Book Review – Doctor Who: The Menagerie

  • Title: The Menagerie
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Martin Day
  • Characters:  Second Doctor, Jaime, Zoë
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/20/2013

The Menagerie is part of Virgin Publishing’s Doctor Who – The Missing Adventures paperback original novels series. This one features the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Zoë, and Jaime, which is one of my favorite Doctor and companion combinations. However, the story is just, well, to be frank, pretty awful actually.

The Doctor decides to take his companions to a low-technology world for a nice vacation. The TARDIS lands, and the three wander to the local village and enter the pub. Within minutes, the place is raided, and the three are split up. The village where they have landed is in the iron hands of the Knights of Kubris – technology-hating religious zealots who have not only banned all technology and science, but also live “only in the moment”, banning the study of the past, and forbidding any planning for the future.

OK, it may sound like Tea Party paradise, but the problem is the first half of the book is very slow going, as it feels like one grand lecture that goes on and on. The Knights position is completely untenable. to live without science and technology is pretty much impossible – and wrong. But to condemn the study of history, and make it a crime to discuss what you’re having for dinner tomorrow, much less your plans for the weekend… It’s just not a natural state of affairs.

And if you think the anti-science nature of the Tea Party is just plain wrong, Martin Day’s novel comes across as strident preaching to the converted. Science and technology are cool, and necessary, and one simply cannot pretend they don’t exist or ignore them. Besides, learning from the past then using technology to develop improved ways of doing things is the only way to prepare for the future – one certainly cannot fight it, or in real life, travel backwards to some “golden era” (especially as there is no “golden era”).

Eventually The Menagerie wanders around to explaining what had happened. The planet itself had an underground scientific/military research station. This station was exploring using genetic manipulation to create biologic weapons. They succeed in creating a new creature called a Mercim, but the creature also harbors a deadly microbe. Between the aggressive nature of the Mercim and the deadly nature of the microbe the research team is virtually wiped out. A few escape to the planet’s surface and their descendants occupy the planet at the time that the Doctor and his companions arrive.

The research station’s home planet sends a rescue/investigation party, but it is more or less too late. In a last, desperate act – the leader of the rescue party, who has contracted the disease spread by the Mercim, is turned into a Cyborg. He leaves the planet in his spaceship, immediately crashes, and this cyborg is the leader who had established the science and technology-hating Knights.

Perhaps the novel would have worked better if it had started with the research station. I can certainly picture the Second Doctor warning the military scientists against “messing with forces they shouldn’t”, then if it had jumped forward to see the cultural result of the disaster, the story might have worked better, and the first half been less boring and strident.

Overall, the novel something for only the completist to own. I read an e-book version. It’s not the worst Doctor Who novel I’ve read, but it’s far from the best.

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