Doctor Who: Something Borrowed review

Andrew reviews the entertaining sixth 50th anniversary Doctor Who Puffin e-short, Something Borrowed, by Richelle Mead...

This review contains some plot details but no major spoilers.

This fast-paced adventure is the sort of story the Sixth Doctor never got on screen, and is more indebted to the Russell T. Davies era’s tendency to travel to alien planets reminiscent of aspects of present-day Earth. Possibly it would have been called Pterodactyls in Vegas. 

The sixth entry in the Puffin ebook series introduces the Koturians, a race who’ve based their planet on Las Vegas and interpreted the American dream as ‘exploiting people’s hopes and dreams for profit’. The difference is that weddings on Koturia are fashionable rather than tacky. 

With its brisk romp through airborne dinosaur attacks, the companion befriending a local, and garish palettes, this one really evokes a lighter Tenth Doctor episode. It’s been interesting to see how writers use the story-length of this ebook range. While the page count implies something akin to the 2005 series, we’ve rarely seen this in the realisation so far. Despite being different to his story-style, this book doesn’t neuter the Sixth Doctor’s arrogance and bouts of violence, but instead tempers it with humour and an underlying anger at injustice. In this respect, it’s quite close to the initial raucous portrayal of The Twin Dilemma and Attack of the Cybermen

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Something Borrowed is a fun, easy-to-read adventure that is at its best whenever the Sixth Doctor pomps his way through proceedings with unfettered gusto. Colin Baker’s bombastic, super-fantastic portrayal of the Time Lord is captured here in all its glory, but with little moments of the veneer cracking. You actually get a sense of why Peri – the companion here – would want to travel with him. You also get a sense of how migraine-inducing it would be to have the Sixth Doctor and his boak-coat rampaging around Vegas, solving mysteries. 

(Throughout Something Borrowed I kept thinking how much fun this would be as a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. It certainly solves the problem of actors ageing. If you are going to bring old Doctor back, why not team up Big Finish with – for example – Cosgrove Hall?  New animated adventures, ostensibly for children, but also definitely for us grizzled vets.) 

Peri – on television potentially any character from Scooby Doo depending on the demands of the scene – is the narrator here. This not only does her justice, but also means that we see the Doctor from her point of view. This goes a long way to making him more fun. Their banter is, if not sparkling, then at least carbonated. They bicker, but they don’t at any point have repetitive, stagnating arguments. In many ways they’re reminiscent of the Third Doctor and Jo Grant, he all apparently dismissive haughtiness, and she all pluck, bravery and vital assistance. 

Finally, we have a returning villain (Many of you will have worked out who it is from the clues in the blurb and author interviews). Mead uses this character well, in-keeping with their initial appearance in the show, and leaving the door open for future adventures. The resolution to their scheme is somewhat rushed in a hectic conclusion, as the Doctor and Peri race to stop a marriage service. The image of the Sixth Doctor gatecrashing a wedding is a hard one to shake from your head. 

Overall, the story is a rush of giddy entertainment, and does well with its characters and their interactions. Like many of these tales, the length prevents it from becoming something more memorable and distinct, but Mead has taken blended eras of Doctor Who with ease, and her fondness for the Sixth Doctor really shines through.

Read Andrew’s review of the previous Puffin ebook in the series, Fifth Doctor story, Tip of the Tongue by Patrick Ness.

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3 out of 5