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Doctor Who: Star Tales (book review).

May 22, 2020 | By | Reply More

‘Star Tales’ from BBC Books is a series of stories from different writers based on the current Whittaker Doctor. Sometimes it’s just the time for a short story and this is that time. Each one feels like a high-cost episode of the show.

Chasing The Dawn by Jenny T Colgan. The Doctor encounters Amelia Earhart on her last flight. Events here might explain her disappearance and introduce a role model adventurer to younger readers.

That’s Alright Mamma by Paul Magrs. There are a succession of Doctors who manage to get themselves in a tangle when they encounter a young Elvis Presley. His devotion to his mother is a critical point in the story which also covers bullying for being different. This is another relatable theme as is poverty and aspiration. In this reality, Elvis lives past his allotted 42 years and the Doctor realises she’s created a problem through kindness.

Einstein And The Doctor by Jo Cotterill. The Doctor takes the companions to meet Albert Einstein. But there’s something wrong in Berne, where they find the children are sleeping. They won’t wake up and their families seek sanctuary in the church as the nightmares are made real. Somehow, it all leads back to Albert. He’s a man with such a large brain that he could start to comprehend how the universe works and something of a match for the Doctor.

Who-dini by Steve Cole. Dorothy Smith is starstruck. She travels with Harry Houdini, one of the greatest living escapologists. But Dorothy senses something hidden, some real magic at the heart of the Houdinis. She seeks out Billy, another performer, for reassurance. Then the Doctor arrives, bringing her own magic and sleight of hand.

The Pythagoras Problem by Trevor Baxendale. More earthbound adventure as the Doctor goes to Ancient Greece. Possibly a good thing that this isn’t visual as we are treated to Graham in a toga and sandals. The Doctor seems convinced she needs to give a pair of sunglasses back to Pythagoras. He’s in a bad way and, meanwhile, Graham gets a taste of times-space wobbles.

Mission Of The Kaadok by Mike Tucker. Finally, The Doctor catches up with Audrey Hepburn in an effort to get those sunglasses back to the right person. In doing so, she encounters a strange collector and sets her team on a clean-up mission. It’s 1961 and nobody has time for breakfast at Tiffany’s.

These are light-hearted stories with no real sense of danger. They are aimed at a younger age group but they might need some of the historical figures explained. They are nice, quirky stories seemingly a vehicle for some history.

‘Star Tales’ here refers to this exceptional humans who we remember for their achievements so there’s no travelling off-world here, although there are some alien encounters. There is no character development which is not surprising because the writers are bound by the terms of the contract not to do anything too dramatic to any of the leading characters within the TV series and it’s aimed at younger ages than me so it’s kept within simple boundaries. They’ve also kept it to historical characters that are easy to research on that well-known wiki and it might prove to be interesting to slightly younger readers.

The cover notes are very explicit about this theme so don’t feel short-changed if you’re expecting anything different. The writers are very able and playful with the subject whilst managing to incorporate nice little human touches alongside the Doctor’s alien nature. It’s ground-breaking for ‘Doctor Who’ as I don’t believe they’ve ever offered period advice to one of their companions. I applaud this for bringing some normalcy and acknowledgment of real life and for acknowledging that chocolate always helps.

Sue Davies

May 2020

(pub: BBC Books/Ebury, 2019. 244 page hardback. Price: £12.99 (UK), $16.99 (US), $27.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78594-471-0)

check out website: www.eburypublishing.co.uk

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Category: Books, Doctor Who

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