Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Anachrophobia by Jonathan Morris


Plot: On a desolate, unnamed planet a war is raging. A war where time is being used as a weapon, where you can be aged to death in seconds or trapped in a moment for an eternity. Something else is about to emerge from the conflict, an alien force that offers a tempting choice to change the past and lose your identity forever…

Top Doc: Continuing his weakness from the previous book, the Doctor is having terrible trouble coping with the loss of his second heart, his single heart trying to do the work of two. Ever since London (Adventuress) a shadow has hung over him. He hasn’t just lost his heart but a part of what he was. He’s now quick to tire, prone to explosive bursts of anger and surprised at his own pain and exhaustion. He has become all too human, mortal and vulnerable. He admits he is the least plutocratic person anybody is likely to meet. He is an amateur showing a philanthropic interest. Fitz asks him why he is so insufferably cheerful? He says he can live with his conscience and refuses to change his past, refusing to throw his life away on a regret. All he has done (good and bad) is what has made him who he is today. Proving he is still the hero we know and love he provides two ingenious schemes to defeat the clock people (see Twists).

Scruffy Git: The perpetual student. Fitz thinks the Doctor needs protecting and suspects they are being manipulated (turns out he is right!). He feels his memories are clouding over, no doubt a mixture of his ‘remembering’ in Interference and his Mind fuck in Earthworld. He fears the Doctor asks him to throw light over the situation out a sense of cruelty and sarcasm. In his experience the impossible turns out to be the all too bloody likely! When the Doctor gets rattle (as he does here), Fitz gets scared. He tries to think of himself as Fitz-about-the-universe but there are far too many failed romances, which are starting to look like wasted opportunities.

Career Nazi: It’s another marvellous Anji story where she is showed to be brave and strong willed and tireless. She has to suffer a lot in this book and she still comes out fighting. She is extremely protective of the Doctor these days (and not just because he is the only one who can get her home). Described as a sentimental businesswoman. The Doctor tells her she is wonderful and that he wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of her in a business meeting. When they discuss the clock peoples tempting offer to allow you to reach into your past and change things,
the Doctor reminds Anji of her betrayal in Hope and she calls him a heartless bastard, clearly still sore from her mistake. She manages to figure out the whole pointlessness of the war from a financial point of view, Jonathan Morris using her previous career in an ingenious fashion.

Foreboding: Mistletoe (aka Sabbath) tells Anji that the Doctor’s heart is in the right place. The Doctor attempts to hide away a scruffy leather bound manuscript he picked up in 1938, a book that is soon to become an extremely important plot device. Sabbath’s revelation that his masters now control the time vortex is shocking…

Twists: The terrifying opening featuring two men ageing to death is a memorable sign of the terrors to come. The TARDIS is pulled to the planet by a terrifying force but is too tired to fight it and the Doctor has to switch off all her systems to stop her tearing herself apart. The war being raged as an extremely unusual one with accelerated and decelerated time zones. The timepiece airlock is ingenious. The first glimpse of the time capsule is vivid, a forbidding globe poised over a maw of a pit. The first time dive is skilfully executed, with events spiralling horribly out of control. 26 people are executed when they are found to have Anachrophobia but they were well within their budget!! When the Doctor and Fitz go on a time dive, the capsule clangs and rocks as something tries to get inside. Unbelievably, the officious Mistletoe orders Bishop thrown in with the infected to see how virulent Anachrophobia is and says, “You there, be a good fellow and move nearer the soldiers, will you?” In a truly horrific sequence Lane attempts to slash her wrists open only to find coils, springs, cogs and wheels nestling inside. The ‘regrets’ which turn the soldiers in clock people are all disturbing, Norton hitting his girlfriend, Bragg’s denial of his homosexuality, Lane slitting her wrists… The Doctor cuts open Bishop’s chest to reveal a pendulum swinging inside! The zombie clock people, gliding through the base tick tocking, are really eerie. Shaw shoots Lane in the (clock) face and it shatters, bloody pulp spilling out (that is horrible). The Doctor’s plan to kill the clock people with mustard gas is very clever but sickening, they keep trying to turn time back and avoid their deaths and end up repeating them over and over…skin blistering, faces shattering, blood and phlegm spitting out. Shaw is ousted as a defaulter agent, trying to get a victim of the disease to the enemy camp so they can use it as a weapon. Station One is an expressionistic nightmare, everybody going about their usual business, shopping, playing at school, working in factories but all silently with clock faces. The decision makes behind the war a revealed to be robots left here four centuries ago. The war has been deliberately prolonged, the actuaries controlling both sides and reaping the profits. Unfortunately they cannot remember what the purpose of prolonging the war to a point of exhaustion of all assets is and the time travel experiments were set up so that Hammond (an android) could go back in time and discover the truth of matters. Brilliantly, the Doctor is dragged back through his past few adventures (Hope, Mad Dogs…) until he is confronted with his heart surgery and offered to stop it ever happening. Ingeniously the Doctor stops the clock people by destroying their power source, travelling back to the past and setting an explosive to detonate in the present, thus not changing his own personal timeline. In a knife in the gut twist Sabbath is revealed to be Mistletoe and to have been using the Doctor all along. His associates have been in conflict with the clock people so Sabbath set up a situation where they would appear to be invading (when they were in fact evacuating) and the Doctor would have to destroy them. His masters now have full control of the time continuum.

Funny bits: Fitz walks from the TARDIS and finds himself in a snowy forest and declares they are in Narnia!


Embarrassing bits: A few terrible puns: ‘Chron’-ic disease, ‘second hand’ bodies…groan. Mistletoe is clearly Sabbath from the first line but it is such a macabre performance I can find it in me to be cross!

Result: The most ingenious use of time travel yet, this is a hugely imaginative and terrifying tale which recaptures all the shadowy horror of those Troughton base under siege stories with an extra dash of gore that makes all the more scary. The book is brilliantly written with a well thought out plot, some marvellously spine tingling moments and spot characterisation of the regulars. The shift of location at the climax is well placed and the Doctor’s final solution is excellent. It is a little hard going in places because the tone is unremittingly grim but I refuse to criticise a book on the grounds that it sticks to its guns (to frighten) and doesn’t try to add any superfluous ‘entertaining’ moments. The last two pages provide a final, electrifying shock and top a nourishing read, full of graphic imagery and a terrorizing atmosphere. It says something about Jonathan Morris' writing that this is the weakest of his three Doctor Who books and its still bloody excellent: 9/10

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