REVIEW: "Tomb of Valdemar" Doctor Who Novel

by Zepo
10 June 2000

Simon Messingham, _Doctor Who: Tomb of Valdemar_, (London: BBC Worldwide, 2000).

[Image of Book]

RATING: 8 (of 10)

     Simon Messingham adds to the adventures of the Fourth Doctor 
with his new novel "Tomb of Valdemar."  This offering adds to the 
adventures of the Doctor and the First Romana as they are side 
tracked during their search for the Key to Time.  It seems that 
there is something threatening time itself, and though the Doctor 
does not intend to get involved his greater quest is put on hold 
until he sorts out the legend of Valdemar.
     This novel starts in perhaps one of the most unique 
narratives.  The story of the Doctor's adventure is told from the 
perspective of another character who witnessed it, as they tell 
another person the events that transpired.  This Greek chorus-
like effect is effective and captures the readers interest very 
quickly.  Messingham is able to convey the Doctor's adventure 
both as a standard narrative, but also as a cartoon-like story 
that debates the Doctor's archetype as the story unfolds.  
     The actual adventure is broken up into two parts.  The first 
is intriguing and compelling as the Doctor and Romana get side 
tracked from the quest for the Key to Time and must decide 
whether or not the case at hand is worth interrupting the orders 
of the White Guardian.  As it turns out, the threat at hand is 
escalated due to the Doctor's own interference.  The second half 
of the book is off pace with the first.  While the first half 
introduces the unique storytelling style, as well as the legend 
and cult of Valdemar and their search for the tomb, the second 
half of the book comes up short.  More characters are thrown into 
the fray and the legend of Valdemar turns out to be a threat so 
vague that its final explanation seems more appropriate to the 
weird twists of a Twilight Zone episode rather than the more 
concrete threats found in Doctor Who.  The author tries to 
explain one of life's great unknown through science, but the fact 
remains that it is a great unknown.  Perhaps the second half of 
the book is a let down because Messingham so expertly sets up the 
first half.  Rated alone the first half carries a perfect mark.
     As the Doctor eventually cleans up the situation, we wind 
down to the story's conclusion.  Where as most of the second half 
of the book rarely refers to the story within a story narrative, 
the last three chapters return to this distinct style.  I can say 
with all conviction that the beginning of Chapter Fourteen 
shocked me, and restored my love for Messingham's style in five 
short words.  Unfortunately the Valdemar plot's conclusion left a 
bit to be desired and the originality of the narrative style was 
lost on me in the last chapter when our storyteller is revealed 
to be more than we might expect.  Perhaps if the storyteller 
would simply have been an ordinary old lady it would have all 
been a bit more sound.
     Overall though, "Tomb of Valdemar" is a captivating read.  I 
recommend the book if only for the author's wonderfully gothic 
style and his excellent writing.  We need more Doctor Who books 
written like this, but with more straight forward Whovian plot 
arcs.  Simon Messingham is an author that I am sure can deliver 
this if he steers clear of the supernatural.

(c) Copyright Zepo, 2000.

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