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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Story of Martha


Authors: Dan Abnett and others
BBC Books
RRP: £6.99, US $11.99, Cdn $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84607 561 2
Available 26 December 2008

For a year, while the Master ruled over the Earth, Martha Jones travelled the world, telling people stories about the Doctor. She told them of how the Doctor has saved them before, and how he will save them again. This is that story. It tells of Martha’s travels, from her arrival on Earth as the Toclafane attacked and decimated the population, through to her return to Britain to face the Master. But it’s more than that. This is also a collection of the stories she tells, the stories of adventures she had with the Doctor that we haven’t heard about before, the stories that inspired and saved the world...

The latest batch of hardback Doctor Who novels is decidedly more experimental in terms of the TARDIS crew members it features. Usually the crew complement is the same throughout all three books, typically representing the characters most recently seen on TV. However, now that the show is off air, barring a few specials, until 2010, BBC Books has evidently decided to mix things up a little. This time one of the books features the Doctor with Donna Noble, while another depicts the Doctor travelling alone, and this one is a flashback to his time with Martha Jones.

The structure of this book is also highly unusual. Set during the year that elapses between The Sound of Drums and Last of the Time Lords, as Martha roams the Earth, spreading word of the Doctor’s good deeds, Dan Abnett’s narrative is interspersed with some of the tales Martha tells: four short stories penned by a variety of writers. This isn’t exactly a short-story anthology, as the linking narrative comprises more than half the book, but it’s not exactly a novel either. As the synopsis says (in its rather rambling way): it’s more than that.

Unfortunately, the short stories aren’t particularly memorable. They get better as the book progresses, but the plots are all uncomfortably familiar. The ultimate revelation of David Roden’s “The Weeping” is similar to that of Matthew James’s entry in Short Trips: How the Doctor Changed My Life, a sad coincidence given that the anthology has only recently been published. Less forgivably, the villains of Steve Lockley and Paul Lewis’s “Breathing Space” have an anti-pollution plan comparable to that of the Sontarans in The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky. Robert Shearman’s surreal “The Frozen Wastes” retreads territory already explored in Robert Shearman’s surreal Scherzo. Simon Jowett’s “Star-Crossed” combines elements from Star Trek: Voyager (the humanisation and emancipation of the artificial Doctor), The Doctor’s Daughter and a Tom Baker serial that shall remain nameless for fear of spoiling the plot for you.

Abnett’s frame story is easily the most interesting part of the book, though I suppose we need the short stories in order to give the Doctor a prominent role. The Master appears only briefly, though his presence is constantly felt thanks to his loyal servants, who are in dogged pursuit of Martha. Admittedly the tale is undermined by the fact that we know that Martha will survive and that, due to a bizarre time paradox, the year never happened anyway. In spite of this, the author gives a gripping account of the companion’s experiences.

The Story of Martha is a worthy experiment rather than being truly masterly.


Richard McGinlay

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