REVIEW: "Millennium Shock" Doctor Who Novel

by Zepo
14 November 1999

Richards, Justin, _Doctor Who: Millennium Shock_, (London: BBC Worldwide,
1999). 

[Image of Book]

RATING: 5 (of 10)


     Are the BBC Doctor Who novels and the Virgin Doctor Who novels
connected in any way?  Well, not officially, but Justin Richard's
"Millennium Shock" is a died in the wool sequel to his Virgin Books
published Missing Adventure novel "System Shock."  
     Richards follows the formula of his original novel in this offering.
Briefly he returns Sarah Jane Smith in the beginning of the novel to help
set up the sequel's plot and the reintroduction of post-"War" MI-5 employee
Harry Sullivan.  He brings the Fourth Doctor back to England to team up with
Harry and a confrontation with the cybernetic lizard-like aliens the
Voracians.  This time the Voracians are not attacking the Internet, but
rather introducing a line of fault inducing chips that are supposed to fix
the Year 2000 'Millennium computer bug' (or Y2K bug as the buzz has called
it).  The Voracians are introducing the chips by using a company that
specializes in fixing the computer glitch as a front.  Their aim is to cause
more chaos and inevitably be able to overthrow first the English and later
all the world's governments.  Fortunately for the human race, the Doctor has
taken an interest in their species.
     Richards introduces a straight forward novel with a number of twists
but nothing too original.  He devotes a large amount of time to his
auxiliary characters but does not quite seem to capture the flavor of the
fourth Doctor.  Sure, there are the usual fourth Doctor mannerisms, but the
Doctor just doesn't seem to come to life through his narrative.  Tom Bakers
quirky and investigative nature simply seem to have been forgotten.
Likewise, the Voracians never became real in my mind.  They're capable of
taking over human bodies, they're partially cybernetic and add mechanical
enhancements to their bodies which they prefer over human flesh but always
disguise as the real thing, but their natural forms are reptilian?  It
didn't seem at all realistic to me, or even worse for Richards it didn't
capture my imagination. 
     The story finds itself taking place over the course of about a week,
into the first days of year 2000, and takes place around the globe in a few
locations with the central action being in London.  Many events happen, from
the Doctor and Harry's visit to a computer conference, to a raid on a
Russian nuclear missile base by United States special forces.  In many ways,
the story is extended a bit beyond its believable story line.  The ending
sees the Doctor driving and firing the main gun of a tank on Number 10
Downing Street.  Chaos reigns in the streets of Britain and people run
scared in fear of the apocalypse.  In a way it all seemed so un-Doctor Who.
     More than anything else, I was repeatedly annoyed at the notion that
Richards kept putting forward that the year 2000 was the start of the next
Millennium.  I am sure that the Doctor would have known that the next
Millennium does not start until the First of January 2001.  I am also sure
that the Doctor would have told everyone that though the computer
programming error is called "the Millennium bug" it is improperly named.
But the Doctor never did so in this novel and once I realized that he was
not going to I realized that Richards had missed one of the most important
parts of Tom Baker's characterization of the Fourth Doctor.  Unfortunately,
Justin Richards seems to have put as much effort into knowing the most basic
information about the date as he did into the Doctor's characterization in
this effort.  An occasionally interesting read it simply missed its mark as
a strong Whovian offering.

(c) Copyright Zepo, 1999.


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