I have to admit that I haven’t been consuming new Doctor Who content very much lately. I need to get back to the Big Finish main range audios and “Gallifrey”. And I’ve had Christopher Cooper’s novel “The Krillitane Storm” sitting on my nightstand for about three months, waiting for me. So, I figured, with some holiday time off, I’d finally tackle that book, and I’m glad I did.
Spoilers, of course.
You remember the Krillitanes, right? From “School Reunion”, they were the demonic-looking, bat-winged aliens that were harnessing the imaginative powers of souped-up schoolchildren at Deffry Vale School to crack the Skasas Paradigm, the equation that’s the building blocks of the universe. They intended to become gods with the Paradigm, and tempted the Doctor to join them. They were a complex and interesting species: vicious hunters who killed and ate sentients, but welcomed the wisdom and guidance that they felt the Doctor could provide. This novel is enticing simply because it deals with this fascinating race, and it doesn’t disappoint.
It starts out very simply: the city of Worcester in the twelfth century is in the grip of terror, as people are murdered viciously in the middle of the night. As usual, the Doctor lands here randomly, and noticing that the city is not acting normally, snoops around and determines that the Krillitane are behind it.
That’s where it stops being simple. Without going through the whole story, let me just say that it turns out that someone else is manipulating the Krillitane (and in fact, the Krillitane would never have come to Earth in the first place without his schemes), and then while the Doctor is trying to sort that all out, another player arrives to throw everything into even more chaos. The Doctor thus finds himself trying to 1) save the Krillitanes’ lives and get them off planet, 2) keep the “someone” from being killed by quite a number of people (including the one-off companion that the Doctor picks up), 3) bring the “someone” to justice, and 4) keep the third party from massacring the human city.
As it is, this novel has something for everyone. The story is engaging and complex, and the action is fast-paced. There’s a villain that is very easy to hate, so there’s someone to root against. The one-off companion is a good character, and she’s got her own motivations for what she does. The Doctor also acquires a second companion, the captain of the city guard, who is great as the guy who is just bewildered by all the things that the Doctor shows him but is smart enough to know that the safest place to stand is next to the Doctor. And the Doctor is written brilliantly in-character.
I particularly enjoyed the elaboration on Krillitane culture. The Doctor explains that because the Krillitanes evolve quickly, by killing other species and taking their physical traits rather than evolving and developing them normally, the Krillitanes’ power grew faster than their culture, and thus they are still rather barbaric and animalistic. Theirs is a religious culture, with a priest-king, which is why the headmaster in “School Reunion” is named “Brother Lassar”. During the course of the novel, you find out that a splinter group decided that the Krillitanes were culturally and psychologically stagnant and needed to evolve in that way, not just physically, and they broke off from the main Krillitane society. It’s the descendants of this splinter group that the Doctor encounters at Deffry Vale, seeking the Skasas Paradigm in order to evolve beyond their current limitations.
Bottom line is that I really enjoyed this novel. It was a good adventure, with plenty of action and twists and turns and impossible situations for the Doctor to worm his way out of, and it elaborated on an alien species that I really enjoyed from the show. It also had this little scene: The Doctor is hanging by his knees from the loading arm of a hovercraft, his enemy, piloting the craft, oblivious to the fact he’s there. The Doctor sonics the loading arm, and he cries, “Hello, stranger!” as it swings him over the craft towards the enemy. The enemy turns around and his “eyes widened in shock, noticing too late as the loading arm swept towards him, carrying its insanely grinning payload.” Absolutely perfect. This is the kind of scene Doctor Who needs more of!