One of SciFi's most popular television series is Doctor Who, which features a quirky adventurer who travels through time in a blue police box called the TARDIS. The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who seeks out adventure with the help of companions. Over the course of the long-running television series (which ran from 1963–89 and again beginning in 2005), there have been many actors who have played the Doctor. The in-story explanation for the new faces was simple: As a Time Lord, he could regenerate into a new form, acquiring a new personality as well. Yet, one thing remained the same: his thirst for knowledge and adventure. While the show is aimed at younger audiences, its legions of fans include adults who enjoy the unapologetic campiness, cool science-fictional aspects and whiz-bang storytelling.
It seems natural that, as an avid reader, I would take an interest in the written stories of Doctor Who. There are many, many books to fill that need. However, in that search, I encountered a trend I had not seen before: that of established science fiction authors trying their hands at media tie-ins. Let's take a look at the handful of Doctor Who books published in the last few years and written by already-established sf/f fiction authors....
Coming of the Terraphiles by Michael Moorcock
Michael Moorcock is one of science fiction and fantasy's giants, best known for the set of his interconnected Eternal Champion stories, and particularly the sword and sorcery stories featuring the anti-hero Elric of Melniboné. His contribution to the Doctor Who universe is Coming of the Terraphiles, a story that features the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond (played by the current Doctor, Matt Smith, and Karen Gillan in the television series). In it, the Doctor and his companions arrive at Miggea, a star system that exists between parallel realities, where they join forces with the Terraphiles, a group of humans in the far future who are obsessed with the history of ancient Earth ("ancient" as in early-20th century). The Terraphiles participate in an exclusive tournament of games held every two-and-a-half centuries, the prize of which is the coveted Arrow of Law. As is usual for A Doctor Who outing, the story is filled with danger, treachery and the threat of destruction. And a treat for Michael Moorcock fans: The story also features a cameo from a Captain Cornelius, who some will recognize as the author's recurring character Jerry Cornelius.
Paradox Lost by George Mann
George Mann made his mark as an editor, but his recent output of novels has won him even more fans. Creator of the flavorful Victorian steampunk mystery series Newbury and Hobbes, as well as the post-steampunk, retro-sf adventure series The Ghost, Mann has turned his sights to Doctor Who with Paradox Lost. This novel also features the current incarnation of the Doctor and Amy Pond, as well as Amy's significant other, Rory. Here, the Doctor and his companions—answering a distress call from the remains of an android submersed in the Thames for more than a millennium—must unravel the centuries-old mystery of the Squall, an alien race set on devouring the world.
The Silent Stars Go By by Dan Abnett
Dan Abnett made a name for himself in media tie-ins, specifically as the prolific author of dozens of Warhammer 40K novels. He has also written non-WH40K novels (like Embedded) and comics as well. His Doctor Who novel, The Silent Stars Go By, takes place on a cold, Earthlike planet whose inhabitants, the Morphans, barely survive from year to year while they attempt to maintain the machines that will one day make their planet more livable. But there is another evil lurking about in this spooky tale. The Ice Warriors are reptilian humanoid aliens originating from Mars that use sonic weaponry against their enemies. When they make their move to attack the Morphans, it's up to the Doctor, Amy and Rory to save the day. (They do that a lot.)
Shada: The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams by Gareth Roberts
To science fiction fans, Douglas Adams needs no introduction. His comedic novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the go-to book whenever the subject of humorous sf comes up. Shada was originally conceived as a serial for the BBC series during the 1979-1980 season. They even began filming it...but it was never finished due to a BBC strike. Adams’ script was later adapted to an audio production and last year, it was also novelized by Gareth Roberts. But rest assured, being a Douglas Adams story, it leans toward the humorous. The story features the fourth incarnation of the Doctor and his companion Romanna II (played by Tom Baker and Lalla Ward in the television series). The story revolves around the lost planet of Shada, on which the Time Lords built an inescapable prison for defeated would-be conquerors of the universe. The danger comes from new attempts at controlling the universe by a renegade Time Lord known as Skagra, who requires a certain book to begin his conquest—a book now in the hands of a retired Time Lord and one of the good Doctor's friends.
The Wheel of Ice by Stephen Baxter
Having a scientific background, Stephen Baxter's science fiction stories tend to lean toward hard (though accessible) science fiction. His excellent Xeelee sequence of novels as well as his more recent novels are often mind-blowing. His Doctor Who outing, The Wheel of Ice, is certainly more accessible than his previous work, though no less packed with ideas. Here, the TARDIS is drawn to the moons to Saturn in the 26th century where a mining colony is somehow involved in a time distortion event that is leading towards catastrophe. The Doctor (in his second incarnation, as played by Patrick Troughton on television) and his companions, the intelligent Zoe Heriot (played by Wendy Padbury) and the brash Scot Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) are rescued from their dangerous arrival by a young girl and a robot. When taken to the mining station, they learn that the station is beleaguered with problems like thefts, a series of equipment failures and a host of the miners' children who report sighting of living "Blue Dolls". It will be hard for the Doctor to help when he is accused of sabotage, but when an ancient evil makes itself known, there is no one else who can help.
More to Come
The trend of already established fiction writers penning the pages of new Doctor Who adventures seems to be continuing. Beginning this month, as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of Doctor Who, Puffin and the BBC will be publishing 11 short ebooks written by famous British children's authors. (It will be collected later into a single paperback.) Additionally, award-winning SF novelist Alastair Reynolds, another author with a scientific background, has just completed work on Harvest of Time, a Doctor Who novel featuring the third Doctor and Josephine "Jo" Grant (portrayed by Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning in the television series in the 1970s). Reynolds' book will feature the Doctor’s arch-enemy, The Master.
John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. He also likes bagels.