By DJ Forrest
Written by Gareth Roberts
For BBC Books
The first time I read this novel I was very disappointed with it. I felt that Jack Harkness who travels with the 9th Doctor and Rose, was not represented at all well in the story. He was for the most part, a babysitter for a Neanderthal. What I felt in reading it for a second time, was a different feeling altogether, although if I hit my patch I could probably fix that wrong feeling in a jiffy.
Only Human is about a traveller, 28,000 years out of his time, unable to return, because up until he met with the Doctor, he had no clue of time travel. He had merely followed someone into a spaceship and landed on planet Earth, present time, dressed in his usual casual wear, carrying a club. As you do!
This story has a well thought out idea of a race of people who use patches for moods, so that for any wrong feeling, they type in a code, similar to a mobile phone control, on their name badge and instantly all the wrong feelings leave them. Ingenious! It did make me think of Bliss, the mood patch that had wiped out most of the human race in the ‘Gridlock’ episode.
Think back to the very first Torchwood Big Finish drama with Captain Jack Harkness – Conspiracy - when he discovered the group behind all the stories spouted by a well known news reporter, who thought the lovely girl by his side, was his daughter, but was in fact working for the Committee. Sadly, it wasn’t The Committee we know of in the Torchwood Audio stories with Big Finish.
Back to the novel – as we know, the Doctor and companions tend to have separate adventures – the Doctor goes off in one direction, and the companions veer off in another, either by accident or by default, it’s just what they do. In this story, Jack stays home and works with the Neanderthal, keeping daily journals, in which the Neanderthal, up to speed on keyboards and computers, keeps a log of his own, which I found most chucklesome.
Jack’s a lot different in this story to that of The Stealer of Dreams – yes, I’m aware, a different writer, but you get the feeling that Jack hadn’t been travelling that long with the Doctor after the first meeting of him in the Blitz with Rose Tyler. So, I’m thinking he’s quite a bit younger, than he was in the previous Jack novel. He’s still as daring with his costume choices and in his distractions especially the one outside the hospital.
On second reading, I found this novel extremely entertaining, Jack’s work was valuable to the Doctor. And while Jack was busy on Earth, the Doctor and Rose were busy enquiring after the race of people 28, 000 years in the past, who had no knowledge of computers or the digital age, or what CD’s were for, yet time travelled. And the monsters that lurked behind the Grey Door, where several of the ‘humans’ were sent, left me thinking of the creature in The Resurrection Casket, and their voices in my head were of David Tennant’s performance of the character, often sounding as if he had a mouthful of cotton wool.
It’s a good read, and if after your first reading you’re miffed about Jack stuck in a flat babysitting, put the book back on your shelf, leave it there a few years, then read it again, and you’ll be remarkably surprised by how well it reads, and how much you’ll enjoy it.
I know I did.