Doctor Who
Escape Velocity

Author: Colin Brake
BBC Books
5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53825 2
Available now

The Doctor finally makes his rendezvous with his travelling companion, Fitz. Already Fitz has a favour to ask - to help his new friend Anji locate her alien-abducted boyfriend, Dave. Soon the Doctor, Fitz and Anji are involved in a privately funded space race, the result of which could determine the fate of humanity...

This book, the last of six "amnesiac Eighth Doctor living on Earth" stories, has been eagerly awaited. It promises to reunite the Doctor with Fitz, introduce a new companion in the form of the sardonic Anji Kapoor, and restore the recuperating TARDIS to its former glory.

The first two of these goals are achieved relatively early on, although Brake wisely keeps us keen by delaying the Doctor's reunion with Fitz until page 68. Although the last five books have worked extremely well without a regular companion, it's quite nice to see that bumbling and incessantly horny (he keeps telling himself that Anji isn't his type) '60s throwback once again. Anji works quite well too, being an unwilling adventurer forced to confront ideas that she had previously dismissed as science fiction, a genre she doesn't even like. As the first contemporary human companion since Sam left the book series in 1999, Anji is refreshingly free of overtly political soapboxes or Ace-style emotional hang-ups.

The restoration of the TARDIS doesn't happen until quite late in the day, but makes for a particularly enjoyable sequence when it finally does. Surprisingly, the Doctor never does regain all of his memories, so it would appear that he is going to remain uncertain about how to pilot the Ship for quite some time to come. This creates an intriguing and amusing throwback to Doctor Who's earliest TV episodes.

Unfortunately, apart from the development of the ongoing story arc, which was presumably imposed upon Brake by series editor Justin Richards, this book has little to offer. Bland human characters interact with aliens that are neither alien enough to be believable nor outlandish enough to be interesting. Several elements, such as a secret CIA division that seeks to grasp a first-contact situation before UNIT can get the chance, are deployed half-heartedly and then removed from the plot as soon as their usefulness is at an end. Dave's fervent interest in science fiction provides many amusing moments, but constant references to Professor X, a TV show occupying the same niche in the Doctor Who universe that Doctor Who occupies in our own (a concept originated by TV writer and novelist Ben Aaronovitch), ultimately grow tiresome. The author intermittently mentions Anji's concern for her kidnapped boyfriend, but this merely highlights the fact that she doesn't actually spend much time thinking about him.

And is Pierre-Yves Dudoin's vessel supposed to be called the Space Dart or the Star Dart? It changes from one page to the next.

This is really only worth reading to fill in the gap between Father Time and the next book, Earthworld.

Richard McGinlay