Wednesday, 23 January 2013

WHO REVIEW: A Big Hand for the Doctor by Eoin Colfer

So, the first of this latest range of cash-ins celebratory releases is now out. Each month, a noted author will release a story featuring one of the Doctor’s incarnations. One Doctor per month. £1.99 for an e-book, with a printed omnibus expected at the end of the year. Nice idea. However, A Big Hand for the Doctor is a big disappointment.

OK, I know I’m not the target audience for this. These books are clearly aimed at younger readers, and that’s all well and good. That’s who Doctor Who is for, after all. Colfer’s prose is functional but enjoyable, skipping along nicely. Having had a very busy day, I left this till this evening to read, so that I could spend some time on it. Had I known it would take me about ten minutes to read, I would have done it on my tea break. Even as a printed book, two quid would be asking a lot for something so brief. For a download, it’s pretty shocking. But the big the problem is, this just doesn’t read like the first Doctor to me.

Imagine an author was given a brief to write a first Doctor story. He’s never seen any of the classic series, but knows the modern version through and through. So he gets a basic description of the first Doctor’s characteristics, and works from that. This is exactly how the story reads. The story would work fine for the tenth or eleventh Doctor, or even the fourth, and they’d fit the style of the telling well. But this is a version of the first Doctor who acts exactly like his dashing successors, except that he’s a bit grumpier and worries about his granddaughter. It’s a generic modern Doctor with a couple of sixties Doctor Who trappings bolted on.

So, maybe I’m just grumpy like the first Doctor. You could call this a reimagining, I guess. If it were an adventure of a much younger first Doctor, maybe I could buy it. But this is supposedly the old geezer who appeared on TV from 1963 to 1966, and it doesn’t fit. It’s a shame, as there are some nice ideas here – some vague mentions of the Doctor’s family, and the revelation that he gets visions of his future selves. These are revisionist ideas that could be made into something. Instead, we get a very generic story that would work happily as a Doctor Who Adventures comic strip, and has none of the appeal of the version of the character it’s supposed to be celebrating. So what’s the point of it?

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