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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
Summer Falls


Author: “Amelia Williams”
Read by: Clare Corbett
Publisher: AudioGO
RRP: £13.25, US $24.95
ISBN: 978 1 4713 5339 0
Release Date: 01 August 2013

When summer falls, the Lord of Winter will arise…” In the seaside village of Watchcombe, young Kate is determined to make the most of her last week of summer holiday. But when she discovers a mysterious painting entitled “The Lord of Winter” in a charity shop, it leads her on an adventure she never could have planned. Kate soon realises that the old seascape, painted long ago by an eccentric local artist, is actually a puzzle. With the help of some bizarre new acquaintances – including a museum curator’s magical cat, a miserable neighbour, and a lonely boy – she plans on solving it. Then, one morning, Kate wakes up to a world changed forever. For the Lord of Winter is coming – and Kate has a very important decision to make...


Summer Falls is a strange story. It isn’t really a Doctor Who story... or is it? It’s the story that we see the cover of in The Bells of Saint John. It is purportedly written by Amelia Williams née Amy Pond (in reality, the author is James Goss), but it doesn’t actually feature any Doctor Who characters... or does it?

The heroine, Kate Webster, appears to be based on Amy’s own younger self and her experiences with the Doctor, which included puzzling paintings and the power of memory. She is a strong-willed little girl whose circumstances mean that she is quite capable of taking care of herself. Whereas Amy’s parents disappeared, Kate’s single mother favours naps over domestic chores. The girl’s forthright attitude and ability to make soufflés are also reminiscent of Clara Oswald – an effect that is enhanced on audio by the reading of Clare Corbett, whose vocal qualities are similar to those of Jenna Coleman. It’s almost as if Clara herself is reading the book to us.

The Curator with his mysterious shed seems to be inspired by Amy’s travels with the Doctor… or could he be the Doctor himself? Many of the clues actually pre-date Amy’s time. Though the shed appears to be the TARDIS, the museum has also acquired some of the craft’s dimensional transcendentalism – the interior of the little building looks “like someone had stuffed a bookshop into a junkshop into a boat into a church” and contains an Ormolu clock (as did the First Doctor’s TARDIS). The Curator also possesses a match that lasts for a remarkably long time (like the Doctor in the novelisation of The Daleks), loves little shops (like the Tenth Doctor), and thinks magic is cool (as the Eleventh Doctor might say).

On paper, the character could easily be interpreted as the Eleventh Doctor. However, as performed by Clare Corbett, he is something else entirely. He has a northern accent, though it’s closer to Alan Bennett than Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor. It is possible that Corbett is simply unaware of the connection to the Time Lord, but that’s OK, because “Amelia Williams” doesn’t want to identify him directly. The Curator, who Kate christens Barnabas, informs the girl that he is “between names at the moment”, hinting that perhaps he is John Hurt’s “not in the name of the Doctor” Doctor, or some other, previously unseen incarnation, enjoying a reclusive life while his ship undergoes repairs. The author keeps physical descriptions of the character to a minimum – he is simply “tall, thin and friendly”, which is true of several of the Doctors.

Many of Corbett’s other voices are just as distinct, though Mr Mitchell and the Lord of Winter sometimes sound rather similar to each other. She excels at doing children’s voices, which is presumably why she got the gig, because the younger characters carry the bulk of the plot.

Goss successfully works into his narrative all the little details that we already know about the story from watching The Bells of Saint John: that it involves a girl, two boys and a dog (he also adds a cat to the mix), and that something sad happens in Chapter 11. There is even a scene in which Kate ventures alone into a cave, as shown on the front cover, though the weather is quite different from the sunny climate depicted in the illustration.

As I donned my headphones to listen to this audio book, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a little sceptical at first, fearing a blatant cash-in that was Doctor Who in name only, but I was very pleasantly surprised. With its appealing characters, particularly the heroine, Summer Falls is a great children’s book in its own right, and there are enough allusions to the Doctor Who universe to keep die-hard fans intrigued.

So, is this an adventure of the Doctor channelled by Amy Pond, or a fanciful piece of fiction written by her? It is whatever you want it to be.


Richard McGinlay

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