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This is the second in the New Series Adventures, and it's pretty good! Like all the other books in the series, it's a short, quick read with a fast-moving plot and a great adventure.
**Synopsis** (from the back of the book)
The TARDIS takes the Doctor and Rose to a destination in deep space - Justicia, a prison camp stretched over seven planets, where Earth colonies deal with their criminals.
While Rose finds herself locked up in a teenage borstal, the Doctor is trapped in a scientific labour camp. Each is determined to find the other, and soon both Rose and the Doctor are risking life and limb to escape in their distinctive styles.
But their dangerous plans are complicated by some old enemies. Are these creatures fellow prisoners as they claim, or staging a takeover for their own sinister purposes?
**Plot** (minor spoilers)
The premise for this book is an interesting one: separate the Doctor and Rose and imprison them. On reading the back of the book, I wondered how this seemingly simplistic plot would be enough to sustain a book for 250 pages, but of course the imprisonment is just a scratch on the surface.
I see this book taking place after 'The Long Game', and the Doctor and Rose's relationship - where he is incredibly worried about her and she only wants to get back to him - seems natural for around this point in the series. The book opens with the Doctor and Rose stepping from the TARDIS onto the surface of an alien planet - the first and only alien planet in the entire first series. They see laborours working on what look like stone pyramids, and are soon encircled by the laborours overseers.
It is here the Doctor and Rose are separated - to separate planets, no less. Rose is taken to a young persons prison, a teenage borstal if you will, and she is immediately set upon by the prison's resident bully. Meanwhile, the Doctor is over on another prison planet, where the aliens are kept and their superior brains are used to advance the prison technologies. We soon see who the 'old enemies' referenced on the back of the book are when the Doctor is introduced to his cellmates: two Raxacoricofallapatorian's from the family Slitheen, whose ancestors were last seen being blown up at 10 Downing Street in the two-parter "Aliens of London/World War Three".
There's a lot of scientific gumph in this book - something to do with particle retractors and gravity warpers - a lot of waffle that went straight over my head. This is perhaps what lets this book down. As a reader, I don't want to be bombarded with scientific information when a surface summary (like they do in the TV series) would suffice. Having said that, the scientific mumbo-jumbo does crop up later in the book when the plot is explained, so perhaps it's best if you do try to understand it!
I found Rose's imprisonment much more interesting than the Doctor's, whose scenes are about explaining the scientific stuff. Rose on the other hand gets to fight with her cellmates, start food-fights in the hall, and try to uncover the mysterious undercurrents that seem to be running through the people in charge of the Justicia prison system.
The bad guys here are the Blathereen - cousins to the family Slitheen that we already know. Inevitably, the Doctor and Rose are reunited, but not before a thrilling chase scene on another of the prison planets. The reason behind the invasion of Blathereen's on the prisons is highly convoluted and requires you to remember all the scientific stuff mentioned earlier on. However, the climax of the book is exciting and the pages fly past as we see the Doctor and Rose save the day once again.
For the naysayers who claim that the New Series Adventure books have been 'dumbed down' and solely aimed at children should read this one - there are some genuinely gruesome moments.
The Doctor and Rose are wonderfully realised by Stephen Cole in this novel, however as for most of the book they are apart, it is difficult to see how his versions come across when they are together.
Nevertheless, he portrays them entirely believably and very much as they are in the television series.
There are various other characters in the book, for example Flowers - the Doctor's warder, who eventually becomes an ally. Then there are his cellmates, Dram Fel Fotch and his brother Ecktosca Fel Fotch Heppen-Bar Slitheen. These are fairly interchangeable, but end up helping the Doctor in his escape.
Over on Rose's prison planet, there's the Governer, who Rose is convinced is a Slitheen. Then there's the bully Kazta, who is nothing more than a surface character there to provoke Rose. The dashing Dennel becomes Rose's friend, and eventually helps her to escape. Further members of the Blathereen family are uncovered, but again - these big, slimy, bug-eyes monsters are quite interchangeable to me.
Author: Stephen Cole
Price: £5.99 (RRP)
I enjoyed this book a lot more than the first in the series "The Clockwise Man". It's got everything a Doctor Who story should have - adventure, suspense, and big, bad monsters. It's interesting that this adventure is the only one referenced in the television series - in the episode "Boom Town", when Rose mentions "Justicia". The prison atmosphere of the book feels, quite rightly, oppressive and this might not be everyone's cup of tea. The Doctor and the Rose are very much as we know them, and like always, everything comes out all right in the end.