The Doctor runs hot and cold; Ace loses a door.
I adore the Doctor burning his toast in the prologue. For some reason, I can imagine the TARDIS kitchen vividly in my head. To me, it’s a cramped, long galley, at odds with the fractal dimensions of the ship itself. Its metal surfaces are a cobalt blue. The BBC certainly couldn’t have afforded to build it for the 1990 season.
I seem to recall this story has an illusory feel akin to Revelation. If that is the case, is it wise to do so immediately afterwards? I suppose one might as well as if we have to have a magic box flying through time every story- the land of dreams and fantasy is in Doctor Who’s DNA. Most of the time, however, the dreams (or nightmares) are real.
Marc Platt wrote my favourite Sylv story, Ghost Light, so it’s hardly surprising that he starts the novel by chucking us in the deep end. In contrast to Cornell’s recounting of the Doctor’s youth in Revelation, we are treated to a Gallifreyan of Rassilon’s time, Vael, who is a brilliant and troubled young man. Platt peppers clues that this is Gallifrey’s distant, unfamiliar past, with Rassilon still alive and the mythological nature of the Pythias and the Sphinx. It is strangely uninvolving at first, but by the time that Vael attacks poor Loie we are invested in this world.
If nothing else, just these early chapters knock spots off anything the TV series did with Gallifrey during the 1980s.
Why are we back in Perivale? Does Ace want to see her mother, having been unable to speak to her in the last novel? When Ace passes Audrey during the time distortion, she berates her even though she can’t hear. Perhaps this is the only way Ace can get out her frustrations with her mother- when her mother is unlikely to answer back.
The TARDIS doors being just out of perception is a great conceit to get across the idea of the different perceptions of dimension. Remember when the Doctor showed Leela the two boxes on The Robots of Death? If one were to look at the boxes from the opposite direction, the Doctor’s explanation would hold no water at all. Threatened, the TARDIS responds with the essence of its nature, by manipulating time and relative dimensions.
I’m intrigued to see where this novel goes, and I recall enjoying it the last time I read it. I’m pretty sure this is the first NA I saw in a bookshop here in Australia when it first came out, as the cover became imprinted on my memory. I did get some NAS later for a Christmas present, but this wasn’t amongst them. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it all the more now!
Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible– Prologue and Chapters 1-5