Doctor Who
Emotional Chemistry

Author: Simon A. Forward
BBC Books
RRP 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 48608 2
Available now

In 2023, Fitz and Trix are interrogated by the Russian division of UNIT regarding a burglary and fire at the Kremlin. As for the Doctor, he has been spirited away to the year 5000 with one of the time-travelling burglars. But how can a world war in the future be connected with Napoleon Bonaparte's advance across Russia in 1812...?

Numerous plot strands taking place across several physical and temporal locations with no immediately apparent connection make for some perplexing reading at first. Unlike the two timelines in last month's Wolfbane, this novel doesn't remain focused on any particular set of characters for very long during its first half, which really doesn't help the reader to settle into the story. By about halfway through, though, Simon A. Forward's book has become less bitty, with longer stretches of the narrative being devoted to each of the converging plotlines.

One such plot strand concerns the future war mentioned in the Tom Baker story The Talons of Weng-Chiang, from which the evil Magnus Greel fled through time using his Zygma beam. Greel is mentioned in passing by several characters, but not by the Doctor, who has no memory of those events, although he is somehow familiar with Zygma energy, which has a bearing upon this story.

The year 5000 setting also offers a character called Mogushestvo, whose physical mutation and propensity to rant at prisoners and underlings alike makes him markedly similar to Greel. But Mogushestvo is a bit player rather than a major villain. A more significant role is played by Vladimir Garudin, a 21st-century industrialist and a truly despicable and immoral piece of work. However, the author seems to run out of things to do with Garudin some time prior to the novel's conclusion. In fact, there is no main villain as such, unless you count love itself, which drives many of the book's characters to carry out questionable or damaging deeds.

Forward's writing style retains his characteristic penchant for bizarre similes, which illuminate the narrative throughout. These include such gems as when the Doctor drinks in the Siberian landscape "like some elixir with too much ice and lemon" or when Garudin's "charm" comes across to Trix like "slime masquerading as a smoothie."

Unfortunately, though, the novel's ending turns out to be as bitty as its beginning.

Richard McGinlay

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