With Bernice Summerfield well established as the Seventh Doctor’s companion (Ace had returned a hardened Dalek killer in black leather, got cranky a lot, shot things, and eventually renamed herself Dorothée and disappeared into the 17th century), the books had built a steady readership.
One of the elements that made the Virgin New Adventures stand out was the open submission guidelines – unlike pretty much every other media tie in property ever, unpublished and unknown writers could submit novels (or even proposals) on spec. From Paul Cornell onwards, many got their first publishing break through this system, and that meant a variety of new and fresh voices.
Now it was time for another change – additions to the regular cast. Enter new companions Chris and Roz, who made their debut appearance in Original Sin by Andy Lane. He had previously written a few other books for the range, notably introducing the Doctor and Bernice to Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson in All Consuming-Fire.
Like Bernice, Chris and Roz were professional adults from a gritty, hard-edged science fictional future. Coming to the book for the first time in (gulp) 20 years, I was impressed by the rigour and detail of this late 30th century Earth. Roz is an experienced Adjudicator, still mourning the death of her former partner who was killed by aliens. Earth has many floating cities in this era, populated by the privileged, while everyone else scrabbles for crumbs on the surface beneath.
It’s all a bit different to the gleaming, sterile “future” we glimpsed before the Doctor whisked Zoe away from The Wheel in Space in 1968!
Roz Forrester is cynical, ground-down and hurting. She’s struggling to do the right thing in a world where honour is hard to find. There’s also some intriguing hints that she’s privately wealthy, which are not addressed in this particular book.
The last thing Roz needs is to be paired with a new Squire, let alone a wide-eyed rookie with his heart on his sleeve and a spring in his step. In other words, Chris Cwej (pronounces Shvay when not pronounced Cwedge). He’s adorable, just plain nice, utterly (apparently) untouched by the harsher realities of life and oh yes, did I mention he looks exactly like a six foot teddy bear?
“Body bepple” is the 30th century equivalent of a tattoo – DNA manipulation that allows people to take on weird and amusing physical changes. And apparently it’s completely okay to do this even at work. Even when your job is being a cop at the tough end of the planet.
Possibly this tells you everything you need to know about Chris. When he’s not choosing to be a giant teddy bear, he’s a six foot blond bloke. The book features two illustrations of Chris and Roz together, as well as the cover painting, which conveys their physical appearance as well as something of the vibe of their working relationship.
I love male-female partnership stories, particularly when gender traditions are subverted, so the Chris/Roz scenes were all pretty damned readable. It doesn’t hurt that when someone has to be damsel’d for the plot, it’s him. They spark off each other and liven up the story considerably – so much so that you half forget that they don’t seem to be intersecting with the Doctor and Bernice, right up to the moment that the Doctor becomes their prime suspect.
Benny’s friendship with the Doctor has deepened considerably and I really enjoyed their scenes together – I like how relaxed they are in and out of each other’s company, and that they take it for granted that the other will always understand what they need them to do (ashtray the ipshay!).
Being so used to the recent version of the show, I have to say that it’s lovely to see a Doctor-Companion relationship that isn’t immediately being flagged as problematic, or flawed, or something that has clues embedded about how it’s all going to go horribly wrong by the end of the season. Doctor Who just plain travelled at a slower pace back then, and I miss that.
HEY YOU KIDS, GET OFF MY LAWN!
Ahem. All in all, Original Sin is a fun mystery with plenty of Doctorish science fictional stuff thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed the set up of Chris and Roz to the point where joining the TARDIS crew became inevitable. More great adult characters with potential that would be explored across many future stories.
ELSEWHERE ON 1995:
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice [Doctor Who Book Club Podcast]
The Ghosts of N-Space [Doctor Who Book Club Podcast]
Downtime [Wife in Space]