January 3rd, 2007

doctor who

January Books 1) The Eight Doctors

1) The Eight Doctors, by Terrance Dicks (.co.uk, .com)

This was the first of the BBC's series of Eighth Doctor books (the book-of-the-TV-film apparently being in a different category). I had read one of these before and was not madly impressed. Here, however, we are on comfortable ground; Terrance Dicks' record of writing more Doctor Who novels and novelisations than anyone else is unlikely to be surpassed any time soon.

Though it really ought to be called Doctor Who and the Heroic RetCons. Dicks uses the opportunity of creating a new fictional environment for the Eighth Doctor to try and iron out some of the grosser continuity problems left by both the Eighth Doctor TV film, and the Trial of a Time Lord (and also a wee bit of clearing up from The Five Doctors, which I think I must try and watch again soon). Sensibly, rather than pull all eight Doctors together (he had after all written The Five Doctors and was script editor for the programme at the time of The Three Doctors) he has the Eighth Doctor dropping in on his predecessors at various points of the programme's established timeline.

The most effective piece of writing in the book is a description of the Third Doctor chasing the Master across southern England after his escape from prison in The Sea Devils. The least convincing bit is actually the characterisation of the Eighth Doctor himself. Lance Parkin got this rather better in his Dying Days, the last of the Virgin New Adventures, the last before Peter Darvill-Evans and Rebecca Levene cruelly had the franchise removed from them; in Terrance Dicks's hands, he comes across as rather like the Third Doctor, but a little less arrogant. On a tangent, I was interested that Dicks chose to place the Fourth Doctor encounter with the Eighth in the world of his vampire story, State of Decay, and its novel sequel.

Anyway, the fun bits outnumber the embarrassing bits, just about. Certainly worth reading for a sense of where the BBC thought the Eight Doctor might lead them, and also for the heroic retconning. I still feel no desire whatever to catch up with the Trial of a Time Lord season.