❉ Kara Dennison visits Galopin galaxies in Peel and Skilleter’s first Doctor Omega novel.
“Arnould Galopin created Doctor Omega in 1906. The novel and character have been resurrected a few times since, drawing the obvious connection between Galopin’s Omega and Doctor Who’s First Doctor. The team of Peel and Skilleter aren’t shy about bringing the century-old story into line with the familiar show. But The Strike of Midnite is very much its own story.”
At first glance, the cover of John Peel and Andrew Skilleter’s first Doctor Omega novel seems to broadcast a very specific intent. From the wispy-haired Hartnell-esque old man to the lovely lady to the spacecraft against a starfield, we’re primed for an unlicensed Doctor Who adventure with the serial numbers tidily filed off.
But, in a chicken-and-egg situation more than a century old, The Strike of Midnite is actually the return of one of the potential inspirations for Doctor Who (Though, yes, it has absolutely gotten a shot in the arm to give it a slightly more contemporary Who-ish feel).
Arnould Galopin created Doctor Omega – intelligent, adventurous, and very human – in 1906. The novel and character have been resurrected a few times since, with more modern references drawing the obvious connection between Galopin’s Omega and Doctor Who’s First Doctor. The team of Peel and Skilleter, both of whom have long Doctor Who pedigrees of their own, aren’t shy about bringing the century-old story into line with the familiar show. But the additions are largely cosmetic; The Strike of Midnite is very much its own story, with smatterings of Doctor Who and other adventure serials scattered throughout.
It’s not necessary to be heavily versed in Galopin’s work, partly because Peel gives us an explanatory prologue. But more than that, the first chapter immerses us in the post-novel lives of Omega and his neighbors Borel and Fred. Once we’re comfortable, it’s time to introduce Miss Amelia Midnite: aviatrix extraordinaire, come to the 1920s to fly, fight, and… finagle. But there’s more to her than meets the eye, and that becomes apparently when her adventure with Doctor Omega begins.
As with any introductory story, something must be sacrificed to give us room to meet our heroes. We spend a great deal of time meeting (or re-meeting) Doctor Omega and beginning to figure out Miss Midnite. Too, there’s the Galopin to be considered: the Doctor’s new ship, named for the character’s original author and capable of traveling through time as well as space. The Galopin bears only passing similarities to our other Doctor’s craft in form and function. These touchstones – Doctor Omega’s Hartnellian mannerisms, the Galopin’s vaguely familiar nature – give us time to immerse ourselves in what’s new, without having to learn an entirely new universe from scratch.
Also, as with introductory stories, our conflict is fairly basic: The Doctor and Amelia meet aliens in distress, decide to save them, a spanner is thrown in the works, et cetera. The plot itself is straightforward and largely predictable, serving mostly as a vehicle for getting to know our heroes.
What isn’t so predictable is the depiction of our aliens. There are lots… and lots… of aliens in this book, of all different shapes and sizes and backgrounds. The world of Home also has an uncommonly entertaining version of translation software – translating not only words, but also dialects and names to their closest connotation. Besides being a useful idea in general, it also gives us delightful scenes with characters like Claude and Constance… whom the reader should meet firsthand. There’s a team of re-skinned Sontarans in the mix, which Doctor Who fans will likely notice once their back story is revealed, but it’s not enough to break immersion.
The Strike of Midnite is a surprisingly fast read for its length, with the storyline flowing smoothly along. We have plenty of moments to see the Doctor and Amelia size each other up, with their opinions of each other budging ever so slightly in crisis situations.
As fun as Amelia was, there were absolutely fears in the front half of the book that we were getting a Strong Female Character in the wrong way: a brass-balls action figure whose main role was to upset Doctor Omega’s traditional sensibilities and make him cross about The Way Women Be. There were spots of this early on, but fortunately Miss Midnite proves to actually care about the feelings of those around her – even if she has forced them unceremoniously into her own problems. The pair of heroes find something of a middle ground by the end of the first book, with their individual foibles either become points of humour between them or getting rectified to some degree.
There’s plenty of room for this series to grow: Doctor Omega and Miss Midnite are adrift in space with a metaplot hot on their trail, and Fred and Borel are still on Earth. It’s exciting to see where the series will go from here, and how it will grow as its own entity now that it’s introduced itself.
❉ The Doctor Omega Chronicles ~ The Strike of Midnite is now available from Who Dares Publishing.
❉ Kara Dennison is a writer, editor, interviewer, and over-analyser of geek entertainment. In March 2018, she conducted Peter Capaldi’s first public interview since leaving Doctor Who. She can currently be read in The Black Archive #21: Heaven Sent from Obverse Books. Find more of her work at karadennison.com or on her Twitter @RubyCosmos.