Somebody's interfering with time. The Doctor, Rose, and Captain Jack arrive on modern-day Earth to find the culprit - and discover a Neanderthal Man, twenty-eight thousand years after his race became extinct. Only a trip back to the primeval dawn of humanity can solve the mystery.


Who are the mysterious humans from the distant future now living in that distant past? What hideous monsters are trying to escape from behind the Grey Door? Is Rose going to end up married to a caveman?


Caught between three very different types of human being - past, present and future - the Doctor, Rose, and Captain Jack must learn the truth behind the Osterberg experiment before the monstrous HyBractors escape to change humanity's history forever...













It is very difficult to compare these new tie-in novels with any original works previously published under the auspices of Doctor Who as they are so different to the Virgin and even the BBC ranges that we have all become accustomed to. These books have a much lighter page count than their predecessors and they are certainly more attractive to look at on the shelf, but clearly the greatest difference is one of tone. Whilst I loved the grittiness and often quite shameless fan service of most of the ‘classic series’ novels, Only Human has a real sense of fun about it that effectively evokes both the style and the spirit of the revived series. And with Gareth Roberts at the helm, this is hardly surprising.


Though I haven’t got on with all Roberts’ previous Doctor Who books (the most recent of which was published over eight years ago now, can you believe?), the man certainly has an inimitable sense of style which, for better or for worse, always sets his work apart from that of his peers. His gift for injecting humour into his stories speaks for itself, but I think where Roberts truly excels in his characterisation - his fourth Doctor is unquestionably peerless, and I’m pleased to say that the new series regulars are captured every bit as completely here.


The Doctor, Rose, and Captain Jack are brought to life on the page positively bursting with energy and with some of the best dialogue that I have ever read in a Doctor Who novel. The biggest compliment that I can pay to Roberts in how he handles the Doctor is that from the first time he opens his mouth, there is no doubt that this man, “…his eyes alight with childish optimism…”, is the ninth Doctor.


The Doctor spends most of Only Human’s narrative in an investigative role in the past. When his enemy, Chantal, is revealed, we learn that she is a human from the far future who has used chemistry to remove her emotions. This leads to some hilarious scenes where the Doctor realises that he cannot berate this woman; cannot get under her skin or make her lose her cool as he can with your normal run of the mill baddies. It’s a real joy to read.


The Doctor’s relationship with Rose comes over well on the page too. I particularly enjoyed an argument that they have about the human race where Rose, finally sick of all the Doctor’s anti-human comments, asks why he spends so much time hanging around with them if he can do nothing but pick fault. He replies, “you can be brilliant, terrible, generous, cruel. But you’re never boring”, which for me just about sums up the ninth Doctor’s attitude towards his favourite race.


Rose is really put through the meat grinder in this story, almost literally at one point. Within the space of 251 pages she breathes fire, marries a caveman (whom she is worryingly attracted to) and even has her head amputated (and subsequently re-attached, obviously). Even with the production standards of the 2005 series, these things would have stretched the budget to say the least; it’s good to see that the writers are still taking full advantage of the freedom that the written word allows.


Rose Glathigacymcilliach (née Tyler) has some great little character moments in the book too. Her reaction when she realises that humans wipe out the Neanderthals and how she is unsure whether the Doctor’s offhand comments at her wedding are said with jealousy or “fatherly protectiveness” both stand out in particular.


If Only Human can be criticised for anything, it should only be for having Jack sidelined for the bulk of the novel, left behind in 2006 to help the Neanderthal, Das, acclimatise to the century of which he has become a prisoner. That said, this setup allows Roberts to write some truly delectable stuff; indeed, though we do not hear as much from them as we do the Doctor and Rose, I enjoyed the passages featuring this remarkable odd couple more than any of the others. Jack and Das’ diary has to constitute some of the funniest Doctor Who that I have ever seen, read or heard - we’re talking a City of Death level of comedy. For example, Jack has trouble teaching Das about the concepts of ‘fiction’ and ‘lying’; Das simply cannot comprehend the difference between the two as he sits watching television all day, believing the Grace brothers in Are You Being Served? to be real!


Moreover, I think that the author has to be given a lot of credit for how he portrays Das’ attitude to modern life. Rather than take a hackneyed, old ‘modern life is rubbish’ attitude, Das embraces the future wholeheartedly. What a great quote this is: “I love this world of plenty and boredom”. So do I, Das. So do I...


At the end of the day, Only Human is a fantastic novel that has been written to tie-in with the 2005 series, and it does exactly that - in fact, the only ingredient that it lacks is the obligatory Bad Wolf reference. If you are a fan of the revived series and pick up a copy of this one I do not think that you could possibly be disappointed, as Roberts has crafted an adventure that slots seamlessly into the all too short Christopher Eccleston era. You can happily read it in just a few hours, though if you do you’ll be sorry when its over. It’s no exaggeration to say that I loved every page.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006


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