Lately, I’ve been interested in reading Doctor Who stories, not just watching the show. When I heard of this anthology and realized that Derek Landy – the author of Skulduggery Pleasant, AKA my favorite series ever – was one of the contributors, I knew I just had to add it to my TBR list!
Shout-out to the Iowa City Public Library for buying this – I’ve made so many purchase requests in the few months that I’ve been here that I’m surprised they haven’t set a limit for me yet!
There are two different editions of Twelve Doctors, Twelve Stories: One version has all the stories bound together in one volume, and the other is a boxed set with a tiny booklet for each story. (The stories range in length from fifty to eighty pages, but are actually very quick reads due to a rather large font size and pages that are half as large as normal.) I assumed the ICPL would buy the former version because it would be easier to keep track of, but… they didn’t. OH MY GOD, I FELT LIKE A DORK WHEN I CARRIED MY TWELVE TEENY-TINY VOLUMES HOME FROM THE LIBRARY.
In the end, though, I’m glad they bought the boxed set, because that means I can talk about the whole design aspect of Twelve Doctors, Twelve Stories in this review! I. LOVE. THE. DESIGN. I love that the box part is a TARDIS, and that the cover of each volume is designed to look like the outfit of the Doctor whose story is being told. The design is fun, eye-catching, and well thought out. This edition would make a great gift for Whovians!
ANYWAY. It’s time for me to discuss the stories themselves!
This review is spoiler-free!
“A Big Hand for the Doctor” by Eoin Colfer (3/5)
I LOVED the dialogue in this story, and I thought One’s love for his granddaughter came across really strongly. Ultimately, however, this story didn’t make much of an impression on me.
“The Nameless City” by Michael Scott (3/5)
I guess my main issue with this story was that I loved the beginning… and then lost interest? I don’t know. The ending was kind of a let-down, but otherwise I enjoyed the characters and everything.
“The Spear of Destiny” by Marcus Sedgwick (4/5)
This reminded me of the recent episode “The Girl Who Died”! YAY, VIKINGS. Also, this was the only story in this entire collection that featured the Master – I love Three and the Master! SO MUCH SASS, OMG.
“The Roots of Evil” by Philip Reeve (3/5)
This story didn’t really stand out to me as anything special… but hey, it was goofy. And that worked, because Four’s stories are ridiculous and that’s why I love them.
“Tip of the Tongue” by Patrick Ness (4.5/5)
Patrick Ness is the head writer of the upcoming Doctor Who spin-off Class, so I was exceptionally interested in this story. Well, I am now even more excited for Class than I was before! This story was primarily focused on two teenagers, with Five and Nyssa more in the background, and I loved how well-developed Ness’ characters were.
I miss that part of Doctor Who, where even the most minor characters were complex and it felt like we knew them. We haven’t had many characters like that since series five ended, so I really appreciated how Ness is able to write a Doctor Who story that doesn’t focus solely on the character development of the Doctor and his companions, but on that of the people they encounter during their travels as well.
“Something Borrowed” by Richelle Mead (3.5/5)
I’ve added half a star to this rating because the Rani was in this story, but otherwise… I don’t know. This was a fun story, but it didn’t blow my mind like some of the other stories did. I did enjoy Six’s sense of humor, though.
“The Ripple Effect” by Malorie Blackman (4/5)
What if Daleks were peaceful? “The Ripple Effect” is a wonderful exploration of how that would change the universe. I’ve never see an episode with Seven – there aren’t any on Netflix! – so it was fun to read this story. Also, I’ve heard that his companion, Ace, has lots of hella gay subtext in every story she’s been in and OMG SHE TOTALLY HAD A CRUSH ON ONE OF THE MINOR CHARACTERS.
“Spore” by Alex Scarrow (4.5/5)
Along with the twelfth story, this was one of the creepiest in this anthology! I loved all the background information we got in this story through the Doctor’s memories about Gallifrey. I really need to read and watch more of Eight’s stories! (I’ve only seen the minisode “The Night of the Doctor.”)
“The Beast of Babylon” by Charlie Higson (4.5/5)
OHHHH MY GOD I FREAKING LOVED THIS STORY. It felt more… connected to the show than the other stories did? It takes place between “Rose” and “The End of the World.” It’s a story about Nine and this girl, Ali, who helps him defeat aliens in Babylon and I KNOW THAT SOUNDS RIDICULOUS but it was actually amazing… because deep down, this story is really about Rose. Ali encourages him to go back and ask her to travel with him, and that ending… wow. I love Rose’s and Nine’s adventures together so much, so I loved this story.
“The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage” by Derek Landy (5/5)
I LOVE THIS STORY FOR SO MANY REASONS. First of all, Derek Landy wrote it. HE IS THE BESTEST. Secondly, it’s about Ten and Martha. MARTHA! She’s probably the most underappreciated New Who companion, so I was thrilled to read about her.
Finally, this story is about how the Doctor and Martha stumble into a world based upon all the books and fairy tales she read as a little girl. I loved what this story had to say about imagination and creativity and unfinished stories. Along with Neil Gaiman’s story, this was my favorite in the entire anthology.
“Nothing O’Clock” by Neil Gaiman (5/5)
Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife” is one of my favorite Eleventh Doctor episodes ever, so it’s not surprising that I loved this story. I loved its emphasis on fairy tales and legends! This story was so delightfully creepy, too – and even though I’m not really a fan of Amy Pond, I actually liked her in this story.
“Lights Out” by Holly Black (4.5/5)
In this story, the Doctor visit the International Coffee Roasting Station to pick up something for Clara to drink… and stumbles into a murder mystery. I KNOW THAT SOUNDS RIDICULOUS BUT TRUST ME, THIS STORY WAS AMAZING. And creepy. Oh my god, that plot twist.
UGH I’M SO GLAD I ASKED THE LIBRARY TO BUY THIS ANTHOLOGY. Reading it was a ton of fun! It was also a really nice introduction to certain incarnations of the Doctor: I’ve never seen or read any stories about One, Two, Six, and Seven, and I’m only vaguely familiar with Five and Eight.
To be honest, I would love to see each of these stories as an episode! I know that’s only possible with “Lights Out,” obviously, but… yeah. Maybe some of the others could be made into Big Finish radio dramas? Reading these stories was soooo fun because I imagined how each one would play out onscreen.
I definitely liked some of the stories more than others, but none of them were BAD. I guess… I guess some of the stories felt as though they’d been written to fulfill an assignment: “Write a story about the ____ Doctor and his companion _____!” Meanwhile, some of the other stories went above and beyond, with better character development, wonderful descriptions, and amazing plot twists.
One thing I would’ve liked to see in Twelve Doctors, Twelve Stories is an author’s note at the end of each story. It wouldn’t have to be long – just a one- or two-page reflection on why they wrote the story they did. Was this their favorite Doctor? How did they get the idea for this story? And how long have they been a fan – did they grow up watching the show, or become interested as an adult?
I loved how this collection, by its very nature, was inclusive of Classic Who – it’s a great way to learn more about the incarnations of the Doctor that you may not be familiar with, especially if you, like me, were introduced to the show via New Who.
I would recommend Twelve Doctors, Twelve Stories to all Doctor Who fans!