Doctor Who
The Tomorrow Windows

Author: Jonathan Morris
BBC Books
RRP 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 48616 3
Available 07 June 2004

A new exhibition at Tate Modern - the Tomorrow Windows - promises to bring about an end to war and suffering by showing "the gist of things to come". Investigating an act of wanton vandalism against the exhibition, the Eighth Doctor, Fitz and Trix visit a number of worlds that are all in dire need of rescuing from war and suffering themselves...

I commented in my review of Jonathan Morris's debut Doctor Who novel, Festival of Death, back in 2000, that his writing had more than a hint of Douglas Adams to it. The same is true of this planet-hopping extravaganza, which is dedicated to Adams, though Morris is at pains to point out that his humble book is not intended as a pastiche of the late writer's work. Having said that, Morris works in several direct references to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, including a planet designer, to whom the Doctor suggests the addition of a few fjords might add "a lovely baroque feel".

This is an eccentric novel, whose meandering structure would lend itself well to a seven-part television serialisation. The first instalment would take place on Earth, where Ken Livingstone is seen to explode! Subsequent episodes would revolve around the worlds of Shardybarn, whose devout populace have doomed themselves by their own austerity; Valuensis, a war-torn Nineteen Eighty-Four/Logan's Run/THX 1138-type planet whose ravaged people are a cross between the Cybermen and the Daleks; the manufactured paradise of Utopia; and the killer cars of Estebol. Part Six, if there was one, would focus on the magnificent Astral Flower, a vast natural wonder that plays host to the Centre for Posterity retirement home; while Part Seven would largely concern the deadly democracy of Minuea.

But it's not all fun and games. There are some serious and disturbing moral issues in this book, in which organised religion is the worst thing that ever happened to the formerly contented people of Shardybarn. Meanwhile, televised war coverage on Valuensis brings to mind the recent spin surrounding the occupation of Iraq. Even the absurdities of Minuean politics have something to say about our own society: with no goals beyond short-term economic prosperity and maintaining public support, neither party is willing to invest any time, money or effort in the defence of their world against a future environmental disaster. Sound familiar?

And talking of the future, this is the second Eighth Doctor novel in a row to foreshadow the arrival of Christopher Eccleston's incarnation of the Time Lord. Morris earns the distinction of being the first author to pen a description of the new Doctor in a published novel, as the current incarnation peers into a Tomorrow Window and beholds his own potential fate:

"A wiry man with a gaunt, hawk-like face, piercing, pale grey-blue eyes and a thin, prominent nose. His lips were set into an almost cruel, almost arrogant smile. He had an air of determination, as though withholding a righteous fury. As though facing down the most terrible monsters."

There are also sneaky glimpses of other actual or potential Doctors, including Rowan Atkinson, Eddie Izzard, Alan Davies and Richard E Grant.

Though somewhat undisciplined, The Tomorrow Windows is a highly intelligent, witty and, above all, enjoyable novel. Pick it up tomorrow, or - even better - today.

Richard McGinlay

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