Fear Itself, by Nick Wallace, was the final Eighth Doctor adventure to be released back in 2005. With the announcement of the new TV series, the Eighth Doctor books- then the ongoing adventures of the current Doctor- came to a conclusion with The Gallifrey Chronicles, and the Eighth Doctor was relegated to “Past Doctor Adventures” status. Fear Itself was the first novel featuring him as a Past Doctor, and it takes place between EarthWorld and Vanishing Point.
Fear Itself effectively builds a mystery via its narrative approach- two alternating threads, taking place 4 years apart, regarding a disaster aboard a space station orbiting Jupiter that left the Doctor and companion Fitz presumed dead, and Anji left alone for 4 years, stuck in the 22nd century, to move on and build a new life. This includes getting married and building a new career for herself. If you followed the Eighth Doctor Adventures, then you would know these are pretty ambitious events to have occurred between the books Fear Itself is slotted between, but Wallace provides some rather ingenious answers without resorting to a reset button.
Fear Itself establishes itself as an inventive novel that takes the “Past Doctor” format and pushes it like few others do- working within the confines of established continuity and giving us new ways to look at the characters and providing real character growth. The novel actually is one of the best uses of the Eighth Doctor’s amnesia (established in The Burning and used as part of the narrative framework for the rest of the range’s run) and uses the revelations provided in The Gallifrey Chronicles to make it more than just a convenient prop to make the Doctor mysterious again.
The Doctor and Anji go through the most changes in this novel. Fitz undergoes few changes, which is understandable- he has had the most “screen time” than any other Eighth Doctor companion, appearing in something like over 50 novels. He is a stalwart, faithful companion, as shown here where he is still trying to figure out the Eighth Doctor post-amnesia, and wrestling with telling him the truth about the events that lead up to it (namely, the Doctor blowing up Gallifrey).
There are plenty of twists here, and it makes Fear Itself a blast to read. Wallace’s prose is rather straightforward- not real flowery or heavy on details- but gets the job done and concentrates on carefully constructing the story, using perspective and use of memory to give us the best surprises. It all holds together beautifully through the ending, and it’s unfortunate that we did not get to see more Doctor Who novels from him before the range was put on the back-burner for the newer, lighter New Series Adventures novels.
Fear Itself is one of the best Past Doctor novels that I’ve come across. The plot is tight, leaves you guessing throughout, and perfectly captures the cast. If you can still find a copy, it’s well worth a read.