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: Business Unusual

  • Title: Business Unusual
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gary Russell
  • Characters:  Sixth Doctor, Mel
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/15/2017

Business Unusual is from the BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures paperback series. I finished the series a few years ago, and started in on the Virgin Publishing Missing Doctors series, but Business Unusual was one of the ones that was out of print. I received an e-book copy, so this is a review of the e-book. Business Unusual features the Sixth Doctor as played by Colin Baker. For the Doctor it’s just after his trial at the hands of the Time Lords, so he’s determined to prevent that from happening at all. As a result, he’s travelling alone, though the book opens with the Doctor on Earth helping a police captain defeat the Master. He’s wrapping that up, and is to meet an human computer programmer who will finish off the virus to destroy the Master’s planned computer take-over. Meeting Mel by accident, the Doctor is determined to not have her become his companion.

Taking place in Brighton, the main story involves Sené-Net, a computer gaming entertainment company, with it’s fingers in prosthetics, human enhancements, and a number of other fields, including a fast-food burger chain. Mel is working at one of their subsidaries as an intern, and she’s the programmer the police have called in to finish cleaning-up the Master’s mess. The Doctor also witnesses a psychic attack on a young man, who turns out to be Mel’s family’s house guest. Also, the Brigadier, though retired, had been called in by UNIT and Department C-19 to investigate a missing operative. He’s promptly captured by Sené-Net.

So, despite his best intentions to stay out of things – the Doctor is drawn in, and meets Mel anyway. Mel and the Doctor investigate Sené-Net, and find that it’s CEO is more computer and cybernetics than human – plus he’s working with the Nestene Consciousness. Or to be precise, the Nestene are using him to launch a beachhead against Earth. From different angles, the Doctor, Mel, Mel’s family and friends, and the Brigadier uncover the plot – and stop it, but not without cost.

Business Unusual is a fun story that manages to combine the Jon Pertwee-Era feel of an alien invasion on Earth story, with really good characterization of the Doctor and Mel. The Doctor’s pain, anxiety, and worry underlies everything in the story. He really does not want to become the Valeyard. Meanwhile, Mel is shown to be an intelligent, professional, computer professional. Yes, she is health conscious, and even a bit pushy about it with her co-workers, but she’s not the whiny, overly cheerful, screamer she was in the series. She’s even a bit of a pragmatist. The scenes between the Doctor and the Brigadier are not to be missed. And the supporting cast is fun.

Overall, I’d give this book four stars. It’s a fun, quick read and recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Millennial Rites

  • Title: Millennial Rites
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Craig Hinton
  • Characters:  Sixth Doctor, Mel
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/24/2015

**Spoiler alert** Millennial Rites is the last Doctor Who Missing Adventures book that I have in paperback, though I have a few more to read as e-books. It was published by Virgin Publishing, and it’s an original novel featuring the Sixth Doctor as played by Colin Baker and Mel (Melanie Bush) as played by Bonnie Langford. The story is told in three distinct parts.

In part one, the Doctor is unusually pre-occupied with his own future, having just gone through his Trial at the hands of the Time Lords and the Valeyard. He and Mel land in London on New Year’s Eve 1999. There they run into Anne Travers who after the events of the Doctor Who Missing Adventures novel, Downtime, has become even more determined to defeat the Great Intelligence. Mel attends her 10-year college reunion, only to have someone slip her a request to hack a computer company that’s closing it’s doors on New Year’s Eve, making the staff redundant (in other words, they are all fired except a small research group). Two of the fired employees: Barry and Louise, get involved in the situation (as does Louise’s very young daughter, Cassie).

Barry shows Louise a CD of computer code he lifted from the office – but when he does so, her computer becomes alive, then a monster attacks them. The three escape, Louise leaves her daughter with her mother, then they attempt to find the other fired employee that Barry stole the computer disk from. But another of the Cybrid monsters has already killed him.

In the fracas, Barry and Louise meet up with the Doctor and Mel. The Doctor fears Ashley Chapel of the computer firm is trying to bring back Verocyl – but he’s wrong. The Doctor tries to prevent Anne Travers from casting her banishment spell – and fails. Everyone rushes to Ashley’s computer company to stop him running the Millennium Codex – and again, the Doctor fails.

In Part Two, everyone suddenly wakes in a fantasy world ruled by three continuously fighting monarchs: The Technomancer, Majestrix Melaphyre (Mel), ruler of the Ziggurat of Sciosophy; The Archimage, Magnus Ashmael (Ashley Chapel), ruler of the Tower of Abraxis; and the Hierophant, Bibliotrix Anastasia (Anne Travers), ruler of the Labyrinth of Thaumaturgy. Mel is attended by fantasy versions of Barry and Louise, who have a daughter, Cassandra, in the fantasy world as well.

The Doctor appears to be unchanged at first, and quickly escapes the Archimage. However, in the fantasy world he is slowly being changed into the Valeyard. However, it is the Doctor who establishes an alliance between Melaphyre and Anastasia – who must prevent Magnus Ashmael from further destroying not simply the new and unstable fantasy universe, but the real universe. This time he succeeds.

The final part wraps up the story. As life in London in the New Millennium is returned to normal.

Millennial Rites is two stories in one – part one is a Cyberpunk “nightmare” as a computer guru attempts to take over the world with malicious code. Part two is an intriguing fantasy. I enjoyed both parts – and I liked the idea that the Doctor, especially Colin’s Doctor would be so arrogant about his ability to stop Chapel – then he fails. Though the Doctor gets to do the same thing again in Part Two. Besides the fantasy elements, Part Two is also fueled by the Doctor’s fears of becoming the Valeyard – something never really dealt with in either televised Doctor Who or the various novels, comics, and audio plays that I’ve read. It made Colin’s Doctor surprisingly vulnerable and approachable.

Recommended!

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: 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.