Doctor Who: Eleven Doctors Eleven Stories
This anthology celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first episode of the Doctor Who television programme. It has novella length short works by well-regarded 11 authors, each featuring a different doctor. It has a surprising lack of polish, for which I blame poor editing. Someone should have said “Look, I know you are a great author and everything, but there’s a hole in your plot.”
Let me give you some examples from the first three stories:
- In the first story, the Doctor is ruminating on how disgusting London smells in the Victorian period. It’s the worst place anywhere (really?) and so he is carrying a small facemask that works as an air filter, which he surreptitiously uses. Not ten minutes later, when facing aliens who are abducting children with a soporific gas, he forgets that he has this device.
- The second story is a Lovecraft pastiche, in which the Archons (who wrote the Necronomicon) are defeated by the sound of the bagpipes. This sort of idea, that the bagpipes are so intensely hideous that it is funny, is historically based in English racism, and so I’m surprised it was allowed in. It also was a bit rich to suggest that Lovecraftian horrors are put off by discordant music, because that’s kind of their jam. Lovecraft mentions their music repeatedly, and they don’t listen to smooth jazz.
- In the third story the Doctor grabs the tip of the Spear of Destiny on behalf of the High Council of the Time Lords. It is one of perhaps six miraculous devices which shuffle potential realities so that whomever has one automatically gets what he wants. The Time Lords already have at least three of them, which is how the Doctor knows about this one’s properties. Generally in this case, whoever holds it is victorious in war. So, how are the Time Lords losing the Time War? Why have they not just held one of the ones they do have and shuffled reality so they get the rest? If they have these things, why is any of the stuff with the Master and the diamond necessary? Why do the evil Time Lords never grab them in the various corruption stories over the years? When the Doctor goes rogue why does he steal the Moment and not one of these wish-granting machines? At the point you say someone has three limitless wish machines, there’s an obvious question as to why they ever need to send agents to do anything.
So, some of the stories are well-written, and on the level of discovering new authors whose style may suit me, the book is a good one. On the larger level of if the stories themselves are enjoyable, and the plots are well crafted, then, no, many of them read like fanfic. I’m not asking that authors new to Who read everything, but I think they do need someone, somewhere in the writing process, who can read their outlines and say “Look, I’m sorry, but this story only works if several of the on-screen character have been acting like idiots for decades.” or “I know this idea seems like a novel twist to you, but people have really driven this idea so hard in the various Who media that it’s a cliché now, and you are really saying nothing interesting.”