Top critical review
Rival aliens vie to invade
on 29 March 2016
This is one of those Doctor Who novels that opts to focus heavily upon government agencies and military organisations that investigate alien activity and seek to utilise alien technology. Hence there is plenty of conspiracy with various parties pursuing their own secret, shady agendas during an alien invasion.
Much of the same ingredients are used in ‘The Devil Goblins from Neptune’, co-written by the author of ‘The King of Terror’ and featuring some of the same characters. Most of the themes and much of the subject matter are also quite similar without any worthwhile development. It is more of a case of repeat rather than continuation.
The Doctor has a relatively minor role. Rather than being a Doctor Who story this feels more like a Doctor Who spinoff where the Doctor makes the occasional appearance. When he is featured, the characterisation of the Fifth Doctor is usually quite off and really doesn’t capture his nuances.
Tegan and Turlough are both shoved off into subplots of their own with mixed results. Tegan is reasonably characterised and receives a reasonable storyline which actually develops her a bit, but the whole romance she is given doesn’t quite ring true. The author doesn’t seem to have much of a role for Turlough other than to leave him imprisoned and tortured. Although this ‘experimenting’ on him serves a minor role in the plot it is far too dominant and often unnecessarily gratuitous.
Being a novel that inevitably features UNIT (considering the subject and style) the Brigadier also plays a role in events. He is much better characterised than the others based on onscreen characters. Mainly this is the Brigadier post ‘Mawdryn Undead’ and, possibly, the spinoff ‘Downtime’. However, there is also an ancient over one hundred and twenty year old version of him that appears for no real apparent reason.
There is a lot of time in the novel, especially earlier, that is devoted to pointlessly following around a few characters (mainly Paynter and Barrington and a group of cultish, drop out ‘terrorists’). None of these sequences are that interesting, are quite drawn out and often not that relevant to the overall plot.
The story takes a while to get going. It develops into something a little more intriguing when it becomes about two alien races threatening to invade the Earth, one pledged to destroying the other. This does make the resolution to the story feel all a little bit too convenient, a touch predictable and, at times, farcical.