The Eight Doctors


EDA Review: The Eight Doctors

So, here we go. The Eighth Doctor Adventures, or EDAs to their friends, were a series of seventy-three novels released by BBC books between June 1997 and June 2005 that picked up tales of the Doctor’s travels following the events of the TV Movie, which starred Paul McGann in his only ever appearance as the wandering Time Lord. The Eight Doctors is a spiritual sequel to TV’s “The Three Doctors” and “The Five Doctors” and was written by prolific and much-loved Doctor Who author, and former script editor/writer on the show, Terrence Dicks. Something of a hero of mine it has to be said. As this was the book that was going to launch the series, there was a genuine issue that readers (who may or may not have watched the aforementioned TV Movie) needed to be re-initiated into the folklore of Doctor Who given that the most recent previous television outing was way back in 1989 . A tome such as this was intended to serve as an introduction to the reader of the past incarnations of the title character and some of the mythology. It would also serve as a precursor to the Past Doctor Adventures that were being released alongside their EDA counterparts so an appearance of those self same past Doctors was appropriate. So far so good you might say. However, having just read The Eight Doctors, I can safely say… it’s awful.

First off, the plot. Always quite important in a book but this one seems fundamentally flawed. Essentially, the Doctor has amnesia but mysteriously he (a) knows enough about himself to be able to understand that he needs to go and meet previous incarnations of himself to recover those errant memories, and (b) can successfully fly and navigate the TARDIS in order to facilitate his desire to go and meet himself. In doing so, as soon as he meets another version of himself our intrepid Eighth Doctor acquires the memories and experiences up to that moment in the life of his previous incarnation, though quite why, on learning this, he doesn’t simply go straight to a very recent version and “download” all the necessary knowledge thus saving himself all the to’ing and fro’ing is a bit beyond me. There’s a bit of action on Gallifrey that endeavours to tie some of this stuff together by having the fusty old Time Lords monitor some “time-lines” on a BBC micro computer, but that doesn’t prevent the action coming across as a hit ‘n’ miss patchwork of mini-adventures… though tragically, mostly misses.

There are a whole army of one-dimensional characters that litter each of the sections and none of them are particularly memorable. Even the introduction of new companion Sam Jones is a massive missed opportunity. I would have had Sam accompany Eight on his mission so that the new reader could’ve been engaged in the story through her (a la Rose in 2005’s Series One) but instead she is introduced at the start and then forgotten about until a few pages from the end where I felt that I still knew nothing about her. Descriptions and characterisations of the Doctor himselves revert to cliché (“the garb of an Edwardian cricketer”, “a mop of brown, curly hair”, etc). Although saying that, there is one section when, with a shuddering out-of-chatacter moment for the Doctor, I was stopped me in my tracks. Eight travels to E-Space to meet up with Four on the planet of the vampires from State of Decay, set in a small window of opportunity squeezed in at the very end of that story. Some vampires are on the loose and Four is being held captive. When Eight arrives on the scene and is confronted by the vampires he picks up a sword in a Kill Bill-esque sequence and dispatches the vamps back to their maker with much beheading and bloodshed. It just seemed wrong.

It would be disingenuous to say that there are no good bits at all in these 7 meetings but they really are few and far between with, perhaps, the sequence with Third Doctor tracking the Master after events from The Sea Devils being the best. So other than the plot, the scattergun sequences of the Eighth Doctor’s meetings with himself and the flip-flopping between cliché and out-of-character moments there is always a good bit of prose that you can rely on to redeem a book. Erm, no. This would have Dan Brown scratching his head in bewilderment at its clunkiness. To wit…

“Someone giving you a hard time?” asked Trev.

Sam looked from one to the other.

She’d lose all cred if anyone found out. You just didn’t talk to teachers, not about some things.

But suddenly it all seemed too much.

She nodded. “Baz”

Trev frowned. “Baz Bailey, the pill king? What about him?”

“He thinks I’ve been grassing him up.”

Vicky looked baffled.

“Informing on him – to the police,” translated Trev.

….and on it goes. In summary, I can’t recommend this book lowly enough and it almost put me off my little quest to read through the EDAs before it had gotten off the ground. A shame and a wasted opportunity.


    • fazzinchi
    • August 19th, 2009

    I know. The second hand prices for this book on eBay tend to a be a little more expensive than average for BBC books, so it was even more disappointing that it didn’t live up to expectations.

    I was going to include a bit more detail on Terrence Dicks’ attempts to retrospectively readjust some of the bits of continuity from the series that he clearly wasn’t happy with. Specifically around “The Five Doctors” and the “Trial of a Time Lord”. But I forgot to add this in. It was another disappointing aspect that seemed forced and unnecessary.

    Happily, I have read the first chapter of the second book now, Vampire Science, and it’s already a big improvement.

  1. How disappointing! I’m not a huge fan of the DW novels in general, but every now and then I go back and give one a try. Guess I’ll give this one a miss.

  1. September 24th, 2009

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