Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible Part 3

Cover for Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible

In my continuing read through of Doctor Who: The New Adventures: Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible, I hit chapter, which has some significant throwbacks to the early days of Doctor Who.

Chapter 4: Inside Information

Synopsis

The Doctor and Ace are questioned by the police. The police are concerned about the Doctor’s well-being. Is he ill, drunk, having an emotional breakdown? Ace is aware of the surreal landscape morphing around them, and realizes that the police officers cannot see it. The Doctor insists that he just wants to get in his TARDIS, to get in the police box. Unfortunately, neither of the time travelers can enter the ship because the door keeps moving. The TARDIS has gone into self-defense mode as it attempts to keep something dangerous from entering. That includes the Doctor and Ace, unfortunately. Ace tries to get the police to find the door to the TARDIS, but that fails as well. She then tries to get the police to call UNIT to confirm the Doctor’s identity (and thus, sanity), but that fails as well since the police have never heard of UNIT. The Doctor theorizes the only way to find the TARDIS door with this particular defense mechanism is to happen upon it by accident, with no deliberate attempt or thought.

Then the TARDIS phone rings.

The Doctor answers it, confirms his identity, grabs Ace’s arm, and they are yanked into the TARDIS. From inside the TARDIS, they can hear a “scrabbling” sound. Something is just outside the door and it is trying to get in. The TARDIS scanner shows a normal Earth landscape, further reinforcing that the surreal images were put in their heads by the TARDIS as a warning. The fault locator registers everything as normal, which is good.

“Unless there’s a fault in the fault locator,” says the Doctor.

But the next clue they notice is that the door controls are gone, an empty space on the console. All the while, the scraping of claws on the door continues.

The Doctor decides to flush the creature out of the space between the TARDIS door and the dematerialized world. The Doctor searches through a trunk in the console room and pulls out the TARDIS manual. Pages have been consumed. The effects of the TARDIS’s defenses have caused time to echo. Basically, the creature hasn’t yet entered the TARDIS, but at the same time, it already has entered the TARDIS. As a result, the creature is both inside and outside the TARDIS at the same time. The Doctor fears it could be a datavore, a creature that consumes information and knowledge.

Then Ace notices that all the TARDIS coordinates are set for zero. The Doctor checks the console circuitry and sees the fluid links are malfunctioning. All power is being slowly drained away. The Doctor needs to find the secondary control room. Unfortunately, with the TARDIS malfunctioning like it is, the interior dimensions of the ship are uncertain. He gives Ace the TARDIS key and tells her to “trust us. Don’t leave home, Ace.” He then grabs a bicycle and rides off into the dark corridors of the TARDIS.

Commentary

This chapter had a strong vibe of “Edge of Destruction” to it. In that story, the TARDIS was malfunctioning because of a broken spring. The defense mechanism gave surreal clues to the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara. It even altered their perceptions. At one point the crew theorized that something had entered the ship and was influencing them. Platt seems to have taken that red herring and applied it as the actual threat here. He gives us some throwbacks to the First Doctor’s first season in this chapter: the fault locator, fluid link. Ace even mentions that the Doctor built the TARDIS, which echoes Susan from those early days of Doctor Who. It is a bit of an odd statement considering we know that the TARDIS is a piece of Gallifreyan technology. Does Ace not realize this? Is it a continuity error? Is it a result of the defense mechanism?

So, full confession: I’m not a big fan of “Edge of Destruction.” While David Whitaker is one of my favorite of Doctor Who’s early writers, EoD is probably my least favorite of his stories. Combine that with 1960s art-house surrealism, which I also don’t much care for, and you are left with a story that I am glad is mercifully short (two episodes). I love the ideas in it, I just don’t care for the journey.

And since this chapter draws so heavily from that story, I am just a bit ambivalent to it. Too much attempt to obscure, too slow at revealing things. It is odd that I’m engaging more with the chapters that don’t include the Doctor and Ace.

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Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible Part 2

Cover for Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible

In my continuing read through of Doctor Who: The New Adventures: Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible (that’s a mouthful), I hit chapters 2 and 3, and learn to hate Vael.

Chapter 2: Cat’s Eyes

Synopsis

We are back with Vael, only moments after his encounter with the Pythia and his vision of the TARDIS. He heads out on to the streets, where people are still celebrating the hero Prydonius. He is confronted with Loie, a young woman who insists on trying to be his friend. He rebuffs her. She insists that despite his attitude and scores, the Academy needs him as a temporal physicist for the Time Scaphe project. As Vael tries to get away from her, he meets the gaze of the dead Sphinx and hears a riddle: Who are you?

He insists he wants nothing. He wants to be a nobody. He doesn’t want a future.

He can’t get the visions of the TARDIS, the Sphinx’s eye, and the Pythia’s eye out of his head.

Back in Ealing, reality continues to do its Dali impression. Being a time traveler, Ace is able to see timelines streaming through the streets. People move slowly. She realizes the TARDIS is warning her and the Doctor about something dangerous. She encounters her mother, but since they are currently inhabiting different flows of time, her mother does not notice her. The time streams are yet another obstacle keeping them apart. Not that Ace cares.

The sky cracks, slowly ripping apart. Ace finds the Doctor kneeling beside the TARDIS. He can’t get in; the machine rebuffs him each time he tries. The Doctor tells Ace that something has made its way into the TARDIS. He doesn’t know what it is, when it got there, or where it came from. The TARDIS, in an attempt to protect itself, has removed its door. All the while, the Doctor and Ace hear a scrabbling sound from inside the TARDIS.

Commentary

Psychic advertising! I love this concept, not because I particularly want it to be implemented in our world, but because it seems like a plausible detail about a telepathic society. In this case, it compels people to buy junk food from vendors.

Reading Marc Platt is a bit like reading Grant Morrison. Sometimes I can’t quite make out what is happening. There’s quite a bit of surreal, abstract things going on which I sometimes gloss over. Vael’s characterization works, though, and I am starting to dislike him. I’m pretty sure that is the point. He insists on being nobody, which probably means he won’t get his wish.

Ace encounters her mother, who she continues to hate. This is a character detail that I wish would resolve itself. Honestly, I’m surprised it has come up again. I got the impression that season 26 was about deconstructing then reconstructing Ace. Granted, the show was cancelled and any further development was dropped. Maybe the character change was all in my head, but I liked what I saw, even if it was imaginary.

Chapter 3: Bootstrapping

Synopsis

The Time Scaphe has its Chronaut crew and Pilot. The Pilot is a child who plays with toys as the ship moves through time. The Chronauts propel the ship with their minds. Captain Pekkary holds everything together, but he is extremely concerned because he was assigned a last-minute replacement for his quantum theorist/Pilot guardian. The previous quantum theorist had been killed in a freak accident, and Vael replaced him. Unfortunately, Vael didn’t like the Pilot, and the feeling was mutual. Also irritating was that Vael could shield his thoughts from the rest of the crew. With the sensitivity and danger of the Time Scaphe experiments, Pekkary is uneasy having this unproven addition to his crew, an addition who had not trained and bonded with the rest of the crew.

Vael takes joy in scaring the Pilot, which is extremely dangerous as the stability of the Pilot keeps the ship from going wild in the vortex. Unfortunately, Vael steals one of the Pilot’s toys, and the crew loses concentration.

Commentary

Okay, when you start stealing toys from a child you start signaling that we are supposed to hate you. But the circumstances surrounding your arrival on the ship are quite suspicious. Is it mere coincidence that the previous quantum theorist was killed and Vael reassigned? The Pythia thought Vael was important but also thought he was wasting his life. The Pythia and Rassilon are at odds with one another. A genius who can shield his thoughts from others in a telepathic society would be very dangerous. He would be a perfect spy and saboteur. And here he is, tormenting the Pilot of a time machine and, presumably, knocking them off course.

The concept of a time machine piloted by a child is interesting. The implication is that only children have the imaginative capacity to adapt to the psychological changes that accompany time travel. As such, they are perfect pilots because their minds haven’t been conditioned against such things. Similarly, time travel is technically instantaneous, but artificial passage of time is necessary to keep the mind from stress. In this case, the crew stays in the Scaphe for 90 minutes but will be travelling 90 days into the future. Those 90 minutes are yet another illusion, another alteration of reality. Things are not what they seem, although there is logic to their unreality. This is a challenging book, but it has some great ideas beneath the surface.

Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible Part 1

Cover for Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible

Series Introduction

I have decided to try something a little different, something I thought about trying with Timewyrm: Genesys, but couldn’t due to time and general mental fogginess. Since I may be working on Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible a bit longer, I am going to experiment with doing a read through. Basically, this means I will summarize a couple chapters at a time and give my thoughts on those chapters. This will enable me to get my thoughts organized and out there quicker (i.e. – more blog posts), and it will also enable readers who do not have the book to follow along or get a more detailed synopsis. If you are like me, you haven’t read very many of the Doctor Who books (NAs, MAs, EDAs, PDAs, and so on). Most of these books are out of print anyway, and while there are many sites out there that do a good job of offering detailed synopses, sometimes it is fun to tackle things in a bite-sized post.

Book Introduction

Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible is the 5th book in the Virgin New Adventures series. It was written by Marc Platt, which marks (heh) the first time a writer for McCoy’s Doctor has penned an original novel for the Seventh Doctor. Essentially this means that the writers for the show are having a hand in the formation of the book series, which is a big deal. Platt, who wrote Ghost Light, wrote this book. Andrew Cartmel, who was script editor for seasons 24 – 26, wrote the next book. So while they may not have been directing the direction of the book line, at least they had a say in things and were able to develop themes and ideas from their approach to Doctor Who.

Prologue

Synopsis

The Doctor frets over some of the TARDIS’s quirks and noises, particularly that a noise he had grown accustomed to has stopped. He casts his mind back to the Time Lords and the frustration he feels for their imbalance of power and potential. He disagrees with their fundamental belief of sitting and observing, not interfering. Lost in thought, the Doctor burns his toast, and then he remembers a nursery rhyme:

For Tweedledum said Tweedledee

Had spoiled his nice new rattle.

Commentary

On the one hand, this prologue seems to exist to introduce the casual reader to a few of the general concepts of Doctor Who: time travel, the Doctor’s disagreements with his people, his headspace—where thoughts take precedence over food—and so on. But on the other hand (since I have read ahead a bit), I know that this prologue also serves as a type of thematic thesis. Platt draws our attention to the TARDIS’s operation and to the Time Lords. In particular is this gem: “The most powerful civilization in the cosmos would have been better off staying in the Dark Time; the time of Chaos and superstition.”

And so we have the introduction of Chaos and superstition as Dark. The implied inverse is, naturally, Order and reason as Light.

The nursery rhyme is an interesting addition for its connection to children and play. Connect to that the book’s title (or the mini-series title), Cat’s Cradle, and there is a type of frivolity and playfulness implied. A cat’s cradle is a type of game which refers to making figures through a complex web of string. A cat’s cradle is the perfect way to describe how this Doctor constructs his adventures. He has been characterized as a chess player, but he may more accurately be described as playing a game which weaves complex webs of events, players, and time. And given the dark ending to the couplet above (spoiled his nice new rattle), I expect something will be broken. (The TARDIS, obviously, but will it only be the TARDIS that is broken?)

Chapter 1: Moussaka and Chips

Synopsis

On ancient Gallifrey, Vael is a special young man who has the ability to become a Young Hero. He studies time theory and generally prefers to be alone, something that was difficult after the Pythia, Gallifrey’s ruling matriarch, proclaimed that his red hair marked him as an Individual.

Vael can block his mind from the thoughts of others, something that is uncommon among Gallifreyans. In general he is a troubled youth. He can see the conflict brewing between Rassilon and the Reason revolution and the Pythia. He doesn’t want to be a Hero like Lord Prydonius, who had recently returned with the head of the Sphinx, but he has no choice as he can see that the future rests on him. His choices and actions will tip the balance one way or another.

And he has visions of a blue police box.

The Doctor and Ace, meanwhile, are eating at a café. The Doctor contemplates baked Alaska: “frozen in the middle, but hot on the outside.” A tom cat enters the café and stares at Ace, unnerving her. The Doctor entertains a young girl by playing spoons. Then the clock drips to the floor. The geometry of the café begins to shift and alter. Another cat appears, this one silver. The Doctor is suddenly racked with pain. He and Ace notice the rapidly disintegrating reality, but the other people in the café do not. The Doctor says they need to get back to the TARDIS.

Commentary

Talk about plunging in to the deep end. Jumping right in to ancient Gallifrey takes some chutzpa. We had been given myths and references to it on the show—stories of Rassilon and Omega, the Death Zone, the Great Vampire—but we have never seen it. In fact, the mystic/science divide is a development of the conflict between the Time Lords and the Sisterhood of Karn (“The Brain of Morbius,” “Night of the Doctor,” “Sisters of the Flame/The Vengeance of Morbius”). On some level Platt isn’t portraying anything too far removed from what has been mentioned on the show. Seeing it, however, is sometimes a different thing altogether. But I’ve listened to enough of Platt’s Big Finish stories to feel safe with him, even if this story preceded those by a few years.

There was an idea in Paul Cornel’s Timewyrm: Revelation about the battle between the Doctor and the Timewyrm being an event that reverberated throughout history, that all stories of ancient evil and ancient good were derived from this battle. A monomyth, essentially, the real event of which all myths are mere shadows. In Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible, Platt gives us epic, Gallifreyan heroes who slay mythical beasts. He is deliberately placing this story in mythic time which may be the real time from which myths are shadows.

Putting Vael, an angry and thoroughly unpleasant character, as the pivot for the future of Gallifrey is horrifying. But then, how often is the future determined by unpleasant people? For better or worse, such is history.

With the Doctor and Ace hanging out in Ealing (and I looked this up, Perivale is a suburb of Ealing), I can’t help but wonder when this story was envisioned in Platt’s mind. Was it to immediately follow “Survival,” or was it always conceived as the follow-up to Timewyrm: Revelation? It isn’t an important question, but there are certain thematic ideas which come up in the next few chapters that make me question when Platt thought this story was placed. Or maybe things were played fast and loose back then. I have no idea.

Doctor Who: The New Adventures Series 1.03 – Timewyrm: Apocalypse

Cover for Timewyrm Apocalypse

Where to Find It?

Physical copies can be found at Bookfinder.com.

A detailed synopsis can be found at the Doctor Who Reference Guide.

Story By

Nigel Robinson

Book Copy

The end of the Universe. The end of everything.

The TARDIS has tracked the Timewyrm to the edge of the Universe and the end of time — to the lush planet Kirith, a paradise inhabited by a physically perfect race.

Ace is not impressed. Kirith has all the appeal of a wet weekend in Margate, and its inhabitants look like third-rate Aussie soap stars.

The Doctor is troubled, too: If the Timewyrm is here, why can’t he find her? Why have the elite Panjistri lied consistently to the Kirithons they govern? And is it possible that the catastrophe that he feels impending is the result of his own past actions?


 

I appreciate your concern, Doctor, but the facts are simple: Ace must die so that the rest of creation may live.

I suppose the place to start is reputation. Timewyrm: Apocalypse is not well regarded and has even been called the low point in the Timewyrm cycle, if not the entire New Adventures range. This reputation is undeserved as the novel’s greatest crime is placement, being slotted between the action-packed, highly engaging Exodus of Terrance Dicks and the mind-bending, era-defining Revelation of Paul Cornell. Thus, a perfectly average Doctor Who story that doesn’t really stretch the bounds of the concept stands out, and not necessarily in a good way. And I admit, when I first read Apocalypse a few years ago I couldn’t stomach it. When I picked it up this past weekend I was a bit apprehensive. However, of the three Timewyrm books I have re-read, Apocalypse was the most interesting to me because it was the one I had forgotten. I didn’t remember a thing about it. Contrary to expectations, my experience with this novel was deeply satisfying.

Nigel Robinson, like Terrance Dicks and John Peel, was a Target writer. In fact, Robinson was editor of the Target range as it drew to a close. As a result, he is familiar with the tropes and style of the classic series. He can replicate it quite well, and that is on display in Apocalypse, which puts the novel firmly in the Rad/Trad debate that surrounded the New Adventures. Essentially, the debate was whether the New Adventures should stretch the concept of Doctor Who into new territory as could only be accomplished in the written word, with no dependence on budget, BBC oversight, or strong boundaries of what is and is not proper Doctor Who (the rad or radical position) or whether the New Adventures should tell the types of stories that were told on television, adhering to the formulas and goals of the original series (the trad or traditional position). The entire debate falls into the same trap as all progressive/conservative debates in its assumption that the answer is either/or. Experimentation aids evolution, but tradition helps cohesion. In practicality this balance can be difficult to achieve. In a shared universe such as Star Trek, the novels were mere tie-ins. They didn’t supplant or influence the main corpus in any way. They were additional adventures which could be slotted in between episodes. With the New Adventures, there was every belief that this could be the future of Doctor Who, and whatever happened in the novels was cannon. Thus, the nuance interactions between rad and trad could be difficult to maintain, much like a mythology heavy story-arc in The X-Files being followed by a monster-of-the-week episode, the fan wants to know what happens next, not experience this stand-alone story.

Personally, I tend to think of the trad stories as a type of rest between complex or intense measures. They become moments of introspection and meditation. And even if the plot itself is fairly traditional, the characters have grown and changed, and they sometimes respond in different ways.

Apocalypse, then, is largely of the trad mold. It is a thematic sequel to Logopolis as it takes place during the Big Crunch when entropy cannot be reversed and the universe is contracting in on itself. This knowledge ultimately drives the Panjistri since their goal is to reverse entropy. The Logopolitans of the Fourth-Doctor Era tried to do this using math; the Panjistri try to do it by creating a god. It takes us a while to get there, but the ultimate revelation of the attempt to genetically create a god is interesting. The Panjistri view is that a being with every possible experience of every possible creature in the universe would essentially be a god. They essentially are attempting to create an autonomous, pantheistic god—an all-encompassing entity that is at the same time personal and distinct. For the Panjistri, if the divine word of math—a force mortal minds can understand—is unable to prevent entropy, then an immortal mind is required. Only an immortal mind can defeat death. The Doctor refutes this, saying all things must die, even the universe.

At the center of this genetic conspiracy is the Grand Matriarch. The Matriarch has been possessed by the Timewyrm, who hopes to inhabit the god once it has been created. Doing so will allow her to re-incarnate, something she needs to do since the Doctor destroyed her physical form. After he extracted her from Hitler’s mind, the Timewyrm hid from the Doctor in his timeline, transferring into a young girl named Lilith when the Second Doctor repaired her doll. The Timewyrm hid in Lilith for five thousand years, manipulating the Panjistri’s genetic experiment to her own purpose. It is fitting that a being that lived among and manipulated the ancient Babylonians would be drawn to a child named Lilith.

Beyond these elements, Apocalypse follows a fairly standard Doctor Who set-up: The Doctor and Ace arrive in a utopian society, discover a group of elites who provide everything to the people while at the same time discouraging certain questions or scientific development, and in the investigation foment rebellion. Philip Sandifer rightly observes that the revolution actually fails, which is a reversal of Doctor Who tropes. The people don’t succeed as the Doctor confronts evil. They are subdued. It is only after evil has been defeated that all parties are reconciled, including the Panjistri elite to the people they manipulated.

While Timewyrm: Apocalypse didn’t push the format of Doctor Who, it still provided a solid story. The Timewyrm’s appearance, while not surprising, at least made sense. Her physical form had been destroyed and this experiment at creating a god would have been appealing to her. The Timewyrm possessing Hitler never quite worked for me, and I think Exodus would have been far more interesting as its own story rather than using the Timewyrm as the MacGuffin. Stretching this cycle of novels over four books is starting to feel a bit drawn-out and I look forward to Cornell’s conclusion in Timewyrm: Revelation.

Doctor Who: The New Adventures Series 1.02 – Timewyrm: Exodus

Cover for Timewyrm Exodus

Where to Find It?

Physical copies can be found at Bookfinder.com.

A detailed synopsis can be found at the Doctor Who Reference Guide.

Story By

Terrance Dicks

Book Copy

The pursuit of the Timewyrm leads the Doctor and Ace to London, 1951, and the Festival of Britain — a celebration of the achievements of this small country, this insignificant corner of the glorious Thousand Year Reich.

Someone — or something — has been interfering with the time lines, and in order to investigate, the Doctor travels further back in time to the very dawn of the Nazi evil. In the heart of the Germany of the Third Reich, he finds that this little band of thugs and misfits did not take over half the world unaided.

History must be restored to its proper course, and in his attempt to repair the time lines, the Doctor faces the most terrible dilemma he has ever known…


 

The fabric of time was badly torn, Ace. You can’t stitch it up like repairing an old shirt.

While John Peel had become a regular hand at writing Target novelizations, Terrance Dicks had a much more intimate résumé where Doctor Who was concerned. He was script editor during the Pertwee years. He wrote televised stories for the Second, Fourth, and Fifth Doctors (possibly more uncredited). Having this second original novel in the range written by Dicks is a great way to bridge the two series, lending credibility and blessing, passing the torch as it were.

In Exodus we travel to the heart of the Nazi Reich at its beginning stages. And it struck me as I read about Hitler, Himmler, and Goering that up to this point, Doctor Who had not really dealt with Nazis in their context. The first time the show overtly portrayed them was during the Seventh Doctor story Silver Nemesis, and even those Nazis were 1980s exiles, war criminals trying to recapture the glory of the Reich. The show had often drawn parallels between the Daleks and Nazis, but the human figures themselves were almost never portrayed. Had Doctor Who been an American creation, there is no doubt in my mind that the Doctor would have gone up against the Nazis as soon as possible, but this was one era of history that the show never really covered. On some level, I can see why. Doctor Who debuted in 1963. The war had only been over 18 years. The memory was too fresh and too painful. The narratives of the war in the U.S. and England are very different. For the U.S. it is a story of foreign citizen soldiers coming into the fight to do what needs to be done to defeat the enemy. For England, it is a story of endurance and survival. These are generalizations of course, but the narratives are there. For the U.S., defeating the Nazis was a given, a divine destiny. For England, it was hoped for but not necessarily a guarantee. And it is into this uncertainty that the Doctor and Ace track the Timewyrm.

The novel opens with the two arriving in 1950s England. They find that the Reich won the war and England is under German rule. This emphasizes one of the major themes of the novel, that the outcome of WWII was not a certainty. Any number of factors could have changed the result, and in the case of Exodus outside influences were present in the form of the War Lords (a primary interference) and the Timewyrm (a secondary interference). The War Lords reappear after their defeat in the Second Doctor story “The War Games,” which was a collaboration of Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke in 1969. The War Lords attempt to create the perfect soldier, typically by removing armies from different points in history and making them fight one another. Their scientific advisor in the process is a renegade Time Lord known as the War Chief. The War Chief now has an added goal: to get revenge on the Doctor. What is particularly interesting (and gruesome) in Exodus is the revelation that the War Chief wasn’t killed as was portrayed in “The War Games”; he regenerated—almost. The damage to his body caused the regeneration to fail, so the process aborted partway through, creating a monstrosity of bodily horror. Ultimately, the War Chief wants to transplant his brain into the Doctor’s body. Dicks is also mining “The Brain of Morbius” for ideas, it would seem. Added to the mix are internal Reich politics, Himmler’s obsession with the occult, and the Doctor’s struggle to insert himself into an unstable historical situation in an attempt to rectify two types of interference that the result of previous adventures.

Along the way Exodus tries to avoid explaining Hitler’s Reich in terms of alien interference or the supernatural, but never quite succeeds. All the elements that led to WWII were present; the Timewyrm and War Lords magnified what was already there, but I was still left with a distinct impression that Hitler only came to power because of the magnification, not because of his own human attempts. This is a bit of a problem, I think, because it can serve to undermine the horror of WWII and the Holocaust, events which are arguably the worst of humanity. So often WWII is portrayed as a grand adventure (typically in American film) rather than the morally complex and horrifying war it was. Making Hitler a puppet of aliens doesn’t really feel right to me, especially since some of the attitudes held by Hitler and his followers were not as extreme in the 1920s and 1930s as they seem to us now. We look back on these attitudes with our perceived modern enlightenment and typically see them as fringe and aberrant, but they weren’t. They were popular and common. The Nazis were merely the end result of Western existential angst that coalesced around a nation that no longer had anything to lose and everything to gain.

This particular failing aside, the novel is still quite good. It is an easy read, likely the result of years of Dicks writing the Target novelizations. It is fast-paced and engaging. It is plotted extremely well. It deals with things the classic series probably couldn’t have pulled off with a great deal of success. It doesn’t fall into the excesses of Genesys where “adult” means sex and nudity. In the case of Exodus, “adult” means exploring ideas that may be inappropriate for children’s television: anti-Semitism, black magic and occultism, human sacrifice, torture, and Nazi zombies—although, it would have been interesting to see some of the larger moral complexity lurking underneath the alien puppetry. The secondary characters are memorable and interesting. Dicks humanizes Hitler, Goering, and Himmler without ever making them less atrocious than they were in real life. And despite the science fiction elements, there is an air of historicity to parts of the novel.

Timewyrm: Genesys (Doctor Who: The New Adventures) post 1

cover for timewyrm: genesys
Written by

John Peel

Chapters 1 – 4

I can’t imagine this would be a fun novel to write. Oh, I’m sure crafting the story was fun, but the pressure of having the first post-series, original would be intimidating to me. Without a doubt the demand was there. Doctor Who had been off the air for about a year and a half. The show was moving in an interesting direction, making the Doctor more mysterious, giving us a manipulative Doctor who had thing planned out far in advance, someone who took on gods and monsters and won. There were more stories to tell. So many more stories to tell.

Virgin Publishing stepped in to this gap and chose to continue where the series left off. Doctor Who had been in print before, so that was nothing new. What was new, however, was both the original stories aspect, not just a novelization of an episode, and the audience. The New Adventures were not written for the family audience as the show typically was. They were written for the fans who had grown up with the show. Presumably, these fans had money. But what, exactly, constitutes Doctor Who for adults? Complex stories and themes? Darker stories with difficult ideas? Sex?

In practice, all of the above, it would seem. Within these first four chapters, Timewyrm: Genesys gives us naked Ace, adultery, misogyny, groping, sexual assault, and Mesopotamian temple prostitution. These elements aside, what I’ve read so far is somewhat typical territory for Doctor Who: an alien crashes on Earth and sets herself up as a goddess. But that doesn’t mean the story isn’t interesting.

Peel sets this original Doctor Who adventure at the time of Gilgamesh, who is typically considered one of the earliest epic heroes. Gilgamesh was probably a historical figure during the Bronze Age, a king of the ancient city of Uruk. Timewyrm: Genesys, then, in Doctor Who fashion is telling us the “real” story behind the Epic of Gilgamesh. I can get behind that. I enjoy ancient Near East studies. Based on the fragments of the epic that we have, Gilgamesh doesn’t come off as a noble figure. His best friend Enkidu was created by the gods to distract the king who takes any woman he wants. Gilgamesh is a bully and more than a little rapist. This aspect of his personality is present in Peel’s novel, so I think we can put a dark check in the adult box here. The early conflict in the novel comes when Gilgamesh spurns the alien, who eventually takes on the guise of the goddess Ishtar (this is also drawn from the epic tale). And so we have an unlikeable king whose downfall is being planned by jealous nobles and an evil alien who takes control of people’s minds. Where adaptation is concerned, this is interesting. Where likable characters are concerned . . . nil.