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Doctor Who: Missing Adventures #20

Doctor Who: The English Way of Death: The History Collection

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The Doctor, Romana and K-9 are hoping for a holiday in London in the sweltering summer of 1930. But the TARDIS is warning of time pollution. And that’s not the only problem.

What connects the isolated Sussex resort of Nutchurch with the secret society run by the eccentric Percy Closed? Why has millionaire Hepworth Stackhouse dismissed his staff and hired assassin Julia Orlostro? And what is the truth behind the infernal vapour known only as Zodaal?

With the heat building, the Doctor and his friends set out to solve the mysteries.

An adventure set in 1930s London, featuring the Fourth Doctor as played by Tom Baker and his companions Romana and K-9.

288 pages, Paperback

First published April 21, 1996

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About the author

Gareth Roberts

63 books88 followers
Gareth Roberts has written TV scripts for various soap operas (including Brookeside, Springhill, and Emmerdale), Randall & Hopkirk (deceased), the revival of Doctor Who, the Sarah Jane Adventures, and Wizards vs Aliens.

Also for the Doctor Who universe, he has written the interactive adventure Attack of the Graske, the mobile phone TARDISODEs accompanying the 2006 series, several Big Finish audios, and multiple novels, as well as contributed to Doctor Who Magazine.

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5 stars
98 (31%)
4 stars
107 (34%)
3 stars
84 (27%)
2 stars
14 (4%)
1 star
6 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
Profile Image for F.R..
Author 27 books191 followers
December 17, 2015
Whereas some Doctor Who novels fail because they throw all manner of random elements together but can’t make them all coalesce into a coherent whole. Gareth Roberts’ absolute genius in ‘The English Way of Death’ is that he takes all kinds of disparate ideas – fashionable London of the 1920s, your actual brain-eating zombies, an Italian adventuress, gas which isn’t just poisonous but actually murderous, a bluff colonel of the Agatha Christie regiment, an unpleasant biscuit magnate, and time travelling tourists (who aren’t The Doctor and Romana) – and makes them all click seamlessly together. In lesser hands even one of those elements being off would be enough to capsize the whole enterprise, but Roberts manages to tie the whole thing up in a tight little bundle with a perfectly formed bow. I’ve never read the Mapp and Lucia books which inspired this, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s the 1920s genteel and witty set, and the bohemian Fourth Doctor is always going to catch admiring glances in those types of circles. It's a cracking story told at a hell of a place - with the scary bits given chance to be fingernail-devouring scary, and the funny bits are given chance to be particularly chortle-worthy – so if you’re a fan of Doctor Who, and of The Fourth Doctor in particular, then this is an essential read.
Profile Image for Ken.
2,112 reviews1,317 followers
May 22, 2018
The Doctor, Romana and K9 arrive in 1930’s London only to encounter zombies posed by horrible smelling cloud of alien green gas.

It’s a great fun adventure that easily evokes that era of the television series that it’s set.
Plenty of humour and horror throughout!
63 reviews2 followers
April 28, 2021
The English Way of Death does an incredible job of showcasing all that is best about Tom Baker-era Doctor Who in a written-word format. Other original Doctor Who novels that I've read may provide a convincing homage to the TV series, but this goes beyond that. The essence of the Fourth Doctor is perfectly captured, Romana is convincing, and even K-9 manages to get on your nerves to an authentic degree. The other 'friendly' characters are an interesting bunch of stereotypes and weirdos, while the 'baddies' are truly menacing, especially their leader. The gothic horror atmosphere provides the feel of a Hinchcliffe/Holmes period story, while the more off-the-wall elements remind me of the better half of Season 17. I can't imagine that any attempt to replicate the format and tropes of the TV series could do a better job than this book.
Profile Image for Nicholas Whyte.
4,565 reviews175 followers
October 5, 2014
http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2348592.html[return][return]It's a fairly standard story, with zombies and a disembodies evil mist, but gives some excellent lines to the Doctor, Romana and K9, as they romp around the English countryside of the 1930s saving the world again. What makes it of interest for New Who fans is that Gareth Roberts used the same time period for the Ten/Donna TV story The Unicorn and the Wasp - it doesn't lean too heavily on the earlier book, but the background is there if you care to look for it.
Profile Image for Troy Hinton-Winrow.
63 reviews2 followers
July 10, 2020
"They were about to die after all, so the gesture was unlikely to be misconstrued later."

Gareth Roberts' work tends to be rather hit or miss. Not due to fluctuation in the actual quality of his writing, but the subjectivity in the range of humour used. As the title suggests, this novel is riffing on a very specific niche of British culture and without the context of it, there is little to get out of the purposeful - and wonderfully realised - caricatures standing in for deeper characters. Nor the - admittedly quite funny - wry remarks at their expense.

Another instance of The History Collection of Doctor Who books featuring an alien with multiple consciousnesses, though a much better utilisation than seen in Amorality Tale. Despite all side characters being distinctive enough to avoid confusion and the vast majority of perspective switches reading cleanly, by Part Three the story becomes - and then remains - cluttered. By Part Four, the plot has devolved into a comedy of conveniences, yet remains highly enjoyable.

Roberts' best work is written around the Fourth Doctor, Romana, and K-9. In general, and in this novel. Their dialogue is pitch-perfect. Romana and the Doctor are given equal importance, page time, and plot relevance. That said, The English Way of Death is a better audio drama than a novel; Big Finish's novel adaptation trims some of the excess fluff. An entertaining story, yet one I'm unlikely to ever think about again.

"That's the trouble with zombies. It's very difficult to get them to admit their time's up."
442 reviews3 followers
June 13, 2017
The English Way of Death follows the joking, send-up style of the 1979 Doctor Who to a fault. Basically, a pastiche of 1930s society novels, this one has The Doctor, Romana, and K9 fighting a living, green cloud that smells like rotting vegetables that wants to destroy the Earth just because it can, and goes to enormous lengths to accomplish it, mostly by creating zombies. Joining our crew are a writer of mediocre detective novels looking for "artsy" types to boost her social life, a bunch of time traveller illegal aliens - humans who have decided to settle in 1930s Britain for a quiet life - led by a milquetoast who thinks he's the life of the party, an Italian countess turned master criminal, a self-important scientist, and a stuffy colonial ex-officer. They run through their various character clichés, so that the reader can take none of the characters seriously. Roberts does have a way of writing for Doctor 4 and Romana II that avoids the habit of overly emphasizing their eccentricities. These characters talk and act as they would have in the TV series.
Profile Image for Jeff Hare.
120 reviews
January 24, 2023
20 years plus after I last read this book, it is still an absolutely superb representation of the Season 17 era of Doctor Who. The wit, the off the wall villain who is prepared to kill everything to save themselves and the human colleagues the Doctor and Romana meet along the way eager to help.

The Virgin Missing Adventures series was hit and miss, but this was always a very popular novel and it absolutely stands the test of time. Characterisation, humour and plotting is absolutely on point and - taking a break from reading the various serial killer and murder mystery novels I adore - reading it was a guilty pleasure that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Profile Image for Alex.
390 reviews2 followers
November 18, 2021
A most enjoyable Fourth Doctor novel. Set in the 1930s, it follows the Doctor, Romana and K9s efforts to fight Zodaal.

I enjoyed this novel, despite not having seen much of the era on which it is based. The characterisation of the Doctor was great, can't comment on Romana and K9 as I haven't seen any of their serials yet.

The guest characters were engaging and likeable, especially the Colonel, Mrs. Chater and Percy.

Personally, I think the historical setting helped me to enjoy this book all the more. I would highly recommend to any fan of the Fourth Doctor.
Profile Image for Danny Welch.
665 reviews
April 12, 2020
An incredibly fun story set in the 1930's with some interesting characters and plenty of horror. Gareth Roberts truly has a knack for writing the season 17 Tardis Team, and this story is no exception. A very fast paced and engaging story with plenty of scares and lots of delicious wit and humour to enjoy. All the characters felt very developed and the concepts were very intriguing. I don't think this is quite as good as The Romance of Crime but it's still a solid 9/10!
Profile Image for Iain.
590 reviews4 followers
December 12, 2020
One of the better Doctor Who adaptations I've read. Decent supporting characters, well portrayed fan favorites in K-9 and Romona. If anything it's the Doctor himself who's a bit weak here. Things seem to keep happening _to_ him and not only is the not in the driver's seat, he doesn't display much agency at all. Still, I'd recommend this to anyone who is a fan of the 4th Doctor during his time with Romona and K-9.

Profile Image for Bob Wagner.
6 reviews
November 13, 2022
I loved seeing the 4th doctor in action, but I felt this story had him as a secondary character. I think the author got lost in the characters and the setting, completely forgetting the person on the cover. I personally found the story predictable and slow. Roberts is a great writer, this book felt like its something that was a side project and did not have his complete focus. Not my cup of tea, if you enjoy English stereotypes and weak carbon copies of detective story secondary characters, this may be your cup of tea.
Profile Image for Trevor Smith.
42 reviews
September 21, 2017
If you've read any of Gareth Roberts splendid 4th Doctor, Romana and K9 novels you know what to expect with this novel.
Splendidly written, great characters, wonderful funny plot and the TARDIS crew written so well and with so much obvious love.
Another wonderful addition to the Gareth Roberts cannon.
Profile Image for Leticia.
358 reviews1 follower
December 5, 2019
The Doctor and Romana face zombies from space in the 1930's.
It could be marvelous, but it's just a good story that captures the feel of the 4th Doctor's era. The problem? Well, it's a book written in the 1990's that feels like TV from the 1970's. There could be more depth to it or it could be more ambitious. As it is it's nice enough, you know, like biscuits. Made me laugh.
Profile Image for Trae Stratton.
Author 3 books44 followers
August 9, 2020
Good villain, well written but the Doctor is off camera for extensive pages- reminiscent of a bar play where everyone gets equal time. The Doctor is the star, he demands much more of the spotlight then he gets here.
Profile Image for Mark Short.
218 reviews
September 23, 2018
A very entertaining book. The characterizations are excellent. The plot speeds along with good action sequences. Highly recommended.
2 reviews1 follower
November 26, 2019
A cracking read

The doctor is up to his neck in this fantastic novel another reason to stick to the old doctors. Very enjoyable
Profile Image for David Sarkies.
1,773 reviews300 followers
February 21, 2015
Doctor who and the brain eating zombies
28 January 2012

I guess what attracted me to this novel was the front cover, and also because it was Doctor Who. This was a time between the two incarnations of the series and the only things that we could turn to to get our Doctor Who fix, or at least a fix from an original story, was the novels. Things have changed now, and with the new Doctor Who series (and the multiple spinoffs) we also have a new series of books based on the new Doctor and his companions. However, with this one we go back to the Fourth Doctor, Romana II (as she is called, though I can never remember the Doctor actually calling her 'Romana II') and K9.
I just loved K9. He was one of the most unique companion of the Doctor. He is the only companion (with the exception of Susan and Romana) that is not truly human. Every other companion is either human, or looks human (Romana and Susan are time lords). Further, a majority of his companions are also female, though in the older series (and even in the books) there is generally no sexual tension between them. In fact, the only character in the old series that would likely attract the Doctor's attention would be Romana (since they are both Time Lords).
The new series it is somewhat different as most of the female companions (read Rose Tyler and Amy Pond) seem to develop a strong attraction to the Doctor, much more than the other companions, even in the books. This is one of the things that annoys me. There is also his love interest that has appeared, River Song, which is a little annoying, however we do need to consider that Susan was the Doctor's Grand Daughter and this suggests that he has had a love interest, though it is difficult to say when (and it is possible that it could turn out to be River Song).
There is probably not that much to say about this book. It involves brain eating zombies and a sentient mist that is attempting to escape a time corridor. Personally I really cannot remember much about this book, though I note that many of them are actually quite hard to get these days (if the prices on Amazon are anything to go by), and I am not sure if I really want to have another bunch of books on my too read shelf. This is more so since one of my friends keeps dumping books on me to read, and I would hardly call any of these books literature (though we will see when I get to Game of Thrones).
Profile Image for Jacqueline.
438 reviews18 followers
June 18, 2016
The English Way of Death is an original story in Virgin Publishing's Missing Doctor book series. It features the Fourth Doctor, as played by Tom Baker, Romana II, as played by Lalla Ward, and K-9. The Doctor unplugs the randomizer that is supposed to keep he and Romana safe from the Black Guardian so he can return some over-due library books.
Soon he and Romana are involved in events, which include admonishing a group of time-travelling tourists from the future - and stopping an evil alien menace from destroying the world.
The alien had already destroyed his own planet, when his attempts to draw energy from a new power source went horribly wrong. In the midst of his engineering, he gets trapped in a time and space trap. The time travelers had accidentally allowed part of the alien's essence to escape the trap. While that part uses gaseous energy to raise zombies that he uses as slave labor, Romana ends up releasing the other half of his personality.
The guest characters in this story often reminded me of British stereotype characters - but that made them fun and relatable. For example, there's a bombastic British military man who insists on telling everyone all about his adventures in India, especially his dates (he's boorish, arrogant, brags about his exploits, and reminds me of the Colonel in Tennessee Tuxedo / Underdog cartoons.) Then there's the Spanish countess, the British gentlewoman on the prowl for a rich husband, so she can write, etc. Throw in the time travelers, and you've got an interesting group of people running around.
The zombies - well, zombies aren't my thing, even when they are glowing green.
Profile Image for Steve.
30 reviews3 followers
February 12, 2017
Pitch-perfect Doctor Who story seamlessly plucked from season 17. Gareth Roberts totally nailed the knockabout fun of that most bonkers of years. It contains loads of scenes which couldn't be realised on TV, featuring zombies every bit as gruesome as on The Walking Dead, but it never stops being a romp. K-9 has never been funnier and the Colonel is such a great creation. Simply my favourite non-Target Doctor Who novel.
Profile Image for Chris Wing.
Author 3 books8 followers
March 1, 2015
A solid fourth Doctor yarn, evoking the period it is set in (both in terms of genre and chronology of Doctor Who)

It seems that Gareth Roberts, whilst fearing this becoming a cliched observation), was born to write for the fourth Doctor. This, his second venture into the adventures of the fourth Doctor and Romana II, observes a Geeves and Woucester genre pastiche, a polar opposite to his previous book (set in the far future, out in space), but nontheless perfectly captures that era of Doctor Who.

The characters are rich and sublime, the villian of the piece having an exquisitely season 17 name, and even K-9 (not a favourite of mine) was enjoyable to read.

I did find Romana to be particularly haughty in this adventure; not much sign of her more whimisical side and the Doctor seemed to be dead centre rgearding his madcap/deadly serious extremes.
This is not a complaint, by any standard, just I felt their characteristics ever so slightly played on the safe side.
Nothing wrong with that at all, I only mention it as I felt the rest of the book was extremely well-written and more nuanced character traits may have raised it to a 5 star rating.

Regardless, this stands out as one of the top Doctor Who books.
Profile Image for James Lark.
Author 1 book16 followers
Read
July 27, 2017
As in 'The Romance of Crime', Roberts captures the atmosphere of season 17 perfectly. Perhaps a little too perfectly: although this would have made for an agreeable romp on TV, it all feels a little too lightweight to sustain a novel, and I found my attention wandering at times because, world-threatening psychopath notwithstanding, it is all rather inconsequential. It doesn't do Gareth Roberts any favours to bring up the oft-cited similarities with Douglas Adams (who WOULD benefit from such a comparison?!) but what Adams brought to this kind of yarn at his best was a streak of genuine human darkness, and this book would have benefitted hugely from that.

Still, the writing is fine and there's much to enjoy, from the colourful characters to the way locations are so authentically painted, and the crystallisation of what one can only imagine would have been a breathless performance by Tom Baker. My real mistake was not reading it on the beach.
Profile Image for Ian Banks.
718 reviews2 followers
August 27, 2016

Pretty ordinary: a whole lot of promising ideas weave themselves into a coherent and interesting story but just fail to grab my interest. I liked the structure of the story, the fact that it contains my favourite Tardis Team and how it mirrored the Classic series, as well as the conceit that everything that happened could just possibly be conceived upon the budget of Series 17, except possibly for K9 moving on the beach. Also, I may have imagined it, but I think Mr Roberts was sneaking song lyrics into the story whenever he could get away with it: I spotted "As Time Goes By" and "Automatic" (Pointer Sisters) being quoted at points in the story, and there were a few other lines that I suspected of being borrowed as well.

Good fun, but nowhere near the heights that I had been led to believe, which makes me feel better for not having sampled this range of stories more back in the day.

Profile Image for Mel.
3,199 reviews173 followers
December 10, 2012
I have to say this didn't make me giggle quite as much as the first one but it was still brilliant. K9 had some amazing lines! The doctor and Romana were perfect!! (though unfortunately didn't have enough scenes together). The minor characters were all pretty funny and enjoyable. There were evil mist zombies that wanted brains! And retired time travellers! And the Doctor trying to return some library books to a library very close to where I used to work! There's one other Gareth Roberts Romana II and Doctor adventure I've not read yet, but it's currently £30 on amazon, which seems a bit pricy for a Doctor who book! As usually I don't spend more than a pound!
Profile Image for Daniel Kukwa.
3,894 reviews86 followers
May 7, 2011
Trust Gareth Roberts to toss the 4th Doctor, the 2nd Romana, and prissy old K9 at the 1930s English seaside, simply to watch them mess-up everything & everyone around them...to delightful effect. Consider it a successful prose practice-run for similar historical ambitions with the 10th Doctor & Donna in the 1920s, in Roberts' script for "The Unicorn & the Wasp".
Profile Image for Steve.
246 reviews31 followers
December 6, 2015
It's hard to rate a sci fi t.v. tie-in novel. This isn't fine literature. But as far as these Doctor Who new adventures go, this one is better than most. The characterization of Tom Baker's Doctor is correct and the supporting characters in this story are entertaining. Surprisingly, there's quite a few good jokes along the way. A fun, easy commute-to-work read.
114 reviews3 followers
April 6, 2014
A novel which perfectly captures the era when Doctor Who was The Tom Baker Show. The story itself is uninspired.
Profile Image for Ben Reed.
36 reviews3 followers
August 10, 2015
A decent story. Slow in the beginning, solid in the middle with a rather disappointing ending. Still it's a fourth doctor story with K9.
Profile Image for Garrett.
1,652 reviews11 followers
May 2, 2015
Gareth Roberts is one of the good ones. If you're a Whovian, you will never be disappointed with his writing, and it'll feel like getting ankle-deep into a classic episode. This was no exception.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews

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