Doctor Who
inner Takes All

Author: Jacqueline Rayner
BBC Books
RRP: 6.99
ISBN 0 563 48627 9
Available 19 May 2005

Rose and the Doctor return to present-day Earth, and become intrigued by the latest craze: the video game Death to Mantodeans. Is it as harmless as it seems? Meanwhile, on another world, the Quevvils need a new means of attacking their enemies, the Mantodeans. They find the ideal soldiers on Earth...

It would appear that only the top brass at BBC Worldwide have been permitted to write about the Ninth Doctor in this first batch of novels. Justin Richards, who penned The Clockwise Man, is the Creative Director of the Doctor Who books; Stephen Cole, the author of The Monsters Inside, is the range's former editor; and Jacqueline Rayner was until recently Worldwide's Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions.

It is interesting to compare these first three books with the Ninth Doctor's first three television episodes. In each case, we have a story set in the past, one set in the present and one set in the future. Like The Unquiet Dead, The Clockwise Man takes place in Britain's past (and even manages to paraphrase some of its dialogue). Both Rose and Winner Takes All involve alien threats to present-day Earth. The End of the World and The Monsters Inside are both set in the future and feature lots of weird aliens.

Some fans may be disappointed to learn that the TARDIS returns to Earth yet again in this novel. However, as with the television show, the series possesses the perfect in-built excuse for these repeated visits: Rose. This time around she is worried about her mum, Jackie, so the Doctor takes her back home. Those of you who are longing for the Ninth Doctor to travel a bit farther afield should take comfort from the fact that there is also plenty of alien action on the home world of the hedgehog-like Quevvils and the insectoid Mantodeans.

The author also makes the most of her opportunity to depict Jackie and Mickey, Rose's ex-boyfriend. I hated Mickey when he first appeared in the episode Rose. I found his stupidity and cowardice irritating and unfunny. However, he was exonerated in Aliens of London/World War Three, and Rayner takes him a stage further here, developing the character well and conveying several scenes from his point of view.

Meanwhile, the TARDIS crew are yet again well portrayed, though there are a few bits of dialogue that don't seem quite right for Christopher Eccleston's Doctor. Would this incarnation really use the exclamation: "Bother"?

As with The Clockwise Man, the Doctor and Rose are assisted by a young boy, presumably with the intention of appealing to younger readers. In this instance it is a teenager called Robert Watson, who lives out a fantasy of being a Harry Potter-style "chosen one". Robert develops a crush on Rose, and thus joins an increasingly long line of male characters who have become besotted by her.

Like its companion volumes, Winner Takes All is a swift, unchallenging read. It doesn't rock any boats in terms of the series' mythology or its regular characters' relationship. But then, with a new series on television, it isn't supposed to.

Richard McGinlay

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