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The coming of the Terraphiles is a novel in the Doctor Who canon written by the master of gothic fantasy and hard science fiction Michael Moorcock. It recounts the tales of the current doctor (Matt Smith), Amy Pond and their journey to a strange planet where the myths and legends of English life has been recreated in a strange alternate manner. The book is set in the very far future where the original Earth has been lost and only exaggerated versions of English life have survived.
Doctor Who and Michael Moorcock
Doctor Who is the landmark BBC gothic science fiction TV series which began life way back in the early Sixties; it has been a staple of English TV for approaching 50 years. There have been 10 Doctors, all played by English or Scottish actors and the doctor always has his blue TARDIS, a beautiful female assistant and sometimes a male assistant though not always and an array of now famous adversaries (the Daleks, Cybermen, the Master etc). The current Doctor Matt Smith took over two years ago and his assistant is the tall, leggy and beautiful Amy Pond (Karen Gillan).
Michael Moorcock is the award winning English author who has been writing since the early 1970's; he is best known for his Jerry Cornelius series and his Elric gothic fantasy novels. He is in my opinion the best English writer around at the moment and his novels have been a favourite of mine since I was a young boy reading about the white haired albino Elric and despairing about his badness.
The Coming of the Terraphiles
If a book was ever created with me in mind then this book would have been it, Doctor Who - huge fan, Michael Moorcock - even bigger fan. This is a book set in the most up to date Doctor Who world, that of the diffident awkward world of the current Doctor and the desire to protect his assistant and to not fancy her at the same time. This book is set in a distant world but the author toys with our perceptions of Englishness throughout, the Terraphiles of the title are English loving humans whose only contact with real English people are corrupted files saved on a computer. From these corrupted files a strange English style life has become established, wrapped around cricket and wearing of elaborate clothes and drinking tea. The Terraphiles are a team of cricketers who play a type of cricket which has somehow become entangled with archery and the catching of the arrow.
The book begins as with all Doctor Who novels with the Doctor arriving on his TARDIS, however, the TARDIS needs a service so he sends her somewhere to be looked at whilst he enjoys his time on the surface of the planet. He soon encounters a Mr and Mrs Canning, who own the planet and also run the team, the team is playing in the planet wide cricket competition and when they win the region heat they have qualified for the galaxy final. Just as they are due to set off, Mrs Cannings hat is stolen, some beings appear who are made of anti-matter and the importance of the hat is made apparent. The team, the Doctor, Amy and Mrs Canning head off on a slow moving ship to the galaxy centre and the race is on to find the hat; find out the importance of the Terraphiles and why the games are being played.
As with all MM novels, there is plenty of grist for the reader to enjoy, he loves to pepper his novels with characters which are fully rounded and have plenty of edges to them. In this novel, he sticks very closely to the characters of the Doctor and Amy, removing the TARDIS means this novel has the feel of a journey style novel and the story rather slowly unfolds rather than explodes at certain moments through the novel. MM clearly loves Englishness despite living in Paris, he also loves poking fun at the absurdities of English life the love of cricket, warm beer, darts, he also explores the themes of team building, the English class structure and the English sense of humour. All these themes have been corrupted by the original computer files and we have a loving created sense of things not as we imagine, we have cricket played with a bow and arrow, beer drank from a teapot, we have the strongest of Cockney accents becoming the standard English accent and the pronounced desire to be friends with all our neighbours regardless of past differences. That last one was my favourite and took me a while to work out MM was having a go at our attitudes to Europe, the US and the fate of the old English colonies superb again.
This novel which came in at around 320 pages was one of the best books I read in 2011, witty, sarcastic, and sardonic and always with a strong story running through to give the social comment plenty to hang onto. Michael Moorcock once again showed he is still at the top of his game and hopefully will produce many more novels of this calibre in the future.