Review: Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go By

Silent stars pbBy Dan Abnett

BBC Books, out now

Hoping to arrive in Leadworth in time for Christmas, the Doctor, Amy and Rory instead find themselves on a world where the arrival of winter could mean the death of an entire civilisation…

The second in BBC Books’ hardback Doctor Who range is in many ways the polar opposite (sorry!) of Michael Moorcock’s The Coming of the Terraphiles. That was a very description-led story, with a convoluted plot that at times almost could get lost in its own cleverness; this is a plot and character driven story, which nails the characters of the time travellers better than many of the other recent BBC releases.

One of the hardest characters to get right is Rory: much of his success on television comes from Arthur Darvill’s portrayal, rather than the character itself, but Dan Abnett succeeds in capturing that performance, and you can often hear Darvill’s voice in the scenes. Separating him early on from the Doctor and Amy allows him some room to breathe – as it did in the Ganger two-parter earlier this year – and his mixture of practical heroism and pragmatism comes across well.

Abnett also captures the breathless nature of Matt Smith’s Doctor, heading off on a verbal tangent when his mind is racing, and becoming so engrossed in one situation that he entirely misses something else going on around him. This Doctor always does well in one-on-one encounters with the bad guys, and the scenes between him and the Ice Warriors bring back lovely memories of Patrick Troughton’s performance in The Seeds of Death.

And the Ice Warriors are back – important enough that they’re the focus of the cover. These aren’t the massively-updated Warriors contemplated for The Dark Dimension; they’re recognisably the ones who battled Troughton and Jon Pertwee, and appeared at various times in the spin-off novels during the show’s hiatus. Nothing that Abnett does would prevent a future production team from re-envisaging them for a TV encounter, and this novel proves that they still have a place in the Who universe.

Abnett’s world-building is sufficiently different from previous Who stories that it stands out, but its linguistic shifts fit with established continuity – as does his understated references back to the earlier Ice Warrior stories.

Verdict: A highly enjoyable slice of Who.  8/10

Paul Simpson

Click here for our interview with Dan Abnett

Check out our other Doctor Who and Torchwood reviews and interviews here

Discussion

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  1. Pingback: 3D Doctor Who and the Ice Warriors return « Sci-Fi Bulletin - February 12, 2013

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