Flashback is a bit longer than the last few stories I have looked at in the Doctor Who Books Project. At six pages, it even has the luxury of an introductory scene set before the Doctor arrives on the scene. We are introduced to Tay, Zak and Able, three spacemannys from the planet Pendor, and there is a big picture of Tay's face so that we know he is a manny and not a river.
The Doctor has been accompanied by Sarah for a lot of stories now, ever since The Sleeping Beast, but Sarah is not in Flashback. Instead the Doctor's Companion is Leela. A change in Companion is accompanied by a change in the art style, as it seems that whoever has drawn the pictures to go with this story has tried quite hard to have them make sense and go with the words, which very few of the recent stories have done.
The Doctor and Leela arrive on "a Pendorian beacon ship. A sort of cosmic lighthouse-cum-weather balloon" (as the Doctor explains). They have arrived just in time to see the plot getting underway as we get to page three.
A small spaceship had docked with the beacon ship, and four men were walking down the ramp. The first three all looked very similar - tall, well-built and dressed in identical red uniforms. The last figure was very small by comparison, fat, with a shock of red hair and a metallic blue suit. Three more uniformed figures were waiting to greet them.
This is a pretty accurate description of what we can see in the above picture, except that there are only two mannys waiting at the bottom of the ramp. Maybe the other one is drawing the picture?
The manny in blue is called Skeeda and is a baddy. Fortunately the Doctor recognises him and fills us in on the exposition so that we don't have to waste any time in establishing this. Skeeda hypno-eyeses the uniformed mannys and Leela using a flashing light, but the Doctor is too busy expositing to be hypno-eyesed.
A nasty piece of work, but very clever if he could only have used his talents to do good . . . Leela, you're not listening. Leela!
The Doctor knows how to un-hypno-eyes Leela though.
Quickly he turned the girl's face away from the light and slapped it hard. As she staggered under the blow, Leela's eyes flickered and she brought her hand up to her cheek. The Doctor relaxed and pulled her out of sight of the ship.
"Sorry about that," he said, "but you were almost hypno-tised by that fat fiend down there."
Leela rubbed her face ruefully. "I am glad that I am on your side," she said.
I had to read that bit a couple of times to make sure I understood it right, because the first time I almost thought it said that the Doctor slapped Leela's face. But it must mean that the Doctor slapped the hypno-eyesing light because that would make more sense.
The other mannys are still under Skeeda's control and he is going to make them use their computers to "cause as much havoc and destruction as you can!" They must have some kind of space internets to be able to do this.
The Doctor and Leela follow Tay to his computer room and the Doctor uses a flashing light to de-hypno-eyes him. Tay then works to undo the damage he has done, but there are still other mannys who are under Skeeda's control.
"Even now, the rest of your team is stirring up more delights for that madman, Skeeda."
"We must stop them at once!" gasped a horrified Tay.
"Yes, but how?" said Leela.
"Leave it to me," said the Doctor, with a conspiratorial wink. "I have a plan...."
Since the story cuts to Skeeda and his hypno-eyesed minions at this point, I will cut to talking about how Leela looks nothing at all like Louise Jameson in this picture, and the Doctor appears to be wearing a red coat but not his usual scarf... and now I have been hypno-eyesed by the light he is holding.
So, the Doctor's "plan" turns out to be that he goes to where Skeeda and the other mannys are and hypno-eyeses them with his flashing light. This massive anticlimax ought to bring this sorry excuse for a story to an end, but there is still almost a whole page left to go and the Doctor hasn't acted out-of-character nearly enough yet, with his questionable light-slapping antics.
The Doctor appears to have changed his coat and put his scarf on for this last picture, unless he just hypno-eyesed me into thinking he did. And if you think the Doctor wouldn't use his hypno-powers for petty things like that, read on:
The Doctor concentrated on Skeeda, who was still staring at the flashing light, his eyes glazed, his mouth slack.
"Are you listening to me, Skeeda?" said the Doctor, softly.
"Because if you're not listening, I can make you listen. Because I can do anything. As from this moment there's no such thing as free will in the entire universe. There's only my will because I possess the Key to Time."
The little fat man nodded, his eyes still on the light.
"You have been a naughty man, a very naughty man, but now you're going to be good, aren't you?" Skeeda nodded again.
"Listen carefully. These men have a busy time on this ship, and you could be very useful to them, preparing their meals, keeping their quarters tidy, and doing any little odd jobs for them.
"From now on you will do exactly as they say, and you will forget that you were ever anything but their servant."
Skeeda's face assumed a vacant smile, and the Doctor switched off the light. Immediately the little man's eyes flicked wildly around the room.
"What am I doing here? he said. "I should be getting a meal ready for those boys! They will be starving after that long journey!"
This is supposed to be an amusing, everybody-laughs-at-Mr-Spock type ending, but I find the idea of the Doctor robbing a manny of free will, even a baddy getting a taste of his own medicine, to be deeply uncomfortable. Who wrote this, Paul Cornell?