‘Dreams of Empire’

RICHARDS, Justin. Dreams of Empire. 1998.

‘On a barren asteroid, the once-mighty Haddron Empire is on the brink of collapse, torn apart by civil war. The one man who might have saved it languishes in prison, his enemies planning his death and his friends plotting his escape.’

BBC Books – The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collection (2013)

BBC Books – The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collection (2013)

With the long wait for the new season of Doctor Who one has to find ways to get input from the Whoniverse other than the Christmas special and the —too short— spin-off Class [By the way: Matteusz, the gay Polish character. What’s not to love? Well, probably the wrong spelling of the name, as it should be Mateusz.]

Back to the book, Justin Richards succeeded in capturing the essence of the second Doctor era. Those who have watched the black and white episodes will see the characters move in their minds and hear their voices as if it were one of the lost episodes.

However, this is not one of those stories only for fans of the show. Anyone who’s never even heard of Doctor Who can enjoy it, since there’s neither complex time travelling nor references to the Whoniverse apart from the —mandatory— presence of the Doctor and his two companions.

Dreams of Empire is the story of a political conflict that could easily become a military one. The game of chess is present throughout the book both explicitly and implicitly as metaphors. It is not by chance, for strategy is key to the plot. Moreover, the Doctor is not the saviour he’s nowadays, but just a moderate aid to the characters who actually own the story, which is more entertaining and believable.

To sum up, read it, it’s a good one.

‘Ten Little Aliens’

COLE, Stephen. Ten Little Aliens. 2002.

‘Deep in the heart of a hollowed-out moon the First Doctor finds a chilling secret: ten alien corpses, frozen in time at the moment of their death. […] But is the same force that killed them still lurking in the dark? And what are its plans for the people of Earth?’

BBC Books – The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collection (2013)

BBC Books – The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collection (2013)

It’s been a year since I last reviewed a Doctor Who novel. But after reading some new Doctors, I’ve gone back to the beginning, to the first regeneration of the time lord (again, it’s just a species; I’m not using capital letters).

Although the original TV show was a bit slow and had a low budget–if any–, the book format allows the mind to give it the right pace and imagine unlimited details. It’s also nice to enjoy new stories with classic characters.

Satisfied as I may sound, there were two bits I didn’t enjoy that much. Firstly, the author decided to add some pages with the background of the ten characters in this story. I’m sure it was a great document for him while writing, but the reader can’t absorb that amount of information in chapter one.

Also, there’s this part close to the end that resembles a Choose Your Own Adventure. It is an effective way to convey the confusion the characters are experiencing. However, at that point of the story I don’t want to be confused and have to check all pages several times to make sure I’m not missing anything.

What struck me as a surprise was the very graphic details about some deaths. I wouldn’t expect explicit violence in Doctor Who, a family show. But again, this is a different format, one that kids won’t explore yet.

The book as whole–in spite of the two annoying bits–is ok. On the other side, it lacks interest if you’re not into Doctor Who.

‘Touched by an Angel’

MORRIS, Jonathan. Touched by an Angel. 2011.

‘In 2003, Rebecca Whitaker died in a road accident. Her husband Mark is still grieving. […] As Mark is given the chance to save Rebecca, it’s up to the Doctor, Amy and Rory to save the whole world. Because this time the Weeping Angels are using history itself as a weapon.’

BBC Books – The Monster Collection (2014)

BBC Books – The Monster Collection (2014)

I was very disappointed after my first Doctor Who novel because of the context in which the story was set. Then I gave Doctor Who books another chance with selected characters for extra positive points. That was better and, although I decided to pick the same incarnation of the Doctor for my next read, in the end I tried the next one.

Touched by an Angel is a mix between Back to the Future and Blink, the episode where we met the weeping angels1. The plot revolves around Mark being sent to his own past by the angels, which makes the Doctor worry about alterations in his own timeline. Also, some scenes of the angels remind a lot of those from their first appearance.

Non-Whovians could read the book as a tragic love story if they don’t mind the irruptions of the Doctor and his companions. Lots of details on Mark and his wife’s lives are given, making the monsters an irrelevant yet necessary item.

For lovers of the reboot series with new monsters and younger Doctors, this is a great novel to enter the expanded Whoniverse.

 

1Notice that, unlike the BBC, I prefer using small caps for the monster species (e. g. daleks, cybermen, sontarans) as anyone would do with common species (e. g. humans, elephants, dogs).

Big Finish Productions – ‘We love stories’

Little did I know when I heard about Big Finish that audio dramas were so addictive.

Big Finish Productions is a British company that publishes CDs, downloads and some books. They produce high quality audios which are also suitable for practising your listening if you’re not a native speaker.

They love stories and make them extremely addictive

They love stories and make them extremely addictive

It was not a coincidence that I discovered Big Finish since it’s strongly connected to Doctor Who. In the seven-minute pre-anniversary episode The Night of the Doctor starring Paul McGann, the Doctor mentioned some companions that were unknown to me. I found out that the eighth Doctor had his own story and it was still going on.

Most Big Finish ranges are Doctor Who related. There’s the main range which releases a classic Doctor story every month starring the original Doctors and companions. There are also specific ranges for the fourth and eighth Doctors and even a range called The Lost Stories that adapts stories or scripts that were considered for the classic series but never produced.

Apart from these and other many Doctor Who ranges and spin-offs, you can find that other TV series and well-known characters have their own range, e. g. Blake’s 7, Sherlock Holmes, or Dorian Gray.

Bundles and subscriptions make titles available at cheaper prices and special offers are constantly announced in the news section and on Big Finish’s Facebook page. Therefore it’s extremely easy to pay an average of 3 £ or less for each hour of audio, which is very cheap and there’s no monthly fee—unlike with Audible from Amazon—so you decide when to spend your money.

To top it off, you can download your purchases as an audiobook or as mp3 files to any device as many times as you want, making it easy and comfortable to listen to them whenever and wherever you please—unlike with Audible from Amazon.

‘Beautiful Chaos’

RUSSELL, Gary. Beautiful Chaos. London: BBC Books, 2008.

‘Dona Noble is back home in London […]. Her grandfather is especially overjoyed—he’s discovered a new star and had it named after him. […] But the Doctor is suspicious about some other changes he can see in Earth’s heavens.’

Whoever chose the cover image didn't read the part where it's stated that the Doctor's wearing his blue suit in this adventure

Whoever chose the cover image didn’t read the part where it’s stated that the Doctor’s wearing his blue suit in this adventure

My first experience with a Doctor Who novel wasn’t all that encouraging so as to make me scream for more. However, the second Doctor classical TV series haven’t proved to be less dull than the previous seasons. Being a book lover it was a matter of time that I gave the prose Doctor another chance.

On the other side, it wasn’t Ninth but Tenth. Let’s face it, Christopher Eccleston was a great Doctor, but David Tennant’s was far more entertaining; playful, not grumpy. And who could have been a better choice as a companion from the reboot series than—no, not Rose—Dona? I love their dynamic interaction. And so should you.

This book was indeed better than Only human; partly because of the characters, but also because it doesn’t meddle with important facts of human history. Beautiful Chaos’s story could take place at any point of humanity’s timeline and doesn’t set any huge historical milestone in a distant future. Perfectly both continuity- and canonproofed.

I may try another tenth Doctor novel and see where I go from there.

‘Only Human’

ROBERTS, Gareth. Only Human. London: BBC Books, 2005.

`Somebody’s interfering with time. The Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack arrive on modern-day Earth to […] discover a Neanderthal Man, twenty-eight thousand years after his race became extinct. […] Who are the mysterious humans from the distant future now living in the distant past? What hideous monsters are trying to escape from behind the Grey Door?’

Whose is that sweater Rose is wearing? Never seen it before

Whose is this sweater Rose is wearing? Never seen it before

This is the first Doctor Who novel I’ve ever read. If you are to love a show with five or six episodes a year and hunger for more content on it, Doctor Who is the right choice. Firstly, it’s easy to love. Secondly, you never get enough. And last but not least—and especially relevant for the occasion—it’s a 50-year-old cult show. There are lots of episodes you need to catch up with and scores of books. Since the first Doctor TV series are soporifically slow, I decided to get my dose on prose.

I didn’t expect Doctor Who books to be to literature what the show is to TV series; and I was right. Only devoted fans will picture the actors in their minds and hear their voices. A never-filmed episode will be delivered straight to their brains. No one else is going to enjoy these books—ever.

There are, nevertheless, two obstacles to the fans’ enjoyment: continuity and canon. You can’t help wondering when the story takes place or judging the statements about past or future Earth that are not supported by any TV episode. It’s also hard not to think ‘this character wouldn’t do or say that’ at some point. And Russell T Davis, Steven Moffat or Mark Gatiss being in the acknowledgements is not as reassuring as it might seem.

Will I read any other Doctor Who books? Probably. Will I do it often? Unlikely.