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Tip of the Tongue: 07/24/17

Tip of the Tongue  by Patrick Ness

Tip of the Tongue by Patrick Ness is the Fifth Doctor story from the Doctor Who 50th anniversary short stories. The Fifth Doctor and Nyssa have arrived in Maine near the end of the Second World War.

The entire town seems to be completely taken with a strange new fashion — a talking beard that looks something like a pharaoh's beard. Everyone calls them Truth Tellers and they bring the awful truth out for everyone. No secrets are sacred anymore and the more hurtful the truth, the more quickly it's told.

The Doctor and Nyssa decide to figure out where these things are coming from and how is behind their distribution. This story takes the approach of the Route 66 television series — and that's probably due to Ness being American (though he's not old enough to have seen the show first hand). Namely, the Doctor and his companion are secondary to the plot.

The story centers on two outcasts of the village. One is a Jewish boy with a German name who is being bullied and has been refusing to wear a Truth Teller. The other is a Black girl who is the town's best mechanic. Both have been the focus of some of the town's most vicious "truth telling."

Just when it seems that the boy and girl will be able to rise above the town mayhem, the Doctor swoops in to solve their problem lickety-split. I realize he's ancient and well traveled but usually there's some hint at whether or not he knows what's going on. Here he knows, and he's just taking Nyssa around to see how her primitive mind will process the information. It's not a particularly rewarding or satisfying portrayal either the Doctor or Nyssa.

Three stars

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at 23:07:30


We are big Doctor Who fans, but I haven't tried the short stories yet. How do you like the collection as a whole?

Comment #2: Thursday, July 27, 2017 at 20:19:00


I've only read the first five but I've enjoyed them. Each story takes about half an hour to read — great for when I don't have a lot of time but want to read something. My reviews for the other four are: A Big Hand for the Doctor by Eoin Colfer, The Nameless City by Michael Scott, The Spear of Destiny by Marcus Sedgwick, and, The Roots of Evil by Philip Reeve.

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