DEEP IN THE HEART OF A hollowed-out moon the Doctor finds a chilling secret: ten alien corpses, frozen in time at the moment of their death. They are the empire’s most wanted terrorists, and their discovery could end a war devastating the galaxy. But is the same force that killed them still lurking in the dark? And what are its plans for the people of Earth?



Ten Little Aliens

JUNE 2002






Books featuring William Hartnell’s Doctor always seem to be pleasantly surprising me. Perhaps my expectations are a tad low as I’m not all that fond of the Doctor’s original incarnation; I don’t know. But by now, I really should know better.


Ten Little Aliens is a unique Doctor Who novel, and I don’t use the word lightly. Conceptually it’s an astounding blend of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Niggers; James Cameron’s movie Aliens; and even the bug-hunting Starship Troopers, former range editor Stephen Cole clearly having let his imagination run riot here. However, despite this veritable melting pot of ideas, none of which are obvious fits for the series’ black and white days, this novel demonstrates astonishing poise and assurance – Cole knows what he needs to do, and boy does he do it.


The first box to be ticked is characterisation, and in this regard I really have to take my hat off to the author. Early on the book, he subjects us to a wonderfully redolent A-T E-ZINE, which gives us a profile of each of the combatants that we will be spending the next few hundred pages with, really setting the tone for the machismo-fest that is to come. This didn’t inspire much confidence in me at first - after all, a bunch of coarse, unlikeable soldiers didn’t bode well so far as meaningful character journeys go… or so I thought. Much to my surprise, Cole’s ragtag bunch of commandos and psychos would turn out to be one of the most compelling sets of supporting characters that we’ve had in a Doctor Who novel in a long time.


First off, we have Matthew Shade – a man with a burned face who, in a lovely tirade against convention, is every bit as burned on the inside. And then we have Frog - a monstrosity of a woman with bulging eyes and an artificial voice box who, again, is just as disturbed on the inside; at least initially. Most notable of all though is Marshal Haunt, their commander. Cole does a tremendous job of turning his readers against this deranged woman right from the outset by way of her frenzied and disproportionately venomous attack on Shade. But in doing so, he also piques their interest…



And into this cauldron of contempt Cole throws a perfectly-drawn TARDIS crew from the fag-end of the Hartnell era. I’ve always had a soft spot for both Ben and Polly, and so it’s a real pleasure to see them both not only portrayed so flawlessly but also given so much to do so. Cole even takes the time to flesh out their back stories a little; in particular, Polly’s strange attraction to Shade brings all sorts of memories of fusty charity shops and one-night stands bubbling to the surface. What I like so much about Cole’s depiction of this duo though is despite the emotionally-compromising situations that he puts them in (with Shade and Frog, respectively), what resonates more than anything else is the strength of their patent feelings for each other.


The moribund Doctor, likewise, is a marked success. Throughout he’s the wise old man with the plan - even Haunt shows him remarkable deference – yet, at the same time, he’s visibly flagging. Indeed, more so than any other late first Doctor novel to date, Ten Little Aliens is that one that alludes to the Doctor’s impending regeneration most frequently.


Moreover, the narrative itself is chilling, littered as it is with incredibly eerie, living stone angels and eat-you-from-the-inside-out alien terrorists, and set as it is within the confined interior of a grim asteroid. There is a lot of mystery too, and one or two revelations that genuinely shocked me.


Finally, not content with the above, in the last section of the book Cole experiments with what I can only describe as the old ‘choose your own adventure’ style of storytelling, which took me right back to childhood days of reading Transformers books of the same ilk. And, though I can’t say that I found these sections as compelling to read as some other parts of the novel – indeed, they were far more jarring – they do at least offer some insight into the character’s thoughts as we can experience the same terrifying events from each of their different perspectives (and in whatever order we like!)


And so when people talk about this book, they won’t talk about the Morphieans or the gore, or even Mike Tucker’s visually arresting cadre of Schirr terrorists depicted on the cover. They’ll talk about the remarkable characters. About the hotchpotch of diverse ideas. About the unusual devices employed.


When all’s said and done, Ten Little Aliens is not going to be for everyone, but there is nothing else in the Whoniverse like it, and for that alone I’d recommend giving it the once over. You never know, you might just love it.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design

 and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.



This novel’s blurb offers no clues as to its placement, however it is heavily implied in the text that this is the first Doctor’s penultimate adventure. We have placed it accordingly.


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