Reading the ancillary material so soon after the series ended does offer a different perspective on the development of the last twelve weeks of TV my viewing.
The guys who wrote 2017’s selection of spin-off novels (and they are all men, disappointingly) would only have had chance to read the early versions of the first few scripts and nothing else. It’s no surprise then that all two of the three books seem to be Doctor/Bill focused. Nor is it really a surprise (though it’s always commendable) that Mike Tucker here manages to capture Bill so well. Even if he probably wouldn’t have seen Pearl Mackie’s superb performance, it’s clear a properly realised version of the character was already in place.
And how well her character stands up on the page, just throws into contrast how weirdly off the portrayal of The Doctor is.
Much different to the kindly, sympathetic figure we actually had in the last series, this is very much the aggressive cantankerous Doctor that Clara had to deal with back in Series 8, He even wheels out the insult ‘pudding brains’ (and does it with such frequency that it starts to smack of laziness on the author’s part).
If I had to guess, I’d say that the opening scripts – and this novel – were written before P-Cap decided to leave the role. Once it was clear he was going, the character was softened in the scripts to make him a more sympathetic character as he headed towards his denouement. But because publishing operates on a different timescale, there wasn’t quite time for the books to do the same and so the other grumpier version of the Doctor remains.
(I am quite prepared for the other books to blow this theory out of the water, by having a proper Series 10 Doctor in their pages).
Wrong-ish Doctor apart, DIAMOND DOGS is at its core a moderately enjoyable yarn about mining diamonds from the atmosphere of Saturn.
Now I love mining stories in DOCTOR WHO. They are a staple. They’re practically their own sub-genre, like ‘base under siege’. So, I was all set to really like this one, and as such was surprised me at how indifferent it left me. The story is fine, it has a good sense of action and crams a load of incident in. But it’s also fairly mechanical, with poorly defined villains. There are also way too many characters. A head-spinning amount of characters. Not everybody needs to have names, particularly when their personalities are so poorly defined.
It’s a forgettable book then, a disappointing book even – made doubly so that in a novel called DIAMOND DOGS, there’s only one other obvious David Bowie reference (a character who has ‘Queen Bitch’ etched on her back). That really is a missed opportunity. If I was writing a DOCTOR WHO novel with the same title as a Bowie song, the editor would have to beg me to stop including Bowie references, and even then, I probably wouldn’t.
But hey, even though I don’t read the comics, it does give me a chance to include this brilliant cover. I actually squeaked with glee the first time I saw this.