Players by Terrance Dicks reviewed

Doctor_Who_Players_50thI picked up a few books over the holidays including some titles from the BBC classic adventures. I started my reading with the Terrance Dicks story Players. This is a Sixth Doctor and Peri story set in and around the early part of the life of Winston Churchill.

How well does this story work and does it dovetail with the later use of Churchill in the TV?

The story

First the blurb:

Arriving on the sun-baked veldt in the middle of the Boer War, the Sixth Doctor is soon involved in the adventures of struggling politician and war correspondent Winston Churchill. Of course, he knows Churchill is destined for great things, but unseen forces seem to be interfering with Winston’s historic career. The Doctor suspects the hidden hand of the Players, mysterious beings who regard human history as little more than a game. With time running out, can the Doctor find the right moves to defeat them?

The Doctor encounters Churchill at three key times prior to World War II; the first is the Boer War in the company of Peri where they save his life from the interference of the Players. Back in the TARDIS the Doctor recalls (on screen) an adventure he had as the Second Doctor  in what is known as Series 6B. In this adventure he links to the events of War Games and encounters Churchill again in a World War I context.

The bulk of the book is about the Sixth Doctor and Peri in London prior to World War II and involves royalty, abdication, Oswald’s brown-shirts and many intrigues. The Doctor and Churchill have to ensure that the King abdicates to allow Britain to proceed free of Nazi sympathy (mainly) and protect the course of history. In the showdown with the Players we get a fascinating glimpse of a race with great powers yet who seem oblivious to the Time Lords (and they to them).

Of course all ends well, thanks to help from an ex-Chicago intelligence agent, the BBC and plenty of action.

The storytelling

I really enjoyed this for many reasons. The weaving in of Series 6B worked well and there is mention of the Seventh Doctor and Ace. The sense of semi-awareness of his own future feels very modern.

Most of all the idea of a wealthy Doctor in the finest hotels in London, Peri shopping on unlimited credit and the whole sense of pre-war England worked well and I felt this captured the feel of this Doctor combination very well. I would be interested to hear this done as a Big Finish audio!

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