The Doctor becomes a human being using a device that is pure magic science. A Prospero charm that allows him to alter his entire DNA as well as rewriting his memories from an ancient cosmic being to that of a little Scottish school teacher raised by a stern minister father in Aberdeen. He becomes that which is most alien to him; a one hearted ordinary man. In the television version Daved Tenant dazzled as both The Doctor and John Smith, playing both differently if both wearing the same face. In Paul Cornell's words Sylevester Mc Coy excels delivering two career best performances, if you follow my line of thought. In Paul Cornell's hands and under the direction of his story telling Sylvester delivers two very strong characterizations though both of a different nature retain the same face in the theatre of the minds eye. To the point where I believe this very talented writer could pursue a career in the FPI as a profiler such are the almost poetic observations with which he conjures up the ticks and winks that form a person. The lovely Benny is the companion here herself going through the traumatic aftermath of the loss of a loved one.It is Benny who originally bore the responsibility of care that Martha Jones inherited for the television adaption. Benny is a wonderful character in her own right with a history across different mediums that stretches back longer than most incarnations of The Doctor. This is another book in The Doctor Who History Collection and I had almost forgotten they are all reprints. Remembrances of a time when The Doctor was kept alive by virtue of the Virgin novels and the ever faithful ever excellent Doctor Who Monthly. In his forward to this novel Paul Cornell mentions how his proceeding book was the subject of scathing reviews and yet for the life of me I caqnnot remember which one it may have been. He is such a good writer it is hard to imagine any of his work being pooh-Pooed! Mind you some of the Doctor Who fans have exacting standards, impossibly Galifreyan standards.
This is no rose tinted vision of a vanished England. This is a hard tale of innocence progressing towards manhood and to some degree the same process moving in a backwards direction. It mirrors the contrariness of human nature and almost succeeds in dazzling us with its reflected visions of a bygone age. It is about cowardice and bravery and it is about war and peace.
Mostly though it is about human nature.