Wednesday, November 11, 2015

REVIEW | The Doctor Who Novels | New Who Series 1 and 2 (mostly)


2015 was my year to discover how much I really enjoy media tie in books.  I've read a few in the past (Firefly Graphic Novels come to mind) but it wasn't until I read the first two mysteries in the new Veronica Mars series that I realized how much I really enjoyed this type of fiction.  Then I found the Doctor Who books. 

Doctor Who is one of my favorite shows...or at least it was.  As I ranted about already I've not truly warmed up to the Steven Moffatt era of the show.  Rose is my favorite companion followed closely by Donna and I can't imagine loving any Doctor more than the Ninth and Tenth.  Sure I could go back and watch my DVDs of series 1-4 again but I've seen those episodes SO MANY times.  I wanted new stories with my favorite characters.

Voila!  Doctor Who tie-in novels to the rescue!  These are totally new stories featuring Rose, Captain Jack and the ninth and tenth doctors!  Discovering these was definitely an excessive use of exclamation points moment!

There are twelve novels featuring Rose as companion so I haven't yet read all of them but I've read most (all that my library had basically).  They are generally pretty short, between 200-300 pages, and if you're listening to them, as I have, they run between 3-5 hours roughly. The audio books are read by actors from the show though not always the main cast.  Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler) reads three of the books above and was one of my favorite narrators.  The best of them manage to feel like a Doctor Who episode but with more detailed character development.  So, "FanTAStic" as the Ninth Doctor is so fond of saying.

I am not going to do a major review for each of the above books but will have a sentence or two for each with perhaps a little more for those I especially liked.  Also, the books above are laid out in chronological order as is the list below, at least for the first two series, and I have included the ones I have not yet read.  Hopefully this will be helpful for someone looking to dive into the books. 


The Clockwise Man by Justin Richards | Read by Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Daleks and Cybermen)

This is a time travel story that takes place in 1920s London and in true Doctor Who fashion everything is just a little bit pear shaped. This was one of the first ones I listened to and it was good but nothing spectacular.  The setting and overall set up was properly atmospheric and intriguing but it didn't end up wowing. It does have a slightly steampunkish flair with clockwork creatures though they were done better in the second season episode "The Girl in the Fireplace".

The Monsters Inside  by Stephen Cole  |  Read by Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler)

The Doctor and Rose get trapped in a future prison camp that stretches across several planets and they run into their old friends from Raxacoricofallapatorius.  They spend much of the book apart as Rose is imprisoned with humans and The Doctor with aliens but they each discover fishy things that are going on that end up dove tailing with each other.  I actually liked this one better then the two-part episode featuring the Slitheen in Downing Street. 

Winner Takes All by Jacqueline Rayner | Read by Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler)

On a trip home, Rose and the Doctor find the whole of London enthralled in a new video game.  Fans of War Games and Ender's Game but who also appreciate goofiness will particularly like this story.  Both  Jackie and Mickey have a role to play here so that's a bonus.  There is a lot of good stuff in here about the Doctor and Rose's relationship too.  They've gotten close and in parts of the book Rose really has to put her trust in the Doctor more than usual- there is friction but it comes out all right.  There is also a lovely side character in this, a young boy who helps the Doctor, that I really enjoyed.  Of the ones I've read thus far this was one of my favorites though you will have to be prepared for some wackiness like giant alien hedgehogs

Deviant Strain by Justin Richards | Read by Stuart Milligan 

Not Yet Read.


Only Human by Gareth Roberts  | Read by Anthony Stewart Head (Giles from Buffy!!!...oh and um...the head Krillitane in the episode School Reunion)

This book does one of the things Doctor Who does best - mix time eras.  In this case humans from the far future have traveled back in time to prehistoric Britain where Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon man live in conflict.  Plus, a Neanderthal man ends up in contemporary Britain which results in all kinds of fun.  Also fun?  Captain Jack is along for this one.  This one is my favorite of those I've read thus far.  The Rose and Doctor are particularly charming together in this one and the future human civilization that has traveled back in time is fascinating.  Addresses the strength and weakness of having emotions much like many of the Daleks episodes do. 
P.S. Fun fact about Anthony Stewart Head  - he has apparently been considered to play the Doctor at least twice!!

The Stealers of Dreams by Steve Lyons | Read by Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler)

In the final adventure with the Ninth, The Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack travel to an unknown planet which houses an unusual human culture where lies of any kind are not permitted, so fiction of all kinds is prohibited.  The three companions end up working separately a lot in this one but each of their stories and efforts is interesting.  The exploration of a society with no fiction is also fascinating and there are lots of arguments about the benefits and dangers of fiction and lying.  This was a solid end to the first series books.


The Stone Rose by Jacqueline Rayner | Read by David Tennant (Ya know...The Tenth Doctor)

Mickey calls Rose, Jackie and the Doctor together to show them an ancient marble statue at the British Museum that is the spitting image of Rose.  This is a mystery that must be investigated and much of the rest of the action takes place in ancient Rome.  This was a weird story that seemed to end and then re-start.  There are lots of clever sleights of hand and the ultimate technology that is causing problems is also pretty intriguing.  Otherwise the story doesn't hang together all that tightly and there is no very interesting character development.  Enjoyable none the less and my favorite of the three series 2 books I've read.

The Feast of the Drowned by Stephen Cole | Read by David Tennant

Unfortunately, since this is one read by Tennant, it is probably my least favorite of all that I've read.  It takes place back home for Rose when one of her friends starts seeing her brother, a sailor, as a ghost begging her to come join him at the feast.  Interesting hook but the exploration of it felt pretty lackluster to me.  

The Resurrection Casket by Justin Richards | Read by David Tennant

The story is pretty fun and this is likely my favorite of the novels thus far featuring Rose and the 10th Doctor (I still have The Nightmare of Black Island and The Price of Paradise yet to read). Not a lot of character development for Rose and the Doctor though which takes it down a notch or two for me.


The Nightmare of Black Island by Mike Tucker | Read by Anthony Stewart Head

Not Yet Read.


 The Art of Destruction by Stephen Cole | Read by Don Warrington (the President of Great Britain in the episode Rise of the Cyberman)

So maybe I just don't like the writing of Stephen Cole because this is probably my second least favorite of all these books.  It is not helped by the reading by Don Warrington which also was the weakest of all those I've listened to though he had a tough job with lots of strange aliens to voice.  Takes place in a future Africa where scientists are trying to figure out how to feed the world reliably and cheaply and instead they uncover an alien stockpile that attracts some unwanted attention.

The Price of Paradise by Colin Brake | Read by Shaun Dingwell (Pete Tyler)

Not Yet Read.


Pest Control by Peter Anghelides | Read by David Tennant

This is an audiobook only publication and was the first one I picked up when I saw it on my libraries digital resources catalog.  The Doctor and Donna find themselves in the middle of a future war on a far away planet between humans and centaurs.  Yup Centaurs.  However these aren't the only two players in the battles on this particular planet though neither side is aware of it.  This one is okay.  An enjoyable read but nothing special.

Phew!  That's a lot of books!  My overall opinion is that they are all worth reading.  Some are better than others of course but the majority will keep you entertained and a couple are really excellent.  I most enjoy that the writing medium allows for more development of the characters and their relationships which is a big reason I love the show.  Don't expect any major revelations but it does add nuance.   My only complaint is that there isn't enough of them.  There are 12 books total featuring Rose across two series of the show and just as many featuring Martha from series 3.  Martha?  Really? Martha's fine but she is literally the least interesting companion so why she proportionally gets twice the number of books, I'm not sure.  Regardless, I will be making my way through all the books that cover the first 4 series at least.  Until next time...

Allons -y!

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