Written by Nigel Robinson
From the Back: In a final bid to regain control of the Tardis’s faulty control system the Doctor is driven to experiment with a dangerous untried combination. With a violent explosion the TARDIS blacks out and the crew find themselves trapped inside. A simple technical fault? Sabotage? Or something even more sinister? Tensions mount as the Doctor and his companions begin to suspect one another. What has happened to the TARDIS? Slowly a terrifying suspicion dawns. Has the TARDIS become the prisoner of some powerful fifth intelligence which is even now haunting the time-machine’s dark and gloomy corridors?
First line (not counting the introduction, which is just a recap): “The tall glass column in the centre of the six-sided central control console rose and fell with a stately elegance, indicating that the TARDIS was in full flight.”
An uninteresting start to a rather uninteresting book. I must confess, that my primary reaction to Nigel Robinson’s novels has been one of boredom. This is rather astounding as he was the author who adapted Moris Farhi’s outstanding Farewell Great Macedon. Honestly, I believe Robinson did a stupendous job with Macedon. Unfortunately, I still found his work on The Edge of Destruction to be dull. Perhaps it isn’t his fault. Edge of Destruction isn’t one of the more engaging stories. It has an intriguing premise, but I’m not entirely sure David Whitaker delivered on this in his original script. This leaves Robinson with the unpleasant task of novelizing a story that didn’t really deliver.
Part of what made the televised version Edge of Destruction interesting was the direction. Many of the shots were arranged to heighten the inherent suspense in the story. Scenes with Susan and the scissors or Ian choking The Doctor were handled quite well, even if the actors didn’t quite know what was happening. Robinson understandably focuses on these suspenseful elements. He expounds upon them. At some points it is hard to tell if a new intelligence has invaded the TARDIS or if The Doctor is deliberately playing with Ian and Barbara. Of course, in the end we know that neither is truly the case. Honestly, this is one are where Robinson excels. Occasionally the televised version of the story was unclear or difficult to make out. Robinson more fully conveys both the terror and the explanation. Unfortunately, is was tedium getting to that point.
Another thing Robinson does well, something that is implicit in the original script, is showing us what Barbara sees after she regains consciousness on the TARDIS. She is in Coal Hill School, something that was only conveyed in dialogue in the episode. In the novel, with no special effects constraints, Robinson can more fully deliver the ideas that Whitaker was unable to. In truth, if I had to choose between the two, I would be torn between the hour it would take to watch Edge of Destruction or the realization of the concepts and effects in the novel. Each version has its strengths and weaknesses.
Prescient chapter title: The End of Time
Final Verdict: If you are a fan of Nigel Robinson or the televised version of The Edge of Destruction, then you will probably find plenty to enjoy here.