Lance Parkin's second Doctor Who novel, Cold Fusion, was a significant event in itself on it's publication as it marked the first time that the Fifth and Seventh Doctor's featured in the same story, and whilst this is very much a Missing Adventure, like the best of the New Adventures, the Seventh Doctor's presence is felt throughout. After an impressive debut in the form of Just War, Lance Parkin follows it up with another excellent piece of work, which went a long way towards cementing his reputation as one of the best Doctor Who writers to write for the Virgin ranges.
Arriving on a desolate, barren ice world, the Fifth Doctor and his companions soon find themselves in a very dangerous situation for the world is on the point of out and out war as the ruling elite are targeted by a small group of rebels. With a small army of Adjudicators keeping the fragile peace, the Doctor's suspicions are soon raised by their presence. He soon discovers that something is happening which will threaten the whole universe, and it's got something to do with both his past and his future...
A novel featuring the Fifth Doctor, the Seventh Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan, Adric, Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester sounds like a logistic nightmare just waiting to happen, and with a lesser author that might very well have been the case, but Parkin achieves the task of making the book work with remarkable ease. With the Seventh Doctor taking on his familiar New Adventures stand of staying within the background of the story, making his presence felt at key moments only, this ensures that the character of the newly regenerated Fifth Doctor come to the fore, and also gives the two disparate TARDIS teams of companions a chance to mix up which leads to some very ingenious moments.
With Cold Fusion taking place very soon after Castrovalva, the Fifth Doctor is still recovering from the effects of his regeneration and to a certain extent, although not in the same way, are his companions. Parkin gets the character of the Doctor at this point in time very well, managing to get the traits of the Fifth Doctor well, and because the Fifth and Seventh Doctor are so different, the way he goes about contrasting these two different aspects of the Doctor is one of the most enjoyable elements of the book. The Seventh Doctor doesn't seem to hold his former self in much regard, calling him at one point 'not even one of the good ones ' when talking about his past selves, and the frustration that the Doctor seems to feel by having to deal with his former self is very tangible in the later stages of the novel when these two have scenes together while the Fifth Doctor is far more pragmatic in dealing with his future self.
The multitude of companions that feature in Cold Fusion are where Lance Parkin really excels. His grasp of both the Fifth Doctor and Seventh Doctor's companions is exceptionally good, with them all coming across well. Whereas some authors might have trouble finding enough for just two companions to do within a novel, Parkin ensures that all five of the companions featured here have detailed roles within the story, and by using unfamiliar combinations such as Roz and Adric, and Nyssa and Cwej, Parkin has an opportunity to explore some new avenues for these characters. The scenes with Tegan and Chris together are absolutely hilarious, with some genuine laugh out loud moments, particularly when he's posing as 'Bruce Jovanka'. Tegan's indignant nature is captured perfectly. Parkin's characterisation of Adric is akin to what Craig Hinton did for Mel in Millennial Rites and The Quantum Archangel, in that he fleshes Adric out so that he becomes likeable, and the scenes with him and the Seventh Doctor (who obviously has knowledge of Adric's forthcoming fate in Earthshock) are quite poignant.
But possibly the most interesting aspect of the entire novel is the character of Patience. This whole aspect of the novel is hugely fascinating as a very old Gallifreyan who regenerates for the first time during the novel, the mystery that Parkin builds up about her regarding who she is and what her relationship with the Doctor truly is make this a very notable novel. The hints about who she really is and what her relationship with the Doctor might have been add a great deal to the novel because it infuses a genuine sense of mystery about her. She comes across as a character in her own right very well, being both very likeable and Parkin ensures that the sense of the possible bond between her and the Doctor is conveyed well with the true nature never being explicitly exposed.
Sometimes novels featuring 'events' can fall quite flat because they do not pay enough attention to their plot which is the foundation of a good Doctor Who novel, and with the elements going into Cold Fusion, there was a real risk that this could happen here. But that is not the case, as the story that Lance Parkin has plotted is strong enough to hold both of it's Doctors and their vast entourage of companions as well as be very interesting indeed. The inclusion of Patience helps to give the book a real sense of mystery, and this is further emphasised by the fact that the questions about her aren't answered wholly in this novel (although some of them would be in Parkin's later novel The Infinity Doctors). Throw in Time Lords from an alternative history entering this timeline as well amongst other elements, and there is a lot to Cold Fusion to enjoy.
Cold Fusion is in itself a strange novel, in that there hasn't really been a multi-Doctor story quite like it before or since, and the unusual nature of the situation really makes this a distinctive book. But it is not without it's problems, the main one being that there are at times almost too many elements to the plot, and although these faults do not prevent the book from being very enjoyable, it does mean that Cold Fusion doesn't quite meet the same standards of excellence that Lance Parkin's other Doctor Who books do. But nevertheless Cold Fusion remains a very memorable entry into the Missing Adventures, and it remains one of the best Fifth Doctor stories published to date and being a good representation of what made both the Missing Adventures and the New Adventures the success that they were.
I've been reading Virgin's New and Missing Adventures series since they premiered with "Timewyrm: Genesys" and "Goth Opera". I think I've read most of them (with select few exceptions). And in all that time, even after his cold manipulation of Ace in "Love and War" or his bickering with Ace and Benny in subsequent volumes, I've never felt disdain for the Seventh Doctor. Until now, that is.
Don't get me wrong... Lance Parkin's "Cold Fusion" is a winner. It's a Fifth Doctor story with Tegan, Adric and Nyssa, and takes place immediately after "Castrovalva" -- and it's the first full-blown Missing Adventures Doctor-crossover novel, with the Seventh Doctor, Roz and Chris along for the ride. Parkin's writing has perfectly captured the characters of Tegan and Nyssa to the point that I almost expected to hear Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton reading along with me. The Fifth Doctor ("Bland" as the Seventh puts it, asking Adric which Doctor he's traveling with currently, "boggle or bland?") has never been better, still retaining the casual innocence that Peter Davison gave him with all of the weight of the universe's problems on his shoulders.
But by the end of the book (yes, I'm jumping ahead in my review here!), the Seventh Doctor has been playing a game with everyone all along... including his own fifth incarnation! Roz and Chris help him, albeit mostly unwittingly (that is, until Chris clubs the Fifth Doctor on the back of the head so that he, Roz and the Seventh can slip away). This ending is as abrupt as "Earthshock" or "Resurrection of the Daleks" -- it just ends without a goodbye scene or any of the Fifth Doctor's current companions in sight. For a book that was running 100% until the last few pages, I was awfully disappointed.
Okay, now let me backtrack, because this book is well worth reading. The Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Adric and Nyssa arrive on an unnamed ice planet (which goes unnamed throughout the novel), which is settled at the equator and little else. The planet is run by the Scientifica, a technocratic society allied with the Earth Empire, but there is a more-than-substantial presence of Adjudicators on the planet. Tegan and Nyssa get a hotel room where they run into a man who claims to be "Bruce Jovanka" with a bad Australian accent, while the Doctor and Adric enter the Scientifica's complex and encounter three very diverse characters: Whitfield, the woman who runs the Scientifica; Tertullian Medford, the primary Adjudicator on the planet; and a badly decaying woman who the Doctor subsequently learns is Gallifreyan when she regenerates and nicknames "Patience" (she was previously known as only the Patient). While things turn sticky for the Doctor and Adric (they're ambushed by a beautiful black woman on the skitrain tracks, then arrested for being alien spies -- par for the course for the Doctor, right?), Tegan and Nyssa run into their own troubles with the husky blond "Bruce". And all the meanwhile, a little man is elsewhere on the planet, investigating a strange machine found buried in the subterranian soil...
If you've ever read the New Adventures, you're way ahead of me -- our characters are reunited then separated and reunited again, we find out exactly who the little man, the black woman and the husky blond fake-Aussie are (duh!), and then all hell breaks loose. Again, pretty standard for a Who novel, but this one's done with flair and style, and the interplay between the Fifth and Seventh Doctors is very curt and impertinent. (You get the point that the Seventh Doctor didn't care much for his last two incarnations in these novels!)
"Cold Fusion" is well executed, with a convoluted plot involving an alternate timeline, a group of freedom fighters who are anything but civilized, a rip in time caused by a badly malfunctioning TARDIS, and another look inside the Earth Empire and its Adjudicator system, something we've seen quite a lot of since Roz and Chris (nee Adjudicators Forrester and Cwej) joined the Doctor in the NA "Original Sin". The only time I think it falls apart is in making the Seventh Doctor more sinister than ever before, and when I finished the book quite upset at him, I realized that it was yet one more mark against the character -- a character that spent three years on television as the loveable, laughable Sylvester McCoy. That said, Parkin's portrayal of the Fifth Doctor is right on target, and his Tegan and Nyssa are the best ever (I suppose Adric is okay too, but I never liked him -- though his team-up with Roz for much of the book works well, I guess.)
Definitely a good novel, and well worth the read -- one of the highlights of the year in Missing Adventures. I just wish it weren't so damn difficult to accept the ending!