Fiction Reviews

Doctor Who: Adventures in Lockdown

(2020) edited by Steve Cole, BBC Books, £8.99, pbk, 180pp, ISBN 978-1-78594-706-3


Darkness Never Prevails.

While staying home was a vital safety measure in 2020, the freedom of the TARDIS remained a dream that drew many - allowing them to roam the cosmos in search of distraction, reassurance and adventure. Now, some of the finest TV Doctor Who writers come together with gifted illustrators in this very special short story collection in support of BBC Children in Need.

Current and former showrunners - Chris Chibnall Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat - present exciting adventures for the Doctor conceived in confinement, alongside brand new fiction from Neil Gaiman, Mark Gatiss and Vinay Patel. Also featuring work from Chris Riddell, Joy Wilkinson, Paul Cornell, Sonia Leong, Sophie Cowdrey, Mike Collins and many more, Adventures in Lockdownis a book for any Doctor Who fan in your life, stories that will send your heart spinning wildly through time and space...

Christmas has passed but the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge lives on when I point out that £8.99 for a 183 page book seems a bit steep, especially when you take off the blank pages between stories, the title pages and illustrations leaving you with only 120 pages worth of text, however £2.25 from every copy sold in the UK is going to Children in Need, so no grumbling Who fans out there, it’s for a very good cause.

What we get is a mixed bag of “stuff” that have appeared in different forms, from the very short to the very substantial. Not surprisingly it’s the substantial stories that work the best, those written by Russell T. Davies, Steven Moffat, Neil Gaiman, Mark Gatiss, and almost by, Paul Cornell. I say, almost, as he has nailed the character of Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor perfectly, I just didn’t care for the story, that’s all, which returns to the two-part story he wrote for the Tenth Doctor and his “Family of Blood” characters. The bulk of these stories have appeared on theDoctor Who website or as part of the Doctor Who-watchalongs, so some readers may already be familiar with them.

The fun starts with the text of the Doctor’s lockdown message and there are some similarly short contributions sprinkled throughout the book, including two short pieces from Paul Cornell which follow his longer story, and the script for the scene where Rory leaves a message for his son, and there’s even a poem from Steven Moffat called “Listen”.

As already mentioned the best of the bunch are the longer stories and the prize for best story goes to Steven Moffat for “The Terror of the Umpty Ums” where the Doctor intercepts an alien war machine trying to escape from a children’s home but not before it kills everyone inside. Mark Gatiss’ “Fellow Traveller” has the Doctor meeting an old friend years after the Daleks have been defeated but some people just can’t get the Daleks out of their system; and in Neil Gaiman’s story “One Virtue and a Thousand Crimes” we join in the theft of The Hand of Omega which the First Doctor needs, and fast. Russell T. Davies also contributes several stories including a flashback to The Time War, a follow-up to “The Runaway Bride” and “The Secret of Novice Hame” which has a killer ending, or does it?

Apart from the stories there are black and white illustrations scattered throughout the book, including one by well-known author and illustrator, Chris Riddell, a long-time collaborator with Neil Gaiman and it’s his story that he illustrates. One illustration looks like an old Target book cover, and Bradley Walsh’s, Graham, really suffers in another of them, and the final illustration is of Sacha Dhawan’s wonderful Master with one of his Cybertimelords lurking behind him, sadly his Master doesn’t appear in the book – hint to the BBC how about a book for children featuring the Master during lockdown? Well, one can only hope.

Aimed at children, but pretty essential buying for adult Who fans everywhere.

Ian Hunter


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