Earthworld by Jacqueline Raynor

The Doctor, Fitz and Anji arrive on New Jupiter. In a futuristic amusement park called Earthworld, split into different zones of Earth’s history, androids are running amok and people are starting to die.

Finding a book to represent the Eighth Doctor’s tenure is problematic, as in television terms it is comprised entirely of the 1996 TV Movie, and the Big Finish character is different from the one in these BBC novels. Earthworld take place well into the latter series. A lot has happened to the Doctor and companion Fitz up to this point. Briefly: the Doctor has destroyed Gallifrey (not the same time as he did in the Time War, but this incarnation clearly has a propensity for it), he’s lost his memory and lived through the entire Twentieth Century. Fitz has taken a shortcut and, from his point of view, has just left the Doctor. He’s still coming to terms with having been replaced with a clone in the two-book series Interference. New companion Anji is mourning her boyfriend, Dave, who was killed in the previous volume.

In a story full of androids, where we can’t be sure if anyone is who we think they are, it’s fitting that the same can be said of our three heroes. The Doctor, in particular, doesn’t really know who he is and is reliant on Fitz for guidance. Fitz sounds rather like a Doctor Who fan, saying things like, “The Doctor… is supremely self-confident, and unconcerned with superficial appearances”; a bit like a longterm fan watching the re-booted series with intractable ideas about what our hero should and shouldn’t do. The Doctor is physically absent for much of the book, with the focus firmly on Fitz and Anji, but he feels absent even in the scenes he’s in. The BBC Books range discouraged making the reader privy to his thoughts, so his doubts are revealed in moments of uncharacteristic uncertainty and fear. He can’t even operate the sonic screwdriver if he thinks too hard about it, and has to be distracted. A bit like the way it’s harder to think of your PIN than just let your fingers type it for you.

Fitz is very protective over the Doctor in this story, which is unusual in the Doctor/companion relationship. It reminded me of the way the parent/child relationship reverses over time. Fitz wants to shield the Time Lord from the knowledge of what he has done, and in doing do has to lie and deceive. The only other companion to do this is Turlough, and more recently the Ponds have to keep their foreknowledge from the Doctor too.

This book for me is very reminiscent of Seventh Doctor so-called oddball stories like The Greatest Show in the Galaxy. There are zany elements like an aging Elvis impersonator, and War Machines and Yeti in the 1960s London Zone, but they are masking the darker things that are going in beneath.

In some ways this is a good jumping-on point to the series; there’s a new companion and it’s the Doctor’s first trip in the TARDIS after his long sojourn. But at the same time there’s a hell of a lot of ongoing continuity as well. Still, a good story and one that will hopefully have readers looking out more in the range.

Not read Earthworld yet? Buy now from Amazon:

Doctor Who: Earthworld: 50th Anniversary Edition

On Kindle:

Doctor Who: Earthworld: 50th Anniversary Edition

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