|11 DOCTORS 11 STORIES
Eoin Colfer (www.eoincolfer.com)
Puffin Books (www.puffinbooks.com)
On 23rd November 1963, the BBC introduced the Doctor to the world. In the intervening fifty years, we have been excited, frightened and entertained by the adventures of this "mad man in a blue box" in no less than eleven different guises. To celebrate the golden jubilee of this timeless creation, eleven of the finest writers of Young Adult fiction in the world took one regeneration each, and crafted a short story for that Doctor. Originally published as a series of short ebooks, the eleven stories have now been collected into a beautiful trade-paperback edition by Puffin Books and released just in time for the 50th anniversary celebrations.
Presented in chronological order, the stories pit the Doctor, and a host of companions, both new and old, against the expected universe of evil aliens, some of whom fans have met before, others new to the Whoniverse (I’m never quite sure whether than relates to Doctor Who or the works of Doctor Seuss). William Hartnell’s First Doctor finds himself battling child-stealing soul pirates, the adventure influencing one of the most enduring tales for children to be written in the early 20th Century (Eoin Colfer’s “A Big Hand for the Doctor”); Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor goes up against the Lovecraftian Archons (Michael Scott’s “The Nameless City”); Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh finds himself on an unrecognisable Skaro, on an alternate timeline where Daleks form the cultural and scientific heart of the universe (Malorie Blackman’s “The Ripple Effect”); while Matt Smith’s Eleventh finds himself doing battle with the Kin, a time-travelling alien bent on destroying the Doctor’s pet planet, Earth (Neil Gaiman’s “Nothing O’Clock”).
The stories are uniformly excellent, well-researched and written with an eye to detail obviously designed to please the fans. Each Doctor comes alive at the pen of their respective author, and each author manages to isolate the unique characteristics of their specific Doctor and build a story that will appeal to fans of all ages. Along with the Doctors we meet many of the characters we love so much from the TV series; the Master (in his Roger Delgado guise) puts in a brief appearance in the Second Doctor story, while the Rani plays the role of central villain to Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor. Fifty years of television and eleven regenerations of the central character provides a huge cast of companions on which the authors can draw. In most instances, the companion of choice will come as no surprise: Susan for the First; Jo Grant for the Third; Ace for the Seventh; Amy Pond for the Eleventh. There are two, though, conspicuous by their absence from the book. Sarah Jane Smith is noticeably absent from the Fourth Doctor story, in favour of Leela, while Rose Tyler is absent from both the Ninth and Tenth Doctors’ stories. They seem like odd omissions, but the book doesn’t suffer from their absence.
While uniformly excellent, there are always going to be stories that stand out from the others. Eoin Colfer’s First Doctor story has a clever twist in the tale that will have the reader re-examining the tale for a second time with fresh eyes; Richelle Mead’s tale of the Sixth Doctor (“Something Borrowed”) is told in the first person by companion Peri Brown and pits him against fellow Time Lord, the Rani; Malorie Blackman’s Seventh Doctor story contains, probably, the weakest characterisation of the Doctor (which is a shame, since Sylvester McCoy was always "my Doctor"), but the story is well-told and shows a much darker side of the Doctor than we like to remember; Neil Gaiman’s closing story, with the Eleventh Doctor at the helm, is no less than we’ve come to expect from this excellent writer, and stands alongside his TV episodes, "The Doctor’s Wife" and "Nightmare in Silver" as one of the finest Eleventh Doctor stories you’ll find anywhere.
There is plenty here to please fans both young and old – and, for that matter, new and old – in a collection of stories that shows why the Doctor is such an enduring character. Always fresh, even when facing the same old foe, the Doctor, in whichever of his guises we meet him, and that faithful, iconic old police box that is so much bigger on the inside, are as much a joy on paper as they are onscreen. Thrilling, funny and as clever as we’ve come to expect from one of the finest shows to grace British television in the past fifty years, this is a collection not to be missed, an absolute must for fans of everyone’s favourite Time Lord and a wonderful way to celebrate the anniversary.