Here we have it, ignoring all the side-content this is technically the “main event” where everything Time Lord Victorious comes together, and I will at least give it credit in that it does tie everything together well and juggles all three Doctors with ease, making this one of the most Doctor-interactive multi-Doctor stories ever. What’s it like as a whole though? Was the pay-off worth the wait? Let’s find out!
A wasteland. A dead world… No, there is a biodome, rising from the ash. Here, life teems and flourishes, with strange and lush plants, and many-winged insects with bright carapaces – and one solitary sentient creature, who spends its days watering the plants, talking to the insects, and tending this lonely garden. This is Inyit, the Last of the Kotturuh.
The Tenth Doctor has sworn to stop the Kotturuh, ending death and bringing life to the universe. But his plan is unravelling – instead of bringing life, nothing has changed and all around him people are dying. Now he must confront his former selves – one in league with their greatest nemesis and the other manning a ship of the undead…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
I was worried that the Eight and Ninth Doctors roles in this story would be in the comics and audios respectively and that they’d then be dropped half way or a third the way into this story, but I was delighted to see that all three had equally large roles in this novel, and actually interacted throughout the story. As the Vampires, The Daleks and the remaining Kotturuh battle with The Tenth Doctor’s fleet, the three Doctors communicate mentally and have a bit of an argument, the Eighth criticising the Tenth for his committing genocide on the Kotturuh, while the Tenth shoves his younger self down and asks how he could possibly hang out with Daleks. The Ninth Doctor tries to make sense of any of this but is also criticised for hanging out with Vampires. They all mentally head back to their respective ships after failing to reach neutral ground. The Kotturuh homeworld is destroyed by Brian the Ood Assassin on behalf of the Tenth, though whether he truly wanted that is left to discussion (and the audiobook “The Minds of Magnox”!)
So a short while later and the Tenth Doctor and Brian are buying weapons for their flagship, now named The Donna, on the planet Entranxis. It soon turns out that the Daleks have an interest in a “weapon” stored on the planet so the Eighth turns up, tut-tuting his future self for buying weapons and reuniting with Brian. The weapon in question turns out to be the Ninth Doctor’s vampire friend Ikalla, and he soon arrives to save her, causing more arguing and soon more Dalek destruction. The Ninth Doctor heads off with Ikalla and his Eighth self’s spider plant, while the Tenth and Eighth Doctors return to The Donna, Doctor number 8 no longer trusting his ride of a Dalek Time Ship. The Daleks not only destroy much of Entranxis but also blow up a ship containing the last of the Kotturuh, well, as we soon find out, the last but one. As Doctors Ten and Eight, as well as Brian, decide to deal with the Daleks next, Doctor Nine and Ikalla head to the planet Birinji, where they meet Inyit, the last member of the Kotturuh, and an exile who was left to watch over a dead world as punishment for standing up to her own race’s idea of judging the lifespan of other creatures.
A great cover, and having all three Doctors on the cover isn’t false advertising! Take that Five Doctors covers!
The Doctor and Ikalla soon get to know Inyit, who lives in a biodome with the last species of plants on the planet. Turns out she’s an alright sort, showing The Doctor that even the Kotturuh can have different personalities in their species, and also showing an interesting idea that Vampires, who are effectively ageless, are repellent to the Kotturuh due to their nature of being above their judgement. Meanwhile Doctors Ten and Eight, plus Brian, sneak onboard the Dalek Time Ship that had taken out a Great Vampire coffin ship and discover they’re using a Great Vampire itself to create Dalek-Vampire hybrids called Symbionts, and soon they escape… apart from Brian. As the Tenth and Eighth Doctor reunite with the Ninth on Birinji Brian discovers their Ultimate Plan is to destroy Gallifrey before it gets a chance to create Time Lords, a fact that leads to the three Doctors (plus Brian, who they pick up on the way) to head to the space above Gallifrey in hopes of protecting it, with the Eighth saying he can’t “picture living in a universe without Gallifrey”, leaving his two future selves to look at each other awkwardly.
As the three Doctors and Brian try and hold off the Dalek Symbionts on The Donna, other Daleks invade Birinji to take out the last of the Kotturuh, but instead Inyit uses the last of her power to pass judgement on the Symbionts, giving them no time span at all. Just as all seemed lost The Doctors watch as all of the new hybrids are destroyed in an instant. Full of renewed energy and a plan constructed by Brian, the Eighth Doctor pops back onto the Dalek Time Ship and causes its engines to blow as it jumps back in time. The Ninth and Tenth Doctors stay a while longer on Birinji, as Ikalla takes over watching the biodome, and then head back to their allotted times…
The biggest, and really only bad I can think of is how they left Brian. He’s been shown to be nothing but a psychopath who enjoys killing on the instruction of “Mr. Ball”, but at the end of this book he decides to stay on Birinji with the vampires and other settlers to create a new community. Makes NO sense at all. He even implies he might get bored and “who knows what will happen”, but The Doctors just give him a thumbs up and leave him there. Him sacrificing himself on the Dalek Time Ship to discover their plan would’ve made far more sense…
The only other thing was how this massive cross-over started as an interesting look at a race from the Dark Times that judged other species natural lifespans, and how a tragedy forced the Tenth Doctor to go all “Time Lord Victorious” and try to tame death itself, but in the end we just got The Doctor eventually apologising for going a bit far, and then having a good old fashioned showdown with The Daleks. It wasn’t bad, but I felt the Kotturuh should’ve been the key villains in the story, not The Daleks again.
It’s the back cover! …. Man, not much point to have it here, other than to break up the text a bit…
Obviously most, if not all of the Time Lord Victorious stuff either led to this story or follows on from it. Basically click on the “Time Lord Victorious” tag at the bottom of this review and there’s your continuity. If you want to reduce it down a bit, then the Eighth Doctor came to this story via the audio “The Enemy of my Enemy” and him being on an exploding Dalek ship at the end of this book is resolved in the audio “Mutually Assured Destruction”. The Ninth Doctor got here with vampires in the DWM comic “Monstrous Beauty”, and the Tenth Doctor obviously got here via the previous book “The Knight, The Fool and The Dead”. Those are the main ones, but plenty of others tie into it in some way (or take place in the middle of it, in the case of “The Minds of Magnox”)
At one point Brian lists all the technology in the armoury, mentioning several races from the Dark Times we’ve heard about over the course of the show, including the Racnoss (Tenth Doctor TV story “The Runaway Bride”), the Jagaroth (Fourth Doctor TV story “City of Death”) and the Daemons (Third Doctor TV story “The Daemons”).
All Flesh is Grass is a fun three Doctors story with some good set pieces and moments, but it also isn’t quite the big story with the interesting Kotturuh that I was hoping for. They did look at The Doctor during three parts of his life where they would come into conflict with each other due to what they’ve been through and author Uma McCormack captured the voices of all three of them perfectly. So it’s a good multi-Doctor story, but not quite the massive pay-off to this multi-month, multi-format story I was hoping for…