In the wake of the Kennedy assassination, the faces of the dead are appearing everywhere...


AT 12.30pm on November 22 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was fatally shot by a sniper, and the world was forever changed.

In our reality, the following day saw the premiere of a new BBC science-fiction series which has survived through various changes in format and periods off-air to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.

But in the world of the Doctor and Clara, the impact of the Kennedy assassination has opened up the griefstricken planet to the influences of the alien Shroud. The faces of the dead are everywhere, from the police officer who sees his deceased father in the mists along Totter’s Lane to the FBI agent whose late partner stares back at him from raindrops on a window pane.

So far, so good. A chilling opening, loaded with emotion and historical perspective, and the sort of story which would work remarkably well on screen. Donbavand’s version of the Eleventh Doctor may have bordered on the idiotic at times, with a focus on his more outlandish personality traits, but this almost worked within the grim context of the narrative, so could just about be overlooked.

Unfortunately nothing excuses the second half of the book, which sees the Time Lord and Clara travel through a wormhole to another planet which has already been ravaged by the Shroud, and join forces with hundreds of clowns.

Yes, you heard it right. Clowns. And not the evil, scary clowns featured in various horror movies. These are comedy clowns of the worst kind. Led by Wobblebottom and Flip Flop, they possess a small clown car which is somehow dimensionally transcendental, allowing them all to travel back to Earth in the same tiny vehicle.

It is as bad as it sounds. Doctor Who has never had any pretensions about being “the children’s show that adults enjoy”, but this is the sort of thing which would be laughed off the CBBC channel for being beneath their quality threshold.

Even the characterisation of Clara, here making her novel debut, is bland and lacking in depth, a far cry from Jenna Coleman’s portrayal on TV.

To be honest, it’s also an insult to the memory of JFK that his assassination has been linked to such an infantile narrative, bordering on the slapstick, when it really was an event that shocked and devastated much of the world.

A rare misstep for the Doctor Who fiction line, and even the vocal talents of Frances Barber can do little to save this release. Very disappointing.

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