Doctor Who: Scratchman – Tom Baker (BBC Books)


 The stars finally aligned, the timelines have converged and an idea born from multitude of brain storming sessions that began in numerous Soho bars during the mid-seventies, has at long last emerged from the swirling mists of the vortex. But as half of the partnership that originally brought  Doctor Who meets Scratchman to life is no longer with us, it was left to the remaining member of the duo to ensure that the story, at long last, reached its audience. So the Doctor, being The Doctor, wrote a Doctor Who novel about the Doctor.  And it’s good. No, scratch (yes, I went there) that,  Scratchman, as a cornflake loving tiger from the same decade in which Harry Sullivan and Sarah Jane Smith traversed time and space in the Tardis, is great with a capital G. But then, as it’s written by Tom Baker, the man who absolutely and totally personifies the Doctor and understands his nature and everything that he is in a way that few others ever could, how could it not be?

The Fourth Doctor, more commonly know these days as Tom Baker, was my Doctor. He epitomised the image of the madman in a box, blundering from one cosmic level disaster to another as he travelled the Universe in search of whatever it was that was hidden just over the horizon in the next galaxy.  There was a method to his madness, and his was a brilliantly sharp intellect that embraced eccentricity, refused to suffer fools and was always on hand to help those who couldn’t help themselves. Tom Baker was, is and always will be my Doctor and he has imbued every sentence, paragraph and page of Scratchman with everything that he learned, and knows, about being the wayward son of Gallifrey.  Beginning in a remote Scottish costal village in which the inhabitants have been struck by a rather curious and deadly virus, Scratchman following the arrival of the Doctor, Sarah and Harrysoon evolves into a dark, base under siege scenario before the big bad is revealed, at which point it becomes both an intellectual and physical battle between the forces of good, embodied by our favourite time travelling trio, and a creature who is acknowledged by most Earth based religions as being the ultimate evil.

Scratchman, in every sense, feels like a Fourth Doctor, Harry and Sarah story. The dialogue, characterisation and stygian tone of the plot are in all in perfect alignment with the period and the story wouldn’t work with any other Doctor or companions. But with this Tardis crew, standing against the strange, terrifying otherworldly darkness that lies at the trembling heart of Scratchman, it’s a force par excellence that doesn’t put a foot wrong from opening until end. Tom Baker’s prose is  as wonderfully imaginative, bonkers and brilliant as he is and as I read Scratchman, my inner monologue adopted the rich, warm tone and mannerisms of the author, as his was, and is, the only voice that my psyche would allow to tell this marvellous story. Part social critique that lambasts and denigrates the petty, narrow minded, simplistic fear and selfishness that has led us a species to want to build walls and turn our backs on our neighbours and part beautifully written tale that makes you yearn for the nostalgia of Saturday tea time and the combination of excitement and fear that Doctor Who’s opening theme would instil, Scratchman is every bit as wondrous, fantastic and fantastical as I, and no doubt every other Whovian who spent their  seventies Saturday evenings glued to the television, knew in our heart of hearts that it would be. Oh Doctor, my Doctor… Tim Cundle

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