Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
by Michael Moorcock
Review by Gavin Pugh
BBC Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781846079832
Date: 14 October 2010 List Price £16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK /
The Coming of the Terraphiles is the first Doctor Who 'Special' from BBC (and who can blame them given the global success of the show's reboot) and they've gone for a heavyweight name to write it - no less a personage than genre giant Michael Moorcock. Featuring the current Doctor, his beautiful assistant Amy, Moorcock offers a true mash-up, throwing in his own Multiverse hero, Jerry Cornelius for good measure. This mix will obviously appeal to both fans of both franchises but how well these two strong personalities work, may be a source of some discussion. Reviewed in this issue by Gavin Pugh.
"'There are dark tides runing through the universe...' Miggea – a star on the very edge of reality. The cusp between this universe and the next. A point where space-time has worn thin, and is in danger of collapsing... And the venue for the grand finals of the competition to win the fabled Arrow of Law. The Doctor and Amy have joined the Terraphiles – a group obsessed with all aspects of Earth's history, and dedicated to re-enacting ancient sporting events. They are determined to win the Arrow. But just getting to Miggea proves tricky. Reality is collapsing, ships are disappearing, and Captain Cornelius and his pirates are looking for easy pickings. Even when they arrive, the Doctor and Amy's troubles won't be over. They have to find out who is so desperate to get the Arrow of Law that they will kill for it. And uncover the traitor on their own team. And win the contest fair and square. And, of course, they need to save the universe from total destruction"
There are some things that are a match made in heaven and some things that just aren't meant to be. A Michael Mooorcock Doctor Who story ought, by all accounts, to be the former, but alas the reality is anything but.
The premise here is big. The Doctor and Amy join the Terraphiles - a group obsessed with all aspects of Earth's history, and dedicated to re-enacting ancient sports. And for their troubles they win 'The Arrow' in order to save the universe and multiverse from collapse.
I'm not sure that Moorcock has successfully managed to take new incarnation of the Doctor and Amy and translate their relationship and personalities to printed page. Actually I'd be hard pressed to recognise them at all if one were to change their names and remove a few well known Doctor Who buzz words.
The Coming of the Terraphiles has the feel of a 'shoe-in novel' - Moorcock has a story that he wants to tell and he just happens to have been paid to put the Doctor in it. And when you realise that Captain Cornelius is a creation from Moorcock's existing Multiverse as is the prize of the Arrow, one does wonder how much of this is brand new and original work. I suppose a fan of both Moorcock and Doctor Who would be delighted by this amalgam, but if you're new to Moorcock's works you may be a little bewildered with what is, on the whole, is mishmash of Douglas Adams-esque sideways look at humanity through a far future obsession with our history. Moorcock suggests that we don't stand the test of time well, taking our last five hundred years or so of history and choosing aspects that lead to some interesting ancient sports - especially their take on cricket.
The Doctor and Amy are actually sidelined for most of this novel. They don't feel like they lead the action, instead being more like observers. And then - more worryingly - there is some irregularity to the story telling - lots of dense scientific ideas that sit rather heavily with the jollity of Moorcock's strange notions of humanity. DW fans awaiting the new series are unlikely to be enchanted by Moorcock's indulgences.