Taking its inspiration from two of the greatest Doctor Who stories, `Terror of the Zygons' and `The Talons of Weng Chiang', this novel places the popular, organic based technology, aliens in Victorian London and re-introduces Professor Litefoot, friend of the Fourth Doctor and Leela. With such ingredients any book should be enjoyable and this novel delivers quite successfully. It is certainly one of my preferred Eighth Doctor novels.
Inevitably though, this does mean that the plot is as you might expect. The Zygons are planning to colonise the Earth, they've infiltrated the new world of industrialism and are terrorising London with their cyborg Skarasen. Thus, at times, it is a little predictable. However, the story is written with enough varied events and pace to maintain interest and keep it enjoyable. The Zygons themselves are pretty loyal to their on-screen portrayals. Balaak has bit of a basic villain character but he is utilised well and is exactly what is needed to suit this story. Tuval, on the other hand, is an interesting individual who offers a lot more of an insight into Zygon society. The balance between military and scientific characters is somewhat reminiscent of some of the Silurian stories and poses some of the same issues.
The Doctor is a little unlikeable coming across as a bit condescending and even patronising at times. His attitude to Sam is also sometimes more like that of a suffering parent. It is, perhaps, not the best Doctor/companion dynamic. Sam is portrayed very well though and her desire to impress the Doctor and assume the role of his right hand man is convincingly put across by the author. The irrational twinges of jealousy towards Emmeline are a nice touch and give her character more depth.
The characterisation of Litefoot is true to his TV persona and it is a great joy to re-visit him. Having him finally enter the Tardis feels a bit like a denouement to `The Talons of Weng Chiang'. Although he is a lot of fun it is a great shame that Jago isn't present as the two characters work so well together. Jago's absence is occasionally felt throughout and it seems an odd choice to omit him from events on a pointless pretext. The Eighth Doctor also doesn't gel as well with Jago. His relationship with the Fourth Doctor is much more vibrant and entertaining. As good as Litefoot's characterisation is it often serves only to highlight what is missing.
The best aspect of this book is perhaps the horrendous mistake made by the Doctor in this story. Without giving too much away, it is a partially novel and interesting idea to deal with what happens when the Doctor gets things wrong and what the negative fallout of his actions could be. It is also an interesting glimpse of the arrogance the Doctor sometimes exhibits. This is a good, solid story, if occasionally a little basic in formula. There are enough newish ideas to give it a freshness and it is a strong re-visitation of one of Doctor Who's best and under-utilised monsters.