THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVELS "THE SHADOWS
OF AVALON" AND
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN MARCH
Yquatine - centre of
the Minerva System. A
planet with a month
there when Yquatine
fell. Now, trapped a
month in the past he
doesn't know if the
Doctor survived. He
doesn't know where
Compassion has gone.
He doesn't know who
the invaders will be.
date and time when
he will die with the
millions of others.
with Lou Lombardo -
salesman and full
time pie seller.
Compassion is lost
in time and space.
And Fitz is living out
his days working in
a seedy cocktail bar.
Until Arielle... But is
really the person to
shack up with?
to talk sense into
the politicians, and
Compassion tries to
avert the war, Fitz
is about to discover
that things can only
Stepping out from under The Shadows of Avalon must have been a daunting pros- pect, but with The Fall of Yquatine author Nick Walters comes bounding out of the darkness with a thoughtful and provocative adventure that, at its best, measures up to even the most highly regarded eighth Doctor adventures.
As the first story to see the Doctor and Fitz travelling inside Compassion (a proposition that still provokes the most puerile reaction from me every time I read it) rather than the Doctor’s old TARDIS, before he did anything else Walters had to tackle to a burning logistical issue.
It wouldn’t do to leave Compassion with the ability to dip in and out of the Time Vortex at her pleasure – if people thought that a sonic screwdriver was a bit of a cheat, than a companion who’s also a TARDIS wouldn’t have been anything less than a full-blown cop-out waiting to happen. But rather than shoe-horn a scene or two into his book rectifying this state of affairs, Walters’ entire plot is borne out of it. Everything that happens in The Fall of Yquatine, both before and after its index event, is centred around the Doctor’s thoughtless violation of Co-mpassion’s systems; around his illicit attempt to force a hooky randomiser into her that he picked up in a pie shop on Yquatine.
The Doctor’s pragmatic but tactless act causes Compassion
indescribable pain. In fact, so profound is her suffering that
she forcibly ejects the Doctor and Fitz from within her, and
when Fitz returns to try and help her she tries to asphyxiate
him, before spitting him out a month in the past. And while
all this is going on, Yquatine is falling. The stage is therefore
set: the Doctor is alone on a planet that has just suffered a
cataclysm, Fitz is trapped a month in its past, and Compassion’s fate is altogether more ghastly.
Walters’ portrayal of Compassion is one of the most arresting of all. He condemns her to endure several subjective decades in the Time Vortex as she desperately tries to remove her randomiser and return to Yquatine. As her anguish gives rise to psychosis, he has her murder a surgeon (albeit a pretty odious one) who she’s hired to help her. And all the while, she’s reeling at the terrible thought that the Doctor violated her; that he caused her all this hurt. The irony is that he only did so to save her from such abuse at the hands of Romana and the Time Lords, who would breed a new race of living TARDISes from her were they ever to locate and capture her.
Fitz’s thread of the narrative is equally outstanding, if a little gentler. It’s enthralling to read about the pitiable sod struggling to survive in a world that he knows won’t, frantically trying
to get off the planet before it’s too late. Walters soon presents Fitz’s escape in the alluring form of Arielle – a well-to-do human student who had her appearance surgically altered so as to be irresistible to men, only to later realise that she didn’t want to be. With Yquatine’s President tenaciously pursuing her across his world, Arielle wants to get off the planet as much as Fitz does, and herein lies Walters’ cold genius. In any other circumstance, Fitz would be fawning all over this poor woman, but here he just wants to use her to get off the planet and save his neck, and at any rate he doesn’t believe that she’d look at him twice. How cruel then, that she’d instigate a love affair between them, only to be taken from him
in the most agonising of ways, destined to become just another corpse in Fitz’s little black book.
Only the Doctor’s section of the story I found to be a little pallid. Beyond his decisive book-ending exploits, the Time Lord fugitive’s passages are far less remarkable than those of his companions. He remains energetically and thoughtfully portrayed throughout, however, and his scenes with President Vargeld (an intriguing character in his own right) are especially rousing. Despite everything else that Walters has going on in this novel, I love the conceit that at the heart of these apocalyptic events is a young ruler, pining after his lost lover as he lets his world crumble around him. It’s a beautiful image; one that succinctly encapsulates
not only the absolute power of love, but its folly too.
Altogether then, The Fall of Yquatine does a fantastic job of rebooting the eighth Doctor adventures post-Avalon. Soaked in suffering, Yquatine is an astonishing and captivating tale that never fails to stir or to rouse, and is most definitely one of the range’s best-kept secrets.
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.
This novel explains that a TARDIS can infuse the body of someone recently deceased with Artron energy and thus bring them back to life, explaining the convenient resurrections of Grace and Chang-Lee in the TV Movie.
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