Author: Jacqueline Rayner
Team TARDIS: Eighth Doctor, Anji Kapoor, Fitz Kreiner
Adversary: Asia, Africa and Antarctica Androids
Originally Published: March 5, 2001
Range and Number: Eight Doctor Adventures, #43
Synopsis (from TARDIS Wikia) -
Anji has just had the worst week of her life. She should be back at her desk, not travelling through time and space in a police box. The Eighth Doctor is supposed to be taking her home, so why are there dinosaurs outside? The Doctor doesn’t seem to know either, or else he surely would have mentioned the homicidal princesses, teen terrorists and mad robots? One thing is certain: Anji is never going to complain about Monday mornings in the office again.
So - an Eighth Doctor novel. I've heard good things about these, so let's delve right into it, shall we?
First off, Jacqueline Rayner is one of my favorite Doctor Who writers. The fact that she has not yet written for the TV show is a crime against humanity and needs to be rectified sooner rather than later. But, the fact that she hasn't written for the TV show and I consider her to be a favorite speaks highly about the things she has written. I think what I love most about her writing is that she can take these characters that have been established on television and create stories that just fit the characters, rather than create the story and then drop the characters into that scenario just to see what happens. There's nothing wrong with that, but there is something to be said about tailoring a story to characters that have already been provided (the best examples of this are Rayner's Tenth Doctor novel "The Stone Rose" and her Big Finish Companion Chronicle "The Transit of Venus," both of which I highly recommend. And if you finish those and still want more, go ahead and read "The Last Dodo").
Having said that - the only character in "EarthWorld" (yes, with the capital "W" in the middle - it's established in-text) that's ever appeared on TV is the Eighth Doctor. And he's lost his memory for reasons that must have been explained in the previous adventure. But even though I didn't get those details, this story is compelling and entertaining enough that I just take for granted that something happened and I can read that story later (in true Doctor Who fashion - nothing's ever linear anyway).
If I ever decide to do a chapter-by-chapter analysis of a book (a la Mark Reads or The Wheel of Time Re-Read), this would be a fantastic candidate for my first attempt. Because even in the first chapter, there was so much to unpack and dissect that I could probably write an entire blog post about it. The first chapter is where we really get to know Anji, which may be why this book was chosen for this reprint range. Because Anji and Fitz were never seen on TV or in Big Finish, I had no frame of reference for either one of them. But what this novel does so brilliantly is delves into both companions' personal pasts so that I do know about them by the end of the novel. Anji's exploration came in chapter 1, which helped me latch onto her when the Doctor's off doing odd things because of his amnesia (good thing too, or I would have been so confused). Fitz's came nearer to the end - but I got enough information about Fitz throughout the story that I felt that I could follow him around and feel as comfortable with him as I would with any TV companion in a Doctor Who novel.
The setting itself is brilliantly constructed. Team TARDIS lands on the Earth colony of New Jupiter where they wind up in EarthWorld, which is a theme park with different zones representing Earth's history - if the history consultant was an idiot. The first zone we see in the story is the 20th Century Zone where Fitz, who's from 1963 (because of course he is), sees gas lamps living alongside astronauts, Coca-Cola vending machines on every corner (with real Earth cocaine! I guess that joke was inevitable), Elvis is the King of Earth, and the War Machines from the Post Office Tower wandering around delivering mail (apparently in EarthWorld, “The War Machines” got wiped too and everyone’s a bit fuzzy on the details). Turns out the other zones aren't much better, with the Ancient Rome zone also getting Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt (or "Eggy-put," as one of the locals calls it) mixed in. It's mostly played for laughs, which I can appreciate, because after we get a good look at EarthWorld, things get pretty heavy and dangerous.
Team TARDIS gets split up (as is tradition). Anji and the Doctor get locked up with three teenage boys who were caught because of their activities with a terrorist group known as ANJI (Association for New Jupitan Independence), which is kind of a clever joke. The boys, Zequathon, Xernic and Beezee, have grand ideals but no real way of carrying them out. Which is where the Doctor and Anji come in. The Doctor goes off to meet the president of New Jupiter, John F Hoover (the F doesn’t stand for anything - it’s the Presidential F. Which I’m sure makes for a great many jokes). The president is pretty ineffectual - it's Fitz who meets the real people in charge of EarthWorld.
Fitz meets the president's three daughters - Princesses Asia, Africa and Antartica. Just to give you an idea what kind of girls they are, we first meet them witnessing the execution of Marie Antoinette, the Earth Queen of Scots (told you their history consultant was an idiot) and laughing about it (insert observation of The Hunger Games parallels here - which goes back to Ancient Rome anyway). They remind me of the Amazoness Quartet from Sailor Moon - sweet little girls who love to play, but their playtime usually involves someone getting hurt or killed. Creepy as hell, but rather effective villains. Through a series of bizarre events Fitz winds up in a death match/sing-off competition against an Elvis impersonator, just because Asia, Africa and Antarctica can't decide which they'd rather have. So, they do both. Poor Fitz.
The climax involves a skewed version of Arthurian legend (Morgan le Fay ends up being three different characters) and a semi-failed attempt to get the Doctor's memories back - although I think the Doctor probably remembers a lot more than he lets on in this story. Reading this novel has me curious about what happened for him to lose his memory, but still be able to fly the TARDIS and have adventures and things. Maybe it's like with the Third Doctor - the Time Lords took away his knowledge of time and space travel, but he was still pretty clever about most other things. Well, that's my headcanon and I'm sticking to it (that is, until I read another Eighth Doctor novel and it completely trashes my theory).
This whole story is just a fun little romp. It's a good introduction to Fitz and Anji - even without being either of their actual introduction story. The Doctor is kind of a blank slate in this, but I assume that there's a bigger story arc needing to be told (some mentions of Gallifrey at the end certainly gave me pause), so I'm okay with it. This is Jacqueline Rayner's first Doctor Who novel, so it is a little rough, but given the stuff she's come up with since then, it's not bad for a start.
Next Time, on Librarian in the TARDIS -
Review... - Shhh! It's a surprise!
Review 8.02 - The Not-So-Dark-Mystery of Time and Space