Book Review – Doctor Who: Spiral Scratch

  • Title: Spiral Scratch
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gary Russell
  • Characters:  Sixth Doctor, Mel
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/04/2012

This is a tie-in to the wonderful British Science Fiction television show Doctor Who. It is not a novelization of an episode but rather an original story, that borrows the characters of the Sixth Doctor (played by Colin Baker) and Melanie Bush (played by Bonnie Langford) under license from the BBC. Doctor Who is the world’s longest-running science fiction program, having run continuously from 1963 to 1989, picked up for a TV movie in 1996, and then returned to the screens in 2005 and still running strong. The program will celebrate it’s 50th Anniversary next year (2013). The BBC Past Doctor Adventures (sometimes referred to as PDAs) were published by BBC Books and are one of five series of original tie-in novels. There was also a series of novelizations published by Target Books (the paperback arm of UK publisher WH Allen). Of all the various Doctor Who novels I’ve read I find the PDAs and EDAs (Eighth Doctor Adventures, published at the same time) to be the best.

This was one of the best Doctor Who BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures I’ve read. The story felt like a good Doctor Who story, something that could have been done on the series – if they’d had the budget. It’s actually a complex tale. The Doctor and Mel head to Carsus, the universe’s ultimate library to meet an old friend of the Doctor’s, a retired Time Lord named Rummas. It’s not quite a vacation, but not quite a mission to save the universe – yet. However, while traveling to Carsus, various other versions of the Doctor and sometimes Mel appear in the TARDIS. When they arrive at the library, first the Doctor find Rummas dead, then he’s alive. Mel sees other versions of his helpers at the library. And before long she and the Doctor have to save the universe.

However, it isn’t just the universe at stake – it’s the multiverse. Spiral Scratch deals with multi-universe theory in a highly interesting way without being too bogged down in long explanations. Before long, The Doctor and Mel are trying to save Helen, but as things get more complex, and they continuously fail and return to the Library, it becomes apparent that something bigger is going on.

What that is… is Monica, a Lamprey, a creature that lives in the Vortex itself and devoures Chronon (time) Energy. However, Rummas has become trapped – because Monica lives outside of time, and Rummas lives life in a normal line and cannot change his own past — every time Rummas tries to stop Monica, she can simply slip back and stop him. Rummas, unaware of this, continues to call the Doctor to him, bringing in more and more versions of the Doctor from different alternate universes.

Our version of the Doctor, and Mel, are unaware of this – as is the reader at first, as they try to rescue various time-sensitives, from various planets, in various different universes of the multi-verse. And each time the Doctor fails – he or Mel sees ghost images of other versions of himself in the TARDIS control room.

The fun of this novel starts with the various different universes such as an Imperial Earth where Rome never fell. The novel also includes chapters without the Doctor or Mel as Monica goes about her business of wrecking havoc – which the reader can slowly put together like clues in a great mystery novel. I also liked the other versions of the Doctor — one dressed in mourning black, with a scar on his face, missing an eye. He’s kinder and gentler than “our Doctor” but also blames himself for Peri’s death (in the universe where Rome never fell – she was from the Americas and a native princess named Brown Perpugilliam). Another Doctor travels with a human/Silurian hybrid named Melanie Baal. These “other” Doctors and Mels are fascinating.

The conclusion of the story is fantastic, and I loved it. I’m not going to spoil it here, but trust me… if you’re a long-time Who fan, familiar with various versions of the show and official tie-ins to it, you will enjoy Spiral Scratch. Also, this novel fills in a continuity gap from the original series that most fans will recognize. I also loved, loved, loved that. And I will say, though normally I don’t really like the companion Mel, I found that this book made me much more sympathetic to her, which is an accomplishment. I highly, highly, highly recommend this novel to fans of the TV Series Doctor Who. I also think that if you like a good tie-in novel with a strong SF plot, you’ll enjoy this… though if you don’t know Doctor Who you’ll probably miss some subtleties of the plot.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Palace of the Red Sun

  • Title: Palace of the Red Sun
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Christopher Bulis
  • Characters:  Sixth Doctor, Peri
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 8/24/2012

This book started very s…l…o…w…l…y. The Doctor (the 6th Doctor, played on the series by Colin Baker) and Peri land on a planet that seems to be an idyllic garden with a red sun. However, there are no people around. And for at least fifty pages… nothing happens, because there are no people around.
Eventually the Doctor and Peri get separated and the TARDIS disappears from where the Doctor left it. Again, very typical and not that interesting.
So I put this book down for a LONG time… like months. I just picked it up again and finished reading it in a couple of days. Overall, despite the slow start it was an OK read. Bulis really needs to improve his delivery style.
Anyway, when I picked up the book, the Doctor meets Green-8, a sentient gardening robot. Unlike most of the “thinking robots” in Doctor Who such as Daleks and Cybermen or indeed most thinking robots in science fiction in general (such as the Terminator movies) Green-8 is benevolent, curious, and even somewhat obsessed with philosophical questions such as “Who am I?” and “How did I come to be?” or even “Who made me?” and “Do I have to follow the Lords orders?” The Doctor convinces Green-8 to help him find his missing companion Peri.
Peri, meanwhile, has been taken hostage by the Red gardening robots and is being used as slave gardening labor alongside a group of other captured people called scavengers. Peri befriends a young scavenger boy named Kel.
Suddenly a large fireball appears in the sky, a huge wind and sand storm hits the land and considerable damage is done to the gardens. Peri uses this as the perfect opportunity to escape with Kel.
Meanwhile, the Doctor has just convinced Green-8 to help him find Peri, when the same fireball, storm, and shockwave hit his section of the planetoid. Green-8 reports the damage to the Lords in the Palace and orders his fellow Green Robots to clean-up and take care of the damage. This delays the Doctor and Green-8 from going anywhere. The Doctor also recognizes the firestorm as bombardment from space…and realizes he must warn the lords in the palace, even if it delays his search for Peri.
Meanwhile, a princess named Oralissa is beginning to have doubts — questioning things no one else around her questions, such as the mechanical servants that take care of the palace and grounds. She’s also less than happy to be forced into a marriage to one of two unsuitable suitors.
Peri and Kel encounter a “ghost girl nanny” then return to Kel’s home in the woods. Once there they soon run into a tabloid space reporter who’s covering the attack of a megalomanic dictator named Glavis Judd. Peri, Kel, Kel’s want-to-be bride, and another scavenger all head to the palace, accompanied by the reporter’s automatic camera drones.
Arriving at the palace, they meet the Doctor and the mystery begins to unravel… which I’m not going to spoil here. I will say that I had at least part of the mystery figured out before Bulis got around to explaining it. I also didn’t appreciate Bulis’ pushing the ideals of anarchy and anti-authority and anti-law and order every chance he got; especially given the epilogue is the exact opposite of his preaching.
Not the best Doctor Who book I’ve read in the BBC Books Past Doctor series, and overwhelmingly slow at times, but over all — not the worst book in the series either. The mystery elements were fairly well handled.

Book Review – Doctor Who A Device of Death

  • Title: A Device of Death
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Doctor Who Missing Adventures
  • Author: Christopher Bulis
  • Characters: Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, Dr. Harry Sullivan
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/17/2014

A Device of Death is a volume in Virgin Publishing’s Missing Adventures series of Doctor Who original novels. This story features the Fourth Doctor as played by Tom Baker, Sarah Jane Smith, and medical doctor and naval officer, Dr. Harry Sullivan. The novel opens with the Time Lords in an emergency monitoring station, monitoring a Time Quake as a result of the aired story, Genesis of the Daleks. They attempt to rescue the Doctor and his companions from the quake, but it doesn’t quite go perfectly and Harry, the Doctor, and Sarah end-up in three different locations in a solar system at war. So, right from the beginning our characters are split up. This means the novel moves very fast as the reader wants to know what’s happening to all three characters. The conflict also can only be resolved with information from all three locations. And in grand Doctor Who fashion both the Doctor and his companions get involved in local affairs, and become instrumental in figuring things out – especially, once they are re-united and can compare notes. The resulting secret they discover/figure out I found to be slightly predictable, and thus a tad disappointing. However, I still found “A Device of Death” to be quite the fun romp (despite the grim circumstances of the secondary/original characters) and the book was an enjoyable and quick read.

Book Review: Doctor Who – The Indestructible Man

  • Title: The Indestructible Man
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Simon Messingham
  • Characters:  Second Doctor, Zoë, Jamie, Gerry Anderson shows
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 2/23/2013

This novel is very, well, novel. As the photo-cover and title suggest, it really is a cross-over with all the Gerry Anderson stuff. Mostly it crosses Doctor Who (Second Doctor, Jamie, Zoë) with Captain Scarlet — the indestrcutible man, and with UFO, thus Zoë’s purple wig. But other Anderson shows make an appearance, including, Thunderbirds.

I was expecting, therefore, for this novel to be very funny, and it wasn’t, from what I remember it was actually kinda’ depressing. However, I did read it awhile ago, and it’s one of the Past Doctor Adventures I’d definitely read again.

Overall, definitely a book to read and add to your Doctor Who collection. It’s something to also recommend to the Gerry Anderson fan you know.