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Reviewed: Lethbridge-Stewart – The Forgotten Son

Cards on the table: I loved the Virgin New Adventures and their BBC Books incarnation too, but when Doctor Who returned in 2005 the range suddenly became quite… childish, I suppose. So when I heard about the Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart series of books, and saw the roster of authors, I had high hopes. Lance Parkin (who was due to write the second Lethbridge-Stewart installment, but had to step away form the project), Nick Walters, and David A McIntee all contributed Doctor Who stories to the Virgin and BBC ranges during the Great Hiatus, so how could this new run of books – approved by both Hannah Haisman, granddaughter of the Brigadier’s departed co-creator Mervyn, and his writing partner Henry Lincoln – possibly fail?
It all hangs on quality, and I had high hopes. Why? After all, we had no idea how good or bad the first book would be.
At the same time, however, we do know how good or bad various elements of “official” Doctor Who non-TV fiction have been over the past decade, and Big Finish aside, it has been a ropey old collection of tales that don’t do justice to the creative rich seam that was mined in the ’90s and noughties.
Fortunately for everyone involved, The Forgotten Son is a superb start to the Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart range, set following the events of The Web of Fear and before The Invasion. Keeping the focus tightly on the proto-Brigadier, we get an insight into the impact of the events in London, how the military manage the return of the evacuees, and we get a recognisable, powerful villain. There’s even a couple of mentions of some Doctor in there, too.
Now, the eagle eyed among you might have noticed that this is a Doctor Who book without the Doctor: stories set in the Doctor Who universe, but without any official approval. Well, you’re wrong: Ms Haisman and Mr Lincoln have given all of the approval necessary. The characters within The Web of Fear belong to the writers (just as Terry Nation owns the Daleks, Robert Holmes the Sontarans, etc.) and so Andy, Nick, and David and anyone else who may come to write for this series are all able to refer back to that story and use the events within; the same goes for any other works by Haisman and Lincoln.
Colonel Lethbridge Stewart in The Web of Fear
We can only speculate as to what this might mean for popular characters created by other Doctor Who writers…
With a number of mysterious layers to intrigue and entice, the puzzle over the Colonel’s background and the disappearance of a dead soldier to keep you guessing, Forgotten Son is a superb opener to the series, mixing recognisable Who lore, suppositions by cast members, tear-jerking dedications, a foreword by the great Terrance Dicks, and the familiar smile of the man we came to know as the Brigadier.
Because, really, this is his book, and his series, and had Andy failed to bring the old soldier to life then we probably wouldn’t be talking about these books for much longer.
Happily, the opposite is true. He may not be hijacking Liz Shaw’s research scientist career or bellowing “chap with wings: five rounds rapid!” but this is an absolutely perfect representation of Lethbridge-Stewart in his younger days, coming to terms with the barmy events of the Great Intelligence’s Yeti attack and discovering new facts about himself, just as we learn them with him.
I’m reluctant to issue empty epithets such as “a triumph” or “Andy Frankham-Allen’s best yet!” (especially as I haven’t read too much of Andy’s work) but The Forgotten Son is the series opener that we hoped for, and we further hope the range continues for many years to come.
If you’re a fan of classic Doctor Who, of the Brig, or if you just want to enjoy a good sci-fi adventure within an established fictional world, then head to Candy Jar Books’ website (priced £8.99 + postage), or Amazon, and order your copy forthwith! Candy Jar also offers a couple of pleasing bundles, so if you’re already invested in the books, the four first year’s novels will cost from £31.00!

Christian Cawley

Reviewed: Lethbridge-Stewart – The Forgotten Son

by Christian Cawley time to read: 3 min
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