This is more than a tickly throat.

This is more than a tickly throat.

“She was running through the winter woods because death was at her heels.”

In my eyes, books are superior to films and TV in many ways, but one way in which their superiority is undeniable is the fact that books are not limited by budgets or special effects. While I love Doctor Who, you can’t deny that a huge number of episodes are set in early 21st century Britain, despite the fact that the entire premise of the show is that the Doctor has a machine that allows him to travel anywhere in time and space. This is why the Doctor Who novels are a great boon, as you can tell the stories that take place on other worlds and with very strange events without spending an extra penny on costumes or location scouting. However, unlike the show, the books are far more hit and miss with how well they’re executed.

In this novel, the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones have arrived on Tiermann’s World, a planet in the distant future that is owned by one man who lives there with his wife and son surrounded by robot servants to do everything for them. They are, however, in trouble, as the planet is being consumed by a huge alien beast called a Voracious Craw, a tapeworm-like creature that is more mouth than anything else. It circles the planet and sucks up anything and everything into its maw. The Doctor and Martha intend to save the Tiermann family.

However, Ernest Tiermann is something of a madman, having build his perfect house, the Dreamhome, and encased it in force shields to protect him from the outside world. This won’t stop the Craw though, and they all know it. While trying to save the TARDIS, the Doctor is accused of damaging the force shields and consigned to Level Minus Thirty-Nine of the Dreamhome, where he becomes friends with a vending machine and a sunbed. (Yes, that’s right.) When it becomes clear that Tiermann is going to leave all his robots behind however, they and the sentient computer that runs the Dreamhome, the Domovoi, begin to plot their revenge.

So what did I like about this book? I liked the set up and the concept of a man being vain and rich enough to buy a whole planet and name it after himself. I liked the sheer strangeness of a vending machine and sunbed becoming central characters. I even quite liked some of the really dark stuff that’s going on here. But the list of things that disappointed me is far longer.

Martha had barely any page time at all and, aside from administering a little bit of medical assitance, she does next to nothing. The Doctor is at his most arrogant and adventurous, and with a new writer penning his story, the characterisation seemed a little off. Magrs appears to be trying to out-Doctor the Doctor. I mean, can you really imagine him stopping everything to sing the entire of “Bohemian Rhapsody” to a machine to calm it down? Problems are solved too quickly, there’s mention of all technology going haywire, and yet the TARDIS somehow remains completely unaffected, and distinctly Earth-like saber-toothed cats roam the wintry forests of the planet. And the method of saving themselves from the Vorarcious Craw, which is otherwise quite an interesting beast and concept, is downright stupid.

There are good Doctor Who books, just as there are bad episodes on the TV, but this one felt a touch forced. I’ll soldier on through the novels because sometimes I find a gem, but this wasn’t one. It had so much potential, but failed to completely live up to it.