Frontier Worlds

When I first read this book, way back in the mists of year twelve, I was completely disappointed in it. After the head-screwing of ‘Interference’, the craziness of ‘The Blue Angel’ and the audacious inventiveness of ‘The Taking of Planet 5’, well, this book seemed a return to filler, involving your standard Doctor Who evil corporation, morally bankrupt executives and corridors.

As was pointed out by many critics at the time — and will be by me, now — it’s nothing of the sort.

In fact, having re-read through the previous books recently in an attempt to justify their purchase, I found the more human viewpoint of ‘Frontier Worlds’ to be a welcome relief from the universal shennanigans of the previous books. Not that I didn’t enjoy those immensely. Also, this time, knowing of certain revelations in previous books, I was looking in the right place for my nifty series-wide-hints this time. These are excellently done, and make me feel very stupid for not having spotted their coolness the first time round.

Fitz’s roleplaying is nicely done, and particularly resonant now given the events of ‘Interference’

There are many very nice aspects to the novel. The discussion between the Doctor and Mozarno at the beginning. The Doctor and Compassion’s dreams. All of the Doctor’s amusing action sequences — especially those involving Sempiter’s robot. The Doctor pretending to be a businessman. Fitz’s continuing narrative is also a treat — his roleplaying is nicely done, and particularly resonant now given the events of ‘Interference’. But there’s not too much heavy angst — well, not considering — and some nice personal moments for him.

The relationship between Compassion and Fitz is most interestingly drawn. Compassion manages to keep you guessing as to whether she’s beginning to care or not. It’s unfortunate in a way that the Doctor blunders into this plotline. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve always thought of the Doctor as super-open-minded. That’s part of his appeal. But he seems to have a real issue with new companion Compassion’s culture — one that is super-responsive to ‘signals’ to the point where they tune into almost everything around them via their ear-attached recievers. To see the Doctor actively trying to change someone’s culture seems a bit peculiar, even if there are a few dangers in her being completely open to suggestion. I can’t really offer constructive criticism, but the character ended up sounding more like a more self-righteous one than I generally expect. Luckily, in all other plotlines he too is at his improvising, delightful best.

There were some negative aspects too — many of which I remembered from my first, super-nitpicky read of the book. “The e-mail of the species is more deadly than the mail” is a bad joke the first time it’s said. By the third, it’s really starting to set my teeth on edge. I don’t care how useful it was to the plot, it’s just annoying. And this comes from a lover of bad jokes. Certain Doctor Who cliches involving certain heroes attempting to talk mutating humans back from the brink of a terrible decision are revisited here and really don’t deserve to be.

In general though, I found ‘Frontier Worlds’ a good, page turning story, and far better than I remembered it.

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