THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
AND "TRAGEDY DAY."
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'NEW
RELEASED IN FEBRUARY
Somebody has been
INTERFERING with the
Doctor’s past, testing
him, threatening him,
AND leading him on a
chase that has LED
to London in 1976 –
where reality has
been altered once
riots in the streets.
The Queen barely
escapes AN assass-
INation ATTEMPT. A
fearful tension is
is going to happen.
the lead singer in a
punk band. Ace can’t
talk to her or the
Doctor without an
so she’s made plans
of her own.
The Doctor’s alone –
he doesn’t know who
his enemy is, and even
the Brigadier has
As usual, it’s up to
the Doctor to protect
the world. And he
can’t even protect
No Future is a wonderful and fitting finale to this ‘alternate universe’ cycle of stories, tying up the five-book story arc in style. Paul Cornell had so much to accomplish in his 272 pages that to even be able to successfully dot all the Is and cross all the Ts ensuing from the preceding novels would have been an achievement in itself, but to accomplish this and make his novel as enjoyable and as brilliant as No Future is is the work of real genius.
One note of caution that I must sound though is that this book is not aimed at the casual reader. No Future assumes a sound knowledge of numerous televised stories - specifically The Time Meddler, The Daleks’ Master Plan, The Time Monster, The Invasion of Time, Mawdryn Undead, and Battlefield - not to mention all of the foregoing novels. If the reader isn’t familiar with more than a couple of these stories, then they won’t get as much out of
this book as I did, and they may well struggle to get into it.
For those of us well-versed in the series’ mythology, however, No Future is something of a wet dream. I think what I love most about it is that it takes a number of potentially interesting antagonists that never really satisfied their potential in the television series, and milks them for all they’re worth. Take the Vardans, for instance, who had a stab at conquering Gallifrey
in The Invasion of Time. Here Cornell sees them turn their attentions towards Earth, and
do so with considerably more menace than their tin-foil and tunic-clad counterparts did on television. More than that though, No Future provides the Vardans with a depth of culture
that The Invasion of Time simply couldn’t. Here they aren’t portrayed as a militaristic race
of conquerors, but as fractured society of warmongers and pacifists. Inspiring stuff.
Similarly, Cornell takes the Chronovores, a potentially fascinating and terrifying species whose appearances were, until now, confined to a generally reviled (though not by me, I hasten to add) 1970s Jon Pertwee six-parter. Through Artemis here, Cornell successfully conveys the power and the majesty of this near-omnipotent species. Artemis’ powers are
so great that even the Time Lords are like insects in comparison.
Most notably though, Cornell takes Peter Butterworth’s endearingly naughty Meddling Monk and makes him a credible threat. Having been marooned on a frozen planet by the Doctor way back in The Daleks’ Master Plan, ‘Mortimus’ has long been plotting his vengeance. It
is Mortimus who has been putting the Doctor and his companions through hell ever since Blood Heat, exploiting Artemis’ powers to modify history.
The London of 1976 in which the
TARDIS lands at the beginning
of this story is very close to the
established version of history,
yet still things are slightly out of
place. A terrorist organisation
called Black Star is stirring up
trouble; a record label executive
has CD recording equipment
before it has been invented;
and even Brigadier Lethbridge-
Stewart refuses to acknowledge
the Doctor’s existence. The
opening chapters of the book,
with the Doctor in UNIT custody and Benny singing in a punk band called Plasticine set the scene brilliantly for the explosive second half of the book but, I must admit, when reading
the book I didn’t become completely immersed in the narrative until it was revealed that the Brigadier’s apparent ignorance of the Doctor was simply a ploy to deceive the Vardans.
I love how Cornell depicts the Brigadier in this story. Since (from the Brigadier’s perspective) the Doctor last met him, he has become a Buddhist. Lethbridge-Stewart is still every bit the noble, stiff upper lipped British warhorse that we all know and love, but this slightly older Brigadier is far less gung-ho and far more reasonable than his younger self and I think that this ‘seasoning’ really suits him. It’s also nice to finally learn exactly why the Brigadier took early retirement in 1977 as established in Mawdryn Undead - before this book, we knew very little about the Brigadier’s life between him being in command of the British contingent of UNIT in Terror of the Zygons and his becoming a school teacher. The Brigadier and the Doctor meeting each other out of sequence also makes things very interesting, given that
the Brigadier doesn’t recognise the Doctor and Ace in the chronologically subsequent story Battlefield. It’s hard to believe that such things don’t happen more often in the TARDIS, and at the end of the book it‘s easily fixed with a finger on the forehead. It’s a pity the Brigadier apparently forgets all about Zen into the bargain but, as Mortimus learns in this story, you can’t re-write history.
For me though, the most fulfilling facet of No Future is its unusually happy ending. Things have been wrong in the TARDIS ever since Love and War; even further back than that, one could argue. More recently, the Doctor, Ace and Benny have been at each other’s throats more so than ever, Conundrum marking the absolute nadir of their relationship. Due to this, Ace’s apparent betrayal of the Doctor in this book works spectacularly. When she goes off
to be Mortimus’ ‘companion’ and stabs the Doctor in the chest I really thought that this was
it; that this was Ace’s final story; that the Doctor’s past manipulation of her had finally and ultimately brought their long friendship to a bitter end. I should’ve known better. I can’t think
of a better way for these two to resolve their differences than to have their roles reversed - Ace’s plan, Ace’s manipulation of the Doctor, Ace that saves the day! The Doctor is her pawn here, forced to feel how Ace was made to in Ghost Light and so very many times since. It’s only then that their friendship can be mended. Only then that, against all the odds, we can have a truthfully happy ending. Even the well-meaning UNIT traitor, Mike Yates, is
able to gain a further measure of redemption in the eyes of his former friends.
Simply put then, No Future is a blockbuster. It has everything that one could ever want
from a Doctor Who novel and more besides. So long as you’re up to speed on your New Adventures continuity and can recall the broad strokes of the television serials that I’ve mentioned above, you’re in for one hell of a treat with this one.
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.
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