Timewyrm: Genesys – John Peel (7/10)
  (TARDIS crew: 7th, Ace; VILLIAN: The Timewyrm n’e Ishtar n’e Qataka)
Timewyrm: Exodus – Terrance Dicks (7/10)
  (TARDIS crew: 7th, Ace; VILLIAN: The Timewyrm, Hitler)

Virgin Books decided to launch their line of Doctor Who fiction with a maxi-story that spans the first four novels. In the forward for Timewyrm: Genesys, series editor Peter Darvill-Evans made many promises of “complex, challenging plots with serious themes” that “take full advantage of the scope offered by the medium of the novel”; apparently we the super-fanatical Whovians were not supposed to notice that the first two authors in this all-new shebang were the nigh-definitive Dalek historian (Peel) and the former series editor/king of the Target novelizations (Dicks).

The end result is that while the scope of the stories is greatly increased, the first two books themselves are comfortable, lightweight affairs that you can easily blow through in a weekend. Peel gives us a bawdy romp through Mesopotamia, complete with sword-wielding kings, bare-chested sex priestesses and a cybernetic alien that turns into the titular threat. Dicks’ novel is a crash-course in Nazi history spun through the Doctor Who lens, touching on key events in the rise and fall of the Third Reich with The Doctor and Ace woven into the mix. Both borrow heavily from series continuity, referencing moments from every era of Doctor Who (I assume consciously, as both novels base their stories in history), often to the point where it’s patently obvious that these books are written by men obsessed with a kid’s show for people obsessed with a kid’s show.

Two books in, the New Adventures look a lot like the old adventures with added boobies and beatings. The beginning of the line fails in terms of being a bold, exciting new direction for the Doctor Who franchise, but succeeds in that both books are very enjoyable to read. Peel hasn’t written another Who story with as many laugh-out-loud moments as he has in Genesys, between the sheer bull-headedness of his Gilgamesh and the extreme culture clash between Ace and 2700 BC, while Dicks came out of the gate with what is arguably the best original novel he wrote for the series, admirably walking a fine tightrope of merging the absurdity of the series’ premise with the deadly serious, horrific circumstances of Hitler’s reign mixed in with some chilling “what if?” scenarios that echo the greatest moments in the televised series. I can’t fault either of these books for not being the wildly-exciting departures from the norm described by Darvill-Evans because, well, they’re so damned fun.

(Enjoy it while you can; things take a very sharp turn into “not-fun” territory after the Timewyrm series wraps up.)