Doctor Who
Wooden Heart

Author: Martin Day
BBC Books
RRP: 6.99, US $11.99, Cdn $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84607 226 0
Available 19 April 2007

Castor, a vast and seemingly deserted starship, spins slowly in the void of deep space. Martha and the Doctor explore this drifting tomb, and discover that they may not be alone after all. Who or what survived the disaster that overcame the rest of the crew? What continues to power the vessel? And why has a stretch of wooded countryside suddenly appeared in the middle of the craft? As the Doctor and Martha journey through the forest, they find a mysterious, fog-bound village - a village traumatised by missing children and prophecies of its own destruction...

That synopsis, with its apparently primitive earthbound setting somehow connected to a derelict spaceship in the future, sounds rather reminiscent of The Girl in the Fireplace doesn't it? Evidently Martin Day or his editors were also conscious of that fact, so the author has the Doctor explicitly acknowledge the similarity.

Wooden Heart is also derivative of several other stories. The plot borrows elements from the Doctor Who serials Castrovalva and (just a dash of) The Mind of Evil. I was also reminded of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Remember Me (people disappearing and the universe shrinking) and the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Shadowplay. Nevertheless, Day managed to surprise me regarding the nature of the village and the origin of its population, and his narrative structure keeps things moving along nicely.

Mind you, the book contains a fair few incidents and themes that would probably be vetoed from a new series episode. Head writer/executive producer Russell T Davies has said that we will never see blood or humans committing acts of violence against humans in his show, both of which we get here, but then television is a visual medium whereas this is prose. I also seriously doubt whether the Doctor's cheeky line about the Castor's sister ship - "Never mind the Pollux" - will make it into the talking book version!

Talking of television episodes, in terms of chronological placement, Martha indicates that she hasn't been home for a while. This fact, together with her reference, in Sting of the Zygons, to a recent visit to New York, means that this batch of hardbacks probably takes place between Evolution of the Daleks and The Lazarus Experiment.

Wooden Heart is the weakest of the current batch of books. However, this is mostly an indication of the high quality of the other two titles, Sting of the Zygons and The Last Dodo, rather than any serious flaws in Day's writing. In fact, I consider this to be the best batch of new series novels to date. Not Pollux at all.

Richard McGinlay

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