Andrew Jero continues his daily look back at each of the Doctor's eras. Today it's the turn of the Eighth, Paul McGann.
We're at the half way stage in my journey through all the Doctor's eras, and today's is a little different. With only the TV Movie and The Night of the Doctor as his sole on-screen appearances, it's not possible to approach Paul McGann's time as the Eighth Doctor in the same way as the other actors who have played the Time Lord. However, McGann has gone on to perform in dozens of audio adventures, and continued to bring the Eighth Doctor to life that way.
An awful lot is written about his work with Big Finish, so instead I would like to bring attention to the Eighth Doctor Adventures (the EDA's). A series of 73 novels based on McGann's portrayal of the Doctor, as seen in that TV Movie. I have read and reread the EDA’s over and over again, and to me they are as familiar as the television stories from any other Doctor. So let's take a look at the good, the bad and the mediocre, starting with one of the very best...
I’ll start with the final book of the EDA range, The Gallifrey Chronicles. While Earthshock is my favorite of all the TV episode novelizations, The Gallifrey Chronicles may be my favorite original novel for any Doctor. It binds the entire range of EDA's by filling in all the unanswered
questions, but does so by not alienating those who may not have followed the
70+ book range. This is achieved by giving relevant information in a way that isn’t
insulting to those of us who diligently followed the series from start to finish. If you've read them all then you'll no doubt appreciate the way The Gallifrey Chronicles ties together the amnesia from The Ancestor Cell, as well as what happened to Gallifrey in that story is excellent. It gives us my second favorite Time Lord villain in Marnal, and presents, what is in my eyes, the proper destruction of Gallifrey.
Another of my absolute favorites in this series of books is Kursaal. It's an interesting story about a group of humans who were changed into werewolf like creatures due to exposure to a virus. It kept me at the edge of my seat, and certainly stood up well against the other fantastic stories in the series. I love how the author uses secondary characters to give us a glimpse of each person before sending them to the wolves. A fantastically written, beautiful novel that I’ve read more times than I can remember, a solid 10 out of 10.
The Shadows of Avalon is a story that almost turns the Doctor and Romana into enemies, due to her actions throughout the novel causing almost a shunning of her by the Doctor. Romana, in what we assume is her third incarnation, has almost become blinded by her power as President. The Brigadier has lost Doris and does a lot of things that are out of character, but they work due to what he has recently gone through. Overall The Shadows of Avalon is a solid adventure, an 8.5 out of 10. Paul Cornell does a fantastic here, especially in the creation and fleshing out of Compassion, who is one of my favorite companions in the history of the Doctor Who franchise.
Onwards to The Taking of Planet 5, which is one of the more complicated of the EDA novels. It deals with future Time Lord elders who end up trapped in what could be described as their own personal hell. We get the backstory about the war between the Fendahl and the Time Lords, the one we very briefly heard about in Image of the Fendahl. It is complex and intriguing, and serves the EDA range with another fantastically written adventure which helps shape an interesting possible future for Gallifrey.... well, all eight Gallifreys!
I said we'd look at the 'bad', so let's start with The Eight Doctors by Terrance Dicks. Overall it's a well composed story, which sees the Eighth Doctor make an appearance at least once during each previous incarnation in his timeline to recover his memories. But by the time we reach the Sixth Doctor the novel begins to slightly drag. Before then it does feature some lovely scenes, particularly with the Fourth and Fifth Doctors. The Fourth comes into play after the events of State of Decay and those sections, despite the fact that the book as a whole falls in the lower category, are some of my favorite of the range. We also get a feel for the new companion in the form of Sam Jones, who developed well over her time in the range.
If I had to pick the weakest novel in the EDA range, it may be a controversial choice but I'd have to go for Lawrence Miles’ Alien Bodies. The book drags throughout, and really serves no purpose. The plot makes little to no sense, and when compared to any of the other novels in the range, McGann’s Doctor seems off, and makes the reader question the commission of Miles for this title. It's not the worst Doctor Who novel, it fares better than say The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (which featured the First Doctor), but when compared to the rest of the EDA it just isn't of the same standard. Fortunately the 70+ other books in the range make up for the lack of creativity shown in this particular novel.
Overall the McGann era, thanks in no little part to the amazing range of Eighth Doctor Adventures, is one of my favorites. Out of all twelve era's, this one comes in at number seven.
Overall score out of ten for the Paul McGann era: 9/10
Andrew lives in Iowa and has a very strong love of both Red Dwarf and
Doctor Who. He enjoys acting and writing plays, television scripts,
and short stories. Follow Andrew on Twitter.