Well, it’s a new week, and I’ve got plans for this blog. With Christmas coming up and in particular the Doctor Who Christmas Special, I’ve decided to dedicate a few days this week and the start of next week to Doctor Who. Why? Well, because during the special, the 11th Doctor (played by Matt Smith) will depart from the show to make way for the 12th (played by Peter Capaldi). It’ll be the first time I see a regeneration play out live. So, until it happens, I’m going to look at some of my favorite things from Matt Smith’s run on the show.
Today’s blog is a review of the first Doctor Who novel I’ve read, “The Silent Stars Go By.” It’s a partially Christmas-y, mostly Doctor Who story featuring the 11th Doctor and his now former companions Amy and Rory. The version I own is one that was reissued for a book set to celebrate the then-upcoming 50th anniversary.
The story takes place on a distant planet which is home to an advanced race of humans called the Morphans. They have endured a few harsh winters despite efforts to terraform the planet and make it more Earth-like. The Doctor, Amy and Rory, wanting a Christmas-like vacation, end up on the planet and are quickly separated. They’re eventually forced to help the Morphans when it’s discovered that the Ice Warriors, foes of the Doctor, are trying to inhabit the planet themselves. The Doctor must figure out a way to stop them or else the Morphans will eventually die out from the cold.
Much like the Christmas carols out there that talk more about ice and snow than Christmas itself, this story has a wintery feel to it with only a few mentions about Christmas at the start. There was a nice touch by the author of having each chapter title (and the title of the book itself) come from verses from various carols, though. It was a very descriptive book and was easy to imagine in my mind as I read it.
The book is about 300 pages, and though I took my time reading it, I didn’t feel the pacing was overly slow except for a brief part here and there. I did find some of the writing distracting at first, namely the usage of names for locations, but I eventually got used to the author’s use of them. I did like the story overall because it felt like it could’ve been shortened and translated to television. It basically played out like an episode of Doctor Who to me. To add to that, I thought the depictions of the Doctor, Amy and Rory were extremely well done. Their characterizations felt spot-on, enough so that I could hear the actors saying the lines in my head. I had read accounts from other people before buying the book that said essentially the same thing, and overall I was impressed by the author’s efforts to capture them.
There are a select number of Morphans we get to know, and three in particular spend time with the Doctor and his companions. These characters, sisters Arabel and Vesta and a young man named Samewell, were my favorite side characters as we got to know them the best and they had relatively distinct personalities. This could also be said for a couple elder Morphans; however, I mostly found that many of them blended together personality-wise and at least one was plain annoying due to her set-in-her-ways attitude. This didn’t taint the story for me, though, and while they weren’t the most interesting beings for our heroes to come across, the plot surrounding their plight worked well.
Then there are the Ice Warriors. I will admit, I’ve only seen clips of the original ones and had watched the recent re-imagining of them in “Cold War.” That being said, the book does describe the original Ice Warriors, Lego-like hands and all. It took a little to get used to, but I did find them interesting to follow as a change of pace. I like them basically for the same reason I like the Sontarans, in that they have a huge emphasis on honor. It plays a good part in this story as well, though I won’t spoil why. Even though this book originally came out before Moffat’s “Cold War” episode, I thought it was a great choice to focus on a lesser-used Doctor Who villain. The author could’ve probably used several for the snowy setting, but the Ice Warriors seem to fit perfectly for it.
Overall, for my first Doctor Who novel and also 11th Doctor novel, I would recommend “The Silent Stars Go By.” The sometimes slow-ish pacing might not be for everyone, but if you’re interested in a novel that has pretty strong characterization and a good plot, give it a look. It’s the right kind of book for this time of season. I give it a solid 9.5/10.