Lawrence Miles created Faction Paradox with an intention to write stories involving the mythic War in Heaven against the future Enemy of the Time Lords. The earliest seeds of Grandfather Paradox were seeded in Christmas on a Rational Planet before Alien Bodies and Interference setup just what Faction Paradox is doing with the theft of the Doctor’s biodata, allowing Laura Tobin to become Compassion, and killing the Third Doctor on Dust. Since The Blue Angel and The Shadows of Avalon, Compassion has become a TARDIS and is being forced into becoming the template for the rest of the sentient TARDIS’s. This was meant to be a long story arc, but as Stephen Cole left the range editor and Justin Richards took over, Lawrence Miles vowed never to write for Doctor Who again, a promise which he broke by writing for Big Finish Productions as well as writing The Adventuress of Henrietta Street. To wrap up the Faction Paradox and the Compassion arc, leaving editor Stephen Cole teamed up with Peter Anghelides to write The Ancestor Cell, a book determined to end this particular era of the Eighth Doctor Adventures and bring in the new team, finishing up the Faction Paradox and human TARDIS storylines. This had the potential to be a complete disaster as it’s taking several threads and bringing them to a close all in one book. The book also may have one of the higher word counts for the Eighth Doctor Adventures, with the text being smaller than the standard to keep the page count to the approximate 280 pages of a BBC Books.
The Ancestor Cell sees the Doctor, Fitz, and Compassion split up with Compassion captured by the Time Lords, the Doctor by Romana, and Fitz taken by Faction Paradox. There is a bone flower growing in space out of the Doctor’s original TARDIS and Romana is attempting to win the War with the Enemy at all costs. Anghelides and Cole essentially take a Lawrence Miles style story and write it in the practical style of say a Target novelization making this an interesting read to say the least. There are also several horrific images such as spiders made of bone and the degradation of Fitz Kreiner into Father Kreiner. Fitz’s brainwashing by Faction Paradox is something incredibly slow over the course of the book and is really only saved by Compassion coming in and being compassionate. There is quite a lot of body horror and the voice of Father Kreiner is one of this jaded man, mad with power and an incredibly devious mind. Kreiner blames the Doctor for leaving him to die on the planet Dust, bringing back the fact that the version of Fitz we have seen is actually a clone. The modifications to Fitz throughout the book to slowly influence him into getting to become Father Kreiner. This becomes incredibly apparent when Fitz and Compassion have their final moment with the now amnesiac Doctor in the ruins of the destroyed Gallifrey. This is actually Compassion’s final story which makes it interesting as she doesn’t always appear throughout, but it makes her entrances into the plot and her contribution is her best appearance. This is the book that makes me actually really like where Compassion has been going and ends up here.
The reappearance of Romana III here is also incredibly important to make her a War Queen of Nine Gallifreys, each of which is slowly destroyed as several timelines clash. Romana blames the Doctor for starting the war, with the many Time Lord supporting characters having their own sense of madness which contributes to Romana’s madness. What makes things the most interesting is the flashes of the old Romana which are included here and there give the cold President something human and the flashes. Meanwhile Grandfather Paradox works as a cold and dark reflection against the Doctor, as a figure that the Doctor may be destined to become if he gives into the Faction. The Doctor is perhaps the most distraught as he loses everything and the climax where he is responsible for starting the War and ending Gallifrey, all while losing his memory is absolutely beautiful. Yes it has become a joke that the Eighth Doctor gets amnesia, but this is one of the few times where it has actual repercussions for future books. The Eighth Doctor is also at his most sympathetic as he just finds himself broken at the end of this book. There is an issue with the conclusion not really allowing him to react and respond, as well as essentially ending on a conversation.
Overall, The Ancestor Cell somehow manages to be a brilliant novel out of two authors who previously failed to entirely impress, making something great. This deals with the destruction of Gallifrey in one of those stories where it actually feels important, giving some emotional closure to the story arc and prepares to usure in something new. 9/10.