Doctor Who: Rose by Russell T. Davies: It All Starts with — and Comes Back to — Rose

Doctor Who: RoseDoctor Who: Rose

by Russell T. Davies
Series: Doctor Who

Paperback, 197 pg.
BBC Books, 2018
Read: December 31, 2018

She ran into a cavern.

She ran into a vault.

She ran into a cathedral.

She ran into a huge space, a vast dome, with the Doctor standing at its centre, the grinning lord of an impossible realm.

It was like being plunged underwater, the sudden pressure in her head, and Rose thought, simply, No! and ran back out again.

Into the yard. The same old yard. With headless Mickey still chopping away at the fire door.

She looked back at the blue box. She’d left the door open and she could see, in the gap between door and jamb, that huge, strange space reaching far beyond, With the Doctor somehow in the distance, a small figure, a good twenty metres away and yet within a box that stood beside her, no deeper than a metre in itself.

I think that was the moment in 2006 that sealed the deal for many of us — Doctor Who was back. My kids (who were at the perfect age to be introduced to the show) loved that moment, but I don’t think they were sold until The End of the World the next week. But I was in from the time Rose Tyler stepped into the TARDIS — and (not at all surprisingly) her creator, Russell T. Davies, captured the moment perfectly in his novelization of the episode.

It’s more than just a novelization, Davies is able to take a lot of things that happened or developed later in the show’s run and weave them into this adventure (or at least set the stage for them) while he’s fleshing out a lot of things that he couldn’t get into the episode. We got a very nice glimpse of Doctors past and future (even post-Jodie Whittaker), and a very character-appropriate appearance from a future companion that made me chuckle audibly (that moment was worth half of what I paid for the book)

The prologue adds weight and context to the disaster of Rose’s store being destroyed (which is pretty easy to miss). Davies also does a great job at showing that Mickey isn’t just the loser that Rose is shackled with, but he’s someone worthy of her time and devotion. We eventually got to see some of that in the show — but it was about the same time that Mickey left. Here we see it from the start.

But the most important part of the book — like the episode itself — was Rose (it’s right there in the title). Davies probably knows her better than anyone, and is able to use that knowledge to flesh out the character, to helps us see (and not just assume) what’s going on in Rose’s mind. We see her loneliness, her sense of being incomplete, how she needs something more than working at a shop or being with Mickey can give her. Seeing Rose embrace her capabilities and end up as sure and certain as she is later. This depth was most welcome and made me miss Ms. Tyler even more.

I needed a quick, fun read after some pretty heavy reads — and the BBCAmerica Doctor Who marathon had me nostalgic already. So I’m glad I had this handy, it fit the bill precisely. It was a pleasant blast from the past with plenty of bonus nuance and detail from the man who brought us the new era of The Doctor. If you’re a Whovian who’s never tried one of these Target books — this would be a great place to start. If you’re no stranger to them, you know how good they can be. This is just that.

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3.5 Stars

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Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time by Paul Cornell: Saying Good-bye to the Twelfth Doctor All Over Again

Doctor Who: Twice Upon a TimeDoctor Who: Twice Upon a Time

by Paul Cornell
Series: Doctor Who

Paperback, 156 pg.
BBC Books, 2018
Read: July 24, 2018

He sent a wide-beam sonic pulse at exactly the right frequency all the way down that path between him and the tower, and was rewarded with a very satisfying series of detonations. The First Doctor skipped about at every fireball that burst into the sky. Finally, the smoke and flame died down. ‘There you go, all done.’

‘There could have been one right underneath us!’

‘Yeah, but it’s not the kind of mistake you have to live with.’ That was the other thing about his centuries of additional experience, he was a little more willing to roll the dice. Or perhaps it was just at this point he didn’t give a damn. What the hell, his clothes were already ruined, might as well mess up the bodywork too. It wasn’t like he was planning to trade the old thing in.

Okay…if you want to read me ramble on a bit about the place of these Target novelizations of Doctor Who episodes to me as a young’un, you can see my post about Doctor Who: Christmas Invasion by Jenny T. Colgan, one of the other new releases in this old and cherished line. Which means we can just cut to the chase about this one, right?

Cornell was tasked with bringing the Twelfth Doctor’s last Christmas Special to the page — which includes the challenge of dealing with his regeneration in to the Thirteenth Doctor, which is no small feat. But we’ll get to that in a bit. First, he’s got to deal with the challenge of having two Doctors meet up — and the extra fun of telling a story where two characters share the same name (and are sort of the same person, but not really), while not confusing the reader.

Cornell did a great job balancing the two Doctors, both going through some doubts about regenerating; while dealing with the question of Bill’s identity and the soldier from World War I. One thing I appreciated more in the book than in the original episode was the Doctor’s consternation when he realized that there wasn’t actually a bad guy to fight for a change. Not sure what else to say, really.

Now, the regeneration? Wow. He nailed that one, and got me absolutely misty-eyed in the process. I could hear Capaldi very clearly as I read these pages — the narrative added just the right amount of extra depth without taking away any of the original script/performance. It wasn’t my favorite part of the episode, but it was my favorite part of the book — he hit all the notes perfectly. The aside about the pears — great, I loved that so much. And then — a nice little bit with Thirteen, which has got to be so hard because we don’t know anything about her, so even those few seconds of screen-time with her have to be tougher than usual to capture. These few paragraphs, incidentally, made Cornell “the first person to have written for all the Doctors” — which is just cool.

In Twice Upon a Time Cornell has captured the letter and the spirit of the original episode, added some nice new bits and pieces for the fans and generally told a great story in a way that made you feel you hadn’t watched it already. This is what these books should shoot for, and Cornell (no surprise to anyone who’s read any of his previous fiction) hit his target.

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3.5 Stars

Doctor Who: Christmas Invasion by Jenny T. Colgan: Colgan Captures the 10th Doctor’s First Adventure Perfectly in this adaptation.

Doctor Who: Christmas InvasionDoctor Who: Christmas Invasion

by Jenny T. Colgan
Series: Doctor Who

Paperback, 176 pg.
BBC Books, 2018

Read: July 2, 2018
Back in High School, I remember attending an author event — some SF author that I’d never heard of (you probably haven’t either), but what did I care? He was an actual SF/Fantasy/Horror writer visiting Idaho (it happens a little more now, but back then I hadn’t thought it was possible). He discussed getting to write a novelization of a major Horror film thinking, “How hard can it be? Take the script, throw in some adjectives and verbs — maybe a few adverbs and you’re done!” He then went on to talk about all the things he learned about how hard it was taking a script of whatever quality and turning it into something that works in an entirely different medium. That’s really stuck with me for some reason, and I’ve always respected anyone who can pull it off well (and even those who get close to doing it well).

Before I babble on too much, Colgan is one who can pull it off pretty well.I discovered Doctor Who a couple of years before I saw that unnamed SF author, but didn’t get to watch much of it, mostly because I lived in about the only place in the States where PBS didn’t air old ones. I saw a few Sylvester McCoy episodes (mostly due to the magic of VHS and a friend who lived somewhere with a better PBS affiliate). Other than that, it was the small paperback novelizations of episodes. I owned a few, the same friend owned a few more — so I read those. A lot. Then comes Russel T. Davies, Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, etc. and all was better. But I still remembered those novels as being Doctor Who to me.

So when they announced that they were re-launching that series this year, I got excited. I own them all, but I’ve only found time to read one — I started with Jenny T. Colgan, because I know how Paul Cornell writes, and I assume I’ll love his — ditto for Davies and Moffat. Besides, The Christmas Invasion is one of my favorite episodes ever.

I won’t bother with describing the plot much — you know it, or you should. On the heels of regenerating into the 10th Doctor, Rose brings a mostly unconscious stranger into her mother’s apartment to recuperate. At the same time, an alien invasion starts — the British government — under the direction of Harriet Jones, MP — and the Torchwood project tries to respond, but really is pining all their hopes on the resident of the TARDIS.

Colgan does a great job bringing the episode to life — I could see the thing playing out in my mind. But she doesn’t just do that — she adds a nice little touch of her own here and there. Expands on some things and whatnot. In general, she just brings out what was there and expands on it. Adds a few spices to an already good dish to enhance the flavors. Colgan absolutely nails Rose’s inner turmoil about who this stranger in her old friend’s body is.

I particularly enjoyed reading the scene where the Doctor emerges from the TARDIS, finally awake and ready to resume being Earth’s protector — between Rose’s reaction, the already great dialogue, and Colgan’s capturing the essence of Tennant’s (and everyone else’s) performances in her prose. Seriously, I’ve read that scene three times. I never do that.

I’m not particularly crazy about the little addition she made to Harriet Jones’ downfall, but I get it. I’m not scandalized by it or anything, I just didn’t think it was necessary. Other than that, I appreciate everything Colgan did to put her stamp on this story.

If the rest of these books are as good, I’m going to be very glad to read them, and hope that there are more to come soon.

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3.5 Stars

Doctor Who: Silhouette by Justin Richards

Doctor Who: Silhouette (New Series Adventures, #53)Doctor Who: Silhouette

by Justin Richards

Series: Doctor Who

Trade Paperback, 256 pg.
Broadway Books, 2014
Read: September 18, 2014

I’d just said few weeks back how I hadn’t read any tie-in novels for a bit, when the good people at Blogging for Books offered this. Seemed like a good way to get back into them.

Things got off to a rough start when the argument that the Doctor and Clara were having about their next destination (she wants to meet King Arthur, he wants to go somewhere else) reminded me too much of the argument in “Robot of Sherwood” — but there’s a great punchline that redeemed it. They don’t head off to Camelot, because the Doctor finds some sort of sign of nuclear power in Victorian London which seems far more urgent.

The Doctor doesn’t want to trouble Madam Vastra and her crew when they can take care of this themselves. Besides, The Great Detective is investigating a locked-room murder, and Strax is off looking into the death of a friend. I’m sure no one at all will be surprised to discover that the investigations are soon intertwined. And we’re off to the races — peril, aliens, impossible weapons, The Shadow Proclamation, Strax being Strax. Loads of fun.

This story is best suited for a novel rather than a TV episode — it’s just unfilmable. Too many special effects, too large a cast, plot couldn’t be boiled down into the less than 60-minutes necessity. But it feels like an bonus-length episode, right kind of pace, right kind of mix of tension and humor. In other words — exactly what this kind of book is supposed to be.

Here’s the only thing I didn’t like about this — Richard’s characterization of The Doctor. Which, yeah, is a pretty significant piece in a Doctor Who novel. But here’s the thing, this thing came out September 9 and season 8 premiered August 23. So, I’m betting while Richards had plenty of access to scripts and whatnot, he hadn’t seen a final cut of an episode starring Capaldi before he finished this (maybe one or two — definitely not a lot of them). So he couldn’t really capture the full flavor of the Twelfth Doctor. He could get some of it — the stuff that’s in the script — but all the intangibles, gravitas, the full je ne sais quoi that only happens when an actor becomes the character wasn’t available for Richards. I’d like to read something he writes after the end of season 8 just to see if he can capture it — I’m betting he can (he nailed the characterizations of Clara, Vastra, Jenny and Strax).

Still, this is just the sort of thing for the fan who can’t be satisfied with twelve episodes of TARDIS-based adventure.


Note:I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. Which was generous and cool of them, but didn’t impact what I said about the book.

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3 Stars