Rating: 4 and a half stars
One of the more interesting things about the mangled timeline of Doctor Who is the "missing season" of Patrick Troughton adventures, which popular speculation says occurred between the TV serials The War Games and Spearhead From Space. This missing season, called "Season 6b," explains away some continuity problems, such as the aged appearances of the Second Doctor and Jamie in The Two Doctors, as well as Jamie's knowledge of the Time Lords, among other things.
Longtime Doctor Who series writer and book author Terrance Dicks embraced this "Season 6b Theory" wholeheartedly, and one of the books tied to this theory is World Game, which picks up immediately after The War Games and reveals what really happened to the Doctor following his unpleasant trial.
As a fan of the Second Doctor, I actively seek out any stories involving him, but this one in particular interested me not only because of the Season 6b connection, but because the open-ended nature of The War Games' conclusion helped the "missing season" seem very possible, and I wanted to know precisely what the Doctor went through when he regenerated into the Bessie-driving dandy we met afterward.
Dicks writes a good story, pairing the Doctor up with an inexperienced snoot named Serena and letting him loose in France during Napoleon's reign. We get some nice continuity nods, including an unexpected but very fun tie to The Five Doctors, and though one does not need to be terribly familiar with Doctor Who history to enjoy this book, such knowledge helps increase such enjoyment immensely; I had a big, goofy grin on my face every time such a nod came along.
While the pacing isn't perfect (there are some rather slow bits here and there), this is one of the better Second Doctor stories to be published, and one of the strongest in the Past Adventures line. It is also, if I'm not mistaken, one of the last as well, which is strangely fitting since it stands alongside The War Games as the end of an era. We don't get to see Jamie or Victoria or Zoe, but Serena makes a decent enough companion that we can tolerate their absences while enjoying the Second Doctor's antics. Since Dicks wrote for the Second Doctor on TV all those years ago (including The War Games), he has no trouble nailing the Second Doctor's personality and manner of speech, and this reads like a true Troughton adventure. Though it has a direct tie to the earlier book Players, one does not need to read that book to follow this one.
Any fan of the Second Doctor should give this book a try. It doesn't suit everyone, but for people like me who enjoy the Doctor's romps through Earth's history and references to the show's canon, this is a solid read.
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