REVIEW: "Matrix" Doctor Who Novel

by Zepo
15 November 1999

Perry, Robert and Mike Tucker, _Doctor Who: Matrix_, (London: BBC Worldwide,
1999), second printing 1999.

[Image of Book]

RATING: 4 (of 10)


     One of my favorite elements of Doctor Who lore is that of the culture
of the Time Lords, Gallifrey's academically oriented rulers and their quest
for knowledge.  Because of my own academic interest in history, I have
always found the idea of Gallifrey's Matrix to be a wonderful science
fictional concept, akin to the great library of Alexandria (or its modern
equivalent--the US Library of Congress) as the depository of all knowledge
in the universe.  How could I resist a title based on one of the elements
that got me hooked on my favorite program?
     "Matrix" is a book that features the New Adventure-like continuing
adventures of the Seventh Doctor and Ace.  This book takes place immediately
after the BBC book "Illegal Alien" which followed (in the BBC Books
timeline) the televised adventure "Survival."  As the story starts the
Doctor's TARDIS finds itself invaded by a strange and unknown creature that
attacks its telepathic circuit.  I couldn't help but think of the early
Timewyrm novels when I first started reading.  The TARDIS delivers the
travelers to an alternate 1963 where we find Kennedy assassinated in London,
part of America's 51st state.  Being saved from curfew by an alternate Ian
and Barbera, the book immediately storms into the self-referential Doctor
Who that seemed a staple of (and perhaps reason for) the low television
ratings of the McCoy era.  I could feel readers changing the channel as I
read on.
     In an effort to escape the invader of his TARDIS and set time on its
proper track, the Doctor lands in Edwardian London in 1888.  Forced to
confront the evil inside himself, we find the Doctor and Ace caught up in
the London of Jack the Ripper.  The most interesting subplot of the story
follows Ace's adventures to a circus where she befriends a group of freaks,
all of whom Perry and Tucker bring lovingly to life even with the idea of
their horrible disfigurations in mind.  To finish this review I must warn
you that I am going to spoil the book for you in the next paragraph.  My
disappointment in the book simply is that it doesn't fit well with the
established continuity of the show, or at least seems to dredge up concepts
that simply were not that strong in the original program in the first place.
Even more disappointing to me was that the Matrix really didn't feature too
much in the story at all, which looking back at the read was probably a good
thing.  If you want the novel to be a surprise, please stop reading this
review now, but realize that for this author the book did not deliver the
Doctor Who story line that he hoped to read, and that the existing story
line had a number of grand secondary characters but a plot that failed to
deliver.
     The novel ends up revealing that one of the Doctor's most dangerous
nemesis has returned to haunt him.  Who else would have access to the
Matrix, who else would be so evil that he would have a direct effect on the
Doctor and make the Doctor kill, who else would be so evil that he was as
evil as 13 Doctors put together.  Well if you haven't figured it out yet,
the book features the return of the Valeyard, who taps the evil sides of all
the Time lord's minds to unleash the 'Dark Matrix' on the world.  Perhaps
the only enjoyment I had in regards to the character's reappearance was that
he is killed (I doubt once again forever) at the end of the story, but even
then I am quick to point out that these books should not be considered
canonical anyway.  The Valeyard was never a satisfactory villain in my eyes
anyway during the 23rd Season, so my disappointment in his return might be
expected.  Even more bothersome to me is the fact that it is the Seventh
Doctor who carries out a number of the Jack the Ripper murders (occasionally
it is his villainous alter ego but the fact remains that the Doctor himself
does commit murder).  I cringed, almost as horribly as when I first heard of
the show's 1985 cancellation, when I read the Seventh Doctor's justification
of murder in order to set the timeline straight.  He tells Ace, "Five
women--those particular five women--had to die.  Simply because that was the
way it happened."   Hearing the Doctor justify outright murder that he
helped commit, was simply horrible.  
     It always seems that people forget or want to further confuse Doctor
Who continuity.  Did the writers of this story forget that "The Talons of
Weng-Chiang" implies that Magnus Greel and his mutant rats account for the
Ripper murders?  Yes, I know its never specifically said but it is this
implication and in depth reading of the program's text that makes the story
strong on so many levels.  "Matrix" is not a necessary read, and should
probably be passed on unless one is determined to read every Doctor Who
novel there is.

(c) Copyright Zepo, 1999.


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