Review: Doctor Who: Books: 11 Classic Novels

11 NovelsBBC Books’ latest contribution to the 50th Anniversary festivities: a rerelease of nine novels from their own range, the paperback debut of another, and a reprint of a classic novelisation from Virgin…

It’s an eclectic mix, and it would be interesting to know the logic by which the stories were chosen. They certainly demonstrate the many different sorts of tales that have been told in the books over the years and are by a strong cross-section of authors. Range editors Steve Cole and Justin Richards provide the recreations of the black and white era: both of these capture the characters of the TARDIS crews while putting them into unusual situations (William Hartnell meets James Cameron’s Aliens, anyone?). Mark Gatiss writes the quintessential Jon Pertwee adventure, complete with appearance by the Master.

Big Finish stalwarts Jonathan Morris and Trevor Baxendale are responsible for the fourth and fifth Doctors’ tales: Festival of Death features the second Romana and K9 alongside Tom Baker’s Time Lord, while Fear of the Dark is a horror-filled adventure for the Davison crew.

You couldn’t do a celebration without including Terrance Dicks, the man who’s synonymous with Doctor Who books, and Players is one of his stronger BBC Books contributions (given a choice across all his original work, I’d’ve gone with Exodus, even with the links to the Timewyrm saga, but at least we have been spared Warmonger!). It gives credence to some fan theories about the show as well as giving the sixth Doctor a good outing.

The choice of the seventh Doctor tale is intriguing: there weren’t that many Sylvester stories in the BBC range, but many of them still stand up well. Instead, we get the novelisation of Remembrance of the Daleks, which of course for many people was the first New Adventure, given its considerable widening of the storyline as seen on TV.

Written by another key part of the book line’s creative team, Jacqueline Rayner’s Earthworld is the story chosen for Paul McGann’s Doctor and is another of the book line’s periodic restating of the key elements of the show. Far too many of the McGann novels became continuity-heavy, and it’s good to read a story that is pretty much standalone.

The first two twenty-first century Doctors are represented by Gareth Roberts and Gary Russell, both important contributors to the revised show. Roberts’ novel gives us another outing for the far too short-lived Ninth Doctor in a story that comes recommended by my ten year old daughter who has read it repeatedly! Russell’s Beautiful Chaos brings back an old enemy and has some nicely understated cross-references to many previous adventures.

The set rounds off with the paperback reprint of Dan Abnett’s Ice Warrior story (reviewed here).

Verdict: As a representation of the Eleven Faces of Doctor Who, you may quibble with some of the choices, but they certainly make a good starting point for those interested in how the show has been expanded beyond the small screen.   

Paul Simpson

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  1. Pingback: Book Festival focus on Doctor Who, comic books and SF | Sci-Fi Bulletin - August 12, 2013

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