Book Club: Timewyrm: Genesys

This was my very first VNA novel actually :smiley: but I’m generally not too picky when it comes to reading books. As long as I can understand what’s going on, it’s not too slow, the plot makes sense and the characters aren’t off-putting, I generally end up liking the novel. I do look forward to future entries in this range, particularly the ones written by Paul Cornell!

From what I’ve understood, we read the VNAs in order, so Exodus is next! We’ll start that one in four weeks or so.


As far as I’m aware, I think the plan was to work through, in order, but alternating between the VNAs and NSAs. So The Monsters Inside will be next followed by Timewyrm: Exodus.


From Chapter 9: “Now I know what that smell is!” he exclaimed. “It’s anesthetic! I always disliked hospitals, and that’s what this place reminds me of!”

I find it interesting considering how the Seventh Doctor regenerates and that this was written five years before that.


There, I finished it. While it’s not the greatest Doctor Who novel ever written, once you get into it, it reads quite fast. Ishtar/Qataka is a fascinating villain and what would’ve been the final episode if this were a TV serial is a lot of fun.

I didn’t find the Doctor telling Ace off for not liking Gilgamesh as egregous as most people. Should he have said that in the way he did? Probably not. However, it felt to me more like he was telling her that there are worse cultures out there and better ones. This is simply their culture. It didn’t seem like he was callously saying “your concerns don’t matter”, instead it felt to me like he was telling to hold her temper. He wasn’t telling her to roll over and take it. Should it have been there, or phrased in that way? No.

Thankfully, the sex stuff kinda faded as the plot kicked into high gear. I like the way the past can be an alien to modern sensibilities. And once we get to Utnapishtim, the plot is really flying and a lot of fun to read. Whatever you want to say about Peel, he can write fun action sci-fi. The finale fakeout was well-done leading to the battle in the TARDIS. The Time Ram with the Timewyrm had me squeeing a little bit. In the end, a fairly enjoyable read that, despite its flaws, was an enjoyable start to the series.


First VNA I’ve ever read :smile: I’m really looking forward to reading them all now.

As @deltaandthebannermen correctly said, we are also reading New Series Adventures, so The Monster Inside is next, then we go on to Timewyrm: Exodus.

I’ll post the schedule now…

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Yeah, this was definitely the worst way to kick off the VNAs. Fortunately it’s John Peel’s only contribution to that series (although unfortunately, he also gets a VMA and two EDAs later on).


This isn’t my least favorite book so far, but it’s the one that made me the most uncomfortable. I don’t think the sexual content involving minors is anywhere near okay, and I don’t think Peel should have been commissioned for a Who book again afterwards because of it. His characterization of the Seventh Doctor is also atrocious and probably contributes heavily to the VNAs’ negative reputation. For that reason I’d say it was the worst way to start the New Adventures, even if I wouldn’t call it the worst book in the series (my choice for that one is apparently a controversial one lol). That said, I do generally like his writing style, and I think he’s much better at writing prose than, say, Terrance Dicks. Also, once the story gets further on it becomes quite enjoyable. Ishtar is a great villain and a highlight of the book.


@DarthGallifrey has started a thread to discuss DWM 175 which previewed Timewyrm: Genesys. Some lovely artwork accompanies the preview in this issue.


Reading John Peel’s little blurb at the start of the Timewyrm section in DWM 175 and got to this: “Peter and I were in full accord with the BBC in ensuring that the Doctor and Ace as you will see them in the book will still be the same characters in every way as their television counterparts.” Eventually it felt like they were the Seventh Doctor and Ace, but not at the start of the book. I’m really finding this look into the past rather fun.


Late to the party bit finaly started this. Well, this feels different. I am 2 chapters in. The parts in the past feel more like Game of Thrones than Doctor Who. I liked the Ace don’t know how she is part and looking forward to reading more about that.


There’s never a better time than the present! Welcome to the party! It’ll be interesting to read your thoughts once you progress with the story.


Nine chapters in. I feel mixed on this. It is fun and has an interesting villain but it also has child prostitutes and an uncomfortable amount of touching without consent which would be more okay if it was commented on in a better way.


I have been sick for two days, which made me finish this book. I found this fan-made audiobook and listened to parts of it when I was tired (he has made audiobooks for the 6 first VNA novels).

It feels “wrong” but I enyojed large parts of the book. I think the story was fun and it had a great villain. I also love Enkidu.

There were some major problems like I and others have mentioned above. But at least there was less of it in the second half of the book. But the “Ace stop bothering about the inappropriate touching“ speech from the doctor was hard to read. In some parts of the writing made 1991 feelt like the Middle Ages.

Overall i gave it 3.5/5 and i am looking forward to read the next book.


Recorded by an old friend of mine (who I haven’t seen for years, sadly).


If you talk to him. Please tell him that I enjoyed them very much!


Alright - I finally finished this one! My first VNA! And I have mixed opinions.

Definitely feel like perhaps the hate is overhyped in some areas, but I also get where it’s coming from. I think John Peel did show us a lot of fascinating bits of ancient Mesopotamian culture, AND I don’t think we necessarily needed any of the sexual bits.

I glossed over the conroversial bit with the Doctor somewhat excusing the culture pretty quickly. I understand it has issues, but I think it was generally a “we don’t have time to deal with/fix this” type of thing.

I liked Ishtar a lot, great character. For me, the first half was kinda slow and it made me bored at times. That’s mostly why it’s taken me months to come back to it. But as soon as I got further in, about halfway, I read the rest of the book in one night! Really did enjoy the last 3rd for the most part.

I give this one a 6.5/10. The story is not too hard to follow. A few things are clunky like the memory-wipe in the beginning, but it sets up things Peel is trying to do at the end, so I at least applaud the attempt. The sex stuff, and of course it involving children, is not okay and not needed. Once the book moved more away from that, it picked up. The ending was genuinely solid and I’m excited to see what happens next!


In Doctor Who magazine #175 a “Prologue” of this book was included. It was not like the Preludes that ran from Nightshade to Human Nature, but rather a bit from the book itself.

Included were these two drawings:


I really like this one of the console room👍


Seems very First Doctor.

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Going down a rabbit hole now.

Apparently this version of the console room was first seen in the comic “The Chameleon Factor” by Paul Cornell with art by Lee Sullivan.
And later reprinted in “The Good Soldier” comic collection - just putting that one on the future purchase list :+1:

Not as much First Doctor from this perspective.


I actually read this one a few months ago as part of an intended read/reread of the VNA’s from the start - and was quickly reminded of why I had failed to finish it the first time around! However this time I forced myself to persevere, and once I was past the halfway point and the actual “adventure” was underway, I did find it easier going.

But all I can really say is “What on Earth were they thinking?” Of all the ways to launch a new range, this was most certainly not it! You don’t allow an author who is open about not liking the TARDIS team in question to write the first book just because he begs you to! And if against your better judgement you do agree, but then he turns in something like this - with unrecognisable main characters, continuity errors & literally relishing in depicting gratuitous sexual acts on minors - then you should fallback on your Editor’s hat to obtain the necessary rewrites before publication.

The most frustrating thing about this book is that as others have said, there is a genuinely good Doctor Who story in there and it only needed a few tweaks to iron out most of the problems.

The Paradise Towers error could have been spotted by giving an early draft of the opening to any of the other three Timewyrm authors who would have spotted it straight away. (Not that I felt that the whole memory loss scene was in any way necessary in the first place.)

I get that Peel may just have been trying to depict the culture accurately, but if this book was published today, the repeated explicit depictions of 13- & 14-year olds topless &/or engaging in sexual activity (indeed being described as “enjoying” or being “highly skilled” at it!) is likely to have attracted the attention of Operation Yewtree! Again the simple removal of any reference to the girls’ ages could have easily resolved the problem.

Ace is totally unrecognisable here - e.g. she has no problem with committing mass murder with her bombs even when most of the victims are collateral damage - and I just couldn’t picture Sophie saying most of her lines. The Doctor also came across as a “generic doctor” rather than 7 as portrayed by Sylvester.

Unlike many, I do understand, and agree with, the point the Doctor was trying to make about not judging other societies through the lens of our modern values - however the problem for me came when he insisted that Ace go off on her own on a multi-day (& night) expedition with a man that she had just said she was afraid would molest her! One can only assume that he knew she would be able to take care of herself - but in that case, that is what he should have replied to her.

So my rating for this book is low mainly due to Virgin’s failure to address these problems that should have been blindingly obvious when the draft was submitted and turn this into a good book.