BBC Books Review: The Gallifrey Chronicles

Heralding the end of the regular Eighth Doctor books comes this title from Who-writer extraordinaire Lance Parkin. As with many of Parkin’s books, it’s reputation precedes it; however there seem to be a few rumours doing the rounds about what this book does and doesn’t do, so we’ll get those out of the way first.

Firstly, this book does not bring back Gallifrey. Destroyed at the end of The Ancestor Cell, the planet of the Time Lords was vanquished by the Doctor in order to prevent it falling into the hands of the enemy.

Secondly, as there is no return for Gallifrey, there is no Time War. So whatever battle the Ninth Doctor referred to will remain mysterious (incidentally, the Time War is very unlikely to ever appear in any medium other than television for several years).

Thirdly as there is no Time War, there is no regeneration of the Doctor.

Letting those three facts put you off, however, would be forgetting who the writer of this particular novel is. Lance Parkin possesses an effortless, direct style which combines the simplicity of Terrance Dicks with the voicing of Ian Marter yet relies on Parkin’s own bright tone and pacy plotting. Parkin is also responsible for key Doctor Who novels – the first Eighth Doctor book, Dying Days (available from the BBC’s Official Doctor Who website), the fortieth anniversary novel The Infinity Doctors and of course Father Time, where we were introduced to the Doctor’s adopted daughter Miranda. There is of course a nice sense of closure in hiring the same writer to end the regular adventures of the Eighth Doctor (who will now be treated by BBC Books in the same manner ass his predecessors).

So if there is no return of Gallifrey and no regeneration, what do we get in The Gallifrey Chronicles? Well, we get the regeneration of a Time Lord, Marnal, who has himself been trapped on Earth for over 100 years. His memories lost, he has written over 100 novels about a planet called Gallifrey and its inhabitants the Time Lords. He even wrote an episode of “Star Trek”, but had his name removed form the credits because they changed it too much. Marnal is of course an interesting counterpoint to the Doctor who himself has spent over 100 years trapped on Earth without his memories in earlier novels.

Marnal regenerates into a younger body early in the book, regains his memories and discovers that the Doctor destroyed Gallifrey. As such, a trap is sprung and everyone’s favourite Time Lord is captured. Meanwhile, Fitz Kreiner and Trix – the Doctor’s current companions – have decided to leave the TARDIS and settle down on Earth. Only the Doctor doesn’t know this. These events and the Doctor’s subsequent escape lead brilliantly into the most sudden alien invasion of all time and the introduction of yet another insect-based alien life form.

But – this is a Lance Parkin book. B-movie alien menace the Vore are far more interesting than their appearance would suggest and have real power and menace by simply being a realistic insect race. Their menace however turns out to be an ages old one, previously encountered by the Time Lords…

Now if you think I’ve given away too much here, think again. Revelations about Gallifrey and ancient Time Lords will remain spoiler free, while yet more confusion about the Doctor’s origins are introduced. So much is taking place as the Doctor searches for his lost memories that I couldn’t possibly reveal everything here.

The most interesting character in The Gallifrey Chronicles – besides the Doctor – is his rival, Marnal. Once he discovers the Doctor’s betrayal of their people, he develops (and reasonably so, you would agree) an irrational desire to put the Doctor to death. Marnal declares himself judge, jury and executioner and is unable – until much later in the book – to act rationally towards the Doctor.

All of these strands weave into a massive revelation as the regular adventures of a Doctor based on one actor’s single interpretation come to a close. Why and how exactly did the Doctor lose his memory? Parkin delivers the revelation superbly and ingeniously as ever.

Lance Parkin has once again pulled a fantastic book out of the hat. Not as iconic as The Dying Days, better than Trading Futures, it is a wholly fitting close to a series of books that we’ll look back on in years to come with the same revisionist attitude that has recently been applied to the Virgin-published Seventh Doctor novels.


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