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 12 Doctors of Christmas

  • Title: The Twelve Doctors of Christmas
  • Series: BBC Books – Special Themed Short Story Collection
  • Author: Various
  • Note: Includes paintings for each story
  • Characters: One story per Doctor, with companions
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/22/2016

The Twelve Doctors of Christmas is a wonderful, wonderful book. Everything about this book is just awesome and it would make for a great Christmas gift for Doctor Who fans young and old. The presentation of this book is impressive – it’s a cloth-bound hard cover with incredible full-color art paintings – one per story. There is one short story per Doctor and one painting per story. The paintings are bound in groups, though, rather than as front pieces for each story, so you read four stories then get four pages of gorgeous art. Still, the full-color paintings are beautiful and aptly illustrate each story.

There are twelve short stories in the collection – one per Doctor, and the stories also feature many of the Doctor’s well-known companions. Each story also has a theme of Christmas – but it’s interpreted by the various authors in a broad way, so we get stories that range from Barbara and Ian “going home for the holidays” to the Seventh Doctor and Ace trying to rescue a crashed alien from Macy’s at Christmas (after hours) and trying to also save the few workers in the store. All the stories are inventive and approach the Holiday differently. It’s a wonderful collection.

This was an uplifting and fun read – and I could see myself re-reading it every year. It’s a beautiful presentation as a book, a great gift, and an enjoyable read. I simply loved it – and it was good to read at this time of year.

Stories, Doctor, Companion(s), Authors

  • All I Want for Christmas (First Doctor, Barbara, Ian) – Jacqueline Rayner
  • A Comedy of Terrors (Second Doctor, Jamie, Zoë) – Colin Brake
  • The Christmas Inversion (Third Doctor, Jo Grant, UNIT) – Jacqueline Rayner
  • Three Wise Men (Fourth Doctor) – Richard Dungworth
  • Sontar’s Little Helpers (Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Turlough) – Mike Tucker
  • Fairy Tale of New New York (Sixth Doctor, Mel) – Gary Russell
  • The Grotto (Seventh Doctor, Ace) – Mike Tucker
  • Ghost of Christmas Past (Eighth Doctor) – Scott Handcock
  • The Red Bicycle (Ninth Doctor, Rose) – Gary Russell
  • Loose Wire (Tenth Doctor) – Richard Dungworth
  • The Gift (Eleventh Doctor) – Scott Handcock
  • The Persistence of Memory (Twelfth Doctor) – Colin Brake

Book Review – Doctor Who: Lords of the Storm

  • Title: Lords of the Storm
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: David A. McIntee
  • Characters:  Fifth Doctor, Turlough
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/12/2015

The Lords of the Storm is a original novel in the Doctor Who the Missing Adventures series, featuring the unusual combination of the Fifth Doctor as played by Peter Davison on the BBC television series, and his companion, Turlough. I enjoyed seeing Turlough and just Turlough as the Doctor’s companion in this book – it’s an unusual combination (one I’ve only seen in one Big Finish audio adventure and no other novels), it also means there’s less of the “the companions and the Doctor get separated and spend half the story looking for each other” running around. Not that I don’t enjoy that too!

This story is set on a pair of Indian colony moons (Indian as in the country of India) that circle a gas giant planet in the far future. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of the moons, their star system is about to be caught in the crossfire of the long-running Sontaran/Rutan War.

The Doctor and Turlough arrive, almost by mistake, and quickly become involved in events – but coming at them sideways, not head on, which made for an interesting story.

This book also gives a lot of information about the Sontarans and the Rutan, with whole chapters written from Sontaran or Rutan point of view. I enjoyed learning more about the Rutan, their collective mind, and their interesting method of reproduction (they spontaneously divide into exact copies), and their space ships were fascinating. The Sontarans, being a clone race, had considerably less individuality than the humans and were in a sense less interesting. I did find it interesting though that lower-level Sontaran combat troops, basically the cannon fodder, had their brains literally bred out of them. They were bred to follow orders blindly, without question, and even without regard for their own lives. The officers were slightly more intelligent, but not much. And the Sontarans totally felt that their society was better than that of humans with their individuality. The Rutan, as literally a single group organism that was split into many parts didn’t even seem to understand human individuality.

All of this is set against a pair of terraformed moons (well one terraformed and the other partially terraformed) settled by India and still using the Caste system. I actually learned something about India and Indian culture reading this book, which was interesting to note. And I really liked the main guest character, Nur, a pilot who’s father was randomly appointed the governor of the terraformed moon, which means he’s in charge and since Nur is female, she’s expected to be a good-will ambassador (touring hospitals, etc.). Nur who is fiercely independent despite her background, despises the fluffy work she has to do – and points out she’s not good at it. However, the hospital tour she takes at the beginning of the story does provide information that’s important later.

The Sontarans basically have a plot to trap the Rutan Host, but it’s not a very good one – and besides causing a lot of death, it’s success would destroy the gas giant, not to mention the moons orbiting it. The Doctor, Turlough, Nur, and Shama Nur’s fiance (arranged) have to figure out and then stop the Sontarans’ plan.

Although the book was slow in places, I liked the setting, I liked the featured guest characters, it was fun to learn more about the Rutan (a frequently mentioned but seldom seen Doctor Who monster), and I enjoyed learning a bit about the culture of India. The glossary in the back of the book was very useful. But I did find it harder to get through the chapters about the Sontarans.

Chronologically, this Missing Adventure novel precedes the New Adventure Shakedown.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Crystal Bucephalus

  • Title: The Crystal Bucephalus
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Craig Hinton
  • Characters:  Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Turlough, Kamelion
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 9/17/2015

The Crystal Bucephalus is one of several books in Virgin Publishing’s Doctor Who the Missing Adventures series. It’s actually the first book in the series I read many years ago about the time it was published. All I remember from the first time I read it was that it was a bit confusing. Re-reading the book now, I was able to understand the novel, but I still thought the end was rushed.

The Crystal Bucephalus features the Fifth Doctor (as played by Peter Davison), Tegan, Turlough, and eventually, Kamelion. For once, the novel doesn’t start with the TARDIS landing someplace and the Doctor and company getting involved in local affairs. The Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough are enjoying a fine meal in France when they are literally picked up, only to appear in The Crystal Bucephalus, an extremely exclusive tenth millennium time-traveling restaurant, where the movers and shakers of the galaxy make their deals to form the galaxy.

The Crystal Bucephalus is a unique restaurant, it consists of a series of cubicles which can be projected back in time to any restaurant or other exclusive recreational area. There, the customers of the restaurant can eat, drink, and be merry without affecting history because their “reality quotient” is .5 – and when they return to the restaurant’s present, even their image is forgotten by those in in the time period they visited (time re-sets itself as if the time travellers were never there).

But one of the patrons has been murdered, and in the emergency retrieval of that patron, Arrestis, and his mistress – the Doctor and his companions are brought to the Bucephalus too.

There, the Doctor and Turlough are taken to the Maitre’D, while Tegan “escapes” with Arrestis’s “girl” – actually an agent of the Intent (but more about that later).

The Doctor reveals to the Maitre’D, that he is the Benefactor – the person who endowed the money to build the restaurant. The Doctor also asks to see Alex Lassiter, the time scientist responsible for making the Bucephalus work.

Politically, the Galaxy in the Tenth Millennium is split between three groups – the Enclave, a group of mobsters who run all crime in the Galaxy, The Lazarus Intent – a religious group with considerable Political Power, several small Empires of Reptilian Races (Draconians, Earth Reptiles, Martians, etc.) who have been steadily losing power, influence and territory, and the remainder of the Earth Federation/Empire. But the real power players are the Lazarus Intent and the Enclave. And, as Arrestis was the leader of the Enclave, and his mistress an agent for the Intent – it could be a charged murder mystery right there.

However, the Doctor soon discovers Arrestis is a clone – in a time where all cloning technology and research had been banned so long most people don’t even know what it is. (Tegan at one point explains what cloning is to someone.) The Lazarus Intent strictly forbids cloning and all research into cloning technology.

The Doctor also is intrigued by the technology of the Bucephalus because it’s very close to a working, TARDIS-like, time machine. Soon, though, other murders take place (it becomes confusing because most of the “murders” end-up with no one actually dead – just temporarily misplaced in time – such are the hazards of a time machine that’s breaking down). The Bucephalus uses Legions to pilot it’s time bubbles in the Time Vortex, but one is attacked and barely saved by the Doctor, then another is killed (really).

However, the plot does still get confusing – people “dying” but who are alive and trapped in another time. Or on the time machine operated by Matisse, Lassiter’s ex-wife and previous co-developer on the Bucephalus, now agent of the Enclave. Even the Doctor at one point is time-scooped by Matisse and dropped on a frozen planet of intelligent dog-like creatures, where, once rescued – the Doctor spends five years opening then building up the reputation of a restaurant so it will be included in the Carte d’Locales of the Bucephalus so he can find his way back.

The plot does eventually settle down into it’s two many points: the tangled love life of Monroe, Matisse and Lassiter (Monroe and Matisse are both his ex-wives), and the plan of the head of the Enclave to also take over the Lazarus Intent. And a few truly bizarre time travel hijinks – that work, but are a bit strange.

Overall, though at times it was a bit confusing, there was an almost philosophical bent to The Crystal Bucephalus which was interesting and different. The characters were well-written and written like their television counterparts. Turlough, especially was well-written (he shows up in very few Past Doctor Adventures which focused on Davison’s early TARDIS crew or Peri). It was also neat to see Kamelion, I really think this is the only novel I’ve read that features him.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Sands of Time

  • Title: The Sands of Time
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Justin Richards
  • Characters:  Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 8/13/2015

I started this book as an e-book and finished by reading the paperback reprint that is part of the BBC Books Doctor Who Books Monster Collection. Sands of Time was originally published by Virgin Publishing as part of their Doctor Who Missing Adventures. Additionally, it’s a sequel to the aired episode, “Pyramids of Mars” featuring the Fourth Doctor as portrayed by Tom Baker. The novel features the Fifth Doctor, as played by Peter Davison and his companions Tegan and Nyssa. However, from a strictly linear sense the story takes place before “Pyramids of Mars”. Timey-Whimy indeed.

I enjoyed this story very much. It is very much a historical story, with the only SF elements being the TARDIS and the idea that the gods of Egypt are aliens called Osirans. All the “guest” characters are strong and memorable. I particularly liked Atkins, the Victorian butler who ends-up being a short-term companion of sorts.

The story begins with the TARDIS being drawn off course, and landing in the British museum. There, the Doctor, in trying to figure out precisely where he is prior to returning to the TARDIS, walks out of the museum and meets Atkins, who knows him well. The Doctor, though, has no idea who Atkins is. The Doctor and Tegan follow their path, Nyssa having been kidnapped, both trying to rescue her and trying to figure out what’s going on – only to discover they are caught up in events that seem to already have happened. They go to the Savoy, for example, to get some hotel rooms – and discover they are already registered. Tegan finds a green Victorian dress waiting for her in her room. At breakfast, the waiter offers the Doctor and Tegan the table they had the previous night.

It’s a wonderful twisty-turny plot that comes together beautifully. And interspersed between the main chapters are very short chapters that fill-out the story perfectly. These short bits are some of my favorites in the novel, because they give the story depth or fill-in background information that’s interesting but not part of the main plot (such as when a mummy is scanned by a CAT scanner).

I highly recommend Sands of Time especially as it is now available again in a reprint edition.

One important different between the e-book and the reprint. The e-book includes extensive author’s notes, which are instructive to an aspiring writer. And it also includes the author’s alternative ending. I must say – I prefer the original ending (the one in the reprint and the one used in the original final version of the first published version) rather than the alternative ending. But the author’s notes on why he wrote a second ending are fascinating – in short it’s a classic case of second-guessing yourself. I’m glad his editor said, “No, keep the first one – it’s better.” Because I liked it better as well.

Update: As mentioned at the start of this review, this novel is now available as a reprinted edition as part of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. This time I actually read the reprint!

Book Review – Doctor Who: Goth Opera

  • Title: Goth Opera
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Characters:  Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 8/02/2015

When I decided to read all the Doctor Who Missing Adventures published by Virgin Publishing, I also decided to read them in Doctor and Doctor-Companion order. That is, chronological according to when they would take place in the series, not the original publication order. So, after just finishing the last book in the series, The Well-Mannered War, I’m now reading the first book in the series, Goth Opera, which includes a nice introduction by Peter Darvill-Evans, the book series editor. Goth Opera is also a sequel to the New Adventures book Blood Harvest, despite the fact that Blood Harvest features the Seventh Doctor and Goth Opera features the Fifth Doctor, as played by Peter Davison, as well as featuring Tegan, and Nyssa. I thought about skipping the book until I’d read Blood Harvest but decided to read it anyway – and re-read it when I read Blood Harvest.

Goth Opera opens in Tasmania at a cricket match. The Doctor’s taken Tegan there in order to give her a holiday after her second encounter with the Mara. But Tegan is not enjoying her vacation. Soon, the Doctor and his companions are involved in a plot by vampires to take over the world and turn all humans into vampires. Aiding the vampires in this is Ruath, a Time Lady that the Doctor has encountered before – or that he will encounter again in his Seventh form. Nyssa is kidnapped and turned into a vampire. And Ruath even turns the Doctor into a vampire, though the process takes longer to affect him. Eventually, the Doctor is able to turn the tables on the vampires, eliminate many of them, and even turn other new vampires back into humans, or in Nyssa’s case, back to being a native of Traken.

The story was good, with several interesting characters. However, I’m not a big fan of vampire stories. Still, I enjoyed this novel.

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.