Original Sin (New Doctor Who Adventures) Paperback – 15 Jun 1995
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Soon after their arrival on Earth, the Doctor and Bernice are met by Adjudicators, the police of the 30th century. They are arrested and sentenced to death. Their attempt at escaping takes them to Purgatory, the imperial training planet and to a prison in the heart of a star.
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Andy Lane creates a lot of future history in this book. I'm not necessarily a fan of world-building; sometimes an author will be so busy creating a setting that they forget to actually have anything happen in it. But Lane fails to fall into that trap. The thirtieth-century Earth of ORIGINAL SIN is detailed, gritty, realistic and fantastically well conveyed. The poor dwell in the undertown, in the shadows of the floating cities of Earth, while the better off live above, but can only visit the floors and levels below their own. The rich can choose to visit and see the poor, but the poor must be separated out from the wealthy. Roaming around the planet are the honor-bound Adjudicators, dispensing justice and trying to keep the world safe as it plunges into madness and terror during the unfolding of the story. The overcities and undertown, taken from a few throwaway mentions in past novelisations, are so fully fleshed out here that the New Adventures could have set dozens of stories in these locations without exhausting the potential.
The characters depicted here are also wonderful creations. I remember reading somewhere at the time of this publication that Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester were not originally intended to be companions, but only became so after the editors saw how well they were turning out. Whether this is true or not, I don't know. But it's easy to see how someone in charge of the line could pick out continuing characters from a novel this rich in realistic and well-drawn people.
But before I overwhelm you with talk of the hardboiled setting and the no-nonsense characters, I must point out that there's a certain whimsy present in the proceedings. The jokes (and there are a number of them) are actually quite funny. There's a wonderful balance between the serious and the amusing. Many books in the Doctor Who range try to be too much of one or the other, but Andy Lane walks this line perfectly. The Doctor and Benny in particular are depicted well, being both intelligent and droll. The grittiness is never overwhelming; anytime the story looks to be taking itself a little too seriously, Lane instantly takes the pomposity out with a clever piece of dialog or a hilarious one-liner.
And I haven't even mentioned the storyline yet. It's actually fairly simple on the surface, but deceptively engaging. There's a lot of standard Doctor Who material here: unsolved murders, a vast conspiracy, an alien menace threatening Earth, people going stark raving mad, etc, etc. But even the stuff we've seen before never feels old or recycled. The plot moves quickly, and my interest never flagged. In the Acknowledgements, Lane mentions that he abandoned the original plot part of the way through and ended up improvising much of what appeared in the final product. All I can say is that he must have taken great notes on the way to the end, because the conclusion is quite good and perfectly logical.
There are just too many great things in this book to give them all the attention they deserve. The extracts from "The Empire Today" (proving that Fox News and CNN will still be around a millennium from now) that open each chapter. The witty banter between the Doctor and his foes. The bizarre names that the alien Hith have given themselves as reminders of their lost past. The fleshing out of the Samurai-like Adjudicators' backstory. The only thing that really irritated me were the constant continuity references that kept popping up all over the place. I really don't mind a sprinkle of them here and there, but there sure seemed to be a hell of a lot of them in this one and I couldn't figure out what purpose they were supposed to serve.
ORIGINAL SIN launched two new companions, and brought back an old enemy for the Doctor to fight. But regardless of the effect that the book had outside of its own covers, it's a seriously good tale in its own right. Andy Lane had quite a task following up the delightful and entertaining ALL-CONSUMING FIRE, but here he proved that he was as skilled at bring the thirtieth-century to life as he was at capturing the nineteenth-century of Sherlock Holmes. Recommended for all Doctor Who fans.