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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
Tenth Doctor Novels


Authors: Various
Read by: Freema Agyeman, Will Thorp, Reggie Yates and Adjoa Andoh
Publisher: BBC Audio
RRP: £40.00 (CD), £16.00 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78529 620 8
Release Date: 10 August 2017

Join the Doctor and Martha on eight journeys in time and space as they encounter a giant beast in the Lake District, a hoard of extinct animals, a vast woodland in space, nightmarish Halloween creatures, dangerous swamp life, a hi-tech home under siege, a vanished spaceship and a mysterious medicine man…

This collection contains eight abridged audio books based upon novels featuring the Tenth Doctor. His novels with Rose Tyler as his companion have already been reissued in the Collected Stories box set, and so this volume focuses instead on Martha Jones, who joined the range with Sting of the Zygons. The physical product comprises 16 CDs, with a total running time of 18 hours, so if you don’t already own them, then this lot should keep you occupied for quite some time!

The TARDIS lands the Doctor and Martha in the Lake District in 1909, where a small village has been terrorised by a giant, scaly monster. The search is on for the elusive “Beast of Westmorland”, and explorers, naturalists and hunters from across the country are descending on the fells. But there is a more sinister presence at work in the Lakes than a mere monster on the rampage, and the Doctor is soon embroiled in the plans of an old and terrifying enemy. And as the hunters become the hunted, a desperate battle of wits begins – with the future of the entire world at stake…

With the exception of Will Thorp, all the readers in this collection have played members of Martha Jones’s family. Sting of the Zygons, for instance, is performed by actor / presenter Reggie Yates, alias Martha’s brother Leo. He gives an enthusiastic reading and does a decent Zygon voice.

When this book was originally published, in 2007, it marked the first time that a classic series monster (that is, one that had not already been reintroduced into the revived show) had appeared in a new series novel (the Daleks and Cybermen had already made comebacks in Quick Reads novellas). The Zygons (David Tennant’s favourite monsters) have since appeared in several new series episodes, starting with The Day of the Doctor.

They and their pet Skarasens, both of whom made their debut in the Tom Baker serial Terror of the Zygons, have also battled the Eighth Doctor in the novel The Bodysnatchers, set in 1894, though author Stephen Cole makes no overt references to that book, only to the events of the television serial. He concurs with Bodysnatchers author Mark Morris that young Zygons have pale, maggoty flesh, though he assigns genders to the creatures, whereas Morris claimed that they were hermaphrodites.

Cole successfully treads a fine line between bringing unfamiliar listeners up to speed with who and what these beings are, and not boring those of us in the know with lengthy exposition. In terms of recapturing the appeal of Terror of the Zygons, the author packs all the essentials. Deceptively idyllic rural location? Check. Scary lake monster? Check. Aliens impersonating human beings? Check. Eccentric locals? Check. However, this is no mere rehash. Cole plays with and adds interesting twists to familiar ideas, and ties in themes of hunting and the contamination of livestock – the Zygons lose a Skarasen to a condition not unlike mad cow disease.

This is more of an observation than a criticism, but Zygon technology doesn’t seem as radical as it once did, now that we have got used to the organic design of the Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS interior. In other respects, though, this audio book is a thoroughly enjoyable experience, with plenty of dramatic moments worthy of a cliffhanger sting.



The Doctor and Martha go in search of a real live dodo, but are transported by the TARDIS to the mysterious Museum of the Last Ones. There, in the Earth section, they discover every extinct creature up to the present day – billions of them, from the tiniest microbe to the biggest dinosaur – all still alive and in suspended animation. Preservation is the museum’s only job: collecting the last of every endangered species from all over the universe. But exhibits are going missing. Can the Doctor solve the mystery before the curator adds the last of the Time Lords to her collection…?

Jacqueline Rayner’s The Last Dodo is read by Martha Jones herself, Freema Agyeman – which is entirely appropriate, since this is very much Martha’s story. As with the print version of the book, many passages are conveyed from the conversational first-person viewpoint of the companion, in a style similar to that of the character’s (now defunct) blog on MySpace. These cutaways really get inside Martha’s head, and Agyeman gives an emotive reading – I almost shed a tear at the end.

The title of the book does not refer to the First Doctor’s companion Dodo (Dorothea) Chaplet, though she does get a name check of sorts. In common with Sting of the Zygons, The Last Dodo touches upon the issue of hunting, tying it in with those of conservation and captivity. During the course of the narrative, Martha encounters several creatures, including the eponymous dodo and a black rhinoceros, that have gone extinct or are currently endangered as a result of humanity’s activities.

Unfortunately, this abridged reading omits memorable cameo appearances by several customers who have received stolen goods from someone at the museum, including a Cruella de Vil type collector of rare skins and an evolutionary scientist desperate not to be proven wrong. It was also sadly impossible in the audio medium to include pages from a guidebook that Martha consults, The I-Spyder Book of Earth Creatures, which reinforced the original novel’s moral message.

Unusually for this series of books, there are no child characters – though I’m sure the lovable dodo will more than make up for that in terms of appealing to younger fans!

The plot structure is somewhat uneven and episodic, starting off as a mystery surrounding missing animals, which then gives way to another calamity and then an even greater one, threatening the entire Earth. However, this situation has actually been remedied by the omission of the aforementioned receivers of stolen goods. There’s also a rather miraculous ‘TARDIS saves the day’ moment at the end of the story. All in all, though, this is a lively listen that is far from being as dead as a dodo.



The Castor, a vast and seemingly deserted starship, spins slowly in the void of deep space. Martha and the Doctor explore this drifting tomb, and discover that they may not be alone after all. Who or what survived the disaster that overcame the rest of the crew? What continues to power the vessel? And why has a stretch of wooded countryside suddenly appeared in the middle of the craft? As the Doctor and Martha journey through the forest, they find a mysterious, fog-bound village – a village that is traumatised by missing children and prophecies of its own destruction…

The above synopsis, with its apparently primitive earthbound setting somehow connected to a derelict spaceship in the future, sounds rather reminiscent of The Girl in the Fireplace, doesn’t it? Wooden Heart is also derivative of several other stories, borrowing elements from Castrovalva and The Mind of Evil. I was also reminded of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Remember Me (people disappearing and the universe shrinking) and the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine story Shadowplay.

In another respect, however, author Martin Day was ahead of the game when he wrote this book, placing woodland in a spaceship years before Steven Moffat did the same in The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone and World Enough and Time / The Doctor Falls.

Day also manages to keep the listener guessing and keeps things moving along nicely. The narrative progression is, in fact, aided by some of the cuts that have been made to this abridged edition, including the excision of a somewhat off-topic flashback / dream sequence from the second half of the story. Martha’s journey across a lake to a mysterious island is also cut down to the bare minimum. The Doctor’s cheeky line about the Castor’s sister ship (“Never mind the Pollux”) hasn’t made it into the talking book, either – that would have been harder to get away with on audio!

Reader Adjoa Andoh, who played Sister Jatt in New Earth and the recurring role of Francine Jones in several episodes of Series 3, is what really brings this audio book to life. She gives the villagers distinctive Eastern European accents, and her delivery of Martha’s lines sounds uncannily like Freema Agyeman. Sometimes you can almost believe that Agyeman has come into the studio to record her lines – Andoh was obviously well cast as Martha’s mother.

Wooden you know it, I enjoyed this reading of Wooden Heart more than the original book.



It’s almost Halloween in the sleepy New England town of Blackwood Falls. Leaves litter lawns and sidewalks, paper skeletons hang in windows, and carved pumpkins leer from front porches. The Doctor and Martha soon discover that something long dormant has awoken, and this will be no ordinary Halloween. What is the secret of the ancient tree and the book discovered tangled in its roots? Why are the harmless trappings of the season taking on a creepy new life of their own? The Doctor and Martha must battle to prevent both the townspeople and themselves from suffering a grisly fate…

Horror writer Mark Morris sticks to what he knows best with Forever Autumn. The book is intended to be suitable for a young audience, so there’s nothing truly nightmare-inducing here, though the author (who has also penned two previous Doctor Who novels for BBC Books: The Bodysnatchers and the Fifth Doctor adventure Deep Blue) ticks all the right boxes in terms of the genre. From eerie green mist and possessed cats to sinister fancy dress costumes, a creepy happening is never very far away – despite the fact that the unpleasant fate of the town’s alcoholic former physician has been cut from this abridged version of the story.

The original novel’s atmospheric opening has also been removed, which is a pity, since it deprives us of some of the story’s build-up and background to the young character of Rick Pirelli and his family, especially Rick’s relationship with his older brother Chris. Instead, the talking book kicks off with the arrival of the Doctor and Martha. Reducing the presence of some of the supporting characters has its benefits, however, as the author did seem to struggle to find things for them all to do in the print version of this book.

The baddies are Jack Skellington lookalikes called the Hervoken. Morris anticipates comparisons between his creatures’ magical methods and those of the Carrionites from The Shakespeare Code by having the Doctor explain that the two species were ancient rivals, before the Eternals stepped in and banished both of them.

The tale is read by Will Thorp, who played Toby Zed in The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit. He gives a suitably ominous reading, though his vocalisation of the Tenth Doctor’s trademark babble grates on the nerves somewhat. Nevertheless, like Halloween itself, Forever Autumn is essentially good, harmless fun.



When the TARDIS makes a disastrous landing in the swamps of the planet Sunday, the Doctor has no choice but to abandon Martha and try to find help. But the tranquillity of the swamps is deceptive, and even the TARDIS can’t protect Martha forever. Meanwhile, the human pioneers of Sunday have their own dangers to face: homeless and alone, they’re only just starting to realise that the planet’s wildlife isn’t as harmless as it appears. Why are the native otters behaving so strangely, and what is the creature in the swamps that is so interested in both the colonists and the new arrivals…?

In common with The Last Dodo and the next story, Sick Building, Wetworld begins and ends from the point of view of an animal. In The Last Dodo, the creature in question is (surprise, surprise) a dodo. In Sick Building, it’s a sabre-toothed cat. Wetworld opens from the perspective of an unfortunate bird and closes with the viewpoint of an otter.

Otters are an odd source of inspiration for an alien life form, but ultimately a fascinating one. Far less pleasant is the squid-like, slimy creature whose tentacles do some very nasty things to several of the colonists, including some Frontios-style manipulation of bodies, both living and dead (one instance of which has been deleted from this abridged version). Fortunately, despite the presence of the swamps and the creature, similarities to the lamentable Power of Kroll are surprisingly few. Author Mark Michalowski does throw in a few unobtrusive references to other characters and concepts from the old series, including Romana and the Adjudicators.

The author has crafted a complex and intelligent tale, making ample use of the Tenth Doctor’s motormouth sense of humour, which is accentuated by Freema Agyeman’s reading. For instance, there’s a great joke about the planet’s name, made at the expense of the colony’s Chief Councillor, and several asides as the Time Lord concocts other wordplay.

Cuts to the story actually benefit the role of Martha, who didn’t get much to do during the first half of the original novel, due to her being variously trapped in the TARDIS or in an otter den and/or unconscious.

One thing that still strikes me as odd, though, is the absence of any parent or guardian for the 16-year-old character of Candy. Did she head off to the colony world by herself at such a tender age, are her parents elsewhere on the planet, or did they die in the flood that recently devastated the settlement? We never find out. For the most part, though, there’s a world of enjoyment to be had in Wetworld.



Tiermann’s World: a planet covered in wintry woods and roamed by sabre-toothed tigers and other savage beasts. The Doctor and Martha are here to warn Professor Tiermann, his wife and their son that a terrible danger is on its way. The Tiermanns live in luxury, in a fantastic, futuristic, fully automated Dreamhome, under a seemingly impenetrable force shield. But that won’t protect them from the Voracious Craw, a gigantic and hungry alien creature that is heading remorselessly towards their home. When it arrives, everything will be devoured. Can they get away in time…?

By Paul Magrs standards, Sick Building starts off in a fairly straightforward manner. OK, so there’s a giant celestial beast called the Voracious Craw (which sounds a bit too much like Penelope Pitstop’s arch enemy, the Hooded Claw, for comfort), but apart from that, the author’s customary weirdness seems to have been played down. He’s probably on his best behaviour for the kiddies.

Before long, however, we are introduced to the Servo-furnishings, robots created by Professor Tiermann to serve him and his family. Like Disney characters, these robots come in all shapes and sizes, each one based upon a household implement, such as a drinks cabinet or a vacuum cleaner. Silliest of all, in a quite endearing way, are Barbara the vending machine and Toaster the sun bed, aged automatons that have long since seen better days. I was reminded of Talkie Toaster from Red Dwarf, in that the decrepit droids keep offering people snacks or a bit of a tan, because that’s their whole reason for being. Narrator Will Thorp has fun voicing these characters, particularly the fruity Toaster.

The book’s most obvious sources, however, are the movie Forbidden Planet and The Tempest, the Shakespeare play that inspired it. Like Dr Morbius and Prospero, the proud Professor Tiermann lives in seclusion with his immediate family. Like Prospero, he is surrounded by magical-seeming servants (whereas Morbius had just the one robot, Robby). Like Morbius, his massive ego proves to be his undoing…

This is Magrs’s first Doctor Who novel not to feature his Time Lady creation, Iris Wildthyme. However, some of Iris’s dottiness is present in Barbara.

Despite the childish nature of certain plot elements, including much quaffing of fizzy drinks and resulting windiness, things turn surprisingly violent during the second half of the story. Hmmm, perhaps Magrs isn’t on his best behaviour for the kiddies after all… Fortunately, much of the sluggishness of the final quarter of the print version of Sick Building has been edited out of this abridged reading, so you won’t get sick of hearing it.



The Doctor’s been everywhere and everywhen, and seems to know everything. But ask him what happened to the Starship Brilliant and he hasn’t the first idea. Did it fall into a sun or a black hole? Was it shot down in the first moments of the galactic war? And what’s this about a secret experimental drive? As Martha is so keen to find out, the Doctor lands the TARDIS on the Brilliant, a few days before it vanishes. Soon the Doctor learns the awful truth, and Martha learns to be careful what you wish for. She certainly wasn’t hoping for mayhem, death and badger-faced space pirates…

The presence of a spaceship in The Pirate Loop that resembles an old-fashioned sea vessel is reminiscent of Enlightenment and Voyage of the Damned, but this is a very different tale.

Owing to a rather bizarre temporal discontinuity, the Doctor and Martha end up separated in time. The separation isn’t as great as in some stories, involving hours rather than years, but it nevertheless makes for intriguing listening – though potentially confusing at first, as it’s harder to search back through previous tracks than it is to flick back through the pages of a book if you want to double-check that you heard/read that correctly. For example, when I read the print version of this book, I initially thought that the travellers had been split into alternate timelines. It’s best not to think about the time break too much, but just go with the flow, a process that is made easier by this lively reading.

What is it with this series and adversaries based on cute wildlife? Following the porcupine-like Quevvils in Winner Takes All and the otters of Wetworld, here author Simon Guerrier gives us pirate badgers! They talk and act like children much of the time (as is brilliantly conveyed by reader Freema Agyeman), but receive something of an education from Martha and an endearing alien passenger called Mrs Wingsworth (imagine, if you will, a fusion of Iris Wildthyme and Alpha Centauri). The morals of the story, or two of them at least, are that you will get on much better in life if you say “please” and that surely it’s preferable to have a party than to kill people.

In abridging the story, Steve Tribe drops an opening sequence set in Milky-Pink City, details about the badgers’ genetically engineered origins, and most of the author’s little references to other stories.

The Pirate Loop remains a frivolous tale – the temporal discontinuity resembles cold scrambled egg, the canapés never run out, I lost count of the number of times Agyeman has to repeat the phrase “cheese and pineapple stick(s)”, and character names include Georgina Wet-Eleven – but an enjoyably loopy one.



The peace and quiet of a remote homestead in 1880s America is shattered by the arrival of two shadowy outriders searching for “the healer”. When the farmer refuses to help them, the mercenaries raze his house to the ground using guns that shoot bolts of energy instead of bullets… In the town of Redwater, the Doctor and Martha learn of a snake-oil salesman whose patent medicines actually cure his patients. But when they investigate, they find that the truth is stranger and far more dangerous. The Doctor and Martha are about to discover just how wild the West can become…

James Swallow, the writer of several Doctor Who short stories and audio plays (but only one actual Who novel – this one) clearly knows the show well. He is also very familiar with the Wild West, having penned several novels in the Sundowners series of steampunk Westerns. His list of ingredients from the Western genre include an unscrupulous travelling salesman with a native sidekick, a duo of lethal outriders, a kind-hearted schoolmarm, an orphaned teenager and an abandoned mine. Of course, the Doctor has visited the Old West before, in The Gunfighters, and Peacemaker acknowledges this fact when the Time Lord says of the gunfight at the OK Corral: “Been there, done that.” The plot also predicts certain elements of A Town Called Mercy, which similarly sees an alien killer tracking down a healer.

This story sits comfortably amid the narrative developments of Series 3. Separated from the Doctor, Martha displays a level of bravery that indicates she is well on her way to becoming the heroic character seen in Last of the Time Lords. Meanwhile, the Doctor goes through agony once again and, as in 42, struggles against a powerful alien influence. Some of the author’s continuity references, such as mentions of the Ood and the Silurians, have been removed from this abridged edition.

Given the setting, one might have expected an American actor to be hired for the reading. However, the British Will Thorp provides some decent accents as the many and various Old West characters, including the schoolmarm, Jenny Forrest, though his voice for Zachariah Hawkes, editor of the local newspaper, is rather over the top.

There are some unfortunate similarities between this story and another title originally released at the same time, Wishing Well. In both books, an alien intelligence falls to Earth and attaches itself to the unfortunate person who finds it, at first telepathically and then physically through the palm of the hand. In both books, the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to bring down the roof of a tunnel to escape pursuers who are humans possessed by the alien enemy. Happily enough, though, the two books have now been separated – Wishing Well will appear in the next volume of Tenth Doctor novels.

As for the present volume, it offers an enjoyable and varied collection of eight by Ten. Darn tootin’ it does!


Richard McGinlay

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