Story: Martha’s journeys with the Doctor are exciting, but she wants to drop in and check on her friends at the hospital where she worked before stepping into the TARDIS. When the Doctor and Martha arrive, they find they’re not the only otherworldly visitors around – Cybermen appear out of thin air and attempt to kidnap them, but the attempt fails. But the Army also wants to talk to the Doctor – Cybermen have been on the move, stealing electronic gear from retail stores and military supply depots alike. The Doctor realizes that these are Cybermen that must have been constructed from local material during the invasion of Canary Wharf, so, untouched by “voidstuff,” they wouldn’t have been sucked back into the Void. When Martha is abducted by the Cybermen, the Doctor – with military backup – goes on the offensive.
Review: There’s something about a Doctor Who story written by Terrance Dicks that fits like a comfortable old shoe. As the script editor of the series during the Pertwee years, Dicks had the unique opportunity to become the chief writer – by default – of the Doctor Who novelizations in the 1980s, writing prose versions of dozens of the TV stories that didn’t have much more of a page count than this. So in that respect, “Made Of Steel” is back to Target Books basics.
But it’s also a fascinating study in Dicks’ understanding of the character of the Doctor here. Even though he adjusts things to David Tennant’s manic delivery, the great thing about Dicks’ Doctor Who novels and novelizations is simply that the Doctor is the Doctor is the Doctor: he writes it as a single character with minor modifications for whoever’s playing it. And, of course, when the TARDIS makes a strange wheezing, groaning sound when it appears or disappears, all is right with my world. Martha is written slightly generic, but she’s not pining away for the Doctor, which is a plus. Dicks does take advantage of the new series’ slightly more topical nature to comment on such things as the usefulness of the Millennium Dome, but other than that there isn’t much to differentiate between this and one of the author’s Target Books novelizations.
The Quick Reads books are designed to promote literacy among both kids and adults who don’t think they have time to read. I knocked out “Made Of Steel” in between baby feedings and other household tasks in under a day. So in that respect, the book certainly fulfills its mandate. But when that short duration also makes it feel like an old Target novelization, “Made Of Steel” is a bit of light literary comfort food for me, and it’s recommended for other Who fans who are under a bit of a time crunch, and need a nice little shot of the good old days.
Author: Terrance Dicks
Publisher: BBC Books