Shortly after the events of the ham-and-cheese-tastic TV movie, the Eighth Doctor is finishing up The Time Machine (finally) when he discovers the Master left another trap, because the Master is nothing if not persistent. The Doctor gets hit with a terrible bout of amnesia (again) and doesn’t even know where he is. But
Force Ghost a vision of a floating head tells him to “trust the TARDIS”.
He arrives back in Totter’s Lane, where he is once again caught up in a gang war. Luckily he is not shot, but after saving young Sam Jones from drug dealers and seeing the girl safely off, the police see him holding a bag of crack and, because this is Doctor Who logic, promptly arrest him and declare that he is the supplier for the local drug dealers. After a great deal of nonsense from the less than intelligent drug dealers, which mostly involve paying people to run into the police station and shout at them (oh, England), the Doctor escapes back into the TARDIS.
He makes it to the first serial just in time to stop his first incarnation from bashing that caveman’s head in. After they
mindmeld trade memories, the Doctors
realize what he has to do: he has to visit every single one of his incarnations
to regain his memories. Complicating this are the bureaucrats on Gallifrey,
watching with concern as the Doctor flagrantly violates the law against meeting
up with his other incarnations (which, to be fair, has hardly stopped him
before). President Flavia (several regenerations after the Fifth Doctor
absconded from his presidential duties) knows the Doctor has a good reason for
this, but some of Borusa’s old crowd are still around, and they have connections
to the mysterious Celestial Intervention Agency (which is not a way to make fun
of the CIA in America at all).
If the CIA can't handle eight, no wonder they were rendered speechless when even Capaldi showed up for the anniversary special.
Add in some extra conspiracies surrounding the Sixth Doctor’s trial, a quantity of good Gallifreyan wine, and multi-Doctor squabbling, and you have yourself a fun little adventure. I would have preferred to see more of Sam before she did an Indy-slide into the TARDIS at the end. I feel like we didn’t get much of an introduction beyond “Sam doesn’t like drug dealers” and “Sam is totally unphased by the TARDIS”. I also didn’t like Dicks assigning misogynistic attitudes to the Doctor (complaining about how companions are so different and don’t just cling to him and scream like they used to-really???) I’m torn about the cultural misogyny seen on Gallifrey, because given how messed up the Time Lords are it wouldn’t be surprise me if they hadn’t advanced culturally as much as they thought, but the Doctor seems more open-minded. The closest we got to this attitude in the TV series was the Doctor enjoying the awe-struck reactions to his “brilliance”, and that extended to basically everyone. The Doctor’s got an ego, but it’s at everyone’s expense.
Overall, I thought this was a good way to kick off the Eighth Doctor novels. A little look back before heading into the future is always fun, and it cleared up some confusion regarding the Sixth Doctor’s trial. We also learn a little more about Gallifreyan culture and politics. Now, if only we can find out what turned Rassilon from a helpful, if cantankerous Force Ghost, to Crazy McOmnicide seen in the new series…