display | more...

The Coming of the Terraphiles, or in full "Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles, is a novel by Michael Moorcock, published in 2010, and featuring the 11th Doctor.

Michael Moorcock is one of the leading fantasy writers in Britain, and as a writer and an editor was one of the key figures in the New Wave of science-fiction. He is also (like just about everyone else in Britain's fantasy/science-fiction community) a long time fan of Doctor Who, and so finally, in 2010, the two of them were brought together. It is somewhat hard to come up with a proper American anthology for what it means for Michael Moorcock to write a Doctor Who novel: roughly, it is like if Martin Scorsese was to write and direct an episode of The Simpsons. Just the fact of the book is somewhat of an event, as cued in by the glowing review on the book's cover by Neil Gaiman, who himself recently got a chance to write for Doctor Who.

All of which is very nice, but does it translate into a good book? The plot of the book ties into Michael Moorcock's other works, where the multiverse is caught in a constant war between entities representing order and chaos, with a constant threat of universal dissolution. All of which is mixed up with a semi-absurd comedy of manners, where the titular Terraphiles, aliens who have adopted what they think is Victorian and Edwardian English customs, are caught in the middle of aforementioned universal destruction, much of which involves a stolen ridiculous hat.

Does all of that seem ridiculous and hard to explain? Broad satire mixed with mind-bending spacey-waceyness? Well, that is kind of what Doctor Who is about.

Without talking too much about the plot and its resolution, there are two things that probably need to be analyzed before deciding whether or not this work succeeds. The first, discussed in my review for the episode "The Idiot Lantern", is the relative merits of Doctor Who as a comedic adventure series designed to appeal to British sensibilities, versus Doctor Who as an avant-garde science-fiction show. Although Moorcock is certainly a conceptual writer with a cult-following, much of this book is actually in the first vein: much of the book's plot centers around social status, arranging marriages, and the pastimes of the idle rich. Most of which I find interesting in the abstract, but is not specifically why I am interested in Doctor Who.

The second issue is Doctor Who's status as a visual story. There is nothing actually that original about the basic premise of Doctor Who (the show or the character): an eccentric genius with a time machine. The charm of the show has always come from the little details that the talented actors have brought to the role. While Michael Moorcock does a good job of catching the abstract idea of The Doctor, his book doesn't really capture all the little details that bring the character to life, and also doesn't specifically capture The 11th Doctor, and Matt Smith's energetic performance of him.

So overall, I liked this book, and if nothing else I got lots of points of geek cred for reading it. But I also can't say that the book quite captured the promise that Moorcock writing a Doctor Who novel could have brought.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.