BOOK REVIEW: DOCTOR WHO - THE ANTI-HERO / AUTHOR: STELLA DUFFY / PUBLISHER: BBC BOOKS (E-BOOK) / AUTHOR: STELLA DUFFY / OUT NOW
The TARDIS deposits the second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe at the legendary ancient Museum of Alexandria in the year 50AD where they find themselves caught up in the intrigues of the genius Hero and his artificial robotic Muses. Zoe’s search for astronomical enlightenment and Jamie’s quest for a recipe for perfect porridge could well turn out to be the downfall for all three of our time travellers…
This latest entry in the BBC’s occasional ‘Time Trips’ E-book series, written by novelist and playwright Stella Duffy, is a quirky, good-natured affair. But fans yearning for an old-fashioned atmospheric second Doctor yarn are likely to be a little disappointed as the forty-odd page story bears little or no resemblance to any Doctor Who serial from the 1960s and the TARDIS crew are only vaguely recognisable as the characters seen on TV forty-odd years ago. The Doctor is occasionally puckish and quixotic, Zoe displays some of her familiar scientific aloofness but, with his bagpipe-playing and previously unexpressed passion for porridge, Jamie is only a deep-fried Mars Bar away from being an embarrassing Scottish cliché.
Duffy clearly knows her Greek mythology and her depiction of the nine Muses who are said to be the inspiration for literature, science and the arts - albeit as robot replicas created by Hero and later as benevolent visiting saving-the-day aliens - allows her to steer the Doctor and co into the previously uncharted waters of the classical arts. It’s not an altogether successful combination, as the story is so massively untypical of the Doctor Who era it plays with but there’s some fun to be had with Duffy’s playful dialogue and a scenario which does at least manage to put the TARDIS crew in mild peril before the misguided ‘bad guy’ Hero decides to see the error of his ways without much real excitement or serious character conflict.
‘The Anti-Hero’ won’t trouble you for long and if its depiction of the Troughton-era is hugely off-kilter - there’s not a Cybermen or a base-under-siege in sight - it’s good to see that the BBC are still willing to allow writers to play with characters last seen on TV years before most of the range’s readers were even born. Breezily inoffensive.