Written by award-winning author Stephen Baxter, The Wheel of Ice is a Second Doctor adventure. The plotline is vintage Doctor Who: The Doctor and his companions arrive on the Wheel, a mining facility circling Mnemosyne, one of Saturn’s moons. The colony, rife with internal strife, is being attacked by a mysterious entity.
Baxter does a good job fleshing out companions Jamie and Zoe. Both are given plenty to do and Zoe in particular really shines as she is forced to adapt to what is essentially a primitive version of space station she grew up on.
The Doctor, however, is almost a peripheral character and when he does appear, the characterisation feels a bit flat. Baxter never quite captures the energy and eccentricities of Troughton’s performance.
The inhabitants of the Wheel are very much stock characters: the perfect sister, the angry young man, the long-suffering leader and the power-mad corporate representative. Baxter does try to make MMAC the robot a bit livelier by giving it a strong Scottish accent. Alas, dialect doesn’t equal character development. It also doesn’t come across well on the written page. Given that Jamie has already been installed as the series’ resident Scot, it seems a rather odd creative choice.
The story has the pacing of a six-episode adventure, complete with side-trips and cliff-hangers, and is underpinned by some refreshingly hard science. But the writing seems stiff and occasionally self-conscious as Baxter tosses in a host of references to other stories.
Final verdict: Thumbs up. For all its shortcomings, The Wheel of Ice captures the essential essence of the Troughton era.
Sharon loves Doctor Who, waterfalls, British accents, autumn, and chocolate. She lives with two demanding cats and a large collection of books and lightsabers. Her hobbies include blogging, blinking and breathing in and out.