THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
THE BIG FINISH AUDIO
DRAMA "THIN ICE."
OFFICIAL VIRGIN 'NEW
RELEASED IN FEBRUARY
The TARDIS is invaded
by an alien presence
and destroyed. The
Ace finds herself in a
bizarre deserted city
ruled by A leech-like
monster known as the
Lost voyagers drawn
forTH from Ancient
in the ruins.
strands of time are
tangled in a cat’s
cradle of dimensions.
Only the Doctor can
challenge the rule
of the Process and
restore the stolen
But the Doctor was
destroyed long ago,
before Time began...
As popular as Ghost Light was, truncated into three episodes with its exposition on the cutting room floor, Marc Platt’s atmospheric television serial never quite worked for me. With this novel, however, the written word allows Platt the freedom to tell his story at a slower pace, making it easier for the reader to follow not only the broad strokes but also the intricate subtleties of his plot.
For me, the brilliance of Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible can be summed up in just one word: Gallifrey. This novel is the first story since The Deadly Assassin to really get to grips with
the rudiments of Time Lord civilisation, and the first story ever to flesh out the culture of this fascinating race in any sort of satisfactory fashion. Platt’s Gallifrey is meticulously painted,
a rousing confluence of myth and technology, and how he depicts the events leading up to
“The Time of Chaos” (Rassilon’s rise to power and the fall of Pythia) is an absolute joy to read. Platt even explains how Gallifreyans are genetically spun in progenerative chambers, being “loomed” fully-grown with thirteen life spans – and, more importantly, why. In fact, so compelling are the segments of this story set on Ancient Gallifrey, I found myself massively disappointed whenever the narrative cut back to the main adventure.
I also find the notion of a Gallifreyan Space Empire, just on the verge of a new era, sending ‘Chronauts’ into time, particularly enthralling. It ties in beautifully with the Doctor’s reference to the early Gallifreyan time travel experiments in Remembrance of the Daleks, furthering the final production team’s plan to make the Doctor even more mysterious.
Another important question
answered here is with regard to
Gallifrey’s apparent continuity.
As many have inferred from the
sequential television serials set
on Gallifrey, it is illegal for Time
Lords to travel back into their
world’s past as to do so would
put their present and future at
risk. With this being the case, imagine the Doctor’s predicament when he finds himself trapped inside his dying TARDIS (which has been transformed by an aggressive alien ‘Process’ into a city of terrors) with a crew of telepathic Chronauts from his own history, some of them eager to learn just how they will become Lords of Time…
Nevertheless, this book is not without its flaws. Despite the gravity of the Gallifreyan scenes,
I found the bulk of the narrative slow-moving and strewn with headaches. Though Platt does succeed in creating horror in the most surreal of ways, splitting the TARDIS / city into three different time zones (all of which are running concurrently!) it’s an absolute bugger to follow.
Furthermore, the amnesiac Doctor is a real irritation, as on the few occasions when he is actually involved in the story he doesn’t know who he is. This makes for an explosive climax once he regains his memories, but it does seem to take a long time for us to get there.
However, just as she was in Ghost Light, Ace is handled masterfully by Platt. Her budding relationship with the Chronaut pilot Shonzi is especially riveting, the surreal multi-temporal nature of the story forcing Ace to experience a lifetime’s worth of feelings for the Gallifreyan pioneer within the events of just a few subjective hours.
At its best then, Time’s Crucible is positively peerless; at its worst, it’s gonna give you the mother of all headaches. On balance, it’s not a novel that any Who fan can really afford to miss, nonetheless it is one that I feel must be approached with due caution.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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