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Doctor Who - Scratchman:  The Edwardian Cricketer Media Review

Doctor Who - Scratchman: The Edwardian Cricketer Media Review

Author: EdwardianCricketer/Monday, May 20, 2019/Categories: Blog, Book Review

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Doctor Who – Scratchman, by Tom Baker, with James Goss. BBC Books, 2019. Storyline by Tom Baker and Ian Marter. 295 pages, hardback.

This story features the Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, and Harry Sullivan.

SPOILER WARNING

This review contains spoilers, including revealing the ending of the book.

SUMMARY

The Doctor is on trial, again. Brought before the Time Lords to account for his actions, he is accused of endangering the entire universe. The sentence, if found guilt, is to be wiped from existence. The Time Lords give the Doctor the chance to tell his story. And so it begins…

The Doctor, Sarah, and Harry step from the TARDIS near a beach. While playing rounders, the Doctor goes to fetch the ball and comes across a scarecrow dressed as a vicar. It’s holding his ball but he gets it back. After finishing playing they discover their picnic is wrecked. They follow tire tracks to a farm and find themselves on the run from living scarecrows. The scarecrows convert a man into one of them using a strange fertilizer right in front of the Doctor and his companions. They run and take refuge in a church and get the island residents, the villagers, to gather there. The Doctor builds a device to disperse weaponized moths to eat the scarecrows clothes after realizing it's the clothes that’s keeping them together. One of the residents is a shopkeeper and troublemaker and almost succeeds in breaking the Doctor’s device.

Sent back to the TARDIS to get power packs, Sarah accidentally lets a scarecrow inside the machine where is chases her, infecting the TARDIS as they race throughout the machine. She escapes and returns to the church to meet Harry who’s returned from the village shop where he’s been gathering supplies. They meet Sophonisba Mowat, a delightfully curious woman who is trying to help.

Unseen by anyone, two Cybermen step onto the beach to wait. The Doctor allows himself to be taken by the scarecrows who toss a jar of fertilizer into the church, turning the villagers into scaerecrows, even Sophonisba. Sarah and Harry go to rescue the Doctor using his engineered moths on the scarecrows. They escape to encounter the Cybermen and find out they had gotten the fertilizer, which is actually a virus, from another party. The Cybermen leave and another figure appears and tries to make a deal with the Doctor. When the Doctor refuses, the figure reveals that Sarah and Harry are both infected and vanishes, taking the companions with him.

The Doctor pilots the sick TARDIS into the alternate dimension and finds himself in Hell. He is taken by taxi trough a strange land with even stranger creatures and finally to a floating castle. Once inside, he meets still further creatures and people before finally meeting the Devil, also known as Scratchman. Scratchman, who is the figure the Doctor met on the beach, tries again to make a deal with the Doctor. Scratchman’s world is dying so he wants access to ours. In return he promises the Doctor he can stay this Doctor forever.

The Doctor refuses and runs where he comes across Sarah and Harry who seem unharmed. The Doctor’s plan to keep them safe backfires and Harry’s imagination puts them inside a giant pinball machine, which becomes crossed with a chess game and skittles. Harry is captured and tortured by Scratchman as the Doctor and Sarah figure out how to eliminate all of Scratchman’s game pieces. Scratchman releases Harry through a hole in the floor toward a lake of lava. Harry escapes down a chute into a gathering of giant insects. He convinces them to stop killing themselves for Scratchman, setting the free and cutting the energy supply to Scratchman’s world.

The floating castle crashes, sending the Doctor nearly into an abyss. He is rescued by a Cyberman, who is doing kind things, which is his worst fear. The Doctor and his companions learn the Cybermen made a deal with the Devil for the virus for turning other beings into Cybermen but were tricked by Scratchman. The Cyberman leaves as the scarecrow villagers, including Sophonisba, appear. Giant creatures gather for battle. The Doctor is taken by scarecrow representations of his previous incarnations, leaving Sarah and Harry to help the villagers.

The Doctor faces Scratchman, who wants to know his greatest fear. The Doctor doesn't tell him directly but strange things start to happen to Scratchman’s world, putting Scratchman on the run. He is forced to run from all of his creations, leaving Sarah and Harry free, and burning up the rest of the energy is his world. He is chased into a chasm as everything begins to vanish. Sarah and Harry find the Doctor as he summons the TARDIS and they leave as Scratchman’s world dies.

The story told, the Time Lords are no less satisfied but have no cause to hold the Doctor. He simply walks out as they rage.

Later, Sarah and Harry play rounders on the beach again as the Doctor talks to a woman wearing a shirt with a rainbow across the chest about the experience in the parallel universe and seems to imply that she helped him out. She leaves and the Doctor goes to play on the beach with his friends.

In a final word from the Doctor, he talks about how much fun he had being this Doctor.

Sarah leaves a final word of her own, having asked about the Jigsaw room in the TARDIS where the scarecrow briefly had her cornered. The Doctor chides her for going in there, saying it is to Time Lords what weather forecasting is to humans and she shouldn’t have seen what she did.

OPINION

I have to say that this was a fun book. Most of it anyway. The pacing went back and forth from slow to fast but it seemed to be in the right places. The concept was good, the Doctor meeting the Devil, as it were. Turns out Hell is an alternate universe. I do very much like Tom Baker’s writing. If you’ve watched him as the Doctor in Doctor Who then I think it’s easy to tell which is his writing and which is James Goss. You can hear Baker’s voice in the first person narrative. And he has an interesting use of language. His word choices and sentence structure is very 4th Doctor. It’s a delight to read. One minute, it’s quite somber, the next it’s insane! I did not expect the homage to the 13th Doctor at the end. And, of course, the Doctor never really quite reveals his deepest fear. Not that I could tell. Anyway, judge for yourself in Doctor Who – Scratchman.

 

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