Story: The Doctor and Bernice are forced to abandon the TARDIS, which is caught in some form of temporal rift, and take refuge in the Jade Pagoda (the “lifeboat” of the TARDIS, as it were. What I don’t understand is why this pagoda thingie mimics the Police Box shape the TARDIS is stuck in?! As if the Time Lords designed it to look like a Buddhist temple with a green flashing light on top! Somebody explain it to me!). This lifeboat takes them to the closest habitable M-Class planet, which just by chance, is Earth. Not only that, but to add to the fun, it dumps them in 11th century Europe! I doesn’t take long after their arrival for the gimmick to be engaged – The Doctor and Bernice become seperated.
The Doctor, who impersonates a high-ranking royal observer, becomes embroiled in court intrigue while in the company of the bad guys of the story, while Bernice ends up in the fortress of the good guys, one of whom is actually named Guy. They call this hilltop fortress (or Sanctuary, as it were) “The Roc.” With the Templars and the Inquisition roaming the countryside, all trying to “convert” heritics to the side of the true God by killing them, these non-believers need a place to hide out. So here they find shelter, food, and no diety-discrimination at this Sanctuary. At The Roc, they know their role, and are kept safe from the bad guys, no questions asked. These bad guys want to lay the smackdown on The Roc, so they can get their hands on some odd religious artifact that will guarantee that head-bad guy can rise to the office of Pope.
Review: Does it get any better than that?! The first 1/4 of this book is slow, and I began to wonder if anything was going to happen. But once the Doctor & co. arrive, business picks up considerably. It was kind of odd reading a Doctor Who story with no aliens or sci-fi aspects, but I really got into it. At some points I could actually smell what The Roc was cookin’!
You pretty well know how the story is going to end up, and there aren’t that many surprises, although I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition…and the cameo appearance by the Skull of Jesus was quite unexpected.
All in all, a good read by my extreme standards. My only beefs are that Bernice kept on making Star Trek references. Romulan Ale this, and Federation that. And the other is that both the Doctor and Bernice kept asking themselves what Ace would do in certain situations! Who cares what Ace would do? Why not ask what K-9 would do?!
So, I give this one a 7.5 out of 10. I feel that this story would have translated to TV quite well. That is, if those bastards at the BBC had had the balls to keep making Doctor Who, and not pander to those who would rather watch crap like CHiPs…anyway, that’s my rant for now. Back to more reading!
Author: David A. McIntee