Novel Review: Genocide

We’re back, with another Doctor Who novel review! Today we’re looking at the fourth entry in the BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures series, Paul Leonard’s Genocide. Released in September 1997, this novel features the Eighth Doctor and Samantha “Sam” Jones, and also gives us a glimpse into the later life of former Third Doctor companion, Jo Grant! Let’s get started.

Genocide 1

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not read this novel! For a spoiler free review, scroll down to the next picture.

In Africa’s Kilgai Gorge, paleontologists Rowenna Michaels and Julie Sands discover a modern human skull, in a place where none should exist—strata older than modern humanity. UNIT staff, led by one Corporal Jacob Hynes, arrive and cordon off the gorge; after Hynes forcibly evicts Rowenna and Julie, Julie decides to call an old friend for help: Jo Grant Jones, former UNIT member and companion to the mysterious time traveler known as the Doctor. She is cut off and kidnapped, along with Rowenna, by Hynes and a horselike alien. Jo is startled by the message on her answering machine, and calls in favors from former Sergeant John Benton, who very reluctantly gets her into the situation as an observer. Oddly, Benton finds that Hynes’ service record, while up-to-date in the computer, can’t be found in the microfiche backups—technically, he shouldn’t exist in UNIT.

The Eighth Doctor and Sam Jones—no relation—arrive on Earth in 2109; but they discover a world completely changed. London is gone, replaced by a rolling marsh and a lesser, but more elegant, city. They are captured by horselike aliens called Tractites, from the world of Tractis, and the TARDIS is taken in as well. The Doctor deduces that this is, in fact, Earth—but in an alternate timeline, one where humanity never arose, and the Tractites colonized this world many millennia ago, calling it “Paratractis”. Unfortunately, though this world is peaceful and benevolent, it represents a threat to all of spacetime—not to mention the humans who never existed! The Doctor has no choice but to correct history, even though that means Paratractis—and its inhabitants—will never have existed. This quickly becomes a point of internal conflict for Sam, who is torn between saving the Tractites, and saving her own universe.

Upon arrival at Kilgai, Jo is captured by Hynes. He places her in a cave along with Rowenna and Julie. A Tractite named Gavril has infected the paleontologists with a virulent disease, one potent enough to wipe out humanity. However, he and Hynes do not intend to do so in the present; they intend to send their captives back into the past via a “time tree” and wipe out humanity’s immediate forebears instead, thus changing history. Jo frees the others, and they flee, but stumble into the time tree, crashing back two and a half million years in time.

The Doctor and Sam learn of a book of myths, in which a species called “humans” destroyed the Tractite homeworld. It has made the race paranoid, and now they have a “Watcher” in every city, watching for a creature called the Uncreator, who will destroy them again. Unknown to the Doctor and Sam, their host, Kitig, is the Watcher for his city—and he correctly believes the Doctor to be the Uncreator. However, he is loath to kill the Doctor; and when the Doctor manages to get himself and Sam back to the TARDIS to repair the damage, Sam brings Kitig aboard, against the Doctor’s will. As the vortex, and all of history, collapses around them, the TARDIS is left the only safe place—and Kitig knows he will never be able to return home.

The Doctor takes the TARDIS into the remnants of history, landing two and a half million years in the past, near what will be the Kilgai Gorge—adjacent to Jo and her friends, though he doesn’t know it. He exits the TARDIS, ordering Sam and Kitig to stay aboard; separately, they each disobey—Sam to help, Kitig to kill the Doctor. The Doctor locates the time tree, Rowenna, and Julie, but Jo has gone in search of water. He sample’s Julie’s blood so as to start searching for the cure; but Hynes attacks him and steals the sample, then searches for a settlement of the local hominids to infect. The Doctor tries to chase him down, but is attacked by Kitig instead. Kitig is interrupted by the sound of Julie and Rowenna screaming, and he and the Doctor rush to help. They are too late; both women are killed by a pack of wild dogs. Seeing the Doctor’s grief, Kitig revises his opinion of him, and decides he is a good man after all. In the midst of this, Jo returns, and reunites with the Doctor; she is too late to help her friends, but the Doctor sends her to locate Sam, and to stop Hynes. Meanwhile, he takes Kitig back to the TARDIS; there is not one, but two points at which history has diverged, and he must deal with the other one. He goes back in time another million years. There, he discovers a Tractite settlement, composed of soldiers led by Mauvril. Mauvril and his group are from the future, brought back by a time tree, after witnessing the devastation of his world at the hands of the Earth Empire—the humans. This is the origin of the book which the Doctor discovered in Kitig’s city; and it is the origin of the Tractite presence on Earth. Gavril, Hynes’ ally, was one of her soldiers, lost in transit; he apparently has been trying to complete the mission on his own, using Hynes. The Doctor explains to Mauvril that the time tree is organic, drawing power from the universe; therefore it is unable to create a new universe, and the plan will fail, along with all time and space. It is only the Doctor and the TARDIS that are keeping the last of the timeline stable—for now. Mauvril doesn’t accept this; she arrests the Doctor, and drops the TARDIS into a volcano. She also orders the creation of the book, which will put her people on guard in the future. Kitig, she allows to run free, enamored with his innocence. However, he soon finds the remnants of a hominid settlement that was violently destroyed by the Tractites; and he is forced again to face the fact that the Doctor is right. He returns to the Doctor, who is now being starved and imprisoned; but the Doctor gives him a mission. He leaves for the nearby mountain, and begins carving a single message into its rocks, over and over again.

Sam meets Hynes, and is deceived by his claims to work for UNIT. He claims to be here to cure the hominds of a disease, and recruits her help, as the TARDIS translates for her. She befriends a hominid, whom she calls “Axeman”; but when Hynes tries to infect him with the disease, he resists, and Sam injects him instead. Hynes flees as Axeman tries to kill Sam; Jo arrives in the nick of time, and rescues her, but then is forced to tell her that she just infected him with the disease. She has completed Hynes’ sabotage for him. Over several days, they hide in the savannah, until at last Hynes attacks them—but he is killed by Axeman, who then begs for help. Sam herself is infected by now. However, they find hope when they discover Kitig’s million-year-old message, which leads them to the TARDIS—but that hope is dashed when they see that its interior is dead, and it is only a box.

Mauvril prolongs the Doctor’s life so that she can explain her actions to him, to justify herself. However, he is not as weak as he seems, and he manages to escape and head for the TARDIS. He gives it a telepathic command, which reinvigorates it in Jo’s time. Sam, Jo, and Axeman enter it and start heading for the Doctor’s time and location; in the meantime, they find medications which begin to cure Sam. They arrive in the middle of a confrontation; Mauvril immediately kills Axeman. Sam panics, and in turn shoots an attacking Tractite, against the Doctor’s wishes. She and Jo take shelter behind a laser cannon, while the Doctor tries to persuade Mauvril to leave with him and find a new world.  He has just barely convinced her—when one of her people takes a shot at Jo and Sam. Jo retaliates with the laser cannon, killing all the Tractites and setting their settlement ablaze. The Doctor is appalled at her actions, but it is unclear even to Jo whether she acted out of panic or deliberation.

Kitig still lives, and the Doctor offers to take him to his people, though they aren’t the ones he knows. However, he chooses to stay behind and finish his mission—carving the message as long as he can. The Doctor provides a vaccine for the hominids, and then takes Jo home. He then takes Sam into the future, to the Earth Empire, where he appeals to the Empress for the Tractite homeworld’s independence. He cannot change the devastation, but he can begin to free them for the future. In the far past, Kitig carves the message for Jo and Sam until he is old and dying; then he uses the time tree to travel back to the creation of Earth’s solar system. For one glorious moment, he sees the universe—and then the tree is destroyed, and he with it.

Genocide 2

In Genocide, the Eighth Doctor Adventures take an ambitious turn. Here the Doctor isn’t trying to save just one city, as in Vampire Science, or one planet, as in The Bodysnatchers; here he’s trying to save all of space and time. That’s nothing new for the Doctor, but it is new for this incarnation. (Caveat: I have not delved into the Eighth Doctor comics, and I don’t know what takes place there. It’s possible there are plots as grandiose as this one, and it’s possible they take place between The Eight Doctors and Vampire Science, so I may be wrong in that claim. I only have the novels to go by at this time; but other fans may be able to shed more light on this.) He does it in style, here, though the story is perhaps a bit rushed. (The paperback edition clocks in at 281 pages, roughly equivalent to the preceding volumes, but it felt like a much shorter read, especially when compared to The Bodysnatchers.) This story bounces through multiple time periods and multiple timelines, putting effect before cause and future before past, in a way that only Doctor Who can pull off.

The highlight of the story—and the gimmick, I have to admit—is the presence of Jo Grant. I’m calling her Jo Grant, rather than Jo Jones, in part for familiarity; but moreover, the book refers to her in that way most often. At the time, this was the only available glimpse into Jo’s later life; it finds her with one child, teenage Matthew, and separated from her husband, Cliff Jones. It isn’t stated that she and Cliff are divorced, but it’s heavily implied; the use of Jo’s maiden name instead of her married name, and her insistence on being solely responsible for Matthew, would lead to that conclusion. Much later, the Sarah Jane Adventures episode, The Death of the Doctor, would contradict this novel’s presentation; it portrays Jo as still married to Cliff, with not one but seven children (highly unlikely given the timing of their ages, if this novel is correct). The wiki states that this was a deliberate retcon on the part of Russell T Davies, who didn’t feel that Jo’s fate as portrayed in this novel was right for her. Regardless, she’s still the same Jo, but a bit older and wiser, and certainly more capable than she was in the Third Doctor era; in some ways she is the hero of this story. Her reunion with the Doctor is a little more businesslike and strained than some others we’ve seen (looking at you, School Reunion), but that’s understandable given what is at stake at the time. Near the end of the story, Jo commits an act which the Doctor finds reprehensible, though he handles it better than he often does in such situations; this mirrors his relationship with the Brigadier as seen at the end of Doctor Who and the Silurians. Regardless, it’s good to see her again, however briefly.

Sam’s arc, so far, has been one of internal conflict regarding her relationship to the Doctor. In earlier installments, she’s labored over whether the Doctor trusts her, and whether he thinks of her as a child. She takes it in a new direction here, as she begins to question the Doctor’s judgment. He must choose between saving violent humanity and saving the peaceful Tractites; and Sam must make the same choice. For the Doctor, it is no choice; he knows that it’s all of existence at stake, not just the two races. Sam finds it hard to accept that—or rather, even accepting it, she struggles with the question of which choice is right. She is a parallel to the villain of this story, imposter UNIT corporal Jacob Hynes; Hynes wants to destroy all humanity, even if it means he himself ceases to exist (a paradox which, strangely, is implied but never actually addressed), because he hates humans. Meanwhile Sam is willing, at least briefly, to let humanity be destroyed, not because she hates them, but because she loves (or at least approves of) the Tractites. In the end, of course, she continues on with the Doctor—but her trust in him is shaken.

Being a UNIT story of sorts, this book is full of fanservice and continuity references…alright, admittedly, all the EDAs have been that way so far. John Benton puts in an appearance; his most recent appearance (in order of release) was the fiftieth VNA novel Happy Endings. (As with most things UNIT, his chronology during the 1980s—and by extension, the 1990s—is a bit of a mess, and I was not able to pin down exactly which appearance was his own most recent. It is noted in the Past Doctor Adventures novel Business Unusual that by 1989 he had returned to active duty after a brief stint outside UNIT, but he doesn’t seem to actually appear in that novel.) Cliff Jones figures briefly into this story, mostly in mention only (The Green Death). Jo thinks about several past adventures: Spiridon and the Daleks (Planet of the Daleks), the Autons (Terror of the Autons), Sea Devils (The Sea Devils), Xarax (Dancing the Code), and Axons (The Claws of Axos). Sam mentions the villains of the previous two adventures, the vampires (Vampire Science) and the Zygons (The Bodysnatchers). The Tractite Mauvril mentions “Earth Reptiles”, aka Silurians (Doctor Who and the Silurians, et al.) Brigadier Bambera gets a mention (Battlefield). At the end of the story, the Doctor and Sam visit the Empress of the Earth Empire in an unnamed year in the future (but prior to 2982, as seen in So Vile A Sin); the Empress first appears in Original Sin. During their visit, they see Silurians (again called Earth Reptiles), Draconians (Frontier in Space), Ice Warriors (The Ice Warriors, et al.), and Zygons (Terror of the Zygons, et al.). The TARDIS interior collapses after the death of the Doctor (temporary, of course); this was first seen in 1993’s Blood Heat. The Doctor is still wearing the clothing and shoes from the 1996 TV movie, and mentions Grace Holloway in that context. He is still trying to replace his destroyed copy of the Strand (The Bodysnatchers). He uses jelly babies to administer a vaccine at one point (various Fourth Doctor stories). The Cloister Bell is heard (Logopolis). The Doctor mentions having once bought a pair of wings (Speed of Flight), and mentions Chelonians (The Highest Science). He mentions knowing the Venerable Bede, which was first reported in The Talons of Weng-Chiang (though not seen).

Overall: I did enjoy this book, but I admit that it reminds of some other universe-at-stake stories. The Sirens of Timecomes to mind, though this is not a multi-Doctor story (multi-companion, maybe?). I’d probably enjoy it more if saving the spacetime continuum/vortex/all of reality, wasn’t such a trope already for the Doctor. I think I enjoy his small-scale stories more. Still, this is definitely a good entry, probably even a little better than The Bodysnatchers (but still not aspiring to Vampire Science!). Sam’s arc seems to get a little more grim—or at least potentially so—with every entry, and I grow more and more curious to see what will happen with her. I do enjoy all the continuity references, but it’s starting to become gratuitous; one could drown in this much fanservice. Still, if you’re working your way through the series, don’t skip this one.

Next time: Sam gets her first encounter with the Doctor’s most famous foe, in War of the Daleks! See you there.

The Eighth Doctor Adventures are out of print; however they may be purchased at various used-book sellers.

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