THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
AND "THE SLEEP OF
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN JUNE 2004.
Tate Modern HAVE A
new exhibition Ė 'The
The concept is simple:
YOU look through a
and you'll see into
the future. You'll get
ĎThe Gist of Things to
Comeí. According to
the press pack, The
exhibition will bring
about an end to war
The Tomorrow Windows comes with a pronouncement from its author, Jonathan
Morris, that it isnít a pastiche of Douglas Adamsí work. Heís wrong - it is, but fortunately itís
a bloody brilliant one. The prose is almost as sharp as the acclaimed Hitch-Hikerís Guide
to the Galaxy authorís, and the madcap plot could quite easily have accommodated Arthur Dent and company instead of the Doctor, Fitz and Trix. Most important of all though, Morris perfectly captures the affronted spirit of all Adamsí works; the wry cynicism papering over unqualified despair.
The narrative is, for the most part, utterly bonkers, but thatís not to say that it isnít subtle or clever. Indeed, awash as it is with onomatopoeically absurd names, nutty characters and unfathomable aliens, the story had to be even more persuasive than one couched in more sensible staples. The key concept of ďheritage planetsĒ being surreptitiously sabotaged so that they can be freely traded is absolutely inspired, for instance. Not only does it reek of Adamsí vicious whimsy, but itís actually quite an interesting foundation for a Doctor Who story in any event. Better still are the eponymous Tomorrow Windows, which are employed as a counter-measure against the aforesaid sabotage. Whilst one faction do their level best to spark war and suffering on the heritage planets, another offers these planetsí peoples a glimpse of things to come Ė or at least, the gist of them Ė in the hope that this foresight will help them help themselves, and thus redress the balance. Itís barking mad, obviously, but completely compelling and totally brilliant.
The novelís opening is one of the strongest that youíre likely to find in any Doctor Who book. Iím a real sucker for stories that see the real world and the Whoniverse overlap, and here, in his opening chapters, the author has the Doctor and his companions sauntering around Tate Modern, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ricky Gervais; Ken Livingstone; and even half of Blur. The Doctorís encounter with Londonís then-Mayor is particularly amusing, as Red Ken reminisces with his old alien friend about the events of The Web of Fear; Spearhead from Space; Invasion of the Dinosaurs; and even The Dying Days Ė none of which the Doctor is able to recall, but his role in which heís suitably smug about.
However, some readers are likely to be put off by The Tomorrow Windowsí aberrant use of continuity references. Indeed, the flood of nods and winks to earlier adventures seems to be trying to make up for the dearth of them in post-Ancestor Cell novels, both in a literary and a literal sense. The amnesiac Doctorís reactions to this storyís salvo of them are intriguing, to say the least, as memories of monsters as sundry as my old favourite the Kandyman and the Daleks suddenly start popping up inside his head. Wanton references to then-recent audio dramas such as Project: Lazarus, Flip-Flop, Master, and even Zagreus are a little harder to justify artistically, but as editor of a website thatís bread and butter is bringing the disparate strands of the Whoniverse together, I can hardly complain. Indeed, it is novels like this one and audios such as Morrisís Company of Friends episode that keep us in business.
As well as doing interesting things with the Doctor,
Morris also deals the companions a fair hand. Fitz
is on riotous form throughout Ė not only is he gifted
the funniest gag (ďGallifraxion Four?Ē), but he gets
to play Hercule Poirot in space. And whatís really
funny is that he plays the part very well. Meanwhile,
Trixís apparently bottomless depths are probed
a little further, Morris suggesting that her various
guises arenít adopted just to deceive or inveigle Ė
theyíre adopted so that she can try to hide from
herself and her memories; so that she can might assume a strength that isnít really her own.
However, much like the work to which it pays homage, The Tomorrow Windows gets very broad very quickly Ė perhaps a little too quickly for my tastes. The whole planet may not be demolished to make way for a Hyperspace bypass, but Tate Modern does suffer a similar fate, quickly giving rise to a similarly ambitious jaunt across the galaxy. The Doctor and his companionsí mission sees them take in places as diverse as Utopia, Gadrahadradon and Lewisham, and encounter creatures as varied as the miniscule Micron and the killer cars of Estebol. For me, the book runs out of steam long before it ends, but even when my attention in the story was flagging, the writing itself kept me reading. Itís Adams through and through;
a materialist masterpiece.
I can understand why many readers are put off by imitation or homage, but as long as itís not poor imitation or bald-faced plagiarism then Iím generally quite open-minded. Hell, I actually prefer Morrisonsí own-brand cookies to many leading brands (they bake them fresh in the store, see). The Tomorrow Windows isnít fresher or better than the real thing though, but it does successfully tell an Adams-style story within the world of Doctor Who, and with a little more aplomb then those Adams penned himself. At times it works, and at others it doesnít, but one constant that is sure to remain throughout is the smile on its readersí faces.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2011
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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