Tuesday, June 23, 2020

#StayAtHome: Three Classic Doctor Who Novels

I read three more Doctor Who novels in the last couple weeks. The first of these was Brian Hayles novelization of the Third Doctor episode, Doctor Who and the Curse of Peladon. This classic adventure is set on Peladon (also the name of the young monarch) and presents a feudal world with an important mineral resource considering its future. The monarch needs to decide whether to join the Federation, an interstellar polity that includes Earth, the Mars of the reptilian Ice Warriors, Alpha Centauri (a green, single-eyed, multitentacled, hermaphroditic alien), and Arcturus (a pulpy, spidery little thing in a life support vehicle).

It's my favorite Doctor Who episode, and Brian Hayles' novel doesn't disappoint, providing a sense of the interior life of our characters. He also introduced a few inventions of his own, including Alpha Centauri's color changing according to their moods.

Next up was Terrance Dicks' novelization of the Third Doctor episode, Doctor Who and the Monster of Peladon. It is set 50 years after Curse. Peladon has been a member of the Federation for about 50 years, the Federation is at war with Galaxy Five, and Peladon is a critical supplier of the mineral trisilicate. The planet is ruled by Queen Thalira, but she is a monarch in name only; the real power is held by the chancellor, who is also the head of the temple of the royal beast-god Aggedor.

Aggedor has been manifesting as an apparition and disintegrating miners; this is bad for production. A rebellion is brewing, but there is also fear that someone else is manipulating things behind the (rock) curtain. (Hint: the villain is on the book cover.)

Dicks' terse style keeps the story moving, but doesn't add much that wasn't in the original story. No color changes for Alpha Centauri. Our big, green ambassador is also consistently referred to as a "he" which is jarring if you watched the original episode or read Hayles' novel.

The best read of the three was Ben Aaronovitch's Remembrance of the Daleks, which is the novelization of a Seventh Doctor episode. Aaronovitch is best known today for his Rivers of London urban police fantasy series, but this was his first novel ever. It is a humdinger, the best Doctor Who novel that I have read to date.

A number of years ago, I read Aaronovitch's later Doctor Who novel Transit, which is an original narrative rather than a novelization. Although rather notorious with Virgin Books for introducing the phrase "the taste of  semen" to the Doctor Who canon, Transit's story about interplanetary skatepunks piggybacking on a hyperspace tube system left me wondering "what is the point of all this?"

Not so, with Remembrance. This is an incredibly fast-paced story, in spite of being a bit longer than the traditional Doctor Who novelizations, featuring a factional struggle between the Renegade Daleks and the Imperial Daleks on Earth, on Remembrance Day weekend, in 1963.

There are some fun Easter eggs in the story, including the Dune-like imaginary references included in some chapter heads, inserting Bernard Quatermass into the Doctor Who universe, and the implication that one of the supporting characters was friends with Alan Turing during the Second World War.


See The Everwayan for more #StayAtHome entries.