Doctor Who: Dark Progeny by Steve Emerson
Published by BBC Worldwide, Ltd, 2001. Paperback of 282 pages at $6.95.
The cover: Another twisted, cool image from Black Sheep. Against the backdrop of a green maze of pipes and tubes, which has seen a lot of screen time in recent Peter Capaldi episodes, a gigantic white head, with barely a tuft of white hair on it, is partially transformed into a lizard-like, big black eyed alien. The more I look at this the more disturbing it gets. Plus, if you really look into the background, one can seen completely formed alien heads looking back. This face is familiar looking, yet transformed just enough to stick in your head. Having finished the book, I know it’s a great tease of things to come. Having Overall grade: A
The premise: From the back cover, “The planet Ceres Alpha is being ‘developed’. The surface crawls with gigantic city-machines that are churning and rebuilding the world, seeding it with tomorrow’s vegetation so that full-scale colonisation can follow. But Gaskill Tyran, head of the biosphere-engineers WorldCorp, is finding things more difficult than the would like. The whole project seems to be falling apart under an ever-increasing burden of mysteries. Why has a batch of strange babies been born with telekinetic powers? Why won’t the terraforming go according to plan? Why are there more and more problems with the comp systems that run the city-machines? It seems there may be conspirators. A rival Corporation with its eye on the contract for Ceres Alpha. And Tyran’s patience is now wearing thin. But then he gets his answer. A mysterious infiltrator known only as the Doctor.” There’s a lot of backstory revealed in this, I thought before reading the book, and I hoped it didn’t give away too much too soon. After reading I realized it did. There is one big reveal here that shouldn’t have been mentioned, but the rest sounds like a standard Who plot, and I was happy to dig in. Overall grade: B+
The characters: This is an Eighth Doctor adventure with companions Anji and Fitz. This pair is not used that much. Anji disappears for the first three quarters of the book, though she is the reason for the book’s initial tension. Fitz is also absent for most of the book, and when he does appear it’s to address a C level story that plays minutely into the plot. The Doctor, thankfully, is a delight. He’s very eccentric, wholly emotional, and when things get serious he’s wonderful. My favorite scene involved someone watching him in a cell. The Doctor’s actions are a treat. The villain, Gaskill Tyran (terrific first name!) doesn’t have too many scenes, but when he does he steals them, as he should. My big issue with the supporting characters are that there are so many of them, that don’t really contribute to the A storyline, they drag the book down. Josef and Veta start the book off and are initially sympathetic innocents with what’s gone wrong, but evolve into active participants that really strain believability. Mij Peron is the typical gone-to-far doctor that doesn’t go beyond this cliché. Danyal Bains is an archeologist who could have been strong, but disappears once the action gets going. Captain Foley is the typical enforcement officer who might have a heart of gold. Pages dwell on these individuals without advancing the plot. Their characters are fleshed out, but I’d rather the Doctor and his companions have more pages. The babies really evolve as the story progresses, but are, sadly, disregarded in the end. Overall grade: C
The settings: This was a very cool idea for a setting. Ceres Alpha might have had an alien, native population, but its destroyed surface (from what is never stated, though several plausible ideas are put forth by the Doctor) is being terraformed by giant moving cities. I loved this! However, most of the book is spent in the city and not in its bowels or under it. Possibilities were there, but Emmerson doesn’t go out until someone’s life is dependent on it. Overall grade: B
The action: A lot of running, from and to places, and to find one another. The Doctor is tortured, which was very shocking, but, thankfully, he lessens the impact after it is done. This is the type of action that could have been accomplished on the small screen in a Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy episode. Overall grade: B
The conclusion: Outstanding villain exit and reveal on the babies, but it’s wrapped up so quickly I thought my book was missing pages initially. A final scene with the surviving supporting characters would have been more appreciated, and probably would have helped me enjoy them more. Overall grade: B-
The final line: Always good to read an adventure of Doctor number eight, as there was only the one filmed, but too many new characters meant not enough time for the Doctor, and where’s the fun in that? Overall grade: B-
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics at TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.