About the Author:
Mark Gatiss is an actor and writer, whose work includes The League of Gentlemen, Sherlock and Doctor Who.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
4 out of 5
Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror
The novelisation of Gatiss' own script for an episode featuring Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor and his companions Clara, Vastra, Jenny and Strax. The Victorian detectives of the Paternoster Gang team up with the Doctor to solve two cases, the first of which features a series of grim decapitations and the second of which sees the wicked Mrs Gillyflower plotting to overthrow the world order from within Sweetville, a perfect town with a dark secret.
I'm a big fan of the Paternoster Gang, especially Strax; with their odd camaraderie, their humorous bent and their Victorian aesthetic, they're just thoroughly enjoyable characters to operate alongside the Doctor. I therefore was pleased by Gatiss' decision to tell this story largely from Jenny's perspective (with a few combat reports from Strax too) and in her Cockney housemaid vernacular, giving this book a unique feel in keeping with its setting.
Whilst the events of the main story unfold more or less identically to those seen onscreen, almost the entire first half of this book is taken up by a separate (albeit linked) and entirely new adventure for the main players. This means that even those very familiar with the televised version of the story will find a lot here that's brand new, which is a novel and appreciated approach to a novelisation.
There's plenty of Gatiss' wry humour on offer here too, not least in his parody Victorian version of Britain's Got Talent. In fact, with the humour, the Gothic sensibilities and the Victorian setting, this book has Gatiss' distinctive style woven throughout it. Personally, I'm a fan of his writing, so that's just fine by me.
4 out of 5
Doctor Who: The Roundheads
A Past Doctor Adventure starring the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and his companions Ben, Polly and Jamie. The TARDIS arrives in London in 1648, amid the fiercely divided atmosphere of the English Civil War, and the Doctor and his friends soon find themselves caught in the political struggle between King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell. The Doctor and Jamie find themselves amidst Cromwell's inner circle, whilst Polly is ensnared in a Royalist scheme to free the imprisoned King. Meanwhile Ben is pressganged onto a ship bound for Amsterdam and discovers a plot that could decide England's fate once and for all.
I have to admit that I was wary going into this book because I've never been a particular fan of Doctor Who's so-called 'pure historicals', which is to say stories that have no alien or science fiction elements to them beyond the Time Lord and his companions themselves. Despite my concerns, however, Gatiss writes an easily-flowing and compelling tale which draws on an obvious personal interest in this tumultuous period of British history. Most (possibly all) of the supporting characters are real historical figures and Gatiss manages to nicely convey their roles in the history whilst also making them feel like fleshed-out characters in and of themselves.
Also, by splitting the TARDIS travellers up the way he does, the author manages to give us a nice overview of the conflict from all sides. Gatiss is also careful not to pass judgement on the historical players, allowing each and every one to feel justified in their actions, as I'm sure they truly felt in real-life.
Where the author missteps slightly, however, is in focusing the story so tightly on the fates of Cromwell and Charles I. Whereas if this had simply been a story set amid the backdrop of the English Civil War it could've been ultimately unpredictable, by having it be about the main historical players of the time it means that anyone with a passing knowledge of history will know how it turns out. That was the one thing that held me back from enjoying this book much more; knowing from the beginning whose head is for the chop and whose arse (boil and all) is bound for the throne.
4 out of 5