Doctor Who: Harvest of Time by Alastair Reynolds

Paul R. Potts

I wrote the original version of this this review for

Reynolds is one of my absolute favorite contemporary science fiction writers — a terrific stylist and very creative purveyor of dark, cyberpunk-inflected, gothic space opera. Therefore, it may seem odd to match him up with the Doctor Who franchise, it’s actually perfect. He knows just how to walk the line between the ridiculous and the sublime.

He somehow manages to conjure the low-budget cheesiness of the Pertwee Doctor Who with genuine affection. How can the sets in a written work feel like they are low-budget? Because he understands the visual language of the original show perfectly.

When I read about the alien monsters and rips in the fabric of space-time, in my mind’s eye they are just as dumb and wonderful as the original show from that era. The dialogue has a little too much bombast, just like the original. The interactions between characters are all slightly awkward, the scenes not paced quite smoothly, their motivations just a little too transparent, the plot twists hinted at just a little bit too broadly — just like the original.

Reynolds could have made it too dark; he could have made it too slick; he could have made it too “literary.” I have not finished the book yet but from what I have read so far, that all-important tone is spot-on.

I don’t read a lot of spin-offs — I haven’t read a Star Wars “expanded universe” spin-off novel since the 1980s — but this spin-off is great fun. I’m really glad I picked it up.

Saginaw, Michigan
June 17, 2013

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