Top critical review
Tourists and alien invaders descend upon a flower show
on 19 April 2016
Essentially this is the Doctor visits the Chelsea Flower Show; only this time the flower show takes place in a colony that floats across the gaseous surface of Saturn, features a dangerous alien plant as its main attraction and is about to be invaded by not one but two races of aliens.
Chelsea 426 is a colony somewhat cut off from modern times, choosing to dwell on old fashioned and traditional values. Their insular approach has given them a prejudice against outsiders; thousands of which are descending upon them for the flower show. This makes for some quite prejudiced characters, some so caught up in avoiding perceived moral corruption that they are more concerned with visitors to the flower show than they are with the alien invaders. This scenario also provides two bored children, unfulfilled with life in the colony who sort of act as guest companions for the Doctor; both of whom are instrumental in saving the day.
The main attraction of this story is that it features a clash between the Sontarans and the Rutans. Even though their conflict is referred to multiple times during the programme and has occasionally been the subject of a few novels and the two species have never appeared together onscreen; or not at least in the programme, as the straight to video spin off, ‘Shakedown’ involves Sontarans hunting down a Rutan. Although this makes the prospect of the book exciting there isn’t, unfortunately, that much conflict or interaction between the two.
‘The Taking of Chelsea 426’ loosely forms a sequel to the televised Tenth Doctor episodes ‘The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky’ where the Sontarans attempt to convert the Earth into a cloning facility. Due to the Doctor, of course, they fail in this endeavour. However, the Rutan contingency plan has already been put into effect and five centuries later begins to bear fruition leading to the events of this novel.
The Sontarans are portrayed as their usual aggressive, war orientated selves. Enjoyable as this is they are, however, supposed to be an intelligence division dedicated to devising more cunning ways of dealing with the Rutans. Only their leader, General Kade, actually seems to fit the bill though, his troops being no more than typical Sontarans.
The Rutans don’t seem to be exhibiting very typical behaviour. There are no dissected bodies and they seem to practicing possession rather than metamorphosis in their infiltration of the colony. Their seeding plan is fine as far as the plot goes but it doesn’t seem to be their usual raison d’etre.