These are the final three Doctor Who books to feature the 10th Doctor, as played by David Tennant. Come April, the 11th Doctor & Amy take over, both on TV and in print…so before they arrive to take their rightful place as the current time-travelling team, let’s examine the final literary outing for the Doctor’s 10th incarnation…
Written by Christopher Cooper
It opens with so much promise: a dark, medieval setting…monsters roaming the claustrophobic streets, frightened townsfolk…even an amusing woodcut-inspired illustration, which I hoped was a good sign of things to come…
…but it wasn’t. In the end, it’s a fast-paced novel, but it’s full of people you can’t (and don’t) care too much about. Most of the good-guy supporting cast is paper thin in terms of characterization, especially the plucky young off-world observer looking for closure from what appears to be a previous (dare I say…unrelated) novel. Things that come out of left field shouldn’t feel as if they’ve been included in a book simply to fill out the page count.
Even the Doctor seems badly served here: too much of David Tennant’s high energy comedy routine, without his darker, more contemplative moments.
If anything, the best characters in the book are the BAD guys: the corporate scum-sucker, trying to farm Krillitanes out for a profit; the amoral & disinterested scientist who could almost pass for the Doctor’s old arch-enemy, the Rani; the Krillitanes themselves, trying to decide to navigate between allies, enemies, and past sins catching up with them in the present. They’re the ones that keep the novel from falling apart…to the point where you actually hope they win!
The Krillitane Storm reminds me of Wishing Well: full of excellent ingredients, but the resulting meal is mundane and disappointing. With everything so paper thin, it’s an especially disappointing waste of a solid historical setting.
Written by David Llewellyn
The best novel of the final batch, but it could have been SO MUCH better.
Once again, the weakness is with the good guys. Everyone reads like such an annoying cliche, and the author seems content to play with surface gloss, rather than develop the hints of some fascinating background traits that have developed from living in an isolated, socially-retrograde space for years and years.
But this time, the bad guys and the setting raise the bar, with an increased level of epicness. David Llewellyn is clearly having a great time writing for the Sontarans, and he never waste an opportunity to give us multiple looks into their thought processes, hierarchy issues, rivalries, worries, and arrogance. Robert Holmes, the creator of the Sontarans, would have approved…especially as the chief Sontaran makes an excellent adversary for the Doctor, resulting in some well-written confrontations.
The setting is also thoroughly well serviced: a continually gorgeous realization of Saturn’s gaseous, ringed glory, which not only offers nice descriptions, but ends up being a key plot point as well.
The main problem here is that the bad guys and the setting exist at such a superior level to the rest of the cast, both in the hotel and on the cruise ship. It may have been better to simply ditch the dull humans entirely, and concentrate on the epic Sontaran/Rutan war, which makes for an excellent, absorbing 50% of this novel…making the other 50% even more disappointing. A great pity…
Written by Daniel Blythe
By far the biggest personal disappointment in this final batch of novels.
Daniel Blythe is a successful novelist, who happens to have made his start with two of the Doctor Who 7th Doctor New Adventures back in the 1990s — The Dimension Riders & Infinite Requiem. Both were intricate, substantial epics, with juicy characters and fascinating plots & settings. Naturally, I was looking forward to Mr. Blythe revisiting the Doctor Who universe, based on the quality of those first two novels.
Unfortunately, Autonmy falls somewhere between Mr. Llewellyn’s book and Mr. Cooper’s book. The shopping mall setting is fun, but it turns into a mega-remix of elements from previous stories, such as The Nightmare Fair and Rose. The good guys are all cliches that make up for their lack of depth with a lot of running around, a lot of screaming, a lot of superficial info dumping, and they’re capped off by the inclusion of a positively annoying old buffer that seems to have been rejected from a bad episode of Upstairs Downstairs! The bad guys are much better developed — ironically, the Autons are another Robert Holmes creation. However, even here it falls short of David Llewellyn’s clear joy at playing with the Sontarans and Rutans, despite the inspired attempt to give the Nestene Consciousness a schizophrenic interior monologue.
The only consistently solid element is the Doctor himself: a solid synthesis of David Tennant’s best characteristics & his turn-on-a-dime change of attitude, from carefree bon vivant to hard-edged hero.
I was looking forward to reading Autonmy more than the other two books in this batch…but it’s the book that ended up being the greatest disappointment. It’s certainly not the note on which I wished to conclude the literary adventures of the 10th Doctor.