Review: Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles

by Michael Moorcock

BBC Books, Paperback, 4 August

The Doctor and Amy investigate the theft of a hat, take part in a bizarre sporting tournament, meet strange and strangely familiar characters, locate the Cosmic Balance, and prevent the collapse of the multiverse.

There’s no doubting that this is a Michael Moorcock novel even before it is a Doctor Who one — though that may in part come from reading it as a fan of Moorcock and recognizing all the connections to his other work. It is certainly shot through with links, references and characters from the Moorcockian multiverse. The Second Aether is the backdrop to the adventure, the pirate Ironface is a variant of Jerry Cornelius, Captain Quelch and the Bubbly Boys are all here and, let’s face it, Amy Pond might as well be Una Persson. It is also written in the style of Moorcock’s comic science fiction series Dancers at the End of Time and with the flair of his detective pastiche Seaton Begg. Indeed, Terraphiles is lightly humourous and deeply parodic in tone. It melds his love of Sexton Blake with P.G. Wodehouse to make this a very English affair, where grotesque families play at being aristocrats and thoroughly mangle history. It’s wonderful and wonderfully well written. Though what a Doctor Who fan with no knowledge of Moorcock might make of it is another matter.

As with all Moorcock fiction, the story itself is as complex and convoluted as the moonbeam roads. This allows Moorcock to blend both the Doctor himself and elements of the series into the narrative seamlessly. The Doctor is thoroughly at home and thoroughly recognizable not only as Matt Smith’s version of the character but also as Tom Baker’s too (not at all odd really, given Smith’s propensity to capture his predecessors in the role). Moorcock also seems much taken with the Judoon and employs them here to comic effect. The plot itself is a classic detective mystery, but one that spans space and time, allows the Doctor to confront several imaginative and wacky enemies, and incongruously centres around an excessively large and particularly ugly hat. And what’s more, Moorcock uses the TARDIS as a quite delightful and rather surprising device. This novel not only incorporates all the best elements of farce, but is an out of the ordinary space adventure.

Verdict: Epic, comic, melodramatic, imaginative and above all Moorcockian.

The Coming of the Terraphiles: 8/10

Brigid Cherry

Click here to order Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles in paperback from Amazon.co.uk

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