Doctor Who: The American Adventures – Book Review

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In the middle of the Doctor Who drought, a new book is available from the BBC (through Penguin Random House UK). Doctor Who: The American Adventures is a collection of short stories, ostensibly featuring 12 (at least it’s Peter Capaldi’s picture on the front), although the “voice” isn’t distinct enough to definitively label it that way.

Six stories, each about 30 pages, are set in the United States at various points in the country’s history, ranging from New Orleans in 1815 to a pseudo-Disney World set just a few years from now. In most of the stories, Americans are menaced in varying degrees by aliens. Some of the stories will vaguely remind you of TV show episodes; others will make you wish there was more TV sensibility in them.

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The Doctor travels without a companion in all of these, and the only familiar alien you’ll come across is an Ood in one of the stories (although the first story’s villain may be something you know, but it isn’t clear).

The six stories are:

  • All That Glitters (California, 1849): A man panning for gold finds an odd object in the stream. When local townspeople find their barns and homes broken into by someone they recognize, the Doctor helps them find and resolve the strange menace.
  • Off the Trail (Oregon Trail, 1846): A family moving west in a convoy of wagons discovers that they are no longer where they thought they were.
  • Ghosts of New York (New York City, 1902): Workers building New York’s huge subway system keep seeing the ghosts of co-workers, friends and families.
  • Taking the Plunge (Florida, 2017): When the Doctor notices that thrill-ride riders are all coming off the attractions with obviously different demeanors, he suspects that there’s something more going on inside than Aerosmith music.
  • Spectator Sport (New Orleans, 1815): Tourists from another world watch the Battle of New Orleans happen live in front of them, not realizing that there’s a violent drama going on in their own┬áinterplanetary tour bus.
  • Base of Operations (USA, 1944): The Doctor discovers that another race is taking over the bodies of servicemen training to go to war.

 

The only place an author (Justin Richards) is credited for this book is on the copyright page. Richards also wrote 2014’s Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Notebooks. I was a little mystified by the mild tone of these stories – they were all a little creepy, but none came near the interest or fear factor of Doctor Who episodes. Then I looked again, and noticed that the book was published by the BBC Children’s Books imprint, and it made more sense (and reading reviews of the Shakespeare Notebooks, several were from parents who said that their children enjoyed that one). Your young Who fan may find these exciting – and a great way to both get them to read and raise another generation of Doctor Who devotees.

But the personality of the Doctor – in the case, purportedly 12 – never really comes through. This is a generic Doctor, a wise and brave man, but without the roar of 10, the wonder and loyalty of 11, and the weariness and ferocity of 12. It’s a quick, generally fun read. The hardback sells on Amazon for $12,94, Kindle version for $10.99.

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Erin Conrad