THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
TV EPISODE "VICTORY
OF THE DALEKS" AND
THE NOVEL "NIGHT OF
OFFICIAL BBC HARDBACK
RELEASED IN APRIL 2010.
An astronaut in A 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. 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 everyone
on earth. The plot centres on a secret military base on the moon, where Amy and the TARDIS are.
The Doctor is back on Earth, and without the TARDIS there’s no way he can get to the moon to save Amy and defeat the aliens.
Or is there? The TIME LORD discovers one last great secret
that could save THE WORLD: Apollo 23.
With each season comes a new trio of Doctor Who novels, and this spring brought the first batch to feature Matt Smith’s eleventh Doctor. In accordance with the series rebranding, the novels have undergone a redesign, now sporting the new logo and insignia, images of the new Doctor and Amy Pond, and even a little tagline (“Houston - we have a problem…” reads the front of Apollo 23). The dimensions of the volumes have been altered too, which will undoubtedly irritate the sort of fans that like their bookshelves to look all nice and uniform.
Apollo 23 is officially the first of the range (or thirty-seventh, if we’re counting the ninth and tenth Doctors’ run; even more if we’re counting the audio books) and is authored by Justin Richards, former BBC Doctor Who range supreme and apparently on a mission to reach a Terrence Dicks-level of Who novelising. Richards always provides a solid and enjoyable - if often unremarkable - story, and Apollo 23 is no exception. It’s a thoroughly engaging, well-paced read, albeit one that does little new with the range. He captures both the new Doctor and Amy perfectly, and provides simple, appealing secondary characters that each fulfil useful roles in the story, keeping things moving briskly and entertainingly.
There’s plenty of interest in the set-up for the story - a man drops dead in a park, while simultaneously a woman and her dog appear on the Moon, and an astronaut materialises in a burger bar. All intriguingly incongruous, and leading swiftly into an engaging plot that provides just enough complexity for a younger readers’ book of this length. The Doctor and Amy soon end up investigating events at a secret US Moonbase, crewed by all the recognisable US military stock characters and utilising a unique form of quantum-entanglement based transport system - one that has started to play up. Soon they are separated, with the Doctor arriving via entanglement at a Texan military base, while Amy must stay and deal with yet more complications on the Moon.
None of the plot developments really surprise, but they keep coming quickly enough to keep the reader from ever getting bored with the mixture of chase, capture and intrigue. Before long, unethical medical experiments, mind-scrubbing, body-snatching and an alien invasion are all part of the story, while the Doctor gets, in third Doctor style, to offer scientific advice to the military, before suiting up and piloting a space rocket - the eponymous Apollo 23. Events only start to take on a disappointing turn right at the end, when the invaders arrive, sadly turning out to be a rather sad, feeble bunch of blob men who can barely stand up to a poke with a sharp fingernail.
There are plenty of enjoyable Doctorish lines on offer, and a host of little television and novel references for the fans, none of which ever become conspicuous or feel shoehorned in. All in all then, Apollo 23 provides a solid, fairly satisfying start to the eleventh Doctor’s adventures on the printed page.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2010
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
We have placed this first batch of eleventh Doctor novels between Victory of the Daleks and The Time of Angels, as this is the only gap in Series 5’s tight continuity which sees the Doctor and Amy travelling without either Rory in tow or the spectre of his non-memory looming large.
Of note, here the Doctor claims that he hasn’t died for months, and that it always makes him hungry when he does. This can only be a reference to his recent regeneration. Taking his age into account - he claims to be 906 just before his regeneration in The End of Time, but 907 in Flesh and Stone, his travels with Amy between the two probably last several months. Alternatively, he may have spent longer “running in the TARDIS” on his trip to the Moon than he admitted in The Eleventh Hour.
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