Doctor Who
Time Zero

Author: Justin Richards
BBC Books
RRP £5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53866 X
Available now

When Anji returns to her own time and Fitz embarks upon a palaeontology expedition to Siberia in the 19th century, the Eighth Doctor is left to travel alone once again. However, experiments with time and the repercussions of Fitz's apparently doomed expedition bring the Doctor and Anji back together...

The structure of this novel, which is the first in a new arc of stories for the Eighth Doctor range, is both unusual and fascinating.

The TARDIS crew is quickly dispersed, and the majority of the book reads like a reunion story, despite the fact that the trio were together just a month ago in Camera Obscura (in which the two human companions decided to go their separate ways). The impression of a lengthy separation is given by the fact that approximately two years pass for Anji before she crosses paths with the Doctor once again. This passage of time also cleverly allows the companion to remain an up-to-date contemporary of the reader. It is also implied that an undisclosed number of years have passed for the Doctor.

The narrative switches rapidly between a variety of times and places, each one as intriguing as the others. The various sub-plots involve clashing personalities and carnivorous monsters faced by Fitz in Siberia, 1894; espionage and daredevil situations for the Doctor and Anji in present-day England and Russia; and experiments with time and black holes. Bond films and other action movies are alluded to in the desperate measures that are taken by Anji on board a private plane. Meanwhile the Doctor engages in more subtle 007-style antics in an auction room scene inspired by the short story Property of a Lady and/or the movie Octopussy. Anji's involvement in events appears to be an unlikely coincidence at first, but proves to have an entirely logical connection.

Justin Richards' intelligent tale deals on various levels with the brain-straining concepts of quantum theory. He mostly succeeds in making the science accessible, but I must confess to being a bit befuddled at times! More successful is his use of the theoretical principles on a thematic level. Just as it is impossible to determine whether Erwin Schrödinger's famous cat is alive or not until its box has been opened, so the Doctor refuses to accept that Fitz might be dead until he has witnessed the facts first-hand. The author also proposes that quantum theory might explain why the Doctor's travels through time don't ordinarily cause the universe to divide into alternate timelines or realities.

Time Zero marks a bold beginning for a promising new era of Eighth Doctor novels.

Richard McGinlay

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