The Wheel of Ice – A Doctor Who Novel

This was yet another book I’d received for Christmas, but due to the backlog of books I had yet to read, I didn’t get to finish it until recently.

I’d decided to read this one because not only are the Second Doctor and his companions among my favorites (as I’ve mentioned countless times before, lol), but from the little blurbs and various reviews I’d seen, it sounded interesting.

In a nutshell, the TARDIS ends up taking the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe to the rings of Saturn. There are big chunks of debris flying at them and they’re saved by a teenage girl named Phee Laws, who happens to be the daughter of Jo (who is the mayor of a settlement on the Wheel). A moon called Mnemosyne is being mined for a mineral called bernalium, directed by a female tyrant head of a corporation known as Bootstrap. People get attacked by these creepy “blue doll” monsters and repeated trips to this moon are made in order to put a stop to it all. The Doctor of course is at the heart of this, trying to understand and influence the “blue dolls”, as well as Arkive, the failing ancient artificial intelligence that is controlling them.

It doesn’t specify when exactly in the Who universe this story takes place, but given the references to the Cybermen invasion of London having occurred in the past, plus the references to T-Mat, it’s definitely post-The Seeds Of Death (actually, in the beginning of the book it’s mentioned that Jamie is wearing the same black lace-up Jacobite shirt he wore in that serial, plus the physical description of the Doctor – ragged sideburns, for one – seems to be a callback to the way he looked then as well). Other reviewers have suggested it takes place directly before The War Games. Whatever the case, it’s definitely in the late Series 6 time frame.

There are some other interesting characters, especially Sam, the 19-year-old son of Jo Laws. He ends up developing a bit of a rapport with Jamie. There’s a scene where the Doctor and companions are taking up residence at Jo’s house, with Zoe sharing a room with Phee and Jamie with Sam. At first, Sam scoffs at Jamie, calling him “Granddad” (which insults Jamie, who insists he’s not much older than him), but he soon offers Jamie to come along with him and his friends, riding scooters in space and “skiing” on another moon, Titan.

Jo also has a daughter named Casey, who is about 2 or 3 years old. It’s basically through her that the blue dolls are discovered. There is a nice scene towards the end of the book where she and Zoe are taking cover in an old ship. Little Casey is frightened the way the ship is being jostled about due to flying debris from an explosion and Zoe, who’s obviously not had much experience with children, does her best to comfort the toddler.

Another interesting character is MMAC, a large mechanic of a robot programmed to believe he is a Scotsman from Glasgow (in fact, upon first meeting them, he and Jamie have an interesting exchange … Jamie takes issue with the fact he’s a “Jessie” from Glasgow who most likely would have fought with the English during the Jacobite Uprising, LOL). Even though his memories are artificial – and it’s a bit sad when he discovers this – he’s very kind and helpful, coming through to save our protagonists in quite a few ways.

The characters that really didn’t do anything for me were Jo Laws’ ex-husband, whose interaction with Sam in particular seemed a bit forced (although I will give him credit for helping them save the day in the end); and Florian Hart, the head of the corporation in charge of mining the moon for bernalium. She starts as a relatively tame antagonist but as the story wears on – and especially near the end – she turns into a power-hungry tyrant. In doing so, she actually becomes a bit cartoonish and one-dimensional, and I was rooting for her defeat so we wouldn’t have to hear anymore about her.

Things do get resolved in the end and I won’t go into detail on that. I’ll just mention there’s a celebratory parade on the Wheel in which Jamie takes part, proudly playing the bagpipes. As you’d expect, the Doctor has them all quietly slip away while speeches and the like are being given, and they’re off in the TARDIS for their next adventure.

The characterizations of Team TARDIS were very well done, in my opinion. The Doctor’s portrayal seemed to start off a bit shaky, but got much better after the first chapter or two, and later on when he’s confronting the blue dolls/blue army men and Arkive, I could just hear Troughton as the Second Doctor delivering the words on the pages. Zoe and Jamie were very well done, too, although I’ve mentioned before that it’s an occasional pet peeve of mine when authors make him sound more Scots Highlander than he sounded in the TV show. Baxter does this here and there, with the occasional “yon” or “ken” but it wasn’t very distracting and apart from that, he got Jamie’s characterization very well.

That’s about all I wanted to say about this one. If you haven’t read it before, I would recommend it. The storyline was interesting and I liked the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe’s involvement in it.

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