‘The Gallifrey Chronicles’ by Lance Parkin

Reinstated from Scary Rob’s Doctor Who Blog

After being delayed by a few months due to BBC policy, we have finally been presented with the last in the series of Eighth Doctor novels. Here we have a novel with a huge weight upon it: to tie up the loose ends of the post-Interference story arcs, to create a loose connection to tie it up with the beginning of the new series and to provide a suitable end to the series of novels that has carried the can of continuing Doctor Who fiction since 1991. Even removing these expectations, this is a disappointing book.

The opening looks promising with its revelation of another Time Lord survivor and his desire to find the Doctor and take revenge for the destruction of Gallifrey, but the tone of the book is soon set. The Doctor and his companions go through a pointless series of five-page adventures that seem to serve no other purpose than spout about the Doctor’s character and his role in the universe and the whole thing is so riddled with in-jokes that they soon become irritating. The book does have good adventure plot, in the form of a swarm of intergalactic, five-dimensional locusts attacking Earth, but this threat doesn’t even put in an appearance until half-way through and is left unresolved bar a cheesy scene at the end which leaves us in no-doubt that the Doctor and co. will defeat the menace once an for all, but neglects the ‘how’ that is the whole point of a Doctor Who adventure. Lance Parkin is just revelling in his own (debatable) cleverness here, celebrating in as camp a manner possible the meaning of the Doctor’s character and wilfully killing off Fitz, only to bring him back in a manner reminiscent of his New Adventures finale The Dying Days. And to do this effectively, he makes Fitz and Trix act utterly out of character by falling in love out of the blue. That he goes to such lengths for the sake of repeating a plot-device he’s already used before is typical of the way this book is put together. There is no thought given to the main adventure, which gets the place of a subplot, and the central issue of the destruction of Gallifrey and the loss of the Doctor’s memories is not fully resolved anyway. Parkin is a good enough writer to write an engaging book that does nothing more than resolve these issues and the first half (cheesy in-jokes aside) looked like he was doing just that. Instead, Gallifrey is still gone and the Doctor is still amnesiac, a situation that just can’t have been in the background events to the TV adventures, with the Time War and a second destruction of Gallifrey.

So what is The Gallifrey Chronicles place in the scheme of things? Well, it has provided an opt-out clause for Gallifrey to return at some point, and it does return the Doctor’s memories of the cataclysm itself. It also leaves a damaged TARDIS that may, one day, conceivably end up looking like the crippled, re-grown and half-arsedly repaired one of the new series. It is also a celebration of the character of the Doctor, cheesy as it is. It’s just a shame that it was neither the resolution nor the epic, out-with-a-bang ending that the BBC novels deserved. It was a damp novel by the standards of its predecessors, and with a half-arsed plot and no resolutions it leaves the Eighth Doctor’s literary incarnation to go out with not so much a whimper as a damp squelch.

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~ by Scary Rob on 15 June, 2005.

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