“Short Trips: Repercussions”

Short_Trips_RepercussionsBetween 1998 and 2009, BBC Books then later Big Finish published 32 books of short stories in a series called “Short Trips” featuring all of the classic Doctors. The idea of this appeals to me mostly because I rarely find myself sitting down to read an entire novel, but short stories are nice bite-sized chunks. These books are all out of print, but I’m working on collecting them, and the first of these that I’ve read is “Short Trips: Repercussions”.

Spoilers to some extent.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this book. I knew that the stories all had to do with the repercussions of the Doctor’s actions, and that it dealt with how the Web of Time is affected by his meddling, but that’s a pretty vague notion. What I didn’t know was that the stories were all connected to each other by an overarching story. At the very start of the book, Charley wakes up on an airship that she knows is not the R101, but she doesn’t know where she is and the Doctor is nowhere to be seen. She asks around and she finds out that everyone on board knows the Doctor. Some of them like him, some hate him, and some are indifferent, but they’re all going in the same direction; what direction that is, Charley doesn’t know. The Steward on board suggests that she learn their stories, and that forms the basis of the anthology. It’s all rather like The Canterbury Tales in that all of the stories are titled “The _______’s Story”, everyone has a story to tell, and they help pass the time on their journey.

As Charley hears the stories, she realizes what they all have in common: everyone telling the story had their life significantly altered by the Doctor, usually either by chance or as a result of something he was doing that was only tangentially related to them. For example, when visiting a planet where a colony had died years back, the Doctor discovers the ghost of girl who wants to come back to life. He realizes that the girl and the colony had been killed by a semi-sentient lichen, and having accidentally brought some of the lichen into the TARDIS had given the lichen the ability to project a shadow of the girl’s consciousness. This tormented ghost of the girl should never have existed, but he created her by accident. The point is that whatever the Doctor does has repercussions: some bigger than others, but it’s something he always has to be aware of.

In short, I enjoyed the book. Of the sixteen stories, there were two or three that I really didn’t like, but the rest were average or above. These are the tales I enjoyed the most.

“The Rag and Bone Man’s Story”: Unlike most of the stories in this book, the repercussions for this man were beneficial, rather than harmful. While at Coal Hill School, Susan uses what amounts to a good luck crystal to try to get her fellow students to like her. When it backfires, she buries it, and the protagonist of the story finds it. It brings him incredible luck, giving him a comfortable life and a family. This story was well-written, and didn’t end in misfortune and despair, as I expected it to.

“The Inquisitor’s Story”: The titular Inquisitor condemns the Doctor for having saved the life of a child that was being executed at the time because their seers had foretold that the child would grow up to be a cruel, brutal tyrant who caused a civil war in which millions had died. That foretelling had come true, and when the Doctor returned to the world, he was taken prisoner to pay for the deaths of all those people. This story explores all of the ways to view such an event and the results of that action. The characterization of the Doctor in this story was perfect.

“The Schoolboy’s Story”: Bobby, an intelligent but timid boy, travels in the TARDIS with the Doctor, Steven, and Vicki, but he finds that telling people about his adventures, and maintaining that he’s telling the truth, as his parents and teachers have always told him he must do, doesn’t have the effect he expects.

“The Juror’s Story”: I heard about this story, and it’s the reason I bought the book, and it didn’t disappoint. The First Doctor is on trial for murder and is pleading self-defense, having killed a young girl who he claims was a werewolf and was about to kill him. The debate in the juror’s room slowly changes the opinion from all but one saying he’s guilty to a unanimous vote of not guilty. How the verdict is transforms so completely is just wonderful Doctor Who.

“The Tramp’s Story”: The Doctor saves a tramp’s life. Why? This one is a little hard to get into, as it’s written in snippets from the point of view of a number of people who are tangential to the tramp’s story, but once you get used to the cadence, it’s rather brilliant.

 

 

My favorites from the expanded universe – Dec 2014

Fish Doctors

Fish Doctors

Last year, around November, I wrote a post listing my fifteen favorite episodes of Doctor Who. I then repeated the exercise in May, and it was very interesting seeing the changes in attitude and perception over the course of six months, considering that at least some of my initial enthusiasm for the show had worn off and I had seen more of the classic episodes. So I decided I would try to do the same post every six months.

This is not that post.

That’s mostly because it takes a huge amount of time to compile that post, and so I plan to do that tomorrow. In the meantime, I’d like to start another tradition here at Maius Intra Qua Extra, and that’s to list my favorites bits of the expanded universe, that is to say, from the audios, books, comic books, etc.; basically, anything that’s not the TV show. Now, I’m going to qualify this by noting that I have not seen even 5% of what’s out there, so this is a selection of favorite items from very small list of works. Hopefully, in six months, the list will have grown substantially.

These are not listed in any particular order.

 

Audio Plays

The Light at the End, by Nicholas Briggs: The Big Finish contribution to the 50th Anniversary celebration, this audio is simply brilliant. With five Doctors (and their companions!) getting trapped by a fiendish plan to destroy them, they band together and each do what they do best to unravel the plot and turn it around. The story is solid, riveting, and fun, the performances are perfect, and the entire feel is just so classic Doctor Who. I would honestly consider this the real 50th Anniversary story, not “The Day of the Doctor”, except, well, keep reading and you’ll find out why, if you don’t already know.

Of Chaos Time The (from Breaking Bubbles and Other Stories), by Mark Ravenhill: In one of four short plays featuring the Sixth Doctor and Peri, the Doctor finds himself running down a corridor with someone he doesn’t know, who apparently does know him and has been following his orders for some time. The Doctor is figuring out the puzzle right along with you, and it’s a spectacular adventure in temporal trickery.

The Chimes of Midnight, by Robert Shearman: In this chilling tale, the Eighth Doctor and Charley find themselves trapped in the servant’s area of a manor house in the 1920s on Christmas Eve, reliving the same hour over and over again. It’s surreal and creepy Doctor Who at its best. And remember, Christmas isn’t Christmas without Mrs. Baddeley’s plum pudding.

Revenge of the Swarm, by Jonathan Morris: This sequel (or is it prequel?) to “The Invisible Enemy” (a Fourth Doctor TV episode) finds the Seventh Doctor, Ace, and Hector encountering the Swarm again, this time going back in time to influence its own genesis. In addition to expertly wrangling the timelines to make the two episodes fit together, it has a lot of action and suspense, and pays homage to the original episode in multiple ways.

The Kingmaker, by Nev Fountain: The Fifth Doctor, with Peri and Erimem, travel to the past to find out what happened to the two princes that were imprisoned in the Tower of London by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but they get separated, with the companions in one time zone and the Doctor in another, three years later. The Doctor must unravel what has happened to his companions and try to find and rescue them, while they are forced to live through the intervening years. The puzzle, plot, and characterizations in this audio are top-notch. (This is the first audio I’ve heard so far that’s managed to make a nod to the modern show.)

 

Audio Books

Dead Air, by James Goss: This audiobook takes advantage of its medium, weaving a story about a sound-based enemy that revels in silence and darkness. Read by David Tennant and written in first-person for the Doctor, this story is intensely personal and dark, and Mr. Tennant does a fantastic job doing the voices of all four characters, of different accents, ages, and genders. If there’s any Doctor Who audiobook to get, this is it.

Shockwave (from The Destiny of the Doctor), by James Swallow: The Destiny of the Doctor is an 11-book set, one story for each Doctor. The final story, for the Eleventh Doctor, is based on all the previous stories, so if you want to read that one, you must read all the rest. However, the rest are all standalone stories. Most of the stories in the series are good, but this one stood out for me. Read by Sophie Aldred, the Seventh Doctor and Ace are trapped on a planet that’s about to be destroyed by a solar wave and must flee with the other humans. This book took great care to describe the surroundings and the action, heightening the tension and adding so much to the already riveting story.

 

Books

The Krillitane Storm, by Christopher Cooper: I didn’t expect this book to be anything but a nice adventure, and I was pleasantly surprised. The action is fast-paced and the alien incursion that the Tenth Doctor is investigating turns out to be anything but simple. In addition, this story explores the culture of the Krillitane, showing them to be a complex society and shedding light on the motivations of the Krillitane we saw in “School Reunion”.

11 Doctors, 11 Stories: This is a compilation of novella adventures by various authors, one for each Doctor. It’s now available as 12 Doctors, 12 Stories with the inclusion of the Twelfth Doctor story, but I haven’t read it, so it gets its former title here. Some of the stories are better than others, but in general, this is one great collection. My favorite of the bunch is the Eleventh Doctor’s “Nothing O’Clock” by Neil Gaiman.

 

Comic Books

The Forgotten, by Tony Lee: The Tenth Doctor finds himself trapped with Martha in a museum that contains only items relating to his long history. A mysterious figure steals his memories, which starts to kill him (“A man is the sum of his memories; a Time Lord even more so.”), and he remembers stories from his previous incarnations to get them back. This comic not only presents new short stories for each incarnation, but also has a great overall arc and a wonderful resolution.

 

Other

The Five(-ish) Doctors Reboot, by Peter Davison: This is what I think deserves the label of the best 50th Anniversary work. The story of Mr. Davison, Mr. Baker, Mr. McCoy, and Mr. McGann (at least for a little bit) trying to get into “The Day of the Doctor”, it’s superbly written and acted, and pokes fun at every trope and every person associated with Doctor Who. It shines with love for the show, its history, and its fans, and it’s simply delightful.

 

“The Krillitane Storm”

The_Krillitane_StormI have to admit that I haven’t been consuming new Doctor Who content very much lately. I need to get back to the Big Finish main range audios and “Gallifrey”. And I’ve had Christopher Cooper’s novel “The Krillitane Storm” sitting on my nightstand for about three months, waiting for me. So, I figured, with some holiday time off, I’d finally tackle that book, and I’m glad I did.

Spoilers, of course.

You remember the Krillitanes, right? From “School Reunion”, they were the demonic-looking, bat-winged aliens that were harnessing the imaginative powers of souped-up schoolchildren at Deffry Vale School to crack the Skasas Paradigm, the equation that’s the building blocks of the universe. They intended to become gods with the Paradigm, and tempted the Doctor to join them. They were a complex and interesting species: vicious hunters who killed and ate sentients, but welcomed the wisdom and guidance that they felt the Doctor could provide. This novel is enticing simply because it deals with this fascinating race, and it doesn’t disappoint.

It starts out very simply: the city of Worcester in the twelfth century is in the grip of terror, as people are murdered viciously in the middle of the night. As usual, the Doctor lands here randomly, and noticing that the city is not acting normally, snoops around and determines that the Krillitane are behind it.

That’s where it stops being simple. Without going through the whole story, let me just say that it turns out that someone else is manipulating the Krillitane (and in fact, the Krillitane would never have come to Earth in the first place without his schemes), and then while the Doctor is trying to sort that all out, another player arrives to throw everything into even more chaos. The Doctor thus finds himself trying to 1) save the Krillitanes’ lives and get them off planet, 2) keep the “someone” from being killed by quite a number of people (including the one-off companion that the Doctor picks up), 3) bring the “someone” to justice, and 4) keep the third party from massacring the human city.

As it is, this novel has something for everyone. The story is engaging and complex, and the action is fast-paced. There’s a villain that is very easy to hate, so there’s someone to root against. The one-off companion is a good character, and she’s got her own motivations for what she does. The Doctor also acquires a second companion, the captain of the city guard, who is great as the guy who is just bewildered by all the things that the Doctor shows him but is smart enough to know that the safest place to stand is next to the Doctor. And the Doctor is written brilliantly in-character.

I particularly enjoyed the elaboration on Krillitane culture. The Doctor explains that because the Krillitanes evolve quickly, by killing other species and taking their physical traits rather than evolving and developing them normally, the Krillitanes’ power grew faster than their culture, and thus they are still rather barbaric and animalistic. Theirs is a religious culture, with a priest-king, which is why the headmaster in “School Reunion” is named “Brother Lassar”. During the course of the novel, you find out that a splinter group decided that the Krillitanes were culturally and psychologically stagnant and needed to evolve in that way, not just physically, and they broke off from the main Krillitane society. It’s the descendants of this splinter group that the Doctor encounters at Deffry Vale, seeking the Skasas Paradigm in order to evolve beyond their current limitations.

Bottom line is that I really enjoyed this novel. It was a good adventure, with plenty of action and twists and turns and impossible situations for the Doctor to worm his way out of, and it elaborated on an alien species that I really enjoyed from the show. It also had this little scene: The Doctor is hanging by his knees from the loading arm of a hovercraft, his enemy, piloting the craft, oblivious to the fact he’s there. The Doctor sonics the loading arm, and he cries, “Hello, stranger!” as it swings him over the craft towards the enemy.  The enemy turns around and his “eyes widened in shock, noticing too late as the loading arm swept towards him, carrying its insanely grinning payload.” Absolutely perfect. This is the kind of scene Doctor Who needs more of!

“Human Nature” (no, not that one)

Yes, that's the Doctor feeding bullets into a machine gun fired by a schoolboy. No, I have no idea why they're looking in different directions.

Yes, that’s the Doctor feeding bullets into a machine gun fired by a schoolboy. No, I have no idea why they’re looking in different directions.

Quite a while ago, probably about three or four months even, I bought the Virgin New Adventures Doctor Who novel Human Nature, written by Paul Cornell. As you probably know, it shares its title with one of the best episodes of the modern show, “Human Nature” and its second part, “The Family of Blood.” That’s because the episode, also written by Paul Cornell, was an adaptation of the novel, which involved the Seventh Doctor and his companion Bernice Summerfield, for television with the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones. I was put off by it at first because of its style (understandable as it was published in 1995, before even the  Eight Doctor’s movie came out) and because I had never before seen anything with Bernice (Benny) as the companion, but by the end, I have to admit, I liked it a lot. However, I will warn you right now that there’s no way to discuss this novel without spoilers.

I’m going to say up front that it’s not fair to evaluate this novel against its namesake modern show episode. Just like any piece of media, it needs to be considered on its own, but even then, comparing it to one of the absolute best Doctor Who episodes ever created isn’t fair at all. The novel and the episode share some basic ideas – the setting, the idea of the Doctor making himself human,  a family of aliens hunting him to steal his Time Lord essence – but they really are very different.

At the start of the novel, the Doctor is Dr. John Smith, a teacher at Hulton College, a school for boys outside of the town of Farringham. He’s used a piece of alien technology to hide his Time Lord self in a small red sphere (at one point, it is mistaken for a cricket ball). Benny pretends to be his niece, an artist living in the town, and she hides the sphere in a tree in an abandoned orchard. Dr. Smith is a bit strange, somewhat forgetful, a pacifist among former soldiers with a blatant disregard for rules and tradition, and the schoolboys as well as Headmaster Rocastle consider him unreliable. He strikes up a friendship with the science teacher, Joan Redfern, which blossoms into love. Meanwhile, a family of aliens called Aubertides (shapeshifters – they could take the form of any being they came in contact with) come to find the sphere: they want to take the Time Lord essence for themselves, and while they can’t just steal it from a Time Lord, they can steal it while it’s stored in the sphere. Before they can find it, though, it’s found by a schoolboy, Tim Dean, who becomes influenced by the sphere, gaining some telepathy and future sight. As the Aubertides start killing people in the town to find the sphere, Benny convinces Dr. Smith that he’s really the Doctor, but he decides to simply let the Aubertides have it, as he doesn’t like the man he’s supposed to become and he’s content with his life with Joan. Eventually, the sphere itself shows him the future, that the Aubertides, with the power of Time Lords added to their own, conquer the Time Lords themselves, and he sees Flavia and Romana die horribly rather than give up the last Time Lord secrets, in their last attempt to save the universe from them, and that (along with some other events) change his mind. He becomes the Doctor again and defeats them.

One of the main things I liked about this book was the depiction of the Aubertides. The Family of Blood always seemed a little two-dimensional, as all they seemed to want was immortality; there was always the question of why they didn’t continue to reproduce. The Aubertides were born from a queen, who buds every so often. Each bud is only able to reproduce six times, and once those six individuals died, that bud was dead. Thus, these aliens were desperate to get the sphere to not only live longer, but also give themselves the ability to reproduce more: each bud would create six bud, each of which could produce six buds, etc. Then, once they acquired the TARDIS, they would be able to create their own army and invade anywhere in space and time. Each of the Aubertides had distinct personalities: one jumped in with the most violent solution to any problem, while another was strategic in nature and spent much of his time holding the first one back. That second one often had to make plans around the first one, knowing how he would react in situations and trying to use it to his advantage (or mitigate the problems he could cause before they could happen).

Probably the hardest thing to get used to in this novel was Dr. Smith himself. Unlike John Smith in the TV episode, who was thoroughly human with no Doctor traits, Dr. Smith was obviously influenced by the Doctor’s personality. Thus, he wasn’t quite human and said and did some strange things, which throws a number of people off, but also didn’t quite sit right with me, if only because if the point was to hide his Time Lord self away in the sphere, why was he still so like the Doctor? Also, his romance with Joan was not particularly emotional, almost cold, and once he realized who he was and had to make his decision about what to do, though he decided to give up the sphere to stay with Joan, his discussion of it was rational and logical. When he changes his mind, again, there’s no fear or sense of loss, and it just didn’t ring true. I suppose this reaction might stem from knowing the TV episode, but I can’t shake the feeling that it should have been more emotional.

The novel did shock me, however, with its violence and gore. This is something that I think that we forget when watching the TV show, either classic or modern: there’s a lot of death in Doctor Who, and it’s extremely sanitized on screen. In the classic show, people get shot by laser guns and simply collapse. If they’re eaten by a monster, it’s a full-body chomp with no blood. In the new show, it isn’t much different. In “The Name of the Doctor,” the Whisperman reach into the bodies of the Doctor’s companions to rip out organs and it’s barely shown. Instead of agonized screams, we’re treated to funny lines from Strax. In the books and audios, while they can’t show you what’s happening, they don’t pull punches with their words and sound effects. In Human Nature, the schoolboys are excitedly defending their school when the Aubertides attack with a tiny projectile that attaches itself to the boy next to Dr. Smith. The boy turns to him and apologizes, and his head explodes. Dr. Smith is drenched in blood, and all of the schoolboys are sprayed in a fine red mist. The next few paragraphs describe them as they deal with the horror, Dr. Smith hugging the headless body as blood continues to spurt from its neck. While I certainly wouldn’t want to see this in the TV show, I do think that it glosses over the violence, inuring us to it, since there are rarely any consequences for the Doctor and his companions, even though the Doctor is supposed to care deeply about every single death that occurs – NPCs die all the time and not much more than a sad glance is spared to them. It was refreshing to see how much the violence in this story affected the characters.

All in all, this was a good novel, though the style of writing hasn’t aged well over the last 19 years. I’m not sure whether or not I want to read more of the Virgin New Adventures, as they do depart a little from the canon established by the modern series and don’t mesh well with it on some points, but on the other hand, so far all three Paul Cornell stories I’ve been exposed (Human Nature, “Father’s Day”, and “Human Nature” / “The Family of Blood”) to have been excellent and I am eager to read more of his work.

 

“The Story of Martha”

Story_of_MarthaOne of the perks of the trip that I took last week was the large amount of time I spent on some mode of transportation (at least a good 24 hours on bus, train, and ferry), giving me the opportunity to read books and listen to audios that I normally don’t have. I listened to The Light at the End again, and it was as good as the first time: I highly recommend it, especially if it’s your first audio experience. I also read Doctor Who: The Story of Martha, and here’s what I thought about it.

Spoilers ahead. Only minor ones, but still. Well, big spoilers if you haven’t seen “The Sound of Drums”/”The Last of the Time Lords.”

The novel covers Martha’s journey during the Year That Never Was, when she traveled the earth to spread word of the Doctor so that he could gather enough psychic energy to defeat the Master. It starts immediately after her teleport from the Valiant and covers not only everything she did while being hunted by the Master’s soldiers, but also the stories that she told about the Doctor. The basic structure of the novel is a chapter or two about what situation she’s gotten herself into now, with some reason why she’s telling someone a story, then a chapter of the story itself. A few of the chapters are about the soldiers who are hunting her down, especially the leader of the group, a man named Griffin.

I think the best word to describe this novel is “disappointing.” As an adventure novel, it wasn’t bad, but as a story of how Martha managed to get the entire world to work together for one important moment, it was woefully inadequate. In my mind, to get people to continue hoping for the future and support the Doctor, she needed to share stories that either painted the Doctor as the savior of the world, the one person who could fight the Master and who needed everyone’s help to do so, or directly inspired people to go on fighting even when everything seemed lost. Unfortunately, the stories she told to her audiences were just adventures she had shared with the Doctor – nothing particularly special. Yes, the Doctor saved the day in each of the stories, but he wasn’t any more heroic than usual. The stories from “Smith and Jones” (how he sacrificed himself to get the plasmavore captured) and “Gridlock” (how he saved the entire undercity) would have been more inspirational. Of course, they wouldn’t be appropriate for the novel since the reader is expecting new stories, not old ones, but there could easily have been a scene where Martha tells her audience about them in a “once, he saved us like this” style. (A scene like this also ties the book directly into the TV series for the reader.)

The other disappointing thing about the novel was the way Griffin’s story ended. He was created as completely mercenary, willing to hunt Martha down for the Master just so that he could rise in the ranks of the army and not caring about how the humans and the earth were being destroyed, and a lot of the story was devoted to the different things he did to try to find her and the tricks the resistance had pull to get Martha out. I had hoped either for Griffin to be redeemed and come to aid Martha at the end, or have her finally outwit and defeat him, with some kind of “the Doctor taught me violence is never the answer” speech, but neither happened, and his conclusion was completely unfulfilling. I get the distinct impression that the author was given some kind of limit, maybe 50,000 words, and he ended up having to cut out or abridge a lot of what he wanted to do.

In conclusion, if you want to read a few of the Doctor’s adventures, this is an adequate novel. If you want a good story about how Martha inspired the entire world to follow the Doctor, you’ll need to look elsewhere; I bet there are a few fanfiction treatments of this concept.

“11 Doctors, 11 Stories”

11 DoctorsAs part of the 50th anniversary celebration, the BBC released a series of eleven short stories, one for each Doctor and written by eleven different authors of note, then published it this month in a collection called Doctor Who: 11 Doctors 11 Stories. I’m only now getting into the alternate Doctor Who media and am very apprehensive about buying things, because I can never judge the quality of the material beforehand, but so far, in general, I’ve been pleased with the books, comics, and audio plays so far, and this collection is no exception. I enjoyed all but one of the eleven stories.

Here’s the list of the short stories (in Doctor order), with a brief setup of the situation in the story and maybe some opinion. No real spoilers.

“A Big Hand for the Doctor,” by Eoin Colfer: Ok, I have to admit, I didn’t finish this story. I really couldn’t stand the writing style and gave up  halfway through. My husband says it’s a good story, and I will try to finish it some other day.

“The Nameless City,” by Michael Scott: This story is hard to describe without giving things away – even summarizing the first scene will be a spoiler – so I won’t try. It’s very Second Doctor, letting him act the fool while he figures out what’s going on, and Jamie is also very Jamie.

“The Spear of Destiny,” by Marcus Sedgwick: The Third Doctor and Jo Grant investigates a (surprise!) spear in a local museum that seems to affect time in weird ways. As befits the Third Doctors, there’s more action in this story than a lot of the others, and it also takes a stab (sorry!) at showing how legends and myths are made.

“The Roots of Evil,” by Phillip Reeve: The Fourth Doctor and Leela land on an enormous tree floating in space that houses an entire colony of people. The concept behind this story and its setting is very cool, though I was a little disappointed with the motivation of the villain. The trip, though, is worth it.

“Tip of the Tongue,” by Patrick Ness: During World War II, the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa land in an English town in which the children are playing with a new toy that hooks to your tongue and speaks the absolute truth about yourself and what you are thinking. This is one of my favorite stories in the book, because it explores the effect the toys have on the people’s lives; this kind of introspection is one of the things that Doctor Who can do so well. The Doctor is almost completely incidental to the theme.

“Something Borrowed,” Richelle Mead: The Sixth Doctor and Peri Brown attend the wedding of the son of a friend, a species that performs a physical transformation similar to regeneration except only when they get married. This story is a simple adventure, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun read.

“The Ripple Effect,” by Malorie Blackman: The Seventh Doctor and Ace are stuck in a space-time bubble and have to blow up a star to push themselves out of it, but this has unforeseen consequences. The concept of this story is fantastic, and the Doctor and Ace get into a fascinating philosophical argument, but I didn’t like the resolution. It was a good enough story, but it really could have been a lot better.

“Spore,” by Alex Scarrow: The Eighth Doctor lands in an American town and discovers that what seems like a space virus has killed all the inhabitants. I really liked the atmosphere of this story and the final resolution was interesting.

“The Beast of Babylon,” by Charlie Higson: The Ninth Doctor makes friends with a girl on a planet that is attacked by cosmic creatures. As he would say, this story is fantastic. It develops the character of the girl and the nature of the threat gradually, keeping you reading to find out how it all fits together. There’s also a very cool tie-in to the Ninth Doctor’s first television story, “Rose.”

“The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage,” by Derek Landy: The Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones land in the story from a book that Martha read when she was a child. You might think this is a revisit to the Land of Fiction, but it’s not. This is one of the weaker stories in the set, because the first couple of parts are uninteresting (it tried and failed to set up a creepy, surreal atmosphere) and the very final part of the resolution is unsatisfying (the previous parts of the resolution were cool).

“Nothing O’Clock,” by Neil Gaiman: The Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond arrive on Earth in 2010 only to find that the entire planet is uninhabited. Remember at the top that I said that the stories were released individually and then as a collection? Now, if you don’t want to buy the collection, I will urge you to buy this one story. It is completely worth it. This is absolutely a wonderful story. I won’t tell you any more about it, because you have to read it.

“The Forgotten,” redux

I mentioned a few days ago that I had written a post about the Doctor Who graphic novel The Forgotten but it (the post) was pretty terrible, so here’s a second go at it. This time, it’ll be more of a review, but without spoilers until you get to the section marked “Spoilers.”

The Forgotten is a Tenth Doctor story, in which he and Martha wake up in a museum without the TARDIS. They have no idea where they are or how they got there, but as they look around, they find that the museum is devoid of people but full of artifacts from the Doctor’s long history – including things as old as a Voord helmet – and even a room displaying all of the outfits and iconic tools/accessories (such a bag of jelly babies and a cricket ball) the Doctor wore throughout life. Soon after discovering this room, a mysterious figure wipes the Doctor’s memories of all but his current life. Like the Fifth Doctor once said, “A man is the sum of his memories. A Time Lord even more so,” and this memory wipe causes the Doctor to start to die. To combat this, Martha gives him an object from each of his incarnations and he uses it to remember them.

The story’s framework is about exploring the museum and figuring what it’s for, and eventually discovering the mysterious figure running it, but the fun part are the memories. The graphic novel presents one short story for each incarnation, and while it restores to the Doctor the memory of that incarnation, it also helps him solve the problems at hand. All of the stories are entertaining, and the characterizations capture each of the Doctors very well. The wrap-up of the overarching story is also very good, and there are some great surprises there. Probably the only thing I didn’t like about this was that they had to switch artists for one issue, and I wasn’t fond of his style. In particular, his Tenth Doctor has rather curly hair and doesn’t look like the Tenth Doctor at all. His style worked well for the Fifth Doctor story, but not for the Fourth Doctor’s.

If you like graphic novels (and if you think that comic books are lowbrow, think again – some graphic novels are great literature; I refer in specific to The Sandman by Neil Gaiman), I definitely recommend The Forgotten

And now some spoilers.

One of the absolute coolest things about The Forgotten is the story of how it developed, which is written in the back of the book. The comic was started when Martha was the companion, but due to the episodic nature of comics, the entire story lasted so long that the last issue would come out after Donna had already left the Doctor. Thus, the author, Tony Lee, had to rewrite the latter half of the story so that it matched the current TV show while already having published the first half. You can see this happening as you read the the graphic novel. There are small details that are inconsistent with the show (such as Martha claiming that there are two doctors traveling in the TARDIS) that make sense at the end, when you find out what happened. I’m sure that having to revamp the story was not a fun task, but I’m guessing that it made it more complex, and essentially more Doctor Who, in the end.