Wonderland is a Telos novella that renders an atypically adult and unusually American take on Doctor Who. Though it features a bevvy of recurring Doctor Who enemies — the Menoptera, the Cybermen and even aspects of WOTAN — the fact that it is narrated in the first person by an American woman caught up in the counterculture movement of 1967 San Francisco yields a grittier, more visceral kind of prose than is usual in Doctor Who fiction.
Indeed, its pages are mainly concerned with a bad strain of LSD circulating in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district during the time of the famous Human Be-In concert. Far from idealising the values of the "Summer of Love", the book is unafraid to give a balanced view of hippies, free love, and drug culture.
By placing Ben and Polly amongst their American contemporaries, Chadborn is able to utilise the original setup for those characters, as depicted in their War Machines introduction in the Inferno club in London. Polly is the upbeat go-getter from the "Swingin' Sixties", and Ben is the "L7 square" military man saddled with a big bag of cynicism.
The Second Doctor, though somewhat marginalised due to the narrator's perspective, is able to capitalise on his Beatles-inspired look in a much more literal way than was ever the case on television. Indeed, the fact that the Doctor doesn't feature heavily in the book allows the author to make a powerful statement about the Doctor's general philosophical tendencies.
As Graham Joyce said in his foreward:
- "Wonderland is Doctor Who on acid, and perhaps my only regret ... is that the Doctor doesn't get to take the drug himself. But then again the Doctor probably doesn't need to. He's a trip-and-a-half all on his own. He's already there."
Summer, however, has lost her boyfriend, and fears him dead, destroyed by a new type of drug nicknamed Blue Moonbeams. Her only friends are three English tourists: Ben and Polly, and their mysterious guardian and friend the Doctor.
But will any of them help Summer, and what is the strange threat posed by the Blue Moonbeams?
Jessica Willamy, who calls herself "Summer", alone in a dark house recounts to herself the story of how she met the Doctor. She describes how the summer of 1967 changed her life and how she had just moved into the Haight in San Francisco while searching for her boyfriend Denny Glass who seems to have disappeared and how this led her to meet Ben, Polly and the Doctor; he was supposed to call her when he had found a place to stay in the Haight since he came down before her. As she explains her situation to Polly and Ben, feeling they were trustworthy strangers here to share in the hippy community the Haight had be come to known for, the pair take her to meet the Doctor. The four go for a walk and as Summer explains what happened they have a strange experience by seeing a Cyberman head attached to a body, which feels like an acid trip. Summer is startled but the Doctor is intrigued.
Polly and Ben join Summer in finding clues as to Denny's disappearance while the Doctor does his own investigation. They find out about a batch of acid going around called Blue Moonbeams from a reporter they approach named Jack Stimson who works for the San Francisco Oracle whom Summer also asks to look out for Denny. While out on the street, the Doctor joins them and they experience another strange hallucination, seeing a Menoptera. This puts the Doctor on edge and he goes back to work trying to unravel the mystery. Summer explains she doesn't have a good feeling about the Doctor, as if he's otherworldly.
Next morning Jack approaches Summer and reveals that one of his sources said they saw Denny a few days ago go to meet the Goblin. He warns her that he is a dangerous force and that if she goes, she should take back-up with her. Despite the warning, she goes anyway after meeting up with and informing Ben and Polly, who are reluctant as they are trying to see what the Doctor is up to.
Summer goes to the Goblin's hangout alone. While inside, she begins to feel on edge and in one of the rooms finds a 16-year-old girl having what she thinks is a nasty trip. When she tries to calm her down, the girl goes berserk and screams about a colourful monster trying to eat her, and she suddenly disappears as she is seemingly dragged by an invisible force to a corner of the room and swallowed. Summer, in hysterics, runs in the only direction possible, to the top of the building due to its design, in an attempt to escape the strange room, feeling as if something is chasing her. She ends up in the Goblin's chamber. She asks him about her missing boyfriend and the Blue Moonbeams, but becomes aware of why the Goblin has gained the reputation he has; he tells her that Denny is dead and then attempts to rape her. Summer manages to injure him hard enough to escape, with the help of Ben and Polly who had just arrived. While inside, she found Denny's blood-stained shirt which she takes with her.
Summer grieves for the next couple days while Ben and Polly comfort her. She explains to them that something isn't sitting right about Denny's murder and tries to convince them that there's something deeper, almost hidden going on, but Ben and Polly are skeptical. The Doctor arrives but confirms Summer's judgement and asks her what she wants to do about it.
On the vague clue about a famous "witch" named Mathilda, Summer decides that they should attend a party being held by her that night in connection to the mystery of the Blue Moonbeams. Inside, they discover Mathilda is hiding a large stash of Blue Moonbeams and watch as people who consume die by being almost "eaten" alive similar to the girl Summer had seen earlier but they are caught and Mathilda has her henchmen force them to take the drugs and leaves them to die. The Doctor had managed to avoid taking the drug as had Summer, and they help Ben and Polly purge it from their systems and the four escape.
In the morning they discuss what to do next and they go try to find Jack, but he explains that he has been ordered to do interviews for the biggest gathering in the country, the Human Be-in. Summer has a nasty realisation that with Mathilda attending such a huge festival, she may intend to be distributing the Blue Moonbeams there. The three decide that they have to find Mathilda again and her stash and report her to the police (the Doctor having disappeared again to do some more of his own investigation) but when they arrive at the house again from last night, it is abandoned and empty. They go searching for Mathilda well into the night but as they walk through a park, they are ambushed by the Goblin and his gang. He attempts to force himself onto Summer again but suddenly, one by one his gang drops dead. Polly, Ben and Summer escape and watch from a distance as the Goblin is ripped apart by some seemingly invisible entity. They wonder if it was Mathilda's doing, since her and the Goblin seemed to be at each other's throats.
They reconvene with the Doctor who explains he has figured out what the strange visions they saw were; he explains that they are symbols of communication, the Cybermen and Menoptera and WOTAN representing experiences they have both shared and something that sensed the Doctor's presence is trying to reach out to him. The three explain what had just happened, and the Doctor, believing the events linked, prepares a plan.
The four attend the Human Be-in concert were tens of thousands have gathered, looking for Mathilda in order to stop her from distributing the Blue Moonbeams. After splitting up, and seeing some unsightly thing such as a man floating while emitting psychedelic colours (the crowd thinking it was part of the illusion), Summer spots Mathilda and her thugs and manages to steal Mathilda's bag full of the drug. She manages to get away through the crowd and finds the Doctor and the two go and hide. They reconvene with Polly and Ben who are accompanied by Jack, convincing him of this big scoop and asking for help. In Jack's car, they drive around at the Doctor's insistence until they stumble on an old building with the man emitting psychedelic colours standing outside. They sneak in.
The Doctor explains that he needs one of them to take a solution he made that mimics the effects of LSD but without the lethal ingredient that makes Blue Moonbeams so deadly, and when asked why, simply says that he needs someone to be his "eyes" and "ears". Summer volunteers, and Ben, Polly and Jack are left behind when they hear footsteps lurking about the building in order to not draw attention. As the effects take hold, Summer begins hearing a heartbeat and leads the Doctor to a laboratory. Suddenly, she "sees" the Colour-beast and with immense difficulty manages to confirm the Doctor's suspicions as the creature "communicates" with her: the creature had been captured and enslaved for research by some shadowy organization. The Doctor explains to Summer that the creature's physiology is so complex that it is not possible to observe without help from chemical enhancement to help the brain comprehend, in this case using LSD. Just then they are found by the shadowy figures who were assisting Mathilda earlier. Their leader reveals Mathilda was but a puppet in their plans, confirms the Doctor's suspicions that the Blue Moonbeams were experimental drugs made from harvesting certain chemicals from the creature and the Haight was a testing ground for them and orders one of the men to kill the Doctor and Summer as they leave. Ben and Polly, show up in the nick of time, sensing something was wrong, and the Doctor tells Summer to go back to the Human Be-in with Jack and evacuate the concert lest something deadly happen while he, Ben and Polly attempt to free the Colour-beast. She reveals that this was the last time see she ever saw the trio.
Summer and Jack arrive at the Human Be-in just as all seems too late, but in a miraculous turn of events, she sees the beast "freed", or so she suspects and is put at ease... until suddenly she sees Denny, wearing hippy garb and with long hair and a beard. She confronts him and is at first relieved, until he reveals that he has been working for the organisation that enslaved the beast, and berates her for her silly ideals and belief in the ridiculous hippy movement. They part ways but Summer remains paranoid that she is still under observation by this organisation and skips town that evening. attempting to get as far away as possible.
She recounts the difficulties of her life from that day on and how she had been on the run since then, working bad jobs, failed relationships and struggling to make a living and often being trailed by men in suits with blank expressions, similar to the ones from that summer, and how she would spot Denny from time to time in the paper, working for those same men. Knowing that they will catch up with her, she reveals she has been living in an abandoned house on the outskirts of the country for the last few years but tonight they have finally tracked her down and are preparing to finish her. She reveals she has bought a gun and prepares to take her own life... but is suddenly interrupted by a man with a flat hat and a long, multi-coloured scarf. He talks her out of committing suicide and reveals that although things seem bleak, they can get better. Despite never having seen him before, she realises he is the doctor, although changed, and he offers her to come traveling with him and explains that after he had freed the Colour-beast, he went back to the concert to search for her but she had disappeared and that he had been trying to track her down for some time since then.
As she steps into the TARDIS, she remarks to herself that perhaps she misjudged the Doctor.
- Jessica "Summer" Willamy
- Second Doctor
- Ben Jackson
- Denny Glass
- Jack Stimson
- The Goblin
- The Magic Mouse
- Fourth Doctor
- In its attempts to communicate with the Doctor, the Colour-Beast sends images of the head of a Cyberman, a Menoptera and components of WOTAN.
Cultural references from the real world
- "19th Nervous Breakdown" by the Rolling Stones plays in Jack Stimson's office.
- The Doctor has met the Beatles. Jessica mentions the Beatles song "Tomorrow Never Knows".
- Mathilda was once a member of the Theosophical Society.
- Jessica mentions Comix.
- Gerald Gardner is mentioned.
- The Human Be-In takes place at the Polo Grounds.
- John Lennon was shot outside the Dakota.
- Jessica compares the party they go to as similar in strangeness to those Dr Strange comics drawn by Steve Ditko that everyone seems to love.
- The Doctor suggests that he was the one who convinced George Harrison (of the Beatles) to visit the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for his spiritual guidance.
- The Doctor chats with Timothy Leary at the party.
- The song 'Tomorrow Never Knows' plays with John Lennon's lyrics about the Tibetan book of the dead being heard explicitly.
- The song 'I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die' by Country Joe and the Fish is heard in the office of the Oracle.
- The band Jefferson Airplane played at Human Be-in.
- When Summer and the Doctor are about to be killed by the henchman with a silencer, she compares the situation to the movie "Goldfinger" and hopes the Doctor is like James Bond.
- The story features a heavy use of drug subculture that had not been explored in Doctor Who previously. At one point, the Doctor goes to a head shop and, later, idly shops for a bong. At another, he enlists Polly and Ben's help to force a room full of drug-takers to vomit before they died from the Blue Moonbeams stripe of LSD.
- The narrator, Jess, describes in graphic detail how she was nearly raped, and how she encounters a building outfitted for BDSM and violent sex.
- Multiple curse words appear in this book. Unlike other books where substitutes like kruk were invented, the language is not censored in this story.
- The Doctor is still wearing his stovepipe hat. (TV: The Power of the Daleks)
- Jessica mentions that Janis Joplin attends the party that she, Ben, Polly and the Doctor also attend. Janis Joplin later gave the Doctor a coat that the Tenth Doctor would often wear. (TV: Gridlock)
- Because the book is aimed squarely at adults, many parents might consider reading the book first before allowing their younger children to proceed. It does not contain anything which could be fairly considered gratuitous, but LSD use and a brief scene of implied BDSM and attempted rape are integral to the plot. Please see Tardis:ParentPage for more information.