Eight novels of varying vintage and length pitting the Time Lord against some of his strongest foes.
Suffice it to say that those people desperate to find out what happened when the Doctor re-encountered the inhabitants of Vortis are unlikely to be satisfied with this collection from BBC Books (Christopher Bulis’ Return to the Web Planet not featuring among them), but everyone else will find this is an interesting mix, which really does cross the boundaries of Doctor Who official novel fiction.
The first thing you note just looking at the spines is the difference in word count between the glory days of the Virgin New/Missing Adventures, the BBC Books and the current crop of Ninth/Tenth/Eleventh Doctor tales – the hardback printing of the latter has disguised this to a large extent, but they almost feel like junior novels besides their forebears. That’s not a critique of quality – some of them have been excellent and there was some quite appalling drivel released at various times under the other banners – but an indication of how the parameters changed.
So what have we got? The Doctor’s principal foes are all represented: Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors… Er, no Ice Warriors… Sontarans, Weeping Angels, Autons… er, no Autons either… Silurians, Zygons, Mummies, and the Robots of Death.
Yes, the Mummies return in Justin Richards’ The Sands of Time (convoluted but enjoyable) and the Robots of Death are back in Chris Boucher’s Blake’s 7 crossover Corpse Marker (a title which I recall some debate over at the time) – so if you’re a fan of the Tom Baker/Philip Hinchcliffe era, you’re set.
You could argue all day over the choice of novels for the aliens: Trevor Baxendale’s Prisoner of the Daleks is an enjoyable read (and I’ll be blunt – I’d rather not give John Peel’s War or Legacy of the Daleks any more chances to be read). Mike Tucker and Rob Perry’s Cybertale Illegal Alien is one of those stories that got away – a potential Season 27 tale in book form – and deserves a chance at a new audience. The Sontarans turn up in Terrance Dicks’ expansion/novelisation of the DWB fan film Shakedown (and when is that ever going to be released on DVD?), as do their foes, the Rutan – it’s a weird mix of Terrance in different modes.
The Angels feature in Jonny Morris’ Touched by an Angel, which is one of the 11th Doctor novels I’d not previously caught up with although my daughter had read, and enjoyed it – it’s a neat plot, which could probably have merited expansion to Virgin/BBC length. Finally, the Silurians appear in Gary Russell’s Scales of Injustice, which I half expected to be updated to include Torchwood, and Sting of the Zygons from Steve Cole rounds the set out with a fast-paced action adventure.
It’s an eclectic mix of Doctors: no first or second incarnations; Pertwee’s with the Silurians; Tom Baker gets the Robots (again); Davison battles the Mummies; Colin Baker doesn’t get a look-in; Sylvester’s here twice – in near his TV persona for the Cyberstory, and in New Adventures mode for Shakedown; McGann and Eccleston (and of course, Hurt) no sign; Tennant’s with the Zygons (alongside Martha) and on his own against the Daleks; and Matt dispatches the Angels. The Doctors are pretty well depicted in all the adventures, and there’s no real clunkers among them.
A last thought – I wonder if Big Finish would think of doing something similar with the audios…?**
Verdict: A chance to catch up with some classics (for those of you who haven’t got the entire lot already!).
**(My suggestions for that: Jubilee (Daleks); Spare Parts (Cybermen); Frozen Time (Ice Warriors); Brave New Town (Autons); The First Sontarans; Bloodtide (Silurians); Zygon Who Fell to Earth/Death in Blackpool; and if old Hinchcliffe-era monsters are being resurrected, then Hothouse for the Krynoids.)