A Doctor Who novel, written by Mark Gatiss. The eighth of Virgin Publishing's New Adventures.

Previous story: Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark | Next story: Love and War


Regular characters

The Seventh Doctor


Major developments

The demonic infestation of the TARDIS influences the Doctor's mood and behaviour; he is morose, and contemplates retiring, but ends up tricking Ace out of leaving him and staying behind with a boy she fancies.

My opinion

This book has interesting and well-written characters, and develops a theme well (a contemplation on the dangers of nostalgia), but the rest of the book is not as good. The attacks of the energy creatures get quite repetitive, and the final resolution is a bit of a let-down, relying on the convenience of a radio telescope being built right where it is needed. This is a good book overall, but it has its flaws. Still worth reading, however.

Quick outline

In the town of Crook Marsham, in 1968, people are being troubled by their memories. Retired actor Edmund Trevithick, who played Professor Nightshade in the classic BBC SF show of the same name, is being stalked by creatures from the series. Another resident follows his wife, who is apparently young and happy again, out onto the moor, and is killed by a weird energy.

The Doctor and Ace arrive in Crook Marsham. The Doctor is considering retiring, and goes to the nearby monastery to think things over. Ace follows her curiosity and makes her way to the nearby radio telescope. Exploring the grounds she finds the dead body of the security guard, which breaks into dust when she touches it. She goes to the telescope and finds the staff there working frantically to understand the readings they have been receiving of massive energy surges.

The Doctor spends the night at the monastery reading up on the history of the town, and reads an account of Castle Marsham's being consumed by "heavenly fire" during the Civil War. The Castle, it turns out, once stood where the radio telescope was built. The Doctor returns to the town the next morning to find that many townsfolk have disappeared during the night, and other strange things are happening. All communications have been cut off, and people trying to leave the town have been overcome with a strange sickness, forcing them to turn back.

The Doctor, with a teenager from the town named Robin, goes to the telescope to find Ace. They then all go to the monastery to read more about the town's history in the monk's library, to discover more about the threat they face. They learn that an archaeological dig at the site of the old Castle was abandoned suddenly for no apparent reason. The Doctor returns to the telescope again to investigate further. While he is gone, the monastery is attacked. The monks (and some older folk from the retirement home) are faced with spectres of their past. As soon as they believe in them, the spectres consume them, sucking the energy out of their bodies and leaving them lifeless husks.

Robin and Ace retreat to the attic, where they find Billy Coote, a homeless man, has been possessed by the intelligence that is behind the energy. The Doctor returns the monastery and rescues Ace and Robin, but only after almost succumbing to the memory of Susan, his granddaughter. He communicates briefly with the energy through Billy and learns that the energy knows nothing but hunger. the Doctor, Ace and Robin return again to the radio telescope, where the staff and Trevithick have managed to fight of an attack by the energy in the form of the monsters from "Nightshade". The Doctor realises that the energy surges recorded by the telescope come from below the telescope.

Just as the remaining townsfolk are about to be attacked en masse where they are gathered in the town hall, the Doctor realigns the telescope to point at a nova the staff were studying. He summons the energy in the form of Susan again, and draws its attention to the nova, which contains almost limitless energy. The intelligence leaves the town (travelling back in time so that it can arrive before the star goes nova).

Ace wants to leave the Doctor and stay with Robin, but the Doctor convinces her to make one last trip, to check that the energy is truly gone. They go back in time to see Castle Marsham destroyed as the energy leaves, and the Doctor is able to track that the energy eventually moves on to anther star as it goes supernova, and is trapped in a collapsing black hole.

The Doctor, acting a little strangely, does not take Ace back to Crook Marsham as she asks, and Robin eventually realises that she will not return.