Doctor Who: The Quest of the Engineer review

The 2020 batch of Fourth Doctor Adventures comes to a close with Andrew Smith’s Quest of the Engineer. Andrew gets to write for Adric who he first introduced to us in the 1980 story Full Circle. Once more, by the magic of Big Finish, the Fourth Doctor, Romana, K9 and Adric are lost in e-Space, still looking for a CVE.

Engineers and Witches

Released with Planet of the Witches, Andrew takes the idea of world-building to new heights. First the synopsis:

The TARDIS crew’s attempts to escape E-Space lead them to a strange planet with a surface that shifts and changes constantly.

Losing their ship down a fissure, they venture into the depths of this world and encounter the man who rules this place – a man known only as ‘the Engineer’. He tells them that he’s on a quest for illumination, and to find a rumoured portal in space that may lead to another reality, with knowledge unknown in this universe.

It seems he may be on the same quest as the Doctor and his friends. But can he be trusted? And who is he really?

It’s a nicely layered story with both the TARDIS crew / Engineer (Nicholas Wooderson) story in the foreground, a secondary story with Regis Tel (George Layton) an intrepid astronomer pilloried for suggesting his world is in danger, another with the mysteriously powerful Jonas (Timothy Bloor) and then the mesh of interwoven parts is completed by Anla Jessik (Sarah Woodward).

The foreground story charts the madness of the Engineer and his wonderful planet (an engineered marvel that even impresses the Doctor). As Adric, Romana (less shouty than the rest of 2020’s stories), K9 and the Doctor try to thwart the Engineer and his hordes of robots, we get a lot of mileage and enjoyment from the secondary characters who at times steal the show.

The threat of the Engineer fades early and there’s an odd ending evoking family and compassion. It may have been done to soften the harsh character of the Engineer, but whatever the reason it makes a change from the usual massive save the day ending.

One thing that most annoys me with Doctor Who is its weak grasp of basic science (I’m free if anyone needs a scientific advisor!) and the glib use of energy as a sci-fi substitute for magic. Andrew includes some of this but I’ll forgive him as he didn’t start this particular ball rolling. Writers can only work with what their given in the case of a long-running series.

Overall I’ve enjoyed this year’s outings with the Fourth Doctor and crew in e-space. Matthew Waterhouse may not be able to reach the tones he did as a teenager, but the spirit of Adric is very much there. Great stuff!

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