This is the 50th anniversary collection story of the First Doctor. This story, first published in 2002, has the First Doctor, with Polly and Ben arrive in the Tardis in a place that appears to have no oxygen, just a pressurised atmosphere. Donning spacesuits, the trio step out of the Tardis.
But before we meet up with the Doctor and his companions, we have been reading of a group of Anti-Terror Elite trainees, gearing up for their last combat training mission. They're a ragtag bunch - from all over Earth and Earth satellite and colony planets, they all have their own chips on their shoulders, and their own secrets. And none of them are particularly likeable. Led by the tough Marshal Haunt, who has her own secrets, the team are to land on an asteroid which has been set up as a mission zone with killer droids. There they face their final test. But when they meet up with the Doctor, Ben and Polly, that's just the first of things that start to go horribly wrong.
I've never read Ten Little Indians, by Agatha Christie, so I'm afraid any reference to her work in relation to this book sailed straight over my head. But perhaps that's to my advantage, because I had no preconceptions about the story at all. I approached it merely as a Doctor Who story, which involved a team of space grunts on a mission. That's not a bad premise for any sci-fi story, and if it has the good Doctor involved as well, that's got to be a good thing.
Stephen Cole seems to be quite a prolific author, and has written a number of Doctor Who books as well as other books. Interestingly, when I looked him up on Wikipedia, and searched on the original printing of this novel, the cover showed an image of the Schirr, which I thought was good to have available.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I was utterly engrossed from the first page to the last, and I achieved absolutely nothing productive all day while I curled up with this book. The author has taken what could be just a space junket and turned it into what I felt was a really enjoyable, totally credible Doctor Who story. The characters of the Doctor, Polly and Ben really felt `real'. The other characters also had a good solid feel to them all the way through. There are clever contrivances in the book as well - a section showing the space team's backgrounds was neatly done, and the neural network interface section was really clever. I thoroughly enjoyed being involved in the story in this way. This story had a visual `feel' to it - I felt it could translate very neatly onto the small screen, and I could envisage it playing out before me. I think this book is great - a great First Doctor story, and great Doctor Who. Totally recommended.
on 6 May 2013
This was my first experience of reading a Doctor Who story - I had always been afraid that my imagination wouldn't be up to the task. Happily I have been proved wrong with this story. This was also my first experience of the first incarnation of the doctor and it was interesting to encounter a doctor who was constrained by age. The story was suitably creepy and the latter section was interesting with its 'choose you own adventure' format. I'm glad I picked this up.
on 31 May 2013
For the most part, this is quite an enjoyable read. It is well written and there are enough peculiarities in its structure to prevent it being a fairly basic plot. Towards the latter stages this book suddenly adopts and adventure gamebook style. This is more a novelty than anything else and the reader really has little choice. It does serve as a great artifice for relating part of the story that could have easily developed into a fairly mediocre run around.
Part of the attraction of this book is that it features Ben and Polly, two quite neglected companions of the Doctor. Most of their televised stories have been eradicated in the BBC archives purge and they haven't featured as heavily in any extraneous media as other companions. This book, therefore, seems an odd choice to represent the First Doctor's tenure (especially as Ben and Polly are more commonly associated with the Second Doctor). On the other hand, it is a pleasant surprise that during the fiftieth anniversary Ben and Polly should get more attention. Either way, from what I have seen of Ben and Polly, the author seems to have captured them quite well and suitably utilised them.
However, the Doctor sometimes feels a bit wrong. The syntax of is speech is reasonably accurate and several of his mannerisms are apparent. But the style of this story often feels like it needs a more energetic incarnation of the Doctor. The Doctor is, therefore, often sidelined into the background.
The other characters are all well realised and believable, even if at times a bit stereotypically militaristic. Their back stories possess just enough intrigue and many experience some form of personal revelation. Unfortunately there isn't quite enough space in the book to cover all their issues in a way that is completely satisfactory emotionally.
The Schirr aren't the most interesting of aliens but serve their purpose. Their minions are perhaps more intriguing due to their resemblance to the Weeping Angels. This is mere coincidence though and, bar superficial appearance, they are sufficiently different.
Despite the title (and it is a great one), this story doesn't really borrow that much more from Agatha Christie than other Doctor Who stories or indeed from many other films, TV programmes or books. And taking inspiration from one of the world's legendary authors is no bad thing.
This novel may not be the best representation of the First Doctor but, aside from its borrowing from Christie, it is one of the more intriguing and original First Doctor novels.
on 11 May 2014
The rather obvious, but fun, allusion to an Agatha Christie story in the title of this book gives you a major clue to what is going to happen after ten alien bodies are found..... but then, more interestingly, that thing keeps happening.
Sadly that mystery isn't really as interesting in the end as one hopes and there is an almost clichéd traitor figure who is so obvious that the intended surprise reveal to the reader doesn't really work. However it does fool the Doctor.
One could be annoyed by the Doctor's lapse here but this story is set right at the end of the first Doctor's incarnation, and he does refer obliquely to his coming death, so you have to imagine that he may be at the end of his powers, or distracted, or both, so one make allowances for his lapse.
One also makes allowances for a main monster that appears very similar to the later Weeping Angels but the key word here is "later" as the Weeping Angels' appearance postdates the first edition of this book.
Once those allowances are made it's not a bad tale with a lot to commend it. Polly and Ben are written particularly well and get doing a fair amount, there is a great deal of very familiar splitting up and running down dark corridors.
There some things that people will divide people. There is a lot of gore flecked violence that you couldn't have put on screen during the first Doctor's era, and there is an attempt to play with the flow of the narrative in the penultimate channel which could irritate some, but if it does don't worry as it doesn't last long...
on 22 March 2014
Warning – possible spoilers!
In the future, the Earth-empire is at war with rebelling Schirr fighters. During a training exercise on an asteroid, ten Empire troopers encounter the dead bodies of the leading Schirr fighting faction, the TARDIS crew, and something nasty lurking in the dark tunnels…
• Stephen Cole is a good writer. He gets into the minds of not only Ben and Polly, fleshing them out – but also most of the troopers. Frog is particularly noteworthy – a hard-bitten, squat woman who, due to injuries in her youth, speaks with an artificial voice box.
• The ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ section hidden in the last third of the book. Possibly unique to any Doctor Who novel, ‘Spider’s Web’ draws you into the minds of the characters who are still alive, via their neural network, even as you look for clues to identify who amongst them (or elsewhere) is working to a separate agenda…
• The cherubs
• The infection
• Although atmospheric and incident-packed in places, the book did feel slow at times, particularly during the first half.
• The First Doctor. As this is set before the coming of the more jovial Second Doctor, and the revelation of the Time Lords, Mr Cole presents the Doctor as mainly a silent, aloof, and mysterious man (we are never privy to his thoughts – unlike the characters mentioned above). As a result, he comes across as unfeeling and rather unlikeable.
• The bland 2013 re-issue book cover. It doesn’t show the Schirr – unlike the original cover.
For those wishing to solve the mystery, pay attention to everything that is said regarding the disappearance of the first trooper - and who says it. The final clue is in the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ section – and with it, I worked out who was the traitor. Interestingly, the Doctor was fooled completely…
Although I’ve rated this four stars, three and a half is really my verdict. Those interested in seeking more of Mr Cole’s work are advised to read/listen to the excellent ‘The Feast Of The Drowned’!
on 20 September 2013
This was my first ever Dr Who novel, and I was really excited to read it. There were a lot of characters to get to know and I found the biographies at the start quite interesting and useful in helping this process. The first Doctor is written very well - if you are used to the newer, fitter and younger (Well, you know what I mean) Doctors, the first Doctor may come as a bit of a surprise being all old and slow and quick tempered.
The story is quite suspenseful and will have you turning the pages. There are a couple of dull moments throughout however, and the ending is a little confused. Ben and Polly are featured well, and we really get some nice insight into their relationship with each other, and of course with the Doctor.
The Doctor doesn't seem to get involved with the mystery of the aliens too much, settling instead to thinking about it and sharing some hints with the soldiers. I suppose this is more in the style of William Hartnell's Doctor, and when it comes down to it, all the Doctors in general - solving most problems with their brains rather than with action.
I found it hard to get a good picture of what the aliens look like, and there's also a of of things that happen near the end which I found difficult to visualise. Maybe I don't have the imagination for a Dr Who novel! However, I did find the villains quite intimidating and it would be great to see them in the TV programme at some point.
Contrary to most of the reviewers on here I actually thoroughly enjoyed the neural network chapter, although I do intend to go back and read through it again because I feel I may have missed some parts out.
I found the novel interesting but not overly exciting. Definitely well written, but certainly has it's dull and/or confusing moments.
on 24 January 2013
It's Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary this year, and as a lifelong fan of the show I'm indulging it even more than usual, including spending time with each Doctor in print leading up to November's celebrations.
Ten Little Aliens sees the first Doctor and his companions Ben and Polly trapped inside a strange asteroid with some space marines on a training mission. It turns out, they're not the only ones there. This is a book with too many ideas for its own good, and the result is a horrible mash up. The Doctor and companions are very well captured, and there's no discord jumping from their screen incarnations to the page. The space marines are also a lively and well drawn bunch, and the book just about gets away with putting them and the TARDIS crew in the same story.
After that, things start to creak at the seams. Two wildly different alien menaces turn up, one of which bears an unfortunate passing resemblance to the Weeping Angels from the modern show, while the other... is it odd to say that aliens in a novel look cheap? These do. The body horror aspects they bring into play are well written, but all the visuals invoke Doctor Who at its worst. Added to that, the book traps the whole cast in a series of cave tunnels for the whole story. It might effectively recreate the era, in which the same tunnel set could be reused endlessly for budgetary reasons, but books don't have the same financial issue as a small TV show in the 1960s, and the locale is boring. Add to that some odd extras - one chapter is in a choose your own adventure format that while interesting, jars with the flow of the novel - and you have a book that never quite merges its different tones to tell a consistent story. Cole can write, and delivers the TARDIS crew effectively, but this falls short as a novel.
on 5 December 2013
The First Doctor and companions Ben and Polly find themselves stranded on an asteroid come starship in this Agatha Christie meets Starship Troopers adventure.
Cole has managed to capture the querulous arrogance of the First doctor perfectly in a story that is captivating and entertaining.
on 21 May 2009
A VERY enjoyable read, to say the least.
The 'choose your own adventure'-style pages can be a bit confusing, but the plot concept is brilliant, placing the First Doctor in a situation where he faces a level of brutality and power like ntohing he has encountered before while still allowing him to retain the intellect that served him well at this point.
The imminence of his regeneration is also well-presented, as the effort the Doctor is forced to exert here clearly pushes his body ever closer to breaking-point, his spirit crippled even as his mind remains sharp and strong.
His companions are also given an enjoyable chance to shine, wtih Polly's compassion for the crippled members of the expedition neatly counterbalanced with the coldness of the military women who have been trained for war, while Ben's more light-heartened attitude provides some welcome humour in a story featuring references to child abuse and self-mutilation.
And as for the climax...
BRILLIANT twist, really, and an idea that perfectly reflects one of the Doctor's central beliefs; even machines can be alive when they have to be.
A superb novel for a very underused Doctor/Companion group; I whole-heartedly recommend it!
on 14 June 2004
Stephen Cole thanks Agatha Christie's daughter in the acknowledgements of Ten Little Aliens, and well he should. While I have not read Ten Little Indians (or, as it's known now, And Then There Were None), I know enough about it to recognize a pastiche when I see one. The question is, is it a good one? While there is an entire 46 page experimental section that makes the reader work a bit too hard, it is overall an exciting and suspenseful mystery in space and well worth a read.
An elite group of soldiers is on a training mission inside a burned out planetoid when things start to go wrong. They find a control room with ten alien corpses captured at the moment of an extremely violent death, frozen in time. They also find a blue police box, an old man, and two young people who shouldn't be there. Then, people start dying. The Doctor and his companions would like nothing better then to get back in the TARDIS and go somewhere else, but they appear to be blocked by an energy barrier of some sort. The Doctor has to use every wit he has to figure out what is going on. What is the horrifying secret of the planetoid, and will anybody survive to find it? And why does a alien corpse disappear every time a soldier dies? And could one of the soldiers know more then he/she is telling about all of this?
Ten Little Aliens is a classic "we're all trapped and people are starting to die!" suspense romp, and at times it shows too many of the clichés. Each character is given a potential reason for being the traitor and clues point first to one then another of the soldiers. It also has some Doctor Who clichés, as the Doctor and companions are first suspected to be the bad guys, but circumstances (and the Doctor's vastly superior mind getting ahead of everybody else) force them to enlist the Doctor's help in figuring out what is going on. The soldiers start out as stereotypical grunts (though elite ones) and don't usually move much beyond that point with a couple of exceptions.
The book works so well, though, that I didn't mind the clichés. The book started with the soldiers, and I had trouble getting into it, but when they reached the planetoid and things started happening, I forgave Cole a bit. He takes these clichés and turns them into something quite suspenseful and interesting. He gives the soldiers just enough character to make us feel a little bit when one of them dies. Of course, he has to do that or else the traitor part of the plot wouldn't work, as we wouldn't care who it was (or, alternately, we'd pick out the traitor because he/she is the only one *with* a personality). Cole really pours on the atmosphere, so much that you almost feel like you're in a cave, feeling the oppressive waves washing over you. It's almost enough to make you feel uncomfortable.
Cole manages to get the main characters dead-on, with only a quibble or two. The first quibble is that the Doctor doesn't really appear to be that close to his regeneration (this book takes place very close to the time where he regenerates into the Second Doctor, and he has previously shown the signs of this body's age). He certainly acts like an old man, not being able to do a lot physically and getting out of breath, but we don't really see the impending regeneration coming. Previous books set in this time period have hinted at this, which makes this book stand out. It's not a problem with the book itself, however, just a problem with where it is in the series. I loved Polly's canary yellow space suit, though it's convenient that the Doctor would have one that just fits her personality.
There is one aspect of the book that really brings it to a screeching halt, however interesting the concept is. At one point, all of the characters put on visors that hook them into the neural network, so they can keep in contact. The entire chapter becomes similar to a "choose your own adventure," except that it's a "choose whose viewpoint you want to follow." You end up reading all of the sections anyway (which is extremely clever on Cole's part, making sure it all ties together), but you're hopping from page to page, and I'm not sure I did get them all. This goes on for 46 pages, where each short section ends with something like "if you wish to see this from the Doctor's viewpoint, go to page 200." It makes the reader really work, and I found it really dragged the pace of the novel down. It's interesting because they can all get some sense of each other's thoughts, but ultimately I think it detracts from the book.
Other than that, though, Ten Little Aliens is a taut thriller with an exciting climax. The characters grow beyond their clichés to be interesting, and the plot will keep you going until the end. I guess the reason why clichés exist is because they started out really good, and can be good again when done right. Stephen Cole has done it, though he teeters on the edge a little bit. Check it out. Meanwhile, I'm late for my berth on the Orient Express.