THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BIG FINISH AUDIO
DRAMA "RED DAWN"
AND THE NOVEL
OFFICIAL BBC 'PAST
RELEASED IN JUNE 2001.
Peri hasn't been time-
travelling for long
and is just getting
used to the Doctor
and the TARDIS.
When the TARDIS
takes them to a party
humans on a pleasure
-planetoid in the far
future, Peri falls
for the charms of the
local hunk and finds
headlong into a quite
different form of
Nick Walters’ first past Doctor effort for BBC Books is perhaps a little more contentious than his contributions to the eighth Doctor’s range have been. Though the title “Superior Beings” might suggest an astute and enlightening commentary on the dangers of species seeking perfection to the detriment of all else, Walters’ story is actually a gruesome and often quite disturbing tale, half the book’s pages literally sopping with blood.
Walters’ main alien protagonists, the Valethske hunters, are an exciting enough threat. Portrayed for the most part as a ravenous and ruthless pack of sentient animals, Walters uses the fox-like Valethske to doll out grisly death on a scale that even some of Doctor Who’s more bloodthirsty writers would be proud of. Of course the author would most probably struggle to attest to the Valethske’s uniqueness, given how similar they are to Star Trek: Voyager’s Hirogen, but even so in my view they do their job admirably.
“I’ll take a bite out of you, hunter…”
And in fairness, the Valethske are not just painted as a murderous race of pack animals. They have a mission – to find their Gods, the Khorlthochloi… and then kill them! – and what is more a few of their number are really fleshed out well and given a fair bit of depth. Veek stands out especially - particularly towards the end of the novel as her heresy becomes manifest and she has to turn to the Doctor for assistance - as does the pack’s sole scientist, the prosthetic jaw and leg-sporting Ruvis.
The Eknuri I was less impressed with. The way the first few chapters of the novel are written,
I had expected Walters to take these superhumans somewhere very interesting indeed, but instead he just has the Valethske butcher them one by one. In fact, the only time the Eknuri really worked for me was towards the end of the novel, where Athon is killed right in front of Peri. This scene expressly underlines what seems to be the ‘moral of the story’, and I think also marks something of a defining moment for Peri.
Indeed, the part of “Superior Beings” that I enjoyed most was the author’s use of Peri. I think that the brief pairing of Peri and the fifth Doctor worked very well on television, and so I was frustrated to say the least when Christopher Bulis and then Justin Richards spectacularly failed to do anything interesting with the duo in “The Ultimate Treasure” and “Red Dawn” respectively. Here, however, Walters really taps into one of the most alluring aspects of this combination in how he examines Peri’s perspective on “getting used to the Doctor and the TARDIS.” “Superior Beings” captures both the highs and the lows associated with travelling with the Doctor very succinctly, and even takes time to explore some of Peri’s insecurities connected to the same.
“Look, even if we do get them to mate, humans gestate for nine months.
And their young take well over a decade to reach maturity!”
Walters certainly does not pull any punches though. Of the novel’s 277 pages, Peri spends somewhere in the region of 244 pages being shot; cryogenically frozen; hunted; concussed; blown up; and even thrown naked into a pit of Eknuri so that she may “gestate.” You really have to give the girl credit for not begging to be taken home after this one; I do not think I can recall another story where she takes such a beating!
However, save for a few remarkable chapters teamed up with troubled xenobiologist Aline, the Doctor’s role in the proceedings is far less worthy of note. Fortunately though Walters’ characterisation is spot-on throughout; the vulnerability of the Peter Davison incarnation is really stressed as the Doctor is swept along from one catastrophe to the next, desperately trying to keep Peri alive and prevent the Valethske slaughtering the Eknuri.
All told “Superior Beings” is no classic by any means, but it is certainly a rip-roaring adventure that does exactly what it says on the tin. And, when broached on such terms, I do not think that most readers will be let down by the Encounter.
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 offers no clues as to its placement, although given the choice of Doctor and companion it must take place between the television serials Planet of Fire and The Caves of Androzani. As “Peri hasn’t been time-travelling for long and is just getting used to the Doctor and the TARDIS”, we posit that it takes place between the audio drama Red Dawn and the novel Warmonger, which were released either side of it.
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