dreams of empire 1 dreams of empire 2

Justin Richards
BBC Worldwide / BBC Books
1998 / 2013

‘Description of the two intruders still at large,’ Logall said: ‘one is a young male wearing a skirt. The other is older and shorter.’ He started to lower his wrist, then changed his mind, and added, ‘And he’s got a sandwich stuck to his bottom.’

On a barren asteroid, the once-mighty Haddron Empire is on the brink of collapse, torn apart by civil war. The one man who might have saved it languishes in prison, his enemies planing his death and his friends plotting his escape. The Second Doctor arrives as the last act of this deadly drama is being played out–and with both terrifying killers and cunning traitors to defeat, the future hangs in the balance.

The second book in the eleven 50th Anniversary special edition release novels features a Second Doctor story that was originally published back in 1998, when the residue of the 1996 Doctor Who television movie was still an unpleasant aftertaste in the minds of the neglected fanbase. As I mentioned in a previous review of a Second Doctor novel, stories featuring this lovable ragamuffin incarnation of the Doctor seems to be few and far between (a fact mentioned by the author of this book in the introduction of the Anniversary edition I have), and it’s always good to read another story involving this quirky–almost mad, really–individual.

This time out, the Doctor and his companions Jamie and Victoria land on an asteroid fortress outlying the edge of an intergalactic Republic that is still reeling from a recent civil war. The would-be emperor is imprisoned here, wearing perma-armor due to injuries sustained from an assassination attempt, and spending his days playing chess, and brooding. Among other hobbies, I’m sure. His chief rival–and best friend–arrives at the same time as the Doctor, and what follows is an intricate game of political intrigue and subterfuge involving double crosses, murder and games of chess. And when the spaceship full of war bots arrive, things really get wacky. And in the end, in typical fashion, the Doctor manages to prove that he had everything under control while fooling everyone into thinking he barely had his wits about him. Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t, and all that.

Dreams Of Empire had the feel of a politically charged Shakespeare drama (hence the crib from Hamlet, there…seemed fitting), what with the whole retro Medieval architecture of the space fortress, hooded cloaks, shadowy and clandestine meetings, the whole “Man in the Iron Mask” motif. I rather enjoy the meshing of the middle ages romanticism with futuristic sci-fi space technology. I think this may stem from being a fan of the original run of He-Man toys in my formative years. In any case, the way the Doctor and company interact with the situation at hand, along with the mystery unfolding before them, was brilliant. I seem to more and more appreciate the method to the Second Doctor’s madness. There’s something to be said about allowing others to think of you as a buffoon to conceal your true genius in the matter. There’s a scene near the climax of the story, where the tide of the siege on the fortress by a long-lost legion of Soldier Bots were temporarily disabled by the Doctor, and one soldier asks, “So the Doctor is in control, now?”, and another speculates that maybe the Doctor was in control the entire time. Illustrates the Second Doctor perfectly, methinks.

Anyway, Dreams of Empire was a rather entertaining Doctor Who tale, keeping the pacing and story tight, very vivid action, good dialogue, and really showcasing the interaction between the Doctor and his companions with the inhabitants of this dire situation they find themselves in. Another good pick for the 50th Anniversary reprint collection.