The plot can only be described as unique as the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and Kameleon get dragged into investigating a murder at the time travelling restaurant The Crystal Bucephalus which leads to a conspiracy to take over the restaurant. The plot structure while very traditional in style lends itself well to Hinton’s more wordy style of prose writing and the crazier ideas he decides to include in the novel. As a writer Hinton is still pretty amateurish in his dialogue as there is very little to stand out apart from the quote on the back cover of the novel, the extremely witty prologue, and the last few chapters where the style suddenly shifts to something more readable.
Hinton is clearly a Doctor Who fan as he is able to make the Fifth Doctor come across much like the character we saw on television. He didn’t think investing in a time travelling restaurant would take off and when he is captures he uses his more unassuming nature to get Tegan and Turlough to gather information and when it is suggested the Time Lords would shut the place down if they had the chance he makes sure they don’t even consider the possibility of being a Time Lord. Double points to Hinton for making the Doctor immediately recognizable after switching out of his usual costume to a French inspired one. I could easily imagine Peter Davison in the role. Tegan Jovanka also is given a lot to do as she is the one to uncover much of the conspiracy and get herself into trouble. She is sent to several different time periods including to a McDonalds where she meets a Dorothy who may or may not be Ms. Dorothy Ace Gale McShane. She gets paired with the Diva, Hellenica Monroe, the girlfriend of the murder victim who is basically an upper class future woman who Tegan has great chemistry with. Their scenes are the most enjoyable of the novel. Turlough on the other hand is just as bland as he was on TV but is even more insufferable as he trails the master of ceremonies at the Crystal Bucephalus. Kameleon also has things to do in this novel, but he isn’t redeemed either. Hinton just has him there to explain why he disappeared on TV.
The supporting characters are all French and I love them. You have the Maitre D who serves as the master of ceremonies and is very fat. He is a joy whenever he appears in the novel and I love his character. There is the villain Ladygay Matisse who is your standard power hungry woman, but I can’t help but enjoy her. There is also the murder victim who gets some great stuff. The professor Lassiter who works with the Doctor is also great in the comedy department. Lassiter and the Doctor just are characters who think alike and get some great sequences together as you see the Doctor think his companions and TARDIS is dead. That said the whole conspiracy sounds good at first but falls apart once you start to think about it. Also there are continuity references which cause continuity errors with earlier novel Goth Opera.
To summarize, The Crystal Bucephalus or as the author puts it The Crystal Bucket, is a really good first effort for a novel even if it doesn’t have the best of plots and does feel like it’s from a first time author. The characters are great minus a few of the principal and the setting is unique enough to make you feel enveloped in its world. You can even have fun playing spot the references as some are hidden. 70/100