The novel “The Taking of Chelsea 426” by David Llewellyn was published for the first time in 2009.
When the Tenth Doctor arrives on Chelsea 426, a space colony orbiting the planet Saturn, his first impression is of a rather boring place with rules that prevent fun. The Flower Show is a local event but the Doctor’s attention is drawn in particular to a strange plant discovered in space.
The Doctor tries to examine the mysterious plant before the show opens but without success. His investigation is interrupted by the arrival of a Sontaran spaceship on a special mission commanded by intelligence General Kade.
“The Taking of Chelsea 426” is part of a series of novels connected to the new “Doctor Who” series. They’re targeted to a wide audience by being linear enough to be appreciated even by very young readers but sophisticated enough to interest more mature readers.
The Sontarans are enemies who appeared for the first time during the Third Doctor era and then several more times in the saga, sometimes in novels as well and readers are supposed to already know them to understand their behavior. An important element in the plot is the war that lasted for many millennia between Sontarans and Rutans: David Llewellyn included some explanations but readers who watched the classic series still have the advantage of a more complete knowledge of these aliens.
This novel is set in the final period of the Tenth Doctor era, of which only pieces were shown between the fourth and fifth seasons of the new television series, when the Doctor travels alone. For the occasion, he finds what could be considered temporary companions, two teenagers who are the children of the colony hotel’s owners, Jake and Vienna. Such an importance given to young protagonists can suggest a story for teenagers but there are some important themes that can make even adult readers think.
David Llewellyn begins “The Taking of Chelsea 426” with the introduction of a mystery connected to a plant discovered where it shouldn’t be able to survive in order to capture the reader’s interest. At that point, some moments linked to the two kids and some others a little silly linked to the Doctor’s funny behavior in my opinion are not a problem.
The Chelsea 426 colony seems a rather boring place and many people have a closed and sometimes intolerant mentality, to the point that they don’t like newcomers. When the Sontarans arrive, the inhabitants of the colony of this type immediately blame the newcomers and report them to the Sontarans as possible spies, with the result that they’re the first who get arrested.
David Llewellyn develops the Sontaran operation in an original way since the expedition is commanded by an intelligence General. Fans are used to seeing Sontarans using brute force, but in this case their commander is interested in gathering useful information in the war against the Rutans, not killing anyone who comes within their range. The consequence is that he’s considered strange by its subordinates creating among the Sontarans dynamics that are different from what’s usually seen.
The presence of Sontarans and Rutans with the Chelsea 426 colony taken in the midst of their war and in some way divided between factions offers a certain complexity to the plot. The local population is in danger and the Doctor must work hard to prevent the situation from precipitating. After a start of the novel that’s a bit slow-paced, the pace accelerates with the arrival of the Sontarans, whose operations increase the tension as well as the action.
Some characters such as General Kade and some inhabitants of the colony are characterized enough to add something to the story. The length limits of the books in this series seem to me to be well exploited by David Llewellyn so I think that overall “The Taking of Chelsea 426” is enjoyable for “Doctor Who” fans.