WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the novel. It’s been out since the 90s, but I thought I should give you a heads up anyway.
Gallifrey. Firstly, I would like to say I love how in-depth the writer is when describing Gallifrey in this novel. You would think that it would bog down the plot, but if anything it enriches the reading experience. Precious little is revealed about Gallifrey in the show so being introduced to the culture in all its complexities was a thrill for me. In fact, I would go so far as to say that is the best thing about this book.
The Sontarans and Rutans. I was surprised by how invested I was in the conflict between these two races. They were just a tiny subplot that was mostly abandoned after the second act, but the resolution to their conflict was hilarious. I honestly laughed out loud. I loved how Sontar and the Rutan leader interacted with each other and the way they finally made peace was the cherry on top.
The plot. The book was pretty heavy on techno babble and, admittedly I got a bit bored with all the sciency speak. However, the plot itself was pretty solid and it introduced a lot of interesting concepts like people who remember the future instead of the past.
The characters. I won’t say that I was heavily invested in these people, but I did find myself a great deal more interested in the original characters than I normally am in DW novels. Most of the time I just want to skip to the parts with The Doctor, but this time I was actually interested in hearing Larna’s perspective and what it was like being a recently initiated Time Lord. They also seemed more organic rather than stock characters as is custom in most of these EDAs. I even found myself liking the Chancellory Guards Peltroc and Raimor even though they didn’t play that big of a roll in the grand scheme of things.
Shot through the heart and you’re to blame. I will admit, there was one scene in particular that nearly made me stop reading the book. If you haven’t read the book, I would suggest you not continue with this post. Still here? Okay. Larna, a bright Time Lady and The Doctor’s favorite student, tries to stop The Doctor from entering the Station and The Doctor decides to retaliate by stabbing her in the heart.
No. Literally. He stabs her in the heart.
He knows she’ll be able to have a surgery that will reverse any negative side effects that such an injury would create, but um…he stabbed her!!!!
This girl trusted him with her life. They were very close friends. And he stabbed her.
And then what happens? She moves the blade so it severs her spinal cord.
And she dies.
I mean, sure, he asks Omega to bring her back to life later, but that’s beside the point. He stabbed an innocent person who got in his way. This leads me to another con.
No long-term effects. So my second biggest problem with this book is a bit ironic, especially if you’ve read the conclusion to this little piece. One of the largest issues with The Infinity Doctors is there are hardly any consequences.
What’s funny is the book openly admits that this is what happened:
“Nothing had changed, because nothing ever changed on Gallifrey except over geological timescales. Nothing was better, nothing was worse” (pg 279-280)
There are no consequences for The Doctor having tried to play God and there are no consequences from him having murdered Larna. Yeah, the Doctor Who Wiki classifies it as suicide, but for all intents and purposes The Doctor killed her. There’s no confrontation, their relationship doesn’t suffer, she doesn’t remember it…it’s basically brushed under the rug.
Um…excuse me but…THIS IS A BIG DEAL!
He murdered one of his friends. And not because of some Save-The-Universe issue. He did it because he wanted to get with his dead wife whom he ditches after, like, two chapters.
But no, no. Lance Parkin says it’s cool, guys. It’s cool. Just have a jelly baby and push the undo button.
The Doctor, himself, said that a universe without consequences is devoid of meaning and yet all of his actions go unchallenged. Maybe it’s addressed in the next book? I don’t know. All I know is that at the end of this one, Larna and The Doctor are totally cool with each other and The Doctor going all stabby-stab on her is never addressed again.
He doesn’t have an Oh-God-What-Have-I-Done moment, nor does he reflect on what such an action says about him as a person. It’s just kind of…forgotten.
I did enjoy this novel even though the zero consequences thing kind of irks me. It did quite a bit considering how short of a book it was. However, I felt that everything moved along at a decent pace, not too long but not too short. I loved how fleshed out Gallifrey is in this novel considering how criminally underdeveloped Gallifrey is as a society in the TV show. I also found myself enjoying the side characters as well. I haven’t forgotten you Magistrate…even though everyone else seems to have done so.
Overall, I would give this book a B+ or an A-.