Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dr. Who: Players by Terrance Dicks

Players by Terrance Dicks
Copyright 2013 (reprint)
BBC Books - Sci-fi/Fan Fiction - Dr. Who
306 pp.

First Sentence:

Outside the palace wall, the sewer-hatch slowly began to rise.

What led you to pick up Players?

I was sent replacements for the two Dr. Who books I got for tours I participated in with TLC Tours and the bonus book, Who*ology, because they were damaged in transit.  When the replacements were sent, the publicist threw in a couple extra titles, including Players, because I confessed that my family is addicted to Dr. Who (I think I neglected to mention the fact that my eldest son had a TARDIS-shaped groom's cake when he married, although that seems pretty relevant).  My husband and I read and discussed Players - very fun!  We seldom read the same books.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending.  

When the 6th Doctor and his assistant Peri arrive in the middle of the Boer War, they discover an assassin is targeting Winston Churchill.  Imprisoned with Churchill, they come up with a plan to escape, knowing how important Winston Churchill is to Britain's future (or past, depending upon how you look at it . . . oh, these timey-wimey dilemmas).  But, even after Churchill's close call during the Boer War, he is not out of danger.  

From the cover:  "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?"

Capsule Description:  6th Doctor Colin Baker finds that Winston Churchill is being targeted by assassins from a race of time-traveling beings who like to play games with human history, removing important characters to see how time will change.

Some thoughts:

I barely remember the 6th Doctor because I didn't like him, likely because Tom Baker was and will always be My Doctor.  I had a great deal of difficulty liking any of the other Doctors until that long gap and the appearance of Christopher Eccleston (whose Northern accent reminded me of a friend from Derby, England -- I never could understand him, either).  

Now that time has passed, I can enjoy the old Dr. Who series in a way I couldn't, before, simply because everything post-Tom Baker struck me as depressingly lacking, at the time.  Unfortunately, I don't recall anything that stood out about Colin Baker, other than his hair.  That may have been good in a way; I didn't enter the read with any great expectations.  I can't comment on the characterization, for that reason.

My husband, on the other hand, remembers him well and thought the characterization was fine.  I personally liked the fact that the author went to the effort of changing this particular doctor out of his ridiculous clown suits.

Husband didn't care about that but how I was happy not to have to imagine the Doctor in that get-up. 

What did you like best about Players?

Both Huzzybuns and I liked the glimpse into history.  There are, as I recall, three distinct settings.  First, Peri and the Doctor land in South Africa just before Churchill is captured while removing a derailed train car from the tracks, so that the passengers can continue on to safer territory.  Then, there's an interlude in which another Doctor (the 2nd, as I recall) has a little adventure with the Doctor, and then off to the future, when Churchill and others are trying to convince the new king -- the one who would end up marrying twice-divorced Wallis Simpson -- to abdicate so that Great Britain will not end up with a Nazi-sympathizing king.  There are Nazis involved and both the Doctor and Churchill are now targeted. At one point Peri is kidnapped.  Pretty exciting.  

What did you dislike about Players?

I had a little trouble buying into the dialogue. It just felt wrong to me, for some reason, whenever Churchill spoke.  My husband disagreed.  That may fall into the Expectations category.  I also found it jarring when the Doctor began to reflect on his second meeting with Churchill (technically his first, but it falls second in the book) and the next chapter flashed back so that for a time you were not actually reading about Colin Baker but, I think, Patrick Troughton.  At any rate, you switch Doctors for at least a chapter.  That didn't bother my husband, either, although he said it did take a short time adjusting to the switch.

RecommendedThere is a lot of action in this book and the quick pacing makes it a very adventurous read. Both my husband and I enjoyed Players, particularly because we felt like the various scenes immersed us in bits of Churchill's life story, thus the reading was a learning experience.  I also went dashing off to read up on the Boer War a bit, although the Doctor explains the Boer War to Peri. Very helpful.  Kiddo has not yet read Players but I know he'll love it for the history, too.  

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