Doctor Who: FORGOTTEN LIVES (Charity Anthology) Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: FORGOTTEN LIVES (Charity Anthology) Review

Matthew Kresal discovers a whole host of forgotten past lives.
The broadcast of The Timeless Children as the finale of Modern Doctor Who's eleventh series last year sent a jolt through fandom. That electrifying effect came in no small part due to the introduction to a new generation of the idea of pre-Hartnell incarnations of the Doctor. Not that the notion was precisely a new one as more than four decades earlier, the serial The Brain of Morbius had thrown out eight earlier incarnations of the Doctor. Each wore the face of one of the production team involved in Who serials at the time and hinted at worlds full of untold adventures. Despite that, outside of a handful of appearances in Wilderness Era spin-off fiction, the Morbius Doctors have never really had their day. Now, Obverse Books has set out rectifying with Forgotten Lives, a short story anthology collecting tales for those Doctors and raising funds for Alzheimer's charities.

Featuring eight stories by as many different authors, one for each of the Morbius Doctors (presented in wonderfully done illustrations by Paul Hanley), Forgotten Lives offers up tales as diverse as Doctor Who itself. Simon Bucher-Jones' opening story, set in 1780s Cornwall, sets the tone with an incarnation very much serving as a medical man while looking into "knockers" in a local tin mine. From there, the volume's various authors take very different approaches to both their Doctors and their tales, such as editor Philip Purser-Hallard penning a supernatural thriller set in London as the Blitz reigns down. Or Andrew Hickey's The Cross of Venus doing a story that wouldn't have been at all out of place in the sixties Doctor Who comics (complete with child companions) with its air of Golden Age SF trappings. Aditia Bidikar's Valhalla Must Fall! presents the kind of Who story that would be difficult to pull off on-screen but works beautifully on the page, and in large part due to her portrayal of a most intriguing incarnation of the Doctor, indeed.

Lance Parkin, who was perhaps the primary author using the Morbius Doctors in Wilderness Era fiction, returns to the Doctor Who fiction fold for Forgotten Lives. His story Past Lives sees an incarnation seeking out intergalactic war criminals in an adventure that's very much a change of pace for the volume. It's also perhaps the shortest tale in the collection, but one that defines its Doctor so well in those few pages. Of the eight Morbius Doctors, this one ("played" in the TV serial by legendary Classic Who director Douglas Camfield) is the one that this reviewer would love to read more adventures featuring them.
Anthologies can be hit-and-miss affairs, and Forgotten Lives does have some slight misses. Two stories have a minor issue, based on something that occasionally pops up in anthologies in having adventures that, while good on their own, are perhaps a bit too similar to one another. Such is the case here, with both Kara Dennison and Jay Eales stories being thematically quite close to one another with tales of buoyant, even cavalier (literally in the case of one of their costumes) incarnations being imprisoned and taking on oppressive regimes. Both are fun reads, Dennison capturing some fine comedic moments while Eales paints a striking picture of Cold War-style paranoia, but perhaps due to reading them just a day apart, there's an odd sense of deja vu in going from one to the other. Elsewhere, the concluding adventure of the volume, Paul Driscoll's comics-based moral panic tale Doctor Crocus and the Pages of Fear, paradoxically comes across as slightly out of place and overlong, going a long way to make a simple message. These are relatively minor, especially in a volume as strong as this anthology turns out to be.

For fans of literary Doctor Who, Forgotten Lives is nothing short of a must-have. Not only is it a chance to take in eight underused incarnations of our favorite Time Lord, but it presents some wonderfully done tales that showcases past and present authors of Doctor Who fiction. And with profits from it going to such a worthy cause, it's also a chance to do as the Doctor does and help a little where you can.

Order your copy of the limited print run of Forgotten Lives now at Obverse Books.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

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