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The universe is not enough!
on 21 November 1999
This Doctor Who novel starts off in the manner of a Bond movie - the Doctor performing daredevil stunts whilst pursued by hired grunts on skis. There are even blood-red fisheyes. The only thing missing is the theme music, although the adrenaline of the prose more than makes up for it.
The TARDIS has been drawn to the planet Drebnar, home of the Frontier Worlds Corporation. The Doctor is determined to find out why, and so Compassion and Fitz become employees of Frontier Worlds. Whilst Compassion dedicates her time to spying on the company, Fitz dedicates his to spying on and seducing his female coworkers. But the TARDIS crew are not the only aliens to have landed on Drebnar. Before he knows it, the Doctor has become embroiled within a corporate plot of Frankenstein proportions, which even involves Frank Sinatra, seemingly back from the dead. Unless he succeeds, an entire system could be wiped out by human folly...
Following in the wake of Lawrence Miles' Interference, this is another very topical Doctor Who novel. The debate about what we eat and how it is produced is currently at the heart of our culture. Anghelides has displaced the debate by setting it on an alien planet. However, Drebnar is not exactly unlike Earth, and it could be possible to argue that the author has revealed a great lack of imagination by not bothering to provide much of an alien environment. Possible, but futile. Much of Drebnar's fun derives from the fact that it is so much like Earth. Okay, so this scenario is quite improbable, but since when has that been a handicap to Doctor Who? Especially when the Doctor has foes that delight in such paradoxes...
I suppose the television story which most resembles this is The Seeds of Doom. There's certainly the same amount of vegetation involved, and the Doctor's just as ready with his fists as Tom Baker was in that story (always a surprising scene, but then Seeds was written by Robert Banks Stewart, who later created Bergerac). To his credit, Anghelides makes no reference to The Seeds of Doom, and instead concentrates on telling his own story, which is highly compelling and very witty. This book is a joy to read. The characterisation is superb. Before Frontier Worlds, I've hated the very mention of Fitz Kreiner, because he was so flat and insipid. Why would I want to transport myself into adventure with such a wet blanket? A towel may be crucial to your average intergalactic hitchhiker, but a wet blanket is such a drag. But what Anghelides has managed to do seems impossible: he has breathed life into Fitz, given him new vibrancy. Anghelides does this by having much of the novel narrated by Fitz in the first person, and in doing so performs miracles. It's a device that works incredibly well here, and harks back to the very first Doctor Who book, when David Whitaker presented the Doctor's exciting adventure with the Daleks through the eyes of Ian Chesterton. It also helps that Fitz and Compassion are given jobs with Frontier Worlds: many readers will readily identify with the TARDIS crew's workplace experiences. Peter Anghelides too has developed his style considerably from Kursaal, and I shall be awaiting the next installment from his pen with a great deal of impatience.