Book Review – Doctor Who: Spore

  • Title: Spore
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Alex Scarrow
  • Characters: Eighth Doctor
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/03/2016

Doctor Who – Spore is the eighth book in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 12 Books 12 Doctors collection and features the Eighth Doctor as played by Paul McGann. The Doctor has no companion in this story. The Doctor lands in Nevada in the dessert and immediately runs into a military investigative team. They are all in protective gear, but Major Platt jumps to the conclusion that The Doctor is from the CDC in Atlanta, this bit of mistaken identity doesn’t actually last long though and the Doctor ends up introducing himself as being from UNIT – which gives him the run of the operation.

The Doctor goes to the nearby town of Ft. Casey, where everyone is dead and only a black goo remains – of all organic matter (plants, people, even animals). The Doctor recognizes the signs – it’s an ancient spore which once terrified Gallifrey, killing thousands of Gallifreyans. In the town, the Doctor meets Cap’t. Evelyn Chan, the soul survivor of Major Platt’s original team. The Doctor explains what the Spore is – but far from a simple organic virus or biological entity, it’s designed. Whether it was a weapon or a form of terraforming is unknown. However, the surprising thing is that after the first stage of gathering organic material, and the second stage of making organic constructs for defense, it begins the third stage – constructing a brain – this brain will ask The Question. If the Question is answered correctly, the entity will self-destruct, leaving the intelligent species alone. But if the species answers incorrectly – the entire planet will succumb to biological destruction. The Doctor enters into conversation with the entity and gambles.

This was a good short story. The idea of an intelligent virus or entity was unusual. And the story, though at first sounding like The Andromeda Strain actually ends in a much better way and is more intelligent.

Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Ripple Effect

  • Title: The Ripple Effect
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Malorie Blackman
  • Characters: Seventh Doctor, Ace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/02/2016

Doctor Who – The Ripple Effect is part the of Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 12 Doctors 12 Books series of mini-books. The Ripple Effect features the Seventh Doctor as played on the BBC television series by Sylvester McCoy and his companion Ace (aka Dorothy McShane). The mini-book opens with the Doctor and Ace in the TARDIS and they are stuck. They are in the space/time equivalent of the Sargasso Sea – becalmed and utterly unable to move. Other ships are also stranded. While the Doctor works on the TARDIS console trying to fix it so they can get out of the time/space trap, Ace watches out the viewing screen at the greyish exterior. Then she suddenly sees the TARDIS. But the Doctor dismisses this as an illusion.

The Doctor makes a desperate move, and the TARDIS is kicked free of the trap. They “auto-land” on a planet, which they soon discover to be Skaro. But rather the home of the militaristic, xenophobic, racist, bullies we know as Daleks – Skaro is home to a race of Daleks who are the center of teaching, medicine, and research for the entire galaxy. People of all races and of all ages come to the Academy on Skaro to learn, study, and do research. Even the Time Lords have come to Skaro to say thanks for the Dalek medical team that saved the life of the Lord President of Gallifrey.

The Doctor, of course, knows this to be wrong. Ace also remembers her own fights against vicious Daleks, but over time she comes to accept the new world she’s on, and the new universe.

The Doctor, however, continues to investigate – and although the Daleks are as good as they seem, this alternate universe isn’t stable – and in the end, he and Ace must do something about that.

The Ripple Effect is an excellent story, in that it’s really about prejudice – the Doctor’s previous experiences with evil Daleks make it difficult for him to accept that these Daleks are good. Ace at first agrees with him, but she gradually accepts what she sees with her own eyes, despite her memories, these Daleks are good. Ace even becomes friends with one of the other students – which makes the end even more tragic.

This is an excellent and very short story, as all the other stories in this series are short. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Something Borrowed

  • Title: Something Borrowed
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Richelle Mead
  • Characters: Sixth Doctor, Peri
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/27/2016

Doctor Who Something Borrowed is the sixth book in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 12 books – 12 Doctors collection of mini books. This one features the Sixth Doctor (as played by Colin Baker) and Peri, and is told in first person from Peri’s point of view.

The Doctor and Peri arrive on a planet who’s entire civilization is based on Las Vegas in the 1960s. The planet is an intergalactic tourist attraction, making money from hotels and casinos. They are also known for their elaborate weddings. And it is a wedding that brings the Doctor to the planet, as he’s received an invitation from an old friend to his son’s wedding. But the natives on the planet also have a unique biological capability that only happens during wedding ceremonies – the Phasing, when natives of the planet take on a whole new appearance.

The Doctor and Peri arrive among chaos as Pterodactyls attack the populace but not them. Escaping the attack, they find the Doctor’s friend and are taken to his mansion. Peri is sent off with a servant to get “cleaned-up”, and she discovers almost by accident who is not only behind the Pterodactyls attack but who the intended bride really is – an old enemy of the Doctor.

This surprise enemy of the Doctor’s holds Peri and the servant-girl hostage, but soon the Doctor arrives to rescue them. And before long they are off to stop the wedding.

This was a fun and light read. I enjoyed it. The first person narration is highly unusual for a Doctor Who novel, though it’s been used on some of the audio plays. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Tip of the Tongue

  • Title: Tip of the Tongue
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Patrick Ness
  • Characters: Fifth Doctor, Nyssa
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/23/2016

**Spoiler Alert** Tip of the Tongue is book five in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – 12 Stories 12 Doctors collection of short books or novellas. It features the Fifth Doctor (as played by Peter Davison) and Nyssa, who journey to a small town in the US in the 1940s. Most of the story revolves around the people living in the town, especially a young German Jewish boy and a biracial girl. They’ve become outcasts as both are poor, living with single mothers, and, well, are not accepted by the WASPs of the town for unfair but obvious reasons.

This story gets the tone of the time period just right – and I could picture these characters perfectly. It also gets it’s vocabulary correct – the school Johnny and Nettie attend has a principal, not a headmaster etc. For once a Doctor Who story set in the US that doesn’t make basic mistakes of vocabulary, law, or common practices (like how to turn right on red – e.g. only after a full stop – where legal and not posted as otherwise), and the tone and the characters were so rich.

Unfortunately, that means the Doctor and Nyssa get short shift. Nyssa is in the story so little I had to flip through to see which Davison companion was in this story, when writing this review. And the Doctor has very little to do until the very end – when he strolls in like a police officer and “solves” the case and arrests the aliens responsible as well as releasing another group of alien slaves. But I get ahead of myself.

The story, taking place in a small town in the 1940s, involves a Jewish boy and a Biracial girl who become friends because they are both different and experience similar hardships. The boy, though, thinks he wants to be with a girl named Marisa – one of the popular ones at the school. So he takes $2.00, a fortune at the time, to buy a Truth Teller from his friend Nettie. The Truth Tellers are weird devices that are worn on the chin and will say a truthful, but ultimately hurtful thing about the person one is looking at. The Truth Tellers are brought into the town by Annabelle the daughter of the richest man in town, owner of the local shop, and the local factory. Annabelle is also the most popular girl in school – and a bit of a bully towards her friends. Marissa is, of course, one of her friends. The town finds the Truth Tellers to be annoying, but think they are fad that will go away on it’s own.

But then the Doctor and Nyssa show up, right after the mansion built by the richest couple in town blows up. The Doctor explains the couple and their daughter “Annabelle” are not humans at all, but aliens. And the Truth Tellers aren’t a cute gadget but aliens enslaved by the first group (who look like upward-standing human-sized sheep when not disguised. I loved that description. Only Doctor Who would have human-sized sheep as evil aliens.) The Doctor takes care of everything, and Marissa steals Annabelle’s fur-collared coat. Johnny realizes he doesn’t care for Marissa at all, and smiles at his real friend, Nettie.

The story of Jonny and Nettie, oddly enough, reminded me of the classic children’s book, A Bridge to Terabithia but I think that was more the tone of the book than the plot. I was a child when I read A Bridge to Terabithia and although I know I loved it – I don’t remember much about it now. However, as a Doctor Who title, the lack of the Doctor and Nyssa was a bit of an issue in this short story or novella. Still, it’s part of a set, so enjoy.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Roots of Evil

  • Title: The Roots of Evil
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Philip Reeve
  • Characters: Fourth Doctor, Leela
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/20/2016

**Spoiler Alert** The Roots of Evil is part of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – 12 Stories 12 Doctors set of mini-books or novellas. This is the fourth book in the series so it features the Fourth Doctor (as played by Tom Baker) and Leela (as played by Louise Jameson) from the British television series Doctor Who.

The Doctor says that Leela has been complaining about not ever seeing trees on their journeys, so the Doctor takes her to a space station that is a giant tree in space. However, no sooner than they land than the Doctor and Leela are in trouble. Leela senses something dark about this “tree”, and they soon meet Ven, which as he explains is short for: “Vengeance-Will-Be-Ours-When-the-Doctor-Dies-A-Thousand-Agonising-Deaths”. Everyone else on the space station/tree has similar names vowing revenge against the Doctor. However, when Ven falls into a digestion pool – the Doctor and Leela rescue him. This, and the Doctor’s way of getting people to trust him easily and quickly, means the young Ven becomes sympathetic to the Doctor. When the troops arrive, Ven insists the Doctor and Leela be taken to the Judicator – not the civilian/military/religious leadership. As the Doctor and Leela start to discover what’s happened, that the people of the station/tree are angry at the Doctor’s future Eleventh Incarnation and not the current one, the meeting hall is attacked. First the Chairman (civilian/military/religious leader) arrives to take the Doctor to immediate execution without trial. Then, tree spores begin to attack everyone.

This actually forces the various splinter groups together because survival becomes more important than petty disagreements. The Doctor also realizes that it was a future version of himself that caused these colonists to end-up in the tree space station in the first place; but every story has two sides. The original leader of the colony expedition was a racist and xenophobic nightmare. Having found a planet, he ignored the fact that an intelligent methane-breathing species already lived there, and began the terraforming process to replace the methane with oxygen (effectively killing the natives by smothering them.) The Eleventh Doctor stopped him – thus causing the chain of events. But even more interestingly – the original leader is still semi-alive, and is the soul of the dark tree. He is the one who wants vengeance. He’s actually so bent on destroying the Doctor that he’s sabotaged the natural ability of the tree to terraform a lifeless rock into a life-supporting planet, thus trapping the colonists in the tree/station for 900 years. The Doctor and Leela defeat the colonial leader who’s a nightmare, release the tree spores into space, and explain what’s happened to the clueless colonists – who will have a new home in a decade or so.

Despite it’s lack of science (a tree in space? Opening a window on a space station to let the spores out???) I liked this story. The society living in the tree, with their wooden tools and weapons, and pounded wood pulp fabrics is fascinating and very, very different. That the Fourth Doctor would run into something a future incarnation would do (had already done in fact) gave the story both a modern-Who twist in a Classic Who framework. The colonial leader was suitably annoying and evil. And the story showed that every battle has at least two sides. This is the first book in this series that I thought could have been much longer, because the society in the tree and the main characters could have been fleshed-out a bit more. Still, an excellent short story or novella. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Spear of Destiny

  • Title: The Spear of Destiny
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Marcus Sedgwick
  • Characters: Third Doctor, Jo Grant
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/17/2016

Doctor Who – The Spear of Destiny is another book in the 50th Anniversary collection of mini-books, one for each Doctor. This one features the Third Doctor, as played by Jon Pertwee, and his companion Jo Grant, as played by Katy Manning. The story opens with The Doctor taking Jo to a museum. But it turns out he is basically “casing the joint” so to speak. As he explains to Jo, he needs to steal a spear on display because it is a Physical Temporal Nexus (PTN), a very dangerous and rare artifact that the Time Lords want for safe-keeping.

That night the Doctor and Jo take the TARDIS to the museum, but land on the roof instead of inside the exhibit. When they go to take the Spear, the Doctor trips an alarm and they are chased out by men with machine guns from the Moxon Collection (the entity that lent the collection to the museum). The Doctor finds this to be highly unusual.

However, he knows one other time and place where the spear will be – so he takes Jo to ancient Norway, explaining the Spear is the Spear of Destiny – Odin’s spear that never missed it’s target. He explains that Odin was the King of Sweden and not a mysterious god. He also theorizes to Jo that the Spear was also known as the Spear of Destiny – the same spear a Roman soldier thrust into Christ’s side at the crucifixion.

In ancient Norway, the Doctor and Jo discover The Master is behind everything. Yet the Doctor still manages to be successful.

This story was a bit disappointing compared to the other two I’ve read so far. It wasn’t bad – just somewhat predictable without enough twists and turns in the plot. There was some very atmospheric writing for the section that takes place in Winter in Ancient Norway, which I liked.

And again, not awful, but not as good as the previous two. I like the Third Doctor and really like Jo, but I also like the boys from UNIT, including the Brigadier (who makes a brief appearance) and this could have used have Benton or Yates appear as well. Still, it’s worth reading the entire set.

Book Review – Star Trek: The Next Generation – Doctor Who Assimilation 2 vol. 1

  • Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation² vol. 1
  • Author: Scott Tipton, David Tipton, Tony Lee
  • Artists: J.K. Woodward, the Sharp Bros., Gordon Purcell, Shawn Lee, Robbie Robbins
  • Characters: Eleventh Doctor, Amy, Rory, ST:TNG Crew, Classic Trek Crew, Fourth Doctor, the Borg, the Cybermen
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Publisher: IDW Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/25/2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation crossed over with Doctor Who? Well, why not? I enjoyed this two-part crossover event graphic novel when I originally read it, and I just re-read part 1 and really enjoyed it. the ST:TNG portion of this novel starts with an attack on Delta IV by Cybermen and Borg. Meanwhile, The Eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory are in Ancient Rome, in the midst of a chariot race. They survive that and return to the TARDIS, where the Doctor promises to take the young couple to San Francisco. However, it turns out the three are not in San Francisco, but in the Holodeck of the Enterprise. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are taken by Worf and Cmdr. Riker to Capt. Picard, and are only just starting to talk when the Enterprise receives an audio-only distress call. When the ship arrives, they are in the midst of a combined Cybermen/Borg attack. The Enterprise escapes.

The Doctor starts to have strange memory flashes, and when the Enterprise crew researches the “Cybermen” that Picard has never heard of – they find one entry from the original Enterprise, under the command of James T. Kirk. The resulting flashback features the original Star Trek crew, the Fourth Doctor, and Cybermen on a research station.

Back on Picard’s Enterprise, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory are taken to Guinan. The Doctor and Guinan seem to have some sort of relationship – even though they both know they have never met, previously. And both the Doctor and Guinan are time-sensitives who seem to know something is very wrong.

In the midst of the Doctor, Guinan, and Picard’s conversation they are again called to the bridge. Data explains they had thought the combined Borg/Cybermen fleet was heading towards Earth, but it seems they are now heading in the opposite direction, having changed their minds in the middle of assimilating a planet. Sending a away party to said planet, which includes the Doctor, Rory and Amy, they find a battlefield where the Cybermen and the Borg have turned on each other. The Borg contact the Enterprise, offering a truce against their common enemy, the Cybermen. The Doctor warns against this, and Picard agrees.

To Be Continued in volume 2

The artwork in Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who Assimilation (2) is wonderful. It has a wonderful painted look, that, though not often photo-realistic, has at times an impressionistic quality – while at other times is more realistic-looking. It’s beautiful, and engaging. In short, I loved the art style.