Book Review – Doctor Who: Lights Out

  • Title: Lights Out
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Holly Black
  • Characters: Twelfth Doctor
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/11/2016

Doctor Who Lights Out is the last volume in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 12 Doctors 12 Booksset of mini-books. GoodReads describes these as “e-books” and they may have been first published that way, but my set consists of 12 little mini-books the size of your hand, plus 12 postcards in a slip case. I bought the set from either Amazon or Barnes & Noble (I don’t remember which).

This particular story features the Twelfth Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi. Clara is mentioned but is not actually present in the story. The story begins in first person with a “space trucker”, someone who ferries coffee beans from the Intergalactic Coffee Roasting Station (ICRS, pronounced Icarus) to “the planet of the coffee shops”. This un-named character is waiting in line at a coffee shop, a couple of people behind the Doctor, when the lights suddenly go out – when they come back on, someone is dead, and people nearly panic because the coffee supply has been cut off. The Doctor immediately begins to try to solve the mystery.

But as the Doctor starts talking to people, suddenly the lights go out again – and there’s another murder. The Doctor suggests he and our point-of-view character go to the station control center to find out about the power outages. During the walk through long corridors the lights go out again, but no one is killed.

The Doctor and our character go to the control center, only to find both workers dead. The Doctor convinces our main character that they must go to his ship. On the ship, the Doctor has a talk to him about monsters – about becoming a monster. We learn more about the guest point-of-view character, whom the Doctor had rescued from a scientific “research” laboratory that was creating merged creatures, monsters, as weapons. The Doctor’s “pep” talk convinces our point of view character that the Doctor must take his escape pod and return to the Station and he will do what is needed.

The ending of this story was surprising, but it felt a bit rushed. I wasn’t sure I liked it. Having the main point-of-view character as the “monster”/murderer was a different approach as well. I just don’t know about this last story.

The series, however, is worth getting both for veteran Doctor Who fans and for new fans. In fact, I’d say, this collection is ideal for new fans – it introduces each of the Doctors and some of their best-known companions. The stories are modular and not dependent on any continuity knowledge and can be read independently. Each story features the Doctor and a single companion, or no companion, or a companion for the individual story only – a format familiar to New Who fans. Even eras of the show that had a larger supporting cast, are stripped down to the Doctor and a companion. This means the stories are approachable to New Who fans. And Classic Who fans aren’t forgotten – there is a story here for each Doctor as well as featuring some of the best known companions. The booklets are small – about the size of your hand, and short – easily read in a single sitting. Recommended.

Book Review- Doctor Who: Nothing O’Clock

  • Title: Nothing O’Clock
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Neil Gaiman
  • Characters: Eleventh Doctor, Amy
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/08/2016

Doctor Who Nothing O’Clock is one of the short booklets found in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 12 Doctors 12 Stories collection. This story features the Eleventh Doctor as played by Matt Smith on the revived series and Amy Pond. It’s also written by Neil Gaiman, an accomplished writer of fantasy novels, graphic novels, screen plays, and television – including two episodes of Doctor Who. Gaiman’s story is quite possibly the scarest of the bunch.

The opening chapter describes a prison, built by the Time Lords, for a terrifying monster known only as the Kin. The prison was meant to last forever, but when the Time Lords disappeared, the Kin were able to break out.

On Earth, a young child tells her father someone has come to buy their house. The father, who seems preoccupied with bills, doesn’t believe it – but a person in a mask offers three times what the house is worth. The man takes the money and moves his family into an hotel. He finds that the hotel is filled with other people who have sold their homes under similar circumstances – and no one can find any property to buy. Eventually the hotel is sold out from under them. Even the local police are perplexed about what to do – because the building housing their station has been sold.

The Doctor and Amy land in her time to find Rory, and not only is Rory not there, the Earth is silent. Amy hears a message that the Kin now own the planet, it was purchased legally, and the Shadow Proclamation found nothing wrong with the transaction. Also, the people died out, the message concludes.

The Doctor and Amy rush back in time to prevent this outcome. They encounter the kin, and the Doctor warns Amy to never ask the Kin what time it is – that question being a verbal trap that allows the Kin to control people to their own ends. Amy, however, is tricked and whisked away from the Doctor.

The Doctor becomes angry and lets the Kin think they’ve tricked him into letting them into his TARDIS – however, he’s pulled a trick of his own.

This was a wonderful and spooky story, with a terrifying villain. I highly, highly recommend this story.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage

  • Title: The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Derek Landy
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Martha Jones
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/08/2016

Doctor Who – The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage is another short, little volume in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – 12 Doctors, 12 Books collection of mini-books. This one features the Tenth Doctor and his companion Martha Jones. The TARDIS lands in a bank of fog, but when Martha steps out of the TARDIS it immediately becomes a clear and sunny day with grass and trees and such. The Doctor and Martha meet four children – two boys and two girls, and Martha realizes she recognizes them as the Troublemakers – characters from a series of books that she read as a child. Quickly, she realizes that the situation is the same as the first Troublemakers book she ever read, “The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage”.

Martha and the Doctor work to figure out the clues and solve the mystery. When they take a boat down an underground river they are attacked by mysterious beings. They also quickly discover not only who is behind the mystery from the children’s book – but who the real threat is. This threat attacks the Doctor and Martha – causing them to run to escape through a maze of fictional characters and landscapes.

The Doctor confronts the being at the center of everything successfully and he and Martha, ultimately escape.

This story was a bit disappointing – it’s very simple, both in structure and in writing style. The Doctor makes some good points about “The Troublemakers” books and Martha makes some good counter-arguments (the books might not have been that good in an objective sense, but she loved them as a child and they set her on the path of a life-long reader). The descriptions of the Troublemakers books reminded me of Nancy Drew (syndicated series – written by ghost writers), and the characters also reminded me of Scooby Doo (but without a dog), because the Scooby kids included two guys: Fred and Shaggy – two girls: Velma and Daphne and they solved mysteries. Overall, though, the story was about as flat as the type of books and stories it parodied. The ending part, with the reveal of the real villain was slightly better, but not as good as other books in this series.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Beast of Babylon

  • Title: The Beast of Babylon
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Charlie Higson
  • Characters: Ninth Doctor
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/05/2016

**Spoiler Alert** Doctor Who – The Beast of Babylon is part of the 50th Anniversary 12 Books – 12 Doctors collection of mini-books. This book features the Ninth Doctor, as played by Christopher Eccelston and takes place between Rose deciding not to travel with the Doctor in “Rose” and the Doctor coming back and asking her a second time, also in “Rose”. It’s a unique idea that the Doctor could have an entire adventure in that brief span we see as seconds in the first episode of the new series.

The novel starts with Ali having a picnic with her family, when the Doctor shows up. The Doctor, well, does Doctorish things, which seem a bit confusing because the story is from Ali’s point of view. Then Ali sits and thinks about how much she wants to travel and have adventures as she watches the moons over a lake at night. So we know Ali and her family are on an alien planet. The Doctor arrives and says that Ali has something he needs back, a silver orb. Ali does have it, but she wants to travel with the Doctor. The Doctor agrees.

As the Doctor takes the TARDIS to ancient Babylon on Earth, he explains he is after a Starman – a being created during the collapse of stars into black holes and white dwarfs and such. The silver orb can be used to send the Starman back where it came from before it can eat a planet. And it was the silver orb that the Doctor used to defeat the Starman on Ali’s planet. The Doctor also talks about the girl, Rose, he met on Earth.

When the Doctor arrives on Earth, he tells Ali to stay in the TARDIS. Ali listens, but full of curiosity, figures out how to use the TARDIS scanner. So she sees the Doctor getting in trouble. When the guards, who have hauled the Doctor off, attack the TARDIS – Ali strikes back, using her antenodes and even killing a man. Ali then wanders around, following the Doctor, trying to help, and causing havoc in a way. It’s at this point we realize she isn’t human.

The ancient Babylonians think Ali is a monster and the Doctor a sorcerer. However, when the Starman attacks it prevents the Doctor’s execution, and the Doctor and Ali work to defeat the Starman. The Doctor then rushes Ali in to the TARDIS. Ali is, it turns out, an ant-like being, but, obviously, intelligent. The women are the deadliest of her species. And she convinces the Doctor to give Rose another chance. Ali is returned to her home planet, glad to be home, and appreciative of her home.

This is a good story, especially the way Higson gradually reveals that Ali isn’t human, but that she is still a “person” so to speak. And I really liked seeing the Doctor with a non-human companion for a story. The Starman wasn’t a great villain – basically a monster to defeat that, despite being a strong threat, is rather easily defeated. Ancient Babylon and King Hammurabi make for a different setting for a Doctor Who story.

Recommended.

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

  • Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation² vol. 2
  • Author: Scott Tipton, David Tipton
  • Artists: J.K. Woodward, Gordon Purcell, Shawn Lee, Tom B. Long
  • Characters: Eleventh Doctor, Amy, Rory, ST:TNG Crew, the Borg, the Cybermen
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Publisher: IDW Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/25/2017

**spoiler alert** Star Trek: the Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation² vol. 2 picks up where the previous volume left off, with the Borg asking Picard to help them against the Cybermen. Picard’s answer is “no, absolutely not,” The Doctor and even Amy try to change Picard’s mind, to no avail. Finally, the Doctor takes Picard in the TARDIS to a tour of his (and the galaxy’s) future if he doesn’t stop the Cybermen. After this encounter, Picard agrees to try it his way. Picard and company, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory beam down to a planet to meet the Borg. They are introduced to The Conduit, a Borg incapable of assimilating other species, who becomes an ambassador. The Conduit explains how the Borg were approached by the Cybermen, their alliance, and how the alliance broke down. He explains that the Cybermen have destroyed the Borg’s executive library, thus most Borg are now inert.

The Doctor lets Picard know that gold (especially gold dust) is deadly to Cybermen. Picard goes to get gold from the mining planet that’s home to fish people as seen at the beginning of the first volume (the Doctor does tag along on the trip and shows off his negotiating skills with the natives). Then the Doctor, Amy, and Rory return in the TARDIS to the battle of Wolf 359 – they materialize the TARDIS on a Borg ship and manage to acquire a copy of the executive library, then return to the Enterprise.

The Doctor then leads Worf, an Enterprise Security Strike Team, Amy, Rory, Picard, Data, and the Conduit on a mission to install the Executive Library back in to the Borg aboard a Cyber Armada ship. Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Geordie works to increase the Enterprise speed, and as we find out later, to develop a gold-based weapon that will work in space. Despite difficulties and an encounter with the Cyber Controller – the Doctor’s mission to restore the Borg is successful. However, they return to the TARDIS to discover the Conduit has merged with the alien intelligence of the TARDIS herself and is attempting to control it. Data stops this by briefly merging with the TARDIS and the Conduit is thrown out the TARDIS doors and into outer space. Data recovers. The TARDIS returns the Enterprise crew to their ship. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory leave the Enterprise.

I enjoyed this graphic novel. The art is beautiful, and has a painted quality. Everyone is in character, though with so many characters, some of them only get one good scene. I thought Rory was underused in this novel for example, though I liked the scene between him and Dr. Crusher where they discuss Rory being a nurse. One good point about this novel is that, although their are a lot of action scenes, they aren’t solved by fisticuffs. The security strike team does shoot at the Cybermen with specially adapted phasers, but cleverness is more highly valued throughout the story than mere violence. For example, Data helps Picard and company escape at one point by forcing open a door and holding it while everyone goes through then jumping through himself – it’s a fit of strength that reminds one of Data’s abilities. But everyone – Amy, Rory, the Doctor, Worf, Geordie, Dr. Crusher, Deanna Troi, Commander Riker, and especially Picard all get to use their talents in service to the story. Some only briefly, but they are there – which is important in a crossover.

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: Heroes and Monsters Collection

  • Title: Heroes and Monsters Collection
  • Series: BBC Books – Special Themed Short Story Collection
  • Author: Various
  • Characters: War Doctor, Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, Twelfth Doctor, with companions
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/07/2017

Doctor Who Heroes and Monsters is a collection of short stories featuring the Doctors from New Who. There’s a single War Doctor story, several stories each with the Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, and Twelfth Doctor. There’s a pair of stories taking place at the same time and place – one of which is from Amy’s point of view on her solitary adventure and one from Rory’s on his only solitary adventure.

The problem is that though some of the stories are good – many are only so-so; and, nearly all of them read like they were written for children – not even young adults, but children. And it’s the type of children’s literature that, unfortunately, looks down on the child’s abilities to read, comprehend, and follow a good story – so the stories are overly simplistic instead.

The Amy-Rory pair of stories is one of the better sets. The Doctor lands the TARDIS on a giant shopping mall planet. Amy goes off on her own, and through kindness to a young boy, stops an invasion. However, the young boy is in his position due to a strange man, whom we suspect to be Rory. The next story in the collection shows us events from Rory’s point of view. I enjoyed that device for the pair of stories, however, it is a fairly simple story nonetheless.

The last story in the collection is a solo Twelfth Doctor story, which, while fun, and a bit less child-oriented, still has a predictable bent to it.

Overall, I was disappointed. Yes, it’s a quick read, but I’d rather have a bit more depth to my Doctor Who tie-in stories.