Virgin Books’ Doctor Who: New Adventures series was, back in the day, meant to provide fans of Doctor Who the thing they wanted after the show was put on indefinite hiatus after the serial Survival. Time’s Crucible is the 6th book in the series, part of a pair of thematically linked stories under the heading of “Cat’s Cradle”.

The story involves the TARDIS basically having a temporal collision with an early prototype Time Ship from Gallifrey from just before the rise of Rassilon. This gets into material that doctors from Tom Baker on had explored directly, but which Sylvester McCoy’s doctor had only explored obliquely – the history of the Time Lords.

Conceptually, telling the story as a novel lets you do some stuff that would be really hard to do in live-action television. The mixed up TARDIS interior is described with a weird surrealistic and claustrophobic interior that you could do with comics or animation (as was demonstrated by the anime Id:Invaded), but would be very difficult to do with a TV budget for the time (even modern Doctor Who might stumble a bit with that).

Additionally, the book puts Ace at the forefront in some interesting ways – she’s always been an active character in Doctor Who stories, but here for 3/4th of the book she’s the driving force of the resolution of the plot. 

The book’s not without some real problems though. The elements of the plot with time folding in on itself and alternative versions of characters from different places in their timelines running into each other works very awkwardly in prose. By the end of the book I’ve completely lost track of some of these characters timelines. This, on the other hand, is something that a visual presentation would work strongly with – through showing the same character in different physical states to indicate where they are in their life and their timeline (or timelines).

Additionally, the opening portions of this book are something of a slog – when the book gets going, it really gets going. It’s just that it takes almost a quarter of the book to get there.

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