Doctor Who: THE CHRISTMAS INVASION Audiobook Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: THE CHRISTMAS INVASION Audiobook Review

Tony keeps an apple in his dressing gown.

That noise you hear is a whole generation of Doctor Who fans squeeing like six year-olds.

Target novelizations were, for a whole generation of fans, the only way to experience the stories of the black and white era. Or in fact, any era where you weren’t glued in front of the TV screen every Saturday night, because back in the dark ages before VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray, before Netflix and iTunes and torrenting sites, if you missed an episode of Doctor Who – it stayed missed.

Whereas, in the hands of Terrance Dicks, and Malcolm Hulke, and Ian Marter, and Donald Cotton and a host of others, the Doctor Who Target novelizations were available at WH Smiths. Or, more likely, they were available at your local (or your mobile) library, smelling slightly of a hundred other people’s homes and hands, and taking you into time and space in a way that made the stories as big as your imagination.

New Who ‘Target’ books then? Huge deal. Really, phenomenally, huge deal.

New Who ‘Target’ audio books? Oh hell to the yes.

The four New Who books being released – Rose, The Christmas Invasion, The Day of the Doctor and Twice Upon A Time – are all getting an audio version, the first two read by Camille Coduri, the third by Nicholas Briggs, and the fourth by Mark Gatiss. The Christmas Invasion, first of the stories to get an audio release, is written by Jenny T Colgan from a script originally by Russell T Davies, read by Camille ‘Jackie Tyler’ Coduri, and is…simply brilliant.

What Terrance Dicks did in a host of original Who novelizations was to translate what was on the screen into something you could enjoy in a novel format, but then graft on little bits of backstory, little bits of characterization, little bits of technobabble, that went deeper and broader than the screen had time to show you (and which frequently hadn’t been thought of by the original scriptwriter), so that the worlds the Doctor and his companions visited, the problems they faced, were populated by real people, rounded in their dilemmas. There was of course seldom any hint of deep emotional lives, because frankly Classic Who didn’t do that. But he certainly made the characters more ‘real’ sometimes than they’d been on the screen.

Jenny T Colgan has pulled a Dicks, but added the New Who element of people with emotional lives.

Colgan of course knows her stuff – a novelist of enormous success in the non-geek world, she’s been writing Who stories for a handful of years now in various formats. What she’s done in the novelization of The Christmas Invasion is take her Target knowledge, and deliver the best of all possible worlds. What that means is that she’s delivered The Christmas Invasion faithfully for those who somehow, in the world of Netflix and iTunes and DVD and Blu-Ray sales, still haven’t seen David Tennant’s regeneration episode – but delivered it faithfully with occasional knobs of extra character-depth on, making it a richer experience than the TV version.

There are plenty of geeky ‘Easter egg’ treats in the novelization of The Christmas Invasion - including the story of why the Tenth Doctor hates the Tower of London, more on his meetings with an interstellar hitch-hiker, the reason he adopts his ‘clever-specs,’ and the oft-vaunted idea that the Tenth Doctor got his cheeky chappie accent from hanging around with Rose Tyler.

Those – and more besides – are lovely for the hardcore geek you know you are. But much more than that, Colgan brings her novelist’s skillset firmly to bear on the characters, allowing us to peer inside the heads of characters, and showing us their fears, their insecurities, their hopes and loves, their heartbreak and smiles and carrying on regardless.

The Christmas Invasion was originally a stroke of Russell T Davies genius, the comatose Tenth Doctor a way of letting us mourn for Christopher Eccleston’s fantastic incarnation, and then hand over the reins in a spitfire last ten minutes of rentagobbery and swordfighting from the explosively brilliant David Tennant. Davies’ story was already focused on the ‘little people’ for the majority of its run-time. But in Colgan’s novelization, the character-moments have the time to breathe, to sink in, to make sense even as the adventure goes on around them. It’s a masterly expansion of a brilliantly structured original.

As such, characters like Rose and the new Doctor feel fuller and more real as they work out their post-regeneration relationship, but the real gems of characterisation are given to the ordinary earthlings – Colgan shows us the admirable stoicism of Mickey Smith, the mum-smile of Jackie Tyler, who wants her girl to have the time of her life but fears every day she’s gone, the hopes of Daniel Llewelyn, leader of the Gwinevere 1 project, and of Sally Jacobs, who’s one of the first to head to the roof when the Sycorax start to play rough. It’s the gift of a skilled novelist to be able to take us into a number of minds, to show us real people, not just players in the drama of the moment, and in that, Colgan succeeds in spades.

Now, let’s talk about Camille Coduri, shall we?

Camille Coduri – and for that matter, Jackie Tyler too – is very underrated. Here, she reads the novelisation with a briskness and bounce that pull you through pages without ever feeling rushed. Her Jackie, as you might expect, is note-perfect, but beyond that, she delivers a Rose that’s mostly Billie Piper, with an extra touch of strength and softness appropriate to her insecurity in this moment of her life, and a Tenth Doctor almost as Tiggerish as the David Tennant version, meaning you always feel like you’re in a Doctor Who story. She tackles the subsidiary characters gamely too, and succeeds in making you care for all the people you encounter.

Coduri hits every mark you need her to hit, delivers every emotion, to give you an immersive experience of the story that will make you look at it with fresh eyes.

Bottom line, the new audiobook version of The Christmas Invasion is a triumph, that adds warmth and depth and humanity to a script that was already audacious and funny and terrifying and brave by turns. You’re going to want to pick it up and feed it into your brain. The three other audiobooks, if Amazon is to be believed, are all released on the same day in June. The Christmas Invasion works brilliantly as a standard-bearer for the range, and promises excellent things to come.

Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

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