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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
Apollo 23


Author: Justin Richards
BBC Books
RRP: £6.99
ISBN: 978 1 84607 200 0
Available 22 April 2010

For a few moments this afternoon, it rained on the moon.” An astronaut in full spacesuit appears out of thin air in a busy shopping centre. Maybe it’s a publicity stunt. A photo shows a well-dressed woman lying dead at the edge of a crater on the dark side of the moon, beside her beloved dog Poochie. Maybe it’s a hoax. As the Doctor and Amy find out, these are just minor events in a sinister plan to take over every human being on Earth. The plot centres on a secret military lunar base, but the Doctor ends up back on Earth, and without the TARDIS there’s no way he can get to the moon to save Amy and defeat the aliens... or is there? The Doctor discovers one last great secret that could save humanity: Apollo 23...

Just as the television series has had an overhaul, so too have the Doctor Who hardback novels, which now boast a new Doctor, a new companion, new fonts and a new logo. The page size is also different, having been enlarged to match that of the Torchwood novels.

Author Justin Richards captures the Eleventh Doctor and Amy reasonably well, given the fact that their episodes would still have been in production when Richards was writing. It’s true that the characters sometimes read like other Doctors and companions, but then that is true of some of their dialogue in the television show: it is largely the actors’ performances that make the roles their own. I’m sure I will be better able to hear their voices in my head as I read after I’ve seen more of their episodes, as was also the case when David Tennant took over from Christopher Eccleston.

Maybe it has something to do with the Eleventh Doctor’s bow tie, but Richards’s latest book seems to be strongly influenced by the Jon Pertwee era. Much of the action takes place on a moon base that is the precursor to the lunar prison seen in Frontier in Space. Here experiments are being carried out using a revolutionary and controversial treatment for criminal mentality, a la The Mind of Evil (Keller impulses even get a name check). Most notably, the Doctor takes a trip in a space rocket fuelled with M3 variant, just as he did in The Ambassadors of Death.

The story gets off to an attention-grabbing start, with an ordinary British office worker asphyxiating in a park while an astronaut suddenly appears in a shopping centre. I wondered for a while how the author could possibly bring all these disparate plot elements together in a satisfactory way, but he manages it in the end - and in a manner that involves a degree of political realism.

Justin Richards aims high with Apollo 23.


Richard McGinlay

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