“The Coming of the Terraphiles” Review

I don’t normally take my Doctor Who in text form but I was intrigued by Glyn’s tweet.


For about the first third, I was convinced Moorcock was purely pastiching Wodehouse. There’s a henpecked husband (Uncle Tom, James Schoonmaker, etc), a plot to steal something an object by its owner (cf. Aunt Dahlia’s fake pearls) a character called Bingo, young lovers forbidden to marry and prone to squabbling over misunderstandings, and an Aunt Agatha type (the splendidly named Enola Banning Cannon). And why not? I enjoyed The Unicorn and the Wasp doing Agatha Christie and surely the joy of Doctor Who is that it can regenerate into almost any genre, from one episode to the next, with no warning…

Then, abruptly, the Wodehouse plot is suspended as the large cast of players of Quidditch – no, sorry, the Renaissance Tournament – embark on a perilous journey on a series of space skiffs. The narrative includes increasingly frequent lectures (not always delivered by the Doctor, but in the voice of the author) concerning the nature of the multiverse, and the fact that space is a relative dimension of time.

Reading this must be a very different experience for a Moorcock fan. This is the first of his works I’ve read, and I got the strong impression that he was conscious of introducing readers like me into a Universe he has long established and is already familiar with. Indeed, Wikipedia informs me that Captain Cornelius, a pirate with a ship very reminiscent of Enlightenment is a recurring character. By the time I reached the final chapters of the book I was beginning to enjoy the awesomeness of the multiverse (as Miggea shifts between universes).

Despite the strange mixture of styles, my regret at the premature abandonment of the Wodehouse pastiche, weariness at throwaway jokes being laboured through the full length of the book, and the awkwardness of the cut-and-shut melding of a somewhat incompatible multiverse with the Whoniverse, I found this far more readable than other original Doctor Who novels I’ve persevered with in the past; indeed I found it hard to put down at times.

So I’d endorse “odd, quirky, but fun”.

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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