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A pedestrian retread of 1980's Doctor Who and a wasted opportunity
on 8 January 2015
This is actually the first Doctor Who novel I've bought and read since the Target books of the mid to late 70s. Yes I am that old and I think this is why I was very disappointed with "Engines of War". I had assumed that as the new 21st Century Doctor Who on TV was so far beyond its "classic" predecessor (which I remember very well) so this novel would be far beyond the Target novelisations.
But it isn't. It reads exactly the same. Characterisation is pretty stereotypical. The Doctor is generic and apart from the occasional reminder that he has a beard doesn't shout "John Hurt" to me at all. The President of the Time Lords is maniacally evil, the companion could be any 20th Century teenager, and there's even a snivelling "Kellner" type Time Lord. Oh and there's a Mind Probe too, which said snivelling Time Lord uses with soap-character-like glee.
Once more the protaganists are locked in a cell which the sonic screwdriver can't open...only for the day to be saved by a piece of wire. Pardon? The Time Lords are an ancient civilisation far in advance of anyone else technologically, and yet they lock their prison cells with an ordinary pickable lock, and they don't have any kind of prisoner surveillance?
The Daleks too are simply generic tin cans who shout (no make that "Squawk") "Exterminate!" at every opportunity. Daleks in "Doomsday" can detect Rose Tyler's increased heart-rate, yet the Moldox Resistance (and the Doctor) can easily avoid Dalek patrols by hiding behind bushes.
George Mann's novel doesn't come over as an attempt to expand the background of the new series and touch on the great and mythical Time War. Instead it very much reads like something based on (and in the style of) the Classic Series. No make that the Classic Series circa 1985. In fact make that the novelisations of the Classic Series circa 1985. I almost expected to read of the TARDIS making a "wheezing groaning" sound and Cinder having "an honest open face". Everything about it is '80s Who, from the descriptions of Gallifrey to the endless running through corridors or Dalek occupied wastelands. I'm guessing that if you devoured Doctor Who novels in the 80s and 90s then you might find this a comfortable and familiar read, but to me it was a waste of an interesting Doctor and the potential of the Time War.