This year is the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, and as you’d expect, the BBC is going a little overboard on the tie-in products. One of the better ranges are a newly (re-)published series of books, one for each of the eleven Doctors. The First Doctor is one of my favourites, so after two hours spent wandering round Waterstone’s flagship branch in Piccadilly on a recent trip to London, this was the one I decided to start with.
The author, in his introduction, describes the book as “Agatha Christie combined with Starship Troopers”, and the plotline is at its essence the locked room mystery along the lines of And Then There Were None… (original title Ten Little Indians, you see!). There are a lot of extra sci-fi like bits and pieces added on, including a frankly baffling “Choose Your Own Adventure” sequence that pretty much puts a damper on the last third of the book, but really, it’s the mystery that’s fuelling the plot, not the trappings.
It is an enjoyable story (aside from the experiment mentioned above), and the author has managed to get the character of the Doctor right (not always easy), but almost all the other characters are forgettably generic and clichéd Space Marine archetypes. Fine while you’re reading, but with no lasting impact beyond the plotline. They all have their gimmicks, (including some frankly bizarre twists), but only one or two of them are really well-rounded characters. Which leads me onto my other main complaint. I was disappointed with the portrayal of the companions. The two chosen aren’t ones I’m particularly keen on, and to be fair, they were never particularly well-developed in the original episodes, but Cole seems to focus in one part of their personality and forget about all the other aspects that are needed to make an engaging character.
Ten Little Aliens, would easily have fit into the original show as an above-average serial, though it’s quite distinct from anything the First Doctor ever did. (Sorry, I’m being a little too geeky here, I know!) It’s not a great book in and of itself however, and wouldn’t work as an introduction to the universe, but I enjoyed it and if you’re familiar with the show, but have never experienced the First Doctor, it’s far from the worst introduction you could choose.