The Eleventh Doctor and Clara land on an unknown alien planet. To the Doctor’s delight and Clara’s astonishment, it really is unknown. It’s a planet the Doctor has never seen. It’s not on any maps, it’s not referenced on any star charts or in the TARDIS data banks. It doesn’t even have a name. What could be so terrible that its existence has been erased?
As I said in my Book Haul post last week, I chose this particular short story from the “Time Trips” range because I enjoyed Jenny’s previous full-length “Doctor Who” novel, “Dark Horizons”. Unfortunately, for me, I didn’t enjoy this book as much.
The character of the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor is written well. You get the joy of exploring new worlds – in particular a world with no identification (for reasons that become apparent later in the story), the poor puns, the fondness for hats and “the cool”, but with this short story you also get the baggage of what it is to be the Doctor – the weight of the knowledge that he carries and the decisions that he has to make, along with the fire that he carries in his belly when he sees injustice.
For the character of Clara, I couldn’t quite get the same handle on her as I get from Jenna Coleman’s performance. The story seems to be set after the events of the fiftieth anniversary story, “The Day Of The Doctor”, because she references the fact that Gallifrey is missing, but the character seems to be a mixture of the version that we see before the events of the Series Seven episode”The Name Of The Doctor” where she doesn’t have a handle of who the Doctor is because he is very much an enigma to her and the events after that story where she is aware that the splinters of the main Clara have been living parallel lives for centuries whilst protecting the Doctor. That said, there are some lovely touches as Ms Colgan embellishes Clara’s background by building on the behaviours from her nannying and teaching backgrounds (which becomes a significant plot point in the middle of the story), whilst providing recollections of her childhood at Sunday School – which becomes an important plot point for the reasons why the planet is an unknown one.
The “Eleven”/Clara partnership is written well, given the difficulty I had with the way that Clara was written. The pairing onscreen is a very tactile relationship, giving and receiving hugs between each other, but there is also the traits of the Doctor trying to impress Clara whilst acting as her protector. Clara has an interesting relationship with the Doctor in this story in that she knows him, to varying degrees, due to the fact that she has existed along his timeline, plus there is a hint of attraction that, if you have seen Matt Smith’s last episode, “The Time Of The Doctor” gets fully realised in the “Truth Field” scene.
The “villain” for this piece, Etienne, comes across as a bit of a brat, much as in the same category of the character of Luke Rattigan in the Series Four two-parter “The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky”. Without giving away any spoilers, he tries to be the king of his own world without a single thought about the morality of his actions – particularly upon his victims. He brags about the fact that he is intelligent – citing an example of when he hacked into the Nestene Consciousness, making them in his words the “Nestene Semi-Conscious”, and it’s this braggart nature which makes the character all the more repellant. He does things simply because he has the ability to, regardless of consequence.
The story itself is a mash of several types of genre within “Doctor Who”‘s history. You get a mysterious planet story such as from the first four episodes of “The Trial Of A Time Lord” or the early parts of “The Time Of The Doctor” with shifting forests and giant snakes, you get a mad scientist type story such as “The Brain of Morbius” (I won’t say more as it is a major spoiler) and, in one chunk of the story, a morality tale as in “Kinda” which holds a significant parallel to the Adam and Eve story from The Bible.
This was a story that was crying out to have a wider scope and I wish it had been a full length novel which would have allowed an opportunity for fleshing out the characters, both primary and secondary, and a more effective tying up of loose ends – especially as you don’t find out what planet the pair have travelled to by the story’s end, apart from the reason why it is unknown.
“Into The Nowhere” is a nice diversion for a Sunday afternoon, but I hope that Ms Colgan has the chance to write some more full length stories as “Dark Horizons” was a cracker.