6) The Monsters Inside, by Stephen Cole
In the old days, when I were a lad, the only Doctor Who novels available were the versions of broadcast stories published by Target (and mostly written by Terrance Dicks). Spinoff fiction was the preserve of fanzines and of the comic strips in Doctor Who Monthly. (Some of which were excellent - drawn by the likes of Alan Moore.) In the mid-1980s Target published two spinoff novels featuring the Doctor's companions, and three unbroadcast stories (which had been scheduled but cancelled) were published as novels in 1990.
But the real breakthrough came in 1991 when Virgin got the licence to produce new Doctor Who fiction, under the guidance of, among others, my old friend from college Rebecca Levene. Sixty new adventures featuring the Seventh Doctor were published until the licence reverted to the BBC in 1997 due to the arrival of the Eighth Doctor (though they got one last novel out featuring the latter, and also more than thirty featuring previous Doctors, the Missing Adventures, the first of which was written by the lovely paulcornell2, plus a few volumes of short stories).
There was, of course, only one broadcast story featuring the Eighth Doctor. It was novelised by Gary Russell and published by the BBC (before Virgin's licence had expired), and then followed by more than seventy Eighth Doctor Adventures (and the BBC kept up also the Virgin concept of past doctor adventures and short story collections, the latter now published by Big Finish). As I read them and write them up here I've tagged the unbroadcast stories as dw spinoff fiction, whereas novelisations (only one at the moment but more to come soon) are, oddly enough, dw novelisation.
Apparently there are no plans to publish novel versions of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors' broadcast adventures. I can understand why not. Back in the old days, very few people had video recorders, the DVD had not been invented, and so apart from your memory of having watched it first time round, your only way of renewing acquaintance with the programme was to buy and read and re-read the Target novelisation. Now, we all have DVDs with commentaries and extras, we can buy the shooting scripts, there is no obvious need to have them available in a different format.
So the BBC decided last year to publish original fiction featuring Nine and Ten, and I have read the first two this week. Neither is exactly brilliant literature (and of course they have completely dropped the more adult themes introduced by Virgin), but they are not total mind-candy either.
The Clockwise Man by Justin Richards has Nine and Rose visiting London in 1924, encountering clockwork robots reminiscent of those that Ten meets in "The Girl in the Fireplace", having adventures around Big Ben not awfully dissimilar from "The Empty Child". At first I thought it was going to be fairly close to my day job, as the plot looked like it might be about an anti-communist revolution in a small eastern European country. However, we veered into the realms of sf fairly rapidly. (And some major implausibilities about the rightful heir to the throne of Russia and haemophilia.)
We've been re-watching Eccleston's episodes over the last week or so, and his characterisation of the Ninth Doctor is very memorable indeed. Richards, unfortunately, doesn't really carry it through to the page here, and the book could practically have been written with any Doctor-plus-female-companion combination. Also, the title doesn't really make sense; as mentioned above, we get a fair bit of clockwork in the book, but not much about directions of rotation, clockwise or anti-.
The Monsters Inside, by Stephen Cole, is a different matter. Perhaps the author was closer to the production process (I assume that the two books were written well before the first episode of the new Who was broadcast). He catches the Ninth Doctor/Rose banter, I think, very well:
It wasn’t Earth. She was, officially, Somewhere Else.The monsters of the title are the Slitheen, from "The Aliens of London" and "World War Three" (the internal chronology suggests that this is set before "Boom Town"); their back-story as a species is filled out rather nicely, with some uncertainty as to whether they are allies or enemies. The last word of the title refers not to complex explorations of Inner Space, but to the interplanetary jail in which the Doctor and Rose end up. The descriptions of setting and incidental characters are good. Sadly the actual scientific bit of the plot (the local solar system being sneakily remodelled for sinister criminal purposes) makes no sense at all, but you can't have everything.
‘Another world. . . ’ Rose closed her eyes, opened her arms and leaned out a little. She felt giddy for a moment as a gentle breeze blew up and ruffled her long blonde hair about her shoulders.
‘You did it, then,’ she called to the man who’d brought her here.
‘Huh?’ He sounded preoccupied. ‘Oh, yeah, right. The alien planet thing.’
‘And about time. We’ve done space stations. . . space-ships. . . ’
‘We’ve done your planet so often we should get T-shirts made up.’
Rose heard him crossing to join her and smiled to herself.
‘What, you mean, like, I saved the Earth and all I got was –’
Anyway, I will not expend huge resources of time and money looking for the books in this series, but I'll certainly pick them up if I get the chance.