Doctor Who: Deceit by Peter Darvill-Evans

The thirteenth of the Doctor Who Virgin New Adventures novels is quite exciting for a number of reasons. For one thing, it sees the return of Ace, and after the circumstances of their departure in Love & War, I was very curious to see how it would play out. It also features a prominent appearance by Abslom Daak, a Dalek killer character from the comics.

Ace’s appearance in this novel makes me happy. She’s one of my favourite Doctor Who characters and I find her story very interesting. It’s really cool to see how she’s changed in her time since leaving the Doctor. At this point, she’s a little older, having left the Doctor a few years ago, and her personality is a little different to reflect that. The development all felt very true to the character and her return heightened my enjoyment of the novel – although the reunion between her and the Doctor was a little anticlimactic. Not as much is made of their past problems as I thought might be.

I also felt a little bad for Bernice. She does a lot more than in a few of the other novels that have featured her since her introduction, but just as she spends a lot of those stories side-lined by being possessed or whatever, here she doesn’t get the focus she deserves because Ace is in the spotlight. I wish she had had more of a chance to develop on her own before Ace was brought back, but that’s more of a mark against the last few novels than it is against this one.

Abslom Daak also just feels kind of dumb. It’s cool to have him there, for sure, but I never really warmed to him. I think he might be an example of a character who is more entertaining in comics than they are in prose. He actually kind of annoyed me a lot of the time for just being a super macho angry tough guy.

The storyline itself sees something strange happening on the planet Arcadia, tied into its dystopian corporate past. It’s one of those situations where the thing that’s actually happening isn’t made clear until towards the end, but the planet has a bunch of people living a seemingly idyllic non-technological life, but it slowly becomes clear that all is not as it seems and it is far from the paradise it’s presented as.

Partially what impressed me about this novel was the world-building. Arcadia is a really cool planet with a cool history, but even beyond that, there are loads of references to the Doctor Who universe that make it all feel very big and inter-connected. The afterword makes it clear that the author (who was the New Adventures editor) wanted to make the universe a consistent and believable setting that followed certain rules and I admire that. Not many Doctor Who writers go to such lengths.

Some readers will probably think that this is a little too fan-orientated, but I think it’s an example of Doctor Who novels at their finest. Great characters, cool setting, high stakes, and lots of references for those who know where to find them. It even ties up threads that have been running through various New Adventures, helping the whole series feel more comprehensive. All round, a great read.

Rating: 8.9/10

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