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Divided Loyalties

By Gary Russell

Book review by Brad Schmidt

While The Taking of Planet 5 deals candidly with Gallifrey's future, Divided Loyalties deals just as candidly with Gallifrey's, and more centrally the Doctor's, past. Where that Eighth Doctor novel was more serious, Divided Loyalties is hilarious in parts, particularly when Tegan takes over the narrative and Gary Russell perfectly characterises the Season 19 crew at the beginning. Adric has never been ridiculed quite this superbly, which is odd considering it's so appropriate.

The comedy isn't subtle, such as the amusing image of a belt wielding Adric and the Heidi-esque Nyssa, which is perhaps why the novel's eventual content in “Part Three” is quite disappointing. The comedy is suited to the returning Celestial Toymaker, but he in turn is just as degraded given that he is revealed to be the first enemy the Doctor ever faced - there are far more menacing villains that should have shaped the Doctor's character ahead of a big, childish bully. The whole idea of that creation has always seemed rather absurd, and while Russell can play with the mythological concepts with just as much right as Simon Bucher-Jones or Lawrence Miles, it falls under his usual tendency to present overly traditional concepts in the most traditional way possible. While that's perfect for the “Missing Adventures”, it's not for such... taboo subjects as the Doctor's youth and Gallifrey as it greatly trivialises the mystery.

However, Russell's prose is wonderful as usual, with possibly the most hilarious moment in the history of Who novels: Adric and Nyssa explaining their pasts to a bemused spaceship crew. It's easy to imagine Tegan walking around a CSO-photograph of Brisbane, and her bickerings with a suitably breathless Davison.

The young Doctor gives a nice indication of how much the Doctor has by this time mellowed - it's almost definitely Hartnell, in mannerisms, alongside many familiar figures from throughout the show. For what it does to the series, Divided Loyalties is as essential as The Taking of Planet 5, and as its themes are almost indistinguishable from the plot, it's almost suspiciously successful. [4/5]

This item appeared in TSV 59 (January 2000).

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