Here we go then! The much hyped and talked about “Time Lord Victorious” inter-connected story arc kicks off with this 192-page novel. It sets the scene for what’s to come more than it tells a stand-alone story, but that’s okay, because by the final chapter I was really looking forward to what’s to come! So let’s kick the multi-format story strand off with the long winded “The Knight, The Fool and The Dead”.
The Doctor travels back to the Ancient Days, an era where life flourishes and death is barely known…
Then come the Kotturuh – creatures who spread through the cosmos dispensing mortality. They judge each and every species and decree its allotted time to live. For the first time, living things know the fear of ending. And they will go to any lengths to escape this grim new spectre, death.
The Doctor is an old hand at cheating death. Now, at last, he can stop it at source. He is coming for the Kotturuh, ready to change everything so that Life wins from the start.
Not just the last of the Time Lords. The Time Lord Victorious.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
When this whole thing was teased what stood out to me most wasn’t The Doctor succumbing to his ego post Waters of Mars, nor was it the idea of a story being told across three Doctors and loads of different media, it was the idea of the Kotturuh. In the very earliest days of the “Dark Times”, the very start of the universe, there was no natural life span, things just lived until they happened to die via some sort of accident… until the Kotturuh came from another dimension and decided to use its dreadful power to “judge” each species and give them a specific life-span. That’s a really fun idea, and I like how they wrote it into The Doctor’s timeline. He just saw the death of someone he tried so hard to protect that he even broke the laws of time, so he decides to break the laws again and go back to the Dark Times and hang out with a civilization that doesn’t know death. A fool proof plan! … Until the Kotturuh arrive on the planet.
The Doctor meets Estinee, a girl who is being used by a Professor named Fallomax to sell “Life Shrouds” that will protect people from the up-coming Kotturuh invasion, or rather will get people to buy it and part with their money just before the invasion and then die anyway. The Shroud is no fake, it’s just there is only one working model and Fallomax uses it, Estinee just happens to be an aberration, someone who can’t die even by “accidents” and is therefore the perfect guineapig to show how the Shroud protects someone from mortal harm, even if it means hurting an innocent girl over and over. It’s a rather horrific, but again interesting set up. The other main character is “Brian the Ood”, a hitman who has been hired to test the Life Shroud and bring it back to his client, a weird horse-like thing called Chalskal. He comes to… I won’t say like, but “not mind hanging out with” The Doctor, even if his methods are still at odds with how The Doctor does things. He’s good for a bit of dark humour, and just general silly humour too. Looking forward to see… or er, hearing him in this month’s Eighth Doctor audio drama.
I like the Kotturuh as well. They’re very generically evil in description, but are really a necessary evil, even if The Doctor doesn’t see it! There are some great scenes of The Doctor being exposed to some of their writings and being driven slightly crazy that I liked. The sort of “these beings are so far out of my comfort zone that I can’t actually comprehend them” story I find interesting.
The book’s cover, including our first look at the Kotturuh… and an Ood in a Tux!
So a good chunk of the book is a bit of a regular run-around, mostly revolving around Estinee being constantly kidnapped by the Kotturuh, who dislike the fact she goes against their “plan” and the general order of things. Eventually driven into a corner, The Doctor devises a plan to not only defeat them, but possible stop their activities entirely, therefore wiping out natural death from the entire universe going forward. He goes back and forth on whether he should do such a thing, whether he “has the right”, to quote his old self. Eventually he decides to give them a chance, as he always does… until both Fallomax and Estinee are killed in the confrontation with the death bringers, the latter blowing herself up with a special crystal and becoming some weird… sky ghost thing *shrugs* I don’t know. But this pushes The Doctor over the edge once again and he actually does it, he unleashes a crystal that reflects the Kotturuh’s power back on themselves, giving them a brief life span and killing all those who aren’t under the safety net around their home planet.
The Doctor, dressed in Time Lord royal robes, soon arrives on a large battleship captained by Brian the Ood and declares himself once again the “Time Lord Victorious” as he is moments away from taking down the safety net and wiping out the entire Kotturuh race, ridding the universe of natural death. Suddenly a Dalek saucer appears with the Eighth Doctor on board, cooperating with his greatest foes to bring Tenth back round, followed by a Great Vampire ship with the Ninth Doctor in control who proclaims he’ll stop his future self, something that just angers the Time Lord Victorious…
Great set up for what will be the big, pivotal moment in the story arc, and I can’t wait to see what happens!
As I mentioned, a lot of the middle of the book is The Doctor, Brian and/or Fallomax searching for Estinee, or devising plans in the TARDIS. It’s perfectly fine, it just felt a bit plain for what was such an unusual story in tone. The prose is fine, by the way, but again it won’t blow you away, nor will it thankfully make you roll your eyes due to over-complexity. It gets the job done.
Obviously this and its sequel book “All Flesh is Grass” are the keystones to the whole Time Lord Victorious story arc, so the Eighth Doctor teaming up with the Daleks and arriving to stop him will be covered in the Big Finish audio drama releases, starting with “He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not”, while the Ninth Doctor’s meetings with the Great Vampires will be covered in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip “Monstrous Beauty”.
It also serves as a direct sequel to “The Waters of Mars”, where the whole phrase “Time Lord Victorious” was first coined, and will most likely show why this side of the Tenth Doctor never rears its ugly head again. “The Dark Times” of the universe has been mentioned on a few occasions throughout the show’s history, though the races often stated to have dominated the era are presumably not around yet, or just aren’t mentioned beyond The Doctor casually mentioning having met a few of the “Old Ones” in his life time.
There is a brief Interlude in the book that shows Barbara talking to The First Doctor about an old Grimm Brothers tale that was set during their cave man adventure in the first ever TV story “An Unearthly Child”.
The Knight, The Fool and The Dead was created to set up the unique situation the three Doctors find themselves in during what will presumably be the big pay off in “All Flesh is Grass” in December, as well as make you interested in hearing/reading how the other Doctors got there, and for that reason this book was a triumph! In terms of being an actual self-contained story, it was fine, I liked the Kotturuh and their unique place in history, but it did involve a lot of basic Who tropes, which was a little disappointing due to the setting. Still, a nice quick read and a fun beginning to a large story arc…