Doctor Who
Combat Rock

Author: Mick Lewis
BBC Books
RRP 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53855 4
Available now

When 400-year-old tribal mummies inexplicably return to life and begin murdering tourists on an exotic alien island, the Doctor's urge to investigate lands himself, Jamie and Victoria in the middle of a jungle holocaust. Why are the usually peaceful natives reverting to long-forgotten head-hunting practices...?

Combat Rock is an odd choice of title. It would have suited last month's "past Doctor" novel, Ten Little Aliens, quite well, that book's particular "combat rock" being an asteroid-based army training ground. The relevance of the title of Mick Lewis' novel only really becomes clear on page 213.

Title aside, this is an engrossing book. The setting, the planet Jenggel, may be alien, but the author's allusions to the subjugation of tribal cultures by more technologically advanced civilisations on our own world are plain for all to see. The Papul represent marginalised native Americans and rainforest tribes whose homes are threatened by deforestation, while the Indoni symbolise European colonists and their descendants, who simultaneously fear the "savage" races while seeking to exploit them. Prevalent phobias about such "primitive" societies and their natural environments are brought to the fore by Lewis, who includes reanimated mummies, cannibals and deadly jungle creatures - ranging from poisonous snakes to more outlandish beasts that would have fitted in well amongst the mutations of Skaro in The Daleks.

There are a lot of grim and gruesome goings-on in this novel, including deaths, dismemberment, prostitution, torture and a thoroughly unpleasant band of mercenaries, whose misogynistic leader is the worst of the bunch. The quaint trio that comprises the Second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria sometimes seems out of place within such a grisly narrative, although the inclusion of Victoria makes sense. It is entirely appropriate that she comes to question the righteousness of her own imperial upbringing as she witnesses some of the horrors perpetrated by the Indoni. The Doctor is also well characterised, given ample opportunity to utter panic-stricken Troughtonesque catch phrases such as "Oh, my giddy aunt!"

This tale is certainly not kid's stuff, but is nonetheless an entertaining rumble in the jungle.

Richard McGinlay

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