Book review : Eleven Doctors, Eleven Stories

A Big Hand for the Doctor is a story featuring the first Doctor and Susan in a story which we can only assume is set before they meet Ian and Barbara in a junkyard in 1960’s London. The story is ostensibly about the Doctor getting a new hand grown by this alien surgeon who seems to be hiding in England in the 1900’s and about how the Doctor managed to lose his hand in the first place, and how the surgeon lends him for the time being a much larger, and female, hand. This version of the first Doctor seems to be aware of what his future regeneration’s will look like, in particular the eleventh Doctor, which is a bit odd. He doesn’t really act like the Doctor that we know either and it is hard to imagine the first Doctor doing any of the things that occur in this story. The same can be said for Susan as it happens. The story itself is well written and has some interesting characters in it such as the surgeon who is going to grow the Doctor’s new hand, but just doesn’t really interest or intrigue me enough to go back to it. I do have to say that I was disappointed by this story, mostly because it just never felt like it was a first Doctor story at all, which took me completely out of the story.

The Nameless City begins with Jamie on an errand for the Doctor, after the TARDIS breaks down for some unspecified reason (not at all unlike episode one of Vengeance on Varos) and traps the Doctor and Jamie in 1960’s London. Whilst on this errand Jamie comes across a man who appears to being mugged by a thug, and who hands him a book as thanks for helping him. Jamie takes the book back to the TARDIS and all hell breaks loose, almost literally. This is a much better story than the first Doctor story, and is a lot more enjoyable and in keeping with the era that it was set in and in the characterisation of the regular characters. I found the Doctor in this to be pretty much like the second Doctor should be and you could pretty much imagine this story to actually be a proper second Doctor story. Gallifrey and the Time Lords are mentioned in this story which is a little bit out of keeping with the original era this is set much earlier than the first mention of the Time Lords and their home planet in the canon (unless you count the fan idea of the second Doctor travelling in time working for the time lords before his exile), but other than that I really enjoyed this little foray into sixties Who.

The Spear of Destiny is a third Doctor adventure. This is easily the best of the e-book series so far as it fits into its era seamlessly, which is always what I am looking for in a Doctor Who story, and the depiction of the regulars from the era that it is set are pitch perfect and, to use an oft used phrase, you can imagine Pertwee and Manning speaking the lines. It is set after The Three Doctors, as the Doctor is now able to freely travel in the TARDIS, and features the Doctor on a mission for the Time Lords to steal an exhibit (the titular spear) from a museum which is in fact much more powerful and dangerous that it was considered to be. Of course things don’t go to plan and the Doctor has to change his initial plans and get hold of the spear another way, the way that only he can. This story is slightly longer than the previous two e-books and I think that the extra length allows there to be much more a story and the result is much better. It also reads like a TARGET novelisation of a story from that era would as this is definitely a story that would not seem out of place in the original TV series.

The Roots of Evil features the fourth Doctor, Leela and K9. Leela is missing the open air and the trees of her home so the Doctor takes her to see the Heligan Structure, a giant tree space-station (yes you read that correctly a tree space station). This space station houses an entire civilisation who don’t exactly welcome the Doctor with open arms, rather the opposite in fact, and the entire population have been bought up on tales of how evil and nasty he is, with people having names such as Vengeance-Will-Be-Ours-When-The-Doctor-Dies-A-Thousand-Agonising-Deaths and Agony-Without-End-Shall-Be-The-Doctor’s-Punishment. Again this story is typical of the era in which it is set and also the characterisation of the regulars is once more spot on and we even got a very short cameo from K9 which was again very typical of that particular series of the show with him not having finished charging himself up so that he couldn’t participate in the story. This is another shorter story but is a fun quick read with some very interesting concepts, and quite a nice little twist for people about why the inhabitants of the tree want the Doctor dead.

Tip of the Tongue is another very short eBook which features the fifth Doctor and Nyssa but, it has to be said, not very much. Indeed the story barely features them apart from a cameo near the beginning, a brief appearance in the middle and then right at end for the explanation of why they were there but, apart from that, they aren’t really part of the story at all, just on the periphery of the whole thing. In this case it didn’t really bother me as the rest of the story interesting enough without them. The story touched on racism, xenophobia and slavery and was primarily the story of two friends: a Jewish boy with a German name, and an African-American girl just near the end of the Second World War and ostensibly how he could get this girl he likes to recognise him! The story presented here was interesting but it could easily have been any of the Doctor’s so vague was the characterisation of him and if it weren’t for the mention of the cricketing whites then you could have been forgiven for not thinking it was the fifth Doctor.

Something Borrowed was the sixth Doctor story for the series of e-books published for the 50th anniversary. What was most remarkable about this story was that it was written from the point of view of the Doctor’s companion Peri Brown and I have to say that this is possible the best that Peri has ever been written probably even better than she was in the show itself because for once she was a young American female character written by a young American female author which gave the character a life that she really hadn’t had before. The story itself was ok, and the unmasking of the true villain of the piece wasn’t really that much of a shock, but it was true to its era and was well written. I am not sure that the portrayal of the Doctor was that great, but the writer did a really good job with the character of Peri.

The Ripple Effect is a story featuring the seventh Doctor and Ace and a bunch of Daleks who are not bloodthirsty or evil, but creatures of science and peace and harmony. The Doctor has to work out what went wrong as these are not the Daleks that we know and that bothers him. It is the depiction of the Daleks in this story that makes it an interesting story as they are so different to what we are used to and it is nice to see then portrayed in such a favourable light but it is also just not right and you find yourself siding with the Doctor as this sort of Dalek race just doesn’t seem to be right, no matter how refreshing and pleasant it is. The Doctor did seem to be a bit more generic than specifically the seventh Doctor, but Ace was well realised as the character we know.

Spore in the eighth Doctor e-book and features him trying to save the world from a spore that has landed on the Earth determined to turn all organic matter into some sort of soup! The story was set in the Nevada desert in the US and features a single story companion in the shape of one of the military bods who were trying to isolate this infection to just one small area, without much success it has to be said, until the Doctor turns up that is. This is a tried and tested story format for science fiction stories and it works well here as well. I would say that the portrayal of the Doctor is pretty good and he does seem like his eighth persona here rather a more generic Doctor, which is nice.

The Beast of Babylon features the ninth Doctor and is set during the period at the end of the episode Rose where leaves and then returns to the same spot to remind Rose that the TARDIS also travels in time. The Doctor here is very much the ninth Doctor as seen on screen and it also makes a few points clear such as the one that he was newly regenerated at the start of Rose and he had gone to the Earth after he had been made aware of the Nestene presence there. The story takes the Doctor back to the ancient time of the Babylonians thousands of years in the Earth past where he has to stop this entity from destroying the planet.

The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage features the tenth Doctor and Martha and is an interesting romp set in a world which models itself on fictional characters and places, a bit like The Mind Robber from the second Doctor’s era. The Doctor and Martha both sound exactly like they do in the television series which is a bonus point for me and the tenth Doctor sounded particularly smug and pleased with himself, something that I never liked about his character. I quite liked some of the references to different fictional characters most of which made sense when you consider that they were taken from the mind of Martha and the frenetic pace of the current television series is also present in this story which means that it truly does represent the era in which the story is set and it is the sort of thing that you can imagine seeing on screen.

Nothing O’clock is about a truly evil alien race, the Kin that the Time Lords had imprisoned and assumed would never be able to escape from them but who managed to escape and decide to destroy all life on the Earth by buying it legally. The Doctor for this story was the eleventh Doctor and his companion this time was Amy Pond. This was my favourite of all the stories, mostly because it was written by one of my favourite writers, but also because it got the Doctor and Amy spot on but, as this was written by someone who had written for this pairing on television, maybe this isn’t such a surprise. It was a very simple story, well told, which seemed to be typify the work of the writer and also a Doctor Who style story all at the same time. This is certainly a story that I could read again and again and not really get bored with it.

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