THIS STORY COMMENCES
AROUND THIRTY YEARS
AFTER THE NOVEL "END-
GAME," AND CONCLUDES
ELEVEN YEARS PRIOR
TO THE NOVEL "ESCAPE
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN JANUARY
Earth in the 1980s is
a battleground. Rival
alien factions have
travelled from the
far future to pursue
A vendetta. As UFOs
SWARM IN the skies,
a giant robot stalks
the Derbyshire hills,
and alien hunters
search for the "Last
One", the Doctor is
the only man who
can protect ALL the
innocents caught in
being settled, the fate
of a Galactic Empire
is at stake, and the
Doctor is drawn into
a decade-long war
that will strike at
those he holds most
his memory, his fri-
Ends, his past and
his TARDIS. All he
has now is the love
of his daughter.
be taken from him?
Father Time is one of my favourite Doctor Who novels. It contains all the rich flavour of the amnesiac Doctor’s earlier adventures on Earth, yet it also has a quintessential aroma; the latter insidiously overwhelming the former as Lance Parkin brings us back within touching distance of the format that we all know and love. It also boasts a hell of a gimmick, for the first time in the series’ history gifting the Doctor a daughter, only to have her snatched away from him in the final act.
Parkin’s book is divided into three distinct novellas, each of which explores a different time in the life of the Doctor’s daughter. The first is entrenched in the wintry village of Greyfrith in the early 1980s, and tells of the Doctor’s fateful encounter with a schoolteacher that would lead him to a little girl with two hearts; a little girl whose life is in danger. The middle act then sees the action move into the heart of the 1980s, where the prosperous yuppie Doctor and his adopted daughter once again find their lives threatened by aliens from the future with the ultimate vendetta. The final, triumphant third then blasts both father and daughter into Earth orbit, where the “Last One” must either fight the future or capitulate to it.
The opening act is perhaps the strongest of the three. The “let’s kill the kid” plotline may be eminently straightforward, but Parkin’s prose is abounding with ambience and his charac-terisation is nothing short of superlative. The Doctor is the lonely man in the old farm house with an empty Police Box and a chock-full chess board. Debbie Castle is the obliviously discontented schoolteacher with a husband she doesn’t quite like and a life that doesn’t quite work. Miranda, meanwhile, is the little alien princess with two hearts who isn’t aware
of her pedigree; the little alien princess whose life is about to change forever.
One of the few criticisms generally levelled at Father Time is that it’s a bit of a swiz, really – Miranda is neither a long-lost daughter from the Doctor’s past, nor a half (or should that be quarter?) human offspring conceived during his hundred and thirteen year residence on Earth. However, if we were to start substantively rummaging around behind the familial veil, then the whole mystery of the Doctor would start to unravel. Inscrutable characters such as Parkin’s Patience have the opposite effect, of course, but Father Time required a clear-
cut daughter; a captivating full-colour character, as opposed to an intriguing pencil sketch. Having the Doctor start a new family, on the other hand, would have been truly fascinating, though it would probably have been a little too far out of leftfield for most readers’ tastes. I think Parkin hits precisely the right note here, providing the Doctor with a daughter that he loves just as much as one that were his own flesh and blood, whilst also saturating his story with sweltering subtext concerning Debbie that readers can choose to either embrace or ignore. Once again, Father Time offers the best of both worlds.
However, it is Father Time’s central tale that is most worthy of note. Now sweet sixteen, the author is able to invest Miranda with real personality. As we read about her Lt Commander Data-like forays into the world of boys and bitches, we begin to realise that she’s every bit her father’s daughter. Aloof and unassuming yet devastatingly appealing, Miranda inevitably attracts the attention of drooling boys and obsequious girls; attention that she neither seeks nor even really notices. She just enjoys her studies and her swimming. That’s all she needs.
By this point, the Doctor’s fortunes have, quite literally, changed. In a glorious indictment of Thatcherism, one day the Doctor decides that he wants the best for his daughter, and so he just ties his hair up in a pony tail, dons a pair of braces and an Armani frock coat, and turns himself into one of the most successful businessmen in Britain; a millionaire. But he doesn’t care about the money or the status – as long as he’s got enough to build his sonic suitcases and buy his second-hand books he’s happy. He just wants to see that no opportunities are denied to his little girl; to see that she’s safe from those that would harm her. It’s a stirring and revitalising portrayal of the Time Lord; one that couldn’t be any farther away from the languor of Endgame.
The novel’s midsection also sees the
villain of the piece come into his own.
Whereas Miranda is the last survivor a
corrupt intergalactic regime, Ferran is
the progeny of those that overthrew it.
For all his life he’s been taught that the
“Last One” must die in the most ornate,
overdramatic of assassinations... but
then he meets her, gets the hots for her,
saves her from a speeding car and plants a smacker on her lips. ‘Twist’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Father Time’s third and final act teeters on the edge of being a traditional romp, albeit one saturated with senseless death, frenzied fisticuffs, and even illicit glimpses of futures both personal and cosmic. The premise, again, is delightfully straightforward: Miranda’s on a UFO in Earth orbit, stirring up dissent against the man who can’t decide whether he wants
to marry her or murder her. The Doctor finds out where she is, collects his schoolteacher companion, steals a space shuttle, and then sets out to save the day… or, at least, to try.
Parkin’s dénouement is an agonising thing, as slippery as it is spectacular. All the while
the reader has the mounting sense that the toys are all going back in the box in readiness
for the Doctor resuming his travels in space and time, yet everything is still slightly off-kilter. The Doctor doesn’t defeat Ferran using his usual weaponry of words and wisdom – instead, he pummels him with his fists. Are these actions those of a pacifist driven to violence by the love of his daughter, or those of a man changed; a man haunted by past crimes? Debbie’s fate is similarly remarkable, not only in terms of what actually happens to her, but in how the author relays it to the reader. Even the inevitable parting of ways between the Doctor and Miranda has an edge to it, as in embracing her father’s ideals Miranda becomes something that he could never be.
As Father Time’s final, poignant page is brought to a full stop, it’s clear to the reader that
the Doctor is now within a whisker of his old lifestyle. He may not be able to remember who he is or where he’s from – in fact, this novel sees him turn that knowledge down again, not wanting to “cheat” and dip into his personal future – but now he knows who he is inside, and he’s ready to face all the wonder and horror of space and time; all he needs is one of those time-travelling phone boxes, like Bill and Ted. The fact this dawning has a bittersweet taste to it speaks volumes about the quality of this dauntless post-Ancestor Cell ‘Earth’ arc.
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 story begins in the early 1980s, almost thirty years after the events of Endgame, and concludes in 1990, some eleven years prior to Escape Velocity. The Doctor’s discourse with Debbie suggests that he has spent most of the time since Endgame “travelling”, and Lance Parkin’s later novel, The Gallifrey Chronicles, would reveal that the Doctor shared some adventures with a woman named Nina whilst on Earth, as well as implying that he had other “companions” too, including Lorenzo, Delilah, Frank, Claudia, Jemima-Katy, and, of course, this novel’s Debbie and Miranda.
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