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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Slitheen Excursion


Author: Simon Guerrier
BBC Books
RRP: £6.99
ISBN: 978 1 84607 640 4
Available 16 April 2009

1500BC: King Actaeus and his subjects live in mortal fear of the awesome gods who have come to visit their kingdom in ancient Greece. However, the Doctor, visiting with university student June, knows they’re not gods at all - they’re aliens! For the aliens, it’s the perfect holiday. They get to tour the sights of a primitive planet and even take part in local customs - such as gladiatorial games, or hunting down and killing humans who won’t be missed. With June’s enthusiastic help, the Doctor meets the travel agents behind this deadly package holiday company - his old enemies the Slitheen. But can he bring the Slitheen excursion to an end without endangering more lives? And how are events in ancient Greece linked to a modern-day alien plot to destroy what’s left of the Parthenon...?

Neatly timed to come out mere days after the UK transmission of the Easter special Planet of the Dead, the latest batch of Doctor Who hardback novels takes its lead from the format of such specials, in that in each one the Doctor is travelling alone and is accompanied by a new “companion” for one adventure only. In this case, the sidekick in question is a university student called June, from whose perspective the narrative is conveyed.

Another common factor of this batch of books (and also the latest Quick Reads title, The Sontaran Games) is that an old monster appears in each one. In this instance, the returning foes are the Slitheen, who the Tenth Doctor has never actually encountered on TV. Author Simon Guerrier eschews the usual plot devices of having the creatures farting and hiding inside human flesh suits, but instead has fun with other aspects of their character and biology, including their desire to accumulate wealth (this time they’ve set themselves up as interplanetary time-travel tour operators) and the fact that they lay eggs. However, the Slitheen don’t appear until more than one-third of the way through the book, and their bloodthirsty love of gladiatorial games is unfortunately similar to the main plot of The Sontaran Games.

Guerrier also has fun with the period setting, reinterpreting certain legends and archaeological evidence to give them a Doctor Who spin. My computer’s spellchecker was certainly glad about the ancient Greek location. While writing my review of the previous hardback novel, The Eyeless, it kept thinking I meant to type Acropolis rather than Arcopolis. This time, the setting really is the vicinity of the Acropolis.

The plot of The Slitheen Excursion seems to run out of steam towards the end of the book, and, like ancient Greece itself, the ending seems to last for ages. Nevertheless, this enjoyable excursion should help to tide you over between television specials.


Richard McGinlay

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