doctor who - the wheel of iceStephen Baxter
Penguin Books
2012

Hurtling through a vortex beyond time and space is a police box that’s not a police box. The TARDIS has carried the Doctor and his companions, Jamie and Zoe, to all sorts of places, but now, when they don’t want to go anywhere, the TARDIS makes a decision for them. Like it or not, they’re coming in for a landing, who knows where or when… The Wheel. A ring of ice and metal around a moon of Saturn, home to a mining colony supplying a resource-hungry Earth. It’s a bad place to live–and a worse place to grow up. The colony has been plagued by problems. Maybe it’s only a run of bad luck, but the equipment failures and thefts of resources have been increasing. And among the children there are stories of mysterious creatures glimpsed aboard the Wheel. Some of the younger workers are even refusing to go down into the warren-like mines anymore. And then one of them, surfing Saturn’s rings, saves an enigmatic blue box from destruction. Once on the Wheel, the Doctor and his companions face a critical situation when they become suspected by some as the source of the ongoing sabotage. They soon find themselves caught in a mystery that goes all the way back to the creation of the solar system. A mystery that could destroy the Wheel–and kill them all…

Of the…well, I’m going to go ahead and say twelve Doctors there have been, perhaps it is the Second Doctor that has been the most enigmatic. Not because his tenure as the beloved time-and-space travelling alien had been un-memorable (far from it), it just seems there’s so much lack of substantial surviving material featuring the Second Doctor, it’s almost as if the universe had conspired to downplay his contribution to the Doctor Who mythos. And that’s just the amount of episodes that have survived intact. As far as the novels that features the Second Doctor and his companions, The Wheel Of Ice is the only one I’ve read thus far. Well, second one if you count the novelization of The Ice Warriors serial. Which I don’t, in this case.

Anyway, The Wheel Of Ice finds the Second Doctor and his companions Jamie and Zoe making an unexpected landing in the rings of Saturn, where a colony of miners living in a construction around a tiny moon (the titular “Wheel of Ice”), and everyone works towards mining a rare mineral that would mean a very powerful source of energy. Of course, there’s much more than meets the eye, and so the Doctor determines to figure out the mystery behind the acts of sabotage that have been occurring. Of course, there’s the even more mysterious “blue dolls” to contend with, as well as the rather bullish corporate head who really wants to mine the rare mineral at all costs (ALL costs), and a bunch of hot-headed youths who are more than unsatisfied with the imposed caste system on the Wheel. Underneath it all, there’s an eons-old…thing that is a refugee from the universe that preceded this one, trying to get back to a home that doesn’t exist anymore, and it’s none too happy about that. And Jamie misses his bagpipes. Had to throw that one in there.

Overall, The Wheel Of Ice was a fairly serviceable Doctor Who yarn. The story was entertaining enough, if not a bit derivative of Charles Dickens, a speculation strengthened by Dickens being referenced in a section that flashes back to a character’s ancestry. And no, Dickens isn’t the direct ancestor…and no, I’m not going to say how he’s referenced. Think of this as a very, very loose adaptation of A Tale Of Two Cities. Very loose. For lack of a better comparison at the moment.

As I mentioned, this is a fairly standard, fairly entertaining Doctor Who novel. It doesn’t really expound much on the overall mythos, but the handling of the characters were spot-on. I did find reading Jamie’s Scottish dialect a bit off-putting at first, but I got used to it. I need to start scoping out more Classic Doctor-set novels, see if they’re out there. In the meantime, fans of the Second Doctor, and those needing something different from the standard 10th and 11th Doctor novels these past few years, should check this one out sometime.

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