Book Review: The Eight Doctors by Terrance Dicks

Title: The Eight Doctors
Author: Terrance Dicks
Genre: Science fiction (Doctor Who)
Format: E-book, also available in paperback from Amazon
Date Read: 24/11/2013 – 18/12/2013
Rating: ★★

Review:

Eight_doctors_coverIt is no secret that I love Doctor Who.  And the summary for this book on Wikipedia made it sound awesome! But… well, it wasn’t. I described it to people on more than one occasion as “a sequel to the 1996 movie and of about the same quality”. I started reading it at the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary event in London while I was queuing to get into one of the theatre shows, and then sort of felt like I had to finish it just to see where it went.

The book does pick up where the 1996 movie starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor leaves off. The Master has left one last trap waiting for the Doctor in his TARDIS, and it causes the Doctor to lose all his memories. The Doctor then travels through his own timeline, meeting his former selves. They are able to top his memories up to their own point in time, and meanwhile he assists with whatever predicament the past Doctor is in at that moment.

The thing was, though, that many of the adventures that the Eighth Doctor appeared in the middle of were ones that any fan of classic Doctor Who has probably seen, and while the book extended them beyond what happened in the episodes,  I still felt like I was reading descriptions of things I’d watched before. This issue was exacerbated by the fact that Dicks is clearly a better screenwriter than novelist; while in a TV script you can say things like “Character X feels smug after that incredibly sexist comment” (almost a direct quote,  though I’m going from memory, so probably not quite), simply stating this as part of the story felt odd to me.

I did enjoy the several chapters based around the Sixth Doctor serial “Trial of a Time Lord”, as they added a whole other level to the original story, but in most cases, the additions just felt like a bit of a fanfiction-y sequel (not to diss all fanfiction; there is definitely some amazing fic out there) without much effort having been out in. It wasn’t clear exactly how wiping the Doctor’s memories benefited the Master, and the new companion introduced in the novel had no effect on the plot whatsoever.  In fact, she only appeared in the first and last chapters and it felt like she was only there because Terrance Dicks was told he needed to introduce her.

I know there are plenty of good Doctor Who novels out there; I’ve read a few before. I’m clearly just going to have to be a bit more discerning in future and not assume that a multi-Doctor adventure equally means an awesome one.

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