Doctor Who
To the Slaughter

Author: Stephen Cole
BBC Books
RRP: 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 48625 2
Available 07 February 2005

The solar system is being spring-cleaned. Jupiter's moons are to be drastically reduced in number to improve its feng shui. But with eco-terrorists taking an active and deadly interest in the work, corrupt officials lining their own pockets, and incompetence leading to the demolition of the wrong moon, the Doctor, Fitz and Trix realise that not everything is as aesthetic or as innocent as it seems...

Despite its doom-laden title, To the Slaughter is a decidedly fun and frivolous space-hopping adventure. The plot verges on farce at times, with much comical hiding under desks, hitting people with pans and running up and down corridors. For the most part, the only slaughter that we are party to is the threatened demolition of scores of Jupiter's moons, though a more bloody massacre, reminiscent of a zombie movie, erupts later on.

Former range editor Stephen Cole knows his regular characters well, and their wry observations help the rather densely typed pages to fly by. Even Trix, the character with whom the author is supposedly least familiar, comes across well, getting into all sorts of hair-raising scrapes (almost crushed to death, attacked by rampaging beasts, nearly burned alive - twice!) yet still finding time for quips about huge pants and Stars in their Eyes. The TARDIS crew are now, thankfully, very familiar and comfortable with each other, which presumably means there will be no ill feelings at the end of the next book, The Gallifrey Chronicles, the last of the regular Eighth Doctor novels.

Anyone who was expecting a gradual build-up to the end of the Eighth Doctor's era, of the kind that Virgin Books gave us in the run-up to the Seventh Doctor's demise, may be disappointed. However, there are small elements of foreshadowing as Fitz and Trix start to think about the possibility of life without the Doctor.

In addition to the three regulars, Cole plays around with a sizeable cast of new characters, many of whom are introduced in a relatively short space of time. However, the author distinguishes them well enough so that the reader has little or no difficulty in telling them apart or recalling each one, even when someone is seen through the eyes of a character who cannot put a name to the face (or to the bald spot in one instance).

Cole also keeps things exciting with trips to several of Jupiter's moons.

In his afterword, Cole confesses that his book was conceived in order to exonerate the Fourth Doctor from a notoriously inaccurate scientific claim that he made in Revenge of the Cybermen, back in 1975. For me, this just adds to the frivolous fun of the venture, and the beauty of it is that the amnesiac Eighth Doctor doesn't remember the events of Revenge. However, the author was perhaps unwise to be as specific about the number of Jupiter's satellites as he is in parts of this narrative, which might also become out-dated if any more moons are discovered in years to come.

On the whole, though, I'm over the moons about this book!

Richard McGinlay

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