The Taking of Chelsea 426.

Books The blurbs on the rear of these books are getting better. Time was that the synopsis to these short novels would give away much of the first half causing much of the interest to be in the finale which we know from the bitter experience of being fans of Doctor Who isn’t often where the interest lies. For The Taking of Chelsea 426, the reader isn’t offered much more than is obvious from the cover illustration, that some futuristic colony has been rerendered to resemble Chelsea, right down to constructing an annual flower show, something fishy is going on and the Sontarans are involved. The problem with this new book, from new nu-Who author David Llewellyn (previously of a bunch of Torchwood fiction) is that his story doesn’t have much more than that.

Oh, as revealed in last month’s Doctor Who Magazine, the Sontarans aren’t the only old foes to appear and congratulations to the author for a relatively nice bit of bluff in relation to their reveal, and this whopping great story element I’ve decided not to spoil might interest some long term fans, but it lacks tension and the portrayal is simply offers an excuse re-emergence of one of nu-Who’s hoary old tropes and like the worst of nu-Who’s hoary old tropes you’ll know it when you see it, or in this case read about it. You might even, like me, say “Really? Really? Really?!?” out loud and with some dread as you realise that there’s another hundred pages to go.

Which isn’t to say The Tenth Doctor isn’t nicely portrayed with his catchphrases and some of Tennant’s mannerism in place. It makes a nice change for the Doctor to become mixed up with a family for a change with proper kids filling in as companions for this solo adventure (bringing to mind TV Comics’s John and Gillian). The small man syndrome of the Sontarans and how they relate to the other species is nicely rendered, and it's nice that we finally meet a battalion who bred for destruction but will seek a more intelligent solution if required. The nicest scene is perhaps a rather poignant death where once again we feel the weight of the Doctor’s age on his seemingly young shoulders.

It’s nice, nice, nice. But it’s not spectacular. The flower show is simply the setting for a Lazarus-style technological reveal, its acres of verdant potential otherwise unharvested. There is some discussion as to how the invasion of middle England (or at least this version) by outsiders can lead to the breakdown of traditional order (cf, Hot Fuzz) but because none of the characterisation of the locals reaches beyond more than one dimension it peters out far before the end. Llewellyn does introduced some useful satire with a cryogenically thawed human who’s become a media personality, presumably Alan Titchmarsh with a sweatpea loose, but this precious seed of an idea isn’t given enough TLC to germinate.

The Taking of Chelsea 426 is not offensively bad and some kids might gain some enjoyment from it, especially when their avatars within the story get to outsmart the adults, all very The Sarah Jane Adventures, their participation in the climax suggesting that being a bit nerdy does have its uses. But after The Eyeless and Prisoner of the Daleks (which in retrospect I enjoyed more than my review suggests), books that stretched the possibilities of what this version of the franchise's fiction is capable of, Llewellyn’s novel takes a retrograde step backwards to the likes of Wetworld, rather like one of those Battles In Time comic strips; all of the furniture is in place, it is Doctor Who, but it’s of a sort that is desperate not to deviate from formula and is mostly about showing off the monsters.

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