Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Odd Couple

Librarian in the TARDIS, Review 9.03

Title: Only Human
Author: Gareth Roberts
Team TARDIS: Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler, Captain Jack Harkness
Adversary: Chantal Osterberg, The Hy-Bractors
Originally Released: September 2005
Range and Number: New Series Adventures #5

Synopsis (from TARDIS Wikia) -
Somebody's interfering with time. The Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack arrive on modern-day Earth to find the culprit -- and discover a Neanderthal Man, twenty-eight thousand years after his race became extinct. Only a trip back to the primeval dawn of humanity can solve the mystery.

Who are the mysterious humans from the distant future now living in that distant past? What hideous monsters are trying to escape from behind the Grey Door? Is Rose going to end up married to a caveman?

Caught between three very different types of human being -- past, present and future -- the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack must learn the truth behind the Osterberg experiment before the monstrous Hy-Bractors escape to change humanity's history forever...

My Review:
I’m a bit mixed on this one, I don’t mind admitting.

Most of this story revolves around the Doctor and Rose traveling back to Neanderthal times because some humans get time travel at some point in the far-distant future and they've relocated there because there's more space there?  I think I got that right.  It's a little confusing at points and you just have to roll with it.  But then, there are the usual questions of why didn't these humans from the future totally screw with the rest of human history by doing that?  That, I think is what I had a hard time with in this story - never mind all the other psychedelic drugs that make everyone happy or forget pain or loss (they've basically medicated themselves out of any kind of human feelings, which also made me wonder "How is this any different than what Cybermen do?")  I think that you could have had a great story with a society that's lost sight of being human and having human emotions and pain because they've developed all these chemicals and drugs to get rid of them (oh wait - "Gridlock" did that in 2007.  Never mind).

So yeah, I just don't have a whole lot to say about this one.  Except...

Captain Jack Harkness stays in 21st Century London to help a Neanderthal man learn to live in the modern world.  And the Neanderthal man actually gets it!

Okay, okay - Jack's little adventure with Das (that's the Neanderthal man's name) accounts for maybe 15 pages worth of narrative out of the whole book (possibly 20 - it's hard to tell with the eBook version).  But those little interludes between the Doctor and Rose's adventures in the past were soooo much more entertaining than anything else going on in the book.

Das ends up in the present because of some time experiment that never got explained properly (at least, I couldn't figure it out), but the Doctor tries to take him back to his own time.  Problem is, the way Das initially traveled to the 21st century did something to his molecular structure and trying to travel in the TARDIS almost kills him. So, he's stuck in our time.  And he simply has to deal with it.  Jack is elected to stay behind and help Das acclimate to his new home and the Doctor and Rose go back to Das's time to do whatever-the-hell-that-was.

It's cool enough that, because of the TARDIS translation circuit, Das speaks English and can communicate with everyone around him. Not just communicate, but actually communicate well.  Like, proper grammar and sentence structure.  Das and Jack's adventures are told in the form of Das's daily journal and Jack's Data-Record - one right after the other.  Das explains his new surroundings and culture the best way he can and Jack tells his side of the story, which clears things up for the modern reader.  Das is completely and totally precious in how he identifies new things by explaining it in terms he understands.  He gets a job as a construction worker because he is strong and like to lift things and he's very good at his work.  He doesn't think the skinny women are pretty because they don't have any form or shape to them (he ends up marrying a girl that Jack describes as having "a face only a mother or a Neanderthal could love."  It's dead-adorable).  Das has no concept of sarcasm or acting (TV completely baffles him), which makes for some extremely entertaining moments with Jack "Sassmaster" Harkness.  If Torchwood ever got over its stupid "Hey, we're on after the watershed, we're required to be grim and raunchy and nasty" complex, this could seriously have been a great idea for a regular season episode.

I wish I had better material to comment on, but the only part of this I really liked was Das acclimatizing to modern life and Jack's commentary on guiding Das.  The Doctor and Rose's adventure (including Rose having to marry a Neanderthal man) was just kind of dull (though I did appreciate the little in-joke hearkening back to "An Unearthly Child" about how Rose hopes no one teaches the cavemen about fire too early).  I feel bad because I wanted to like this book more.  Oh well, I guess I can enjoy what I have.

Next Time, on Librarian in the TARDIS -
Review 10.1 - Another Highly Unpopular Opinion. I seem to run into those a lot...

Previously -
Review 9.02 - What Happens on New Vegas...

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