About the Author:
Stephen Cole worked as an editor and, in the late 1990s, began looking after the BBC's range of Doctor Who novels, videos and audiobooks before going into writing full-time. He has a wife, Jill, and a son, Tobey.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3.2 out of 5
Doctor Who: Combat Magicks
An original adventure featuring the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions Ryan, Yaz and Graham. Arriving in Gaul in 451 AD the Doctor and her friends find themselves caught between the armies of the Roman Empire and Attila the Hun. Soon, however, it becomes apparent that a far worse danger is looming in the form of the Tenctrama; mysterious witches who are playing both sides against each other in order to escalate the carnage and add to their army of reanimated dead.
The problem with this book is that alien witches meddling in Earth's history has been done at least twice in the Doctor's onscreen adventures. First there was the Carrionites, but far more detrimental to this book is episode of Series 11 where this exact incarnation of the TARDIS crew face off against horrifying witches who are raising corpses for their own ends. Given when this book came out (during Series 11), Cole couldn't have known just how similar elements of the two stories would be, but it definitely makes this book feel less fresh and original than it otherwise might have.
On top of the witch problem, the historical elements of this book just didn't quite hit the mark either. I felt that not enough time was spent setting up the historical facts of the time or the backgrounds of the major real-life characters. It leaves you feeling like these are new characters in a vaguely historical setting, which feels like a missed trick when one of the main characters is none other than Attila the Hun himself.
Despite these problems, this isn't a bad book, but it's not a good one either; it's just a perfectly functional but unremarkable Doctor Who story. I feel it is worth giving a special mention to the Legion of Smoke, however. They're sort of the Roman Empire's version of Torchwood and I liked the fact that the Doctor's previous visits to the Empire have not gone unnoticed (I particularly liked the reference to 'The Fires of Pompeii', which is an episode I've always loved).
3 out of 5
Doctor Who: Sting Of The Zygons
In 1909 a mysterious beast terrorises the Lake District, leading the Tenth Doctor (the David Tennant version) and his companion Martha Jones into a mystery which brings them face to face with an enemy from the Doctor's past; the vicious shape-changing Zygons. This book serves as a follow up to a classic Doctor Who story in which the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) confronted the Zygons at Loch Ness, but the alien monsters will probably be more familiar to modern readers as having featured in the 50th Anniversary Special 'Day of the Doctor'.
The story here looked to be going in a slightly more complex direction, with the Zygons seemingly the victims of an unknown party, but I have to admit that the way things eventually turn out was a bit of a disappointment. However, the plot of deadly aliens invading the Earth is tried and tested Who territory and here it blends in a bit of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' for good measure. Cole does a great job of expressing the delicate balance within the Doctor of enthusiastic child and ruthless ancient and his portrayal of Martha was spot on too.
I think perhaps the best endorsement I can give this book is that while it may not be the most complex novel ever, I can't help but feel that it would have made for an excellent episode of the TV series. Who could ask for more than that? (Do you see what I did there?)
4 out of 5
Doctor Who: The Art Of Destruction
The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose Tyler travel to 22nd Century Africa in this original adventure. There they discover that something alien is at work in the tunnels beneath a dormant volcano and soon become caught in the middle of an ancient interstellar war.
This is a slightly odd book to review really. I found it to be a perfectly enjoyable adventure for Rose and the Doctor but at the same time I can't honestly say that there was anything in particular I liked about it. It's like one of those filler episodes in the TV series which aren't bad but also don't come close to the impact of the best episodes.
I guess I will simply say that this book was fine and any Who fan should find it fairly enjoyable.
3 out of 5
Doctor Who: The Feast Of The Drowned
An original story featuring the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose Tyler. When Rose returns home she has to console her friend Keisha, whose brother was killed on a Navy cruiser was mysteriously sunk in the North Sea. When that brother appears to them, however, the Doctor realises that there is something sinister going on in the Thames, where the remains of the cruiser have been taken to a secret facility.
Here Cole does a great job of writing a story where the word 'creepy' is constantly the best way of describing it. From the ghostly apparitions, to the people drowning themselves in the Thames and to the creatures that are ultimately behind everything, this book is definitely one to send a shiver up your spine.
Rose and Mickey are well written here and, with the addition of Keisha, we actually get to see a new aspect of their relationship. There are a few other interesting new characters too, including the scientists Vida and Huntley.
Really the only problem I had with this book was that the depiction of the Doctor somehow didn't ring true for me. I did wonder if it's simply that just recently I've been re-watching Matt Smith's stint as the Time Lord and that's why I couldn't tune into the Tennant version here, but I also recently read a Second Doctor novel and has no problem picturing Patrick Troughton when I did. Perhaps it's because this book was released very early in Tennant's tenure and the Tenth Doctor's unique style hadn't quite solidified at that point.
3 out of 5
Doctor Who: The Monsters Inside
An original adventure featuring Christopher Ecclestone's Ninth Doctor and Rose. Arriving on an alien world, the Doctor and Rose are immediately arrested and separated, soon discovering that the Justicia system is one big prison. It rapidly becomes apparent that sinister forces are moving within the prisons of Justicia as guards and prisoners mysteriously disappear.
I've never been a fan of imprisonment storylines, so I was dubious about this book to begin with, but Cole doesn't fall into the trap of having things become too boring and repetetive; keeping the pace moving along nicely.
I also have to say that I was surprised and pleased by the return of some familiar monsters from the TV series. Usually with the Doctor Who books, if there's a familiar villain (Daleks, Cybermen, etcetera) they're plastered all over the cover to bump up its saleability. Here, however, it took me totally by surprise and whilst the aliens in question were never a favourite of mine, I enjoyed sharing the Doctor and Rose's feelings of Oh, it's you!.
Unfortunately, the strong and intriguing start to this book gets a bit lost once the true villains of the piece are revealed. From there on out it just doesn't have the same drive to keep you reading and, despite the increase in the characters running for their lives, the book starts to stall in terms of its pacing. The ending wasn't as strong as I'd hoped for either, leaving you feeling like the early promise of the book fizzled out later on.
3 out of 5