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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who


Author: James Swallow
Read by: Will Thorp
BBC Audio
RRP: £9.99 (CD), £6.60 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 4084 0043 2 (CD), 978 1 4084 9909 2 (download)
Available 10 July 2008

The peace and quiet of a remote homestead in 1880s America is shattered by the arrival of two shadowy outriders searching for “the healer”. When the farmer refuses to help them, they raze his house to the ground using guns that shoot bolts of energy instead of bullets... In the town of Redwater, the Doctor and Martha learn of a snake-oil salesman whose patent medicines actually cure his patients. But when they investigate, they find the truth is stranger and far more dangerous. Caught between the law of the gun and the deadly plans of intergalactic mercenaries, the Doctor and Martha are about to discover just how wild the West can become...

Author James Swallow already has a couple of Doctor Who audio dramas to his name - Big Finish’s Singularity and Old Soldiers - as well as several short stories in the same company’s Short Trips range of anthologies, but Peacemaker is his first actual Who novel, which is now being re-released as an audio book. However, it is clear that he knows the show well.

He is also very familiar with the Wild West genre, having penned several novels in the Sundowners series of steampunk Westerns. Boxes ticked in terms of the Western genre include an unscrupulous travelling salesman with a native sidekick, a duo of lethal outriders, a kind-hearted schoolmarm, an orphaned teenager and an abandoned mine. Of course, the Doctor has visited the Old West before, in The Gunfighters, and the author acknowledges this fact when the Time Lord says of the gunfight at the OK Corral: “Been there, done that.”

The story itself sits comfortably amid the plot developments of Series 3. When the Doctor isn’t around, Martha displays a level of bravery that indicates she is well on her way to becoming the heroic character seen in Last of the Time Lords. Meanwhile, the Doctor goes through agony once again and, as in 42, struggles against a powerful alien influence.

Given the setting, one might have expected an American actor, such as Eric Loren from Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks, to be hired for this reading. However, the British Will Thorp, who played Toby Zed in The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, does some decent American accents as the many and various Old West characters, including the schoolmarm, Jenny Forrest, though his voice for Zachariah Hawkes, editor of the local newspaper, is rather OTT.

Some of the author’s continuity references, such as mentions of the Ood and the Silurians, have been removed in this abridged edition.

There are some unfortunate similarities between this story and another title released in the same batch, Wishing Well. In both books, an alien intelligence falls to Earth and attaches itself to the unfortunate person who finds it, at first telepathically and then physically through the palm of the hand. In both books, the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to bring down the roof of a tunnel to escape pursuers who are humans possessed by the alien enemy. However, Peacemaker still makes great listening. Darned tootin’ it does!


Richard McGinlay

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