Interference: Book One
BBC 8th Doctor Novel
Lawrence Miles was behind the superb 1997 BBC book Alien Bodies in which a group of intergalactic representatives--including the Doctor--bid for ownership of the Doctor's body while a group of mysterious Time Lord-like cultists, the Faction Paradox, mess around with time streams. In Interference he fleshes out the Faction Paradox and introduces a new group of beings called the Remote.
These are perhaps the most interesting aliens to have appeared in the BBC range to date. Their culture is based on electronic transmissions which they receive from whichever planet they find themselves on. The people are totally free to interpret these signals as they will. They believe they are given direction and meaning by the signals and are on the whole fairly happy with their lot.
In the first novel we are introduced to I M Foreman, a mystery woman sitting on a hill. (This is also the name printed on the junkyard doors in Totters' Lane, London, 1963, where we first met the Doctor--hopefully this will be explained in Book Two.) The Doctor joins her and they settle down to discuss what happened on Earth. But what did happen? Sam is there keeping an eye on an international arms conference when she becomes captured by the Remote. Sarah Jane Smith (ex-companion of the 3rd and 4th Doctors) is also there along with K9, doing pretty much the same thing. The Remote are trying to sell advanced alien arms to various powers and using brutish alien Ogrons as bodyguards. Fitz meanwhile has been swallowed up in 1996 by a weapon called the Cold and does not emerge until 2593 where he joins a Faction Paradox cult. Meanwhile the 8th Doctor is apparently locked in a cell where he and his cellmate are irregularly and viciously tortured with electric shock batons.
Where all this leads is unclear as it's not resolved in this book. The mysterious I M Foreman remains an enigma, aside from the fact that as a man she might have been running a travelling circus of freaks on the planet Dust which was once visited by the 3rd Doctor and Sarah.
All this confusion and loose ends may leave readers reeling and puzzled. It starts really well indeed with Miles building up an apocalyptic feel with the individual plot elements. It's when the story becomes dominated by Sarah Jane Smith (posing as Sarah Bland, and never was a surname better chosen) that the book grinds to a crawl. She's just not interesting and doesn't rise above the printed page. Fitz and the Doctor might as well not be there (well, they're actually not there for 90 per cent of it) and Sam gets to see all the interesting stuff as usual--which here includes appearing in scenes presented as though from a film or television script. This is a nice idea and works surprisingly well.
The book ends at an apparently arbitrary point, but readers who have bought both volumes can continue straight on... --David J Howe