Fifth Doctor and Peri land on a recreational planetoid occupied
by the Eknuri, a race of physically perfect humanoids. But
the Eknuri are no match for the vulpine Valethske, a bloodthirsty
race of intelligent carnivores...
title of this book refers both to the genetically superior
Eknuri and to the higher evolutionary beings that are the
focus of the Valethske's rapacious quest across the galaxy.
The author effectively sets up the indolent, almost child-like
attitude of the Eknuri, before pitting them against the vulpine
invaders. Peri witnesses first-hand the tragic irony of these
"superior beings" falling to a less advanced but overwhelming
Valethske, who could so easily have been a cruder spin on
the concept of fox hunting, are also well realised. Their
culture, which revolves around their insatiable appetite for
flesh and the thrill of hunting and terrorising human beings,
is repugnant but vividly believable. The visceral horrors
and indignities that Peri suffers at their hands may go some
way towards explaining her change of character in the TV series,
from the sassy and defiant teenager of Planet of Fire
to the nervous wreck that we eventually see in The Caves
also raises, but does not resolve, the question of what the
Doctor and his companions want out of their relationships
with each other. While the Doctor wishes for Peri to be happy,
he nevertheless exhibits signs of jealousy when she pairs
off with an Eknuri male. Similarly, though she craves her
own freedom, Peri also feels put out when the Doctor associates
with another woman. While clearly not a sexual relationship
(although I've often wondered whether Peri joined the Fifth
Doctor because she fancied him), the TARDIS travellers experience
a series of what resemble lovers' tiffs, with aspects of father/daughter
friction thrown in.
between the character development, however, the plot becomes
prone to stagnation and repetition. For example, it seems
to take ages for the Valethske to escort the Doctor to their
cryogenic freezers to incarcerate him there. And after the
Time Lord has made a deal to surrender his TARDIS to them,
I lost count of the number of times that he trots out the
same old threat to withhold the secret of the ship's operation
unless the Valethske keep their side of the bargain.
in all, though, this book makes intriguing and diverting fodder.