Doctor Who: The Wintertime Paradox by Dave Rudden (book review)

Slightly late for Christmas but who’s counting? You’re not going anywhere soon, are you? ‘The Wintertime Paradox’ is an attractive hardback volume of 12 stories by Dave Rudden, author of ‘The Knights Of The Borrowed Dark Trilogy’ and previous ‘Doctor Who’ anthology, ‘Twelve Angels Weeping’. This new book is aimed at children with a rough guide to age being 8-12 but why let them have all the fun, I think you’ll find that ‘Doctor Who’ is inclusive and especially to old biddies like me.

The 12 stories have a festive theme-ish and appropriately enough they deal with many of the emotions that humans and some aliens have to cope with at this join between old and new year. The cracks in the facade of normal life break down when there is enforced jollity or time spent cooped up with loved ones.

  1. He’s Behind You’ sees the Tenth Doctor and Rose travel to see an amazing pantomime. It’s just two weeks since the Ninth sacrificed his rather lovely incarnation to save Rose after she imbibed the full power of the TARDIS. She’s still feeling bad and getting used to his new teeth and hair. He’s all about the fun and less of the Ninth’s angst. This panto promises to be a treat. It’s called ‘The Saga Of The Time Lords’ and the massive audience is well primed. It turns out that seeing Captain Jack in ‘Aladdin’ at the Birmingham Hippodrome would have been a wiser choice.
  2. Fall Of The Daleks. Christmas, a time for mistletoe and wine. If you want to poison someone certainly. It’s a time for forgiving to continue the Cliff Richard’s theme. The Doctor meets with Davros to discuss their differences. I’m pretty sure there is nothing about ‘time for destroying’ in those lyrics so they might need an update.
  3. Inflicting Christmas. The Twelth Doctor and Bill Potts visit an expo about science so he can show off a bit. Before you know it, the science is exhibiting some pretty dangerous signs.
  4. For The Girl Who Has Everything. It’s Christmas Eve on Section 314, the UNIT grey archive and Osgood is a month into her job. She’s ticked off with her sister who hasn’t bought any Christmas gifts and wants her advice. But there’s no shopping to be done as something sticky is coming out of the exhibits.
  5. Visiting Hours. All Rory wants is a quiet Christmas dinner with his daughter, Riversong. It’s complicated, Riversong appears much older than him and she has better qualifications. She’s also in a high security facility called Storm Cage after shooting the Doctor. After getting his visitors pass, he’s happy to bring all the trimmings but dinner as ever is far from quiet.
  6. We Will Feed You To The Trees. The Seventh Doctor has an encounter with a hungry forest. It looks like he’s on the menu for Christmas dinner.
  7. Christmas With The Plasmivores. Catherine is still grieving her mother and her dad is unable to function. The last thing they need is unexpected guests whose car has broken down. Of course, these are no ordinary visitors and if anyone says ‘what’s for dinner?’ there may be only one answer.
  8. A Girl Called Doubt. New recruit Doubt is eager to help the resistance. Their world is blasted and beaten by the cybermen who’ve moved on leaving their husks behind, to conquer and convert elsewhere. She’s feeling a little left out of the friendship group until a new threat is discovered.
  9. A Perfect Christmas. Madam Vastra is in search of perfection but the 48 page list won’t complete itself and there is the added complication of marauding alien cybernauts to sort out. It’s so 1885.
  10. Missing Habitas Frond. It’s not been a good day for Habitas Frond. He’s been sacked from the police force and then he meets Missy on a train and she’s bored. Things can only get worse. Just what is he missing?
  11. A Day To Ourselves. The TARDIS can be a lonely place especially at Christmas. The Doctor needs someone or something to save but it is not to be. Someone is trying to send him a message.
  12. The Paradox Moon. The arrival of an unexpected moon that blinds the Shadow Proclamation and the Thirteenth Doctor in the Shadow Architect’s office at the same time might be considered a coincidence. We all know there’s no such thing. A final story to draw the strings of the arc running through some of the previous stories.

With only twelve stories that that are necessarily lean in words, it’s impressive that they manage to encompass the excitement and adventures of ‘Doctor Who’. There is a running theme of December, sometimes Christmas and another arc that feeds some of the stories giving a nice sense of completion in story 12. There’s no sense of pressure with the arc but it does mean you need to read the set to get the full impact. But you would anyway. Short stories are not used enough but they can be powerful and affecting without overstaying their welcome. Each story has a little sting within it and a can help deal with complex emotions. That’s a hefty task for an anthology but this trips delicately through grief, loneliness, love and compassion and the stories deliver, too.

Sue Davies

February 2021

(pub: BBC Children’s Books, 2020. 448 page hardback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-40594-610-0)

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