Home : Archive : TSV 51-60 : TSV 59 : Review

The Taking of Planet 5

By Simon Bucher-Jones & Mark Clapham

Book review by Brad Schmidt

Companions in Doctor Who have often been twentieth-century characters because of their function as points-of-identification for the fans of a twentieth-century show. Lately we have the 1960s irritant Fitz, still filling that role nicely, but then there's Compassion - who probably succeeds just as much in that her utter disinterest reflects the apparent recent boredom of fans.

If this is her role and why she is such a successful character, then one can only hope its success won't be compromised by the fact that the series is now so far from boredom it's hard to believe that Terrance Dicks or Justin Richards ever patronised the Doctor's universe. The Taking of Planet 5, a prequel to Image of the Fendahl and a sequel to Alien Bodies (more so than Interference), plays a game of Twister with the series, but with far too many limbs.

One of these appendages is Mictlan, the virtual hell that is home to the Celestis. Homunculette also returns, but the future of Gallifrey is much clearer in a book with a plot that is not so clear. Its execution in prose is more vague than ambiguous, guiding the reader on its intriguing concepts instead: Time Lords on prehistoric earth, searching for an Enemy trap? Present-day Antarctica holding the remainder of that event, yet presented in the novel before it? A herd of sentient TARDISes? The obvious plot summary on page 141 is a blessed relief! It's hard to tell whether it's the prose or the plot that is so difficult to understand, but providing you're enjoying the novel for what it does to the series' mythology the synopsis details won't leave you too tangled.

The Taking of Planet 5 plays primarily with H. P. Lovecraft's concepts, with shades of The X Files in its present-day scenes and Mictlan investigators One and Two acting at times uncannily like Sapphire and Steel. The novel even seems to refer to the best of the Virgin years - it's a dark and simultaneously globally and universally important story.

The series is certainly on a roll (or perhaps a spin). The most enticing teaser ever given in the show is presented at the end, elevating Compassion's importance higher than the Doctor's own and making further reading essential. There's a lot coming, and for the first time in the series I felt as if I comprehended the utter sadness and demand of the Doctor's role in the Universe. It will be harder than before to extract myself from it over the next few months. [5/5]

This item appeared in TSV 59 (January 2000).

Index nodes: The Taking of Planet 5