earthworld 1 earthworld 2

Jacqueline Rayner
BBC Worldwide, LTD. / BBC Books
2001 / 2013

Anji has just had the worst week of her life. She should be back at her desk, not traveling through time and space in a police box. The Eighth Doctor is supposed to be taking her home, so why are there dinosaurs outside? The Doctor doesn’t seem to know either, or else he surely would have mentioned the homicidal princesses, teen terrorists and mad robots? One thing is certain: Anji is never going to complain about Monday mornings in the office again.

We are up to the eighth title in the eleven book reissue series of Doctor Who 50th Anniversary novels, this one being an Eighth Doctor adventure. Seeing as how the Eighth iteration of the Doctor has relied mostly on novels and audio dramas to expound on his legacy in the Who-niverse (sorry), it’s a pity I came in so late in the game collecting and reading (and subsequently, reviewing) the novels, when a lot of the original printings of the Eighth Doctor adventures are hard to find outside of the interwebs. A reprint like this, more readily available to a Midwest America geek like myself, is a good thing. Could use more of them, really.

Anyway, Earthworld finds the Doctor and companions Anji and “Fitz” arriving in what appears to be prehistoric Earth, but then discover soon thereafter that it’s not really Earth—and not really prehistoric times. Things seem…off. The Doctor and Anji are captured by a security robot, while “Fitz” manages to escape into an odd approximation of London by way of Ancient Egypt. Turns out, the place the TARDIS took them to was the titular Earthworld—a theme park of ancient Earth history designed as a tourist attraction on New Jupiter. Only, it’s quite evident that the historical records of Earth are a bit…off. Fitz is captured by psychotic triplets who force him to perform his rock n’ roll songs; meanwhile, the Doctor and Anji escape with a handful of teenage “freedom fighters” and head back to the Earthworld park, and then the androids in the park go on the fritz and start murdering people. Yeah, that always seems to happen, there.

As I mentioned previously, I don’t really know all that much back story involving the Eighth Doctor, as I haven’t been able to read much more than two of his extended adventure novels. I hope to remedy that in the future; in the meantime, I did have to hit a couple of Doctor Who wiki’s just to get enough of a back story on the two companions (especially Fitz…it seems I may need to start a flow chart with that one), to say nothing of references to the past Eighth Doctor stories that lead up to why he was the way he was in this outing—specifically, the amnesia and all of that fun stuff. Regardless, though…man, was Earthworld a fine adventure. The more I read the Eighth Doctor’s stories, the more I think that this very well was what the Sixth Doctor could have been like, had the show runners at the time weren’t a bunch of coked-out wankers and actually cared for the character. You got the gleeful insanity, some fantastic interaction between the characters, and overall the entire story is actually quite Shakespearian in the telling. The story had this interesting tendency to go from whimsical to absurdest to rather dark in the blink of a visual sensor, which is how it should be; a Doctor Who story should be able to keep you unsettled, yet engaged. And as such, Earthworld succeeds beautifully.