Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: The Clockwise Man

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“You know,’ the Doctor said, resuming his pacing, ‘how sometimes you only appreciate something when it is taken away from you?’
‘You mean my freedom?’
‘I mean more like the hum of the central heating or the air-conditioning. You only notice it was there when it stops. While it’s constant, part of the nature of the things, it’s unremarkable. Just the way things are. Your brain doesn’t even bother to tell you about it, unless there is a change that might be important.” 

Books! People never really stop loving books. And Doctor Who has a pretty longstanding tradition with books – from Target Novels to the books that kept the show alive during the ‘wilderness era’. So why should this new Doctor be any different?

Across the 13 weeks Christopher Eccleston played the Doctor, there were 6 novels written featuring the Ninth Doctor… So, as part of this Ninth Doctor lookback, I’ll also be attempting to review each of them.

The first then is Justin Richards‘ The Clockwise Man…

Justin Richards is, I think it’s rather fair to say, something of a prolific Doctor Who writer. Lots and lots of novels. And all of them pretty good I think. I like his novels.

And this is another really good one! As a Doctor Who novel should, it does something that you couldn’t really get away with on television. It’s a lot more measured in pace, rather more akin to a 90-minute movie than the 45-minute episodes we get. What that means is that you can build up the intrigue, and draw things out a little – not so much so that the reader gets bored, but enough for Richards to set up a few plot twists, and make sure nothing finishes too quickly.

The plot is fantastic. There’s a great setting, and it’s got some really interesting ideas at its heart; revolutionaries of all races. Actually, ‘revolutions’ seems to be a rather present theme at all times – Bolshevik revolutions, the conspiracy plotted in Sir George’s House, Shade Vassily’s plans, and, of course, the revolutions of the clock. That’s really clever actually. (And, obviously, any mentions of Russia and the Bolsheviks earn points in my book.) The prose too is really evocative, and it paints a great picture of 1920s London; with every word, you really are there. It’s very well written stuff.

(Also, there’s a lot of weird similarities to The Girl in the Fireplace, at least in regards to the monsters. There’s even the same ticking motif, with similar “There’s no clock in here” reveals. Odd, that.)

The Doctor and Rose are characterised really well – which is pretty impressive, because I don’t think there would have been much more than the scripts when this book would have been written? There’s lots of little moments where you can really picture Chris Eccleston’s hard stare as he thinks about the Time War. There’s a lot of that, and it’s really well done.

The other supporting characters are great too; I particularly liked Aske and Repple, for all their weird dual identity subplots. Very well done.

So, in all, a great book. At 300ish pages, it’s not going to take you too long to read, and I’d definitely recommend it.

Related:

Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor Reviews

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Doctor Who Book Review: Plague of the Cybermen (by Justin Richards)

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Spoilers, ish.

No one really seems to know what to do with the Cybermen now, do they? Or at least, in terms of New Who material, I’m not all that familiar with any recent Big Finish outings.

At any rate, there seems to be a desire to change the Cybermen, presumably to give them some sort of edge. This isn’t really a problem, apart from the way it’s manifested itself – slowly but surely, the Cybermen are being turned into Borg. In Nightmare in Silver, they were Borg in spirit – connected to a hivemind, constantly adapting to the situation, and with an overall ‘leader’.

This novel turns them into the Borg in terms of physicality. It takes the idea of Cybermen as scavengers on their last legs and runs with it; in a reversal of the Cybermen concept, these Cybermen are having to harvest flesh and blood limbs to replace their own broken or missing metallic ones. It’s an interesting idea, and is a pretty good use of body horror – the only problem with it is one of coincidence really. If it hadn’t been for Neil Gaiman’s recent Borg-ification of the Cybermen, I would’ve  seen this in a much more positive way; in the way it deserves to be seen, really… but when reading it now it wasn’t as impactful as it could’ve been, and it came across as a bit distracting.

As to the rest of the novel, it’s a pretty traditional fare; it’s a base-under-siege story, essentially, with a slightly macabre atmosphere. And a well written one too. (Admittedly, elements of the plot riffed upon Richards’ earlier novels, such as The Clockwise Man and The Resurrection Casket, even copying a few of the jokes!) The style of prose was good (which is definitely a good thing; I don’t know why, but sometimes Justin Richards’ novels seem… off slightly? It’s probably just me) as was the characterisation of Matt Smith’s Doctor. It was exactly right, striking the balance between silliness and seriousness. Richards’ even managed to throw in a few morbid jokes, and make them feel in character. That’s a pretty impressive achievement.

Overall, I did like this book a lot, and would probably read it again. So…

7/10.

Related:

Doctor Who Book Review: The Shroud of Sorrow

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