THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BIG FINISH AUDIO
OFFICIAL BBC 'PAST
RELEASED IN AUGUST
The year is 1878.
Three ships of the
Spacefleet have just
set course for the
moon. BUT the moon of
1878 is far from
Christopher Bulis is one of very few Doctor Who authors whose work I am able to approach without the slightest idea of what to expect. Much of his output to date has spectacularly failed to leave any sort of positive impression on me (or in some cases, any impression at all!), yet a certain, small group novels (which “Imperial Moon” can now count itself as being amongst) I have found absolutely dazzling.
Perhaps the most immediately arresting aspect of “Imperial Moon” is its barefacedly bold assertion that in 1878, the British Empire put its shipbuilding skills to unprecedented use when it sent a whole fleet of rocket ships to the dark side of the moon. This idea is so audacious, in fact, that when reading the first few chapters of the novel, I found myself expecting a retcon that never came.
“You'd be locked inside a transcendental self-negating cyclical paradox for eternity!”
But “Imperial Moon” does not stop there with its distinguishing devices. Not content with having Halliwell and his men pip Neil Armstrong and his buddies to the post by almost ninety years, Bulis has the Doctor and Turlough happen upon a diary that outlines the whole expedition in great detail… including their role in it! Not only does this serve as a luscious lead-in to the main events of the story, but it also proves to be an irresistible temptation to Turlough throughout - it is fascinating to see him peek into the diary for illicit snippets of the future as the events unfold around him. More importantly though, this diary puts the Doctor in a remarkable position as he realises that to the best of his knowledge, the British Empire never reached the moon in 1878, and that as such he really ought to step in with his Time Lord powers and sort out the apparent “permitted temporal paradox” by deciding which timeline should continue and which should perish – the one that he recalls, or this apparently divergent (though admittedly fascinating) one.
Aside from the wonderful Jules Verne feel that this tale has, I also enjoyed reading about the previously-unused TARDIS crew of the fifth Doctor, Turlough and Kamelion. Whilst the latter has little to do other than pull off a last-minute rescue or two, Turlough is used very well indeed by the author. Here we get to see the boy with “a blank space where his past should be” in a whole new light as he looks inside himself (almost literally, at one point, thanks to Kamelion) and even falls hopelessly for a Phiadorian woman, Lytalia. She turns out to be a rapacious human-eating Vrall, of course, which I found to be quite fitting in a cruel sort of way.
There were lots of other elements in this book that I enjoyed too, particularly concerning the deliberately hammy romance between Emily Boyes-Dennison and Halliwell. Their scenes together in the alien experiment are especially stirring. “Imperial Moon” also finishes astoundingly strongly, the resolution of the apparent paradox coming as a complete (not mention very welcome) surprise.
And so on the whole, I would say that “Imperial Moon” is without a doubt Bulis’ finest novel to date by a significant margin. Mind you, I liked “The Eye of the Giant” and so I am unsure as
to how much weight that statement will carry!
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This novel’s blurb suggests that it takes place between the television serials Resurrection of the Daleks and Planet of Fire. As the text doesn’t appear to suggest a more specific placement, we have therefore positioned it between the audio dramas Phantasmagoria and Loups-Garoux, which were released either side of it.
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