Home : Archive : TSV 21-30 : TSV 27 : Review

Timewyrm: Apocalypse

by Nigel Robinson

Reviewed by Fleur Hardman

For pure entertainment value Apocalypse is one of the best Doctor Who books ever. It's not as well written as Exodus but in many ways it is just as enjoyable. The plot is not incredibly original and is in many ways similar to The Krotons. In both stories we have an outwardly happy society who have all their needs met by some mysterious benefactors. Eventually we find out that these guardians are in fact using the society for their own means by removing gifted members for their purposes.

The portrayal of the Doctor is fairly good, though I found the Second Doctor to be the better characterisation of the two. The Seventh Doctor does have some great lines, his speech on page 59 to Miril, offering "the chance to be unhappy... knowledge that you can't understand... frustration and despair and hardship" but also the "sense of triumph when you finally win against all the odds", is a great example.

Ace is also reasonably well written though I wish someone would explain to the New Adventures writers that she doesn't have to chuck nitro-nine around in every book. That aspect of her character was, after all, being toned down in Season 26 and its continued use makes it harder for us to believe that this is an older Ace than the one we saw in that season.

Most of the other characters come across well. Revna is a particularly strong character and it is possible to feel sympathy for her at what she sees as Raphael's rejection of her in favour of Ace. Lord Huldah is a fairly stereotypical villain underling, and Raphael is most interesting for the way his character changes through the story under Ace's influence.

Overall, Apocalypse is a good, readable addition to your Doctor Who collection. If it had come first in the Timewyrm set it would have been called a classic, but it loses out because it ends up being compared to its predecessor, Exodus.

Reviewed by Clinton Spencer

A well written book nearly as good as Exodus. A nice plot; you knew something was wrong with the planet, but what? And where was the Timewyrm? Good to see Ace playing a major part and past incarnations of the Doctor not cropping up too much. Well done, Nigel Robinson.

Reviewed by David Ronayne

After the poor reviews for Genesys (I've still got to get a copy) and after the brilliant Exodus, I was left wondering what this book would be like. Nigel Robinson's previous books were quite good and with Apocalypse he has at least been consistent. Apocalypse is a good book; it's only faults were a few minor details (which would only disturb picky reviewers like me), and the fact it follows Exodus and will invariably be compared to it.

The plot is good and well developed through the story. There are interesting subplots involving Kirithian politics, and the rise and fall of revolution. At certain points though, things look padded and get slightly repetitive (being chased by one too many genetic mutants, for example), but thankfully these are few and far between.

As with the other New Adventures books, much of the continuity lies in references to the television stories (Galaxy 4, Full Circle, Remembrance of the Daleks, etc). These may not have any real relevance to the story, but are a nice touch for nostalgia freaks like me. The only continuity flaws I can find are in the context of the story - i.e. how they can have cats and mahogany on an alien planet several billions of years in the future.

As for the "adult" side of the story, things are suggested (none too subtly), about the social life of the head Kirithian, Huldah; Ace is chatted up a few times, and there is a minor romantic interest between her and Raphael. The only other thing for "mature readers" is the rather graphic descriptions of mutants and the revolt being put down (blood, guts and gore, with an extra dollop of tomato sauce!).

Characterisation is generally good. Ace can be seen to be developing under the Doctor's tutelage (planning and taking control of the central computer). With Ace to be written out in the near future, this new independence is helping her develop visible discontent with the Doctor and his secrets. The Timewyrm plays a more prominent role than in the previous books (quite an achievement considering she/it is only really apparent near the end), but still could easily be completely written out with a few alterations. The Doctor is well in character (both of them); McCoy's Doctor is an anarchist, gleefully pulling apart paradise mainly because he doesn't like it (p.38). Again we are given brief references to the Doctor's past and are reminded he is more than just a Time Lord. The most interesting character in the book, though, is the Second Doctor (who pops up for a few brief cameos). You realise how much has been added to the characters of the Doctor and Ace by the recent novels and novelisations when an older, more established character is portrayed in a completely new light by the same medium. Troughton's Doctor is written perfectly so well you can almost hear the lines being spoken - one of the best parts in one of the better (but not the best) books of the series.

Only two questions remain unanswered - what did Ace see in the TARDIS, and what's happened to Lieutenant Hemmings? Roll on Revelation and perhaps we'll find out.

'It's what you make of it. But it could be an awfully big adventure.'
(Apocalypse, p.193)

Reviewed by Graham Howard

I was hoping Apocalypse might be if not equal to, at least a close competitor to the excellent Exodus, especially as the story promised to be more of a traditional type of science fiction/fantasy story. Added to that, the story was written by an author whose previous novelisations of The Time Meddler and The Edge of Destruction seemed to have been written with an infectious fondness for the characters and story, which enabled the reader's interest to be maintained over what were perhaps quite slow stories on screen.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, Apocalypse did not achieve what I hoped it might; it was nowhere near as good as Exodus. Unlike Exodus which, as has been said, had a very 'difficult to put down' quality about it, I found Apocalypse at times very easy to put down, and sometimes hard to pick up. Why was this? The plot seemed to have all it needed to make a great story: monsters, mystery, an intriguing 'utopian' alien culture that was not all it seemed, political intrigue and of course the threat of apocalypse, i.e. the end of the Universe. Possibly part of the reason why it didn't work as well as it might have is because I feel the fondness or affection that was prevalent in his previous books was missing, except perhaps in the scenes with the Second Doctor. It's almost as if the actual framework or format of the story was planned by someone else and Robinson had to just fill in the details. As a result a lot of the story didn't really 'gel' together for me.

For example the use of sex, or perhaps more accurately sexual innuendo was used infrequently, but when it was it seemed out of place. Perhaps it's just the newness of this sort of thing to Doctor Who that is the problem, but it seems to me that these odd comments were not put in because the plot demanded it but because the New Adventures supposedly need references to sex to make them more 'broad and deep'. For me, their gratuitous nature only emphasised the book's shallowness.

The use of the Second Doctor also bothered me in that this too seemed gratuitous. Although it was ultimately all tied up with the plot, it seemed that Robinson wanted an excuse rather than a valid reason for the inclusion.

These are just a couple of the things which bothered me, perhaps petty, but overall I think the main problem was that the book didn't promise what was delivered, and for me some of this was just an inherent aversion to Robinson's style of writing for this novel, which didn't convey the type of story it was aiming for as convincingly as it might have. And admittedly following on from Exodus it had to compete with perhaps one of the best Doctor Who books ever.

None of these things would have seemed so significant if there had been a good ending. But the (anti) climax was probably the biggest disappointment of the book. It seemed that in the end the Doctor and co. were saved by what I can only describe as a miracle rather than from anything the Doctor was able to do. And what about the 'Apocalypse' - 'the end of everything... and the end of time'? Well, according to the Doctor, the Universe has 'still got a few (or ten on p. 178), billion years left to it'! So it isn't, and never was the 'end of the universe'.

Or perhaps I'm being too harsh, too critical on what I know many find to be quite a reasonable book...

This item appeared in TSV 27 (February 1992).

Index nodes: Timewyrm: Apocalypse