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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
Adventures in Lockdown


Editor: Steve Cole
Publisher: BBC Books
192 pages
RRP: UK £8.99, US $11.99
ISBN: 978 1 78594 706 3
Publication Date: 05 November 2020

“Remember, you will get through this. And things will be all right. Even if they look uncertain. Even if you’re worried. Darkness never prevails.” While staying at home was a vital safety measure in 2020, the freedom of the TARDIS remained a dream that drew many – allowing them to roam the cosmos in search of distraction, reassurance and adventure. Now some of the finest Doctor Who television writers come together with gifted illustrators in this very special short story collection. £2.25 from the sale of each copy of this book in the UK will benefit BBC Children in Need…

Contrary to what the title might suggest, these are not adventures that are set during any of the UK’s COVID-enforced lockdowns (which appear not to have affected Doctor Who’s television universe). Rather, these short stories, all of them by writers who have contributed to the revived series, including all three showrunners, have been submitted with the intention of helping the programme’s many fans to get through the upheaval and depression of self-isolation.

Many of these tales aren’t even about characters being lonely or isolated – though Steven Moffat’s “The Terror of the Umpty Ums”, Neil Gaiman’s “Rory’s Story”, Pete McTighe’s “Press Play” and Paul Cornell’s “Shadow” trilogy (comprising “The Shadow Passes”, “Shadow of a Doubt” and “The Shadow in the Mirror”) most certainly are. Both “The Terror of the Umpty Ums” and “Press Play” are about the comfort that can be found in watching or revisiting episodes of Doctor Who during times of boredom or loneliness.

Vinay Patel’s “The Tourist” is about integration rather than isolation, while Chris Chibnall’s “Things She Thought While Falling” is an adventure in ‘look down!’ rather than an adventure in lockdown, dealing as it does with the newly regenerated Doctor’s perilous plummet between the events of The Doctor Falls and The Woman Who Fell to Earth. Chibnall’s story fills in a logical gap that was not resolved on screen, explaining how the Time Lord managed to avoid serious injury when she crashed through a train roof. Both this and Cornell’s “The Shadow Passes” give the Thirteenth Doctor more depth of character than she usually gets, which is something that I really appreciate.

Most of the stories in this book have previously been published for free online, as part of lockdown initiatives organised by Chris Chibnall and Emily Cook, but “The Tourist”, Mark Gatiss’s “Fellow Traveller” and Neil Gaiman’s “One Virtue, and a Thousand Crimes” were penned specially for this collection. The latter features a welcome appearance by the piratical Corsair, while the object she is stealing reminds us that there is more of a precedent for Series 12’s revelations about the Doctor’s connection to Gallifrey’s ancient past than a brief moment towards the end of The Brain of Morbius.

Talking of Moments, the highlight of this book, for me, is “Doctor Who and the Time War” by Russell T Davies. Originally commissioned in 2013 as Davies’s take on the then unseen regeneration of the Eighth Doctor into his successor, the story had to be shelved when it became clear that Steven Moffat had a very different plan for the show’s 50th anniversary. Now “Doctor Who and the Time War” is presented as a ‘what if’ kind of proposition, a view from a parallel timeline. However, it is written with such flowery vagueness – including phrases such as “the wreckage of a thousand worlds” and “broken reefs of Gallifrey and Skaro” – that it can be read as the confused initial thoughts of the Ninth Doctor, who, because the time streams were out of sync, does not remember how the war really ended. No one else is around to hear his predecessor’s final words, “allowing them to be imagined and imagined again for ever.” We can, therefore, imagine John Hurt’s War Doctor giving his final speech, hoping that the ears will be less conspicuous next time. Conversely, we didn’t hear the Ninth Doctor’s first utterance in The Day of the Doctor, but we do so here (in one of a couple of nods to Moffat’s time as showrunner). I dare say that Davies did it this way because he felt more comfortable putting words in the mouth of the Ninth Doctor, who was very much his creation, but the result dovetails rather nicely.

All in all, Adventures in Lockdown is a worthy donation to Doctor Who fans in need.


Richard McGinlay

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