And so we come to the third of the three 'lesser' Doctors. And of all the Doctors, it is Paul McGann who most suffered from the quality of the material - although both Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy had some poor material to work from, they also got some really good stories ("Trial of a Time Lord" and "Revelation of the Daleks" for the one; "Remembrance of the Daleks" for the other). McGann, though, got one crack of the whip, and was stuck with a dud. Indeed, I was particularly glad to see his appearance in "Night of the Doctor", if only to help redress that balance.
However, where the Eighth Doctor suffers on the screen, he potentially gains in other media. Whereas the spin-off novels, radio plays, and other materials for other Doctors need to fit in the gaps left by the TV series, the Eighth is a blank slate, and so they can do more or less what they like. And, having heard good things about most of these items, I was rather looking forward to this month.
This month's short story is "Spore", by Alex Scarrow. It has a fairly interesting concept: an intelligent virus comes to Earth to determine if we're 'worthy' of continued existence; the Doctor has to try to oppose it.
There's nothing wrong with the story, but there's not really much to recommend it either, I'm afraid. In particular, there's nothing I could see that makes this an Eighth Doctor story; it would work just as well with any other Doctor, at any time he was travelling alone.
This month's novel was "Earthworld", by Jacqueline Rayner.
Unfortunately, this one runs into trouble for the very thing I praised above - because the Eighth Doctor stories didn't need to "fit into the gaps", the powers-that-be decided to build a single, series-long storyline for this incarnation of the Doctor; essentially, they wrote the novelisations for a TV series that might have been. Which is fine, and probably the best way to present that series.
But it suffers a terrible weakness when you pull just one episode out of that series - taken by itself the novel doesn't really work. It's full of fairly specific references to things that happened before, which is good for those who have read the books. For me, it would have been better titled "Confusing Sequel to a Book You Haven't Read".
And so we had a Doctor suffering amnesia not, as I first guessed, because that had been a character trait in the TV movie, but rather due to things that happened in the series to-date. We had a companion constantly referencing those events, while also dealing with an existential crises brought on by things I knew nothing about. And another companion mourning the death of a character we never met.
In context, I'm sure all this was fine. Without the context, it's a big negative mark. They should have chosen something else.
I also found the writing style very jarring - it seemed... lacking somehow. Actually, it reminded me of "Confessions of a Shopaholic" but, alas, not in a good way. The characters' internal monologues seemed to be a froth of irrelevancies and nonsense, more fitted to someone who would shop without ever counting the cost, only to be bailed out at the last moment by a Knight in Shining Armour. Though the novel had those, and they weren't entirely benevolent...
So, I'm afraid I wasn't a fan. Maybe if I'd read the series from the start, and I'd read the series when it first came out, things would be different. As it was, I have to rate this as the weakest Doctor Who novel so far. (The Sixth Doctor has the best novel, followed by the Third. Two, Four, and Five all have pretty good entires, One and Seven are okay, and then Eight.)
For my next trick, I'm going to tackle the Ninth Doctor, the herald of the regenerated show. I'm looking forward to it.
#41: "Earthworld", by Jacqueline Rayner