Arriving at an interstellar sci-fi conference, the Eighth
Doctor realises that one particular example of the genre,
an epic Earth novel entitled The True History of Planets,
has somehow been altered. Instead of dealing with fairies
and elves, the book now appears to concern a planet of bipedal
poodles. Elsewhere, a transmission of the movie version is
intercepted by a space station - a space station crewed by
that's right: poodles, as you can see from the garish cover!
And these are not the only animalistic aliens that feature
in this, the BBC's 100th Doctor Who novel. Magrs also
includes an intelligent aphid, a porcine hotelier and a vaguely
humanoid cook whose name, Flossie, brings sheep to mind.
an eccentric cast of human (or human-looking) characters,
too. A singer called Brenda Soobie is essentially Shirley
Bassey by any other name. Meanwhile, John Fuchas, the producer
of the movie version of The True History of Planets,
is analogous to George Lucas. We find him plotting out his
next blockbuster by playing with action figures based on characters
from his previous film. Ron Von Arnim is a down-and-out animator
in the mould of Ray Harryhausen, who seeks revenge on Fuchas
after discovering that his stop-motion animation poodle effects
are to be replaced by CGI. Strangest of all is the role played
by a time-travelling Nöel Coward, or rather several versions
of him from different points in his existence, who cuts through
the time zones using an awesome pair of pinking shears (no,
among all this weirdness, a few more serious issues are subtly
raised. Literary critic Roland Barthes' theory about "the
death of the author" is given a more tangible twist, as The
True History of Planets is reshaped in order to fulfil
a function entirely divorced from its author's original intentions.
from the point of view of Doctor Who novel mythology,
the impact of Gallifrey's destruction continues to resonate.
At one point, the Doctor boards a train whose passengers are
comprised of classic fictional characters, including Van Helsing
and Professor Challenger, who describe incidents that bear
a remarkable resemblance to the Doctor's television adventures
(though the amnesiac Doctor fails to realise this fact). This
might just be your standard Magrs madness... but it could
also signify that, in the absence of the Time Lords, Earth's
timeline has been reshaped to such an extent that the Doctor's
own contributions to it have now been fulfilled by other heroes.
a number of locations, including three different points in
Earth's history, Magrs' plot is complex. However, his strange
characters and situations are so memorable that this isn't
a problem. In fact, with the settings usually alternating
between chapters - many of which end on truly riveting cliffhangers
- this book makes compulsive reading in spite of its bizarre
(you might even say barking mad) subject matter.
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