Of the production team for the Sylvester McCoy era of Doctor Who, Mike Tucker wasn’t the one you’d expect to become the most prolific tie-in novelist. For a start, he was a visual effects assistant, who manfully operated the Kitling puppet in Survival by sticking his hand up its bum and lying as close to the ground as possible. You can make Six-Degrees of Kevin Bacon-style connections between effects personnel on Supercar through to the current series of Doctor Who through Tucker, unless of course you are Kevin Bacon, and don’t seem to realise how the whole Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon thing works.
The Silurian Gift is one of the Quick Reads series, clocking in at 99 pages and setting you back but one pound of your sterling currency. Featuring a well-written Eleventh Doctor travelling solo, it is reminiscent of an abridged Target novelisation. Indeed, throw in more back story for all of the characters and you might well have something approaching Malcolm Hulke’s original Cave Monsters novel in length. Certainly, in terms of plot, the Silurians are yet to move on from the arc established in their first and best story.
So we have the usual Silurian characters. There’s a scientist one, and an angry soldier one, some bonus Sea Devils and gratuitous (yet satisfying) Myrka. While a cyborg dinosaur was always going to stretch a television budget (even now), the Myrkas have been used well in prose and audio. If, as presumably expected, readers of The Silurian Gift have never seen Warriors Of The Deep then they can imagine the creature from scratch. Imagine. Imagine if Total Recall or Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind were about something as cinematic as that.
However, just because it’s not breaking new ground doesn’t mean The Silurian Gift isn’t a good read. It’s a well-paced page turner that retreads the scenario of Doctor Who And The Silurians more effectively than 2010’s Cold Blood/The Hungry Earth two-parter. Despite the brevity of the book, the characters probably have more depth, and their reactions are more coherent. Our new Adric-Sue, Lizzie Davies, is a plucky young thing, a hybrid of Sarah-Jane, Jo Grant and Ace. Our new boo-hiss villain is Rick Pelham, an English Tex Richman (Kent Richman?), isn’t all bad, and it’s been a while since we’ve had a story set in the Antarctic. Not since the series had more sense than money, in fact, and it didn’t have a lot of sense at those points anyway.
Don’t go in expecting the rulebook to be torn up (one wonders what on Earth a Doctor Who Quick Reads book by Lawrence Miles would be like), but for a safe and steadfast yarn to be spun.
Doctor Who: The Silurian Gift is available now.
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