The Cosmic Hobo

Thoughts & reviews about the science fiction series Doctor Who.

Archive for the tag “william hartnell”

Book Review: Ten Little Aliens by Stephen Cole

Doctor Who Ten Little AliensMilitary science fiction is not a sub-genre generally associated with Doctor Who, so Ten Little Aliens was a surprising choice to represent the First Doctor in the 50th Anniversary line of novel reprints. Stephen Cole is a well-established writer of tie-ins, though, and was once in charge of the entire line. Naturally, all of the writers represented by the reprints have written more than a few novels for Doctor Who.

In the new introduction in the reprinted edition, Cole describes his initial pitch for Ten Littlie Aliens as “Starship Troopers meets Agatha Christie.” It is important not to let the fact that Starship Troopers is one of the most overrated novels in the sci-fi canon make you think Ten Little Aliens isn’t worth reading. It has some early struggles, as the pacing is a bit slow and the huge supporting cast makes it difficult to keep track of everyone, but it hits its stride around a third of the way in.

The novel features the First Doctor traveling with Ben and Polly, a pair of companions that is unfortunately the victim of so many episodes being missing. In the fact, “The War Machines” is the only serial they appear in that is still in existence, and it isn’t a particularly good one. This makes tie-ins like Ten Little Aliens all the more important in getting more out of these characters. Ben is as annoying here as he is on the show, and Polly is likable and spunky as always, so the characterization is spot on.

Ten Little Aliens is more appealing for the action and intensity, rather than any sense of mystery. The TARDIS team are on a strange rock and run into a platoon of ten space marines, as they are at war with aliens called the Schirr. Things get interesting when soldiers start getting picked off one by one, and naturally this is something they want to prevent. The supporting characters that make it through the bulk of the text actually turn out to be really well-developed and interesting characters. They are much better than the typical cookie-cutter supporting cast.

This novel may end up being too intense for a lot of readers. It is definitely not a children’s Doctor Who story, and the violence and gore is worse than has ever been shown on screen in the franchise. Those who aren’t bothered by a bit of blood and guts will probably enjoy the intensity, but fans who like their Doctor Who a bit more innocent will probably find it off-putting. Being that this particular reviewer likes Doctor Who novels that have a bit of edge and try something different, Ten Little Aliens is definitely a memorable and worthwhile read.

Rating: B

This review was cross-posted to Hardcover Wonderland, a website about literature of all kinds.


Book Review: Target Novelizations – The Daleks by David Whitaker

Doctor Who and the Daleks by David Whitaker
Target Novelizations #16 – First Doctor
Featuring the Doctor, Susan, Ian, Barbara and Daleks

Rating: D

Doctor Who and the Daleks is a strange novelization in that it deviates from the source episode pretty significantly, including treating the novel as though it were the earliest story in the series. It is complete with the introductions of Ian and Barbara, as they arrive at the junkyard to meet the Doctor under similar but different circumstances. Rather than being transported to pre-historic Earth, they find themselves on Skaro, and then essentially go through the events of the television serial.

The strangest part of all is that the novel is entirely from first person perspective, told from the point of view of Ian Chesterton as he and Barbara travel with the Doctor. It is interesting in theory; there aren’t a lot of Doctor Who stories written from a particular character’s perspective, but once the novelty of that wears off, this novel is actually pretty weak. Whitaker isn’t a bad writer, but nothing about the prose or dialogue really impressed me.

Whereas Terrance Dicks’ An Unearthly Child helped the televised story by providing a bit of depth to the characters while maintaining the feel of the serial, Doctor Who and the Daleks muddies things up a bit while failing to recapture the spirit or general feeling of the story. It is a total failure, as far as I’m concerned. Without the interesting choice in narration, it would be a big stinkin’ F. As it is, its not much better than that.

Book Review: Target Novelizations – An Unearthly Child by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who and An Unearthly Child by Terrance Dicks
Target Novelizations #68 – First Doctor
Featuring the Doctor, Susan, Ian, & Barbara

Rating: B-

Having previously reviewed the associated serial for this very blog, I was intrigued by the idea of reading the novelization. I find it strange that the very first Doctor Who serial wasn’t novelized until #68 in the line. It strikes me as a bit odd, but the people associated with Doctor Who have never struck me as entirely logical.

As it is, the novelization follows the story on screen pretty much perfectly. I actually think that it works slightly better in written form than it does on screen, though. Most importantly, Dicks is able to give the cavemen a bit more development in the novel that leads to me as a reader having more sympathy for their characters in the book than I did watching the television serial.

It still suffers from the same problem that the show does: the first part is outstanding, and the rest is so-so. For many, the bad set design is part of the charm of the old show, but in the case of this one, I think it is nice that through the novel I am able to know that it is supposed to be a tiger that attacks one of the cavemen in the middle of the story. Based on what I saw on screen, I didn’t realize that was what it was supposed to be at all.

As it is, this is hardly an indispensable novelization, but I enjoyed it. The written word gives a lot more opportunity than a bad budget does, so in many ways it should be expected that the novelization is improvement. In this case, I think Terrance Dicks takes good advantage of the narrative and DOES make improvements on the televised story. Good read.

Serial Review: An Unearthly Child (Season 1)

“An Unearthly Child”
Written by Anthony Coburn, directed by Waris Hussein
Featuring the Doctor, Susan, Ian & Barbara

Rating: C+

Anyone who calls themself a serious Doctor Who fan will probably have a special place in their heart for “An Unearthly Child,” whether because they actually think it is a strong episode, or because it is the first episode of something so huge and, in the eyes of fans like myself, wonderful. I think if you remove sentimentality from the picture and compare it to the other Doctor Who episodes purely on its own merit, it comes out slightly above average, but hardly a stand out.

I always thought it was kind of strange that a very clearly science fiction show barely shows any signs of being such until the last few minutes of the first episode. Up until companions Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright finally end up in the TARDIS with the Doctor, it might have just been a drama about a crazy old man and his granddaughter. That first episode is really outstanding, though, and I find it hard to fault anything about it. The pacing is perfect, and it is remarkably well-shot and directed.

I find it a bit amusing that at this point in the show, we didn’t know the TARDIS was translating for us, and yet the cavemen featured in the rest of the story speak broken English with an English accent. Even with the TARDIS translating, you would think that the TARDIS would translate it in your head to NOT be broken, wouldn’t it? This is merely me nitpicking, and doesn’t weigh in on my actual opinion of the episode. The problem is really that it’s just average, more than anything.

The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan get into the middle of a small clan of cave men and women fighting over fire. One of them witnesses the Doctor lighting his pipe, and decide from this that the Doctor has magic powers, and kidnap him in order to force him to make fire for them. The theme of the early humans making fire and it’s influence on the course of human history is a common theme, but I feel like the overall execution should have been a bit better. While the first part had flawless pacing, the rest of it struggles from the slowness and bad cliffhangers that would be associated with most of the classic series.

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