BOOK REVIEW Doctor Who

Martha in the Mirror (by Justin Richards), Snowglobe 7 (by Mike Tucker), The Many Hands (by Dale Smith)

Martha in the Mirror

Author: Justin Richards

Publisher: BBC Books • 256 pages • £6.99

ISBN: 978-1-846-07420-2

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Snoglobe 7

Author: Mike Tucker

Publisher: BBC Books • 256 pages • £6.99

ISBN: 978-1-846-07421-9

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The Many Hands

Author: Dale Smith

Publisher: BBC Books • 256 pages • £6.99

ISBN: 978-1-846-07422-6

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As the Time Lord whisks latest recruit Donna Noble off on a series of teatime telly adventures, BBC Books brings us three new tie-in novels starring the Tenth Doctor and… um, Martha.

This blip in the Beeb’s normally seamless marketing machine will be grist to the mill of those conspiracy theorists who feel that Freema’s exit was unduly hasty; for the rest of us, it’s a welcome chance to spend a little more time with a TARDIS team that barely had time to bed in before fate (and the Master) so cruelly intervened.

Miss Jones gets star billing in the best of these, Martha in the Mirror. Set in a haunted castle playing host to a peace summit between warring alien races, it’s a delightfully inventive mix of sci-fi and fantasy that, with its gothic location, magic mirrors and lost children, owes as much to Harry Potter and His Dark Materials as it does to Doctor Who.

Certain sequences – like the one in which Martha chases the ghost of a young girl through a maze, while the Doctor follows their progress in a glass diary – exude a dreamlike, fairytale quality, while others crackle with sparky dialogue and laugh-out-loud jokes. The book also continues New Who’s fondness for anthropomorphic aliens, this time serving up a race of brutal crocodile soldiers (armed to the teeth, naturally). What’s not to love?

If there’s a Tenth Doctor novel to rival Martha in the Mirror, it’s Mike Tucker’s The Nightmare of Black Island. But whereas that echoed Hammer horror-inspired Tom Baker stories, Tucker’s latest, Snowglobe 7, is a slice of pulp SF that would be more at home among the larkier Who of the late ’70s (the Doc even gets a cute robot sidekick).

The titular globe is one of a series of huge domes used to protect sections of the Arctic and Antarctic from the ravages of climate change at the end of the 21st century – but the ice is not the only thing preserved, as the Doctor and Martha discover when they get an oddly frosty reception in the Middle East...

Cherry-picking elements of recent TV stories like “New Earth” (plague-carrying future humans) and “The Runaway Bride” (hibernating spider aliens), Snowglobe 7 is a fast, fun but ultimately forgettable romp that, despite its setting, lacks a real chill factor. Then again, what could possibly be scarier than global warming?

Finally, Dale Smith’s The Many Hands is a very odd fish. On one level, this tale of grave-robbers, reanimation and alien parasites in 18th century Edinburgh is surprisingly macabre, with scenes of body horror that wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near teatime telly. Yet it’s also surprisingly cartoonish, the plot amounting to little more than monsters chasing our heroes up and down the Royal Mile like an overly lurid episode of Scooby Doo. And the Doctor appears to wrap the whole thing up in under an hour – suggesting that many hands do, indeed, make light work.

Paul Kirkley

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