HomeAll postsDoctor Who novel: Harvest of Time by Alastair Reynolds

Doctor Who novel: Harvest of Time by Alastair Reynolds

Harvest of TimeA review by Nalini Haynes

On an alien planet in the very distant future, an ancient woman – the Red Queen – and her caterpillar-like sentient subjects experiment on volunteers with horrendous consequences.

On Earth, the Doctor (in his Jon Pertwee incarnation, complete with frilly shirt and cape) and Jo Grant investigate mysterious happenings in the North Sea, a few years before the Loch Ness Monster destroys oil rigs in ‘Terror of the Zygons’. Those North Sea oil rigs, they’re dangerous places to work!

The Master is safely ensconced in a prison designed specifically to isolate him from potential victims and keep him secure for Earth’s safety but even UNIT staff start forgetting who the Master is.

Water spouts dump water from portals in the sky in between opening up hemispherical ‘partings of the Red Sea’, damaging oil rigs.

Mechanical crabs begin coming ashore bearing alien pilots in glass capsules on their backs. These aliens – Sild – climb on to humans’ backs and insert neural connectors to create human zombies under their control.

In a reference to an absolutely dreadful Doctor Who book – the Sting of the Zygons – the Sild take over cattle. The outcome in Harvest of Time is far superior, making me wish for a movie version although it would have to be animated. Surely someone can impersonate Jon Pertwee, Nicolas Courtney and the others? Someone? Somewhere?

The Doctor desperately needs the TARDIS to travel through time and space. He fixes the TARDIS so it works – fairly – reliably for several trips, surprise! Harvest of Time isn’t hole-free, plus it has to leave Classic Canon undamaged so this limits the stakes somewhat. And yet it’s a glorious trip down memory lane with marvelous character work. I could HEAR Jon Pertwee. I could SEE Jo Grant playing into the Doctor’s vanity to manipulate him. I could SEE the Master fastidiously adjusting his clothing. I could HEAR the Master’s voice.

Harvest of Time first came to my attention when Sean Williams was raving about it in his facebook feed. I agree with all Sean had to say, including his disparaging remarks about the cover. Phallic symbol much? But then, Harvest of Time phallic designs are in the cringe-worthy tradition of much science fiction writing: Babylon 5, Crusade‘s Excalibur, Astounding Science Fiction and many more.


Are designers and publishers are just taking the piss or do they think phallic symbols are a good marketing ploy? Personally, I’d prefer an image of the Doctor, Jo and the Master or something along those lines. Anything to minimize the phallic ship.

Harvest of Time is a must-read for any fan of the Jon Pertwee era. Fan service abounds with UNIT characters coming to the fore alongside close ties to New Who with every incarnation of the Master featured. And I mean EVERY incarnation. Harvest of Time is definitely the best Doctor Who novel I’ve read in years and a great story from Alastair Reynolds who has captured these characters well. Alastair’s years behind the settee were well-spent.

Highly recommended.

  • Rating: ★★★★★ 5 out of 5 stars (less for the cover)
  • ISBN: 9781849904193
  • Imprint: BBC Books (Random House)
  • Extent: 368 pages
Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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