Friday, June 3, 2011

Wishing Well

How can you not love any Doctor Who book where the Doctor and companion’s objective is just to find a nice English village cream tea? Especially when that companion in Martha? Wishing Well is, of course, much more than that and takes a decidedly sinister turn that means Trevor Baxendale creeps my very socks off. The book is certainly aware of the debt it owes to stories like “The Daemons” and “Stones of Blood” but is also aware that it’s a modern tale, and as such, ups the stakes considerably. Sadly, the only thing that detracts is its rather deus ex machina ending.

The book begins with a village called Creighton Mere and Pigbin Josh’s nephew, a tramp by the name of Old Barney. Nothing like a relative of Pigbin Josh to scare the Doctor and companion away to start off your book. Of course, polite as Martha is, they don’t take heed of the warning to stay away from Creighton Mere and meet up with 83-year-old Angela Hook (she must be distantly related to Dr. Amelia Rumford) and Sadie Brown, her younger partner in crime (who wants to open a tea room!). They are both (perhaps a little too) obsessed with the village’s wishing well, which is quite an antique and in need of some TLC and restoration work. There’s also a legend of a highwayman and treasure linked to the well, which quite a few of the villagers have a vested interest in (here’s where it gets like The Spectre of Lanyon Moor).

They then spend a lot of time talking at the pub (I’m impressed at Martha’s restraint, ordering mineral water!); Martha notices the Doctor is particularly distant. Baxendale’s Martha, though not quite the virtuoso performance we get from the Guerrier Martha, is still impressively nuanced, with that pesky romantic hang up on the good Doc. Unfortunately things don’t stay chummy for long, as Nigel Carson and his “university chums” do get to their buried treasure, reminding me of a very frightening radio play I listened to during Halloween week. The horror just increases from there, with the Doctor deciding it’s a great idea to lower himself down the sinister well (that has already vaporized one character!). Thus we get this chilling scene:

He pointed the torch at the lumpy mass. There was definitely something inside the weed. Carefully he reached out and tugged at some of the fronds, and they came away quite easily. Beneath there was something small and round and dark. The light picked out a tiny face with matted fur and whiskers. ‘Uh oh,’ said
the Doctor quietly.
The dead cat was almost overgrown with the weeds. The Doctor pulled some more fronds away, exposing the ginger ears and an old collar with a name tag. Squinting, he pulled the collar around until he could read the name on the little metal disc.
‘Tommy,’ read the Doctor. ‘Barney Hackett’s cat. So this is where you ended up, eh, puss?’
There was silence in the well-shaft as the Doctor stared sadly at the feline remains.
Then the cat’s eyes snapped open and it mewed at him.

There’s a lot of chasing and escaping, monsters and mayhem, and as in “The Daemons,” the pleasant English village gets torn up. But you know it’s all sure to come out right in the end; it’s an enjoyable journey until you get there. Martha gets to use her medical skills and flirts with a guy named Duncan. Clotted cream and scones are had in the end

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