Doctor Who: Human Nature

Doctor Who: Human NatureOrder this bookStory: The Doctor makes a mysterious decision to obtain a telepathic pod from an omnivorous, occasionally cannibalistic, shapeshifting race of aliens known as the Aubertides. He stores his own knowledge and personality in the pod – as well as detailed genetic information – and turns himself, both physically and psychologically, into John Smith, history teacher, a perfectly ordinary human (with odd gaps in his memory) teaching at a boys’ school in 1914. Bernice is left to fend for herself as the Doctor pursues whatever mystery has compelled him to undergo such a drastic change. In the process of discovering what it means to be human, the former Time Lord falls in love with a local woman who is attracted to his simplicity and gentle nature – but when the Aubertides storm the countryside, discovering that they have done business with a Time Lord and trying to track down his regenerative DNA to save their dying race, “Doctor John Smith” must risk everything and everyone to protect his fellow humans.

Review: Probably the best original novel ever to hit the shelves with the Doctor Who logo on its cover, this extremely atypical book is either loved or hated, depending on which segment of fandom you ask. […]

Doctor Who: Sanctuary

Doctor Who: SanctuaryOrder this bookStory: The Doctor and Bernice are forced to abandon the TARDIS, which is caught in some form of temporal rift, and take refuge in the Jade Pagoda (the “lifeboat” of the TARDIS, as it were. What I don’t understand is why this pagoda thingie mimics the Police Box shape the TARDIS is stuck in?! As if the Time Lords designed it to look like a Buddhist temple with a green flashing light on top! Somebody explain it to me!). This lifeboat takes them to the closest habitable M-Class planet, which just by chance, is Earth. Not only that, but to add to the fun, it dumps them in 11th century Europe! I doesn’t take long after their arrival for the gimmick to be engaged – The Doctor and Bernice become seperated.

The Doctor, who impersonates a high-ranking royal observer, becomes embroiled in court intrigue while in the company of the bad guys of the story, while Bernice ends up in the fortress of the good guys, one of whom is actually named Guy. They call this hilltop fortress (or Sanctuary, as it were) “The Roc.” With the Templars and the Inquisition roaming the countryside, all trying to “convert” heritics to the side of the true God by killing them, these non-believers need a place to hide out. So here they find shelter, food, and no diety-discrimination at this Sanctuary. At The Roc, they know their role, and are kept safe from the bad guys, no questions asked. These bad guys want to lay the smackdown on The Roc, so they can get their hands on some odd religious artifact that will guarantee that head-bad guy can rise to the office of Pope.

Review: Does it get any better than that?! The first 1/4 of this book is slow, and I began to wonder if anything was going to happen. But once the Doctor & co. arrive, business picks up considerably. It was kind of odd reading a Doctor Who story with no aliens or sci-fi aspects, but I really got into it. At some points I could actually smell what The Roc was cookin’! […]

Doctor Who: Infinite Requiem

Doctor Who: Infinite RequiemOrder this bookStory: There is a war raging over the planet Gadrell Major between Humans and the Phracton Swarm. But there is another enemy on this world which is more dangerous than both sides put together…

There is a pregnant woman on Earth in the year 1997. But the child she carries is not quite human. It is a creature who has the power to destroy the entire world…

Pridka Dream Centre, a space station in the distant future built to treat and hone all manner of Psychic dysfunction. Unannounced, they have just received a visitor with a particular disorder untreatable at this facility…

What is the common thread that weaves these three, seemingly separate storylines into one?

Review: So, let me start by saying that this is not a great book. I kind of had to force my way through it. The story begins on the war raged planet where these Phracton blokes are hell-bent on aquiring the rights to this world at any cost. The Humans who didn’t get away on the escape ships have ended up being frightened scavengers. One of these sad foragers has found a woman buried under a pile of rubble. But, this is no ordinary woman. This is a powerful Sensopath! A creature of incredible mental ability, able to channel the mental powers of herself and others to be used for Evil! We shall call her Shanstra. What could be the motives behind her hidden rage? Well, I had to wait until the last few chapters to get this explained to me. […]

Doctor Who: Set Piece

Doctor Who: Set PieceOrder this bookStory: Somebody has been punching holes in the time-space vortex, and it is through these holes that aliens are abducting humans. But for what reason? The Doctor hears tales of these kidnappings, and brings Ace along to find out why it is happening, where they are being taken, and who is responsible for doing it. The Doctor leaves Bernice behind to rescue them, in case something goes wrong, but what could possibly go wrong? Well, Ace and the Doctor go on a trip in a hyperspace liner, and sure enough, mid-trip, the bad guys show up and board the vessel. We see the crew and passengers, including our two intrepid heroes, captured by man-sized metal ants, and taken to some sort of processing plant. There they are put into cryogenic freeze, where they await some sinister form of knowledge-sucking, intelligence-draining, experimentations! The Doctor is repeatedly made the subject of these tests, yet he regularly escapes and confounds his captors, causing much bother in the meantime.

Review: So, these three storylines run separately for most of the book, and I was quite pleased with how it turned out. And I’m not saying this just because it is Ace’s swansong – she was one of the good parts! Her character ran its course quite suitably, and she leaves with no hard feelings for the Doctor, or her experiences. I do realise that is is not actually Ace I dislike, it is just the way she has been portrayed. I mean, Sophie Aldred was a pretty bad actress (don’t argue, just get your tapes out and review them, you’ll see…), so trying to make something on paper, out of what can only be described as crappy performances, is quite a feat. I won’t miss her at all, as I find Bernice to be a much more realistic person. (Who in the world goes around calling themselves “Ace”? It is quite sad, really…) […]

Doctor Who: Warlock

Doctor Who: WarlockOrder this bookStory: “Warlock”, to put it plainly, is a book about drugs, and the people who use them in the search for some form of enlightenment. The main drug used in theis novel is aptly named, “Warlock.” Its properties are quite complex, it enhances and intensifies the mindset of the user. It can take you within yourself, feeding your present emotional state. If you are filled with self-doubt, you become a snivelling groveller. If you are confident, it gives you a sense of power over it, and others. Now, as with most narcotics, the trouble comes when too much is used, causing your mind to wander, literally. As in, leave your body and move about. The Doctor, who has been resting up on Earth for about a year, ever since that last weak adventure in the inside-out planet (see “Parasite”), has taken interest in the strange aspects of this new drug. He plays a very minor role here, acting as the chess player again – moving his pieces around the board of human experience. Bernice is sent to infiltrate the workings of the “International Drug Enforcement Agency” (I.D.E.A), who are also showing an unusual amount of interest in this drug. And Ace is captured by a group of scientists running a drug experimentation lab, where they test drugs on animals for the pharmaceutical companies. These so-called “scientists” feed her a dose of Warlock 100 times greater than any street-level user could find or afford. This, of course, causes her mind to go walkabout, ending up in the body of a cat. A very unusual effect of a very unusual drug indeed…

Review: Now let me say this – there are quite a few disturbing parts to this book. The detailed and clinical descriptions of animal experimentation for one. Don’t get me wrong, I am no prude, but this was pretty graphic. As a cat lover, it ain’t that great to read about cats being tortured just because somebody is in a bad mood. And then the sex – well, not really sex, but various sexually themed accounts. You know, a breast here, a nipple there, some heavy breathing, and a painful abortion thrown in for good effect. It’s all go in “Warlock”. […]

Doctor Who: Parasite

Doctor Who: ParasiteOrder this bookStory: So this inside out planet, which is also shaped like a snail shell, is known as “the Artifact.” It is of great interest to many people, and there are always groups coming and going, studying, and otherwise theorizing on its origins. But, you see, all is not as it may seem inside this “Artifact,” as usual. One expedition living inside this planet has been killed, and another, arriving by spaceship, is sabotaged by – you guessed it – Unknown Forces! (There seem to be quite a few unknown forces in the Universe; please e-mail me if you come across any.) And so, just when all the weirdness begins, along comes the Doctor and company. Before any of them can tell what is going on, the TARDIS disappears (again!). Now we all know what is going to happen next: the separation. Yes, the Doctor goes off on his own to find the TARDIS, then gets this overwhelming feeling that he is being hunted. Bernice, who floats off by herself, befriends a once-human blob called Midnight that is confused about where he came from. And Ace…well, she seems to act more like the Doctor in this story. She uses reasoning instead of guns!

Review: Sadly, the true secret of this inside out planet is rather trite. I was hoping it wouldn’t turn out to be what I thought it would be, but I won’t say more to prevent me from getting egg all over my face…ahem. I suppose if you like long-winded descriptions of fantastical environments, and overused formulaic SF concepts, you’ll love “Parasite”. If you like Doctor Who, you’ll read this book anyway just to preserve continuity, and get you to the next book. Only a 5/10 by my scale, but don’t just listen to me – read it for yourself. […]

Doctor Who: Falls The Shadow

Doctor Who: Falls The ShadowOrder this bookStory: In a house called Shadowfell, Mysterious Forces abound. These forces cause the TARDIS to be redirected to the cellar of this old house, and relieve the machine of its power. So, our three heroes are forced to explore their surroundings, using that old fashioned plot expander: to seperate the three characters to allow more hjinks to prevail! Bernice is the first person to run into someone – a deranged lunatic locked in a basement room. He proceeds to give her quite a scare, as well as confusing her thoroughly. The Doctor and Ace, realising that Bernice is missing, decide to search for her by going upstairs, thus increasing the running-into-weirdoes factor to 10. The Doctor runs into a dottery old gardener, who has a green thumb for meat-eating orchids. And Ace of course runs headlong into trouble, fists a-swinging, meeting up with a man wearing a strange wooden mask. (Now if that isn’t creepy…)

Review: Just when you think all has gone awry, the author twists and turns you through the ever-changing rooms of the house, tormenting residents and readers alike. Also, the continued use of a dead companion in the furthering of the story is both unusual, and well done…Bernice is quite good in this role. Death becomes her! (Oh, how I wish it was Ace that died…) […]

Doctor Who: No Future

Doctor Who: No FutureOrder this bookStory: The Doctor, Benny and Ace, having survived a series of narrow escapes in incidents where time and history have changed around them, go under deep cover in 1976 London. The burgeoning punk rock movement, just as in the history that the Doctor and his companions remember, is spawning a movement toward anarchy. But unlike the time travelers’ memories, this time the push toward anarchy is all too real – a terrorist organization known as Black Star firebombs Big Ben, and Queen Elizabeth II narrowly escapes assassiantion. In the midst of all this, Benny has become the lead singer of a punk band called Plasticine, the Doctor broods over his inability to understand the changes in the timeline, let alone restore things to normal, and Ace seems to take anarchy to heart, routinely interfering in both the Doctor’s and Benny’s activities. Even U.N.I.T. has been somehow changed, and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart has the Doctor locked up in a cell. And in the background, another time traveler waits and schemes, planning to use a horrifyingly dangerous creature to further corrupt time and conquer Earth. He is a fellow Time Lord who is beating the Doctor at his own manipulative game.

Review: Though author Paul Cornell has decried “No Future” as his least favorite of his Doctor Who New Adventures, I have always found it very enjoyable, and for the record, I’d certainly place it at least a notch above “Oh No It Isn’t!” and possibly even “Happy Endings”, two of Cornell’s other books. […]

Doctor Who: Love and War

Doctor Who: Love and WarOrder this bookStory: The Doctor, having suddenly taken Ace to a funeral for one of her Perivale friends, takes her to the planet Heaven to recuperate as he goes on an abrupt quest to retrieve the Papers of Felsecar. Ace encounters a band of gypsy-like Travelers, some of whom hide extremely dark secrets; she begins to fall in love with Jan, their ringleader. During a group linkup to a virtual reality ‘puterspace mechanism, Christopher, the most mysterious of the Travelers, is apparently killed as his comrades see their first glimpse of an enemy who is closer than they think. The Doctor, growing increasingly aware of a grave threat to Heaven and everyone on it, meets archaeologist Bernice Summerfield, who currently holds the Papers of Felsecar. In the crucible of the growing danger is Ace, confused by her love for Jan and her intense loyalty to the Doctor, and determined to bring the two together. But by the time the Hoothi – an enormous, self-contained necrosphere consciousness who reanimate and absorb the dead – are finished with Heaven, Ace will have lost both Jan and the Doctor.

Review: Though I’m inclined to nominate Paul Cornell’s later novel Human Nature as the best of the Doctor Who novels, “Love And War” is a very close runner-up and was, in my opinion, the book which redefined and redirected the entire New Adventures series. Cornell proved that it was possible to tell a mature and intense story against the backdrop of Doctor Who’s sometimes whimsical and more science-fantasy-oriented millieu. The author excels at spinning a very dark horror story, capable of scaring the pants off of nearly anyone, while still ensuring that the characters at the heart of the story are recognizable as the Doctor and Ace as portrayed by Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred. […]

Doctor Who: Timewyrm: Revelation

Doctor Who: Timewyrm: RevelationOrder this bookStory: The Doctor and Ace brace themselves for their final confrontation with the time-manipulating Timewyrm, with whom they’ve done battle from the dawn of man to World War II and beyond. But the Timewyrm sets a subtle trap for them as its final gambit, luring them out onto the surface of the moon sans protective gear. Ace is left on the brink of death, forced to relive repeated encounters with Chad Boyle, a schoolyard bully who once tried to kill her as a show of playground superiority. The Timewyrm then hold the Doctor’s tormented companion hostage to ensure his cooperation – but she hasn’t anticipated that the Time Lord would receive help from a handful of strangers, including an out-of-place couple, a bewildered vicar, and a psychic entity living within the structure of a country church.

Review: For years, I kept away from any mention of “Timewyrm: Revelation”. The book simply did not appear on the bookshelves near my home in 1992, and I never got to find out how the Timewyrm cycle which kick-started the New Adventures novels came to an end. Not until ten years later.

Why so gung-ho about this one book, when I long ago sold or gave away much of the rest of my New Adventures books? For one thing, it’s by Paul Cornell, my favorite Doctor Who author, and not only that, but it’s his first Who novel and forms the first of a loosely-connected series of four such books. And by God, I stayed right away from the spoilers for ten years until I got to read it myself. […]