Michael Moorcock’s Doctor Who novel — The Coming of the Terraphiles

The Balance has been pulled apart. The Multiverse has gone out of kilter. Matter is corrupting antimatter, Law is infecting Chaos, Chaos is infecting Law. The Doctor receives a garbled message alerting him to the dire state of the Multiverse, and in characteristically quirky style, immediately makes for the planet Peers in the year 51,007, to engage in a good ol’ game of whackit (the far-future’s best attempt at reconstructing a certain traditional English sport). After a foreword in classic science-fantasy style, in which we are introduced to the space-pirate Captain Cornelius, Moorcock relaxes into P G Wodehouse mode, as the plot to save the very nature of existence centres around the theft of a very valuable, though horrendously ugly hat.

Moorcock is obviously enjoying himself. The Terraphiles of the title, far from being some evil lizard-like alien, turn out to be a far-future society of historical re-enactment enthusiasts, whose particular interest is early 20th century England (the planet Peers is a terraformed theme-park based on a sort of “never-never England”). The Doctor, of course, is a fully-paid up Terraphile (which perhaps explains why he’s so fond of saving 20th century England from those endless alien invasions…), not to mention a dab hand with a whackit bat. (The sports scenes do tend to sound a bit Quidditchy, at times.)

If the threat to the Multiverse does, after a while, feel more like a maguffin to get Moorcock’s fruity collection of far-future retro-fictional “Decent Chaps, Silly Asses, Pretty Girls, Kindly Uncles and Terrifying Aunts” (not to mention space-pirates and Aetheristic sea-dogs) on a spaceship voyage together, it’s only because his primary goal seems to be having a bit of fun with the Doctor Who universe. So, don’t expect a compelling story, but do expect plenty of imagination, sly references to Moorcock’s own work (as well as a few favourites of his, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Hawkwind, and perhaps a subtle Blue Oyster Cult reference in one chapter title), alongside lashings of Wodehousian fun. If nothing else, it’s worth it to read Moorcock’s rendering of the TARDIS dematerialisation sound: like “rusty shopping carts being dragged over sheets of corrugated tin” — the most accurate description yet!

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