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The Roundheads by Mark Gatiss
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With the Civil War won, the Parliamentarians are struggling to hang on to power. But plans are being made to rescue the defeated King Charles from his prisona With Ben press-ganged and put on board a mysterious ship bound for Amsterdam, Polly becomes an unwitting accomplice in the plot to rescue the King. The Doctor can't help because he and Jamie have been arrested and sent to the Tower of London, charged with conspiracy. Can the Doctor and Jamie escape, find Ben and rescue Polly - while making sure that history remains on its proper course? An adventure set in the aftermath of the English Civil War, featuring the Second Doctor as played by Patrick Troughton and his companions Ben, Polly, and Jamie.… (more)



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Gatiss takes the Second Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie back to late 1648 for a pure historical story: they get involved with Oliver Cromwell and a plot to liberate Charles I from captivity. I'll have to say up front that this didn't completely work for me. Simon Guerrier handled this period (setting his story a year later, and the other side of the Irish Sea) far better in The Settling; Gatiss's characters talk like history lessons (apart from his rollicking sailors). In addition, the precepts of historical Who stories are somewhat violated by allowing Richard Cromwell to read a history of the Civil War (though this is dealt with) and, rather more dramatically, having Charles I's escape plan succeed, if only temporarily, provoking the Doctor to intervene rather un-Doctorishly to put history back on track (indeed the last few chapters have everyone acting a bit out of character). Also Gatiss seems a bit hazy about the location of the Solent, which appears in his account to be somewhere in the London suburbs.

There are some nice bits too. Ben falls in with the aforementioned rollicking sailors and goes to Amsterdam and back. Polly has an almost-romance with a young man called Whyte, which I found personally amusing. Charles I himself is moderately well-rounded as a character. So it's not awful, just not as good as it might have been. ( )
  nwhyte | Dec 31, 2008 |
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