Doctor Who
Superior Beings

Author: Nick Walters
BBC Books
5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53830 9
Available now

The Fifth Doctor and Peri land on a recreational planetoid occupied by the Eknuri, a race of physically perfect humanoids. But the Eknuri are no match for the vulpine Valethske, a bloodthirsty race of intelligent carnivores...

The title of this book refers both to the genetically superior Eknuri and to the higher evolutionary beings that are the focus of the Valethske's rapacious quest across the galaxy. The author effectively sets up the indolent, almost child-like attitude of the Eknuri, before pitting them against the vulpine invaders. Peri witnesses first-hand the tragic irony of these "superior beings" falling to a less advanced but overwhelming aggressor.

The Valethske, who could so easily have been a cruder spin on the concept of fox hunting, are also well realised. Their culture, which revolves around their insatiable appetite for flesh and the thrill of hunting and terrorising human beings, is repugnant but vividly believable. The visceral horrors and indignities that Peri suffers at their hands may go some way towards explaining her change of character in the TV series, from the sassy and defiant teenager of Planet of Fire to the nervous wreck that we eventually see in The Caves of Androzani.

Walters also raises, but does not resolve, the question of what the Doctor and his companions want out of their relationships with each other. While the Doctor wishes for Peri to be happy, he nevertheless exhibits signs of jealousy when she pairs off with an Eknuri male. Similarly, though she craves her own freedom, Peri also feels put out when the Doctor associates with another woman. While clearly not a sexual relationship (although I've often wondered whether Peri joined the Fifth Doctor because she fancied him), the TARDIS travellers experience a series of what resemble lovers' tiffs, with aspects of father/daughter friction thrown in.

In between the character development, however, the plot becomes prone to stagnation and repetition. For example, it seems to take ages for the Valethske to escort the Doctor to their cryogenic freezers to incarcerate him there. And after the Time Lord has made a deal to surrender his TARDIS to them, I lost count of the number of times that he trots out the same old threat to withhold the secret of the ship's operation unless the Valethske keep their side of the bargain.

All in all, though, this book makes intriguing and diverting fodder.

Richard McGinlay