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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
Shining Darkness


Author: Mark Michalowski
BBC Books
RRP: £6.99, US $11.99, Cdn $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84607 557 5
Available 04 September 2008

For Donna Noble, the Andromeda galaxy is a long, long way from home, but even two and a half million light years from Earth, danger lurks around every corner... A visit to an art gallery turns into a race across space to uncover the secret behind a shadowy organisation. From the desert world of Karris to the interplanetary scrapyard of Junk, the Doctor and Donna discover that appearances can be deceptive and that the centuries-long peace that currently exists between humans and machines may be about to come to an end - because waiting in the wings to bring chaos to the galaxy is the Cult of Shining Darkness...

Even in the swanky new version of the Doctor Who TV series, the budget rarely extends to creating robots other than the humanoid variety. Think of the killer Santas in The Christmas Invasion and The Runaway Bride, and the angelic Hosts in Voyage of the Damned. You get the idea. However, prose is another matter. Like Sick Building, Shining Darkness provides robots of all shapes and sizes, from tiny toy-sized versions to giant constructions resembling modern-art installations. You see, there are lots of robots in the Andromeda galaxy.

Unfortunately, “mechanicals” are so prevalent in this region of space that some “organics” think the situation is getting out of hand and that robots need to be put in their place. Enter the Cult of Shining Darkness and some moral discussions about equal rights. The Doctor and Donna meet members of the Cult and those working to stop them. Along the way, Donna, who has hitherto only really encountered robots in the hostile forms of the killer Santas and Sebastiene’s synthetic servants in The Doctor Trap, learns to overcome her own prejudices about artificial life forms.

Mark Michalowski’s plot is a runaround affair, involving a quest to find the components of a device hidden across space on numerous planets - including Karris, the inhabitants of which have an amusingly fickle attitude towards religion that would not have seemed out of place in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The author keeps things lively by having the travellers swap places partway through: Donna starts off being stuck with the cultists before ending up in the company of the pro-mechanicals, while the reverse is true for the Doctor.

It’s an enjoyable story, but one aspect confused me. Either I wasn’t paying full attention, or something has been lost in the editing process, because one character makes a “surprise” reappearance near the end of the story having never actually disappeared in the first place.

Shining Darkness is not the most shining example of Doctor Who literature ever written, but it’s worth a look.


Richard McGinlay

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