Doctor Who: Caged – Recap & Review

    Another Doctor Who book has landed, showing off another tale of the 15th Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson). Doctor Who: Caged is written by Dr Una McCormack, a New York Times bestselling fiction writer. She has also previously published other Doctor Who novels and worked on several Big Finish audio dramas. This is the second original novel to be released following the 15th Doctor’s adventures. We recently reviewed the first entry into this series, Doctor Who: Ruby Red.

    In Caged, we follow the Doctor and Ruby as they arrive on a planet called Cavia. Encountering one of the locals, they discover that they are being observed and abducted by a mysterious creature from the sky. Mysterious meteors, robot armadillos, and mountaintop observatories make this latest novel an interesting and enjoyable read.

    Unravel the mystery in our review and recap of the latest Doctor Who novel, Caged. WARNING – Spoilers for the book are outlined in the rest of the article below.

    Giant Guinea Pigs and Squid Researchers

    Caged introduces us to a brand new character, Chirrachar who is abducted from her peaceful life by a mysterious force. After being returned to her home she decides she must get to the bottom of who had taken her. This sets her off on her journey of discovery, hoping to find someone else in the galaxy. Chirrachar is a big furry guinea pig-like creature with sharp claws and soft fur.

    On her journey, she bumps into everyone’s favourite time-traveling duo, the Doctor and Ruby.  The trio go on a mystery hunting journey to sufficiently ‘Scooby-Doo’ the situation. They expedition up a mountain and find a mysterious observatory. However, this observatory isn’t built to look at the stars. It’s built to look at Chirrachar’s village. 

    In a parallel-running storyline, the reader is introduced to Tixlel, Head of Research for the Ixite’s,. We find that they are part of a secret organization running a big experiment and collecting high volumes of research. However, there has been a spy inside of the collective who has told the outside world. This causes outrage and threatens the entire concept of the organisation’s experiment.

    These two new introductions to the large roster of aliens of the Whoniverse are welcomed. In the recent season, we’ve seen a shift in more supernatural and conceptual threats as opposed to new aliens. McCormack does an excellent job of constructing an image of what these aliens look like through her writing. As the novel continues on we get more detailed information on their attributes and appearances. This was a very enjoyable visual to piece together across the story and allowed the reader to experience the mystery of these new creatures.  

    What Even Is An Alien?

    One of the strongest aspects of Caged is how McCormack portrays the aliens in the story. Through interesting wordplay and intentionally confusing descriptions, we get a truly interesting mystery. McCormack dives into the exploration of how other beings would react when encountering others. Seeing the different reactions and mindsets of the Ixite’s and Chirrachar’s people was very enjoyable and thought-provoking. 

    As the story begins to unravel we learn that the Ixites have been searching their local solar systems. They have been desperately trying to find another life form to greet and learn from. Upon reaching the edge of these seven systems they give up on their search and declare that they are alone. After this discovery, they attempt to create another lifeform for them to meet. This is Chirrachar’s people and the world that they live in. Using this desperation echoed ideas of the human experience and the idea of wanting something greater. Having this underlying theme strengthened the novel and brought a social commentary that I was not expecting.

    However, the ongoing rebellion against the experiment has resulted in the beginning of something called The Extraction. Tixlel discovers that the outsiders on the project want to destroy Chirrachar’s species and reclaim the planet for housing. The Doctor, Ruby, and their new alien friends now have to prevent the destruction of the species.

    Falling At The Final Hurdle

    Whilst this was a very enjoyable entry into the Doctor Who book collection, there was one major issue. The pacing of the final moments of the book was way off a satisfying conclusion. Maybe this pacing felt weird due to the excellent and engaging pacing of the story up until the final chapter. Overall, it just feels like the final events of the story are severely rushed and everything is resolved very quickly. This was very disappointing to see.

    Amazing buildup and disappointing payoffs seem to be a running theme with Doctor Who lately. The recent ending to the first season of the show, Empire of Death, had a similar problem. Fans of the series are already agitated by the underwhelming ending so it was unfortunate to see another poor landing once again.

    Caged has a very enjoyable underlying message throughout as well. These deeper themes are told through the interaction of Chirrachar’s people and the Ixites. Overall the story attempts to encourage meeting new and different people with peace and open minds. The Doctor has to explain to the kindhearted and somewhat oblivious Chirrachar that whilst it would be nicer to be welcoming to everyone we meet, this often isn’t always safest. Whilst everything is resolved at the end of the story, it is nice to see this progression during the novel.

    Closing Thoughts

    Overall, this entry to the collection was a very enjoyable read. The pacing throughout the majority of the novel was well-done, wordplay was interesting and entertaining and the mystery of the story was well-kept throughout. Mystery like this can be tedious and difficult to pull off sometimes but McCormack has executed this excellently.

    Doctor Who: Caged follows an interesting and engaging storyline that had me constantly in suspense about what happened next. The novel introduces interesting new characters and provides a thought-provoking social commentary. Touching on the human experience with other lifeforms and questioning the concept of what is alien. This was a very enjoyable exploration of the Whoniverse.

    Hopefully, McCormack continues to write for the series as this was a truly excellent entry to the Doctor Who collection. We recently reviewed the other original 15th Doctor novel, Doctor Who: Ruby Red. The next entry to the series, Doctor Who: Eden Rebellion, releases on the 14th of November 2024.

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