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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Forgotten Army


Author: Brian Minchin
BBC Books
RRP: £6.99
ISBN: 978 1 84607 987 0
Available 22 April 2010

New York: one of the greatest cities on 21st-century Earth... but what’s going on in the Museum of Natural History? Is that really a woolly mammoth rampaging down Broadway? An ordinary day becomes a time of terror as the Doctor and Amy meet a new and deadly enemy. The vicious Vykoid army is armed to the teeth and determined to enslave the human race, despite being only 7cm tall. Amy has just 24 hours to find the Doctor and save the city. If she doesn’t, the people of Manhattan will be taken to work in the asteroid mines of the Vykoid home planet. But as time starts to run out, who can she trust? How far will she have to go to free New York from the Forgotten Army...?

Brian Minchin has been a script editor for Doctor Who and Torchwood, and has also written stories for Torchwood Magazine and the Torchwood audio book The Sin Eaters. Being so closely involved with both series, it’s hardly surprising that he is in touch with the shows’ mythology. In writing this Earthbound novel, the author makes numerous references to recent events in the Who / Torchwood universe, such as the Doctor’s previous visit to New York (Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks), Colonel Mace of UNIT (The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky), the time when all the children “froze and started chanting” (Torchwood: Children of Earth), and when the Doctor reset all the world’s clocks to zero (The Eleventh Hour). Trinity Wells, the American newscaster often seen in the television show, makes her first appearance in a Who novel. The TARDIS’s next port of call after this one is to be another museum, the Delirium Archive (The Time of Angels).

The Doctor’s wry observation about Trinity Wells, that whenever she appears he knows the world is in danger (paraphrasing a quote from Russell T Davies on Doctor Who Confidential) gives some indication of the tone of this novel, which is predominantly humorous. Similarly, a Judoon, three Graske and a Cat Person are seen queuing for some galaxy-renowned burgers. The very nature of the invading aliens, the Vykoids, is comedic: tiny, troll-like beings, whose short stature compared to that of other races in the universe has given them the most extreme form of Napoleon complex. Their ability to subdue full-size humanoids is reminiscent of the Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels - at one point they stake the Doctor and Amy to the ground. Their antics become decidedly more juvenile when, with the aid of time-slowing technology, they replace a police officer’s trousers with a miniskirt and place a sparkly tiara on his head.

Much of the humour is toilet-based, even scatalogical. Upon awakening, the mysterious mammoth’s first action is to defecate. Later on, it breaks wind, and Amy slips on some dung in an animal enclosure. The Vykoids want to enslave humans in order to put them to work mining their revolting guano asteroids - formed from the excrement of a giant, space-dwelling creature.

Though the Doctor and Amy are generally well characterised, Amy often seems like an exaggerated version of her television persona, even more flirty and full of herself. And she so never says “so” so often in the TV show. Long passages of dialogue, especially between Amy and the Doctor, merely restate what the reader already knows, apparently for the purposes of bringing the narrative to the required length, rather than driving the plot forward.

Younger readers will probably enjoy The Forgotten Army. For me, however, of the three novels in this batch of Eleventh Doctor books, this one is easily the most forgettable.


Richard McGinlay

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