Audio Review: Doctor Who – The Wheel of Ice
BETWEEN 1994 and 2005, first Virgin Books and then the BBC’s own imprint published a mostly monthly range of paperbacks featuring past Doctors and companions, offering new adventures to those featured on screen, and pitched towards a more mature readership.
Perhaps fearing new viewers of the relaunched TV series would be confused by the concept of past Doctors, the range was placed on hiatus, only returning seven years later with first an adaptation of “lost” Fourth Doctor story Shada, and then with a completely original novel featuring the Second Doctor and his companions Jamie and Zoe.
Written by acclaimed “hard” sci-fi author Stephen Baxter, it is a long-overdue return to the days when Who novels didn’t write down to their audience, and instead recognised that fans of the show were intelligent, erudite and capable of dealing with complicated plots and concepts.
The current range of tie-ins to the TV series have their place of course, but so do books of this quality and depth, and now at last we older fans have something to get our teeth into which doesn’t patronise our intelligence.
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The Wheel is a ring of ice and steel revolving around one of Saturn’s moons, occupied by a colony of miners who are providing vital supplies for a resource-drained Earth in the latter part of this century. But not only do the colonists have to deal with thefts and equipment failings, but there are reports of strange creatures on board the wheel.
Enter the Doctor and his companions, who soon find themselves caught up with a race known as the Blue Dolls, and a deadly mystery which has its origins in the dawn of the solar system…
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Baxter has Troughton, Hines and Padbury down to a tee, perfectly capturing their characters and mannerisms, but also offers his own take on the classic base-under-siege scenario which so characterised the era of the Second Doctor.
True to the tone of the Virgin Missing Adventures and BBC Past Doctor Adventures, this novel doesn’t shy away from placing the main cast in a story which is far more advanced and complex than anything they starred in on TV, and yet that doesn’t stop you being transported back to the black and white days of Troughton’s Time Lord.
Not just an excellent Doctor Who book, The Wheel of Ice is a first-rate science fiction novel which cements Baxter’s reputation as one of our leading contemporary genre authors.
The AudioGo novelisation goes one step further than the book by having Patrick Troughton’s actor son David as the reader. Having developed something of a reputation for imitating his father on previous novelisations and in the Serpent Crest series, he’s the perfect choice for this story, and brings Baxter’s tale to life in a way other talents may not have achieved. A genuinely fantastic product, which comes highly recommended.