(ISBN 1-903654-51-3)





 Nyssa will die at

 dawn, and the Doctor

 doesn't even know



 To save her life, he

 must make a

 desperate journey to

 the only place in the

 universe where a cure

 might exist.


 When even that fails,

 the Doctor has a

 choice ­ let Nyssa die,

 or make a deal with

 the devil. After all,

 the road to hell is

 paved with good



 PREVIOUS                                                                                  NEXT




november 2001







Lance Parkin’s name on a Doctor Who audio drama was bound to cause a stir. His novels are generally celebrated as being amongst the finest in the canon, particularly those that take a recognised setting or mythology and open it out in enlivening – and, occasionally, contentious – fashion. And despite being veiled by a cryptic blurb and only slightly less subtle cover art, Primeval once again sees Parkin take an established branch of Who mythology and expound upon it – only this time, it’s a relatively uncharted one.


The Doctor only ever visited the planet Traken once on television, in Tom Baker’s penultimate story, after which it was promptly obliterated. Parkin therefore does what surprisingly few Who writers do and tells what is essentially a Hartnell-style ‘historical’ tale, but built around an alien companion and set on an alien world. It’s no different in principle to the Doctor taking Barbara to meet the Aztecs, or Ben and Polly to the Battle of Culloden; what’s different in fact is that Barbara, Ben and Polly hadn’t seen their world destroyed – Nyssa, much to her chagrin, can’t say the same.


Parkin’s Traken is still the harmonious world strewn with fosters and consuls that the Doctor visited in Johnny Byrne’s 1980 script, yet it’s darker somehow; its science still tempered by a little superstition, its serpents far from petrified. This adventure takes place millennia before the planet’s destruction, when its people still worshipped the Source directly and good and evil were far from being absolutes. Whereas The Keeper of Traken was almost the apotheosis of white-than-white heroes versus blacker-than-black monsters, Primeval is a monochrome medley of xenophobic off-whites and vengeful dark greys. Parkin’s antagonist is not a stone-hewn monument to evil, but a forsaken pseudo-deity: Kwandaar, creator of the Source, the Trakenites’ pragmatic answer to God.


As with all of Parkin’s work, his peerless world-building is surpassed only by his sublime characterisation. Peter Davison’s Doctor is at his most appealing here, his desperation to save Nyssa’s life driving him to seek the assistance of Kwandaar, and his ceaseless curiosity then springing the spurned idol’s trap, unwittingly setting in motion of a series of events that would change the face of Traken forever. Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa, meanwhile, must face the agony of having to face up to what she’s lost, whilst at the same time dealing with hitherto-latent psi-powers that these events trigger. For his part, Kwandaar is an absorbing villain. Fair dues, he’s ostensibly Traken’s answer to Omega, but his mask belies for more profundity than that of his Gallifreyan counterpart. Kwandaar’s madness is horrifyingly refined, and his inspired deviousness presents the off-kilter Doctor with a constantly convincing threat. Most impressively of all though, Parkin paints Kwandaar’s followers as fully-rounded individuals. Unlike many Who henchmen, the two characters that typify Kwandaar’s following each have very different motives; even different mindsets. One is a family man, doing what he does so that his daughters will be wealthy enough to live the lives that he wants them to; the other is a fanatic, her extremism rooted in a childhood trauma that those she seeks to oppress had the power to overt.


Primeval is concurrently a prequel and a sequel, a historical and a space opera. Whilst there is no mistaking its villains, every one of its characters’ motives is comprehensible, if not justifiable, and not one of them is entirely free from blame – particularly not the Time Lord whose impulsive actions not only threaten to doom a world whose future he’s already failed to save, but actually prompt one of the most momentous moments in its history.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

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