THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

An Unearthly Child
The War Games
The Daemons
The Sea Devils
State of Decay
The Five Doctors
Trial of a Time Lord
The Telemovie
BBC Books
The Eight Doctors

Author Terrance Dicks Cover image
ISBN 0 563 40563 5
Published 1997

Synopsis: A trap left by the Master causes the eighth Doctor to lose his memory. A mysterious figure guides him through the past, where he meets seven very familiar figures, and the present, where he meets teenager Sam Jones.


Reviews 1-20

The Eight Stereotypes by Robert Smith? 26/3/98

The eighth Doctor loses his memory thanks to an "amnesia bomb" left by the Master. A mysterious presence urges him back throughout his timestream, where he meets seven slightly familiar figures...

And that paragraph makes it sound much more exciting than it is, folks.

You can almost excuse Terrance for not giving the eighth Doctor any character whatsoever. After all, he's lost his memory, he doesn't know who he his. Almost.

You can almost forgive him for not realising that teenagers don't walk around spouting cliches in order to be Politically Correct and don't know what crack is. Almost.

You can almost forgive him for having two grown adults in 1997 who are bad cardboard cutouts of 1963 characters, one of whom has never, ever heard of crack. Almost.

After all, this book isn't really about them, it's about the cool idea of the eighth Doctor meeting his past selves, right?

Well then it's a pity you can't really forgive him for getting the characters of the previous Doctors right either.

This book is a sorry retread of Terrance's past, populated by characters who call themselves "The third doctor", yet behave in a way in which no third Doctor I've ever seen would (pulling a TCE on his future self). The suicidal seventh Doctor and the "weird, fantastic [...] improbable" telemovie are just two victims of cheap shots Terrance has decided to fire in a novel which is itslef full of improbable events that sadly aren't tempered by being "fantastic" in any way, shape or form.

There's a present day Gallifrey story going on here which seems interesting at the beginning but loses all direction soon after Ryoth is eaten (which would be okay if it were over at this point, but it ain't).

However, it's not complete drivel. I did enjoy the fifth Doctor segment, cliched as it was (the Sontarans this time get massacred by the Raston Robot). Buridan's Ass was a decent joke. It's a pity that Terrance's Tegan never travelled with the fourth doctor, though. The sixth doctor segment had the potential to be interesting, but by the time the Master popped up on the viewscreen to re-explain the plot to Lady Flavia, Engin, and the other councillors, I was ready to put down this book and never pick it up again.

The Eight Doctors is a sad way to begin a new line of books. Hopefully, the BBC books will move on in their own direction, the same way the Virgin NAs overcame their bad start with Timewyrm: Genesys. It's just a pity that a lot seems to be riding on this book that completely fails to deliver.


A Review by Oliver Thornton 27/3/98

As a beginning to a new opportunity for the BBC to develop one of its most enduring creations further, this was a bit of a let-down. As a prelude or introduction to this, however, it made a solid, if simple, beginning, providing the Eighth Doctor (we can't really call him "Paul McGann's Doctor", since McGann hasn't appeared in/on any of the new BBC books) with a new companion and setting the scene for what is to come.

The Doctor's journey to visit each of his past lives starts well, using actual key scenes from the T.V. shows to introduce the idea (from An Unearthly Child and The War Games) but soon starts inventing "in-between" bits which, while not actually contradicting anything openly, are a little hard to believe after watching the relevant episodes. It finally gives an explanation for the TARDIS's change of appearance in the T.V. movie (apparently, the Seventh Doctor wanted a change and found out how to reorganise everything in the TARDIS manual).

As far as plot goes, it is almost non-existent, to the same extent as the T.V. movie, but it serves as a preamble for the book series coming up.


A Review by Leo Vance 28/3/98

Terrance Dicks has always been a great writer, but this is his best original novel.

From the start, The Eight Doctors shines. Real present-day Earth is visible in the early Sam scenes, and Sam gets off to a good start. The First Doctor section is well written, and characterises Hartnell well. The romans are well done in the Troughton section, and though Troughton is perhaps not exactly as he was in TV, his terror of the Time Lords is clear in The War Games Part 9.

Where things become great is in the Pertwee bit. The Delgado Master is perfectly done. The encounter between the Eighth Doctor and the Brigadier is well done, and the Third Doctors desire to escape Earth is also good. The Tom Baker section is the best, with State of Decay and Blood Harvest both expanded on well.

Davison's section is the second best, with the CIAs use of the Time Scoop perfectly done. The Sontarans and Raston Warrior Robot are perfectly done. Davison is also perfect. Colin Baker's character is perfection. Baker is written as he should have been on TV, while both Flavia and the other Time Lords interesting, and the return of Borusa a superb idea. When it gets to McCoy, its enjoyable, but less than effective. The final scene is well done.

Bravo BBC Books! An excellent novel to follow the first five NA's of 1997. 10/10


A Review by Matt Michael 24/4/98

Let me start by saying that The Eight Doctors is the most awful, turgid, rambling nonsense I have ever read. From beginning to end it was uninspired, uninteresting, embarrassing tosh, filled with facile prose and infantile plotting. If this was aimed at the same audience as the Virgin New Adventures, then it failed miserably; however I can't even imagine a ten-year old reading and enjoyning this rubbish.

But if I'm going to criticise, I'd better have some justifications. After all, I'm usually a little lenient with Terrance Dicks books-- he got me to read in the first place. It's just that I can't find anything to defend in this book. The presentation of the eighth Doctor is terrible (although this can be attributed to, if not excused by, his amnesia), and the other Doctors fare even worse. The first and third Doctors are homicidal maniacs, the second an irascible troll. The fifth really does deserve the epithet "bland" here, while the sixth indulges in some pointless running around on Gallifrey during Trial of a Time Lord, and the seventh is a suicidal drop-out. Only the fourth comes off well, and that's only because it's a sequel to State of Decay.

Against all this idiocy, there's some sort of plot going on on Gallifrey, although this stupidly ignores not only Virgin continuity but also the TV series itself-- the Doctor goes into the wastelands to enjoy a pint of "Old Shobogans" with the outsiders.

Terrance also makes a vague attempt to introduce Sam, although as she only appears briefly at the beginning and end of the novel she seems to be little more than a cliche on legs. There's an almost funny bit near the end, but that's about it.

For readers of the Virgin NAs it seems Doctor Who books have taken a giant leap backwards; for new readers-- if this inspired you to continue with the series, then I can only think you must have very low expectations. Thank God I'd already bought Vampire Science, otherwise I may well have been tempted to abandon the new line entirely. 1/10... A load of spherical objects.


Not As Bad As They Say! by Sam Fain 3/8/98

Although I'd read the many bad reviews for The Eight Doctors I excitedly awaited my shipment of the first seven eighth Doctor adventures. Naturally I read The Eight Doctors first and was pleasently surprised that it was not nearly as awful as most had said. It definitely wasn't the best Doctor Who novel ever, but it wasn't the worst.

The beginning is an excellent setup for the eighth Doctor though after this any hopes of characterization for the eighth Doctor seem to slip by the way side. The "trap" the Master leaves behind seems too coincedental and rushed but that can be excused. The section with the first Doctor is excellent and gives a kind of Quantum Leap feel to the novel. The characterization with the second is not dead-on but not really off either. The third Doctor section is excellent but the third Doctor himself loses all plausability in his final sequence. Sure he was desperate to take the TARDIS but I could never see him coming close to murder for it!

The fourth Doctor bit is great, if a little drawn out, and as with the first three there's another Quantum Leap feel to it. Romana II's characterization is good as is her meeting with the eighth Doctor and she plays nicely in the story. The next part with the fifth Doctor is short and simple, but by no means dull and it is certainly a highlight especially the "Buridans Ass" part. The part with the sixth Doctor is okay but too drawn out and there seems to be no need whatsoever for the sixth Doctor's presence but it is a good piece of story for the eighth Doctor, and the redemption of a certain familiar face is quite nice if a tad bit implausible.

The seventh Doctor bit is my favorite I like the depth given to the seventh Doctor and finally an explanation, and a worthy one at that, is given for the TARDIS's interior changing.

Now I come to the present bit, it was okay and that is all I shall give it. Sam may make a good companion but it seems she was just thrown into the TARDIS (literally) by Terrance Dicks because he didn't know what else to do with her!

The parts on Gallifrey are useless but offer a nice look into what may be going on.

All in all I give it 7/10. And I must say don't let the negative reviews deter you and form your own opinion. It makes a good introduction to the new series if a bit weak-kneed at times.


And I Thought 'War of the Daleks' Was Painful by Michael Hickerson 14/10/98

When the BBC first started up publication of their new range of Doctor Who fiction, I, along with lots of other American fans, was upset that the BBC hadn't found a consistent method of distributing the novels in the States. I had to sit in a corner and watch as tantalizing book after tantalizing book came out, with little or no way to get my hands on them.

And to be honest, the one that really caught my eye as a "must read" novel was the first of the new eighth Doctor line, The Eight Doctors. Not just because we'd get to see all eight Doctors together in one novel, but also because it was by Terrance Dicks, who wrote two enjoyable and one passable entries in the Virgin New Adventure series.

So, when I finally got my copy, I sat down, anxious to enjoy this story.

And that's the problem--it's pretty much not an story. It's a collection on anecdotes about each of the Doctors. The premise (such as it is): the Master left a trap in the TARDIS that erases the Doctor's memory and sends him wandering around through time, meeting up with his former selves at different points in his life and restoring his memory. On paper it sounds good. In actual execution it's a horrific mess.

You'd think that an author such as Terrance Dicks who wrote at least one novelizations or novel for each incarnation of the Doctor would have a better grasp on just who this character is. He doesn't. The second Doctor is tedious and dull, the third Doctor is so out of character it's not funny and don't even get me started on what he does to the sixth (though it does involves lots of running up and down corridors). And they all spouts cliched lines left and right sinking them to the level of cliches. About the only thing the third Doctor doesn't say is, "Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow."

Add to it that Dicks gives us a supporting cast right out of the cliche book and it adds up to one of the worst Who books I've read to date (and that's saying a lot considering my feelings about War of the Daleks). As with any multi-Doctor story, there's lots of hand wringing taking place on Gallifrey as well as some kind of conspiracy against the establishment. It really makes you wonder how Gallifrey has managed to survive this long since virtually every time you turn around some group or another is plotting to overthrow the government.

What could have been a fun romp with all the Doctors turns into a tedious, at times, painful to read mess. Dicks writing style harkens back to some of his worst earlier writings when he was forced to churn out a novelization per month at the expense of writing style and character depth. It's a mess of a book and one that you should only read it you are a die-hard completist.


A Review, cough, ahem by Matt Haasch 20/12/99

Ladies and Gentlemen of all ages, I bring you the story of one constant Doctor, and seven other ones he bumps into.

I remember picking up the book just a month ago. Getting bored with More Short Trips, I decided to give Eight Doctors a try. Let's just say I was surprised. I've only read a few televised stories by Target books and most of them were by Dicks, but I must say this man can entertain. The begining of the book was good, and I always wanted an explination for the control room changes.

As for the Eighth doctor, he isn't that well charecterised, yet is still pretty frail like in the telemovie. The Master's trick was kind of pathetic, I seem to expect more from him. Hopefully it wasn't his last trick. Doctor #1 is found to be a violent old codger, and one that demands respect. Luckly the majority of the other Doctors try to save life, and it did seem out of character for Hartnell. Troughton was pretty good, stumbling through The War Games very shortly.

As for Gallifrey's villains and the return of the time scoop, porely concieved, yet don't spend too much time proving that, while making life hard for number Eight.

A really fun part of the book picks up on some Third Doctor fokelore feturing a sequel to the Sea Devils and The Daemons, which was pretty exiting, plus it's nice to picture the thrill Delgado would get playing the part. As for Dr. number three, was spot on, until he in a roundabout way attempts suicide.

As for the return of the E-space vamps, things get quite entertaining and quite messy (in other words: children should avoid the violence) otherwise it's great, with Romana and the Eighth Doc fighting vampires with an axe!! Gruesome,but entertaining. The only thing that's missing is Baker's pre-last season scarf.

Davison's stint is quite good,with a cameo of Terrence's trademark robot. Plus it's great when you picture a drashig eating a time scoop!! Number six is made fun of because he's portly. It's okay though, because it's a long and great duo with Six and Eight going through the cogs of his home planet's legal system, and how great he gets along with himself. That and I like the part Flavia plays in the book...I'd think she and the Doc may get the hook up!! (kidding,but a fun idea!)

The seventh Doc's attempt to directly commit suicide on Metebelis Three is pretty dismal. And the Master's last in the body of Tremas proves nifty, and we see him go get killed (again) on Skaro. It's probably a letdown, and another thing is Borusa's return. It was strange for me after watching The Five Doctors, but after reading the novelisation of The Invasion of Time and as of late, Divided Loyalties, I guess I was "put into the picture". Overall, a few miscalculations, but a fun book that you'll want to read repeatedly for it's best bits. I give it four stars out of five.


A Review by Tom Wilton 8/1/00

I'm sure I'm not alone in my opinions about this book. Way back in 1996, when it became clear that the BBC were planning to take over the publication of original Doctor Who fiction, I couldn't help but feel that Virgin were being cheated. The New Adventures, particularly the closing Psi-Powers arc, were some of the most enjoyable genre novels I have read. In my mind, Virgin filled its remit to produce Doctor Who broader than it would have been possible on television. Their novels seemed to pride themselves on strong plotting, characterisation and action. Then came The Eight Doctors...

This novel was all the more of a bitter pill when you consider its pedigree. It's called The Eight Doctors! It's by Terrance Dicks! Surely it was going to a nostalgic romp through the history of the show and set the Eighth Doctor out on a new series of adventures. Well, it did... But the way it did it...

Admittedly, the characterisation of the Eighth Doctor was never going to be this novel?s strong point. The entire premise relies on him losing his memory and having the gaps filled in by his past incarnations. At first, I liked this idea, particularly after reading the encounter with his first self, but from this beautiful moment, things went disastrously downhill...

I had a particular problem with the later encounters. The fourth Doctor segment, set after State of Decay was very messy when you consider it is an era already re-visited by Dicks in Blood Harvest. The encounter with the fifth Doctor relies heavily on The Five Doctors and I find it worrying for nostalgia to look back on more nostalgia to remember the show. I would have much preferred an encounter set during one of Davison's strongest stories: Earthshock being perhaps the obvious candidate. The lengthy sixth section is set during The Trial of a Time Lord a story confusing enough without the added complication of the events in the novel.

Most disappointing for me, was the encounter between the seventh Doctor and his predecessor. This could have been so much more! There was me hoping for a debate about the ethics of Time's Champion, having heard that the new Doctor was going to be the complete opposite of this figure of manipulation. Then I remembered, this is a Terrance Dicks novel.

This encounter also summed up another disappointment I had about the novel: the rejection of the Virgin continuity. The seventh Doctor was not the "Dark Doctor" of the Virgin range and Romana was no longer President of Gallifrey (a position she seemed so suited for). I understand the BBC?s decision to break away from Virgin, but am sure I wasn't the only person to be disappointed by this.

As an introduction for the new Doctor, the novel works reasonably well. I chose to reserve judgement on both the Doctor and Sam in this novel, feeling that the author?s vision had been directed much more towards the past than the future.

Overall, I couldn't help but feel disappointed by this novel. The general thought when I was reading it was, it could have been so much more.


Not quite as bad as all that... by Keith Bennett 19/3/00

I always get a bit sad when I hear Terrance Dicks trashed, since I, like so many other fans, grew up with reading his books (not to mention the fact that he's a damn good writer!). Having said that, though, no-one is fallable, so for all I knew, The Eight Doctors indeed was as hopeless as so many people made it out to be. As it has turned out, I have got some dissatisfaction about the book, but not the same many others seem to have.

For a start, it was sometimes a joy to be reading Terrance again. He is, quite simply, an enjoyable and effortlessly skillful storyteller. His style is straight forward without being simplistic, and he has a delightful sense of humour. He always seem to write with such genuine passion for his material. And his actual idea for the book is quite clever, as are certain parts of it, like the Eighth Doctor visiting the First Doctor and working as a bit of a concious to the old... er... codger.

But, while it might be clever, the premise is still what ultimately lets it down for me. When I see/read about a new Doctor, that's what I want to see - a new Doctor. Not the other seven half the time. Particularly by the time I got to the Fourth Doctor and Romana, I was getting pretty impatient. If I wanted to read about State Of Decay, I would actually read (or watch) State Of Decay. I wanted to "see" the new Doctor as the leading one, and yet he seemed almost like a co-star some of the time.

Again, I'm not saying it was all badly written. I have to disagree with a few people's critisms about the Third Doctor. I, personally, can completely believe him almost getting to the point of nearly killing one of his other selves to get off the Earth. Remember, being stranded on Earth would have been absolute agony for him, despite settling in with UNIT. And I keep thinking back to Inferno, when the Third Doctor seemed to go almost nuts trying to stop the Inferno Project from going ahead. I have absolutely no problem with the Third Doctor - except for the fact that, like I have suggested, I didn't want to read about the Third Doctor when reading the Eighth Doctor's first book. :-/

Granted, the various Doctors probably don't have an enormous amount of individuality, but this could be partly because they didn't have a lot of time to impart any, and the Eighth Doctor is still new to Doctor Who, so writers still need time to work on his character - and, as I keep harping, sharing the limelight with seven of his other selves didn't help.

I could make a comment on the totally superficial way Samantha Jones joined the Doctor, but gee... it doesn't seem much worse than how Dodo did it.

I do like multiple Doctor stories occasionally, but I'd rather they were all together and interacting, rather than just being seen one by one like this. Surely, with Doctor Who in novel form, there's nothing to stop a writer from bringing us a fun and enjoyable adventure like that. But, however a multiple Doctor story should be written, it shouldn't come right at the beginning of a new Doctor's reign.

And that was my only big problem with The Eight Doctors - not Terrance Dicks' actual writing. He's still my hero. 6/10


A nostalgic romp through the series' history by Tim Roll-Pickering 29/4/00

It's very difficult to know where to begin with The Eight Doctors since some of the most immediate criticisms strike me as a little unfair when one considers the circumstances under which it was written. For starters it does contradict Virgin continuity in several areas (such as Flavia now being Lord President of Gallifrey, the Fifth and Seventh Doctors' encounter in Cold Fusion being ignored when other multi-Doctor adventures are listed or the revelations in Lungbarrow about the Doctor's origins being contradicted) but at the time the BBC Books were specifically overlooking Virgin's efforts and it was only subsequently that the rules on characters and sequels were relaxed. Equally the BBC range was originally intended to be aimed at a somewhat younger audience than Virgin's but again a combination of market forces and the fact that many of the more radical Virgin authors have now penned BBC novels has changed all that. To blame Terrance Dicks for writing the sort of novel that Doctor Who fans were originally warned about expecting is a somewhat unjustified criticism.

Looking at The Eight Doctors in context, i.e. as the first of the Eighth Doctor Adventures (a title coined purely by fans to distinguish between the novels) there are still some very serious problems. For one it doesn't really give the reader much of an idea of what to expect from future novels in the range. However since it does at least introduce us to the previous incarnations and in light of the way Big Finish opened their series of audio plays with the multi-Doctor adventure The Sirens of Time, I do think that The Eight Doctors would fare somewhat better if it was instead the opening novel of the Past Doctor Adventures. This would certainly have excused the book's failure to set the scene for subsequent adventures, but even so it would still have the problem of a very weak plot and some dubious characterisation. And this is arguably the real problem with The Eight Doctors.

The Eighth Doctor himself is only lightly characterised but already it is easy to see that he has retained his traditional dislike of unnecessary violence and is even willing to criticise some of his predecessors for it, though he is prepared to use it himself if needs be. But the characterisation doesn't really tell us any more than Enemy Within did, and although this can be attributed to the Doctor's state of amnesia throughout this is a considerable weakness for what is only the third novel to feature the Eighth Doctor (after the novelisation of Enemy Within and The Dying Days). The new companion Sam Jones is introduced in the opening and closing chapters amidst some of the most bizarre scenes of all. Set in present day Coal Hill they come across as either being proof of Terrance Dicks' complete ignorance about both modern schools and current policing or an attempt to be deliberately comical without telling the reader. They may vaguely resemble children's drama but otherwise it is these scenes which do most to make the novel seem weak. This is especially unfortunate as they come across as being forced by editorial requirements for the range rather than arising naturally from the story.

It is the Eighth Doctor's encounters with his predecessors that are the main attraction of this novel however. His meetings with the First and Second Doctors are brief interludes during 100,000 BC and The War Games respectively, each the most obvious story considering their importance in the series' history. However it is with the subsequent incarnations that the action steps up with the encounter with the Third Doctor occurring as the latter returns from pursuing the Master after The Sea Devils. Some might argue that too much attention is given to the unseen adventures of the Third and Fourth Doctors but they do serve to properly establish the incarnations. The scene in which the Third Doctor pulls a gun on his future self has surprised many, but considering both that it was this self who was arguably to blame for his exile and that he has just been graphically reminded of the Master's freedom it is not too hard to understand his actions as those of a desperate man. Later on the encounter with the Seventh Doctor is relatively brief but handled well, though the inclusion of scenes explaining how the Master gained the additional powers seems rather abrasive given that they are not linked to the main plot at all.

The encounters with the Fifth and Sixth Doctors are the most notable of all. The former is a little confusing because of the way past and present events on Gallifrey are both detailed in the book, making it a little hard to follow the motivations of the Celestial Intervention Agency. As the Doctor himself notes the battle between the Raston Warrior Robot and the Sontarans is all too reminiscent of that with the Cybermen in The Five Doctors but the outcome is different enough to justify its inclusion in a nostalgic book. The Doctor's meeting with his sixth incarnation has the potential to be a nightmare, given that this is the only one that Terrance Dicks had not written for before (the novelisation The Mysterious Planet aside) and that it involves both alternate timelines and the subsequent folding back of time altogether. However the Sixth Doctor is characterised so well that one wants to see Terrance Dicks handle the character again (look no further than the subsequent Past Doctor Adventure Players), whilst the scenes on Gallifrey go some considerable way towards backing up and explaining events in The Trial of a Time Lord.

When the New Adventures first started many fans were somewhat disappointed by the adult tone of the books and hoped for some more simplistic stories. The Eight Doctors certainly fits into the latter category and can easily be enjoyed by those who find some of the other original novels rather hard to follow. Like many of the most criticised novels (Transit immediately springs to mind), its immense unpopularity can be attributed to its position in the range though it does undeniably have its faults. As a nostalgic romp through the series' history this is a reasonable effort, but when compared to other original Doctor Who novels this is a considerable letdown. 5/10


A Review by Quinn Hodges 25/7/00

There is very little about Doctor Who that cannot be learned by reading The Eight Doctors. This book is nothing less than a complete epistemology of Doctor Who. It is difficult to read in spots -- the writing is not as complex as in some of Terrance Dicks' other books and I always wished he would put more detail in certain scenes -- but otherwise I found it easy to appreciate what Terrance was trying to do, which is to rebuild Doctor Who, block by block, in preparing for a whole new set of novels.

I have read the other reviews of The Eight Doctors and many of them complain about the book. But I enjoyed revisiting all of the show's marvelous history, on the eve of its 35th anniversary. There is no other book in the market with all 8 doctors together -- along with some favorite villains, a smattering of good old companions, and a welcome resolution to the long-unresolved Trial of a Time Lord story.

The best things about this book are the humor and the nostalgia. Dicks has always been a funny writer, in a dry sort of way, and he is obviously laughing along with the reader here when he writes such lines as "The Shobogans are revolting" -- that line is now a catch-phrase in our local fan group. And some of the reunion moments between Doctors (and other old friends and enemies) are downright touching. The meeting between the sad old 7th Doctor and the lively new 8th Doctor is the Great Doctor Who moment of the story.

The new companion, Sam, is sadly missing for most of the book. She is very funny in her final departure scene with the Doctor and it is certainly hoped that the two of them make a funny pair in following stories. Also remember that Sam here represents Doctor Who's coming of age, coming full circle. She is first seen with two teachers in the Coal Hill School, and it is obvious she is meant to be a newer-generation Susan. This, as well as the humor in the final scene, points to her having a more intimate, emotional relationship with the Eighth Doctor than we have been used to with past companions.

In spite of its unpopularity on the Internet, I highly recommend The Eight Doctors as a book to read that will put an easy smile on your face, both because of the humor and because of the flashbacks to well-loved stories. A very respectable start for the new BBC publishers.


It's an Intro - What Do You Expect? by Steve Crow29/3/01

First of all - what is it with the 8th Doctor and amnesia? We get the same thing later in the "Lost on Earth" arc. Talk about your cliches right out of 60's American TV. I guess we should be thankful he doesn't fall in love with an Amerindian princess on a far-off planet and gets named "Kirok".

Is The Eight Doctors that good a novel? No. But you can't blame Dicks for that: he played it safe. He's kicking off the first book of the BBC series. He has to introduce new readers to the Doctor and the whole concept of reading the Doctor in a novel. He never seems to have been part of the inner circle of "standard" writers, so he probably had no idea what folks like Orman and Blum and Leonard and Miles and Richards were actually going to _do_ with the character of the 8th Doctor. So basically he stuck to keeping the 8th Doctor as non-offensive as possible, to avoid any continuity screw-ups with what was to come later, and stuck to what he knows: writing about previous Doctors.

The main problem is that this can't really go very far. Even Dicks seems to realize this, as he spends more and more time on subsequent Doctors. The "visits" to the 1st and 2nd Doctors are just short enough to be tolerable. They convey the point he's trying to get across, and then on to the next vignette.

The 3rd Doctor segment is...okay. It's not that I can't imagine that incarnation deciding to pull a gun on his future self: the problem is that it doesn't really jibe with what we see on-screen during that era. Still, you can't blame Dicks for wading in nostalgia when he essentially rewrites the Doctor's incarnation at this point. Whatever you think of that segment, you can't claim that Dicks fell back on the good old comfy-UNIT family-type stories of that era.

The 4th and 5th Doctor segments are about right, with the 4th's perhaps running a little long as Dicks against steps out of the standards of the era and throws in lots of gore and violence and decapitation. And clearly Dicks is having fun with the Sontarans in the 5th Doctor segment.

But then...then there's the 6th Doctor story. Although the interaction between the 6th and the 8th Doctors is kind of fun, this just goes on interminably with crosses and double-crosses. The redemption of Borusa at the end is kind of nice...except Dicks is the one who turned him into Gallifreyan Sociopath #212 in The Five Doctors anyway. Maybe turning Borusa into a baddie wasn't his idea, and he's registering his objection to the concept by unwriting it here?

Finally we get a brief bit of the 7th Doctor, enough to set up the movie and make a clean break from the Virgin continuity (although where is Ace?), and its back to the mediocre Coal Hill/Sam subplot for a final wrap-up.

There's nothing really wrong with The Eight Doctors, given the circumstances under which it is written. Dicks doesn't give the newest incarnation much of a personality, but one suspects such an attempt would have backfired on him anyway. Rather then start outcries of, "Why is the 8th Doctor's personality changing so quickly from the first novel to the second?" he sidesteps the whole thing. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Does Dicks wallow in nostalgia? Not as much as you might think: he really rewrites the 3rd and 4th Doctor eras, providing somewhat different takes on the standards of those eras.

My real gripe with this novel is that there is a definite sense of crossing the T's and dotting the I's. Why does the 1st Doctor change his mind about killing innocents who get in his way? Does Borusa stay in the tomb? What happened to the Raston Robot? How did the Master get off Earth at the end of The Sea Devils? What the heck did Trial of a Time Lord all mean? The author tells us, without flair or flourish.

Overall I'd consider The Eight Doctors a perfectly adequate "intro" novel. As in the various multi-Doctor sagas, the goal here is to basically present a easily grasped "basic template" of each Doctor and let the 8th Doctor play off of them. In this, Dicks succeeds within the limitations he had to work in.


A Review by Philip Alderman 19/11/01

Okay, I'll start by saying that despite the long, long, LONG list of flaws contained within this book, it is actually quite an enjoyable stroll through the Doctor's past. That is, until you get to the Sixth Doctor section, but I'll get back to that later. After the dramatic opening, it becomes clear the Master's unlikely booby-trap has done nothing more to our hero than giving him a dose of amnesia. Apparently Uncle Terrance wasn't concerned that we'd just sat through an hour and twenty minutes of a confused Doctor desperately trying to recover his identity, as he felt it would be a great idea to do it all over again. With a book that lasts almost three-hundred pages.

In any case, the TV Movie clearly has no relevance to anything whatsoever. We know this because Uncle Terrance has told us so within the first few pages of The Eight Doctors. Page 1, paragraph 3, in fact.

Quote: "It had been a weird, fantastic adventure, full of improbable, illogical events."

Ouch. You can almost feel the bitterness crackling from the paper. Yes, we know Terrance hated the McGann movie, but was it really necessary for him to air his grievances so publicly? Okay, so it's not quite as bad as John Peel rewriting a pivotal moment of Remembrance of the Daleks because he didn't like it, but Terrance's tart dismissal of the TV Movie smacks of a similar petulance to that. The same barely concealed subtext that seems to say, "It's not the way I would've done it, so therefore it must be the WRONG way."

As you know by now, the opening sequence is a jumping off point for a serious of meetings with the Doctor's seven other selves, which are coincidentally at pivotal moments in each of their histories. It's a rather transparent device to explain the series to newcomers, and as such it actually works quite well. Several of these encounters are based on scenes from the TV series, which allows the author to expand on a few familiar situations. These encounters, particularly the one with the First Doctor in An Unearthly Child, are the highlights of the book. Then we get to Chapter 17, and are suddenly plunged into a lengthy Gallifrey sequence based on Trial of a Time Lord which comprises almost the entire remainder of the story. I have no idea why Terrance chose to do this, as it effectively brings the whole thing to a screeching halt, and the sheer number of continuity references makes this segment almost impossible to follow. I really pity anyone new to the series trying to make sense of this section.

He also manages to undermine his one of his own novels by choosing to have Cardinal Borusa resurrected here, apparently forgetting he'd already done that in the NA Blood Harvest.

Another low point is the introduction of Sam. Considering she'll feature largely in the next 25 odd novels, she doesn't get off to a very auspicious start here. The local drug dealers she squeals on wouldn't pass muster in Grange Hill, and as for the two Coal Hill school teachers, they're so obvious as characters Dicks might as well have named them Brian and Zarbara.

Never mind. It's often better to travel than to arrive, and there are a fair number of entertaining moments on this particular journey. So, to sum up: Occasionally fun with some nice moments, but spoilt by shallow characters, an over reliance on continuity, and one too many Target Books' cliches. 4/10


A Review by Finn Clark 23/2/02

Widely reviled, yet the most-read BBC Book by some considerable distance. Allegedly it's fanwank, the worst book ever written and inferior to a stack of blank pages. Personally I always found it a laugh. There was a lot of politics floating about at the time of its launch, which perhaps coloured its reception. I was looking forward to reevaluating this one!

I'm gonna split this into chunks. Terrance's books often consist of a few more-or-less loosely linked stories (Timewyrm: Exodus, Blood Harvest, Players) but The Eight Doctors takes that tendency to an unprecedented degree. This will thus be a multi-part review.

There will also be lots of spoilers. I'm going into detail on this turkey. :-)

SECTION ONE: the Eighth Doctor post-TVM

"It had been a weird, fantastic adventure, full of improbable, illogical events." Yeah, and The Eight Doctors is positively Checkovian, eh Terrance? It doesn't make a good impression to meet that little dig on page one. The Doctor loses his memory - hmmm, where else have we met that idea recently? We're getting coincidental resonances with later 8DA events, and more will come.

Then the Doctor lands in Totters Lane (see Interference) for a rerun of An Unearthly Child (corny idea which felt a little too calculated even in Escape Velocity and Earthworld). There however it was just a resonance. Here Terrance is recycling the story elements of the first episode wholesale. And you thought Sam Jones was bad. You can just feel Ian and Barbara - sorry, Trev and Vicki - being groomed as TARDIS fodder. The badness is mind-boggling, and every time you think Uncle Terry's plumbed the deepest depths it keeps getting amazingly worse.

"There was such authority in his voice that just for a moment Baz found himself moving to obey." Yeah, right. However all is not lost - Baz has a cunning plan. He's channelling Baldrick. Remember kids, drugs are evil! Baz is the local Coal Hill drug dealer y'see, and Terrance has decided to educate us about crack. You couldn't invent this stuff.

Normally when we describe a Doctor Who book as "bad", we merely mean "not very good". However this is definitive badness, the kind of eye-popping atrocity against which all other shite is measured. The Coal Hill School section of The Eight Doctors is unbelievable, crappier than Divided Loyalties and somehow worse even than the last thirty pages of Escape Velocity. It's patronising, silly, implausible, cliched, too dumb for words and unintentionally hilarious (though I liked the Doctor's interrogation at the local police station).

Trev and Vicki. I'm shaking my head in disbelief as I type.

SECTION TWO: An Unearthly Child

After rehashing An Unearthly Child, we now visit the original story. Actually this isn't bad.

SECTION THREE: Gallifrey

Now we're following on from Blood Harvest. It's shite really, just the usual Gallifreyan pompousness with bugger all happening and lots of silly names (Volnar, Ryoth, Flavia, Spandrell, Ortan, etc.).

SECTION FOUR: The War Games (as if you couldn't guess)

I make this Terrance's third sequel to that story. You what? But this is good, a moody little piece that takes us back to the blood and the trenches. Were this part of another book - Players, say, or Timewyrm: Exodus - we'd all be saying how effective it was. But alas it's part of The Eight Doctors and we're all still in shock from Sam, Baz, Trev and Vicki.

That's this novel all over - lots of mini-stories that would have been far better received as a short story collection than a complete narrative. This section is genuinely worth your time, but unfortunately it's been sandwiched between other stories that are inappropriate, grossly unlike it in tone and storytelling level and/or just plain shite.

SECTION FIVE: the Pertwee era

This is a sequel to The Sea Devils and The Daemons, believe it or not. Jo displays even less than her usual acumen, forgetting that she's seen TARDISes in other disguises than that of a police box. It seems to contradict that line in The Dying Days by having the Brigadier meet the Eighth Doctor all the way back in Season Nine. There's also something one might view as Interference-foreshadowing on page 197. Again, once I'd banished Coal Hill from my mind I enjoyed this.

This segment has become notorious for the Third Doctor threatening his future self with death by Tissue Compression Eliminator. Yes, it's dumb, but it worked for me. I could imagine Pertwee giving it a shot on the off-chance, then accepting defeat when his future self didn't bow down.

SECTION SIX: State of Decay

Huge info-dumps! Aaaargh! So while the Gallifrey stuff is a sequel to Blood Harvest, this chapter is a prequel to it (and Romana first met the Eighth Doctor back during Season Eighteen). Everyone got that?

Again this is a better short story than instalment of a novel. The tone lurches to a Hammer Horror world of vampires and superstitious yokels, which suited me since I'd come to this straight off the back of Blood Harvest and Goth Opera. If I hadn't, I'd have been wondering where the hell that came from. The Doctor's a bit axe-happy, but since he's killing vampires I don't have other people's problems with this.

Honestly and truly, this is good stuff.

SECTION SEVEN: The Five Doctors

And yet again we visit a story that was sequelled by Blood Harvest - which is itself being sequelled by the Gallifrey framing storyline. As usual we begin with a massive info-dump of characters telling each other stuff they already know. Er, Terrance? This is a book, you know? Not everything needs to be as if you were still working for TV. Oh, and Tegan has apparently never met the Fourth Doctor.

It's a bit silly, but okay. (Oh, and it also ties in with and resolves the Gallifrey framing storyline from Section Three. So we've got two Gallifreys. But get ready to duck, 'cos here comes a third...)

SECTION EIGHT: Trial of a Time Lord

Ohhhhh dearie dearie.

Yet again The Eight Doctors finds a new way to turn to shit! At least the Coal Hill stuff was funny, but this is simply a mess. Abortive timelines, two Sixth Doctors, another layer of deception and confusion on the events of Trial of a Time Lord... this is dire stuff. It's not badly written, just confusing and dull. Yet again Gallifrey becomes the kiss of death for reader interest. And yet...

Speaking as J. Sad Fanboy, it's nice to see someone at last deal with Trial of a Time Lord and lay the ground for the Gallifrey of the Virgin novels. Okay, I'd have been happier had it been developed in a more interesting direction, but if Terrance wants to lead into the Virgin books then he's a bit stuck there. The Valeyard's explanation also tallies well with what we saw in a certain Perry-Tucker PDA. Old Town is introduced (page 238), later to return in Lance's The Infinity Doctors. The Golden Grockle there serves flagons of Old Shobogan and the Doctor pays for it with a golden Gallifreyan guinea (page 241). Yup, Time Lords have money. Just to hammer the point home, we see the CIA buying stuff with their "secret funds" (page 222).

There's important stuff here. It's just unfortunate that as a story this section flatlines inside five pages but goes crawling on mercilessly for a further sixty-three.

SECTION NINE: McCoy

This Seventh Doctor is a tosser. But making this a sequel to Planet of the Spiders (and taking the Eighth Doctor there!) gives this far more resonance than it deserves, thanks to Interference. Oh, and the spiders were foreshadowed in the Pertwee section.

We've come full circle, the end of the book immediately preceding the beginning by leading into the TVM. Page 266 is a set-up for page 1. Despite all the continuity-mangling, this section also has the only bit that's hard to reconcile with the greater continuity - an alternative Master straight from the Cheetah Planet, acquiring the Deathworm which will sustain him through the TVM. However I can't get too excited over this since First Frontier, Happy Endings and Perry-Tucker together mean the Master's timeline would be a mess even without The Eight Doctors.

Perhaps Ancestor Cell, Adventuress of Henrietta Street and his own temporal manipulations mean the Master's timeline contains contradictions? It could even be deliberate on his part, a way of surviving the collapse of Gallifrey's history in at least some form.

SECTION TEN: Coal Hill School again

It's back to the unbelievable shite! Just in case you were starting to feel good about The Eight Doctors, it's Sam Jones and Baz with their playground lectures on crack! Again this is laughable, but the introduction of Sam to the TARDIS crew (pages 273-6) is actually quite eerie if you know about Lawrence's Dark Sam theories about Sam's timeline being altered to make her the perfect companion.

Hmmm. Someone didn't do a very good job, did they?

IN SUMMARY

Schizophrenic and brain-damaged. The Eight Doctors is an unholy marriage of some good and/or important stuff with more that's dumb, confusing, childish and/or worse than you'd think possible. This is the book that deep-sixed Terrance's reputation, which had been gold-plated throughout the Virgin era thanks to Timewyrm: Exodus. I can only conclude that this was written during a time of great personal stress for Terrance, while sauced to the gills on bad acid and being occasionally possessed by Satan.

Some individual sections (Troughton and Tom Baker) are worth reading as short stories and link in with Terrance's other novels by sequelising his very favourite TV stories. There's plenty of mythos-shaping, and surprisingly little need to go into denial about it.

The greatest surprise for me is how near The Eight Doctors comes to being cool. (Being crap is its main problem in this regard.) I could even imagine a non-fan coming away quite impressed, albeit probably confused as hell. All the encrusted continuity makes this a brittle, fragile flower of accidental resonances and convoluted self-reference. Almost everything ties into something else in the book, doubling back and forth through the Doctor's timeline. The foreshadowings and causal loops are super-complex. If only this was original, it would be mind-blowing.

We have four Masters, two Flavias, ten Doctors and four Gallifreys (if you count the one hovering offstage during The War Games). Half a dozen different sub-plots lurk in this book, often starting at the end and concluding at the beginning. If you can just make yourself take it seriously, it's fascinating.


The Continuity Albatross by Marcus Salisbury 23/9/02

Terrance Dicks is the Ancient Mariner of the Doctor Who canon. He's a seasoned old salt, with innumerable Who novels and novelisations to his credit, a plethora tall stories and cautionary tales to tell, and an albatross firmly fastened around his neck... the albatross of continuity.

Don't get me wrong, I think Dicks is something of a legend. With a few others such as Barry Letts and Derrick Sherwin, he regenerated the series in the late 'sixties and early 'seventies. He gave the Target series a head start at its outset with (still) enthralling classic adaptations of Spearhead from Space (The Auton Invasion), Day of the Daleks, and so on. He later reinvigorated the Target series as it hit a low in the mid '80s, with still more classic adaptations of such (then) little-known gems as Inferno, The Mind of Evil, and so on. It's an interesting thought that Dicks has been involved in some way with the series since 1968... that's a grand total of 34 years. Not only is he the Ancient Mariner, he's Grandfather Paradox. (Paradicks?)

All in all, then, I must say that Terrance Dicks has made a unique, lasting and definitive contribution to Doctor Who. It's a shame that The Eight Doctors does nothing to develop his considerable legacy.

On its own terms, The Eight Doctors is an enjoyable romp through the cartoon Toontown of continuity-land, a la the Virgin NAs' Blood Harvest. The plot is handheld computer game-simple: in the aftermath of the TV movie, the Eighth Doctor has his memory erased in the last attack of the now-deceased Eric Roberts Master. With the assistance of the TARDIS, the Doctor undertakes a quest to seek out his previous incarnations and re-create his own identity via the assimilation of their experiences.

On the way we re-encounter the Tribe of Gum, the War Games, Devil's End, E-Space, the Raston Warrior Robot, The Trial of a Time Lord, and the Seventh Doctor in depressive, post-Lungbarrow mode. The payoff is that while all this retcon is done in the best possible taste, its premise is hackneyed in the extreme, and the incidents from the Doctor's past are inherently flat, repetitive, and lacking in intrinsic interest. Here's a scene from a prior adventure... in walks the Eighth Doctor... out walks the Eighth Doctor... the scene continues. Multiply this by seven, and you see my point.

The Eighth Doctor's jackdaw meanderings are set against Yet Another Timelord Conspiracy, of the type that has bored the pants off audiences since Arc of Infinity established the frightful benchmark for such plots. We even have a picture of the ho-ho-ho Pantomime Rassilon of The Five Doctors on the back cover, as a kind of "Achtung, Continuity Minefield" warning sign. In retrospect, it is remarkable that The Ancestor Cell's demolition of Galiifrey was so long in comng.

Given the genuinely innovative treatment things Gallifreyan have received in NAs from as long ago as Time's Crucible, recycling Trial of a Timelord seems a little, well, unexciting. Yes, we get to see what happened in the aftermath of The Ultimate Foe's coup on Gallifrey, we get to see what happens to the Sixth Doctor and to the profoundly uninteresting Chancellor Flavia. We even get to see the Master ingesting the blob of molten gunk that reanimated Eric Roberts in the TV movie. It's all readable, of course, but all these connections between unrelated bits of continuity and regurgitations of the best-left-alone seem, ultimately, a bit desperate.

"Desperate" is a word I would, unfortunately, use about some of Dicks's previous efforts in the NA series. Blood Harvest was a fantastic read... until the merciless author forces us to plough through the tedious Death Zone/Timescoop/Borusa Must Live dreck in order to make sense of the book. Compare Dicks' Timewyrm: Exodus with Paul Cornell's Timewyrm: Revelation, or The Eight Doctors with Miles's Alien Bodies. What's obvious is that there IS no comparison... Dicks's work seems stiff and over-mannered, with its use of endless epithets and stock descriptive phrases. Dicks is from a past world of Doctor Who... the world inhabited by the pre-Interference Third Doctor, the world where Venusian aikido still works, and where neutron flows have polarities. If Miles, Cornell and Co. are the Gibsons and Iain M. Bankses of the 8DAs, Terrance Dicks is the Isaac Asimov.

The allusion is an interesting one: Asimov was a research scientist-turned super-professional writer who became apparently obsessed in later years with assimilating his entire corpus of work into a grand future history. Dicks is a Cambridge (Downing College, no less, home of the great lit-crit guru F.R Leavis) -educated copywriter-turned super-professional writer who has become obsessed in later years with assimilating his entire corpus of work into a grand future history. This time, of the Panopticon rather than the Foundation.

The Eight Doctors is notable also for its introduction of Sam Jones as a companion. In dramatic terms, the 8DAs really don't need "companions" as such (unless something really NEW is being done with them, like the early stages of the Compassion Arc). Being fundamentally alone would surely heighten the depiction of the Eighth Doctor as an isolated, vulnerable wanderer. Instead, however, we are treated to the first appearance of a contentious figure, who gets to do next to nothing except rattle off trite dialogue ("this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship") while being painted in a vaguely warm'n'fuzzy typical-teenager-aura. None of which changes until her final appearance in Interference 2. Interesting that one of the first story arcs featuring this character involved her disappearance.

The Eight Doctors is a magical non-mystery tour through the Terrance Dicks universe. On these terms, it works beautifully and is a grand summation of the writer's views, and influences, on the series. On the other hand, it also highlights how the franchise has changed drastically since the heyday of the Target era, and how the Dicks ethos seems a trifle dated when forced to compete with some of the crackling imaginative feats seen so far in the 8DAs. Like the Three and Five Doctors before it, this is a story to enjoy. Don't expect anything universe-shattering, and you won't be disappointed.


A Review by Jason A. Miller 9/4/05

I don't know why I reread this. Finn Clark, I see, had a lot of fun plugging meanings into this book that didn't belong. The paradox is that if not for the amnesiac Eighth Doctor fumbling and bumbling his way through his own prior timelines, none of the earlier Doctors would ever have developed consciences. Shame we had to lose Trev and Vicky. Sam might have been less annoying without company. And the Raston Robots were much better served in Alien Bodies. Why did the Sixth Doctor get so much space?


A Review by Brian May 1/9/05

The Eight Doctors may be a new beginning, but it's not exactly what you'd call a good start. Whoever had the bright idea of kicking the EDA series off with this self-indulgent tripe - and giving Terrance Dicks free rein to go amok - had no doubt just undergone a lobotomy. After the Virgin series readers were sick and tired of continuity saturation and authorial indulgence. Terrance Dicks, bless him, was among the guilty, with adventures that drew heavily on his previous efforts (Timewyrm: Exodus, Blood Harvest), but at least they were enjoyable yarns and despite their imperfections they had a considerable charm. Perhaps even the most gratuitous nods to the programme's history could be brushed off with an affectionate "Aw, that's Uncle Terry for you...!" Even if we cringed, we felt we could indulge him.

But he's gone way too far this time. You'd think the best way to introduce a new Doctor's own series would be to not write a multi-Doctor tale. Anyway, the Time Lord's earlier selves were having their own series of adventures published concurrently by BBC Books. Isn't it best to let the eighth branch out on his own? After the telemovie failed to reignite the Doctor Who fire, these books - at this point - would be the only way to expand on the character Paul McGann got to make flesh for 85 minutes. So to include all the other Doctors, while at the same time making the eighth so bland and lifeless, is the worst possible action to have taken.

But it happened, and we're stuck with it. After a prologue of sorts in a junkyard in Totter's Lane, with two teachers and a student from Coal Hill School, we're off! Dicks's relentless retconning negates and cheapens some vivid memories from the televised past. The first Doctor raising a rock, apparently to kill the unconscious caveman in An Unearthly Child is, in its original context, an incredibly dramatic moment. Viewers in 1963, uncertain as to whether the title character is a hero, an anti-hero, or something else entirely, would have been bemused and more than a little unnerved. So to have the first Doctor relent from his actions by a lecture from his eighth self, and not caught out by Ian Chesterton, is a diabolical move. So too having Doctor 8 responsible for inspiring the second Doctor's wonderful speech about the monsters he has fought during his trial in The War Games.

I actually enjoyed parts of the third Doctor segment! - especially the events following the end of The Sea Devils. I liked seeing what the Doctor would do after the Master escaped, and how far the Master got before having to ditch the hovercraft. I also wanted to find out where his TARDIS was hidden during his trial and imprisonment. But as soon as Devil's End and Miss Hawthorne resurface, and we find out his time machine was in the crypt all along, Terrance's predictability comes to the fore once again. But don't trash the idea of the third Doctor threatening his future self with the Master's TCE - we get glimpses of Pertwee's desperate exile. Remember The Claws of Axos? The Doctor was depicted in a highly ambiguous light, at times making us wonder if he'd sell out his friends in order to escape Earth. Of course, in the end he didn't, and here he likewise concedes "Much as I'm tempted, I can't do it" (p.104) His actions, and the result, are definitely in character.

Then Terrance indulges in the after-events of State of Decay, all of which is deadly dull, with a generic fourth Doctor and Romana II. The fifth Doctor gets to encounter the Raston Robot, the Sontarans and a Drashig, while the basis for the elongated section with the sixth Doctor is incomprehensible. The events of Trial of a Time Lord are twisted so awkwardly, you just know Dicks is having trouble working this out. But he's never worried about that before, nor has he ever let continuity get in the way - in itself not a cardinal sin - but Dicks is not so much tweaking with continuity as butchering it, even that he's created himself, with releasing Borusa twice (cf. Blood Harvest), although there's an ambiguity suggesting Borusa was freed once, imprisoned again and freed a second time, but that's all it is - ambiguous, and rather annoyingly so. And I don't need the Master popping up in the Matrix to explain things again - once was enough, and repeating Trial's excellent episode 13 cliffhanger as a chapter ending is just awful. However this segment has some mildly interesting moments, what with all the happenings on Gallifrey; the Low Town is quite a good idea, there's a bit more on the CIA, and both Doctors are well written here, with some amusing interactions. However Dicks seems to have confused the Shobogans with the outsiders from The Invasion of Time. And was Borusa that omniscient, to be able to unite the Time Lords the instant they see him again?

The seventh Doctor is horribly realised, his depression so uncharacteristic, but what better excuse to contrive a return to Metebelis Three and a cameo from a giant spider (but Terry doesn't really need an excuse, does he?) And before the book's through he gives a retroactive explanation for why the Daleks would execute the Master - another interesting idea, but written in such a forced, continuity-aware way it just becomes more mediocre flotsam.

The novel's entire writing style is like this. It's ordinary and it's simplistic. Basically, it's written for children. Terrance Dicks seems to be trying to re-create the Target days - but it's not the glory days of his earlier material, but rather the churned out "efforts" of his latter years. By-the-numbers writing that was banal and often condescending. If he's trying to revisit the Target era, it's a pity he didn't try to recapture something like an Auton Invasion or a Day of the Daleks novelisation. Accordingly his characterisation is poor - I've listed a few exceptions with some of the Doctors, but nobody else comes across with any backbone, or any hint of a personality. Returning guest characters - Captain Hart, Ivo, Kalmar, Flavia, Spandrell, Engin and Rassilon among them. Borusa, as the text explicitly states, is the John Arnatt version (The Invasion of Time) but the dialogue Dicks gives him sounds more suited to Angus Mackay's rendition from The Deadly Assassin. The various companions are also dull, and Ryoth is a dreadful villain - he's not even pantomime bad (which would have made him a whole lot more enjoyable). When writing Baz, his cronies and all the cops in Coal Hill police station, Dicks must have watched every episode of The Bill and every British crime flick, and thought they weren't clich? enough! Vicky and Trevor are an insult to the memory of Ian and Barbara. The 1963 schoolteachers don't need updating; they just need to be left alone so we can remember them as they are.

Which brings me to Samantha Jones. She's never been a favourite companion, but given a beginning such as this, the poor girl doesn't stand a chance. Her annoying, so-PC features are all there, but her thought processes and motivations are conducted with more of the juvenile, simplistic writing typical of the book. And her incorporation into the story is worse. She makes two appearances, each bookending the story - in the second she jumps into the TARDIS, Leela style, and we're away. (At least in The Face of Evil the new companion had an entire story to have her character established.) What happens with Sam is the worst introduction for a companion. Ever.

And did you notice the in-joke? Tegan says "And I'll be fielding all day!" (p.163) Ha, Terry, you're a card!!!

Here's my idea - the Doctor does fall for the Master's trap, he does fall unconscious and does succumb to amnesia. The Sam top and tails must stay unfortunately, but the rest - all a dream. To the readers, a bad dream, but in the story, perhaps Rassilon put the Doctor to rights, healing him while he sleeps, making him dream the rest. That's better. I can live with that.

Repeat after me: "It was all a dream, it was all a dream, it was all a dream..." 1.5/10


Things can only get better! by Joe Ford 17/9/05

Just recently I have completed a fourth Doctor marathon, watching every single Tom Baker story over a period of two months (yes, that is a hell of a lot of watching!) and I thought it would be fun try something similar with the books. So I am going to read every single Eighth Doctor adventure in print back to back! It will give me a chance to review some of those books I have missed and to re-evaluate some books I have only read once and hated (War of the Daleks, The Longest Day, Placebo Effect).

It says something about the style of Uncle Terry's writing that I managed to get through this book in three hours. I was trying to think of the antithesis of prose, but unfortunately anti-prose was all I could come up with! This book is full of anti-prose, no sensual description of anything, just plain facts. He did this. She did that. He got eaten by a Drashig. That sort of thing. As such it is astonishingly easy to read, a page will take you thirty seconds to digest but there is nothing to draw you into the story. Things happen, but we don't go into any detail about them happening so we skip over it into the next thing, and the next, and the next... until you know it the book is over, you have read a whole bunch of stuff but hardly digested any of it because none of it means anything. I'm not saying that every book needs to be written like a Simon A Forward epic, languishing on the exquisite details but something, some smell, some taste, some depth of any kind would be nice. This reads like a kids' book but I think even kids would boggle at its simplicity.

Let's hand it to the man; he's got some balls. To write a book that contains ten Doctors, four Masters, Susan, Ian, Barbara, Jamie, Zoe, Jo, the Brig, Romana, Tegan, Turlough, Mel, Flavia, Spandrell, Borusa, Engin, Rassilon, a Raston Warrior Robot, Sontarans, Giant Spiders, loads of TARDISes, Gallifrey, the Eye of Orion, the Trial ship, Metabelies Three, etc, etc... takes some nerve and to try and wrap a coherent plot around it, that takes sheer genius. Unfortunately this has an even flimsier excuse for a plot than his last attempt at this sort of thing (The Five Doctors) with the amnesiac eighth Doctor popping into all of his past lives to retrieve their memories so he can be whole again (he does have an uncanny habit of losing his memories, doesn't he?). Along the way we get a mini adventure that follows on from The Sea Devils, The Daemons, State of Decay, The Five Doctors and a story that takes place during the already convoluted Trial of a Time Lord. Do you think the rule about prospective authors not submitting stories with lots of monsters, companions, etc in them was drafted because of this cornucopia of continuity? Needless to say this book is the wankiest of them all (although Warmonger, also a travesty and also by Terry, has a bloody good try to top it) with one unbelievable revision after another.

It is frustrating that this book tries to do too much because Terrance has proven that his style is suited to the book just so long as he simplifies his storytelling and limits his nostalgia to getting the Doctor and companion spot on. This story is just a mess, whatever way you look at it. He introduces the Sam Jones plot in the first thirty pages and then conveniently forgets about her throughout the whole main plot and then pops back and shoves her in the TARDIS at the end. What sort of lazy plotting is that? He dares to have the third Doctor threaten himself knowing it is his future self! The Eighth Doctor gives the fourth Doctor a blood transfusion! He creates two sixth Doctors (argh!) with an alternative version helping the eighth whilst the regular one is on trial... wherein he attempts to tell the entire Gallifrey half of the Trial plot! Gah! Where is the editor? But most brilliantly of all, the most audacious piece of dismissive storytelling comes on the very first page where he attempts to dismiss the changes made in the TV Movie as illogical and nonsensical and gets the Doctor back in the white control room mushing about in his own continuity like proper Doctor Who. Honestly, the nerve of this man! Perhaps he wasn't the best writer to embark this fresh era of Doctor Who on, eh Ms Buffini?

The eighth Doctor is a totally faceless cipher throughout showing no signs of any personality at all besides kissing people's hands a lot (is this supposed to be the eighth Doctor's defining trait, flirting with the ladies?). I understand that he has lost his memories but give us something to get a grip... the book seems to suggest the Doctor is nothing but the sum of his memories which is exactly what Justin Richards set out to dismiss later on. Admittedly Terrance gets most of the other Doctors word-perfect but then he has written a novel for each of them before, so anything less would be unacceptable. The voracious sixth Doctor is bubbly and full of life and even the hard-to-capture fourth Doctor seems perfectly genuinely. Shame none of those amusing past selves are given anything worthwhile to do.

There is a (slight) background plot going on behind the Doctor's intrusion into his past lives taking place on Gallifrey. Personally I would rather have followed this plot strand a bit more, President Flavia (Lawrence Miles was right! Where's Romana?) and Ryoth locked in a battle of wits. This may give you an idea of the quality of the main plot, when I would rather read about Gallifrey and its political machinations. Unfortunately this strand is swallowed up (hah!) when Ryoth beams a Drashig to the Eye of Orion to kill the Doctor but he beams it right back and it eats Ryoth! When I read that I was rolling around on my quilt wetting myself! You just couldn't make this stuff up! Unless you are getting older, fatter, greyer but not necessarily wiser!

I dread to think what long-term fans of the books thought of this at the time, after the delights of the last few Doctor Who NAs this must have been like a huge slap in the face, a childish, underwritten throwback to the sort of storytelling that was old in the eighties. Newcomers to the series who were tempted in thanks to the TV Movie must have evacuated fandom en masse, frightened to death by all the history that is stuffed in here. I just cannot understand how ANYONE thought this book would be an acceptable start to this range?

I would make some rude statement about the introduction of Sam Jones but it hardly seems worth it, to put it bluntly this is the weakest introduction for one of the weakest companions. Thank God Fitz, Compassion, Anji and Trix are to come.

A pointless headache-inducing nightmare of a book. You can either hurl it at the wall 100 pages in from the sheer stupidity of it, or attempt to enjoy it on its (terminally low) terms. Admittedly I found some perverse enjoyment in its sheer badness but I could not recommend this to anybody who wants to read a decent Doctor Who book.

Easily the weakest Eighth Doctor book I have read, it only gets better from here.


A Review by Marcus O'Connor 30/12/11

I can only sympathise with Terrance Dicks for having such a low opinion of the TV Movie, and it was splendid to see him in this, the first of the Eighth Doctor novels, write to undo some of the absurdities that the movie threw up. He even begins on page one - "Of course, it wasn't really the Eye of Harmony at all... .". Top man.

As an introduction to the series of Eighth Doctor novels, this book does the job, though the plot is a little lightweight. The Doctor, having fallen victim to a trap laid by the Master, has lost his memories and is taken by the TARDIS to each of his previous incarnations to retrieve their memories and make himself whole again. The encounters with his previous selves do not always work; his meeting with the Third Doctor, for example, becomes a very implausible scenario and contains very unconvincing dialogue. This is not always the case - the meeting with the Fourth Doctor and Romana during the events of State of Decay works very well - but too often the encounters seem rather wooden and are difficult to plausibly accept as taking place during the stories in which they are set.

The new companion, Sam, is also used too sparingly. At the beginning, we are introduced to her and she comes accross as a very accessible, interesting character, but she is then left behind and we forget about her until the end of the novel. I cannot help but feel that the Doctor's adventure during the story would have been enhanced considerably if she had joined him in the TARDIS at the start and been with him as he went through the uncertainty of meeting his former selves with his memories incomplete. Her perspective and her own feelings during the scenarios of the novel would have added much. But instead, she comes on board at the end after the Doctor returns to the time and place where he had left her, they exchange some corny dialogue, and then head off to the next destination. The character deserved a better start.

The Gallifreyan politics is at times unconvincing as well. Almost a sideshow, it lacked substance and the laughable moment of the Drashig returning in the timescoop and killing Ryoth is sadly the moment from the Gallifrey sub-plot that is most memorable.

The book is worth reading, though. Despite it's flaws, there are moments to enjoy and the occasional poignant scene, such as the lonely, depressed Seventh Doctor on Metebelis Three. As a start to the Eighth Doctor's era, it serves its purpose, setting the scene for him to begin his travels with a new companion. While not among the best Doctor Who novels, it remains the starting point for those wishing to discover the adventures of a great Doctor.


A Review by Steve White 21/9/12

So I've started to read the Eighth Doctor Adventures (and the Past Doctor Adventures). I've read a few before, at release but for the most part am oblivious to the story arcs. I've decided to review them all so what better place to start than the first book?

Controversially, I really like this book. I know it is cheesy, and some of it doesn't hold up to much scrutiny (like just how easy the 8th Doctor entered/left E-Space), but it introduces the new fans gleaned from the TV Movie to the history of the show, pays homage to the show's roots and throws up a fairly interesting, if fragmented, story.

Terrance Dicks knows Doctor Who inside out, as you'd expect for being behind much of the original series novelizations and scripts. This makes him the ideal writer for this story, as the 8th Doctor re-visits his past selves at various points from the classic TV show. These feature continuations from TV shows, and it's all done very well for the most part. The 1st Doctor doesn't really get much attention, which is a shame, but it's a pivotal point in time in which they meet. The 2nd Doctor is treated rather better; the debate on whether or not to call in the Time Lords was a highlight for me.

The 3rd Doctor's section seems to be the most controversial of all, mainly because it involves the 3rd threatening to kill the 8th. This is totally out of character for the 3rd but personally I just think it's Mr Dicks in an unusually poor piece of writing. The plot calls for the 8th Doctor to eventually have the tissue compressor so in order to get it the 3rd Doctor had to give it to him. Given that the 3rd is stuck on Earth it seems logical to assume he would try to get out of exile somehow, but threatening himself with death was probably a step too far.

I didn't really enjoy the 4th Doctor's section. It was far too long for no real reason but the characterisations were spot on. The 5th's cameo was far better, although quite why Tegan forgot about the 4th Doctor I don't know.

Where the book really shined for me though was the 6th Doctor's bit. Yes it was slightly confusing but I don't see how people think it discards the Virgin New Adventures. When this takes place it is during the 6th Doctor's era, so none of the New Adventures have happened yet. I always enjoy Gallifrey-based stories and to me this was the best bit of the book. Sadly though the 7th Doctor's bit was a letdown. Hardly anytime at all was spent here, and for the Doctor to be close to suicide just felt wrong

It also seems prudent to mention the "present" day Gallifrey bits, but to me these served very little purpose at all. Ignoring the New Adventures, Flavia is president, presumably so we have some link to the 6th Doctor's era and seems to spend the entire present day just monitoring the Doctor's progress and doing absolutely nothing about it. The only saving grace is Ryoth's plan to eliminate the Doctor, but this is all wrapped up by mid way through the novel.

I can see why The Eight Doctors gets negative reviews as the intertwining stories get very confusing and not all of them seem to come to a satisfactory conclusion. However, for the most part, the stories are enjoyable so it is hard to knock the book for that.

The Eight Doctors also serves to introduce the new companion, a teenage girl called Sam. She is immediately likeable, and just like the Doctor is shown to fight on the side of good. My only criticism is that the cliffhanger introduced near the beginning of the novel isn't resolved until near the end, by which time you've forgotten pretty much all about her, which is a shame. Why couldn't she go with the 8th Doctor and learn about him as well? It soon becomes apparent in the later books that Sam is actually as annoying as hell, but for this book she's fine.

The other characters are all done fairly well, except the two teachers but their part is minimal to say the least. Terrance Dicks has to write lots of characters due to the nature of the book, so to fault him for getting two a bit wrong isn't really fair. I especially liked the character of Flavia in the 6th Doctor era, and hope she is featured in future novels.

All in all The Eight Doctors isn't groundbreaking, but it does offer a great introduction to the history of the show to newcomers, and gives current Doctor Who fans an inoffensive romp through time. I understand that on its release it was a far cry from the New Adventures but at the end of the day this novel had to appeal to new fans as well as old. Which it did.

8/10

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