AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
4 out of 5
Doctor Who: The Eyeless
An original adventure featuring David Tennant's Tenth Doctor during his solo travels (amid the Specials between Series 4 and 5). The Doctor arrives in the ruined city of Arcopolis with the intention of entering the Fortress which destroyed the city and putting an end to the ultimate weapon housed inside. However, his straightforward plan is complicated by the discovery of a community of survivors amid the ruins of Arcopolis, as well as the arrival of the Eyeless, an alien race which also has designs on the Fortress.
It has to be said that the Fortress and the 'ultimate weapon' are both pretty much just MacGuffins, with a surprisingly minimal amount of time dedicated to where they came from, what they are and, finally, how the Doctor disposes of them. The Doctor also keeps asserting that he's the only person in the universe who can solve the problem, but the book never really justifies that assertion and it comes over as hubris on the part of the Doctor. That wouldn't be a bad thing if it was treated as a story element, but instead it's just presented at face value.
Don't be discouraged, however. The Eyeless turn out to be a brilliantly alien creation, for starters. All too often the antagonists in Who stories are aliens but who more or less act and think exactly like humans, but here Parkin introduces us to an alien race whose motivations and culture are distinctly non-human. The author presents them as somewhat sympathetic POV characters, but also has them murdering someone just to psychically experience her fear and pain as part of their quest to explore all the aspects of the universe. Curiosity without compassion. It makes them very interesting and disturbing enemies for the Doctor.
Another great element is that for the human villain of the piece Parkin settles upon a thirteen year old girl. She's very bright but filled with such rage and frustration that she genuinely makes quite a good antagonist, forcing the Doctor to balance on the knife edge of compassion for a desperate child and the need to ruthlessly thwart her intentions for the weapon at the heart of the Fortress. I was a little disappointed by how their conflict was resolved, but in truth it couldn't have gone any other way and still have the Doctor be who he is.
Speaking of which, this book's best element is Parkin's spot-on characterisation of Tennant's iconic and popular Doctor. In particular, the author has managed to nicely capture the slightly damaged version of character following the departure of Donna. There's a lonely melancholy to him and a dangerousness that makes it all the better when his charm and wit do break through, almost despite himself.
4 out of 5
The New Adventures: The Dying Days
The sixty-first and last book of The New Doctor Who Adventures (they'd even already dropped 'Doctor Who' from the title) and the only one to feature the Eighth Doctor, as played by Paul McGann. Time-travelling archaeologist Bernice Summerfield is reunited with the Doctor in 1997, only to find that he has regenerated into an unfamiliar and younger-looking incarnation. Soon they are thrust into action together again, however, when it becomes clear that traitorous elements of the British government have launched a conspiracy which paves the way for the country to be invaded by the Ice Warriors of Mars. With help from Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and UNIT, the Doctor and Benny have to figure out a way to free Britain from alien occupation.
A bit of history first: during the years that Doctor Who was off the air, Virgin Publishing kept the fanbase engaged with their licenced novels, in particular The New Doctor Who Adventures. When the 1996 TV movie came along the BBC took it as their chance to reclaim the licence and get that sweet publishing dollar for themselves and unceremoniously pulled the rug out from under Virgin. This book then marks the transition point in the franchise, the crossover between the new incarnation of the Doctor and the departing publisher. Virgin would go on to continue The New Adventures, however, but with no licenced elements and Bernice Summerfield as the main character. Because of how and when it was published, this book had only a short print run and is now relatively rare (which is why you can expect to pay big money for a copy online).
But, on to the review! Knowing all of that about this book's publishing history, I was somewhat surprised to find it to be a thoroughly enjoyable Who story which is, mostly, capable of standing alone. Sure, you'd have to know that Benny travelled with the Seventh Doctor, I suppose, but beyond that all the associated New Adventures lore is just referenced for those in the know and is not integral to the plot. I have to say that I also loved seeing the Brigadier back in action, turning up in Bessie to bring a smile to the faces of long-time fans.
What struck me most reading this book was just how much it felt like so-called New Who, capturing the spirit of dynamism and adventure of the modern era TV series eight years before that series debuted. The Doctor too feels like the recent incarnations, without the sometimes ruthless scheming which was a big part of the Seventh's nature; instead being the compassionate, excitable and improvisational type of Doctor recent fans will be familiar with. There's a brilliant bit where he confronts the Ice Warriors with a brief speech that begins with "I'm the man who gives monsters nightmares." and ends with "I... Am... The Doctor!".
Just all round good Doctor Who. And, honestly, I do have a real soft-spot for McGann's Doctor, whose time was over all too briefly.
4 out of 5