As a child I dreamed of the day the TARDIS would land in Arbroath. Even fleetingly, on a short touchdown between other more thrilling destinations. An unremarkable seaside town, famed for being the source of a rather punchy letter from a King to a Pope, a distinctive way of cooking haddock, the 36 – 0 drubbing of Bon Accord FC, and being one of the five annual Scottish staging posts for the BBC Radio One Roadshow.
Being young and foolish I was a lot less impressed about the first three than I was about the last. My appreciation for the finer things in life has lifted the Declaration of Independence and Arbroath smokies back where they belong. The record-breaking football score trades on long distant glories, and similarly I can live with having been ejected from Radio One’s narrowing demographic. There will always be Doctor Who.
Hardly the centre of the Universe, A L Kennedy nevertheless locates the TARDIS near a golf course on the outskirts of town, in the summer of 1978. One of the bunkers there offers a considerably more dangerous form of sand trap than the unwary links golfer might expect: something ancient living beneath the course has begun to wake up, and it’s nursing a voracious appetite.
The Golf Course (and bunker) in question… (PIC: Nick Fraser)
Luckily for the unwitting residents of the Fetch Brothers Golf Spa Hotel there’s an extra terrestrial being in the vicinity to save them from the nameless horror beneath their feet. And even more luckily for that extra terrestrial being, The Doctor arrives on the scene shortly after. Grinning and boggling his way straight into the thick of things, floppy hat, long scarf and jelly babies all present and correct, the Time Lord discovers the nameless malevolent dread that’s begun its slow return to power. And it’s not the once pop-tabulous DJ Mike Read.
It is in fact the Bah-Sokhar, a long-slumbering creature possessed of enormous power, equally capable of converting the minds of the locals to form its own army, or raise its own from underfoot. Arbroath’s future looks bleak, as likely to crumble to dust as its Abbey. It might not be the centre of all things, but the Bah-Sokhar has the will and inclination to make it so.
With the help of resourceful hotel receptionist Bryony Mailer and Putta Pattershaun 5, a blundering bountykiller from outer space, the Doctor discovers what links the mysterious subterranean entity, the octopoid-collecting elderly reclusive owner of the Fetch Spa Hotel, her two uncanny and strangely amorphous grandchildren and outbursts of sudden, inexplicable telepathic activity around the town.
A L Kennedy lays out the numerous threads early in the story, then sets about artfully and intriguingly weaving them together, drawing the reader in to a superficially light and frothy adventure worthy of late 1970s Doctor Who. She casts plenty of contrasting darkness throughout however, creating a fast-paced chiaroscuro of humour and horror. Kennedy makes good use of short chapters to keep the action snapping back and forth, still allowing plenty of room for the characters to develop.
Understandably there’s a degree of poetic licence taken with some of the locations of this adventure, but it was particularly enjoyable for this reviewer to read of events unfolding in the likes of Arbroath’s West Port and imagining an otherwise nondescript street being livened up immensely by armies of staring, shambling residents locked in the mental grip of a psychic malevolence (whilst trying not to think too much of the same street in wee small hours, after many big nights out on the town…).
St Vigeans (PIC: Nick Fraser)
The Doctor and his friends must eventually face down the Drosten’s Curse at the source of its power: St Vigeans, on the other edge of Arbroath. The climactic battle unfolds in the otherwise sleepy environs of the village kirk, as the full pent-up might and fury of the Bah-Sokhar is unleashed. How can the TARDIS’s newest crew, and the Arbroath milieu survive?
Well that would be telling, and it’s far better fun to read the book and find out. A highly recommended read, and one I can attest has been well-researched. My childhood yearning has been fulfilled. Thank you Doctor Who!