First in a regular feature in which Mark works his way through the Virgin New Adventures novels published between 1991-97 In Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook’s indispensable The Writer’s Tale RTD reflects on the use of “fuck” in the opening episode of Torchwood;
““It was trying to set a tone. It was saying ‘Go away kids’ – as if that ever works!” “I don’t think it sits well with sci-fi.”
When Virgin began publishing the continuing adventures of the 7th Doctor and Ace back in 1991, it becomes clear very early on that “Go away kids” is very much the tone they’re trying to set. And that’s before the Doctor has a conversation with a topless 13 year old prostitute. Indeed, reading it now, large parts of Timewyrm: Genesys seem more at home in Game of Thrones than a 28 year old television programme originally aimed at children.
The Doctor and Ace arrive in ancient Mesopotamia in search of a Timewyrm, a mythical creature of which the 4th Doctor has left dire warning. At the same time, Ishtar, a cyborg from the future has crash landed and plans to take over the Earth, hiding out in a temple in the city of Kish masquerading as a goddess. It’s up to the Doctor and Ace to team up with the warrior King Gilgamesh to defeat her and save the future of mankind.
So far so Doctor Who and yet there’s a real sense of there being something missing. Be it a believable characterisation of the Doctor and Ace or a sense that these events could be played out in late 80’s televised Doctor Who. The historical setting and dastardly regicide plot feel more at home in the ostensibly “educational” 60’s era of the show rather than the period this is a continuation of.
Not only that, but Peel doesn’t even trust the 7th Doctor to save the day. By the end of the first chapter a holographic 4th Doctor shows up, and then at the story’s climax the 3rd Doctor appears to put everything right! It’s not exactly an auspicious and heroic start for a Doctor who will take us through 6 years worth of novels.
But there’s certainly promise; the Timewyrm and it’s self-fulfilling “genesys” is an interesting enough creation; a suitably apocalyptic threat to form a series long arc. There is also the suggestion here that the format of a novel will allow us further character development for Ace who is at this stage, the most interesting companion we’ve had in quite some time. Not only that, but in spite of itself and its sidelining of the 7th Doctor the climax whips along at an exciting pace.
Overall though, Timewyrm: Genesys is a bit of a muddle; three different Doctors, a setting and structure that for the most part feels more at home in a Hartnell historical and a level of sex and violence that comes across as a bit too try-hard.
But hey, this is a book club so if you think I’m wrong, your thoughts are most welcome in the comments section below.
1 down, 60 to go. Here’s to the future!
NEXT TIME: The Nazis win the war! The Doctor meets Adolf Hitler! Terrance Dicks!