Doctor Who
Father Time

Author: Lance Parkin
BBC Books
5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53810 4
Available now

The Doctor encounters a rather unearthly child. Like him, Miranda has two hearts, an unusually low body temperature, and doesn't remember where she came from. But forces from another time and place are out to destroy her...

This is practically three books in one. The first part is set in the early 1980s, when the Eighth Doctor first meets the ten-year-old Miranda. The second takes place in the mid-'80s, by which time the Doctor has adopted the teenage girl as his daughter. This is my favourite portion of the book, exploring the poignant topics of teenage development, angst and confusion. The final section is set during the late '80s, by which time Miranda has declared her independence of the Doctor, but is suddenly in danger once again.

The 1980s are vividly recreated by the author, who incorporates historical realities such as urban decay, unemployment, space shuttle launches and the collapse of the Berlin Wall, as well as cultural phenomena that will spark recognition in the memories of children of the '80s such as myself. References are made to New Romantics, Smurfs, Buck Rogers, Monkey and an alien who phones home. There's even a killer robot who can change his shape like a Transformer or something out of Battle of the Planets. Childish insults such as "Joey" and "flid" are exchanged, while classrooms come equipped with good old Quink ink. The Doctor is described, briefly but memorably and amusingly, dressed like a yuppie, but not before he has faced his old enemy: snooker! The narrative voice speaks from a 21st-century perspective, looking back - it reminds us, for instance, that in those days only millionaires had car phones and nobody drank bottled water.

Comparisons between Miranda and Susan, the Doctor's granddaughter and first-ever travelling companion, are obvious. However, whereas sloppy script-writing meant that Susan would behave like a child throughout her tenure before suddenly being transformed into a woman during her final adventure, Miranda is an extremely convincing alien teenager. Parkin takes the opportunity to speculate about Gallifreyan sexuality, an analysis that the majority of fandom would probably not tolerate if it were to be applied directly to the Doctor. Like the boys in Miranda's high school, I found the character irresistibly intriguing. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I developed a bit of a crush on her, and cared deeply about what became of her. This book contains many a tense moment with Miranda in mortal danger, and I spent much of my time mentally pleading with the author: "Please don't kill her, please don't kill her!"

Like several of Parkin's previous books, particularly Cold Fusion and The Infinity Doctors, this one makes daring moves regarding the Doctor's relationships, his personal history and the history of his home planet. As with those novels, he leaves many questions unanswered. For instance, given that Gallifrey was destroyed in The Ancestor Cell, how could a corrupt empire of apparent Time Lords exist one million years in the future? We are left to speculate that some Gallifreyans could have escaped the catastrophe, but the author doesn't spell anything out for us. This is a good thing, because it leaves the door open for future exploration and interpretation.

Parkin has fathered a fantastic book.

Richard McGinlay