The Last Resort

by Paul Leonard

BBC Books 8th Doctor Adventure, 2003

I'm not quite sure what to make of "The Last Resort". Some quarters billed it as the saviour of the Alternate Universe arc. It's not that, but it does move the arc on and is the first book that seems to benefit from this wider context. Leonard gives us a clear narrative through a complex tale of temporal hi-jinks and his strong imagery avoids the pitfalls of yet more techno-babble, but the book does not have the strengths of "The Turing Test" and its implications for the arc are strange.

"The Last Resort" offers up a story of temporal strangeness as the dire predictions of recent 8DAs come true. The format is striking, but not that unusual in traditional science fiction. "The Last Resort" is a lot of Philip K. Dick, with maybe a touch of "Tom Strong", but Leonard writes it well for the most part. There are some touching scenes, some striking imagery, an amusing twist around the Others (perhaps an obscure joke on the explanation of the Enemy in "The Ancestor Cell" too?). However, the book is unoriginal in places and becomes clumsy in its execution. The anti-globalisation stance is delivered like a sledgehammer and undermines any characterisation of Anji, echoing a similar political naïveté in "Genocide". Fitz and the Doctor fare little better, mere ciphers for the plot. It is the Doctor's passivity that lingers as a bitter aftertaste after the enjoyment of the book.

Leonard dedicates the book to Jim Mortimore and appears to have inherited Mortimore's obsession with death. The solution to the multiplication of time lines centres around the [SPOILERS—highlight to read] death of duplicate people, although there is no obvious reason why that should solve anything. You can set up many a time paradox without conscious beings having to be involved. A dead duplicate Fitz is just as much of a paradox as a live one.

"The Last Resort" also seems to prove Sabbath right. The Doctor gives up on his idea of saving people and his last ditch attempt to salvage one life seems to doom the entire universe all over in the epilogue. Is that how the 8DAs want to present the Doctor? A bumbling fool who avoids responsibility for destroying his planet and whose subsequent behaviour will destroy the universe? Or will a subsequent 8DA have a twist whereby the Doctor redeems himself and proves Sabbath wrong? I am perturbed, but at least I want to know what happens next, which hasn't been true for several months!

Henry Potts, 9 Jul 2003

Originally posted to the Jade Pagoda mailing list.

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