Monday, 7 January 2013

All Those Dr Who Books I Read Last Year, Part 1

Well, here’s the first half of that post I promised you – my rambly thoughts on all those Dr Who books I was consuming at a rate last year.  I was a bit astonished, on going through my books read doc to see I had read 24 of them (all over the original Target TV tie-ins, the Virgin New and Missing Adventures, and then the BBC Past Doctors and Eighth doctor series).  To the point where I thought I’d split the post in 2 for you, as otherwise it would be wicked long.  And you might get even bored-er than you’re bound to anyway, unless you’re a Dr Who fan and care about other people’s thoughts on the books…at which point I say to you: this post and the next will be most boring for you if you aren’t a fan, so come back after these ones, when I’ll talk of something else.  I have a Things That Annoy Me Part whatever brewing (not a massive rant, just a bit of a bemused befuddle), so that’s what’ll likely come after these.  In the meantime, here’s my thoughts on what I read.

I seemed to be doing Jon Pertwee’s era in order, and Sylvester McCoy’s not in order, and Peter Davidson again, in order.  In terms of the Target original books.  The Missing Adventures and BBC Past Doctor series I am just reading whatever grabs me as they are all standalones.  The New Adventures and BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures I am reading in order as they are the further adventures of Sylvester and Paul McGann respectively.  Those last 2 I am finding most interesting, as they are Doctors existing mostly in fiction; so I am intrigued to see where the writers/fans take them.  Oh, and there’s a stray Big Finish Audio book in there too…


  1. Dr Who: The Curse of Fenric, by Ian Briggs (Target)
    (Original tie-in. This had so much more in it, here and there, than the actual story, and made clear several things that weren’t, because Fluffhead kept burbling through the plot when I first watched it.  I liked the addition of the Bram Stoker letter, the El Dok’Tar story (explaining the chess thing that makes no sense otherwise), and the epilogue set in the past.  For something written rather ordinarily, for the most part, this had shining little gems of lovely phrases here and there.  Not flowery at all, just very lucid and emotional.  ‘She wanted to taste his taste’, a thought of Ace’s while looking momentarily at Sorin.  There was a little more to it, but I forget.  But some lovely bald images of an emotive kind.  And men think they are all about sci-fi and guns and military things.  Ha.  They are as warm as we are; just as we are as hard as they can be.  The differences are of degree in each person, that’s all; and not by gender – by temperament.  This was an interesting read.  I’m a bit in love with Sylvester McCoy’s doctor; and I love Ace, she bounds with so much different energy, she’s all possibility.)
  2. Dr Who and the Auton Invasion, by Terrance Dicks (Target)
    (Loved this.  Crisp clean style, and Jon Pertwee’s confidence and easy manner replicated perfectly.  I had a real sense of Lethbridge-Stewart too.  The auton attack at the end is fleshed out; I felt rather tense and worried by its effectiveness.  The character’s thoughts were nuanced.  Very good indeed.)
  3.  Dr Who and the Cave Monsters (Silurians), by Malcolm Hulke (Target)
    (For some reason this was a real slog.  I felt like I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have, though it was a fascinating idea.)
  4. Dr Who: The Sirens of Time (Big Finish Audio Book), by Nicholas Briggs
    (This started badly – stupid accents, hints of Nazi’s, an old hag, and Sylvester sounding confused and vague and not like himself.  But it picked up with Peter Davison’s segment set in WW2, and then Colin Baker really did sound like himself.  This was the first time I have listened to an audio book for ages: I didn’t picture everything as I thought I would; and I didn’t concentrate alone as I thought I would.  I listed books for sale on Amazon whilst listening.  I feel this is a rather poor start to the series, but I can see how the medium will lend itself to Doctor stories – things with place atmosphere should work a lot better – as should single Doctor stories work a lot better; and we need assistants, to make it ensemble based.  I am happy to keep going and try the next.)
  5.  Dr Who: Castrovalva, by Christopher H. Bidmead (Target)
    (Lovely book.  Where I sort of learnt about recursion.  Enjoyed Nyssa and Tegan in the reading far more than I ever did in person.  Enjoyed the Doctor, and indeed, all the characters much better [the Master being as silly as usual].  10/10 – for such a peaceful read, a lovely way of expressing himself, this writer.)
  6.  Dr Who: Ambassadors of Death, by Terrance Dicks (Target)
    (Reads better than it watched.  Jon Pertwee’s doctor reads very nicely.  I felt like I learned a tiny smidge about isotopes.  Its strange – I definitely had something more to say about this one, but its gone right out of my head.)
  7. Dr Who: Pale Blue, by Mark Morris (BBC Past Doctors Series)
    (‘We are Xaranti.’  Enormously enjoyable.  It was basically just like reading a horror, when I was adolescent again.  The touches of despair, depression and vividly described gore and terror, as well as the quick character sketches that are nonetheless spot on.  It was so odd – as I wasn’t expecting a horror.  But it was a horror with a ‘how dunnit and how to solve it’ element.  Provided by the Doctor.  Who was very well written, all his quirks and tics were there, recognisable.  Tegan was as brave and bolshie as usual, and Turlough characterised interestingly, as a total coward – yet I would have done everything he did, and I don’t think *I* am a TOTAL coward!  The horrible bull spiders and their huge black eyes and quills were very vivid indeed, as was the 70s seaside background.  It was interesting that the whole infection turned out to be a thought virus, so was easily disposed of by psychological trickery by the Doctor – tap water as a cure – when the apocalyptic proportions of the problem were starting to worry even me.  This was a very odd, and very well done book.  It felt like Dr Who, but at the same time it didn’t – so long, and involved, and adult in themes and imagery.  Confusing in that sense.  But I loved it.  Great also, to see Benton, Yates and the Brigadier.)
  8.  Doctor Who: The Eight Doctors, by Terrance Dicks (BBC 8th Doctor Series)
    (Very good.  Enjoyed the clever idea of giving the eighth doctor padding and a timeline to enrich his character, by having him meet each of his predecessors.  The Tom Baker interlude was particularly good, with Romana II – I enjoyed it more than watching the actual adventure it was associated with!  Each doctor was visited while in the middle or at the end of a famous adventure associated with him, and helped a bit by the new doctor who was regaining lost memories – courtesy the Master – as he went.  It was a good device.  My only problem was that by the end the 8th Doctor seemed like a super-being of beauty, wisdom, fighting skill and one liners.  I wasn’t quite sure of his personality – I wasn’t visualizing him.  I think I need to watch that execrable film again, to get a sense of him, for visualizing – as that is the joy of reading these books, the fact that you can SEE the doctors, each of their vibrant and different yet similar personalities interacting so stylishly and cleverly and rightly, with situations…if I can’t see and feel him, there will be a problem with this series.  But we’ll see.  Happy to go on.)
  9. Dr Who: Timewyrm: Genesys, by John Peel
    (Out of all the Dr Who’s I have read so far that are modern and non canon, this has been the weakest.  A very dodgy idea indeed, starting a series with a 4 book set, and making the first one set in a historical time period that’s…not the most readily fascinating in terms of characters.  And a very bad baddie [which means I was bored with her very quickly indeed].  Ace was characterised ok, but said things I don’t think she would have said [or known].  Sylvester was accurately done I felt.  It dragged all over the place and I ended up skimming toward the rear of the book.  I am only reading on because Terrance Dicks is next.)
  10.   Dr Who: Inferno, by Terrance Dicks (Target original)
    (Read much better than it watched.  It had a strange sad, claustrophobic feel, but all by implication, since it was written in a very to the point, upbeat Terrance Dicks-y way…a clever feat.  Specially when one whole world vanished at the end, yet I wasn’t left feeling sad at the waste and the sacrifice, etc etc.  Sutton, Petra and the Brigadier in his scarred and eye-patched incarnation came across particularly strongly.)
  11. Dr Who: Vampire Science, by Kate Orman and Jonathan Blum (BBC 8th Doctor Series)
    (2nd in the series.  Harked back a lot, to the TV movie.  Caroline felt like a reconstituted Grace, in many ways.  Whilst there was a lot here I liked: the characterisation of the Doctor was nicely done, Sam being a bit less cocky and getting stuffing knocked out of her a bit, also nicely done, some scenes, especially the Doctor and the kittens in his pockets and his enthusiasm, his thinking…there was also quite a bit here I didn’t like: the incredible Americanisation of the whole thing, as if the series, this very English series, was moving wholesale over to the States, that’s how it felt.  The characterisation of the vampires – Abner and Slake in particular, very tired, very done and been there in Buffy, Angel and loads of other American shows and books.  I appreciate this was in an effort to update them and place them within our culture of the early 2000’s and mock it…but still, been there, done that: ‘bored now’, as Vampire Willow would say.  It’s odd, I enjoyed this book and looked forward to reading it – but equally:  I sold it in a heartbeat when I was finished.)
  12. Dr Who: Timewyrm Exodus, by Terrance Dicks (New Adventures)
    (This was way stronger than the first volume in the series.  Terrance Dicks got hold of a stupid villainess and effectively shut her up and stuffed her in the head of a real villain [lets have a ponder on the word villain], and then added War Lords to the plot, while zipping in and around and before and after WW2.  The Festival of Britain, alternate ‘what if’ timelines, and allsorts of characters were confidently covered: Goering, Himmler, the Gestapo, the SS, Martin Bormann, Hitler himself etc etc.  The idea of a black magic coven around Hitler.  The best thing about this novel was the pitch perfect rendition of Sylvester McCoy and Ace.  Not a foot wrong…(except her fainting, twice; and Sylvester carrying her off over his shoulder at one point, which felt impossible given his size, though oddly I believed the bit where he hauled her into the Tardis just from holding her hand when she was hanging in air).  Again, I’m selling it.  Through the first half of the novel, I thought I wouldn’t, as it was so perfectly done, but by the end I was a bit fed up of Nazi Germany, and I don’t think I will re-read it, so I’ll send it out into the Dr Who universe, and see who else catches hold of it. [Timeferret, probably, hopefully –he’s my best customer on ebay for Dr Who books…])

And that’s it for Part 1.  I think Fluffhead will wake soon, so hopefully Part 2 tomorrow, or later this week.  See you soon, bookish Who fans, who are still reading when everyone else sloped off to the pub or something!

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