Sometimes when you write a series of reviews, you don’t really expect the similar type of analysis to pop up immediately after one another. Frontier Worlds is Peter Anghelides’ great big pulp fiction Doctor Who story and honestly it’s what the Eighth Doctor Adventures kind of needed at this point. The plot of the book is presented as a fairly standard Doctor Who story dealing with an evil corporation with liberal dashes of The Seeds of Doom tossed in for good measure. The villain is an alien plant which takes over a human host, and no it isn’t the Krynoid, the humans it takes over are specifically members of the Frontier Worlds Corporation. The Corporation is one involved in genetic engineering projects, something that Anghelides manages not to fearmonger over, instead keeping the critique to the issues of extreme capitalism and corporatism inherent in a lot of funded science. Frontier Worlds is not a book criticizing using new technologies but allowing funding to disregard safety for a grab at power, in this instance being a matter of extending life artificially. The Raab is the plant alien here which infects the head of the corporation, or better put he infects himself intentionally, and the best parts of the book is seeing how the Raab sort of takes over this guy’s thought process. Yes, a lot of it comes from Harrison Chase’s insanity in The Seeds of Doom, but Anghelidies at least gives the characters who are infected something very different. Many of them started with good intentions, and are taking this risk in experimentation because they’re looking for something. The Corporation is taking advantage of them throughout the novel just to raise their profits and create a product.
The book itself plays around with the format, being one of the few Doctor Who novels that is told from a first person perspective, switching from a few core characters. This is the first book really since Interference to give a lot of page time and perspective to Fitz Kreiner, who really is the star of this book. Fitz has decided to make his and Compassion’s cover story Frank and Nancy Sinatra, a reference that somehow actually works in getting them in the door. Fitz is kind of left without the Doctor’s help and has started to become fed up with the Doctor’s inability to address the problems the TARDIS team have been having throughout these past few books. He doesn’t particularly like Compassion’s inability to live up to her name, instead coming across as an inhuman ice queen. Compassion is implied to be, for lack of a better term, developing into something else, something that is no longer human. She was already not human in the previous books, but Frontier Worlds makes it clear what Magrs, Butcher-Jones, and Clapham were attempting to do with the character. Compassion just wants to get the job done and move along, clearly not really enjoying the whole leaving the TARDIS bit, preferring to be among its data which becomes an incredibly interesting development for the character who doesn’t quite know who she is.
The Doctor as presented in this novel is given one of his better characterizations. The EDA writers have always had a difficult job in characterizing this particular Doctor based on the very little screen time he had. Paul McGann only appeared in 2/3 of the TV Movie and wouldn’t appear as the Doctor again until 2001’s Storm Warning. Anghelides here latches onto the helpless romantic aspect of the character, posing as Doctor James Bowman and not really seeing the rift being formed between his companions. The Doctor here fights for justice, but still finds his head in the clouds as to what’s going on around him. It feels like the character may be repressing the events of the last few novels as he just wants to get back to travelling, something that is obviously not going to happen. The Doctor is on a path to be utterly broken, he is being setup for failure in the grand scheme of things, and while he eventually wins in Frontier Worlds the future looks dark. Overall, Frontier Worlds is one of those stories that manages to be fun despite being quite derivative of other, better Doctor Who stories. It is mostly a book for its main cast, and Anghelides writes something that the readers need at this point with a pulpy mystery at its heart and some fun set pieces to make it work as a story. 6/10.