Sometime Never...

There are some really good Doctor Who novels out there. Novels that can stand on their own, but gain power from being in a long-running series. Novels that explore fascinating themes in ways you probably couldn’t do nearly as well outside the format. Novels that break and twist genres gleefully.

The concluding book of a recent universe-shattering arc of stories, ‘Sometime Never…’, is not one of these books. It reads like a season finale of an adventure TV show, and it wouldn’t be a bad one at that. But as a novel — it lacks a lot. These failings became apparent at the start, when a whole bunch of occasionally painful exposition was relayed entirely in dialogue, reading more like the start of a Buffy arc episode, complete with handy lines to pop in any neccesary ‘Previously, on Doctor Who’ segments. And in this respect it doesn’t really get better.

It’s so difficult to be unpredictable without knowing what people expect of you. — The Doctor

In other ways, it does. There’s a pretty nifty plot here, with an ending that makes a reasonable amount of sense, provided you’ve bought one particularly dodgy spot of temporal dodgy physics earlier on. Newish companion Trix has some very nice moments, especially with the two lost princes in the Tower of London. And the ideas and explanations for previous books in the arc are very neatly put together.

Indeed, this book would work wonderfully as a plot-advancing episode in a TV show. But as an individual work it’s kind of lame. I doubt sincerely that an outside reader would make any sense of it at all — a lot of the most resonant sections for me involved past books, if not past episodes of the TV series.

Ultimately, this is a book about ideas, and not style or execution. Sadly, some of the ideas are rather dull, even if they’ve been well thought-through. It’s certainly only worth reading if you’ve struggled through the interminable ‘alternate universe’ arc, in which case it may make you feel better about those books. But frankly it’s a bit tragic that the adventures of the Eighth Doctor are coming to an end after such a poor run. With a new series coming, change is on the way — and this can probably only be a good thing.

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