the Little Red Reviewer

my first Doctor Who tie-in novel

Posted on: April 27, 2011

Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles, by Michael Moorcock

published in 2010

where I got it: the library

why I read it:  Michael Moorcock does Doctor Who? Sign me up!!! Also, I am an epic nerd

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Who would have thought the Doctor is a card carrying, membership paying, re-enactment loving member of the Terraphiles, a group obsessed with old old old original Earth goings on? Imagine a Disneyland version of a renaissance festival, on a planet sized scale, complete with costumed characters, archery contests, themed taverns, jousting, and all manner of mixed up sports that have gotten lost in translation over fifty thousand years.  Thus, The Doctor and Amy find themselves on the terraformed planet of Peers(tm), spectators and then participants at a semi-finals sporting event.  Cheering for the hometeam, the Gentlemen, all are hoping to attend the intergalactic finals, The Grand Tourney,  on the Ghost Planet of Flynn in the Miggea system. The winning team will be awarded the Arrow of Artemis.

Living a comedy of errors and mixed metaphors, the Terraphiles are thrilled to meet Amy, an “expert in 20th century old old Earth”, although she has some trouble figuring out what they’re on about, with their strange notions of archery, swordplay, competitive nut-cracking (no, not that), and something that might be a total bastardisation  of cricket.  While she’s laughing her head off, the captain of The Gentlemen, Robin of Locksley (known as Bingo) decides she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever met, and mystery rears it’s head when Mrs Banning-Cannon’s most hideous hat (so hideous it causes her husband to have arachnophobic fits) goes missing. And is then found, but still missing a piece.

According to Mrs Banning-Cannon, it’s the end of the world if her stolen hat (a Diana of Loondoon original!) isn’t found.  According to The Doctor’s calculations,  it could be the end of the universe, and the multiverse, as we know it.

And all this time, the pirate Captain Cornelius (hey, that name rings a bell) flies through space, taking tribute by force and looking for the lost artifact, hoping to find his lost lover once again in a multiverse (that also sounds familiar) constantly fighting for a balance between Law and Chaos (wow, deja vu!), life and death, everything and nothing, for eternity.

The Coming of the Terraphiles isn’t so much a Doctor Who story as it is a Michael Moorcock multiverse story, with The Doctor and Amy as supporting characters.  The few portions where Cornelius is the main character are the best written bits of the story, and there are a ton of little Moorcock jokes.

Jumping back and forth between a nearly slapstick comedy of errors style and deadly serious end of space and time and the universe as we know it, this is a very oddly put together story.  Moorcock needlessly crams  an entire series’s (which I’ve finally figured out is UK-speak for what us revolutionaries would call a single season of a show) worth of aliens, pirates, galactic mythos, The Doctor’s love for humanity and Old Earth into a 300 page book which feels so much longer and unnecessarily weighed down.   The pirates, the aliens, the endless mistransliterated banter,  the surprise that wasn’t a surprise at all, it was just too much stuff with too little exposition.  Verbally describing my confusion to a friend made me feel like Nina Garcia on Project Runway, exclaiming that an outfit was just too much.

The too muchness aside, ever see one of those movies where the characters and plot are just ho-hum, but the details make you want to see the film again?  This book felt a bit like that.  The characters didn’t do much for me (less and less, as the book progressed), but all the little details, taken by themselves were really quite brilliant.  The idea of a whole business of terraformed themed planets,  the Ghost system of Miggea, whose orbit takes it right to the edge of the Schwartzchild radius of a massive blackhole and then through the countless layers of the multiverse,  a bad guy who is really two brothers crammed into one body, a hat so hideous and massive that it requires an anti-grav device to wear. . . all sorts of ridiculous and fun details made this almost worth the read.

Bottom line: should you read this?  IF you are a Doctor Who fan, and IF you are a Michael Moorcock fan, and IF you don’t mind massive amounts of Douglas Adams-esque silliness mixed with end of the universe as we know it seriousness, sure, get it from the library.  Otherwise, you might want to skip this one.

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4 Responses to "my first Doctor Who tie-in novel"

I’ve been a Dr. Who fan since the 70s. Thanks for the heads-up and the great review! This is going on my TBR list right now!

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Haven’t read a Dr. Who book myself, although I do have a one volume collection with three novellas featuring my favorite Dr. ever, Tom Baker. I have read some of Moorcock’s more recent short story work and found some to be really good and others to be meh. It sounds like this one had the potential to be so much more, perhaps with an editor with a more guiding hand?

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I would love to get my hands on some of the older books, I’ve heard they are much better. I love Moorcock’s older stuff, feel the same way as you about his newer stuff. There was just a lot that went wrong in this one.

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I need to get this one, I’ve fallen behind with these tie in books sadly :(

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