May 24th, 2018


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Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor, by Steven Moffat

Second paragraph of third chapter (numbered Chapter 1):
‘He’s here,’ I said, keeping tight rein on the panic levels in my voice. ‘I can hear him, moving about. He’s in Time Vault Zero. The Doctor is in Time Vault Zero.’
Second paragraph of seventh chapter (numbered Chapter 3):
I am writing this account so that perhaps, finally, I can leave it behind.
Steven Moffat is, oddly enough, the one writer of the four new novelisations who had not previously written a Doctor Who novel. Yep, his previous written Who prose, despite his being the show-runner for the whole of the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor eras, and having generated screenplay for more Doctors than any other writer (even if you don't count the extra five in The Curse of Fatal Death), amounts to only a few short stories, starting with "Continuity Errors" in the 1996 collection Decalog 3: Consequences, and going on to "What I Did In My Christmas Holidays - By Sally Sparrow", the short story from the 2006 Annual that became the TV episode Blink.

Of course, I really enjoyed the 2013 50th anniversary special, which in retrospect we now see as a last salute to the Tennant era from almost the end of the Smith era. And I am glad to report that this is by far the best of the four new Doctor Who novels published last month. Moffat has veered further from the script than any of the other writers; the chapters are told by alternating narrators, in non-sequential numbers, interspersed with reports from other characters (Chapter Nine, significantly, is missing); the basics of the storyline (starting with the Eighth Doctor's regeneration, and ending with the Curator) remain the same, but the transmission to the printed page has been done in a very different way. And there are some lovely shout-outs to odd bits of continuity - Peter Cushing's Doctor is canonicalised; there is a desperate attempt to explain the black and white era. In general, it's just good fun, and it feels like the process of writing the book was much more enjoyable for the author than was notoriously the case with the ofiginal script. If you are a Who fan, you should get it here.