We now reach the beginning of the end for the Ninth Doctor in novel form! Just as Bad Wolf/The Parting Of The Ways waved him farewell on television, Only Human marks his penultimate outing in the New Series books as well as his entry into the eleven-strong 50th anniversary reprint pantheon.
The TARDIS crew are split-up very early on. Captain Jack, who returns following his print début in The Deviant Strain, staying in modern day whilst the Doctor and Rose investigating a group of scientists in the past. There's a sense of circularity pervading this tale of time disturbances, with a Roman and a caveman to be found within its early chapters.
What happens next should tell you that this is from the pen of Gareth Roberts, as the Stone Age man, Das, is forced to make a life for himself in a more modern world while the Doctor looks into the Osterberg Experiment. He has of course had dealings with Das' kind before.........
HORG: Kal says, where he comes from, he's often seen men make fire.
ZA: Kal is a liar.
HORG: He says Orb will soon show him how it is done.
ZA: All his tribe died in the last cold. If he had not found us, he would have died too.
HUR: What else did he say?
HORG: He says Orb only shows the secret to the leader.
ZA: I am leader. Orb will show me. I am the son of the great firemaker, but he does not show me how to put flames into the sticks. Kal comes. I do not kill him. I let him eat with us and sleep in our caves. I will have to spill some blood and make people bow to me.This is a strange creature.
KAL: Is Za, son of the firemaker, afraid of an old man? When will Za make fire come from his hands?
ZA: When Orb decides it.
KAL: Orb is for strong men. Orb has sent me this creature to make fire come from his fingers. I have seen it. Inside, he's full of fire. The smoke comes from his mouth.
ZA: As lies come out of yours. He wears strange skins.
KAL: Za is afraid. There was a strange tree. The creature was in it. Za would have run away had he seen it.
KAL: When I saw fire come from his fingers I remembered Za, son of the firemaker. And when the cold comes, you will all die if you wait for Za to make fire for you. I, Kal, am a true leader. We fought like the tiger and the bear. My strength was too much for him. He lay down to sleep. And I, Kal, carried him here to make fire for you.
ZA: Why do you listen to Kal?
HORG: Za has many good skins. He has forgotten what the cold is like.
ZA: Tomorrow, I kill many bears. You all have warm skins.
HORG: I say tomorrow you will rub your hands together and hold them to the dry sticks and ask Orb to send you fire. And the bears will stay warm in their own skins.
ZA: What I say I will do, I will do.
KAL: The firemaker is dead. You all carry dry sticks with you. But tonight, I make them burn. I am leader.
HUR: The creature has opened its eyes.
DOCTOR: Where's my, where.
KAL: Do you want fire, or do you want to die in the cold?
ALL: Fire! Fire!
KAL: When it's cold, the tiger comes to our caves again at night. Za will give you to the tiger. Za will give you to the cold. Za rubs his hands and waits for Orb to remember him. My creature can make fire come from his fingers. I have seen it. But I, Kal, brought him here. The creature is mine.
ZA: He's just an old man in strange skins. Kal has been with us too long. It is time he died.
HORG: I say there is truth in both of you. Za speaks truth, but fire cannot live in men. And Kal speaks the truth that we die without fire.
HUR: Will my father listen to a woman? If this old man can make fire come from his fingers, let us see it now.
In perhaps a deliberate reference to that early encounter, Das also describes the TARDIS as a similar ' 'strange tree''! He will eventually, with help from Captain Jack, acclimatise to modern life and even find love with Anna-Marie O'Grady! The boy done good. And what of the Roman? The Doctor knows all about the giddy heights of Nero's Rome, too. Like the Stone Age, he paid a visit during his First incarnation!
NERO: Someone spoke. Did I give permission to speak? Tavius, did I give permission?Rose suffers the indignities of getting married to a caveman and in the novels most outrageous sequence re-enacts an infamous scene of comedy gore from the movie Re-Animator. There's also the mystery of how a future human race of sorts have come to be living in the past, and what the Osterberg experiment has to do with all this wibbly wobbly timey wimey business!
DOCTOR: Caesar Nero, I...
NERO: Now he's at it! How am I supposed to compose with all this noise going on?
TAVIUS: Maximus Pettulian.
NERO: Maximus Pettulian. He's Maximus Pettulian?
NERO: The lyre player from Corinth?
DOCTOR: In person.
DOCTOR: With such a great musician as yourself present, I would take the inspiration from your example, sire.
NERO: Oh. A stool. Oh, this is an inferior instrument, I cannot. Bring the imperial lyre.
DOCTOR: Beautiful, beautiful. Did you not hear that, my child? That instant composition?
VICKI: Oh, yes, er, Maximus. Could you play it?
DOCTOR: Me? Well, I'll try, that is, with Caesar's permission.That is the best I can do, I'm afraid.
VICKI: Oh, no, it wasn't as good.
NERO: Oh, of course it wasn't. Try this one.
DOCTOR: That your excellency would be an impossibility. After such exquisite playing, I cannot presume. It would be out of the question. May I suggest that this instrument goes to your temple?
Only Human is a very light-hearted romp, with much of its comedy coming from the 'fish out of water' misunderstandings of both the Neanderthal in modern life, and the scientists stranded at the dawn of civilisation. One of the more ambitious Ninth Doctor novels, and a very entertaining read.