Review: Doctor Who: Books: The Wheel of Ice

by Stephen Baxter

BBC Books, out now

The Doctor, Jamie and  Zoe are forced to investigate an anomaly among the rings of Saturn…

The garnering of big names for the original Doctor Who novels continues, with hard science fiction author Stephen Baxter the latest to show his love for the nearly-fifty year old series with this story that combines the slightly scientific whimsy of the Second Doctor’s era with up to date theories.

This is one of those novels that could only have been written well after the classic series completed its run on-air: like Simon Guerrier’s The Time Travellers, one of the last Past Doctor novels to appear from the BBC way back in 2005, it builds its history on elements from all through the show. There are mentions of UNIT, and links to adventures for many of the Doctors who followed Troughton in the role. There’s even, wonderfully, a scientific explanation for the time machine in Evil of the Daleks!

Baxter has a good handle on the regular characters, capturing the way in which the Second Doctor could turn from whimsy to commanding in an instant, and putting both Jamie and Zoe in situations outwith their normal experience: both of them find themselves responsible for people younger than themselves, and there’s some wry humour derived from each situation.

The new characters aren’t simply ciphers, especially the Scottish computer MMAC. There’s a definite feel that we are coming into a world that already exists, rather than one that simply is there for the purposes of this story, and Baxter’s gift for blending the scientific explanations within the drama is well-displayed here.

Baxter’s been very busy – his first Long Earth novel with Terry Pratchett was out a few weeks back; his Science of Avatar not long before that, and another original novel of his own, Iron Winter, was published on August 16 – but there’s never a feel that this is a rushed project. Like some of the best of the Who novels from the hiatus, this is a story that certainly could be told without the presence of the Doctor and his friends, but would have a very different outcome.

P.S. Once you’ve read it, check out the deleted scenes on Stephen Baxter’s website here.

Verdict: A master of the genre tackles the Time Lord with great results.  8/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to order Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice from Amazon.co.uk

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