Doctor Who
The Resurrection Casket

Author: Justin Richards
BBC Books
RRP: 6.99
ISBN 0 563 48642 2
Available 13 April 2006

Starfall: a world on the edge, where crooks and smugglers hide in the gloomy shadows and modern technology refuses to function - and that includes the TARDIS. Will the Doctor's ship ever work again? Is the lost treasure of space pirate Hamlek Glint waiting to be found? And does his fabled Resurrection Casket, the key to eternal life, really exist...?

Following a couple of Earth-based Tenth Doctor novels, The Resurrection Casket takes us deep into space and far into the future - though the technology on Starfall seems like that of an age gone by.

For Starfall lies in the midst of a zone of electromagnetic gravitation, which means that nothing electrical will operate. There are machines, including spaceships, robots and even a cyborg barmaid, but they are all steam-powered. Though this narrative is not true steampunk (a genre that Doctor Who has tackled before in BBC Books' Imperial Moon and Big Finish's A Storm of Angels), the effect is much the same. And a most enjoyable effect it is too.

As with the same author's The Clockwise Man, one of his main characters is a young boy, in this case a wannabe space explorer called Jimm. I guessed his major twist about halfway though the book, though another development successfully took me by surprise.

A reference to the planet New Earth suggests that the episode of the same name is still a recent event for the time travellers. Indeed, Rose's suggestion that the Doctor should have had the TARDIS serviced when they were on New Earth implies that this is their first landing in a futuristic setting since then. The fact that the Doctor is still getting used to his new fingers also indicates an early Series 2 setting.

There are also subtle blasts from further in the past for older Who fans, including references to trisilicate, a mineral mentioned in the Pertwee-era Peladon stories, and a scientific explanation for everlasting matches, as used by the First Doctor in the novelisation Doctor Who and the Daleks. Indeed, the whole notion of pirates (both space- and Earth-bound) and the search for their hidden treasure will evoke memories of The Smugglers, The Space Pirates and The Pirate Planet.

This is easily Justin Richards's most agreeable novel based on the new version of Doctor Who. All in all, it's one to treasure.

Richard McGinlay

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