Saturday 8 March 2014

WHO REVIEW: Tales of Trenzalore

Nine hundred years, four enemies, and apparently, only one leg. That's the summary of the Doctor's time on the planet Trenzalore, recounted in this ebook-only release. It's a slim affair, enjoyable but a little unambitious. Undoubtedly designed to be a fan-pleaser, the book contains four short stories, each of which involves the Doctor defending the town of Christmas against an enemy from the classic series. The first story, 'Let it Snow,' features the Ice Warriors, the most recognisable of the aliens to Matt Smith fans, while the remaining three bring back the Krynoids, Autons and Mara. While the Autons were the very first monsters to appear in the revived series, fighting Christopher Eccleston back in 2005, the vegetable Krynoids and the evil-incarnate that is the Mara are likely to be a mystery to many new series fans. Oh, and these aren't spoilers: all four enemies are included on the front cover, robbing readers of any fun to be had trying to work out which villain has been chosen for each story.

The stories are all good fun, straightforward adventure stories in which the Doctor fights off an alien incursion. There's a great deal of similarity between the four tales, though, particularly the first three. Justin Richards, George Mann and Paul Finch each come with a similar answer to the problem of getting an invasion force past the no-technology barrier surrounding Christmas. The final story, 'The Dreaming,' is the best of the four, with author Mark Morris devising an creative and unique take on the Mara and it's need to manifest. Equally, it's the only story in which there is a plausible reason for the villain to want to release the Time War: the sheer desire for chaos.

Each story is enjoyable, though, with George Mann having particular fun describing the horrible transformation of a victim of the Krynoid. All four authors capture the mannerisms of the eleventh Doctor well, with his gradual ageing and waning faculties becoming clear as the stories progress through his exile. However, they all fall foul of similar problems. It's clear that no one has really outlined the extent or nature of the truth field that surrounds the town, and within each story, the pseudo-companion character gets only a short time to make an impact, so they are inevitably unmemorable.

Most of all, though, this feels like a missed opportunity. With each story being a fairly simple beat-the-baddies affair, there's little room for any exploration of life on Trenzalore. The society of Christmas still feels as sketched in and unreal as it did in The Time of the Doctor. There's no real indication what life under the Doctor's aegis is like. Where are the dissenting voices, the people who resent the Doctor for bringing the siege upon them? The only one who ever questions his presence is the Doctor himself. A single, full-length novel, giving room to explore the world and its protector, would have been more interesting and made more of an impression.

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