Fear Of The Dark 1 Fear Of The Dark 2

Trevor Baxendale
BBC Worldwide LTD. / BBC Books
2003 / 2013

On a moon of the ruined planet Akoshemon, an age-old terror is about to be reborn. Something that remembers the spiral of war, pestilence and deprivation—and rejoices in it. The Fifth Doctor joins a team of archaeologists searching for evidence of the planet’s infamous past, and uncovers more than just ancient history. Forced to confront his own worst fears, even the Doctor will be pushed to breaking point—and beyond.

The fifth novel re-released in the eleven 50th Anniversary re-releases, Fear of the Dark features the Fifth Doctor and his two companions Nyssa and Tegan (who just came back on board the TARDIS after being gone a spell—this particular story is set immediately after the television serial “Ark of Infinity”) landing on a moon that is being mined for a very rare mineral by, shall we say, independent entrepreneurs. After introductions, the miners stumble upon an underground lab with mummified bodies of the scientists that worked in said lab a couple of centuries ago. Of course, this being a Doctor Who story, discovering and opening said lab unleashed a nightmarish beast that can suck all of the blood out of someone completely faster than you can scream “GET IT OFF!” After a couple of deaths, the head pirate…er, independent entrepreneur finally relents to letting a patrol of official military types to help dispatch the hellacious Resident Evil reject, only to discover that ol’ Spot is merely the pet of a much, much scarier entity known as The Dark, a literal embodiment of evil order than time itself manifesting as a physical void, and now finally free of its prison and ready to party. It’s looking pretty bleak for everyone on that moon with The Dark. And it also looks like there’s nothing the Doctor can do.

Fear of the Dark, I have to admit, was a nicely dark (no pun intended) and Gothic style, sci-fi tale that conjures up comparisons to the John Carpenter movies The Thing and Prince Of Darkness, possibly even Ghosts Of Mars. The atmosphere is claustrophobic, the story is tight and smartly written, managing to get the feel of the mounting fear and anxiety in a tangible manner. And as far as the death toll in the story…well, don’t get your hopes up for a warm, fuzzy resolution.

In the pantheon of Doctors, the Fifth one probably ranks as my least favorite. This is mainly due to my having the least experience with his adventures outside of a couple of television series. Here…yeah, I have to concur with another fellow online pop culture critic’s ascertain that the Fifth Doctor was the “Vanilla Doctor”. With that said, though, the way he’s written in Fear of the Dark was rather good, getting a glimpse into the subconscious fears of the Time Lord. There’s a nicely disturbing section where The Doctor is receiving a bit of a dream-like glimpse into his future regenerations that, if they used that method of regenerating on the show, Doctor Who would become a horror show. Not that I’d mind too terribly. But I digress.

Much like the movie Alien, Fear of the Dark was a sci-fi story that flirted heavily with horror, and works perfectly. I have to admit that I’d never thought I would say a Fifth Doctor story would rank as one of the top five personal favorites of the novels I’ve read, but here we are.