Doctor Who

Author: Stephen Cole
BBC Books
RRP 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 48607 4
Available now

The multiverse is breaking up. The Doctor takes dangerous steps to find his way back to the "real" universe, and he almost destroys the TARDIS in the process. When he is rescued from the dawn of creation, the Doctor agrees to return the favour by investigating the mysterious Timeless organisation and a man who has been literally getting away with murder...

Timeless is a curious beast. It answers a lot of questions (at last) about the identity and aims of Sabbath's employers, and thus provides some closure, but it still leaves a lot of issues unresolved. It brings the character of Trix (a stowaway who has been loitering around inside the TARDIS, assuming various different names, for several books now) into the fore as a proper companion, though the author skips over the process by which she was formally introduced to the rest of the crew.

As with Justin Richards' Time Zero, which kicked off this whole parallel timelines arc, there has apparently been a considerable passage of time for the TARDIS crew. As a regular reader of the series I find this constructed "gap" at once frustrating and intriguing - I do find that it reminds me of the real-life gaps that used to occur between seasons of the television series.

Very obligingly, Stephen Cole commences his book with a witty and inventive "story so far" sequence, which is extremely useful considering how long we have been expected to follow the current story arc. He acknowledges our long-suffering search for answers by having Trix perform an impersonation of Sabbath for the purposes of a video diary: "Working as I am for unspecified higher powers, the nature of my misguided plans remains frustratingly obscure, ha ha!" Wonderful stuff! The plot is a complex one, not always told in a linear direction, so the author also includes a handy council of war at the halfway point, during which the TARDIS team discuss what they have learned so far.

The telling of his story is also aided by some very well drawn characters. These include Trix herself, a master (or should that be mistress?) of disguise, who has an agenda of her own. Her methods happen to coincide with the types of tasks the Doctor has in mind for her, although she does provoke feelings of jealousy in fellow traveller Anji. Among the cast of characters that Cole has created is a fascinating little alien girl called Chloe, whose surprising origins I had better not mention. He also well and truly gets into the mind of a thoroughly twisted individual called Daniel Basalt.

I do have one major reservation, though, and that regards the depiction of the Doctor. He seems uncharacteristically brutal at times, even if the objects of his wrath are reprehensible characters themselves.

The novel ends well, however, with moving scenes of resolution for several of the protagonists. Reading this book is time well spent.

Richard McGinlay

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