At last, the powers that be(BC) have given us the very first novelisations of 21st-century episodes of Doctor Who, written in the style of the beloved Target books from the days of yore. One of the four releases is Twice Upon a Time, based on the recent swansong of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Time Lord.
Adapting Steven Moffat’s script is Paul Cornell, a writer who has penned adventures for numerous Doctors across the mediums (including TV), so it’s not surprising that Cornell does a tremendous job of marrying the tone of the modern series with the Target house style. For example, the title for Chapter 8 is “Escape to Danger”, a nod to a classic Terrance Dicks trope.
As fans will know, Twice Upon a Time features three Time Lords for the price of one as it takes both Doctors One and Twelve to solve the mystery of why time is frozen and who exactly Testimony are. The portrayal of the First Doctor irked some fans in the Christmas special but Cornell fixes that by bringing out the more heroic qualities of the original. Though, obviously, there are still the same jokes about his dated attitudes.
The multi-Doctor fun doesn’t stop there, though. It’s not a spoiler to mention that there is a third - or rather Thirteenth - Doctor featured in the storyline, as well. All we’ll say is the final chapter of the book is a thrilling peak into Doctor Who future that gives us a few hints as to what we can expect in Season 11.
If there is a flaw, it’s that the novel amplifies the contemplative, slow-moving pace of the episode. The deliberately light plot suited the TV medium, but the story does become very talk-y when translated into prose form. That said, this does help flesh out the character’s inner lives. e.g. the Captain and the glass replica of Bill. Some of Cornell’s embellishments also wrap up certain character’s arcs much more completely than we saw on screen.
All in all, Twice Upon a Time is another charming, thrilling entry in this range of must-have modern Targets. It’s occasionally laugh-out-loud funny but also seriously tear-jerking by its final pages - and it also features some essential teases for the future. Speaking of which, based on the strength of this one and the whole range, we sincerely hope there are many more novelisations on the way.
DOCTOR WHO: TWICE UPON A TIME / AUTHOR: PAUL CORNELL / PUBLISHER: BBC BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW