REVIEW – Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Novelisations

    As a treat to celebrate Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary, the novelisations of all three specials were fast-tracked. They were released digitally just days after each special and have all been released in paperback form today. Novelisations have been a part of Doctor Who almost as long as the show’s been around. For years, they were the only way to revisit the older episodes, before the advent of home media. Continuing the tradition, selected episodes of the 21st century revival have received the same treatment.

    The 60th Anniversary episodes being novelised so quickly is a real treat! It’s hard to overstate quite how expedited they were. However, something being released so quickly does not inherently mean it’s worth getting. So are these novelisations a worthy addition to your Doctor Who collection, or are they more for completionists only? And do these novelisations add anything to the stories that make it worthwhile? Find out in this review of Doctor Who‘s latest novelisations.

    WARNING – Spoilers below for the Doctor Who 60th Anniversary novelisations! Proceed at your own risk.

    Catherine Tate and David Tennant (Via BBC Studios)

    The Star Beast

    The first of these novelisations is The Star Beast”, which was written by Gary Russell. It kicks off these novelisations with a bang. In a twist I’m sure nobody saw coming, it introduces a whole new side character that wasn’t even mentioned in the episode. I’m talking about “Stew Ferguson”, the milkman at the start of The Stolen Earth. Getting a character like that in is the sort of random fanservice I respect from the novelisation range. His arc also functions nicely to organically get the Doctor into the action at the steel mill.

    The scenes of the Meep, especially when they were pretending to be all cute and cuddly, are gorgeous to read. Russell T Davies somehow took the scene of Meep playing with Rose’s plush toys and made it even funnier. Genuinely, the opening chapters of this book are among some of the funniest things I’ve ever read. It’s a joy, and as someone who’s seen the episode many times, it’s so well done. Every scene is amazing, and the reunion of the Doctor and Donna feels just as surreal as it was onscreen.

    You may have seen a deleted scene from the episode floating around, where the Doctor discovers his new sonic screwdriver when the Meep’s ship is crashing over London. Interestingly, that scene is in the novelisation, which surprised me. I’m assuming it was cut later in the editing process. The story probably works better with it, with the story actually, if briefly, explaining the suddenly changed sonic screwdriver. I’m disappointed we’re no closer to why Susie Mair’s shorter, though. In all seriousness, this was a brilliant read.

    David Tennant, Yasmin Finney, Karl Collins, Jacqueline King, Catherine Tate, and the Meep in Doctor Who: The Star Beast (c) BBC Studios

    Wild Blue Yonder

    Next is “Wild Blue Yonder“, written by Mark Morris. Of the three authors, he was the one I was the least familiar with going in. His prose and the way he adapted the terrifying atmosphere of the story are commendable. Just like the episode it’s adapting, you really can’t tell who’s real and who’s not. Morris also has experience writing novels featuring the Doctor and Donna, which is probably why the characters feel as well brought to life as they do.

    However, it’s the only novelisation in the trilogy not to add any new scenes or dialogues of note. Instead, it felt like much more of a shot-for-shot sort of adaptation. As someone who’s seen the episode multiple times, nothing here surprised me. Although what we have here is still rather good. Every corridor run and tense dialogue where you’re not sure if the Doctor is there is adapted brilliantly.

    As a bit of a treat, the chapter titles are each number in the countdown—Fenslaw, Collis, Brate, and so on. Unfortunately, the chapters don’t align with the words being said aloud, although that’s hardly a realistic expectation. It just made it a little harder to keep up with where the story was at, particularly toward the end. However, it adapted the final scene with Wilf, which, even in prose, can make me a little teary, so that’s probably worth the price of admission alone.

    Catherine Tate and David Tennant in Doctor Who: Wild Blue Yonder (c) BBC Studios

    The Giggle

    The novelisation of The Giggle is written by James Goss. It’s a name that will be very familiar to Torchwood fans, although he’s also contributed to dozens of other novels and audio projects. Getting to play with The Toymaker allowed Goss to create a very unique reading experience. The plot is unmistakably that of the episode, but it’s presented through over 50 chapters in a book not substantially longer than the others.

    It relishes the limitless possibilities of the written word. The narrator, the Toymaker, even breaks the fourth wall and occasionally addresses the reader. Compared to two enjoyable yet normally structured reads, this surprised me. It needs to be read to be believed, adapting just about everything in a way you probably won’t see coming. My favourite bit was probably when it became a “choose your own adventure” book, becoming a nearly inescapable maze.

    However, how it tackled the infamous Spice Girls scene is equally praiseworthy. Licensed music is tricky, and Goss invents fictitious dialogues with lawyers as the Toymaker tries to dance around the scene. The way it tackled the bi-generation was also interesting, not adding anything new to the table but doubling down on the Fourteenth Doctor’s happiness. This book is so creative that it needs to be read, and I cannot recommend it enough.

    Neil Patrick Harris and David Tennant in Doctor Who: The Giggle (c) BBC Studios


    The novelisations of Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary Specials are a mixed bag. There’s some phenomenal stuff here, and a lot of it is just fine. Overall, these are probably better than the average novelisation, and it’s clear that the authors were working very closely to create a faithful adaptation of the episodes. I don’t know if they’re good enough to warrant double buying for people who already have the digital editions, but they’re all worth owning in one form or another. Just look at those covers. Wouldn’t that look amazing on your shelf?

    Their release strategy is laudable, and it helped to make the anniversary feel special. A part of me hopes that a fast turnaround for future novelisations is on the cards. While it’s more than a couple of days from the episode, a novelisation of The Church on Ruby Road is due in hardback on January 25th. So it’s clear that the novelisations are very much alive and are more current than ever. Hopefully, this winning streak keeps up in the next books.

    The novelisations of Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary episodes are in paperback from today. They’re available in all good book stores, and you can order them online from retailers such as Amazon. You can also pick up a digital copy from all good ebook retailers, such as Apple Books and Kindle. For Doctor Who reviews, news, lore discussions, and more, follow the team here at Tardis Central!

    Doctor Who kickstarted the new era on Christmas Day 2023. “The Church on Ruby Road” saw the debut of both Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson as The Doctor and Ruby Sunday. However, fans will need to wait until May 2024 for Ncuti’s first season as The Doctor. Disney+ will be the exclusive home for new Doctor Who seasons outside the UK and Ireland.

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