? And before the first of three tv destructions of Atlantis, said landmass had been destroyed in the comics. Suddenly everyone was making "histories", and more importantly...scripts were being significantly altered, even rejected to fit "continuity". Ian Levine was even hired as a "technical advisor". Robert Holmes despised this. So he deliberately wrote story where the Second Doctor and Jamie are travelling together, on a mission for the Time Lords. The Second Doctor has a Stattenheim Remote Control. It doesn't possibly fit anywhere into the established continuity and laboriously crafted timeline. Yet it is unmistakenly the Second Doctor and Jamie. The point was storytelling>continuity. Sadly, it had the opposite effect, as some people with far too much time on their hands came up with "Season 6B".