As a lifelong Doctor Who fan, I am pretty much a sucker for special events. Thus, when BBC Books released Engines of War, the first book to feature The War Doctor, I was one of the first in line to get a copy. Of course, it then took me several weeks to find the time to read it, even though it is a relatively short novel. (It’s over 300 pages, but both the font and margins are suspiciously large.)
For those who are not up-to-date on their Doctor Who, The War Doctor was the incarnation of the Doctor, between the eighth and ninth, that fought in the Time War. He isn’t counted in the traditional sequence of ‘The Doctor’, because...we’ll, you would have to watch the show for it to really make sense (and even then, not everyone agrees that it does).
As for Engines of War, I have to admit, I was a little bit disappointed. Although the writing was fine, the overall plot just isn’t that interesting. Considering the imaginative possibilities of a ‘Time War’, the back and forth between the Daleks and Time Lords in the book is pretty conventional. Actually, this is an argument my sister made against the one depiction of the Time War in the television series, so I suppose the book is just following true to form. Still, I was hoping for more.
The flat plot is made more noticeable by the somewhat flat character of The War Doctor himself. In the author’s defence, he doesn’t have a lot to work with, trying to write a novel about a character that only appeared in one episode. However, instead of presenting what should be a unique Doctor, we actually get a Doctor that is depressingly generic. Except for a bit of facial hair, anger and world (universe?) weariness, there is nothing to set this Doctor apart from his better-defined incarnations.
Thinking about it further, this book suffers a good bit from the ‘Problem of Prequels’ which I ranted about in an earlierblog. Since the book is set before the episode in which The War Doctor appears, the reader knows more or less where the story has to end up. This also makes the one, possibly emotional, element of the story rather predicable.
This is probably somewhat harsher criticism than the book deserves. It is, after all, a book based on a television show that has to work within strict guidelines. It is well-written, and it’s not a terrible adventure. It is also probably aimed at readers somewhat younger than myself, and perhaps many of them have found the book thoroughly enjoyable.
I was hoping for more.
As for the pledge this month, that’s one book bought, one book read.