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 – 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.

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: The Well-Mannered War

  • Title: The Well-Mannered War
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gareth Roberts
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Romana II, K-9
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/19/2015

The Well-Mannered War is one of the best TV tie-in novels I’ve ever read, and the best I’ve read so far in Virgin Publishing’s Missing Doctors Adventures. It isn’t often that a tie-in novel makes you think, but not only does this novel do that – it is a deeply philosophical work.

The novel begins in a typical way, The Fourth Doctor (as played by Tom Baker), Romana II (as played by Lalla Ward) and K-9 are in the TARDIS when something goes awry. The Doctor manages to materialise the TARDIS successfully, and he and Romana decide to look around where they’ve landed, even though they have hit the Temporal Boundary – past which no Time Lord should explore. It seems even Time Lords shouldn’t see their own future. However, what seems to be a typical “excuse” to start the adventure is returned to at the end of the novel – and the accident and the Doctor’s reaction to it – wasn’t as much of an accident as it seems.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Romana are on Barclow, which is meant to be a colony planet. However, for over 100 years a war has been brewing on the planet – between human soldiers from nearby Metralubit who claim the small rock as their colony, and alien Chelonians, turtle-like intelligent beings. But it an novel twist – no one has actually fired a shot at the other side for all that time. In fact, the two “armies” have actually become close enough friends to attend teas and similar gatherings – while preforming their tours of the war zone, and pointing deadly weapons at the other side.

Romana with K-9 and the Doctor are separated and each end-up visiting the other side. However, video of K-9 attempting to save the life of the Metralubit candidate for the premiership surfaces – allowing K-9 to claim the principle of “Constitutional privilege” meaning he gets to assume the place of the dead political candidate and run for office against the sitting premier. K-9’s political campaign is rife with political satire – and a lot of humor. This novel is quite funny especially in what is basically the first and second parts of the novel (there are no formal parts designations).

Romana and K-9 journey to Metralubit, where K-9 runs his campaign, and Romana begins to figure out what is going on. She, however, makes one miscalculation. And Stokes, the artist from The Romance of Crime, also takes an action with far-reaching consequences. When more is revealed – it’s a race to stop an ancient, unassuming, and very surprising enemy. To say more would spoil the fun – so I won’t reveal it.

For most Doctor Who books that would be it – and it would be enough – a fun read, lots of humor, lots of action, an intriguing plot, and a truly original enemy. But perhaps because this is chronologically the last book in the Missing Doctors Adventures series of original Doctor Who novels, Gareth Roberts goes farther – and it’s the final few chapters of this book that made me really love it, despite the bittersweet tone, and give this book the highest rating possible – something I seldom do for tie-ins and original novels based on a TV series. I don’t want to spoil anything – so I won’t go into details. But the end is truly philosophical, it’s brilliant, it’s bittersweet, and it makes you think. Highly recommended!

Book Review – Doctor Who: The English Way of Death

  • Title: The English Way of Death
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gareth Roberts
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Romana II, K-9
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/29/2015

The English Way of Death is an original story in Virgin Publishing’s Missing Doctor book series. It features the Fourth Doctor, as played by Tom Baker, Romana II, as played by Lalla Ward, and K-9. The Doctor unplugs the randomizer that is supposed to keep he and Romana safe from the Black Guardian so he can return some over-due library books.

Soon he and Romana are involved in events, which include admonishing a group of time-travelling tourists from the future – and stopping an evil alien menace from destroying the world.

The alien had already destroyed his own planet, when his attempts to draw energy from a new power source went horribly wrong. In the midst of his engineering, he gets trapped in a time and space trap. The time travelers had accidentally allowed part of the alien’s essence to escape the trap. While that part uses gaseous energy to raise zombies that he uses as slave labor, Romana ends up releasing the other half of his personality.

The guest characters in this story often reminded me of British stereotype characters – but that made them fun and relatable. For example, there’s a bombastic British military man who insists on telling everyone all about his adventures in India, especially his dates (he’s boorish, arrogant, brags about his exploits, and reminds me of the Colonel in the Tennessee Tuxedo / Underdog cartoons.) Then there’s the Spanish countess, the British gentlewoman on the prowl for a rich husband, so she can write, etc. Throw in the time travelers, and you’ve got an interesting group of people running around.

The zombies – well, zombies aren’t my thing, even when they are glowing green.

Note: This novel has been recently re-printed.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Romance of Crime

  • Title: The Romance of Crime
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gareth Roberts
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Romana II, K-9
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/25/2015

The Romance of Crime is an original paperback novel in the Doctor Who Missing Adventures series published by Virgin Publishing. The story features the Fourth Doctor as played by Tom Baker, and the second Romana as played by Lalla Ward, plus K-9. The Doctor and Romana land in a corridor, and soon find a “spaceship” bar where the drinks and the air are drugged. They are about to leave, when, as often happens, they get interrupted. The ship is actually an asteroid that’s rocket-powered, it’s also a high security prison, a series of court houses, and even an execution chamber. The worst criminals from the local system as sent to “the Rock” for trial, prison, and in most cases, execution. And it’s meant to be escape-proof. So, of course…

The plot starts with an impossible murder, and moves very quickly. It seems an executed master criminal and mass murderer isn’t as dead as everyone assumes. And, there are Ogrons!

I really enjoyed this book! It’s a fun and enjoyable read. It’s not too deep, but it feels like a Doctor Who adventure. Everyone was in character – I could “hear” John Leeson’s voice as K-9, though at times, Romana seemed to be written more like Mary Tamm than Lalla Ward. The other characters worked as well. Overall, it’s a fun read, recommended – especially to fans of Classic Doctor Who.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Shadow of Weng-Chiang

  • Title: The Shadow of Weng-Chiang
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: David A. McIntee
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Romana I
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 4/17/2015

The Shadow of Weng-Chiang is one of the Doctor Who Missing Adventures original novels published by Virgin publishing. It is also a sequel to the Tom Baker and Leela story, The Talons of Weng-Chiang. This original novel features Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor and the First Romana (as played by Mary Tamm).

After the last Doctor Who novel that I read (Managra) and found truly, truly dreadful – I was very happy that The Shadow of Weng-Chiang was much, much better. It was an excellent story on it’s own, and even manages to fix some of the issues with the original story produced by the BBC.

The novel starts with the Doctor and Romana in the TARDIS, having discovered the third segment of the Key to Time, they are ready to find the Fourth Segment. They are surprised when the TARDIS again lands on Earth, this time Shanghai, in China, in the 1930s. Romana uses the tracer to find the Fourth Segment, but the signal is weak and even disappears at times. She and the Doctor are confused, and the Doctor thinks it unlikely that the Guardians would have hidden two segments on the same planet.

Soon the Doctor and Romana figure out that the tracer is actually picking up Chronon Radiation. The Doctor and Romana investigate. A woman named Hsien-Ko has risen to leadership of the Black Scorpion Tong on the promise to bring back the “god” Weng-Chiang. Meanwhile, a cop named Li keeps arresting the Doctor and Romana, and, a club owner named Woo is also involved in what’s going on.

Hsien-Ko was affected by Chronon Radiation from birth and can travel, unaided, via the Dragon Paths – shortcuts through space. She creates Geomantic compasses so her followers can also travel instantly between long distances. But her ambition is to also travel through time. To this end, she has a nuclear reactor built inside a mountain that also has naturally occurring quartz running throughout it. The reactor and quartz will be used to magnify power so she can obtain time travel. Her plan isn’t as far fetched as it sounds in summary, given the Time Cabinet of Weng-Chiang.

Everyone assumes they know Hsien-Ko’s plan – to return the “god” Weng-Chiang. But her actual ambitions are more complicated, more understandable, and much more dangerous. Li and Woo also have deep secrets and hidden motivations.

The story is a quick read, but the characters are deeply complex, especially as no one’s motives are what everyone else assumes they are. The characters reach past stereotypes, especially those that other characters in the book hold about them. This was something I really liked about the novel – though everyone’s true motives aren’t clear until the last few chapters of the book. I also found The Shadow of Weng-Chiang to be a very fast read and I enjoyed it very much!

This Doctor Who novel is highly recommended to fans of the program and also to fans of historical fiction.