Doctor Who: THE SECRET IN VAULT 13 Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: THE SECRET IN VAULT 13 Review

Christopher Morley opens the vault.

Remember the Curator's seemingly throwaway line about revisiting a few old favourites somewhere in his future? It seems David Solomons does, to the detriment of the Doctor's newest face during The Secret In Vault 13. For what is surely intended as a standalone child-friendly introduction to the Thirteenth Doctor actually mostly ends up feeling like a tribute to the Fourth around Season Sixteen....

Having managed to rescue the prisoners of the Space Lord & return them to their home worlds, time for Team TARDIS to take a nice holiday - the end of Chapter One bringing the first of many references to when being completely oblivious to the fairer sex came more naturally than actually being a member of it! Just hazard a guess what crops up among many possible choices of destination before being ruled out in favour of Lotos B?

In time honoured fashion the TARDIS doesn't actually get the Doctor & friends there! Where the old girl does deposit them, though, takes everything back to the early days of the Time Lords and their assistance of the First Gardener of Tellus IV via a message from one of Graham's houseplants, which no doubt needed watering before they left in the first place. Its definitely a simple begonia too, not a Krynoid as she's at pains to point out.

The message it brings from the Gardeners of dire consequences for the universe should she happen to decide not to help has a familiar undertone as well, similar previously also having been delivered by the White Guardian at the outset of The Ribos Operation. Having now, as she did then, decided that she best get a shift on for the greater good, the Doctor is told to go looking for the keys to the Galactic Seed Vault on Calufrax Major. The original Calufrax was of course the setting for The Pirate Planet & indeed one of the disguised segments of the Key To Time, while its Minor equivalent appears in The Stolen Earth as one of the planets caught up in Davros' reality bomb plot.

Where there is white, there must also be black - standing in for the Guardian of that particular hue here is Nightshade, who wants the contents of the Vault for his own ends. Namely “turning the soil” & growing everything again from scratch.....

Surely the first rule of landing on an ice planet is dress warm, as Ryan is no doubt mindful of while rifling through the Type 40's wardrobe. And what should he find there before dismissing it as a trip hazard? The Fourth's iconic scarf! There's a reminder of something decidedly hairier too. He'll later don a school tie once the action shifts to the Dorm of New Phaeton, a sort of galactic Eton complete with crazed robotic M8-Tron, managing to carry off echoes of The Ark In Space, School Reunion and The Beast Below in terms of both how its run & what happens to the poor old students. That is at least until the Doctor turns up to stop the sort of thing that would probably have even the hardiest OFSTED inspector running for the hills!

Infiltrating the faculty, led by a two-headed Head, ho ho, things go a bit Gareth Roberts as Graham is roped into posing as the Mr Smith to a certain two-hearted Mrs looking for the best possible education for their children. Just as well Rassilon Junior & Sally don't actually exist, as by graduation time that may well have changed for the worst.

Next stop, Never Square, Kensington, 2018. A second attempt at a ruse, not to mention a terrible Russian accent & attempting to borrow the identity of a still living guest threatens to go badly wrong for Ryan's dear old step-grandad once Mr Delgado, head of the local residents association, & his guests attempt a bit of human sacrifice to appease the mole-like creature living under their lawns, cottons on. Again its not too hard to fathom that similar went on at Devils End many moons ago if you're of a certain age - unless you're actually of the audience at which this story is aimed, in which case you probably wouldn't!

But if you did happen to be, the parents, carers or whichever grown ups read to you most likely would, & therein much like the best Pixar films perhaps lies any kind of appeal here in picking up the tale of the quest for the Genesis Seed in the first place.

As a postscript - a sequel, The Maze Of Doom, again to be penned by Solomons & given a lead in by the ending of this first book, is released next year, returning the action to our nation's fair capital as something prowls beneath its streets. The Web Of Fear for wee ones, perhaps? Goodnight, children everywhere...

...For now at least, before we take a look at Time Lapse. Naomi Alderman's entry to the extended Thirteen Doctors, Thirteen Stories short story anthology is our next literary heading.

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