Fiction Reviews

Doctor Who: The Legends of Ashildr

(2015) James Goss et al, BBC Books, 9.99, hrdbk, 219pp ISBN 978-1-785-94057-6


The ninth season of Doctor Who re-boot was very promising.  Whilst it had its low points, it was by far a better attempt than the poorly received eighth season.  One thing the ninth season tried to do differently was to develop characters that were intended to be long-running within the sci-fi series.  The character of Ashildr was one of the most anticipated moments for the ninth series.  Fans were eager to see what roll Masie Williams was playing.  However, fans were largely disappointed with the bland storyline.  The character just came across as a poorly developed companion for The Doctor.

However, the character of the Viking era Ashildr was intended to be a well received and likeable.  This prompted BBC Books to create The Legends of Ashildr and this anthology of Ashildr stories is intended to capitalise on this character.  The Dr Who television episodes featuring Ashildr left an air of mystery about the character, and now this anthology has been produced in an attempt to fill in the gaps in her storyline.  Her first appearance created some moral questions for The Doctor.  As he watched her die, the Doctor brings Ashildr back to life, making her an immortal being.  This then sets up the four stories within The Legends of Ashildr.

The four stories are split between perspectives.  The first two stories in the collection are from the third person point of view, whilst the last two are told from a first person point of view.  The first story in the collection, 'The Arabian Nightmare', is relatively disappointing.  Whilst it does offer a slightly entertaining story, its effect is limited and comes across as the worst of the stories.  The second story, 'The Fortunate Isles', is better developed and it delves into the character of Ashildr in slightly more detail, exploring more moral questions about her immortality while offering a unique comparison between her actions and The Doctor's.  At points in the novel, she even tries to act like The Doctor.

The last two stories told in the first person allow a more in depth study of the character of Ashildr and start to answer the question on the front cover of the book. Would you want to live forever?  'The Triple Knife' is the more interesting of the two stories, telling the tale of the loss of her children.  This is a slightly emotional story, but it offers some key explanations as to why Ashildr stays on Earth when she knows she can go elsewhere.  The final tale, 'The Ghosts of Branscombe Wood', offers a predictable yet intriguing tale when Ashildr is visited by ghosts of her past.

This anthology does have some decent highlights.  However, ultimately the collection falls into the pile of Doctor Who books that you can inevitably skip.  If you found the character of Ashildr interesting, you might like the first person stories, but ultimately there is little expansion of the character which failed to impress in the TV series, and unfortunately this too falls short compared to many of the better quality Doctor Who novels being produced.

Andrew Musk

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