|ISBN||0 563 55574 2|
|Synopsis: The Doctor and Fitz are stranded in the forests of Sweden in 1999, searching for Sam. The Doctor finds himself losing confidence in himself and his powers of judgment. Fitz's attempts to save the situation may just get the Earth destroyed.|
A Review by Finn Clark 16/6/99
A few months ago, Virgin released a Benny NA called Dry Pilgrimage, by Paul Leonard and Nick Walters. Now, for BBC Books, that wacky double act has done it again. Revolution Man and Dominion, the latest offering from the Leonard-Walters duo.
Okay, okay. Dominion links directly into Unnatural History as well. (This is starting to resemble the Whitaker era, with every story cliffhangering into the next one.) But bearing in mind Revolution Man, this book feels more characteristic of Leonard's work than the latest work of Paul Leonard himself.
It starts out like dull SF Leonard. Mysterious dimensional anomaly things are going on and everyone's confused, including the reader. Then it becomes thorny moral issues Leonard. Things improve. A rather stodgy start blossoms into an intriguing middle, which eventually flowers beautifully into a powerful, character-led climax. At the beginning I was moaning and groaning to myself, grumbling at the prospect of yet another negative review. Now I've finished it, however, I think it's really good.
What's the problem with the beginning? I'll say one word - Sweden. Bloody Ibsen set the ball rolling with his downbeat, depressing, stick-in-the-mud Scandinavian bastards and the cast we meet here aren't much more cheerful. Angst, despair and suicidal gloom. I'm exaggerating, but not by much. Admittedly they've got a lot to be depressed about, but one still looks in vain for a bit of life in them. It almost makes one think better of the Russians. Oh, don't get me started...
Gradually we see more of the bigger picture and our interest levels rise accordingly. The Leonard touches start coming through, though they're not unlike Mortimore either. It's a sub-genre of Who fiction - the Bristol Mafia.
But what of the regulars? (One's got to ask this question in reviewing a Doctor Who book; it gives you something else to burble on about.) We'll start with Sam and Fitz.
I confess it; I was wrong. I thought Fitz and Sam would come together to form a combination greater than the sum of its parts, the Fitz-and-Sam show. I anticipated conflict, verbal fencing and sparkling interaction. Others doubted. Robert Smith? suggested that Sam might be sidelined. No, I said. I had faith.
Well, Sam's sidelined here. Read the back cover if you don't believe me. This is largely a Doctor-Fitz book and it works quite well. I have a good feeling about Fitz, who's starting to round out from a collection of mannerisms into a definite personality. The only other book companions to have coalesced this quickly were Chris and Roz - who, crucially, were last-minute recruits, spotted as good companion material rather than planned as TARDIS fodder from the start. (Hmm. That's a rather telling comment...)
The Doctor however is very good indeed. He's solidly grounded in Paul McGann's TVM performance, which naturally means that he's nothing like the flighty brainless flibbertigibbet of most 8DAs so far. I liked this version a lot, almost more so than that to be found in more celebrated books. Kate Orman and Jonathan Blum have given us a strong eighth Doctor, but one whose wilful randomness appears to have infected most of the 8DAs around them - and not in a good way. This however gives us a strong, credible character who nevertheless feels like the same Doctor we saw in the TVM. There is material here that the authors could run a long way with. More, please.
Dominion isn't a spectacular must-read. On the other hand, it's certainly not a brainless formulaic tract whose only reason for existence is the Doctor Who logo on its front. It's a solid, thorough, intelligent piece of SF of the kind that deserves to be the bedrock of the 8DAs. This is what the books should be aiming for.
I liked this novel more than most when it first came out, and on rereading was pleased to discover that I found it no less charming. It has a mindbendingly alien setting with likeable inhabitants (and I'm not just talking about Sweden). It has a gentle pace that suits the story.
And, perhaps uniquely in Doctor Who, it has no villains.
I'd half-remembered evil UNIT operatives, but I wasn't quite right. We meet C19 (which contradicts a throwaway line in Instruments of Darkness) and a mistrustful, dangerous UNIT Major... but they're not bad people. They're trying to do the right thing. Personally I found it refreshing to read about well-intentioned characters who only want to do good; admittedly some of 'em are wildly wrong-headed, but we generally get enough insight into their motivations to be able to understand and sympathise. I liked these people. (I wouldn't want to see this every month, mind you, but it worked here. The novel's packed with so much world-threatening danger that it doesn't need villains on top.)
The Doctor... well, apparently I was impressed by his characterisation in 1999. This is quite worrying. Usually he's good, but every so often he does something wrong. Check out p89: "'Doctor, pick up the gun!' yelled Fitz. The Doctor put both hands to his head. 'I - I can't!'" Huh? This is Doctor Who, not The Perils of Pauline. He has a daft mini-tantrum on p108 and then gets someone killed on p209. The "Doctor as Congenital Idiot" charge gets levelled more often at Nick Walters's second 8DA, The Fall of Yquatine, but he's on his way down the slippery slope here. (Oh, and he has a weird line in underwear-related expletives, e.g. "socks".)
Fitz is fine, but the big surprise is Sam Jones. She's great! Stuck in bizarro world, her concerns are more down-to-earth than usual... and as a result we get no Sam speeches and no Sam politics. The result is a likeable character. We get a new perspective on Sam's good points when Fitz starts comparing her with his new lady friend, Kerstin. And best of all, there's a hundred-page stretch that's completely free of the Sam infestation! This is how to use Sam Jones! (Though in fairness I also liked Jim Mortimore's approach in Beltempest.)
The book isn't without problems. The biggest is a sci-fi world that's never heard of fire despite the fact that everything there seems flammable. Yeah, right. I'm not wild about the writing style in the early sections, though it soon settles down. And there's a quick mention of soul-catching (see Devil Goblins from Neptune) just when we hoped that bad idea might have been decently forgotten.
However I really liked this novel. It's almost pastoral, with nice evocation of both Sweden and the alien world. In many ways it's reminiscent of Paul Leonard, which shouldn't be surprising since Nick Walters co-wrote Dry Pilgrimage with him. I can see how many people might think it's slow or boring, but in its quiet way I think it's become one of my favourite Doctor Who books. (I bet I'm the only person who thinks so, though.)
A Review by Henry Potts 22/6/99
After two books in the Eighth Doctor Adventures line which were rather typical of their respective, familiar authors comes Dominion from new boy Nick Walters. Well, sort of new: he did co-write Dry Pilgrimage with Paul Leonard, author of the preceding 8DA, Revolution Man.
Dominion is a solid and reliable tale of strange goings on in Sweden and an alien world. The TARDIS crew are soon separated and the quest for reunion becomes a quest to save the planet. A traditional plot is spiced up by some fine writing. The characters, regulars and new, are mostly well-crafted as Walters slowly draws us into his fantasy. Like his old co-author, Walters has a flair for alien cultures and the world of the Dominion would not be out of place in a hard SF book.
One slight annoyance is Walters' use of superlatives. "Sam had never seen him so distraught," Walters tells us at one point and throughout the book the Doctor, Sam and Fitz find everything to be in the worst possible state. It becomes all rather too much angst. That also comes through with an impotent Doctor. He seems lost and helpless through much of the book, which is perhaps in keeping with some of the other 8DAs, but it's not a depiction I enjoy.
Fitz comes out the best in the book. After two books which did not seem to know what to do with a new companion, Fitz develops in a more logical manner here. This is part of a comfortable handling of book-to-book continuity: there are references back to Revolution Man and the book leads straight into Unnatural History. Are these the first fruits of the new policy of greater integration for the 8DAs?
After a tense beginning, however, the book rather drags in the middle, with much to-ing and fro-ing to little effect, including the occasional running up and down of corridors. The book does start to build again as the pages run out, but the end is even more disappointing. Everything just sorts itself out, without much reason or much action by our heroes. Still, at least the book has an ending, unlike Revolution Man.
So, a sound book, traditional in execution but done with some flair, yet somewhat let down by a weaker second half. Oh yes, and the word 'pants'. Big mistake. You will see why when you come to it. 7/10
Swede Emotions by Jason A. Miller 20/11/99
The first character we meet in Dominion is completely nude. We learn that she's a tall, athletic, 21 year-old female. From Sweden. And she stays nude (she's also been swimming, and then jumps in the shower, the sauna, and has sex) for the first ten whole pages. I will admit that no Doctor Who story before ever had a hook quite like this.
But then Kerstin puts her clothes on, her boyfriend vanishes into a plot hole, and Nick Walters' first Who novel becomes something fairly standard, and only vaguely comforting.
Dominion really feels like a first novel -- I'm told Walters co-authored a Benny book, but I confess to having never heard of him before. It's a bit too long -- not so much padded, as distended. Some of the plot developments (such as the Doctor's efforts to cross over into the Dominion itself) take a little too long to occur. UNIT's role in the story, while necessary to the theme of misused alien technology, never really feels natural -- more a way of grounding this story into traditional Who books, with an exclamation point, than anything original.
The Earth half of the book just about holds its own. It takes place in a Swedish forest, a locale we've never seen before. And, of course, Kerstin (a surrogate companion for the mostly-absent Sam, who hasn't felt like part of the series since Fitz entered. Sam and Kerstin even look alike!) is both dynamic, resourceful, and sexy. Too bad she's just words on a page. And too bad the early sex and nudity is just shorthand for getting us to like her -- I suspect she'd have been popular regardless.
The other half of the book takes place inside of a brightly-Paintboxed tennis ball, a corner of the Universe described with faint continuity ties to Logopolis (briefly, what happens there is that entropy increases). This half has the feel of a Sid and Marty Krofft live-action '70s TV cartoon.
Dominion tries hard, but success is an elusive thing. Tighter editing could have made this more memorable -- apart from the plot, there are some terrible turns of prose, especially early on. The soft continuity makes the story feel less original, and again here's a Doctor characterized only by what we learned way back in Vampire Science. Model train set. Butterflies. "No no no no no".
Finally, while Dominion opens with the sex, it's still lacking in sexual tension. The "will they or won't they?" element to Fitz's and Kerstin's relationship certainly doesn't end with any sort of "bang", and come to think of it, the middle isn't all that interesting either. Perhaps the kids are just going through the motions. Perhaps a buxom portrait on the cover may have helped?
A Review by Michael Arndell 10/12/99
This book is something special. It reminds me of a movie made in Denmark, France or Sweden, maybe like The Vanishing. One of those quiet (or disquiet) European films where the story goes on for quite a while with nothing really happening, but the characters you are involved with are so captivating that it is a joy to experience. The story of Kerstin and her loss struck me as so real, and the Doctor and Fitz continue to develop an interesting pairing. Sam's story is not so interesting, but the creation of an unusually interesting alien environment makes up for this.
Loss is a strong theme in this book - Kerstin and her lover, Fitz and Sam, the Doctor and the TARDIS. And all these characters that experience loss are thrown into circumstances that force them to keep running and fighting in spite of their desire to just shut down. However the examination of these themes are done quite subtly, and they don't overpower the plot. UNIT's portrayal is quite sinister, and makes a nice contrast to the sunny, innocent 8th Doctor. Overall, this story succeeds on an emotional level and as a cracking good story.
A Review by Dominick Cericola 7/5/00
Before I deliver the actual goods, I would like to make a comment concerning the BBC's line of books. Many have expressed their opinion that Virgin's line of New Adventures were oft-times dark and moody, setting an almost gothic motif. Having read Dominion all the way through, I can honestly say that the Beeb's EightDoctorAdventures (or EDAs) are giving the NAs a run for the money in the heavy-handed angst dept. Now, onto the review..
Ah, one other point that isn't necessarily tied into the review.. I've been watching the series progress from it's horrendous beginnings with The Eight Doctors up to the present, which at the moment is Kate Orman and Jon Blum's Unnatural History. And, what has impressed me greatly is that the BBC has established a continuity for the Eighth Doctor, one which, whether they acknowledge it or not, includes material from the Virgin NAs. The Doctor, as well as his Companions, has grown, coming into his own light. That, for me, is quite a feat..! *AHEM!* NOW, for the review (for real, this time)..
Dominion is a heavy read, aptly compared in one review to Ibsen does Doctor Who. But, this doom-laden air is pivotal to the story, for any humor would immediately shatter all the groundwork that was laid down in the first couple chapters.
A wormhole opens in Sam's room, dragging her and her room's belongings through it. The TARDIS begins to break down, forcing the old girl to make an emergency landing -- on Earth, Sweden, in the summer of 1999. As The Doctor and Fitz try to locate Sam, they soon find that Sam's disappearance and a rash of similar disappearances in the area are linked. Yet, The Doctor is at his most vulnerable, for not only has he lost a valued companion, he may lose his TARDIS as well...
While this is my first Nick Walters book, I was somewhat familiar with him. I know of his close association with Paul Leonard, and it shows. The characterizations, not just The Doctor and Companions, are deep and rich, almost as if they were in the room with me. The settings are descriptive, but not overwritten. And his sense of drama is well-played, not over-used.
But, what really sold me on Dominion was the portrayal of The Doctor. A theme that has been building since Kate Orman and Jon Blum's Vampire Science (I really should go back and re-read it) has been a more human Doctor. This Incarnation has vulnerabilities, he makes mistakes, he's far from perfect. John Byrne did this for DC Comics' Superman in his much-respected mini-series, "The Man of Steel", in which he knocked Supes down a few pegs, making him a more interesting character. As far as The Doctor is concerned, I think this is a natural progression if you consider the way his last few Regenerations went: I mean, he's been on Death's doorstep at least four times, so maybe this vulnerable facade is his way to try and stabilize himself. I don't know, but for me, this is what The Doctor is all about, why he left Gallifrey: To shed that all-too-perfect exterior, to live Life..!
Clumsy, with Potential by Robert Smith? 30/5/00
The setting is really nice, with the forests of Sweden and the bizarro world being very nicely evoked. We haven't seen nearly enough 'wonder' in these books and the setting reminded me of the complexity of Parasite. I realise that doesn't look like much of a compliment, but I loved that book for the complex and fascinating society we saw. This is a bit like Parasite-lite, complete with angsty complete destruction of just about everyone and everything except the regulars, who escape only by a series of staggeringly implausible coincidences [Concept copyright Jim Mortimore, currently on indefinite loan to BBC Books], but it's still intriguing enough to warrant a look.
The new UNIT looks like it should be really fascinating and I'm sure Nick Walters thought he was on to something really clever here. Sadly, this was done far more effectively (albeit in less detail) in The Pit. It's a sad day for the EDAs when we're pining for that book, I can tell you.
Kerstin fares a little better than the UNIT folk, but only a little. We're supposed to take her as companion material and the idea has a lot of merit, especially because we're well aware in advance that there's no way in Steve Cole's office that she's going to join the TARDIS crew. She gets a lot of screen-time, but she's a lot less likable than the author wants her to be. Ultimately we simply don't care whether she joins or not.
And the Doctor's arbitrary reasons for not taking Kerstin, despite some attempted justification via Sam, really don't make much sense. We get hints that she might be destined for something important or it might be the strain, but ultimately you get the feeling the real reason the Doctor point-blank refuses to take her on board is because he's had a chat with Steve Cole, who told him new authors couldn't go around creating companions willy-nilly, no matter how many half-books they'd written for a different publisher.
Speaking of which, the Doctor is awful here, probably the worst characterisation yet. Admittedly, the characterisation bears little resemblance to any EDA before or since, for which we must be thankful, but the entire book is posited on the idea of the Doctor having hit his head on something at the beginning of the story so he can act dumb enough to fulfil the plot functions. Come back Jo Grant, all is forgiven.
And the logic is just stupid. So the Doctor finds himself separated from the TARDIS and suddenly he loses his essential Doctorishness? An intriguing idea, Mr Walters, sadly let down by the fact that the Doctor's been separated from his TARDIS on countless occasions and he's still managed to appear in stories with internal logic.
But, irony of ironies, the cover is -- for once -- not only intriguing and attractive, but it adds greatly to the novel's mood. Nick Walters must have the luck of the gods on his side to have scored this rare piece of quality from Black Sleep.
Dominion is a very frustrating book. It's very different from other EDAs, which is both a blessing and a curse. It's strengths are in its ideas and its attention to alien detail, but even here it feels poorly recycled. Walters really lets himself down in the characterisation department, especially with regards to the Doctor, UNIT and Kerstin -- and as they're three central parts of the book, that's a recipe for a book with problems. Ultimately, despite the tone of this review, I enjoyed Dominion, but man, oh man was it a slug to squeeze anything entertaining out of this mess.
A Review by Eva Palmerton 26/4/01
I know a lot of people warned me about this one... but I'd have to say I really enjoyed this book! I thought the characterisation was quite good, though Walters has improved in this area since writing Dominion. The writing was fine, very good descriptive work as usual. Bits of the plot were somewhat generic, but not necessarily in a bad way. Overall a very enjoyable read - not quite as exciting as Fall of Yquatine, and I wish he had done a bit more with Sam (but then nobody really bothers much with Sam from what I understand).
From what I can tell, Walters is a very solid, above average writer. His work is not terribly inspired, but is carried off very well. This is the second book of his that I've read, and I would gladly re-read them both down the road. I think if he were to find his inspiration in something other than popular science fiction, he could pull off a tremendous novel.
I give Dominion an 8/10.
A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 16/8/01
There are a number of places in which Dominion demonstrates the fact that this is Nick Walters' first solo novel. The narrative is a little unsure in areas, as if he isn't absolutely certain how to express his story properly. And yet in other portions, the prose seems almost effortless, as if he's swinging back and forth between doubt and confidence. Despite these problems, this is quite an enjoyable, if relatively simple, tale.
It's obvious that Walters has put a lot of thought into the characters and world he has created, and the results are well worth it. There are a few places where the characterization appears slightly off and a little unrealistic, but overall the effect is quite good. With the exception of a few UNIT soldiers, each person's motivations are carefully considered. Back-stories are worked into the narrative with meticulous detail making even soon-to-be-brutally-killed characters seem interesting. The plot is a little thin and there is an awful lot of diversionary material present. Fortunately, while the padding may be thick in places it's all padding of the highest quality.
As I mentioned there are a few new-author problems with the book. One of the more irritating aspects of the story was the "information dump" that kept cropping up. Upon encountering someone who had not been present for a sequence, a character would be quickly brought up to date with what was going on. This was usually handled in the clumsy, "X quickly told Y about their adventures while Y looked incredulous" manner that got a little irritating after the fourth or fifth repetition. There are better ways of structuring novels to avoid this sort of thing, and at these moments I was reminded of the old Target novelisations. Still, this is a just a minor concern and something that will surely disappear after Walters gains more experience as a writer.
As for the regulars, the characterization of the Doctor is something that I found to be something of a mystery here. He's much edgier here, bringing out the rougher, harsher aspects of Paul McGann's TVM portrayal, yet he stands by the wayside here and gets almost nothing done. On the companion side of things, Fitz gets most of the face-time and Sam is sidelined for the majority of the book; these two things are definitely a positive development.
All in all, this was a good read despite the minor quibbles that I mentioned here. Recommended.
(Oh, and the problems with the ending of the previous book, Revolution Man, were not addressed adequately at the beginning of this one, but this is not something I hold against Dominion.)
Uneven Plot but Great Characters by Isaac Wilcott 5/5/03
Dominion is the first book by Nick Walters that I've read, and based on the cover blurb I seriously wasn't expecting anything special, or even very good. But I was surprised when after reading a few dozen pages, I discovered it to be interesting, well-written, and thoroughly enjoyable.
It reads almost like three separate books, due to the three different settings and their respective groups of characters: (1) rural Sweden, with a cast of well-drawn, believable, and engaging genuine Swedish people; (2) a subterranean UNIT base, inhabited by the usual group of scientists and soldiers, but with fuller backstories and motivations than we normally get; and finally (3) a realm outside our universe, the Dominion of the title, where a whole civilization faces extinction, with fascinating aliens and ecosystems.
Each setting is wonderfully explored and obviously well thought-out, a stark contrast with most other worlds in Who books, which often seem ill-conceived and clumsily used. The Swedish locale is especially fresh -- often, such an unusual location would be mere window dressing, a name in which to place a few dull cardboard people whose role is to involuntarily provide sustenance for the ravenous Co-Invading Monsters of the Month. But Walters makes the best of it by populating it with genuine Swedish characters -- we are introduced to a small but interesting cast: Kerstin, a young girl; Bjorn, an old bereaved farmer; and Nordenstam, the rationalist detective inspector. Far from being just names whose sole function is to advance the plot (and get mangled/crippled/eaten, of course), the author devotes much care and attention to establishing and exploring each one. By doing this it makes the story that much more effective, as the reader feels their emotions and understands their motives. This is especially notable when tragedy strikes; rather than slaughtering faceless thousands in messy technicolor splendor -- as so many other Who authors do in order to evoke a cheap knee-jerk emotional response -- the death of a single person here is deeply and sincerely felt, and better brings home the horrors of the situation than any massive body count ever could. Things do get rather desperate towards the end, and there is a great deal of dying, but thankfully the author doesn't linger on it or punch the reader in the stomach with a page-after-page torrent of Blood, Devastation, Death, War, and Horror (as in the abominable Damaged Goods or Mick Lewis' sickening novels).
And while there is a connection between all three settings, it is a tenuous link that is not very well explained -- this is perhaps the book's only weakness. But I could tell Walters was aware of this and compensated by having the same character, a Swedish girl named Kerstin, feature in all three settings. Her journey from one place to the next, and how this experience changes her personality, is wonderfully described and contrasts nicely with Sam and Fitz's responses to the same circumstances (this sort of thing, after all, happens to them every other day). This contrast helps remind us of how extraordinary the Doctor's adventures truly are. The consequences of actions and how they affect the innocent is powerfully displayed through the changes that happen in Kerstin's life, as those around her die and we feel her grief.
Kerstin's interaction with Fitz also works well, and her similarity to Sam is a great device for bringing out his affection for his missing friend. In all honesty, I was sad that Sam didn't get killed off to be replaced by Kerstin, so well was she molded as a future companion! Steve Lyons pulled a similar stunt in Time of Your Life: painstakingly introduce a character, then suddenly kill her and neglect to mention her ever again. But fortunately Walters does not reproduce Lyons' mistake, by not only abstaining from bumping her off but by also foreshadowing quite clearly that it is for the best that she not leave Earth with the Doctor.
It is with the characterization that this book triumphs, while the disjointedness of the plot disappoints. But the former far outweighs the latter -- though segmented, each plot section is engrossing and always interesting, and although only a handful of people are present in every section the skill with which they are portrayed makes this very much a character piece.
The second-most interesting character is probably Major Wolstencroft, who resents what he perceives as the Doctor's interference, remembering previous UNIT entanglements with aliens and the typically disastrous results. We are even shown exactly what UNIT does with all the leftover alien bits, along with their spaceships and especially their warp drives. Such an examination of past UNIT actions has been done in other books (such as The Scales of Injustice and Return of the Living Dad), but it is done far better here .
I've read many complaints about how the Doctor was portrayed as a looney goofball doofus. I guess they missed the explanation that since the TARDIS isolated itself from the outside world to repair itself, the Doctor felt as if part of himself was missing and that affected his decisions. Yes, this is a bit contrived, but it gave Fitz and Kerstin (and yes, even Sam) an opportunity to shine as real people forced to make difficult decisions on their own, rather than just the Doctor's assistants whose role is to run around asking stupid questions, then get arrested, tortured, and escape. It was nice to see the Doctor taking on that role instead, while the companions fixed things!
Walters obviously put a lot of effort and attention into writing this book. Far too many other Who books read like the author was doing six other things while writing it, and never even bothered to re-read anything he'd written so far. Walters' attention to detail and eye for internal character consistency make Dominion an excellent human-interest story as well as an intriguing adventure; an average, traditional story but very nicely told -- well worth reading. I'm greatly looking forward to Walters' other books!
A Review by Brett Walther 8/5/03
After initially testing the waters with The Eight Doctors, War of the Daleks and Legacy of the Daleks back in the day, I gave up on the EDA's. It took the discovery of a bin full of the BBC Doctor Who run from 1998 through to 2001 going for a buck a piece for me to try them out again. I went nuts after having been in merchandise withdrawal, bought them all, and have seriously enjoyed catching up on what I've been missing. (At that price, you can't go wrong.) I mean, even Dominion was worth that shiny loonie... Just barely...
This story is screaming for an injection of humour. Contrary to what just about every other reviewer has cited, I found the characters in this novel to be terribly bland, and the occasional bit of humour would have certainly injected some life into this grim bunch. I'm hardly heartless, but I found Kerstin to be quite irritating, with the insights into her struggle to continue running/hiding/escaping/surviving in the days after the death of her boyfriend becoming tiresome and highly repetitive.
And I get the uncomfortable feeling we're supposed to care about Professor Nagle when she meets her demise; but I certainly don't feel that by shedding the odd tear that she has redeemed herself. This is a woman who Walters repeatedly reinforces only places value on the lives of those who can undo the events that she's put into motion, whose dehumanized associates like Dr. Lindgard look on with glee as alien hatchlings burst forth from human hosts... And suddenly he's describing the pain that she's in as if we're supposed to empathise? I don't think so...
The Doctor is also ridiculously drawn, practically retching whenever the word "gun" is uttered. Here he is spineless and indecisive: only slightly falling short of contemptible. With Sam being absent for the first half of the book, Fitz is really the only recognizable character, but even he is not nearly as clever or endearing as we've come to expect. Furthermore, I know that Walters is trying to play up Fitz's "looking out for number one" tunnel vision, but in this case, Fitz's lack of concern for the fate of the T'hiili backfires, and I ended up sharing his apathy. This apathy must be contagious, as Walters concludes the book with a similar lack of interest, leaving the T'hiili in the TARDIS's butterfly room, without a home planet, and without letting the reader witness the hatching of the new generation (an event that the book has been leading up to)...
At the same time, the Doctor suddenly reverts back to William Hartnell mode and lashes out at Kerstin, inexplicably refusing her request to join the TARDIS crew. What's up with that?
Then there's the endless sequences as Sam explores the Dominion, and the go-nowhere police interrogation bits... These just go to show how easily the book could have been truncated by at least fifty pages, made tighter and more digestible. The plot is actually okay, by the way, although I'd have liked to find out exactly how the Warp generator was discovered by C19, as well as the device's origins.
Another element that works is the concept of UNIT officers that resent the Doctor's involvement like Major Wolstencroft. I wouldn't wonder, after recently re-watching some of Pertwee's UNIT adventures, that some of the officers whose comrades kept getting killed to serve as a distraction while the Doctor "saved the day" developed a real hatred for him, especially after having to deal with his smug comments afterwards. (His last line of Terror of the Autons, after the carnage of the Auton/UNIT battle, being particularly inappropriate.)
Some fine ideas here, but the characterization and relentlessly gloomy atmosphere really drags things down.
Sam's vanished... let's throw a party! by Joe Ford 17/11/05
I think when Robert Smith? said this story was clumsy with potential he was absolutely spot on. This is clearly the work of a first time author and has all the strengths and weaknesses that come with a debut book. I have read far worse first books (Strange England, The Longest Day) and far better ones too (The Left-Handed Hummingbird, Festival of Death, City of the Dead, Fear Itself) but on the whole this is a mostly satisfying read, certainly enjoyable, and in places even inspired. The only real issues I had were with the prose and the sequences set in the Dominion, which I will go into later.
Nick Walters is a funny old writer; one I know is capable of delivering. Usually his books are pretty good overall (he is one writer I am pleased to see in the schedules) but with each of his books he lets himself down in one area. The Fall of Yquatine was an excellent character piece let down by some childish SF going on around it, Superior Beings was a fascinating plot let down by some bland character work and Reckless Engineering has a triumphant setting and peerless prose, let down by a really sloppy ending. Overall I have never despised any of his work and to be honest I would put his books in the "above average, re-evaluate" bracket.
The biggest strength in Dominion is his excellent use of the eighth Doctor. Don't listen to all those people who moaned and whined that this was not the way he should be portrayed, this is one of the most vivid interpretations of his character yet, and it is exactly the sort of brave development I would expect first time author to try out. Basically the Doctor gets cut off from the TARDIS and we are privy to just how intimate their relationship is, when the ship is in pain, the Doctor literally cries out, as shocking to the reader as it is to Fitz. This leads to the man making some woeful decisions; cut of from his ship he is only half a Time Lord. The eighth Doctor's predictions turn up, but he gets it horribly wrong (and it takes a man losing his life for him to realise this), he crumbles under pressure (especially during a tense alien attack on the farm) and he butts horns violently with some of the military characters. Indeed it was his relationship with Wolstencraft that highlighted his change of character, far from the buddy-buddy brotherly love between the third Doctor and the Brig, Wolstencraft loathes the Doctor for surviving so many alien incursions when so many soldiers die. Their real difference in character is highlighted by Nagle, that the Doctor is not afraid to show that he cares about the people he saves. All this stuff is excellent.
During the early stages of the book I was concerned that Fitz would be a mere parody of his own character (pretty impressive for only a few books into his run, guess that shows how well defined he is...) because he seemed to spend the first quarter of the book wondering when he would be able to have a smoke. If cigarettes were brought up once more I might have written this off as one of the few books that failed to get Fitz right, which is really hard to achieve. But halfway through I realised his character was shifting up a gear and by the end I was shocked at how well Walters dealt with him. The hero in him is starting to emerge and he displays some very impressive qualities later on; taking charge when the aliens attack the farm, comforting Kerstin, rescuing the Doctor from C19, diving into the wormhole when it opens and organising the Ta'hiili into an attacking force. What's most striking is how he refuses to admit he is a hero, especially in one of his typically cynical (but wonderful) speeches: "Because I'm rather fagged out. It's so easy for you. You're the guy with two hearts, who never farts. Never swears, smokes, drinks or even sweats. Well, I'm sorry Doctor; I can't even begin to come up to your ideal. I'm only bloody human!"
I'm guessing the authors of the eighth Doctor books understood how much everybody hated Sam by this point because each book seems to find some ingenious excuse to get her out of action as much as possible. The Taint introduces Fitz to cut her page space in half, Demontage shoves her in a painting, Unnatural History swaps her for a darker version, Autumn Mist kills her off as quickly as possible (only to bring her back at the end) and Interference writes her out in style! Nick Walters achieves the extremely impressive feat of getting rid of her for the first 100 pages! The downside to this are the sequences when we return to her, where she is inoffensively written for, but spends an inordinate amount of time floating around some freaky, psychedelic CSO realm. These scenes are pretty boring, all told, but not because they are badly written per se, it is more a personal taste. I (mostly) always prefer Doctor Who to be set within the realms of reality and this is waaaay out there, introducing some bizarre concepts and peculiar aliens. There is not enough there to grab hold of and understand and thus not enough to care about. A shame because the later stages of the book concerning the T'hiili Queen having to fight through the Ruin to find her mate are quite gripping, but it is only after everything was explained that I started to "get it".
Another fault is the opening chapters of the book which, after the gripping first chapter (the TARDIS being attacked! Golly gosh!) things turn awfully mundane for 50 pages or so, almost as if Walters desperately wanted to add some traditional elements to his (mostly) untraditional story. Cue scenes of the Doctor and Fitz wandering around a forest, arguing with the police over disappearances and the Doctor inveigling his way into the investigation. We've seen this scenes a hundred times before and there is nothing new here...
...but from nowhere the book picks up dramatically. Chests rupturing, Alien-style, terrifying aliens attacking the farm, the introduction of UNIT and C19, rescuing the Doctor, the aliens attacking the base, the wormhole threatening the safety of the world... basically the rest of the book regarding the Earth scenes is gripping, right up into the shocking, gruesome finale.
You have an excellent pair of wannabe companions in Kerstin and Nagle and frankly I think if the pair of them joined up it would have been a fascinating time. Kerstin is treated almost a parody of a companion being introduced, losing her lover and being introduced to the wonders of the universe, not wanting to go back to her old life. The only trouble is she is completely neurotic, unable to cope with all the freaky concepts being thrown at her. Amusingly, she spends much of the book rocking back and forth with her head in her hands... Nagle on the other hand is almost a proto-Compassion (without the ability to let the Doctor inside her), refusing to pander to his ideals and standing up to his interference in her project. She would have been great fun to keep around as they lock horns very dramatically throughout, especially after we are aware of how much she hero worships him and how disappointed she is when she actually gets to meet him. But if she were to have jumped into the TARDIS we would have been deprived of one of the books best moments, where she refuses to listen to the Doctor's warnings that this sort of technology should not be tampered with by human hands and she returns to the base to recover her notes. And doesn't get very far at all...
The prose is faultless but nowhere near risky enough. If you are going to write a book in a mysterious never-realm then plain English doesn't cut the mustard. Walters writes perfectly acceptable, readable prose but there was no real humour or horror in his writing, nothing that lets his personality shine through. Compare this with his later Reckless Engineering, which is much more wholesomely written with some vivid descriptive prose and you can see how much he developed.
I feel as if I've moaned too much about Dominion when there are far worse crimes than "not being to my tastes during certain scenes". This could have been a disaster but Walters manages to pull of a modern-day UNIT with a lot of intrigue and drama, peppers his book with some fine set pieces and quality characterisation. All told I was pretty impressed.
Good, but not perfect.
A Review by Steve White 2/4/15
Dominion is Nick Walters' first solo foray into writing Doctor Who novels, so he had very little pressure on him to write a decent novel, but nonetheless manages to pull off something rather good.
The story of Dominion is fairly complex, but Walters puts it across in very simple terms. Basically there is a wormhole between Earth and the Dominion and it's up to the Doctor to put it right. Sam gets stranded in the Dominion, and the TARDIS is severely damaged, meaning what should be simple to fix turns out to be not so. After a solid start, Dominion does seem to stall somewhat throughout the middle section and the ending isn't as clear cut as I'd have liked, but it's still fairly enjoyable.
Walters has seemed to struggle a little with the 8th Doctor's character and uses the lack of the TARDIS to explain this away. This didn't aggravate me as much as it did some fans, but his indecisiveness was slightly irritating. Sam is separated from the Doctor and Fitz for the majority of the novel and trapped in the Dominion. Sadly her bits fall flat as the totally alien Dominion just isn't my cup of tea. Walters is very descriptive, trying to paint this place clearly in your mind's eye, but I just don't care for this sort of environment, let alone this sort of environment with someone as irritating as Sam. Fitz doesn't get as big a role as he did in the preceding novel, Revolution Man, but events at the end of that book are briefly touched upon here. Walters does a good job of cleaning up after Paul Leonard, but he should never have had to in the first place. Aside from this little blip, Fitz's portrayal is very good and he again gets thrust into an environment he obviously isn't comfortable with, with yet another woman in tow. Fitz's humour of previous books seems a bit lacking, but this isn't a massive thing.
Supporting-cast-wise, Walters is very hit and miss. Characters who are seemingly important come and go far too regularly, with the focus shifting from Kerstin, Nordenstam, Bjorn and Nagle. Nordenstam vanishes without a trace after being a major character during the opening chapters and you hear a lot about Bjorn's background only for him to be killed off shortly afterwards. Walters characterization is very good throughout though. Special mention goes to Kerstin who was seemingly geared up as companion #3 (even bearing a resemblance to Sam) yet the Doctor declines to let her stay. A missed opportunity in my opinion as it would be nice to see both a romantically involved couple in the TARDIS and Sam's attitude to a slimmer, fitter and more popular version of herself.
For a first attempt Dominion is a very good novel and Walters has set the bar very high for his next novel. It is by no means the greatest Doctor Who novel to date, but neither is it the worst.