Whether you are a fan of Doctor Who, the longest running science fiction series in television history, or someone who is fascinated with conspiracy theories, Doctor Who: Who Killed Kennedy–The Shocking Secret Linking a Time Lord and a President is a novel you definitely need to read. Published in 1996 by Virgin Publishing, Who Killed Kennedy fits the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy into a well-crafted science fiction story.
While the book is part of the Doctor Who franchise, the Doctor himself is more of a supporting character. The actual main character in this story is New Zealand journalist James Stevens, who narrates the story and is listed as a “co-author” with David Bishop. The book opens with the introduction in an alternate future in 1964 in which Kennedy survived the Dallas shooting with a wound to the neck, and it was his wife Jacqueline who actually died in the attack. While the president grieves over the loss of his wife, tensions among the world powers rise to an all-time high. JFK leads the United States into a catastrophic nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union and Red China.
From there, Stevens offers an autobiographical account of his early years in New Zealand, as the son of an unmarried teenager who put him up for adoption. His journalism career begins as a cadet reporter at a Saturday evening paper in Auckland. His first day on the job is also his eighteenth birthday, which is November 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy is killed in Dallas.
Fast forward to 1969, when Stevens relocates to the UK, where he begins working for a London tabloid and marries the daughter of Lord Howarth. It is during this time that Stevens’ journey really begins, with a phone call from a hospital orderly with a hot tip about a mysterious patient found in the woods near the site of a recent meteorite shower.
It is during a visit to the hospital that Stevens first crosses paths with Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart, commander of the British branch of UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce). As Stevens begins to investigate a series of bizarre events, all involving UNIT, he suspects the organization serves a sinister purpose and begins to write a series of articles intend to expose the group and its operations.
In addition to the Doctor and the Brigadier, numerous other characters from the Whoniverse turn up in this story. Most of them are supporting characters from the Third Doctor era, particularly during the Doctor’s tenure as the Brigadier’s unpaid scientific advisor. There are references to events involving several of the Doctor’s other incarnations both past and future.
As Stevens continues his pursuit of the truth, he attracts the attention of another top secret government agency known as C-19, which seeks to shut down his investigation. The young journalist is pursued by C-19 operatives who try to hinder him attempt to intimidate him, threaten his life and the life of the woman he loves, and smear his reputation as journalist. They eventually place enough pressure on the publishers of the London newspaper he works for and cost him his job. At the center of this intricate web, Stevens finds not UNIT, but rather a terrorist named Victor Magister, also known as the “Master.” Magister, an old enemy of the Doctor’s, is able to move freely between his prison cell and a facility known as the “Glasshouse.” Here, the Master tortures UNIT soldiers, conditioning them for his plan to alter human history. This plot involves going back in time to 1963 and thwarting the assassination of President Kennedy. After consulting with the Doctor, Stevens follows Magister and his operative back in time to Dallas to ensure that history stays on its proper course.
David Bishop has taken a key event in human history and wrapped a very interesting science fiction story around it. With the story bringing the Kennedy assassination into the Doctor Who universe, the author devotes great attention to detail in maintaining the continuity of not just the television episodes, but also of many DW novels set in the twentieth century. Who Killed Kennedy is a very well-written novel, and an exciting read for Doctor Who fans as well as newcomers to the Whoniverse.