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Doctor Who: The Taking of Planet Five Mass Market Paperback – 4 Oct 1999
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With the number of excellent writers who currently work on the BBC Doctor Who novels, it's a measure of the achievement of Simon Butcher-Jones and Mark Clapham that The Taking of Planet 5 is one of the very best entries. The plotting has tremendous narrative sweep and the characterisation of the Time Lord (this is an adventure of the eighth doctor) has all the quirkiness and humour one would expect, along with the fierce intelligence that is so necessary--and became too rare in recent TV outings for the Doctor.
12 million years ago, an intergalactic war left its ripples on the Earth. Now, in Antarctica, an archaeological team has found something that is the detritus of the cosmic conflict. The creature, which had evolved millions of years ago into an entity capable consuming all life in the universe, will be a catastrophic threat if it is revived. And something outside our universe has decided to do just that. The Doctor, in the far future, has learnt of the war and is obliged to intervene. But things are complicated by the involvement of combatants from his own future.
The Taking of Planet 5 combines the very best of familiar SF themes (Armageddon, the altering of the future by actions of the past) and this outing for the Time Lord has all the exhilarating power of his very best adventures. There are also some striking innovations here: Enthusiasts will relish the extra attention given to the TARDIS:
"The TARDIS hovered in space, its fellows around it, tasting freedom. Now, if only it could be free of this infestation in its guts, free of this virus that seemed so like a Time Lord, and yet sound alike."--Barry Forshaw
Another adventure of the time-travelling Doctor Who.
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Saying that story is not the easiest to read and at first I thought the writers were trying to compress Milton`s Paradise Lost in to prose form rather than tell a tale of the Fendahl of Sol Five in Mutters Spiral. So a word of advise stick with it, as it is hard going and you have to skip over the continual attempts by the authors to impress you with their cleverness. Yes, it is a very cerebral book where the writers have clearly work shopped the whole concept of Galifrey and it`s peoples, and by extension what happens to a society when it is faced with the twin evils of near unlimited power and an almost as ruthless enemy to fight against. So smaller concerns like others that might inhabit the Universe alongside Galifrey take second, third, fourth and fifth place in a list of priorities, if they are considered at all.
All Who Fans know about the Fendahl - the Gestalt horror, an all consuming destroyer of Worlds, that popped up on Earth and was defeated by the Fourth Doctor. But consider if it was used as a weapon and what sort of war would required that kind of ordinance. This book asks that question and describes the lengths to which it could be achieved, and in the attempt to tell that story is so `other worldly` it is sometimes a strain on the imagination to envisage.
So Marks Out of Ten for cleverness, is a full 10. For writing a barely scraped 7, as the book is a switch back ride back and fore between concurrent story lines in support of the central narrative, but it all turns out alright in the end. For imagination, an easy 10, as it is certainly excellent in terms of sheer inventiveness and use of current Cosmological concepts of reality.
Not a bad story at all but not the best read because of the over complication of the plot drivers and characters.
The Taking of Planet 5 is about the future Time Lords going back in time to infiltrate an alien base camp in Antarctica. The only trouble is the alien race shouldn’t have existed outside the mind of HP Lovecraft. To complicate matters, scientists in the present day have found the base camp, with an injured survivor, and called in a dodgy UNIT contractor to help.
Whilst mostly entertaining the novel does sometimes venture into deep science fiction technobabble which is fairly offputting, as you find yourself re-reading bits a couple of times and still not quite getting it. Aside from that there really isn’t too much to dislike.
The Doctor is back on form after a rather bland display in both Interference and The Blue Angel. His boyish enthusiasm of a visit to the Museum is catching and you find yourself excited for what’s to come. His acting the part of a Time Lord general when he absolutely no clue what is going on is brilliant, and his torture and subsequent fight back is 100% Doctor Who, although I do feel he is side-lined for large chunks of the second half.
Fitz is also back to fine form which is essentially like a rabbit in the headlights. Thrust totally out of his depth he still tries to come across as knowledgeable but usually ends of failing miserably. He also gets into compromising position with an alien tentacle which is an absolute joy to read. Compassion gets some much needed depth after the previous two books failed to do much with her. Her relationship with Fitz is explored, as is her seemingly uncaring attitude.
Sadly the other cast do not live up to the regulars. The Mictlan bits are meant to be shadowy and mysterious but the people there just end up coming across as a bit flat. On the flipside the future Time Lords are meant to be interesting, and whilst their concept is, the actually characterization is practically non-existent. They as well have been labelled Time Lord A and Time Lord B. Talking of standard naming protocols the Celestis agents are called One and Two and are actually fairly interesting.
The Taking of Planet 5 is an interesting novel which pushes the Future War story forward. The time travel concepts aside, it is an easy read which after the mammoth Interference and the mess that was The Blue Angel comes as a welcome relief. Due to it’s subject matter you’d need to be up with Alien Bodies before reading this, but it’s well worth a read.
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