A Book by Stephen Cole (Doctor Who: New Series Adventures #2)
When Doctor Who returned from its fifteen year hiatus in 2005, The BBC did not waste any time getting the former merchandising juggernaut back into full swing for a whole new generation of fans. Store shelves were flooded with toys, sticker packs, costumes, and even books, both for children and young adults. It wasn’t until about two years later (or so) when this started snowballing in America, but I thankfully had no issues getting some of this stuff imported here from the get-go as I worked at a bookstore and the supply chain had access to a lot of this. As I recall, these books were some of the first Doctor Who merchandise items I snagged back when I first got back into the show, and I devoured them almost immediately. I still have a lot of these, although I believe I stopped buying them at around the time of the Matt Smith tenure of the show. I appreciated the fact that they came in heavy hardcover jackets and were priced pretty well, and really should try to read more if I keep doing these.
As with any tie-in material, books can be good or bad depending on how seriously the producers take it, and these were generally treated pretty well. Most of this initial batch could have easily been scripts for the show itself, so I appreciated the consistency within the franchise. I’ve always had issues with Doctor Who books from the 90’s and 00’s going off on weird tangents that absolutely feel nothing like the show in any way, and while I know that is an unpopular opinion this is the hill that I will die on! This is largely the reason why I’m not a huge fan of the series of Big Finish stories that seek to continue stories from the Virgin New Adventures books, as I feel like the focus of those books was always to put Ace through undue hardship and generally be bleak for no reason. Then again, I was not in the UK in the 90s and had largely checked out on the series until I started buying DVDs in 2002 or so, so my opinion is fairly moot to most fans.
“The TARDIS takes the Doctor and Rose to a destination in deep space – Justicia, a prison camp stretched over seven planets, where Earth colonies deal with their criminals. While Rose finds herself locked up in a teenage borstal, the Doctor is trapped in a scientific labour camp. Each is determined to find the other, and soon both Rose and the Doctor are risking life and limb to escape in their distinctive styles. But their dangerous plans are complicated by some old enemies. Are these creatures fellow prisoners as they claim, or staging a takeover for their own sinister purposes?”
With this initial range of BBC Doctor Who New Series Adventures novels, admittedly some were a bit hit or miss, albeit in a way that still preserved the tone of this version of the show, which was somewhat hit or miss in season one. I previously revisited and reviewed the first book out of this line, The Clockwise Man, which was a book that I actually enjoyed based almost entirely on the setting alone (World War I is my jam). Even though I found the characterization of The Doctor somewhat off at times due to the book largely being written before the show even aired, I still loved it. In that case, I still remembered some of the plot going back into that book, but managed to almost entirely forget about this second one. When I started this one, I sat there wondering if I had somehow missed this one in the past, which I knew was not true. To me, this must show that I initially was not a huge fan of it or the story was just VERY unforgettable. Now the question is, is there a reason why I can’t remember The Monsters Inside?
The Monsters Inside by Stephen Cole is a good example of why some of these are kind of mid-tier. On the surface, this book actually has a pretty interesting plot and canonically is the very first time that Rose Tyler sets foot alien planet, making it somewhat important. However, the issues begin when one realizes that the story is largely a prison drama, or at least as close to a prison drama one can get when writing a book that is largely targeted towards a young reader market. I’m just not sure a story like this works for a kid’s book market, largely due to how prison culture is something kids should not read about. Coincidentally, I did notice that this book has a little bit of spicy language in it at times, which was kind of out of tone for this franchise. This occurs a few times when Rose Tyler refers to numerous people as “being a bitch”.
Not a ton really happens here, which is precisely why I likely found this book forgettable in the past. The story meanders a little bit and then all of a sudden we get the realization that that this, is in fact, a Raxacoricofallapatorians/Slitheen story. While I don’t mind the Slitheen, they are definitely one of the more polarizing additions to the Doctor Who rogues gallery from their creation all the way to today. Created for children due to the silly nature of their personalities and how they fart and burp all the time, some people absolutely adore them and others practically loathe them for obvious reasons. They are a bit more toned down in this story versus their numerous TV escapades which is actually fairly welcome, and makes them a bit more tolerable. I’m not sure I can really recommend this one, but if one needs a fix of the Ninth Doctor / Rose pairing this is as good a book as any to give the reader more content!