THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE TV
OFFICIAL BBC 'PAST
RELEASED IN OCTOBER
There are some evils
in the universe that
need to be fought. And
others that need
Doctor, a student at
the Academy on
Gallifrey, lost a
friend to the
known as the
Now, in his fifth
Doctor receives a
telepathic call from
rescue his friend and
exact revenge, the
determined to justify
his place aboard the
TARDIS, opts to face
the Toymaker's game
Nyssa, angered by the
excluded by the
people she thought
were her friends. And
what is the
the Toymaker and the
planet Dymok, whose
find a new saviour in
the shape of Tegan
Its controversies aside, which I shall address in due course, “Divided Loyalties” by Gary Russell is a novel that positively reeks of the Peter Davison era. The page count is low, the companion count is high, and even the much-maligned flashback sequence in the middle feels curiously apposite.
The first thing to strike me about this book was just how captivatingly the author paints the wackiest of TARDIS crews. Exploiting the printed word to the full, Russell’s beautifully introspective tale shows the reader exactly who the Doctor and his companions really are. Adric is particularly well drawn - I never thought that I would be able to warm to this irksome young man, yet over the course of this novel I developed a real sympathy for the smelly little blighter (and he does stink of BO, as Russell makes explicit in his prose). Adric’s sense of isolation and his grief at the demise of the fourth Doctor are both beautifully fleshed out.
Tegan is similarly well illustrated, this story being something of a crossroads for her as over the 252 pages her attitude shifts from desperately trying to get back to Heathrow, to embracing her new life aboard the TARDIS. Dexterous little touches, like Russell’s highlighting of the fact that Tegan is travelling with three ‘aliens’, and that she has sick father at home who needs her, really add a lot of depth to this forthright and often underdeveloped character.
However, it is Nyssa’s characterisation that is perhaps the most controversial of the three companions, as here she has to face up to the fact that the Doctor may have let her down in the cruellest of ways...
But as this book is bound and sold with Michael Gough’s ethereal image emblazoned upon it, the real merits of this novel really rest upon how well Russell utilises his Toymaker character. And, in my view at least, Russell using him marvellously – in fact, it is by far the most interesting interpretation of the character to date. “Divided Loyalties” gives the Toymaker an origin story, going into some detail as to his place in pantheon of Guardians and Eternals that I found absolutely riveting. The Toymaker’s ambivalence and amorality is also captured exquisitely by the author, really bringing to mind Gough’s immortal performance.
Further, the notion that the Toymaker wears the body of the Doctor’s old friend Rallon (with which he is molecularly bonded) gives his ceaseless conflict with the Doctor just that little bit of extra weight, really pulling the heart of the ‘Toymaker trilogy’ into sharp focus. It also allows Russell to explore the fascinating and contentious issue of whether or not the Master and Tremas could ever be separated and, more to the point, why the Doctor never tried.
Best of all though, Russell embraces the world and rules of the Toymaker, and in doing so crafts a tale which leaves the original television serial and its unmade prequel lagging in its wake. The Chess game I thought was inspired, and Millennia’s cruel fate I found completely chilling. There is something about porcelain dolls that really gives me the creeps…
And then finally we come to the Doctor himself. “Divided Loyalties” is, in many ways, an archetypal fifth Doctor story. He is an old man trapped inside a young man’s body; riddled with guilt and wholly fallible. And, just like “Earthshock”, “Resurrection of the Daleks” and the rest, “Divided Loyalties” is one of those days where he just does not have what it takes to win, at least, not in any meaningful sense. There is a real poignancy to that, I find.
“One day, Madame, I will make you proud of me and you will understand that
the one word missing from your concept of philosophy is the word ‘change’.”
Of course though, it is the flashback to the Doctor’s Academy days on Gallifrey that has drawn so much criticism rather than Russell’s portrayal of an imperfect Doctor. I have heard these passages described as everything from ‘fan fiction’ to ‘hackwork’ but, for me, they were one of the highlights of the book. Whilst Russell may lack Marc Platt’s meticulousness or Lance Parkin’s eloquence, he is clearly is in love with the mythology of the series and I do not see why people are so against him trying to further it. Fair dues, it does feel a bit jarring to see ‘time tots’ being referred to in the same chapter as Otherside, but it does bring a wonderful sense of permanence to the Whoniverse all the same.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the “blackest day” of the Doctor’s life especially, not to mention his first, fateful trip offworld and his subsequent expulsion from the Academy. The Deca is a neat idea too - it certainly makes a lot of sense that the likes of Koschei (the Master), Ushas (the Rani), Mortimus (the Monk), Vansell (of "The Sirens of Time" fame), and Magnus (the War Chief) banded together to form an elite group of aspirant Time Lords, although I am not sure why Russell elected to include Drax within that same group – to me he did not stand out as ‘elite’ material!
I do concede though that too much knowledge about the Doctor’s past is most certainly a bad thing, but “Divided Loyalties” does not destroy the mystique in any way, shape or form. Indeed, it builds upon what Platt did in “Lungbarrow” – the cards are finally on the table, but we still cannot see what is underneath them.
I think it is also important to remember that the Deca’s role in this novel is in no way superfluous; after all, two of their number – Rallon and Millennia – were destined to become the playthings of the Toymaker and indeed the emotional core of the novel hangs upon the Doctor’s guilt over not being able to save them.
On a final note, I would like to make some glib remark about “Divided Loyalties” dividing fandom in two, but the sad truth of the matter is that only myself and Chad Knueppe of Outpost Gallifrey appear to have been impressed by it! It is probably fair to say, then, that this novel will only appeal to a certain type of fan, but those of us to which it does appeal (who number at least two!) are sure to bloody love it.
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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