Doctor Who
The Pirate Loop

Author: Simon Guerrier
BBC Books
RRP: £6.99, US $11.99, Cdn $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84607 347 2
Available 27 December 2007

The Doctor’s been everywhere and everywhen, and seems to know everything. But ask him what happened to the
Starship Brilliant and he hasn’t the first idea. Did it fall into a sun or a black hole? Was it shot down in the first moments of the galactic war? And what’s this about a secret experimental drive? As Martha is so keen to find out, the Doctor lands the TARDIS on the Brilliant, a few days before it vanishes, so they can see for themselves... Soon the Doctor learns the awful truth, and Martha learns to be careful what you wish for. She certainly wasn’t hoping for mayhem, death and badger-faced space pirates...

Simon Guerrier is less prolific in terms of previous Doctor Who output than many of his fellow contributors to the new series novels, having penned just two full-length Who stories prior to this book: The Time Travellers, for BBC Books, and the audio drama The Settling, for Big Finish Productions. However, he has plenty of short stories to his name, having contributed to most of Big Finish’s Short Trips collections, and edited a couple of volumes in the series, The History of Christmas and Time Signature. Guerrier is also the Range Editor of Big Finish’s Bernice Summerfield audio dramas and books.

The latter role accounts for the presence of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mention of the Mim. The author also fleetingly references the Ood, the Monoids and the Voc robots, and possibly also the planet Yemaya 4 (from the New Adventures novel SLEEPY). You can tell he likes his continuity (as do I), because, despite the stand-alone nature of these books, he explicitly establishes that the events of Wishing Well occurred just a couple of days ago from Martha’s perspective. A decision that Martha takes at the end of the story suggests that this batch of novels takes place not long before Utopia.

A less fortuitous connection is the presence of a spaceship that resembles an old-fashioned sea vessel, rather like we just had in the Christmas special Voyage of the Damned (and in Enlightenment before that). However, this is a very different tale from Voyage.

Owing to a rather bizarre time loop (which means the canapés never run out), the Doctor and Martha end up separated in time. The separation isn’t as great as in Mawdryn Undead, Fear Itself or The Girl Who Never Was, involving hours rather than years, but it nevertheless makes for intriguing reading. At first, I thought the travellers might have been split into alternate timelines, as you will see if you read the book... It’s best not to think about the time loop too much, as I don’t think it makes total sense, but just go with the flow.

And what is it with this series and adversaries based on cute wildlife? Following the porcupine-like Quevvils in Winner Takes All and the otters of Wetworld, here we have genetically engineered badger pirates! They talk and act like children much of the time, but receive something of an education from Martha and an endearing alien passenger called Mrs Wingsworth (imagine, if you can, Iris Wildthyme trapped in the body of Mr Tickle). The morals of the story, or two of them at least, are that you get on much better in life if you say “please” and that surely it’s preferable to have a party than to perpetrate acts of violence.

The Pirate Loop is certainly a frivolous tale (the Doctor and Martha seem to take the Time Lord’s status as the last of his kind very lightly, and Guerrier channels Russell T Davies’s penchant for silly names by referring to a place called Milky-Pink City and giving a couple of his characters the surnames Wet-Eleven and Five-Shoelace) but it is an enjoyable one. Worth buying, or (if you’re one of our younger readers, at whom this book is aimed) badgering your parents to buy it for you.

Richard McGinlay

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