Book Review – Doctor Who: Millennium Shock

  • Title: Millennium Shock
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Justin Richards
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Dr. Harry Sullivan
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/09/2014

This is the second time I’ve read Millennium Shock. The first time I realized it was a sequel, but read it anyway because I knew the first book in the series, System Shock was part of the long out-of-print Doctor Who Missing Adventures series of books published by Virgin Publishing, and I would be unlikely to find a copy.

Now that I’ve read an e-book version of System Shock I did find that Millennium Shock made more sense. There’s a lot of detail from System Shock that’s used in this book – and not really explained.

Anyway, Millennium Shock is in the BBC Past Doctor Adventures series. It stars the Fourth Doctor (played on the television series by Tom Baker) and Dr. Harry Sullivan (played by Ian Marter on the TV series) who is now working for MI5. Sarah Jane Smith makes a brief appearance at the beginning, then we don’t see her again.

The plot involves the Millennium Bug, and a two-part plan – a corrupt British politician who wants to use the Bug to his own advantage; and aliens who are manipulating the politician for their own ends. The aliens are mechanical and computer Cyborgs – combined with the reptile snake-like appearance of their original ancestors. However, they hide their forms to look more human. And they intend, again, to take over the world using Voractyll, an alien computer that can infiltrate computer networks. The original code had been split apart, so during most of the book the aliens are attempting to re-assemble the code.

The Doctor, of course, manages to divert the aliens – mostly by appealing to the emotions they thought they no longer had, and by turning their tricks against them.

Overall, the book made more sense the second time around. However, System Shock had more humor. Still, an excellent Doctor Who novel. I recommend it.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Quantum Archangel

  • Title: The Quantum Archangel
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Craig Hinton
  • Characters:  Sixth Doctor, Mel
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/05/2013

This story is a sequel to the aired Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor) story, “The Time Monster”, which I re-watched prior to reading it. That was a good idea – several of the guest characters from that story re-appear in this one.

The Quantum Archangel features the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Mel. The book opens with the Doctor and Mel recovering from a disaster — and Mel is so devastated she decides to leave the Doctor. But when he drops her off, not only is he off by three years, but he discovers “the son of TOMTITT” is causing universe-spanning troubles — troubles that the Doctor, the Master, Mel, and several of Mel’s college buddies are drawn into. Not to mention several guest characters from “The Time Monster”.

The first half of this novel was slow and very confusing. However, it gradually built steam, and the conclusion was awesome. Overall, a worth-while read in the Doctor Who BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures range.

By the way, the author notes state the author is a fan of “American” comics — and it shows, there are plenty of references to various comics, which is fun – in a rather grim book. The phrase, “With great power comes great responsibility” is used often. And Oa is mentioned. Anyway, theses references lighten up the book. There’s also a lot of various Who references. And the entire plot has to do with computing and the search for a workable Quantum Computer, among other things. Enjoy!

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Ultimate Treasure

  • Title: The Ultimate Treasure
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Christopher Bulis
  • Characters:  Fifth Doctor, Peri
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 2/23/2013

This book opens with Peri and the Fifth Doctor, on vacation at the world’s biggest shopping mall. Actually, it’s a planet-sized space station that IS a shopping mall. They are about to leave when Peri announces she wants a souvenir. The go to the lower, less respectable levels of the mall and end-up in the middle of a robbery and murder. But all this is mere set-up as the Doctor and Peri get caught-up in a big treasure hunt.

The treasure hunt consists of a series of mental, physical, and logical tests, as well as tests of character. Several other people also end up on the treasure hunt, with a variety of motivations. As with all novels of this type, after making their way through a number of tests, all the various characters have to make a very serious choice.

The story moved fast, and although some of the tests were familiar (the Doctor even jokes that he, “faced something similar on Mars,” about one logic puzzle,) overall I found the short episodic nature of The Quest to be interesting. The final choices, which I won’t spoil, made a logical sense.

Overall, it was a fun and fast read. This particular story wasn’t the best Past Doctor Adventure I’ve read, but it certainly wasn’t the worst, either. Recommended, if you can find it. Yes, despite it being very early in the PDA series, I only found a copy a year or so ago, it’s well out of print.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Atom Bomb Blues

  • Title: Atom Bomb Blues
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Andrew Cartmel
  • Characters:  Seventh Doctor, Ace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 2/22/2013

Finishing this book gave me a sense of accomplishment and a sense of sadness. I have been collecting and reading the BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures (PDA) and Eighth Doctor Adventures (EDA) paperback books series for years (at least since 2001 and possibly before that). I’ve always thought that of the six series (so far) of books based on the BBC television series, Doctor Who, that the PDAs and EDAs had the best writing and were the closest to the characterizations from the actual TV series. So reaching the last Past Doctor Adventure was sad… but since I’ve read most of the PDAs, it was also a sense of accomplishment, it is a series of 76 books after all — that’s a lot.

So, getting on to the review of this particular book in the series. Atom Bomb Blues brings Ace and the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy’s version, e.g. the 7th Doctor) to New Mexico in 1945 during the development and testing phase of the nuclear bomb. The novel moves very fast at the beginning and introduces some great characters. Later on it gets a bit confusing. However, overall I did really like the book, it was an enjoyable read, and the Doctor and Ace were in character. This is a stand-alone Ace and the Doctor novel and not part of Mike Tucker & Robert Perry’s mini-series within the PDA series starring Ace and the Doctor.

One of few things I did find annoying about the PDAs was that every time the series takes the Doctor and his companion to the US there are very basic errors (Dying in the Sun being one of the worst). Unfortunately, Atom Bomb Blues is no exception, with the author continuously mis-spelling “chili” as “chilli”. Very distracting. (At the beginning of the novel a Mexican-American cook/housekeeper’s chili is an important plot-point of sorts). Minor problem, yes, but annoying anyway. I also think it should have been colder in the New Mexico desert at night, but whatever.

However, I did like the plot and the characters. “Cosmic Ray” seemed a bit out of time (his accent and slang are very 60s) but that gets explained later. Ace was wonderful — I especially liked how she reacts to the Doctor’s withholding information. That was very like the series itself, especially the 7th Doctor Era.

Overall, I recommend this particular book in the BBC Past Doctor Adventures series. This is a nice Swan Song for the series to go out on. The book is an enjoyable, fast read.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Instruments of Darkness

  • Title: Instruments of Darkness
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gary Russell
  • Characters:  Sixth Doctor, Mel, Evelyn
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/11/2012

Doctor Who Instruments of Darkness is one of the BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures which feature Doctors 1-7 and were published just after the 1996 TV movie (starring Paul McGann) and coherently with the Eighth Doctor Adventures starring McGann’s Doctor (and with new Companions).

This particular story was only so-so. I liked seeing Evelyn in a novel (she’s a companion from the Big Finish audio plays) and her interaction with Mel was great. But, on the other hand, unlike “Spiral Scratch” which had me liking Mel, even though I have never liked Mel as a Doctor Who companion, in Instruments of Darkness she’s back to her old, boring, annoying self.

I must admit, I put this book down halfway through – and though I did pick it up again and finish it, the story really didn’t stick with me. I think part of the problem is that it spends much too much time with characters other than the Doctor and his companions, especially at the beginning of the story. I’m willing to put up with that for a chapter or two (it almost seems to be part of the outline for this series of books) but not the majority of the first half. And it doesn’t make me more sympathetic to the characters – because they all get killed anyway (or most of them do). And in this novel in particular, most of the characters specific to the novel are bad guys. Even the teens and young people with ESP powers, at the end, prove to be just as dangerous as the various forces that were holding them hostage.

Overall, I have to give this a three out of five rating. It’s OK, and not extremely bad like some of the PDA Doctor Who adventures, but it’s not extremely good either.

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.