I decided - Whovian that I am - to explore some other areas of Doctor Who this month. I read two novels and listened to one of the audio-dramas from Big Finish.
The Daleks benevolent? The Dalek Foundation, creating habitable worlds for throngs of human beings? An entire generation raised up believing the Daleks are rarely-seen philanthropes? What are the Daleks really up to? That is the mystery the (11th) Doctor must solve.
Briggs has a good handle on describing the 11th Doctor in prose. That was a strong point. The Doctor did not feel like a placeholder, or a rewritten different Doctor. He rang true as the 11th Doctor.
Ironically, the issues I have with the story are the Daleks. The plot is a fun conceit, and it is impishly enjoyable to read as the Daleks behave, engage in bureaucracy and simmer under the surface just dying to let loose with guns and screams of "Exterminate!" The trouble is, because of that setup, there isn't a whole lot of Dalek action in the story.
The Daleks' villainous plot is another weak point. It's vague, at best. A bit of hand-waving (sucker arm waving?) at the end. Some great power (unexplained what) will cause massive galactic changes (unexplained how.)
It is a fairly fun, quick read to pass the time - as long as you don't analyze it too much.
Engines of War by George Mann
Through a bit of creative retroactive continuity, it was revealed during last year's anniversary barrage, that there had been one regeneration of the Doctor that shunned the name of "Doctor." He became a soldier and a warrior who directly engaged the Daleks in the great Time War. In the end, it was he who destroyed both the Daleks and the Time Lords, to put an end to the war.
That 'other' Doctor (or, 'War Doctor') was played by John Hurt and only appeared briefly in one episode, and then was a central part of the anniversary special that followed.
This novel gives a look into that Doctor, and also events that drove him to such genocidal actions. Engines of War is a very good story that pulls together various threads of two episodes - "The End of Time" and "The Day of the Doctor." In addition there are plenty of other references for the fans without coming off as poor fan fiction.
The Daleks' villainous plot(s) are well realized. The Time Lords, too, have their own maniacal plans to halt the Dalek advance - even if it means sacrificing billions of people to succeed. Plenty of murderous, dangerous Dalek action, too.
Can the Doctor stop the Daleks, and the Time Lords, and still come out ahead?
I liked this one, a lot. One of the best Doctor Who novels I have read.
While the BBC were creating their own anniversary special last year, the folks over at Big Finish audio came out with their own celebratory story, too.
The Master, the Doctor's arch-enemy renegade Time Lord, has thrown all laws of time out the window. He crosses his own future (the Master here being played as an incarnation from the past) and sets a trap that causes the Doctor to meet his previous incarnations, tearing apart his own timeline and history in the process. Can the Doctors unite and escape the ultimate trap before the Doctor himself is wiped from all time & space?
This was fun. The story meshes the Doctors together very smoothly. Of course, a story like this could be a convoluted, confused time travel story, but the causality plot-line is not overly complex. The reveals are well-paced enough to keep the mysteries engaging. The Doctor actors play off each other very well. There are even actors performing good mimic to the voices of the first three Doctor actors who have passed on.
A very fun romp. Well done.