THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN "THE
BLUE ANGEL" AND
SIMON BUCHER-JONES &
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN OCTOBER
Twelve million years
ago, a war touched
the Earth briefly.
Now, in Antarctica,
team has discovered
the detritus of the
conflict. And it's
ago, a creature evol-
ved that was capable
of consuming all life
in the universe. Now
someone is desperate
enough to want to
universe, things move.
They're hungry. And
something has given
them the scent of our
space / time.
Doctor has learnt of
the war and feels he
must intervene - but
it's more than just
a local conflict of
interest. One group
of combatants is
from his PERSONAL future... the other
has never existed.
of Planet 5
When I first read Simon Boucher-Jones’ novel for Virgin publishing, The Death of
Art, I didn’t expect that one day I’d be trawling though a tome brimful with prose even more dense and impenetrable than that it housed. At the time, I put my alienation down to the abstruse complexity of the New Adventures’ ‘psi-powers’ arc, of which The Death of Art formed a part. However, when compared with Boucher-Jones’ next offering, and indeed
the intricacies of BBC Books’ post-Interference arc, The Death of Art suddenly doesn’t seem quite as exigent as text.
Being paired with co-author Mark Clapham didn’t do anything to curb Boucher-Jones’ inimitably garrulous approach. The Taking of Planet 5 manages to be even more difficult
to read than its predecessor, the co-authors fusing protracted sentences with specious technobabble. In isolation, this might have been pardonable, but when coupled with a veritable flood of faceless supporting characters, the result is almost fatal.
Yet, for all its fundamental flaws, The Taking of Planet 5 has one redeeming virtue that not only makes it palatable, but something of an unlikely triumph: its sheer ambition. This novel
is bristling with a number of staggeringly bold and incredible images and ideas, each of which is painted in intimate detail. Most of them are borne of other writers’ work – almost every concept in the book is derived from Lawrence Miles’ musings, 1970s Who serials or Lovecraftian mythology – but this doesn’t negate the fact that Boucher-Jones and Clapham have taken some inspirational material and expounded upon it in a pleasingly overt way.
The Celestis, for instance, were an inspiring idea that their creator had only ever lightly toyed with. Here though, Boucher-Jones and Clapham take them and their pocket-universe home of Mictlan and flesh them out in all their hellish glory. Gallifrey’s future Celestial Interventional Agency aren’t just the depraved but the damned – they’ve created their own bloody version of hell and now they’re trapped in it. Their fate at the end of this novel is almost a mercy.
Moreover, the dearth of distinctive
supporting characters notwithstand-
ing, the authors handle the regulars
well. Their portrayal of the Doctor is
as nebulous as their narrative, the
Time Lord still palpably struggling to
work out what has been happening
to him since his past was changed
in Interference. Amidst the haze
though are moments of burning
clarity in which the Doctor of old
shines through: the scene where he tries to impart the “secret of the universe” to Fitz stands out in particular, as does the chilling sequence that sees him floating in the vacuum of space, only the power of his will holding back what would inevitably be a catastrophic regeneration. If he’s going to have to die, he
at least wants his friends to be able to recognise the corpse. Fitz is more solidly portrayed – ever the comic hero, in one moment contemplating giving Compassion one, and then in the next saving the Doctor’s life.
Ultimately though, The Taking of Planet 5 belongs to Compassion. After a stunning debut
in Interference, Paul Magrs and Jeremy Hoad did little with her in The Blue Angel, but here Boucher-Jones and Clapham really milk her for all she’s worth. Her cold, caustic exterior is present and correct, but for the first time she starts to come across as more than just an odious template. This novel does a splendid job of conveying the idea that Compassion is
a sponge, susceptible to the influence of the signals that she picks up, but intelligent and independent with it; nobody’s fool. Her involvement with the future Time Lords’ TARDIS rebellion is without a doubt the highlight of the novel – not only is it scrumptiously prophetic, but it’s abounding with audacious and enduring imagery. I can’t decide which leaves more
of an impression – a TARDIS rupturing and being stretched out over twelve million years, jettisoning Compassion along the way; or battle TARDISes rising up against their pitiless Time Lords masters, Compassion effectively leading the charge.
On balance, I think that if The Taking of Planet 5 had followed a couple of comparatively undemanding novels, then I’d have probably received it a lot better. The trouble is, it’s not a book that can really be enjoyed in isolation, and so inevitably anyone who reads it is coming off the back of Interference and The Blue Angel, desperate for a read that won’t make their brain bleed. This one is hard and it’s heavy, yet it’s satisfying in a way that’s as esoteric as its plot.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
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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