THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE TV
STORY "THE SEEDS OF
DEATH" AND THE BIG
PAPERBACK (ISBN 0-
IN JULY 1999.
The year is 2204. the
and the monstrous
Selachians is about
to reach its tragic
has become entangled
in human history.
Caught up in a brutal
and bloody conflict,
he knows he must do
nothing to influence
the outcome. But,
when the TARDIS
disappears and Zoe
falls into Selachian
hands, he is forced to
ensues, Jamie fights
alongside the human
forces and discovers
for himself the true
horror of war. And
Zoe plans her escape
form the alien prison
camp where she's
held, only to find
literally, out of her
depth. Meanwhile, the
Doctor comes face to
face with a man who
will become one of the
most vilified figures
mounts and events
come to a head, the
Doctor must make a
painful choice: which
is more important,
the sanctity of the
time stream or the
lives of his
The Final Sanction
Steve Lyons often gets a bad press, but in truth there is not one of his novels
that I have not been able to abide. In fact, I would count him amongst the few Doctor Who novelists that I am confident will not disappoint when I see their names on a book’s cover. And The Final Sanction is no exception; in fact, it is probably my favourite Lyons novel
since his initial Conundrum, and it is undoubtedly my favourite second Doctor book to date.
Those who are familiar with Lyons’ previous works will recognise numerous elements here. The Doctor’s dilemma smacks distinctly of The Witch Hunters, whilst the grit and the gore could have been torn straight from the pages of Killing Ground. Even the Selachians – in my view the most inspiring ingredient in The Murder Game by a long, long way – return here to take on the role of principal threat. Now this apparent melting pot of recycled ideas will most probably put many off The Final Sanction, but to me the resultant mix is akin to a ‘best of’ compilation. That much said, those approaching this novel without any prior experience of Lyons’ work are in for the biggest treat.
The Final Sanction follows the tried and tested Doctor Who formula almost to a fault.
Lyons’ story begins with the TARDIS landing in the middle of a war zone, whereupon the regulars are swiftly spilt up to enjoy three separate but interrelated adventures, before being reunited for the book’s gravitically implosive climax. This structured approach seems to
work particularly well here, not just for the reasons that I will discuss below also because of how the whole adventure is framed. The opening few chapters feature some beautiful, introspective scenes where Zoe ponders upon her life in the TARDIS, and wonders what would have happened had they just left when they arrived, instead of inevitably becoming a part of the terrible events unfolding around them…
Indeed, throughout the novel Lyons handles Zoe superlatively; I certainly cannot recall any other author (or television scriptwriter, for that matter) exploring her character so beguilingly. Fair dues, Martin Day had a reasonable stab at doing so in The Menagerie (which is set after this book), but here Lyons has the volume turned all the way up to eleven.
Although Jamie may be the character thrust into the horrors of combat on Kalaria, in my view it is Zoe’s rueful tale that really hammers home the author’s message concerning the senselessness of war. A prisoner of the Selachians, Zoe is tortured and interrogated; taken to breaking point and beyond by her captors. One scene especially sticks in my mind where she is being questioned about the killing of an Ockaran female by a fellow prisoner; a killing that she witnessed. Despite her fears about being killed or maimed - which are graphically illustrated by Lyons – Zoe stands firm for an astonishing amount of time before finally capitulating to her interrogators. And, when she does eventually acquiesce, she learns that the killer confessed almost immediately to save her from having to protect him, rendering
her betrayal of him almost Orwellian in its poignancy.
Nonetheless, it is the Doctor’s thread of the plot that is the novel’s real backbone. Should
the Doctor risk changing history to save the lives of his friends? And could he even do so if he tried? The predicament is certainly an absorbing one, and never before has it been explored as well as it is here.
“His adventures in history always had to end this way; with everything to lose and nothing
more to gain than the slim chance of extricating himself from the chains of time.”
Firstly, I like that it is ‘future history’ that we are talking about here, for want of a better phrase. This is not Salem or some other historical event that the cynics inside us know that the series would never dare to alter; this is our relative future. To the Doctor, of course, it is all the same; but to the reader, it is another matter entirely.
Further, the scale of the events depicted here dwarf similar dilemmas that the Doctor so often faces. The destruction of the Selachian / Ockoran homeworld is such a key event in the web of time that were it to be averted, the consequences for the rest of the universe would be inconceivable. Fair dues, the Doctor changes history wherever he goes… but on this scale? Arguably his frequent saving of certain planets (and sometimes even the whole universe) would make more of a difference to the web of time, but then again, when he does so, he often does not know the history of the events of which he is to become a part. Here
he knows. Here it has already been written. Here it is fixed.
The above allows Lyons to really push the free-spirited, radical second Doctor in a direction that we have really not seen before, be it on television or in print. He is cornered. He is desperate. It is spellbinding stuff and, situated as close as it is to The War Games, it even foreshadows the almighty decision that this incarnation must soon make rather nicely.
The characterisation is also spot on; Lyons really nails Patrick Troughton’s mannerisms as well as his dialogue, really making the depiction come alive. Sadly Lyons’ supporting human characters are much more forgettable, but I must admit that the twenty-third century female version of J Robert Oppenheimer (Mulholland) was rather compelling. I especially enjoyed seeing how Lyons led her from one dour fate to another as the timelines shifted. Brutal.
“The Great Mother told her children of the Second World,
which lay above the World they knew.
Into this Second World passed the souls of the wicked…”
And for their part, the Selachians are brilliant here; absolutely brilliant. When I read The Murder Game, I was fascinated as to why the Ockorans would mutilate themselves to walk upright amongst the “air-breathing plankton” and wage war against them; why they would choose to become the cold and monstrous Selachians. Well The Final Sanction answers all of those questions and more. Though the rationale behind the Ockorans’ foray into “the Second World” may be right on the edge of plausibility (even for science fiction!), Lyons imbues the Ockoran fable with such a wonderful, fairytale quality that one can believe that there was a truth from which it was once derived.
What I really love about the Selachians in this story though is that they constantly surprise, especially right at the death. This book is replete with articulate passages of beautiful, flowing prose aimed at engaging the reader’s sympathy with this unique race; yet when it comes down to it, they doom themselves. They would rather destroy the Earth then try to save their own world. Horridly apt.
And so in all, The Final Sanction is a book that I cannot do anything but vigorously recommend. A bleak and boding anti-war rant it may be, but it’s a bloody brilliant one.
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.
This novel’s blurb places it between the television serials The Seeds of Death and The Space Pirates. Within this gap, we have placed it prior to the audio book The Glorious Revolution, which was released later.
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