Stephen Baxter’s The Wheel of Ice is a Doctor Who novel featuring Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor along with his companions Jamie and Zoe.
They arrive unexpectedly (as usual) in orbit of Saturn at some point in the 21st century after the Tardis detects something wrong with time. The Doctor and the others find themselves in need of some rescuing and arrive on a human space station constructed around a small moon where humans are mining a rare substance.
Some of the people are immediately suspicious of the arrival of the Doctor because of instances of sabotage on the Station, although the young people there blame the presence of unseen ‘blue dolls’…
Eventually the Doctor discovers what is living in the heart of the moon and the exact nature of the mysterious blue creatures.
Baxter is one of my favourite science fiction authors and has a reputation of thinking big with the plots of his novels, for example working with greats spans of time.
On the other hand Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor is probably my favourite so I was understandably curious as how the two would mesh.
The first thing to say is that Baxter writes very much in his own style familiar from his other novels, plus the plot is not all that dissimilar from the types of books he normally produces.
For me this gave the book the feel of a Stephen Baxter novel that the Doctor has wandered into, which to begin with was slightly jarring. But once I got used to the book it became an enjoyable enough novel. I though that Baxter did a good job with the ‘voices’ of the Doctor and his companions.
I enjoyed the various references to previous Doctor Who adventures from Troughton’s years on the show such those involving Daleks, Cybermen and specifically the Ice Warrior story The Seeds of Death which this novel must follow.
There are also some references to The Mind Robber and some allusions to the Silurians who would appear the following year in Jon Pertwee’s first season as the Doctor. I have a feeling that Baxter enjoyed some quality research time with some DVDs!
Overall the book a very enjoyable return to a classic era of Doctor Who. I’m now looking forward to Alastair Reynolds’ take on Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor and Jo Grant.