Review: Doctor Who – Sands of Time / Author: Justin Richards / Publisher: BBC Books / Release Date: Out Now
Justin Richards’ contribution to the BBC’s Monster Collection is the Fifth Doctor story Sands of Time. Originally published in 1996, this is a complex time-twisting story that follows on from the Fourth Doctor TV adventure Pyramids of Mars.
As Justin explains in the introduction, this story was constructed around a single mystery and all the ramifications that follow. Nyssa is kidnapped and it is up to the Doctor and Tegan to scour thousands of years of Egyptian history as they try to rescue her without allowing the Osiran menace of Nephthys to gain power.
The story is told out of order and with the Doctor’s own timeline twisted around in a way that is initially hard to follow. However, the pieces are brought together in the end with plenty of signposting. Along the way, there is a lot of backstory and Egyptology which eventually becomes a bit repetitive. That said, the last third of the book is the strongest – having set up all the characters and twists, the action is well-paced and enjoyable. The book’s main weakness is also its strength in that the removal of Nyssa early on keeps her almost entirely off-stage. The resolution also pivots on one too many unexplained co-incidences, but it needs a critical eye to notice.
A definite plus is the presence of Atkins the butler, who travels in time with the Doctor and Tegan: a well-crafted character, more so than Tegan herself, who is in places perfunctory. Overall, a good story that does cover an alien menace that hasn’t been overused – the setting dominates in places but the book is still a decent read.