Friday, October 2, 2009
It was quite a fun read; I'd say the tone was somewhere between "Slitheen Excursion" and "Prisoner of the Daleks."
The Tenth Doctor is on his own visiting a flower show on the Earth colony named Chelsea 426, which hovers above the planet Saturn. Though the Doctor is only in town for a short time, he gets drawn into the fray (as usual) when it becomes apparent that something is desperately wrong at the Flower Show. People become infected by spores from giant plants, Sontarans arrive en masse to investigate the colony, and the Doctor is left trying to figure out a way to save everyone (including the infected).
The Story plays out in a similar way to "Planet of the Dead," in that we see why the Doctor needs a companion (not necessarily just for company but as he says in the book 'to bounce ideas off'), and we see that the Doctor is not all-knowing and all powerful. In fact, as is the case quite often in the latest seasons of Doctor Who, it's the companions who really come through to save the day. I won't spoil it by saying who the companions are or how they do this, but I will say that without them, the Doctor doesn't stand a chance of saving the people of the colony of Chelsea 426.
As far as the colony itself, it's very much the ideal of Utopian human society, or at least what people envision Utopia to be. There's that theme of 'back in the good old days' or 'back in my time.' In fact, the people who relocate to the colony are hoping that the simpler times in which they were raised will be re-created by the Code of the Colony, thus eliminating the frantic and disturbed life they were living down on Earth. But of course, nothing is perfect, and if you repress people long enough, someone is bound to snap. And if you create a society based solely on the concept of repressing the various ways in which people express themselves, someone with extreme ideals will use this as their playground. Both of these situations occur to some degree in the novel.
In many ways, this novel is much less about the Doctor than it is about humanity and other alien species and the ways in which we are similar. The Sontaran General Kade has a good line about this in the book, wherein he basically tells the Doctor that the difference between humans, Sontarans and Time Lords is that while the others try to play down their innate desire for warfare, the Sontarans revel in the honor & glory of it. The Taking of Chelsea 426 is the first book (or television serial for that matter) that I've come across in the Whoniverse which takes the time to look at the Sontarans as more than just war mongerers. Their motivations, codes of honor, thought process and culture are really expanded upon in this book. You come to understand just how important honor and respect are to them, and that they are a race of intellectual beings as opposed to just being potato-headed brutes (this theme of the Doctor's thinking about various alien foes being readjusted also comes into play in "Judgement of the Judoon"). Kudos to David Llewellyn for doing such a good job of expanding upon this classic Whovian foe.
Overall, I would say that this book ranks third amongst the previous Tenth Doctor solo adventures. What? You'd like to know how I rank them? Well I suppose I can let you in on that little secret:
1. Prisoner of the Daleks by Trevor Baxendale
2. Judgement of the Judoon by Colin Brake
3. The Taking of Chelsea 426 by David Llewllyn
4. Slitheen Excursion by Simon Guerrier
5. The Eyeless by Lance Parkin
I'm currently working on "The Krillitane Storm" by Christopher Cooper, and I plan on starting "Autonomy" by Daniel Blythe this weekend. "The Krillitane Storm" has been quite good thus far, so I have high hopes for it. My rankings may have changed drastically before the weekend is out.
Currently on the to-read slate for the next seven days:
The Krillitane Storm by Christopher Cooper
Autonomy by Daniel Blythe
Wizards First Rule by Terry Goodkind
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz