BOOK
Doctor Who
Hope

Author: Mark Clapham
BBC Books
RRP 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53846 5
Available now


Testing the TARDIS' capabilities, the Doctor takes Fitz and Anji into the far future, to an impoverished and polluted world called Endpoint. Here, the hybridised remnants of various cultures - including humanity - are being threatened by a secret enemy that is carrying out violent serial beheadings...

In this, Clapham's first solo novel, the Doctor travels possibly as far forward in time as he has ever done, almost to the end of the universe itself. The only other time that he travelled this far into the future was in the New Adventure, Timewrym: Apocalypse.

The appropriately named Endpoint is, quite literally, a dump. Once used as a solar system's tipping ground for waste materials and chemical pollutants (like the Earth itself in Rob Grant and Doug Naylor's Red Dwarf novels), it is now the only available refuge within that system, since the other planets were devastated by the crossfire of an interstellar war. Unlike our own society, the people of Endpoint have learned to make use of whatever is available to them, recycling everything and wasting nothing.

Into this depressing setting comes the Eighth Doctor, who is feeling dejected enough already. Unlike last month's novel, Paul Magrs' Mad Dogs and Englishmen, this book addresses the Doctor's feelings of inadequacy following the loss of one of his hearts (in Lawrence Miles' The Adventuress of Henrietta Street) which effectively rendered him more human. He draws hope from the example of the Endpointers, who have admirably made the most of what little they possess.

The author also touches upon the controversial subject of human cloning, covering similar moral ground to the recent BBC2 documentary series How to Build a Human. Both the series and Clapham argue that it is futile to attempt to bring a person back to life by cloning their DNA. We can only hope to create another version from the same template, a version that will lack the specific experiences and environmental influences that made the person unique.

The plot structure of Hope is peculiar, practically drawing to a close two-thirds of the way in, with all apparent threats having been neutralised and the TARDIS crew all but ready to be on their way. But then a different kind of threat is revealed.

Despite its odd structure, Clapham's novel makes compelling reading throughout. There's plenty of life in Hope.

Richard McGinlay

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