REVIEW: "The Final Sanction" Doctor Who Novel

by Zepo
20 August 2000

Lyons, Steve, _Doctor Who: The Final Sanction_, (London: BBC 
Worldwide, 1999)

[Image of Book]

RATING: 8 (of 10)

     War is a scary thing.  One need not have been in the Gulf 
War or in a Nazi prison camp to fear the horrors that supposedly 
civilized people can inflict on one another.  Steve Lyons is able 
to put his finger on this horror and bring to paper the fears 
that men (and women) have of the horrors of war.  "The Final 
Sanction" brings the morality of war to the pages of a BBC Doctor 
Who novel as has never been seen.
     The Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe land on planet ravaged 
during the final days of the Human-Selachian War.  In the true 
spirit of a story during the Doctor's first regeneration, the 
group is split and they accidentally find themselves confronting 
questioning authorities who wonder if they are spies.  As the 
Doctor and Jamie gain the trust of the human forces, Zoe is 
captured by the shark-like battle suit clad Selachians.  But the 
planet, Kalaya, is about to fall for the Selachians who are 
taking prisoners back to their homeworld to prevent an invasion. 
 The humans on the other hand are preparing their ultimate weapon 
and waiting for the final sanction to use the weapon.
     This novel presents a powerful message about war that is 
heavily layered in morality and the situational drama of 
soldiers' hardships.  Many points of view of the battles and 
skirmishes are given.  The blood, loss of life, and shattered 
dreams of soldiers on both sides is featured.  The dismal 
situations and conditions in prisoner of war camps is addressed. 
 Experimentation on miliary troops, and loss of identity is 
covered.  The horrors of war for civilian non-combatants, and the 
fear of escaped prisoners is touched upon.  And central to the 
moral dilemmas, the creation of weapons of mass destruction, 
their use, and even the dangers of warning the enemy of their 
possible use.  The death, the destruction, the fears, and the 
hopes that people at war all have is touched upon during the 
narrative.  While it might seem easy to cheer for the humans in 
their combat against the Selachians (who are called sharks 
because of their battle armor but in reality are not much 
different from ourselves), the novel is able to convey the poor 
judgements of people overly involved in the winds of war.

     While this novel was a compelling read that drew me in to 
its situations, it is not a perfect book.  The story is told from 
the perspective that the Doctor is very familiar with this moment 
of Human history and author Lyons follows the line that history 
cannot be changed.  This is almost a weakness to such a strong 
story.  With Steve Lyons's amazing ability to capture the horror 
of warfare, such a well crafted tale almost demands that the 
Doctor be able to change the path of the events at hand.  In 
fact, as we read the story we wish the Doctor could change the 
events.  Perhaps this is in fact the strength of the novel.  We 
are helpless to change the horrors we read about, but we hope, as 
readers, that we can make a difference ourselves.
     "The Final Sanction" is not without its military flaws as 
wll (would the Humans really have only a single ship in orbit 
around The Selachian's homeworld when planning a possible 
invasion or the use of an ultimate weapon), but these are easily 
overlooked on the strength of the message and situations 
presented.  This is the sort of book that should be read by those 
people who are the first to rattle their sabers when the false 
addiction of nationalism rears its head, but are the same people 
who would never volunteer for the military themselves.  War is 
horrible, and "The Final Sanction" never lets one forget that.

(c) Copyright Zepo, 2000.

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