Craig Hinton is a Doctor Who author who infamously coined the term fanwank in fandom and wrote books where that term was often a criticism. He was first published with a Virgin Missing Adventure, The Crystal Bucephalus, and would publish a further five Doctor Who novels for Virgin and BBC Books along with several short stories. He had proposed a Sixth Doctor novel to BBC Books which would have seen an explanation for the Valeyard and the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration in Time and the Rani, however it was rejected and could not be completed before his untimely death in 2006. Telos Publishing, who from 2001-2004 published Doctor Who novellas, would eventually publish this proposed novel, completed by Doctor Who fan Chris McKeon for charity publication in 2008. McKeon would go on to found Black Glove Studios which would produce fan Doctor Who audios and Time’s Champion quickly went out of print. It was virtually unreadable for a number of years as the second hand market put the book up for exorbitant prices, until 2020 when Telos Publishing commissioned a special limited reprint, once again donating proceeds going to the British Heart Foundation (as Hinton died of heart problems). It is this 2020 edition which I was able to acquire, though sadly that too has gone out of print.
Time’s Champion is a beast of a novel. Hinton provided an outline and the first chapter before his untimely death and even that was enough to give McKeon space to fill a full length novel. The book starts simply: Sergeant Benton is having a birthday party inviting the UNIT family as well as characters from Hinton’s The Quantum Archangel, a novel which I haven’t read, Paul and Arlene Kairos. Arlene as a character is perhaps too flat, but Paul is incredibly interesting as the host for the Chronovore, Kronos, from The Time Monster. Arlene serves the purpose of plot device, sending the party guests and Mel 100 years in the past to the manor of Madame Clacice Beauvier. Beauvier becomes a secondary and then tertiary antagonist as the many layers of this book bring in the Valeyard (as expected) and eventually the six Eternals who are set up as the gods of Gallifrey. Beauvier does eventually get an explanation which constitutes one of the books very best twists and allows Death’s plans to go forward, but there are long stretches of the book where she disappears for a while. Her reveal ties heavily into Millennial Rites. Outside of this there is an author, George McKenzie-Trench who is trying to complete the manuscript to Time’s Champion, a novel which will be his magnum opus. This character does not seem to be an author insert for either Hinton or McKeon, especially as there are several versions of the character who pop up throughout this rather complex book.
The first third or so of the novel is incredibly slow, only really picking up pace once the Valeyard enters the picture. This is after the Doctor goes to Gallifrey, meaning that Romana, K9, and Vansell all appear as major forces in the novel. The computer virus Abbadon is unleashed and the Keeper of the Matrix simply needs the Doctor’s help. Once the Valeyard appears Hinton and McKeon clearly are having a ball writing the interactions with the Sixth Doctor. The entirely complex plot is all a foil just so Death can make, in this order, the Valeyard, Mel, and the Doctor her champion, which is what eventually leads to the regeneration. The regeneration scene itself is an incredibly emotional one, lasting most of the last chapter from the Doctor’s perspective. The Doctor reflects on each of his past regenerations, meets his final incarnation, and eventually finds a way to trick Death, giving himself to Time, and allowing the Seventh Doctor to take over with the Valeyard defeated, but not dead. It becomes an incredibly poignant sequence and this entire novel could be considered canonical as McKeon includes Spiral Scratch (and retroactively The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure) into the possibility. The Valeyard is then sent off to Matrix (and most likely his other Big Finish appearances) Overall, Time’s Champion is a book which needs a run that lasts longer than two months. There are definitely two hands at work here as the second chapter onward has a similar but distinct style to what came before, though it is mired in the Doctor Who universe to almost a backbreaking degree that it is slightly held back, especially as some of the characters come across as paper thin while others are complex. 8/10.