Doctor Who: The Fires Of Pompeii by James Moran (book review).

A day out for the Doctor and Donna sees them arriving just as everything is kicking off in Pompeii. It’s 79AD  and the day won’t end well for the residents of the town where a massive eruption is due any time.

The Doctor is at pains to tell Donna that this is a fixed point in history and he cannot intervene. Donna is upset and questions this. The use of a fixed point in time became quite popular in the series but we all know that the Doctor is never one to stand around. Before long they are in deep with a local family and soon discover this is no simple eruption.

This could have potentially been a historical episode in the old days of the First Doctor. Those days are gone and this goes full alien with something wicked definitely breaking out of the volcano. Of course, this is the get out clause so the Doctor can intervene, as if he wouldn’t anyway. The family dynamic is familiar to anyone who has brought up teenagers and the lively dialogue between Donna and the Doctor makes me pine for those days.

This novel, based on the episode in the TV series, has been adapted by the original writer, James Moran, and he takes the opportunity to fill in some information that is much harder within the confines of a screenplay. That episode was memorable in other ways as the Doctor meets the face of the future Doctor as Caecilius played by Peter Capaldi. A Soothsayer is also played by a certain Karen Gillan.

This is a fun short read for younger audience and feels fresh. The monsters are really monsters and it gets around the issue of not being able to save everyone. The power of Donna is great in this one as she stands up for humans. The feeling of helplessness as destruction rains down is a sharp reminder of how powerless we all feel against huge events. The ending is a reminder that we should never give up and even if one person survives it’s a triumph against the darkness.

Sue Davies

January 2023

(pub: BBC Books, 2022. 192 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78594-779-7)

check out website: https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/453325/doctor-who-the-fires-of-pompeii-by-moran-james/9781529197761

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