Top positive review
Alien Titans in the ancient world
on 11 May 2016
Considering the impact archaic and classical Hellenic culture has had upon the course of world history and the inspiration it provides for monsters/aliens in Doctor Who (minotaurs in particular), the Doctor doesn’t seem to visits this extensive and varied period very often. Onscreen there really only is ‘The Myth Makers’ even though several stories have extensively pillaged Greek mythology. Therefore this novel instantly has some appeal.
An alien attack upon the Acropolis in the modern day sends the Doctor back to the Mediterranean world of 1500BC. Once there he discovers a flourishing holiday resort run by the ever viciously entrepreneurial Slitheen. Aliens from around the cosmos come to watch humans slaughter each other in a form of gladiatorial combat in between touring the local sights as you average tourist might do.
It is an entertaining setup where in a reversal of the real world it is the various aliens that become the inspiration for mythical creatures. It also puts forward a science fiction reason for the eruption of Thera (although I was under the impression this happened in the 1600s BC from dendrochronology and volcanic residue in the ice sheets of Greenland – it’s a debatable subject).
The Second, Third, Fourth and Eleventh Doctors all faced some form of minotaur onscreen but it is only the Tenth in this novel that actually engages in the Minoan ‘sport’ of bull leaping which is believed to be the inspiration for the minotaur legend.
As this is a novel from the period when the Tenth Doctor travels alone, June fulfils the role of temporary companion for this adventure. In some ways she is quite a typical modern companion and, thus, nothing particularly original. But she is well characterised and comes over as believable and instantly likeable. It is very easy to see why the Doctor enlists her. She is also a classicist and thus a journey to the ancient Greek world is an ideal time trip for her.
Much of the novel comes from June’s perspective and she is more of the main character than the Doctor. This works quite well and makes this one of those stories where we only see the Doctor through the filter of a companion.
June’s perspective on the modern day tourists in Athens and towards the alien tourists invites comparison. It suggests that there is a view upon the sustainability of modern tourism within the story, but if there is it is buried fairly well beneath all the running around and action.
However, one of the greatest strengths of this novel is that it actually makes the Slitheen (who I personally believe to be one of the worst Doctor Who monsters) far more credible and not utterly irritating. Thankfully there are no ridiculous skin suits or fart jokes.