03 May 2016

Review: Doctor Who: A Big Hand for the Doctor by Eoin Colfer

Speaking of Doctor Who, I have a review of the first two releases in an audio series based on its anagramatic spin-off Torchwood over at Unreality SF: Captain Jack and Ianto Jones star in The Conspiracy and Fall to Earth.

Mass market paperback, 68 pages
Published 2014 (originally 2013)

Acquired December 2014
Read January 2015
Doctor Who: The First Doctor: A Big Hand for the Doctor
by Eoin Colfer

The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who was, in one way, perfectly timed: with eleven Doctors, it meant that basically every medium of Doctor Who tie-in could do a monthly series, which one adventure for each Doctor. Audio gave us Destiny of the Doctors, comics gave us Prisoners of Time, and prose gave us 11 Doctors, 11 Stories, a series of e-novellas by contemporary children's writers, allowing experienced writers new to Doctor Who to each take a spin at it. In late 2014, they were all collected in a sexy box set with covers based on each Doctor's costume, and I resolved to read them monthly in 2015-- so only two years later.

The first is A Big Hand for the Doctor, by Eoin Colfer of Artemis Fowl fame. Colfer is going for something whimsical, I think, maybe projecting the sensibilities of Douglas Adams (he also wrote the seventh Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novel) and the Steven Moffat era back onto the 1960s. I'm not against this kind of thing in the abstract: though Big Finish has created some great audio dramas by emulating the writing and production style of the 1960s as much as possible, that's not the only valid approach to early Doctor Who. The problem with the book is that it isn't very good, full of "jokes" that aren't very fun, and just kind of flail there, or feel out of character for the first Doctor-- who could, after all, be quite whimsical and mischievous when he wanted to.

But I don't think he would have ever thought, "Mano-a-mano. And that pirate is a much bigger mano than I am." Nor should anyone, much less him. Colfer uses a lot of asides like "if one could be reminded of the future," which are less funny versions of jokes Douglas Adams was making thirty-five years ago. Once you get past that, there's not a lot of substance here, even for a 60-page novella. Plus there's an eye-rolling epilogue where you learn how this adventure inspired J. M. Barrie, one of my least favorite sci-fi time-travel tropes.

Next Week: The second Doctor encounters the Master and Lovecraftian horrors in The Nameless City!

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