Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Only Human: Gareth Roberts, January 17—February 15, 2015
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
The Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack explore what it is to be human in the latest Doctor Who novel. A Neanderthal shows up in present-day London, while futuristic humans travel back in time 28,000 years, by now emotionless due to an endless array of injections which preclude any fear or negativity.
As Captain Jack babysits the Neanderthal, the Doctor and Rose discover the future humans living in the past are genetically engineering Humanity 2.0, devoid of unhelpful traits in a Cyberman-esque design, all the while early-day humans and Neanderthal tribes fight for dominance.
The themes are not new to Doctor Who; the Ninth Doctor had a particular bee in his bonnet about the depravity of the species. But it is explored in significant detail, and the juxtaposition of the various versions of ‘humanity’ work very well.
The writing is good, and the patter is brilliant. The Doctor, in particular, is captured extremely well by Roberts. Although most of the guest characters are bland and forgettable, this was probably intentional given the comatose state most of them had elected to be in.
With the continuity of Doctor Who novels historically disputed, the Nu-Who series seems to be much more credible. Every book until now has featured the “Bad Wolf” phrase that was key to the concurrently running Series 1 (2005), and the events of The Monsters Inside were referenced in the TV episode Boom Town (2005). While there is no Bad Wolf reference in Only Human, Rose does allude to the events of the TV episode The Unquiet Dead (2005), and the TV episode Gridlock (2007) was partially inspired by Only Human. Although these references are fleeting, they’re appreciated.
While some aspects of Only Human seem a little too madcap even for Doctor Who, in general there is a very interesting question at the heart of this outing. Jack is underused, but the Doctor is on form and overall, this is a hugely entertaining, if not entirely memorable, jaunt.