BBC Books
Apollo 23

Author Justin Richards Cover image
ISBN 1 846 07200 0
Published 2010

Synopsis: An astronaut in full spacesuit appears out of thin air in a busy shopping centre. Maybe it's a publicity stunt. A photo shows an immaculately-dressed woman in her best shoes lying dead at the edge of a crater on the dark side of the moon – beside her beloved dog 'Poochie'. Maybe it's a hoax. But as the Doctor and Amy find out, these are just minor events in a sinister plan to take over every human being on earth.


From what I've read so far by Nathan Mullins 30/12/11

On the 25th April 2010, I knew what had to be done, and where I had to go. I instinctively knew I had to go out and get three books, for the purpose of not only being a collector, but an avid reader of the Doctor Who new series original novels. I bought the lot of them, Apollo 23, Night of the Humans, and The Forgotten Army. So, I raced back home from Forbidden Planet, with my three brilliant new purchases.

The first book I picked up, in all truthfulness was Night of the Humans, but something that sort of thwarted me at first was the technobable you first come across when first opening the book, leading into chapter one. So, and though that shouldn't really put me off, it crossed my mind that this book in particular would take me a while to get through.

So, I have instead gone for the usual format granted by Justin Richards, whom I find is a fantastic writer, and always somehow manages to capture the imagination, when having written any book, be it an old series 'classic' adventure or anything to do with the new series range. His Apollo 23 his so in tune with 'series one' of the new series, or as I prefer to call it, Series fnarg!

I love the prologue, the imagery that becomes something solid in your head, of the atmosphere slowly building up to the innocent man's death right at the very beginning of the novel. I love the Doctor and Amy's involvement, and how they seem to feel exactly the same as how they are on the actual show.

Justin Richards is an excellent writer, because the lines given to the two main stars are so in touch with their television personalities. I think The Eleventh Hour, may have helped, because it did seem like a while since Amy had been waiting for her raggedy Doctor to turn up again, and for her to recognise him after so many years.

I love the other characters also, each have some role to play; that and this story does indeed remind me of a television episode because it is so realistic; well, in the Doctor Who realm in any case.

But am not going to go into too much detail regarding the mysterious plot, and the adventure within, but what I am going to say is that the more I read, I become so very hooked on what lies in store. From what I've read already, I'd give this a solid thumbs up, and say it was worthy a purchase alongside the other two novels. I imagine this is probably my favourite, but we'll see.

Also, might I add that I love the new look artwork and front covers of each novel! They stand aside from the others belonging to Chris and David's eras. They actually look so good among the new series logo, and with the Doctor and Amy taking the lead in the new range novels from now on.

I look forward to getting further involved in Apollo 23, so for now... I'm going to find a quiet spot in my house somewhere, and settle into a relaxing read!

Matt Smith explodes into the book series by Andrew Feryok 25/6/13

"There was no doubt in her mind that the Doctor would sort things out. It was strange how she trusted the man, almost despite his appearance and youth. There was a wealth of experience behind his eyes and she dared not think how he had come by it. What he had faced. What he had done..."
- Major Carlisle musing about the Doctor, Apollo 23, Chapter 24, page 236
Wow! What a debut for the Eleventh Doctor! Granted this is just one of three books that debuted the Eleventh Doctor, but this is the first one I read. What a story! I had my doubts because the last two Justin Richards stories I had read (at the time I am writing this review) were The Clockwise Man and The Resurrection Casket. While both stories were oozing imagination, I was disappointed with the overall execution of the stories, which somehow felt lacking and almost induced yawns of "been there, done that". But that is not the case with this story! Richards absolutely nails this story right off the bat with a gripping hook and takes the audience on a roller-coaster ride of a story. Granted, this is still another alien-invasion story, but it is done so well that I really didn't care as I went along.

Justin Richards raises the stakes constantly so that Amy and the Doctor genuinely feel like they are in danger. Perhaps this is because the character of the Eleventh Doctor is more vulnerable than the Ninth or Tenth? Richards absolutely nails the regulars right off the bat a lot better than he did the Ninth and Tenth Doctors with Rose. They don't feel generic or out of character. They feel like they've leapt off the television screen and into the pages of the story. It's obvious he must have had early access to Matt Smith's first season episodes since he not only gets their characters down, but he gets the whole style of the Moffatt era. This isn't the Eleventh Doctor shoved into a RTD-era adventure. This feels like something that would fit right into the Eleventh Doctor's typical season. And really, it's the Doctor and Amy who drive this story and elevate it above the normal alien invasion routine.

The concepts behind the story are neat as well: a teleportation device between the Earth and the moon that was a real invention of humans and not found alien technology, and a top secret military base on the dark side of the moon filled with prisoners and experiments in "mental rehabilitation". Richards was obviously thinking of The Mind of Evil when he devised Professor Jackson's horrific Processing Chamber where prisoners are strapped in and brainwashed into rehabilitation. But Richards takes the initial concept and runs with it in a different direction. Instead of rehabilitation, it allows the aliens to invade and take control of a person's body. Thus the horror of the process takes on a whole new meaning as people's identities are seemingly lost forever in this laboratory of horrors to be replaced with a bodysnatching alien mind!

I also love late in the book when it's discovered that the base was positioned over an underground natural source of water on the moon. How did it get there? Even the Doctor is astonished to see it and I almost thought it would be relevant to the story, but it was just a throwaway mystery that will never be answered, along with how the quantum displacement was invented in the first place. I also love the idea of using water as a data storage facility which impresses even the Doctor. Although the idea of drinking the water and having your old mind restored is a bit far-fetched, Richards does a great job of selling the idea to the reader and it fits in perfectly with the fairytale feel of the Moffatt era.

I also loved the hook for the story: a person is walking through the park on their lunch break and suddenly finds themselves dying on the surface of the moon! But the story also has a real sense of humor. I loved when the Doctor and Amy try to communicate with each between Earth and moon and have to deal with the signal lag leading to an almost "Who's on First" style conversation between the two. Or when the Doctor goes on and on about tea in his final battle with the enemy and then beats him by actually making and using tea! Only the Eleventh Doctor could get away with such an eccentric solution!

Are there any problems? Well, the book is titled Apollo 23 and the back cover blurb builds up the idea of the Doctor and Amy being separated and the Doctor having to resurrect the old space technology to get back to the moon. In actuality, this only makes up a tiny part of the book in its middle. The bulk of the story takes place on Moonbase Diana. Also, the motivations of the aliens was a bit suspect. At the very end, we get a final explanation as to why they are going to such lengths to take over people's bodies, but it comes a little late in the book and the result is that most of the book is spent with them being one-dimensional cackling sadists.

On the whole though, this gets the Eleventh Doctor off to a fantastic start. This is easily my favorite book since The Stone Rose and makes me eager to explore more adventure with the Eleventh Doctor and Amy! Bring it on in Night of the Humans and The Forgotten Army! 10/10