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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Doctor Trap


Author: Simon Messingham
Read by: Russell Tovey
BBC Audio
RRP: £9.77
ISBN: 978 1 4084 1023 3
Available 12 March 2009

Sebastiene was human... once. He might look like a 19th-century nobleman, but in truth he is a ruthless hunter. He likes nothing more than luring difficult opposition to his planet, and then hunting them down for sport. And now he’s caught them all - from Zargregs to Moogs, and even the odd Eternal. In fact, Sebastiene is after only one more prize. For this trophy, he knows he is going to need help, so he’s brought together a collection of the finest hunters in the universe to play the most dangerous game for the deadliest quarry of them all. They are hunting for the last of the Time Lords - the Doctor...

Perhaps surprisingly, the “Doctor Trap” of the title does not refer to the lure set by Sebastiene to capture and kill the last of the Time Lords. Well, not entirely. Rather, it refers to a defence plan the Doctor is believed to have at his disposal - something that, whether it exists or not, gives him a psychological advantage. The various explanations and interpretations of the “Doctor Trap” make one’s head spin, and this audio presentation, abridged by the author himself, doesn’t make it any clearer.

From the book’s synopsis, one might assume that it takes as its central premise a notion that’s hitherto only been touched upon briefly, in Dalek and The Last Dodo: the fact that the Doctor is the last of his kind and would therefore be a prized acquisition for a collector. However, that’s only the starting point for this convoluted tale of double bluffs, deceits, disguises and duplicates.

One of the duplicates (the others being robot soldiers) is a surgically altered double of the Doctor, Baris. Many of the plot twists hang upon the question of which Doctor is which (or perhaps I mean Who), though surprisingly we are privy to the Doctor and Baris’s thought processes much of the time. Simon Messingham gets around this to an extent during the early chapters by interfering with a character’s memories and missing out certain events, but I can’t help thinking it would have been simpler just to tell the story from other characters’ points of view until the question of identity has been resolved. With both the Doctor and Baris considering themselves to be the genuine article, it’s hard to tell which one Messingham is referring to when “the real Doctor” finally finds Donna. The use of a doppelganger is also unfortunate in that a duplicate Doctor was recently pivotal to the plot of Journey’s End.

The author mostly gets Donna’s personality right, though for some reason she considers the Doctor extremely handsome, despite the fact that she resolutely doesn’t fancy him in the TV series (does Messingham believe that the lady doth protest too much?), and she is largely absent for half the story.

This audio book is read by Russell Tovey, who played Midshipman Alonzo Frame in Voyage of the Damned, was one of the actors rumoured to replace David Tennant before the casting of Matt Smith was announced, and is currently making a name for himself as George in Being Human. However, his vocal range is not extensive (though it does include an overtly posh Sebastiene and nasal robot voices) and he places peculiar emphasis on certain words. For reasons unknown, Sebastiene pronounces Baris’s name differently to all the other characters.

The Doctor Trap certainly has some points of interest, but overall Messingham’s book remains a messy ’un.


Richard McGinlay

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