Doctor Who

Author: Mark Michalowski
BBC Books
RRP: £6.99, US $11.99, Cdn $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84607 271 0
Available 06 September 2007

When the TARDIS makes a disastrous landing in the swamps of the planet Sunday, the Doctor has no choice but to abandon Martha and try to find help. But the tranquillity of the swamps is deceptive, and even the TARDIS can’t protect Martha for long. Meanwhile, the human pioneers of Sunday have their own dangers to face: homeless and alone, they’re only just starting to realise that the planet’s wildlife isn’t as harmless as it appears. Why are the native otters behaving so strangely, and what is the creature in the swamps that is so interested in both the humans and the new arrivals? The Doctor and Martha must fight to ensure that human intelligence doesn’t become the greatest danger of all...

There’s a distinct climatic theme to this batch of Tenth Doctor books. Forever Autumn has (duh, obviously) an autumnal flavour, Sick Building is set on “a planet covered in wintry woods”, and Wetworld is, as you will have gathered from its title, a decidedly water-based adventure, with plentiful rainfall.

Mark Michalowski has crafted a complex and intelligent tale here, which makes ample use of the Tenth Doctor’s motor-mouth sense of humour. For instance, there’s a great joke about the planet’s name (made at the expense of the colony’s Chief Councillor) and lots of asides as the Time Lord concocts puns and other wordplay, approving or discarding his ideas as he goes.

On the other hand, Martha doesn’t get much to do during the first half of the novel, due to her being variously trapped in the TARDIS or in an otter den and/or unconscious. Her plight does make for riveting reading, though, especially following her initial disappearance.

Otters are a peculiar source of inspiration for an alien life form, but ultimately a fascinating one. Far less pleasant is a squid-like, slimy creature whose tentacles do some very nasty things to several of the colonists, including some Frontios-style manipulation of bodies, both living and dead. Fortunately, despite the presence of the swamps and the creature, similarities to The Power of Kroll are surprisingly few. The author does throw in a few unobtrusive references to other people and creatures from the old series, including Romana, the adjudicators and the Krynoids.

Though the informal numbers assigned to these novels on online stores suggest that this book is set before Forever Autumn and Sick Building, the Gallifreyan characters on the spine place it afterwards. This is supported by evidence in the narrative itself, in which Martha recalls the events of The Family of Blood, the most recent live-action episode so far to be referenced in a novel.

A couple of things struck me as rather odd about this book. One is the absence of parents of a 16-year-old character called Candy. Did she head off to the colony world by herself at such a tender age, are her parents somewhere on the planet, or did they die in the flood that recently devastated the settlement? Michalowski doesn’t specify. The other thing is his description of one of the controlled colonists blinking in a “slow and insectile” manner. This reads oddly because insects don’t blink and, to my mind, are associated with rapid rather than slow movement.

For the most part, though, there’s a world of enjoyment to be had in Wetworld.

Richard McGinlay

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