Doctor Who
The Last Dodo

Author: Jacqueline Rayner
BBC Books
RRP: 6.99, US $11.99, Cdn $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84607 224 6
Available 19 April 2007

The Doctor and Martha go in search of a real live dodo, and are transported by the TARDIS to the mysterious Museum of the Last Ones. There, in the Earth section, they discover every extinct creature up to the present day - billions of them, from the tiniest microbe to the biggest dinosaur - all still alive and in suspended animation. Preservation is the museum's only job: collecting the last of every endangered species from all over the universe. But exhibits are going missing. Can the Doctor solve the mystery before the curator adds the last of the Time Lords to her collection...?

If you thought the last dodo was the First Doctor's companion Dodo (Dorothea) Chaplet, think again - though she does get a name check of sorts in this entertaining novel.

In common with Sting of the Zygons, this book touches upon the issue of hunting, tying it in with that of conservation. During the course of this story, Martha encounters several creatures, including the eponymous dodo, that have become extinct or are currently endangered as a result of humanity's activities. These points are driven home by cameo appearances by a Cruella de Vil type collector of rare skins and a rhinoceros that loses its horn (curiously, neither Martha nor the Doctor are reminded of their recent encounter with the rhino-like Judoon).

Rayner makes use of two interesting and unusual narrative devices to help tell her story. Almost every chapter includes a conversational first-person viewpoint from Martha, in a style of writing similar to that of the character's blog on MySpace. These cutaways really get into the companion's head. Each chapter is also followed by a page or two from a guidebook that Martha consults, The I-Spyder Book of Earth Creatures. This includes entries for extinct creatures (such as the Quagga, the Tasmanian Tiger and the Great Auk) and some that are currently the verge of dying out (like the Mountain Gorilla, the Aye-Aye and the Chinese Three-Striped Box Turtle), the latter of which are given fictional dates of "last reported sighting" in the near future, thus reinforcing the novel's moral message.

Unusually for this series of books, there are no child characters, though I'm sure the lovable dodo will more than make up for that in terms of appealing to younger readers.

The plot structure is somewhat uneven and episodic, starting off as a mystery surrounding missing animals, which then gives way to another calamity and then an even greater one. There's also a rather too miraculous "TARDIS saves the day" moment (like the one at the end of Carnival of Monsters).

All in all, though, this lively read couldn't be farther from being as dead as a dodo.

Richard McGinlay

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