12 doctors, 12 short stories, 12 writers, variable results.
This collection of short stories is a bit of a mixed bag, though most of them share one major fault in that they are told from the point of view of an assistant or some other person. The stories from the point of view of the doctor are by far the strongest and best of the lot.
I’ve only read a couple of Doctor Who novels in the past, but they shared a lot of the mental machinations of the doctor’s mind in the telling of the story and developed the character of the doctor. The lack of Doctorness in these tales is a let down.
That’s not to say they’re bad stories with no merit because they’re not. They’re good tales, but I get the impression they have been cut too short in many instances as they could all be novella length books and have more depth to them.
One of the best stories concerns Paul McGann’s Doctor. He turns up in an American desert near a town that the military have surrounded, a town where an alien spacecraft has crashed and is about to wipe out all life on Earth. Naturally the Doctor saves Earth and one of the people in the town, though the rest of them die. This one gives some back story to the doctor that is imaginative and believable.
Eoin Colfer’s story of William Hartnell’s 1st Doctor is equally good, focusing on his and Susan’s attempts to solve a mystery surrounding the disappearance of people from Victorian London. They were being kidnapped for body parts by pirates and his solution to the problem is a showcase for the doctor and his ability to make something out of nothing.
Peter Davidson’s and Colin Baker’s Doctors only get a walk on part in their stories, while Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor’s tale is a good mix of the Doctor’s personal life and that of the alien he befriends. It also has a surprising twist about Rose Tyler.
Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee get a good run out in their stories, though Tom Baker is almost an afterthought in his. Matt Smith get’s a thorough going over in Neil Gaiman’s story about an alien land grab on Earth, David Tennant’s is a bit of a washout, while Holly Black gives an excellent account for Peter Capaldi and the problems of the intergalactic coffee trade.
Thankfully Sylvester McCoy get’s a decent shout in his interesting conflict with the Daleks, far better than he was allowed by a BBC hierarchy that was determined to destroy the series.
The whole collection is hit and miss, but that is mainly due to the shortness of the stories themselves and that they’re dealing with characters we know so well and, in most cases, have our own ideas about. Had a little more space and time been given (pun intended) this would have been a far better collection.
All in all it’s an easy, interesting read if you can get it cheaply enough.