(2018) Susan Calman, Jenny T. Colgan, Jacqueline Rayner & Dorothy Koomson
BBC Children's Books, £12.99 / Can$26.95 / US$14.99, hrdbk, 185pp, ISBN 978-1-405-92997-4
A companion: explores time and space with the Doctor, gets into trouble with the Doctor, fights enemies with the Doctor . . . And – more often than not – has to save his life. Here are four fantastic new adventures with the Doctor, starring Rose, Sarah-Jane, Clara and Bill. Publishing on International Women's Day in March 2018, it will also be the perfect way to prepare for Jodie Whittaker's first ever female Doctor*. Written by Jenny T. Colgan, Jacqueline Rayner, Dorothy Koomson and Susan Calman, these stories are a celebration of the Doctor's fantastic female friends, for fans of all ages.
Well, not quite for Who fans of all ages, for as the book’s credits above reveal, this is a BBC Children’s Book, which is actually part of the Penguin Books line, or Puffin Books to be more precise, hence the puffin logo on the spine of the book, although Who completists will probably have already bought and read their copy, particularly as one of the stories is penned by Jenny T(ARDIS) Colgan who is a well-kent face in the Whoinverse with her short stories, novels, and more recently audio scripts involving the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble; and another of the stories is written by Jacqueline Rayner who also has previous form as a writer of Who short stories, comic strips, novels and audio dramas and was once an editor at BBC Books working on the Doctor Who series.
Given the demographic of the target audience there is a definite bias towards the rebooted Doctor and his companions with the Ninth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors featuring in three of the stories along with Rose Tyler, Clara Oswald and Bill Potts, as well as the Fourth Doctor accompanied by Sarah Jane Smith, although Sarah Jane will be familiar to younger viewers and readers as she did return (along with K9) in a David Tennant story before getting her own spin-off series (which sadly ended with the death of star, Elisabeth Sladen) where Tennant and Matt Smith both made an appearance as their respective Doctors. Sadly there are no stories featuring Martha Jones, Donna Noble, or Amy Pond, but perhaps there will be another collection in the future, although given that this book is quite short it could have done with another story or two.
For now, this collection consists of four stories: ‘Sarah Jane and the Temple of Eyes’ by Jacqueline Rayner; ‘Rose and the Snow Window’ by Jenny T. Colgan; ‘Clara and the Maze of Cui Palta’ by Susan Calman (yes, that’s right, the Scottish comedian, game-show host, and one-time Strictly contestant, among other things as revealed in her bio); and ‘Bill and the Three Jackets’ by novelist, and science fiction fan, Dorothy Koomson. There are also illustrations of the four companions and their respective Doctors by Kelly Wagner. It’s a moot point if there is actually some saving going on here, although, as usual, an over confident Doctor does get into a spot of trouble in stories that involve rips in the space-time continuum, deadly mazes, sinister shops, cults, and feature some memorable baddies, particularly of the female variety. All the stories are well written and capture the essence of the featured Doctor and their companion, with the best story, probably being the last one that features recent companion Bill Potts.
My only quibble is that when you take away all the credits and blank pages separating the four stories you are left with a collection that is really only 161 pages long as the shortest of the four tales is 38 pages long, and the longest comes in at 43 pages, so £12.99 for 161 worth of stories may seem a bit steep. If you are only mildly obsessed by the Doctor, then perhaps it would be better to wait for the paperback or catch it on Kindle.
* Editorial note: As a point of pedantry, the first 'ever' female Doctor was Joanna Lumley towards the end of the 1999 BBC Doctor Who special, 'The Curse of Fatal Death', written by Steven Moffat for Comic Relief. (Steven was later to become a Doctor Who senior writer.) The Doctor for much of the adventure was played by Rowan Atkinson with brief appearances of the regenerated Doctors Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, and Hugh Grant. The Doctor's companion (Emma) was played by Julia Sawalha and The Master was played by one of the true Master actors, Jonathan Pryce. See it on YouTube.
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