Doctor Who: The Target Storybook (book review).

October 25, 2019 | By | Reply More

Just the thing, another book to remind us we have no ‘Doctor Who’ on our screens. It’s bleak out there and with the new Doctor barely established, it feels like a massive misstep to leave it so long. After all, fans have other options. But, hey, a book that covers all thirteen incarnations plus the War Doctor. The last story is set during the last series but does not directly feature the Doctor.

All of the stories share a common starting point. They all either fall between stories we’ve seen on the TV or foreshadow a story. There will be recognition of all of them if you’re a super-fan but probably enough hints for even the casual reader to pick up how these tales are inserted into the known canon.

With such a variety of stories, I’d like to pick out a couple of favourites that ring my bell. One point to note is that the editor of these stories doesn’t get a name check. Perhaps it was done by bots.

‘Gatecrashers’ is written by Joy Wilkinson, writer of TV story ‘The Witchfinders’. This is an exhilarating ride with the new Doctor and her team. It seems to sum up the new approach and makes good use of the four people, coming up with an interesting and even thought-provoking plot. You may feel differently about your on-line pizza company and think twice about what’s behind the shopping mall.

‘Decoy’ by George Mann sits within the Time War where the War Doctor seeks ways to reduce the massive loss of life. It brings the John Hurt Doctor vividly to life. This is a sharply observed take on the consequences of war, contextualising his responses in ‘The Day Of The Doctor’.

‘Save Yourself’ is written by the late great Terrance Dicks, surely at the very beating hearts of the Doctor. Its set as Troughton’s Doctor awaits sentencing after the events of ‘The War Games’. It seems the Time Lords have devised a cruel and unusual punishment for the free-spirited Doctor.

‘The Turning Of The Tide’ is written by long time ‘Doctor Who’ writer Jenny T Colgan. Cleverly picking up the story of Rose and her consolation prize of the cloned Doctor after ‘Journey’s End’, we find that real life without time travel is hard.

Other standout stories are ‘Pain Management’ by Beverly Sanford where Missy gets an outing and ‘Grounded’ by Una McCormack which brings us the alien chasing Clive seen through the eyes of his son, Ben.

Each story has its own highlight, a moment of remembering why ‘Doctor Who’ draws people in. Central to everything are the ideas, compelling narrative and a little moment of recognising where these stories come from. Some may be obscure references to the younger reader which I’m assuming this collection is aimed at. They might be disappointed the stories are not about the current era Doctor. It’s an enjoyable collection but no substitute for the blank screens this year.

Sue Davis

October 2019

(pub: BBC Books/Ebury Publishing/Random House, 2019. 424 page hardback. Price: £16.99 (UK), $32.99 (US), $35.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78594-474-1)

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Category: Books, Doctor Who

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