THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Three Doctors
The Deadly Assassin
The Invasion of Time
Cold Fusion
Arc of Infinity
Silver Nemesis
Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible
Lungbarrow
BBC Books
The Infinity Doctors

Author Lance Parkin Cover taken from the excellent Doctor Who books page
ISBN# 0 563 40591 0
Published 1998
Continuity Uncertain

Synopsis: Chaos erupts on the Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey as a rash of unexplained violent crimes occurs. Suddenly, two alien battlefleets coverge on the Time Lords' home world intent on conquering it....

WARNING: This book is so different and so unusual that it's almost impossible to discuss without some spoilers. Proceed with caution.


Reviews

Past and Present by Mike Morris 18/1/99

I always think one of the most difficult things about Gallifrey-based Doctor Who stories is that we always want them to tell us something new about Gallifrey, a trend started with The Deadly Assassin. Yet, at the same time, it's important to preserve some mystery about the Doctor's home planet, so we only ever get oblique hints. The Infinity Doctors only partially falls into the trap, but I think it's this concentration on telling us "new things" that spoils it a little.

It all gets off to a great start, in fact. The first passage was one of the best and most intriguing I've read in any Doctor Who book - set in the time of Omega and Rassilon, with a 'little man' who can only be you-know-who...

After that, however, we leap forward to a time just before the Doctor leaves Gallifrey, and it all feels strangely banal. It's never actually stated which incarnation of the Doctor this is -- in characterisation he's very similar to the Eighth Doctor, but it's possible that he's a younger version of the First Doctor or an earlier incarnation altogether (remember what I said about oblique hints?).

The story begins with the usual unidentified-baddy-killing-people-for-reasons-unknown plot, but it's well-crafted and enjoyable. After that, the concepts get bigger -- Event One, the end of the universe (imaginatively called Event Two), black holes, space-time 'effects'. It ends in an all-out high-action climax, dragging you along at almost breakneck pace. Great stuff.

So why is it that, at the end of The Infinity Doctors, I felt slightly... well, cheated?

I'm not sure. Maybe it's because the revelations about the Doctor's past (and trust me, there's some good stuff here) weren't anything I didn't expect. Maybe it's because there's a few too many continuity references that feel slightly gratuitous. Maybe it's the way that the Sontarans and Rutans were included for no particular reason. Or perhaps -- shock horror -- we actually do know everything about Gallifrey, and there's not really anything new here -- the best example being a scene where the Doctor explains in mind-numbing detail how Gallifreyan clocks work.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed The Infinity Doctors a lot. And, if you aren't really after anything other than a good runaround, you will too. It's just that the book feels like it wants to be more than a runaround, and it doesn't quite manage it.


A Review by Dr. Terry Evil 14/4/99

A new series would have been nice. Maybe a strand on the theme night-obsessed BBC2. But no, what everybody really wanted was some genuinely new story which would not only celebrate Doctor Who's 35th anniversary to the satisfaction of fans (no chance but worth a go) but not disappear up its own self-satisfied rectum a la Two Doctors (the great Holmes' worst story), Three Doctors ('camp as Christmas', c. The A-Z of Doctor Who), and Five Doctors ('You don't want it to make sense as well do you?'). We'll just draw a silvery veil over Silver Nemesis shall we, and thank the Lord God Blair that the birthday scene was excised from The Stones of Blood. The closest we have to an anniversary story is presented by the individual mind of Lance Parkin; a natural for this sort of thing seeing as he can barely go five words without inserting some past reference. Luckily, he can also write like a dream.

The Infinity Doctors, supposedly a 'Paul McGann Missing Adventure', features a plot which slowly resolves itself from a point of total mystification into a point of slightly less mystification, while contriving to keep you hooked all the while. As usual, the not merely continuity-obsessed but positively drooling Parkin gives us a whole load of insider reference, so that a brief précis of the story would go: a (spoiler protected) version of the Doctor, not necessarily (spoiler protected) is living a life of comfortable (spoiler protected) on Gallifrey, reconciling (spoiler protected) and (spoiler protected) along with a Magistrate with a strong resemblance to (spoiler protected), a certain Councillor Hedin, who is (spoiler protected) and an unrequited love for (spoiler protected) who may or may not be (spoiler protected) from (spoiler protected). After an artefact is stolen from a museum and a fellow Time Lord 'fesses up to trying to rescue (spoiler protected) from (spoiler protected), the Doctor must travel to (spoiler protected) to prevent (spoiler protected).

Phew. There is a strong feeling that this time Lance Parkin is trying to do his best to appeal to new readers as well as the sort of fans who regularly deify him. In this he fails miserably -- as ever, there is a strong feeling throughout that you really should have seen and read more than you have -- but it's still a strikingly good effort. Fortunately for him he's a damn good writer, and the prose style is both casually illuminating on alien mores (always the thing a sci-fi writer should achieve if he wants to be any bloody good) and enticing to lovers of good fiction.

The Infinity Doctors is a damn good book, only occasionally submerged by its author's obsession with what has gone before. Any other time this would be worthy of derision; for the anniversary it is forgivable and, in the light of previous anniversary stories, positively to be celebrated, not least in the fact no-one called Ian Levine makes any contribution. There is a wealth of enjoyment to be had once you have resolved to bypass the 'memory cheats' line on page one. Parkin, on the evidence of all his books so far including this one, is aiming to present more mysteries in this most mysterious of all stories. He continually creates characters positively loaded with significance then doesn't tell us who they are. If Lance is God, as a few posters to RADW have asserted despite a welter of other theological evidence, then maybe he's the 'Schroedinger's God' (p. 206) of his books.

But the point is, how many more mysteries, since Andrew Cartmel and his bible of the past, can a show take before everyone just gives up and gives in? Maybe a leaf should be taken from the example of this book, and the precisely unspecific nature of its hero. Schroedinger's Doctor anyone?


A Review by Ben Jordan 3/5/99

A mysterious and naturally quite powerful source of energy at the end of space and time is doing a rather good job of twatting the universe, a man nobody listens to is dribbling that God will return, and only the Doctor can put things right. So far so good.

Here then is the great literary marker of the 35th Anniversary. A rather ineffectual anniversary that was worthwhile at least in the sense that it produced this book. Of the Gallifrey novels I've read I would still place Lungbarrow first, however this is still a cracking good read. I confess I don't quite know where in the Whoniverse takes place. Either it is one of those possible futures the Doctor always talks about where he has decided to go home for good, or it's in an alternative universe where our hero is familiar, and yet the differences are numerous. It could even be a young first Doctor before his renegade days. Oh, who cares?! He resides on Gallifrey, teaching Time Lord wannabes, has been married with children, and is lucky enough to have a best friend, the Magistrate -- which means what everybody?

To me, it seemed impossible not to envisage Paul McGann as this Doctor, with shades of The Scarfed One. It's a credit to Parkin, who has managed to construct such a recognisable character using only the traits that every persona shares -- the very nuances of the Doctor himself, which never change.

As for the plot itself, well the End of the Universe concepts are fascinating, however I never felt Gallifrey to be under any serious threat, even when they discover that their future is not rosy (more a shade of grey really). The problem being that these people are just too powerful, and so the conflict never seems life-threatening, even when it supposedly is. Something similiar occurs in Wu Ch'eng-en's Journey To The West -- best known to Westerners as the Japanese show Monkey. Monkey becomes more immortal than the Gods themselves causing the author to work double-time constructing a believable danger, which he never can.

Nonetheless, an enjoyable tale, made better by Parkin's very accessible narrative, occasionally tongue-in-cheek, always entertaining. Prepare to read a familiar tale, in an unfamiliar context.


A Review by Finn Clark 14/6/99

WARNING. The Infinity Doctors is so unusual and different that even discussing it in general terms could be a lesser-spotted species of spoiler. I promise only general discussion in his review, no more spoiler-filled than Dave Owen's comments in DWM, but if you want to preserve every last possible ounce of surprise for your reading experience, then go no further.

To sum up briefly, The Infinity Doctors is a pretty good Who book that's not quite brilliant, but almost as genre-busting in its own way as The Scarlet Empress. Above all, it's DIFFERENT.

Final warning. The real review starts here...

Interesting things have been happening in the Doctor Who line of late. Alongside the unambitious books (naming no names) we've had startling pieces of work like The Scarlet Empress that pushed Doctor Who books into whole new genres. The Infinity Doctors does the same. Virgin tried to write proper SF books, but at heart they were always just action-adventure novels in an SF setting. Even the "big ideas" books (for instance The Dark Path) set their grand ideas at the service of the story and the characters.

With The Infinity Doctors, for the first time we have a "proper" piece of literary SF, unfolding its great concepts as lovingly as a Banks or a Gibson.

It's very slow at the beginning. There isn't really a villain as such. Murders and alien invasions are almost incidental plot details. If any Doctor Who book ever deserved to break through to the mainstream SF market, this is it. This is a damn fine novel, make no mistake, though if your penchant is for guns, gals 'n' gore then you may well find it heavy going.

Most of its problems stem from the fact that Gallifrey is a profoundly dull place. Robert Holmes said so long ago and boy, was he right. Even Arc of Infinity offers electrifying pants-wetting excitement when compared with the dire, dire mess we've been served up for the past decade or so in Gallifreyan Who lore. What did Virgin give us? The Pythia, the Curse, the... afdlkhga

Oh sorry, just dozed off there for a moment. What did Virgin give us? Who gives a fuck? Gallifrey may be a very important place in the Whoniverse, but I'd sooner watch paint dry than see yet more Time Lords wander in dignified fashion around their ancestral home. Hulke and Dicks had the right idea in The War Games after all - keep them offstage and keep them SCARY. Lance Parkin tries valiantly to overcome this staggering hurdle (unless you'd prefer to regard it as a brick wall across his six-lane motorway) and only just scrapes through by rewriting all Gallifreyan lore from scratch as one great epic.

Thankfully Lance has the excellent sense to take his story elsewhere too. It's not really a story about Gallifrey at all, although great whopping chunks of it are set there. It's more about the Time Lords and their achievements, bringing the dusty legends to life. There's stirring stuff there, which also quietly manages to mix in references to almost every fictional version of Gallifrey along the way. Contradictions are pointed up and exploited, but the whole concoction is so rich that accusations of fanwank never even enter your head.

Oh, did I mention that The Infinity Doctors sticks continuity into a blender and serves it up stir-fried with mushrooms? This seems to have got many reviewers excited, but it's not actually very important. There's carefree Milesian reinvention, as with the Krotons in Alien Bodies, but you all expected that anyway.

Where was I?

Ah yes, Gallifrey. I'm afraid the Parkin Gallifrey started reminding me of Ankh-Morpork, what with its clueless Watch and general amiable aimlessness. The Time Lords are the college of wizards and the Doctor has ensconced himself in the middle of them. Sadly, this only confirms us all in our belief that politics is boring. In a way this is an alternative-universe version of the Secret Origins of Doctor Who we all secretly wanted to write. QUESTION - why did the Doctor steal his TARDIS and leave Gallifrey? ANSWER - because his adventures were going to be really boring at home.

There is also a blooper. Worryingly, for the second month in a row, a BBC Book has contained a bigger astronomical goof than I can remember offhand in five whole years of Virgin. Lance's blooper comes with his conception of the end of the universe, which unfortunately combines the heat-death model with the (extremely implausible) Big Crunch model which has already been established in Millennial Rites, to name but one example.

A quick science lesson. Matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, just changed to other forms. The heat-death model of the universe depicts a cosmos that just goes on expanding forever. Suns die, entropy increases and eventually even matter itself decays away to cosmic radiation. Eventually there is simply infinite nothingness and a background temperature so low that it's barely a gnat's testicle away from absolute zero.

On the other hand, a Big Crunch requires that the universe eventually contract back to its initial state, a singularity. Obviously the dying universe will be shrinking fast... but it will still contain exactly the same amount of energy. This universe will be HOT. Planets will boil away into space and suns will explode; eventually the ferocious background heat radiation will rise so high that matter itself ceases to exist.

Sorry, Lance, but you can't have a cold, empty, dying universe just before a Big Crunch.

These are niggles, though. At root, The Infinity Doctors is a bold, intelligent piece of work that I'd happily buy for someone who didn't care two hoots about Doctor Who. It has many utterly cool bits which I'm not going to spoil for you here, though the temptation is almost irresistible. In fact, I've bought three copies - one for myself and two as Christmas presents for my non-fan cousins...

Supplement, 13/3/02:

The debate on this book back in 1998 was mostly about where it fitted. Was it the Doctor's past or his future? (Lance kept telling people it wasn't an Elseworld.) Viewed with hindsight, having read The Ancestor Cell, it looks like one of the Nine Gallifreys constructed in preparation for the War. It's a parallel universe, with another Master, another Doctor, etc. It links into the regular Whoniverse, but p225 says that there are "an infinite number of Doctors".

It picks up Gallifrey lore from all kinds of places: Qqaba from the old DWM comic strips at the start of the eighties, tafelshrews from Lungbarrow and Old Town from The Eight Doctors. (Never underestimate the influence of that book.) The continuity doesn't end there, either. Down is referenced on p30, Savar is a character from Seeing I and there's even a really subtle link with C.S. Lewis.

However don't think this is a fanwank continuity-fest. It's not. For the first (and last) time since The War Games, here are Time Lords with grandeur. Lungbarrow turned them into squabbling freaks, but these are true Lords, with magnificence. (There's some nifty worldbuilding with the Sontarans and Rutans too.) Mind you, there's also some appalling science, making this The Janus Conjunction's only serious competitor for the Goofiest Science In A Doctor Who Book award.

  1. That's an odd view of a black hole's event horizon.
  2. The book seems confused which theory it's going with for the end of the universe, heat death or Big Crunch. They're very different, you know.
  3. Surely a frictionless knife blade couldn't lift or slam anything? I suppose we simply have to accept that the force sword can do whatever the story has it doing, but for me it still jarred. (See p34.)
Reading the book in 2002 creates some spooky resonances. Gallifrey is wonderful. The Sontarans and Rutans are splendidly re-imagined. The ideas are all suitably grand and epic... but it's a slight shame about the story. It's all terribly stately, moving along at its own regal pace. If you're happy to settle back and let things unfold at their own speed, you'll be happy as a sandboy. Events don't even speed up when approaching the (slightly dull) climax, but I think you're meant to gaze in wonder rather than buzz with excitement. There's plenty of wonder all right. Lance is thinking big.

And there's thought alongside the ideas. The discussions herein are just as relevant to the 8DAs today as they were in 1998 - perhaps even more so. The Ancestor Cell has made the history-musings here far more important. Cole and Anghelides might have killed off the Time Lords, but Lance Parkin sang their swansong. And for the most important argument in the entire book, see p272.

At the end of the day, this isn't a particularly relevant book. It might not be an Elseworld, but it's still at arm's length from the mainstream Whoniverse. (It only impacts tangentially on Gallifrey's mainstream story in the novels that I'd followed from Blood Harvest onward.) However it's an impressive work of imagination and the best portrayal of Gallifrey in the books by a country light-year. Don't worry about where it fits, just enjoy it.


A Review by Richard Salter 5/7/99

I have to say that right until the end I didn't know where this story was supposed to fit into the Doctor's history. And even then it threw up more questions than it resolved. The Doctor himself is somewhat generic to start with, and then many of his Doctorish traits are systematically removed, until what we have left is more human than Time Lord. The plot is rather straightforward, and frighteningly reminiscent of a certain third Doctor story I'm sure has already been mentioned here. Quite where this story leaves that one is anyone's guess.

Having now read everyone else's comments on this from a couple of months ago, I have to say I am firmly in the Pre-Unearthly Child camp, thanks mostly to the last page. My problem with the book is largely the same as my problem with War Of The Daleks. I have no problem with an attempt to ignore or rewrite Doctor Who continuity, as long as the result is something that's really original and clever. With The Infinity Doctors I didn't feel like I was reading anything fresh and inventive, or particularly clever. This is a story that could have been told about the Doctor we're more familiar with, adhering completely to the established continuity for what it's worth, and it would have made little difference to my interest in the plot. As a straightforward story though, it's as well written as any piece of Parkin, and never made me feel bored at all.

A bit of a lost opportunity I feel. 6/10.


Holmes is Where the Heart Is by Jason A. Miller 21/7/99

Ah geez, is it another anniversary story already? Didn't we just do this twenty-five, fifteen, ten, five years ago?

One can easily be forgiven for expressing such thoughts after reading the boilerplate blurb for The Infinity Doctors. Another trip to Gallifrey, more navel gazing, and yet another appearance by that Special Guest Villain who only ever crops up in anniversary stories.

But The Infinity Doctors is terrific.

Almost certainly the best-written book under the auspices of the BBC, The Infinity Doctors owes a large debt to Robert Holmes in both substance and style. Holmes' genius was twofold -- mythic, epic storylines, and brilliant use of apocryphal continuity references which fleshed out a civilization populated by five British character actors. Parkin's genius is to incorporate both of Holmes' skills, while never coming across as an imitator. Indeed, Parkin adds his own strengths to the format, and the worst that can ever be said is that his writing is dry, the authorial lecturing too often intruding on the fictional narrative.

Gallifrey has a rich folklore, and Parkin plays with nearly every thread. In many ways, this 35th anniversary novel is a combination of the plots of the first four Gallifrey stories (three of those made in anniversary years) -- the reader will recognize many names and plot points. But the Gallifrey mythos as reimagined for the Sylvester McCoy years is also heavily drawn upon, and here we explicity learn far, far more about the Doctor's history than has ever been told before -- a grand culmination to tantalizing (and sometimes annoying) references from the Remembrance of the Daleks novel, Timewyrm: Revelation, Time's Crucible, and obviously Lungbarrow, which was almost this good. A famous Holmes scene from Pyramids of Mars is even rewritten wholesale for an early cliffhanger.

In unskilled hands, most of the above could be really, really horrifying in a feature-length novel, so the next bit of brilliance -- and this is unprecedented in 35 years of prior Who -- is to write a story using no Doctor we've ever seen before. Well-placed contradictory references set Infinity both before An Unearthly Child and after Beltempest (the current 8th Doctor story which Infinity went to press). Lance has said before that Infinity was a Paul McGann adventure "with a twist", and it's a fun Internet game to figure out just who is Who. But it's equally fun, while mentally casting McGann (or Davison or Troughton or Tom Baker, whose voices work just as well here), to imagine this as a Doctor Who movie which resets the tables. There's a continuity nod or two to the unused reboot scripts as presented in The Nth Doctor, (another successful book of apocryphal Who, albeit non-fiction). Even if this does happen after the old series, it's still clearly a pilot of some sort -- the devilishly detailed descriptions "The Magistrate" work on both of these levels. The end result is a self contained novel, which is ideally suited to its 280-page length. Indeed, unlike the bulk of other BBC novels, this book is perfectly designed for its length. If this story were squeezed into 250 pages, or expanded to 560, it would be far poorer.

None of this is to suggest that The Infinity Doctors is the perfect Who novel. Holmes (albeit far more experienced than Parkin was when he wrote Deadly Assassin) may have done better. The prose gets dry and lectury, and the book certainly isn't perfectly edited. Even with startling bursts of originality, we still know how the story ends, since at least four other authors resolved it all, decades ago. To read The Infinity Doctors is simply to follow Lance Parkin on a mad dash through the Capitol, holding up the past and often restoring it to digital clarity. The Doctor, this new-old creation, has wit and passion, and the Gallifreyan myths now feel nearly as real to the longtime Doctor Who fan as do the myths of antiquity. After 35 years, the Doctor has truly come Holmes.


A Review by Reuben Herfindahl 10/8/99

Truthfully, I was a bit let down. Not because it wasn't a grand work, not because it wasn't a nostalgic reunion of all 8 Doctors, but more because it wasn't all that clear. I know that was the intent, but it still falls a little flat somehow.

The obvious question brought forth is, does it take place in "our" whoniverse or not. Personally I don't think it does. There are too many setups that point to the Fathers and Brothers idea of the Dr. Who movie/TV series. The earthly mother, the Master being a friend of the Doctor's (I'll get back to this later), etc.. The Fathers and Brothers idea has never sat well with me, it always seemed to much like an idea for a bad Sci-Fi channel movie original of the week to me.

The other problem I have is the Doctor. Who is he supposed to be? The story seems to suggest he is a young Hartnell Doc, or more likely a pre-Hartnell Doc. Another idea I never liked. The trouble is the characterization is more of a Tom Doc, albeit with "short cropped hair". I'm not sure if that was intentional or not. Judging by his previous work (esp. the perfect capturing of the 5th Doctor in Cold Fusion) I wouldn't have guessed Lance would be the type to screw up charactarization, but ... If we assume this takes place in another "whoniverse" than our own, he could very well be the Tom Doc (well, the curly hair still presents a problem...). I have a hard time seeing any other Doctor that could stab someone (yeah, the Hartnel Doc thought about killing in An Unearthly Child, but this is hurting someone that he knows and loves, not some random caveman), be so "whatever" about being a god, and deal with the Sontarans and Rutans the way he did.

It is also the first book that I have read that "seriously" conflicts other books. The whole Master bit completely contradicts The Dark Path and McIntee's subsequent treatments on the character.

I'm not sure if that's why, but it certainly didn't "grip" me the way I expected. I polished off Cold Fusion in a day or so, and was expecting the same feeling to overcome me with The Infinity Doctors, but it didn't.

Overall, it fell in that category of glad I read it, but probably won't pick it up too often again. So, at about the same level as The Bodysnatchers; better than War of the Daleks; and less than Genocide.


A Review by Usman Obaje 22/12/99

From the final episode of The War Games, I have always had a fascination about Gallifrey, and what the Doctor's home planet was like. Stories like The Three Doctors, The Deadly Assasin, Lungbarrow and to some degree, The Invasion of Time I think are the last of the good Gallifrey stories on book or episode. The Infinity Doctors more than validates my opinion. Here are my reasons.

Like some of the previous reviews stated, after a while Gallifrey stopped being interesting, but I believe none of these Virgin or BBC writers know how to write a story that is based on Gallifrey. It's not the easiest of tasks, but I really can't say that any of them try to be original. Parkin, don't get me wrong, has the potential of being a good writer, but he doesn't show that he has any originality in this book. What could I possibly mean, you ask?

  1. The title alone is a combination of Arc of Infinity and The(please fill in the number of your choice) Doctors. Hence The Infinity Doctors (but that may be a tad bit picky)
  2. A major disaster (named in this story as Event Two) plaguing the Time Lords was done before, although not neccessarily better, in The Three Doctors.
  3. The characters in the book are borrowed (for lack of a better word) more than you think. For instance the obvious one was Hedin (Borrowed from Arc of Infinity), but other weren't so obvious such as: the President (The assasination idea was borrowed from The Deadly Assassin, and the president had no character development like the president in The Deadly Assassin), Voran (his charactor is borrowed from Kelnar from Invasion of Time or Maxil from Arc of Infinity. I mean the bickering relationship between him and the Doctor reminds me of the two characters I previously metioned), and Larna (her charactor is borrowed from Rodan from Invasion of Time, and to some degree Romana, only Larna is more of a romance interest here).
  4. The Sontarans and Rutans fighting on Gallifrey is another obvious Invasion of Time ripoff.
Now let's get to the Doctor. Despite the continuity problem that Parkin puts in this book, it's still doesn't capture the Doctor's charactor. Some reasons I had were:
  1. Why is he even on Gallifrey in the first place? I thought one of the characteristics that made the Doctor was that he was a renegade and that he doesn't stay in the same place all the time.
  2. What is with the love interest the Doctor has with Larna? or with Omega's wife as you see later on? I didn't care for either development since it's so unlike the Doctor to be this way, but neither relationships were explained in any real detail. It's like the author just threw in the ideas with no explaining of why.
As for Omega, he is the only constant charactor in the book, but I think it leans more to the fact that he is a villain, and is kept two dimensional. he basically the same as he was in The Three Doctors, and Arc of Infinity.

There are some also some unexplained matters which didn't help to make like this book like,

  1. WHY IN THE WORLD IS THIS BOOK CALLED AN 35TH ANNIVERSARY OF DOCTOR WHO?? I can't see where this book falls into Doctor Who TV or book wise. Other than Omega, and the Doctor (barely) there are no familiar faces from the TV or book series.
  2. How did Omega bring back Larna to life? and What was the point of having the final battle on Skaro?
were other thing that made me dislike this book even futher.

I guess my final statement is that I think this has been a lost opportunity.


Essential Reading by Derek Kompare 8/1/00

For various reasons, I haven't been able to keep up to date with the BBC line. It was difficult to avoid reviews and spoilers on this title for the last year, but I'm glad I did. Aside from the works of Paul Magrs and Lawrence Miles, The Infinity Doctors is the most audacious literary work to come out under the BBC banner. It is also one of the finest and most important books in either publishers’ series, and will be regarded (if it hasn't already) as BBC Books' very own Revelation.

Lance Parkin here solidifies his stature as the "stealth revolutionary" of the DW authors. His works (including the indispensable reference work A History of the Universe, and its Seventh Door predecessor) have so far indicated not only an unparalleled attention to detail, but also a talent for multiple modes of storytelling, a rarity among most DW authors. For example, Just War and The Dying Days have quite distinct, though equally effective, tones. The Infinity Doctors builds on all of these traits, and surpasses his earlier books in its sheer novelty, love, and, well, "singularity!"

The plot seems familiar at first glance, and that's part of the point. The Doctor is a well-travelled Time Lord of Gallifrey, a controversial figure at home, who hosts a peace conference of two warring cultures. At the same time, a catastrophic event from the distant future (and past) threatens the entire universe. The Doctor saves the day. Along the way, though, we are privy to a radical retelling of this familiar tale which joyfully forces us out of familiar boxes and certainties, and into a dizzying, giddy, and profound array of uncertainties: This isn't how events happened...or is it? This isn't "our" Doctor...or is it? The Doctor didn't do that...or did he?

In the words of a lesser scribe, the details of this book's ecstatic "trip" could have been flagged and forced upon us with neon lights and capital letters. Parkin, however, is shrewdly coy and matter-of-fact, disguising these details in otherwise banal passages. There are many points in this novel which stop you in mid-sentence, and make you go back and read the last few lines again: "the Doctor's what?" His prose is always clever and vivid, but also always clean and efficient: almost light. You can't quite snuggle up in it like an Orman, Magrs, Miles, or Cornell, but thankfully so. A Parkin novel is always a deceptively simple story, efficiently told, but with a lasting weight and distinct flavor. Could he be the J.G. Ballard of BBC Books?

If Lance's writing has any flaw, however, it is with plotting. After an incredible build-up, the last third of the novel is a bit more haphazard. Some events happen with scant justification or clarity (e.g. Larna's double-reversal, the Magistrate's fate), while others seem to belong to a more conventional style (the aliens' impatience could have been more subtle). These are minor quibbles, though, in a book that should be read more for its verve, ingenuity, characters, and games than for its plot.

Unique among the entire range, The Infinity Doctors can be read completely on its own. Note that I said "can." Like the Doctor of Gallifrey, it is both separate and integral to its companions, and I suspect that it will gravitate more toward the latter as the series develops. Ultimately, this is not only a book about the Doctor, or even about Doctor Who; it is a book about Doctor Who. It is a work of love, with a unique, cubist take on series mythology, which will have an enormous impact on the future of the series.


To Infinity... and Beyond! by Matt Michael 7/8/00

Stunning. A masterpiece, excellently written and well plotted. The Infinity Doctors has been much criticised along the lines of "where does it fit in continuity?" and "parallel universe stories are pointless". But surely the point of The Infinity Doctors is not to write yet another EDA/PDA, nor to write an alternative universe story. It's a straight reboot of the series, a TV Movie pilot episode, or a cinematic film, taking that continuity which it likes, and forgetting the rest. If the 1996 Paul McGann movie had been produced by someone else, if it had not been a continuation of the BBC tv series, then The Infinity Doctors is a possible version of what we would have been given. To approach it as anything else is to miss the point.

The Infinity Doctors is an anniversary story. And it's the best anniversary story ever. Other celebrations have wallowed in the past: Parkin looks to the future. There are old enemies, but they're only old enemies within the context of the story. To the reader, they're new enemies. You don't need to know anything about the Sontarans or the Rutans to "get" them in this novel. The same applies to Omega. In fact, even if you're familiar with the characters they're still new - subtly different from the "old series" versions. Take the Magistrate - the Doctor's closest friend, but one who is said to have a "black heart". His loss in this pilot episode sets up a story down the line in the new series where a maddened Magistrate, believing the Doctor has abandoned and betrayed him, becomes the Master. The conclusion, as the Doctor leaves Gallifrey to seek out answers in the wider universe, is the perfect starting point for a new series of adventures.

The Doctor is the key to this book - he's been criticised as generic, but I think that's part of the point. Parkin has created the perfect Doctor, a distillation of everything we've seen or read. This is the Doctor's essence, everything that makes his character great, and it's entirely appropriate that this should be the case in a novel celebrating thirty-five years of Who.

So The Infinity Doctors is an unqualified success. A brilliant work which defines everything that is great about the old series, while still showing that there are new possibilities and new directions. And it's convinced me that, handled the right way, a reboot might not be so bad after all. 11/10.


A Review by Sean Gaffney 28/3/02

Infinity Doctors has many points where it's slow paced; in fact the plot takes forever to get started. Moreover the ending gives the feeling of being severely rushed because of this. It's like going from zero to sixty in one second. It's also severely anticlimactic, with even the Doctor admitting he's not sure why his plan actually worked, and the Rutan and Sontaran war being solved by people just sitting down and talking to each other, which made me wonder if Neil from the Young Ones could moderate some peace talks.

Despite this, I found it an absolutely adorable novel. I've always said that ideas and characterization are more important to me than plot, and TID is filled with both. We get a Paul McGann Doctor who never made me think he was going to leap in the air and frolic for no reason, like many 8DAs do. Larna's terrific, managing to avoid being Romana (I really wanted to see her fight with a staff at one point, though. ^_-). Omega is big, tragic, passionate, and desperate. And, in contrast to this, we have the other Time Lords, to greater or lesser degree, who all pale before the vibrant lead duo, but rarely become boring as a result.

I also loved the sheer concept behind this. It can be enjoyed as a continuity/canonfest, sure, and many refs will just fly by the newbie. But very few of the refs HAVE to be understood; someone can simply see them as throwaway things - indeed, several throwaway things are included as well, so that it forms a nice melange of stuff that didn't happen for the continuity freak as well.

< reads last sentence, goes to stick head in ice bucket for a bit, comes back more coherent >

I hate arguing about where in the canon this fits, as I think trying to fit it in makes it lose some of its magic. TID tries to reexamine the Doctor as an archetype, using new and old tropes. By the end, he's gone through an amazing experience, having done majestic and horrible things. To say that 'after this, he left with Susan and the show began', or 'this all happened after he returned to Gallifrey later' strips it of that quality a bit, makes the whole thing more ordinary. It's all-encompassing. This is the Doctor, always, be it in TID, or with Grace, or pregnant Benny, or Izzy, or Sam.

So to sum up: as a plotted book, I felt there were some elements that could have been paced a lot better. As a book examining this character we love called The Doctor, it made my head spin. Kudos.


A Review by Terrence Keenan 13/7/02

I admire Chutzpah in a writer. I always believe that if you're going to do something outrageous in a book series, then go all the way. It's why Father Time is one of my favorite novels. This also explain why I enjoyed The Infinity Doctors.

Lance Parkin decides to tackle the whole Gallifrey/Doctor histories in one novel. Every idea, good and bad, TV, comic strip or book-related, gets tossed into the Parkin blender and set on puree.

Question one: is this a Pre-Hartnell, a Post-McGann or an Alt-Doc tale?

Answer: It doesn't matter. The Infinity Doctors, despite all of the continuity, isn't an attempt to do the Gary Russell/John Peel thing of having all of the Gallifrey/Doctor stuff make linear sense. This is where the Chutzpah comes in. Similar to some of the reconstruction ideas in Father Time, Parkin creates his own Gallifrey. And as far as he's concerned, you can place this story where you want, and he'll agree with you.

On the Character side of things, we get a Doctor, who could be any we've seen or read, but tweaked enough to where he's a unique character. Because he's off, Parkin can have this Doctor do some un-Doctor-like things, yet still be a character we can identify and love. What Parkin does to the Doctor, he does to other characters we might know, Including the Master (Magistrate), Romana (Larna) and Omega.

The story itself, like characters, is a blend of the two TV Omega tales with chunks of The Deadly Assassin tossed in. The first two parts flow together nicely, and are paced well -- slow buildups moving to a fast cliffhanger. The third section is very slow, however, and features the weakest of the climaxes. There is also some high physics mixed in which bog down the flow, and a questionable action by Larna which didn't ring true (of less said of the resolution to this, the better).

To sum up: The Infinity Doctors, despite some story flaws, and a few forced ideas (Unlike Father Time), is a worthwhile read, a lot of fun, and another example of why Lance Parkin is one of the big gun Authors in DW books.


Why we love The Doctor by Joe Ford 24/7/02

I picked up this book with little or no knowledge as to what I would find inside. It had Lance Parkin's name on the cover and that was reason enough to demand a read. All I understood was that it featured many elements of established Who and no fixed Doctor (or companion). Perhaps that's why I was initially skeptical... all the elements of what I consider a good Doctor Who story were missing... the earth setting, monsters, a companion getting into mishief... boy was I a fool.

The Infinity Doctors is by far the best work of Doctor Who fiction we are ever likely to get. It's a comprehensive, involving epic that establishes perfectly why the show is so worth loving. Personally since The Arc of Infinity I have hated any Doctor Who story set on Gallifrey. What a tired, worn out and thoroughly boring place to set an adventure. Wrong again. It's thanks to the remarkable talents of Lance Parkin that we are treated to a vision of Gallifrey like no other. Even the great Robert Holmes didn't paint a picture as well as this and that is saying something. The Gallifrey we are treated to here has all the trademarks, arrogant Time Lords, madmen, control of the web of time, structured-ordered lives, ceremonial robes, etc, etc but under Parkin's control it all feels so fresh and alive and for one reason only. The Doctor.

His first appearance sitting in his archetypal room does nothing but fill me with love for him. His ideals, his lifestyle, his very existence contrasts so much with that of Gallifrey that setting him up in permenant residence highlights how he can ignite even the blandest of settings. Everything he does in this novel is perfect. At no point did I question any of his actions and I regularly found myself enjoying this Doctor's unusual traits (he has had a wife, he is very affectionate with the Lady Larna, he murders, he risks his life recklessly). His dialogue was brilliant especially his theories on running the entire universe. His relationship with Larna is supremely engaging and the shock twist at the end of part three left me reeling. They make an irresistable pair and I only wished they could have had their own series of adventures at the end. But that would have ruined the point of this adventure, it is a a one off, a masterpiece, a shocking reminder of the scope of the show and the brilliance of many of its ideas.

Do you have to be a regular reader? Not at all and this is where the book impresses me the most. With no references at all to any past adventures this could be seen as a set up novel in its own right. Of course as a long time fan you will be rewarded much more for knowing about Gallifrey, The Eye of Harmony, The Sontarans, etc but everything is mercilessly described as if seen for the first time so a first time reader could learn a lot from it.

And the plot? So caught up in the book was I that I took a few days off work just so I could finish it. I kid you not! It starts as an intruiging mystery with some nasty horror moments but soon develops into a SF monster of a book with some really big concepts flying around. That was another thing that impressed me... alternative universes, black holes, timegates, Event Two... big, BIG SF ideas thrown about as casually as ordering dinner. The last third is a huge twist after twist climax, a real race against time dilemma for the Doctor and another one of those 'the universe in danger' endings that Doctor Who does so bloody well.

The Sontarans and The Rutans are in there too. And they are not superflous despite other opinions! I greatly appreciated this in depth look at these two species that have long been part of Doctor Who lore. All the stuff about how their war started and why the Sontarans look how they do was fascinating. If you are going to put old monsters in a book then this how to do it... expand and make them more dimensional than you can on the telly. And as for the ending of this plot... kudos to Parkin for pulling of a predictable end in such style. Is there no end to this guy's talent?

To sum up... a bloody great mamoth of a book stuffed to burst with wonderful ideas, a gripping plot, a good pace, exceptional characters, brilliant dialouge and the best prose in the range. Lance Parkin's prose is something special indeed... dramatic, evocative, humorous and imaginative. This is a master-work from start to finish andd an absolute must read for any SF fan.


A Review by Andrew McCaffrey 23/11/03

Since this is the month that Doctor Who turns forty years old (who's bringing the whoopee cushion to the Doctor's birthday party?), I decided to look back to the last anniversary year that was evenly divisible by five. The thirty-fifth anniversary was celebrated by the release of The Infinity Doctors by Lance Parkin (his first effort for BBC books). I can't remember the last time that the thirty-fifth anniversary of anything was celebrated, but if we indeed must acknowledge every fifth anniversary of the series by a special release, we could do a lot worse than to have releases of the quality on display here.

The Infinity Doctors starts with a passage that's more than a little reminiscent of the beginning of Paul Cornell's Timewyrm: Revelation But, tellingly, it's not just a rehash of that earlier piece of prose; it takes that reference and directs it in a new and equally good direction. And throughout much of this story, there are elements that are, if not borrowed, at least seem a little bit familiar. But that isn't a criticism. In fact, it's a bonus. It's got enough references to the past to fulfill its role as an anniversary romp, while managing to tell an original enough story to prevent a complete wallowing in nostalgia. It's a fine line to walk, one that gets more difficult with every passing divisible-by-five year anniversary. I'm frankly surprised that it's still possible to get away with it.

The Infinity Doctors is painted on a huge canvas. The background to the story involves a High Councilor of Gallifrey known as the Doctor, who is organizing a peace treaty between the Sontarans and the Rutans, two races locked in combat for countless millennia. The power of the Time Lords has plucked two representatives of those species from an appropriate period in history and the Doctor is working as an arbiter between them. But, naturally, things are not going as planned. And a slight blip on the Time Lord equivalent of a radar screen spells consequences and disaster, not only for their world, but for all worlds everywhere.

There's a line one can draw from Terrance Dicks, to Robert Holmes, to the Cartmel Masterplan, to here. Each took what fictional facts were known about the Doctor's people, threw away the bad, and expounded on and developed the rest. Terrance Dicks turned the creators of the TARDIS into Gods. Robert Holmes kept their great powers and jettisoned their God-like status, making them into squabbling academics. The Cartmel Masterplan built upon the legends and the fragments of the Old Time of Gallifrey, based almost entirely on Omega's speeches in The Three Doctors and the recording of the history of Gallifrey that Engin plays in The Deadly Assassin. It ignored all the boring and awful stories that had been built up in the current day Gallifrey (it's interesting to note that in the three years of Andrew Cartmel's script editorship, modern Gallifrey does not appear on screen).

The Infinity Doctors plays a similar game. Virtually the whole foundation of Parkin's Gallifrey is based on those hints and stories that displayed the best that Gallifrey had to offer, and it conveniently ignores those bits that make a discriminating fanboy shudder. So, we delve heavily into the stories of the Old Times, but we have not a mention of the Time Tots. The result is a "set on Gallifrey" story as they should be told, with mystery, excitement and power, not as they were told during the Graham Williams and John Nathan-Turner eras, which featured less than satisfying adventures.

Now before I get completely overwhelmed by talk of Gallifrey, Time Lords and all that jazz, I should talk about how the book works as a standalone story. The Infinityy Doctors feels epic. Not just because it features The Return Of You-Know-Who (Again), but because of its subject matter. We have a book with effective and powerful prose. It starts slow and steady, which makes the later conflicts appear that much more menacing.

I have fond memories of my first reading of The Infinity Doctors. It was the book that got me back into the world of Doctor Who novels after a double-whammy of the book license switchover and a horrendous lack of free time conspired to pull me away. The Infinity Doctors may not be the greatest Doctor Who story of all time (though it's damn close, the only minor problems are slight authorial indulgences that the editor should have curtailed), but it might be the most representative. It's got everything: time travel, old enemies, world building, an intriguing plot, devious and enjoyable characters, and the fate of the universe at stake. It even throws in some rarer elements, but makes them feel perfectly at home (by this, I mean the romance; who would have guessed that it could turn out so well in a Doctor Who story?). This is the single anniversary story that you could give to a non-fan and have he/she both understand it and enjoy it. If I were to be trapped on the proverbial deserted island with my pick of only one Doctor Who story to take with me, then I can only say that The Infinity Doctors would make a very strong case for being that selection.

This month, the fortieth anniversary month, the Doctor Who release is either Deadly Reunion by Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks, or The Scream of the Shalka by Paul Cornell, depending on what your medium of choice is. Call it a hunch, but I seriously doubt that the fortieth anniversary will be celebrated in as progressive or as satisfying a manner as the thirty-fifth was.


A Review by Brian May 16/9/10

Doctor Who's official 35th anniversary celebration, The Infinity Doctors, is an extraordinarily evocative, atmospheric and beautifully written novel. It's a tribute to all things Time Lord, acknowledging the televised Gallifrey stories, the Marvel comics, the 1996 telemovie, the Virgin novels' vision and the recent efforts from the current BBC Books line. Lance Parkin adopts a pick-and-mix approach to continuity, blending various elements together while refuting others, but somehow he remains respectful to them all.

The novel amalgamates the best we know of Gallifrey, eliminating the worst. The Capitol is a fascinating and detailed place: a titanic edifice full of imposing statues; a grand Panopticon; busy control rooms; mysterious, shadow-laden corners; cosy living quarters. The Low Town, when introduced by Terrance Dicks in The Eight Doctors, was merely one of his hard-boiled, mean-streets cliches; here, Parkin turns the laneways and markets into a vibrant community. The half page devoted to Oldharbour clock tower's sentient figures adds nothing to the story, but it's still a gorgeous moment, magical in its elucidations yet terrifying in the casual revelation of their future.

But it's high time we discussed the Doctor: a senior member of the High Council; part of the establishment, yet still a mover and shaker; an oval-faced, silk-shirt-wearing half-human who owns a cat called Wycliff; he was once married and is (or was) a father and grandfather. He's a dancing romantic who has travelled extensively, having a soft spot for Earth. He has a TARDIS, but still needs to access it from a heavily guarded cradle. He's a wonderful character, whichever incarnation he is. The exact truth is open to conjecture, with suggestions he's the first Doctor prior to his ultimate departure with Susan (the oval face backs up the idea of a young William Hartnell); the second, forced to stay on Gallifrey after his trial (again, the oval face); or the eighth Doctor having returned home and settled down; indeed, I heard Paul McGann's voice in my head whenever I read the Doctor's dialogue. Or perhaps he's a future Doctor? However, any Doctor after the fifth is unlikely, given Hedin's presence; he died in Arc of Infinity. Or perhaps he didn't? Perhaps a regeneration was enforced off-screen? But then he surely wouldn't have been allowed back into such a senior position after his treachery? And what of the Magistrate? He's clearly the Master, and a wonderfully Delgado-esque rendition at that, somewhere along his timeline.

No, this is an alternate reality, an argument backed up on pp.224-225. That would fit the Doctor, the Magistrate, Hedin and any other continuity-related complaints the reader may have. These pages also verify that Omega is the same, though, but that's feasible enough. He looks different, but then he changed his appearance in his two televised stories, so why not here?

I'll come back to the terms I used in the opening paragraph: evocative and atmospheric. They're not just relevant to the Capitol and the Low Town, but also the far future, where lies the Needle. This is a hauntingly beautiful but simultaneously desolate place, as evidenced by the depictions we read as the Doctor arrives and explores. Indeed, all the sections at the end of time produce a similar melancholy: the book ventures into the ultra-cosmic realms, each and every wondrous example serving to make us humans realise what small, short-lived dots we are in the face of infinity. Our mortality is overshadowed by the reminder that the universe will also die, and that we won't be around for this is convincingly made out to be a consolation.

Despite all this, Parkin doesn't lose his sense of humour; the in-joke at the top of p.229 would normally make me cringe, yet this author pulls it off. There's heaps of smashing dialogue: the Doctor's speech on p.200 is a favourite, and Doctor Who's usual irreverence remains; while not definitively challenging authority figures, it does poke gentle fun at them. The Sontarans and Rutans are also used particularly well. A few things don't work: there's a bit of over-description here and there (the Doctor's fight with Savar and the climax are cases in point), while Larna's resurrection negates the pointlessness of her death, caused in no small part by the Doctor. True, it serves to emphasise Omega's power, but I think the tragedy of Larna dying is stronger.

A novel that also ventures into the realms of fantasy, what with Omega's kingdom, and detours into horror (Larna's nightmare), The Infinity Doctors is incredibly broad, but its disparate elements meld into something quite special. It's a continuity free-for-all, quite brazenly so, but given this is a celebratory one-off this is more excusable than similar liberties that Who readers have been subjected to. The fact it's so enchanting also helps. 9/10