FOR THE FIFTH DOCTOR,
THIS STORY TAKES
place BETWEEN THE
TV STORIES "CASTRO-
VALVA" AND "FOUR TO
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'MISSING
RELEASED IN DECEMBER
TWO TARDISES land on
a barren ice world.
The fifth Doctor AND
HIS COMPANIONS find a
society on the verge
of collapse, as rebels
wage a dirty war
with Scientifica, the
ruling elite. All that
stands between order
and anarchy is the
reason for the LARGE
What exactly has
been discovered DEEP
beneath the planet's
Who are the Ferutu?
And why is telling a
story a CRIME?
with the cause of
justice as always.
But, as a threat to
the universe unfolds,
he finds himself in
conflict with his
...and his future.
Cold Fusion is the name given to effects supposed to be nuclear reactions occ-urring near room temperature and pressure using relatively simple and low-energy-input devices. When two light nuclei are forced to fuse, they form a heavier nucleus and release
a large amount of energy. This, however, has very little to do with Lance Parkin’s Doctor Who novel of the same name.
“The entire universe is at stake and I’m locked in here with
another incarnation of myself, and not even one of the good ones.”
As the cover and the blurb both proudly boast, this novel is Virgin’s first multi-Doctor story. It is also perhaps the finest multi-Doctor story to date because there is far more to it than just
a self-referential gimmick. Indeed, rather than debase the mystery surrounding the Doctors, Cold Fusion only adds to it.
For starters, these two Doctors do not spend the story bickering with each other before eventually putting their differences aside so that they can save the day – quite the opposite. In true New Adventures style, the seventh Doctor plays no real part in proceedings until
right at the end. In fact, the two Doctors hardly share a moment together and, even when
they do, rather than squabble with each other in an amiable sort of way, instead there is
a tangible undercurrent of thinly veiled hostility between the two of him. The seventh Doctor refers to his younger self as “bland” and as “not even one of the good ones”, whilst the fifth Doctor’s disdain for his future self is barely masked by his impeccable manners. This is
one of the reasons why this novel works so well – not only does it hold up well structurally,
but it really brings into sharp focus the contrast between these two incarnations. Parkin’s seventh Doctor seems far more ominous than he has ever done before because here his methods are directly compared to those of his last self but one. And, most damningly of all, the seventh Doctor actually remembers these events from when he experienced them as his fifth self and he uses this knowledge against himself. Rather than manipulate others, for the first time the Doctor uses himself as a pawn in his game. He even has Roz knock his fifth self out at the end so that he can make a quick getaway and avoid his own wrath!
For me though, the strongest
facet of Cold Fusion is how it
imbues the freshly-minted fifth
Doctor with a burning sense
of mystery. By the time the
television series came to an
end, the production team had managed to rekindle that inherent sense of mystery within the seventh Doctor – something that Virgin’s authors have developed magnificently throughout the New Adventures. Peter Davison’s Doctor, however, was arguably the least mystifying Doctor. Indeed, bludgeoned into his tenure were a couple of stories set on Gallifrey that all but destroyed any semblance of inscrutability that the character once possessed. Through the captivating character of ‘Patience’ though, Parkin reveals much about the Doctor’s past, and it is the fifth Doctor - rather than the seventh - that is given the opportunity to revel in it.
“This memory is faint. It was a long time ago. I’m not even sure it’s one of mine.
The truth. A lot of what happened before my second regeneration is hazy.
Great chunks of my life are missing...”
Early on in the novel the fifth Doctor discovers an emaciated Gallifreyan barely clinging onto life. She is so ancient that the Doctor’s companions initially mistake her for the pre-Tremas Master, but they are quickly proven wrong. Following a brief psychic exchange with the fifth Doctor, the Gallifreyan patient regenerates for the first time. The mystery surrounding this patient (dubbed ‘Patience’ by the Doctor) is such that no matter what is going on elsewhere in the book, you cannot stop reading because you want to find out more about her and her origins. She piloted an ancient TARDIS through the Vortex. She has but a single heart. She recognises the Doctor as her husband. Who is she?
“You wear my husband’s ring.”
Parkin plays his cards very close to his chest with this character. Much is implied but very little is confirmed, although it is worth noting that his prose does explicitly acknowledge the Doctor as being Patience’s husband. My first reaction to this revelation was one of complete astonishment – the Doctor? Married? Surely not! But of course, if one goes back to the time of the first Doctor, right from his first appearance in An Unearthly Child the Doctor was a family man, travelling with his ‘granddaughter’ Susan. What Cold Fusion does is to put this familial relationship into context.
“By Presidential decree, only the Loom-born shall inherit the legacy of Rassilon.
There shall be no more children born of woman.
We have the authority to search this House for the spawn of the Pythia.”
We know from Marc Platt’s novel Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible that following the Pythia’s curse no children were born on Gallifrey and that the Gallifreyans subsequently reproduced themselves via genetic ‘looms’. Cold Fusion posits that during the Old Time on Gallifrey, ‘Patience’ and the Other (whose name history conveniently forgets) were married and had thirteen children. Through the fifth Doctor’s probing of Patience’s memories, it seems that Susan was the daughter of one these thirteen children – potentially the last child ever to be born on Gallifrey.
Now what makes all this so utterly engrossing is that via their telepathic contact, the Doctor and Patience’s memories become intertwined and it is unclear whether the Doctor is simply sharing in Patience’s memories or remembering these events for himself. If the latter is true, this could make him the reincarnation of this ‘Other’. This would certainly make sense when taking into account Morbius’ comments in The Brain of Morbius and some of the seventh Doctor’s Freudian slips about the role he played in ancient Gallifreyan history - he may well have been a member of Gallifrey’s ruling triumvirate along with Rassilon and Omega. In a sense it does not matter - whether it was actually the Doctor that was married to Patience,
or whether it was ‘the Other’ or indeed some other vestige of the Doctor’s pre-Doctor self,
his love for her is clear throughout this book, rendering her violent, senseless death towards the end of the story all the more heartbreaking.
Now taking into account all of the foregoing, it would be easy to dismiss Cold Fusion as shameless fan service. Nevertheless, despite the odd glib remark about the length of the
fifth Doctor’s hair or other such fannish nonsense, Parkin’s novel is remarkably controlled
for what is, at least in principle, a multi-Doctor romp featuring no less than five companions. Each and every series regular is given a significant share of the action – Adric is teamed
up with Roz; Tegan with the fifth Doctor and Patience; and Chris with Nyssa (who for once
is portrayed as being… well… sexy). I do concede that some of the ‘Bruce Jovanka’ stuff is
a tad cringeworthy, but this is more than compensated for by the seventh Doctor’s behaviour towards Adric. It’s beautifully handled; understated, but all the more poignant for it. And best of all, Cold Fusion has an interesting story to tell; a story about alternate timelines and the perceived line between science and magic.
I read this book from cover to cover in just a couple of hours, which I think perfectly sums up my impression of it. It’s a bit slow to start and I thought that more could have been made of the fifth Doctor’s anguish following Patience’s death, but save for these two rather minor quibbles Parkin’s second Doctor Who novel is one that it is very hard to find fault with.
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.
This story suggests that the third, nameless member of Ancient Gallifrey’s ruling triumvirate (the ‘Other’) had a wife - dubbed ‘Patience’ here - who bore him thirteen children, including one of Susan Foreman’s parents. This, combined with the fifth Doctor’s connection to Patience and his wearing of what she believes to be the Other’s ring, suggests that he may be a reincarnation of this Other as many have speculated.
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