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This review is from: "Doctor Who" the Deadstone Memorial (Doctor Who (BBC Paperback)) (Paperback)
This great little Doctor Who book falls into the category `Simply Perfect'. Yes, it's somewhat traditional, after the free-wheeling, multi-direction experiments of the television interregnum, but if you've lost track of the dashing, indefatigable Eighth Doctor since Paul McGann's (excellent) performance in the 1996 TV Movie, and want to get to know him again before his hinted-at return to our screens (Dear BBC: Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease!!!!) then you could do worse than start here; Baxendale catches his wide-eyed irrepressibility to a T.
Published in 2004, Deadstone Memorial (genuinely brilliant title) nods to the then-unbroadcast new show, thrillingly dropping the Doctor into suburbia, and plunging him straight into action surrounding the seeming psychic-possession of an ordinary family. It's not that straightforward, of course, but fridge doors and dimensional portals rub shoulders in a way Russell T Davies would understand.
Single mum Hazel, in particular, is nicely sketched, a middle-aged woman whose brush with this most romantic incarnation of the Doctor uncovers parts of her personality buried by years of selflessness and duty. It's quickly, confidently shown by the author, their growing relationship caught perfectly in a night-time garden scene that (like all the best Doctor Who books) reveals something true about the Doctor, too - that his first love will always be danger.
The Eighth Doctor has had a strange, non-telly half-life, but here our hero truly lives and breathes again, and makes the reader sorry McGann himself didn't get out more in the curls, cravat and velvet coat. After the dark calculation of the Seventh, here is a Doctor just bursting for what's next, throwing himself in to save the day because... well that's what he's always done; and it's fun!
This figure really was the last of the Romantic-era Doctors; he shares much with his quicksilver Tenth incarnation, but the post-Time War Doctors are darker, damaged, a little distanced. The Eighth's appetite for everything is part of a healthy delight in the sheer, teeming boundlessness of it all, not a distraction from the darkness. He loves the stargazing, the dimension-hopping, the ghost-hunting, the mystery of dark, November woods; he's even back on the strong, sweet, UNIT-era Army tea.
This books ticks a lot of boxes that Whovians proud of the show's tradition - those willing and wise enough to step back now and again and revel, rather than plunge into anything else in the name of sheer perverseness - will enjoy. Elements in the mix here (and none of this is negative criticism, by the way; it's a lovely blend) include The Exorcist, Poltergeist, Mary Poppins, MR James, James Herbert, Buffy and Quatermass, and there are lots of intriguing references to past incarnations, past adventures; the Doctor knocks out a colander-and-wires lash-up his third self would be most pleased with (not to mention a Lancashire hotpot)... and does the First Doctor haunt the TARDIS corridors?
So, yes, it's trad, but trad meaning good: with this, and perhaps the estimable Big Finish's Chimes of Midnight nestling on your shelf, you'll be happy to call yourself an Eight Doctor fan. His elusiveness has been part of his charm, of course, and there are a lot of adventures out there, some better than others, if you want to know more. But this is where to start, if you've got a couple of quid in need of a new home; it's high time we and the Eight Doctor got reacquainted...