An elderly writer called Marnal is reborn on his deathbed,
transformed into a different, younger man. The new Marnal's
first utterance is just one word: "Gallifrey". This is the
planet he has been writing about for more than a century.
But no sooner has he remembered its name than he discovers
the planet no longer exists. Marnal sets out to find and punish
the man responsible for Gallifrey's destruction...
difficult to discuss The Gallifrey Chronicles without
blowing one of its major plot revelations, but I will try.
Suffice to say that my rather naïve expectation, that the
planet previously destroyed in the novel The Ancestor Cell
would somehow be summoned back into existence, ready to be
destroyed again in the Time War mentioned in the new television
series, was overly simplistic. Given the unenviable task of
reconciling these two demises, Lance Parkin's narrative is
refreshingly free of predictable or improbable contrivances.
Instead, he offers hope for the planet's eventual restoration
while still allowing breathing room for future television
episodes and novels, as well as fans' imaginations.
narrative structure is peculiar, and some readers may be disappointed
to find that it doesn't have a proper ending. It begins and
ends mid-adventure, rather like a first-season episode of
Alias. The monsters of the piece, though extremely
effective, are not introduced until the second half of the
story. We are teased with the possibility that the events
that follow the "cliffhanger" ending might be the ones that
culminate in the Doctor's eighth regeneration, but the author
is not so foolish as to set this in stone.
beginning of the book cuts between scenes with Marnal and
humorous snippets of several of the Doctor, Fitz and Trix's
ongoing travels. Some time has evidently passed for the TARDIS
crew since the previous novel, To
the Slaughter, because Fitz and Trix have grown
rather close to one another and they seem to have met the
Daleks a few times, which allows some scope for "missing adventures"
to inhabit this gap. There's also a welcome flashback to the
Doctor's "parenthood" of Miranda, though its connection with
the main plot is tenuous and it could have functioned as a
short story in its own right.
novel is littered with textual references to Doctor Who's
past, in various media. However, the witty - sometimes downright
cheeky - ways in which Parkin sneaks in these references prevent
the narrative from becoming too pretentious. For instance,
when Marnal scans time and space in search of the Doctor,
he sees patterns similar to the television show's various
title sequences. He comments that the Doctor seems to have
three alternative ninth incarnations, one of several nods
to The Curse of Fatal Death and Scream of the Shalka.
The works of Marnal, by inference the Gallifrey chronicles
of the title, are analogous to the Doctor's own adventures.
Some of them are named after the working titles of real stories,
such as The Giants (Planet
of Giants) and The Hand of Time (The
Hand of Fear). As with the development of the original
television series, Marnal's creative mind is perceived as
having once been colourful but is now overgrown, tangled,
senile and impenetrable. Marnal's descriptions of Gallifrey
are said to be dry and boring, implying that Parkin, like
Russell T Davies, feels much the same way about the mythology
that was built up around the planet - that the franchise is
better off without it.
from pivotal tales in the series' long history are worked
in, including An Unearthly Child, The
Dalek Invasion of Earth, The
Tomb of the Cybermen, Death
Comes to Time, The
Adventuress of Henrietta Street and, um, Time
and the Rani(!). Appropriately enough, Timewrym: Genesys,
the first original full-length Doctor Who novel, and
the 1996 TV movie, the Eighth Doctor's debut adventure, are
referenced more than most. The newly regenerated Marnal gabbles
exposition about his Time Lord physiology and his home planet
just as McGann's Doctor did in the TV movie.
Gallifrey is not restored in the way we might have expected
it to be, several lingering plot arcs and unanswered questions
are resolved, such as... Why was the Doctor instinctively
afraid of regaining his lost memories? Why was Fitz sometimes
able to remember Gallifrey's destruction but on other occasions
was not? What was the Seventh Doctor protecting so vigorously
within the Eighth Doctor's mind in City
of the Dead? What was scratching away behind
the wall in Trading
Futures? Why did Trix phone Anji in The
Deadstone Memorial? And why did the Doctor
redecorate the TARDIS's interior prior to Rose?
would not describe this book as a good starting point for
readers whose only exposure to Doctor Who to date has
been the Chris Eccleston series. However, it is essential
reading for anyone who has picked up an Eighth Doctor book
since The Ancestor Cell.
In spite of its structural oddities, I found I made more notes
about The Gallifrey Chronicles than about any other
Who novel in the last year or so, which is some indication
of how much it fired my imagination. I could go on at greater
length about how I believe events might unfold between the
final chapter of this book and the episode Rose but
that, I think, is a discussion for another time and place...
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