The New Doctor Who Adventures: Blood Heat by Jim Mortimore (1993)

BloodHeatFrontCover blurb

“Not men, Ace. Silurians. The original rulers of the Earth.”

The TARDIS is attacked by an alien force; Bernice is flung into the Vortex; and the Doctor and Ace crash-land on Earth.

An attack by dinosaurs convinces the Doctor that he and Ace have arrived in the Jurassic Era. But when they find a woman being hunted by intelligent reptiles, he begins to suspect that something is very wrong.

Then they meet the embittered Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, leading the remnants of UNIT in a hopeless fight against the Silurians who rule his world. And they find out that it all began when the Doctor died…

*Cover scans from icshi.net

My thoughts

Doctor Who, for any non-nerds reading this, is a long-running British science fiction show about a human-looking alien known as the Doctor who travels across time and space in a blue police box. It also is my favorite show. The Doctor has rarely encountered dinosaurs despite being able to journey to any point in time, mainly because the special effects needed were beyond the small budget of the show. Still, one of my favorite storylines involved paleontology. In “Doctor Who and the Silurians,” a race of reptile-people from Earth’s prehistoric past awake from their cryogenic slumber and soon come into conflict with humans, who have evolved in the millions of years since these “Silurians” first went to sleep. The creatures are not pure villains like many of the show’s alien menaces but instead morally gray, and the Doctor is constantly frustrated in his attempts to make peace between humans and Silurians as both sides view the other as monsters that must be eradicated.

Watching “Doctor Who and the Silurians” is essential before reading Blood Heat, which is a direct sequel to the episode. Where “Doctor Who and the Silurians” starred the Third Doctor, portrayed by Jon Pertwee, this spin-off novel stars the Seventh Doctor, portrayed by Sylvester McCoy, and his human companions Ace and Bernice Summerfield. The book starts when the Doctor’s time machine, called the TARDIS, begins to disintegrate in midflight. For some inexplicable reason, Bernice sticks her hand in a patch of disintegration and soon disappears. The Doctor manages to land the TARDIS in what he and Ace first believe is Earth’s prehistoric past, given the surrounding tropical jungle and the presence of dinosaurs. However, the Doctor surmises something isn’t right as the two encounter dinosaurs that lived millions of years apart. They then run into a wild, half-crazed woman who turns out to be the Doctor’s former companion Jo Grant. She is being hunted by dinosaur-riding Silurians, and the three make their escape by running into a herd of Seismosaurus. The Doctor afterward concludes that someone has changed the course of history. The year is 1993, and in this timeline, the Doctor was murdered before he could stop the Silurians from unleashing a plague that killed most of humanity. The human survivors are being led by a grizzled Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart while the Silurians are using terraforming technology to return the planet to its Mesozoic Era state. Both sides are locked in war, which the humans are losing. The Doctor, always the peacemaker, sets out to convince the two species to lay down their weapons, but is that possible after so many atrocities?

Blood Heat was part of the Virgin New Adventures line of spin-off novels published following the cancellation of the original series in 1989. The books continued the adventures of the Seventh Doctor and were notable for two reasons. First, several writers who would eventually work on the rebooted show penned novels in the series, including Mark Gatiss and Russell T. Davies. Second, the books are markedly more “adult” than the TV show, containing swear words not allowed on television at the time and graphic violence. Blood Heat itself is a surprisingly grim novel for anyone only familiar with TV incarnation of Doctor Who. Humanity is on the brink of extinction, the Brigadier is a genocidal madman, the free-spirited Jo has been driven insane by torture, and there are no TV censors to get in the way of depictions of dinosaurs bloodily tearing apart their victims. The plot also can be hard to follow for readers new to the book series as it continues storylines started in earlier novels. Besides the addition of Bernice, who wasn’t in the show, the rebellious teen Ace is now a former soldier with a mean streak. That said, after wading through the opening pages, I think most readers will pick up the new character beats. Again, I strongly suggest either rewatching “Doctor Who and the Silurians” or reading the plot summary on Wikipedia before cracking open Blood Heat.

Several dinosaurs appear throughout the pages of Blood Heat, although most of the dinosaur action is confined to the first section of the book. The rest of the novel instead focuses on the conflict between humans and Silurians and the Doctor’s efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution. As for whether readers enjoy the book, that will depend on whether they are fans of Doctor Who, particularly the Sylvester McCoy version of the Doctor. Anyone unfamiliar with the show or who is only an occasional viewer will be lost and likely uninterested in the characters’ plights. Like many spin-off novels, Blood Heat assumes its readers already are familiar with the protagonists, so the author doesn’t do the heavy lifting of fleshing out their backstories and quirks. Fans of the show should have a more positive experience. Blood Heat presents a very twisted take on some of Doctor Who’s most popular characters, and the book’s depiction of an England overrun by prehistoric jungle is captivating. The overall theme also is timely. I’m not sure if the author intended to invoke the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but the parallels are there. You have two sides fighting over land they both claim ownership over but are unable to reach a peaceful solution after decades of war — the difference, in this case, being the land in question is the entire planet. The Doctor isn’t there to take sides but to get both species to put past grievances aside and resolve their differences instead of continuing the cycle of violence.

Blood Heat definitely is more for Doctor Who fans than paleofiction fans, but if you enjoy both, you’re in for a treat. One word of warning though: The book isn’t a stand-alone novel. It kicked off a cycle of five novels about the Doctor traveling to parallel timelines. The cause of changes in time isn’t revealed until the fifth novel. The central conflict between the humans and the Silurians is resolved by the end of Blood Heat, but if you want to know what is meddling with time, you need to keep reading.

Trivia

  • Jim Mortimore is a British science fiction author who has penned spin-off novels for Doctor Who, Farscape and Babylon 5.
  • The Silurians have a complicated history within Doctor Who. For starters, they didn’t live during the Silurian period, which ended millions of years before reptiles evolved. They also have aquatic cousins called “Sea Devils,” which look a little like sea turtles. The Silurians were brought back in the rebooted version of Doctor Who but their appearance was greatly changed. The original Silurians had three eyes and the actors wore masks that covered their faces. In the rebooted series, Silurians have only two eyes and the faces of the actors who portray them are recognizable through the makeup. You can read more about the Silurians here.
  • As I said earlier, the Doctor has rarely encountered dinosaurs in his/her TV adventures, mainly because of budgetary constraints. The dinosaur seen in “Doctor Who and the Silurians” is laughably inaccurate. The animals were unconvincingly portrayed by hand puppets in “Invasion of the Dinosaurs.” The new series has done a much better job depicting dinosaurs thanks to CGI, particularly in the episode “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.”
  • This dinosaur-themed Doctor Who novel was released the same year the first Jurassic Park film hit theaters. I’m sure that was a total coincidence. Yep, definitely not a cash grab.
  • Scans of the book’s cover art and an illustrated preview that ran in Doctor Who Magazine are available at icshi.net.

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