Big-name Doctor Who
by George Ivanoff - November 23rd, 2013
This weekend, the world is celebrating the 50th anniversary of a little TV show called Doctor Who. Fans are eagerly awaiting the televising of the special commemorative episode “The Day of the Doctor”, which will be simulcast in many countries across the globe. A 3D version of this special will also be screening in many cinemas throughout Australia and other countries. There is an unprecedented hype in the air. So it seems like the appropriate time to discuss some Doctor Who books.
In recent years, BBC Books has been publishing Doctor Who stories by novelists well-known in their own right for non-Who material. The first of the really big-name-author books was The Coming of the Terraphiles by famed science fiction author Michael Moorcock. While I didn’t care for the book, I could certainly appreciate the attempt to do something different and adventurous with the franchise (see my review).
Since then, I’ve read another two big-name-author Doctor Who novels. The Wheel of Ice by science fiction author Stephen Baxter was certainly more to my taste than The Coming of the Terraphiles. It’s a full-on sci-fi adventure set amongst the rings of Saturn with the second Doctor and his travelling companions, Jamie the highlander and future-girl Zoe. While I enjoyed the basic story, I found the novel as a whole, problematic. The characterisation of the Doctor and his companions is patchy — particularly Jamie. Sometimes I could imagine the dialogue being spoken by the respective actors and sometimes it seemed all wrong. And the book could have done with some editorial moderating, particularly with the astonishing over-use of the word ‘swarming’. Every time the little blue aliens appear, there’s that word… over and over and over and over again. On the plus side, there is an abundance of lovely little references to the events of televised episodes of the series.
I followed up this book with Dark Horizons by rom-com author Jenny Colgan (writing as JT Colgan). Of the three, I enjoyed this one the most. Set in a remote Scottish seaside village during the time of the Vikings, it pits the eleventh Doctor against an alien force that incinerates living beings as it tries to survive. It’s a terrific concept that is executed very much in the style of a Moffat-era television episode, with a very accurate characterisation of the Doctor. Reading it felt just like watching the series.
That’s not to say I loved every bit of it. There are moments that stretch credulity — but thankfully, not to breaking point. And there are some glossed over explanations that probably do not bear too much thinking about.
Even though I did not love each of these three books (as I did Paul Cornell’s Human Nature or Mark Gatiss’s Nightshade), I did enjoy reading them. It is interesting to see what these authors bring to the Doctor Who mythos and it is gratifying to see BBC Books allowing authors to stretch the boundaries of the Who-niverse.
And for something completely different, but still Doctor Who related, check this out…
Catch ya later, George
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