Friday, 12 March 2010
What Do You Want For Tea? I Want Crisps - Code of the Krillitanes by Justin Richards
It's strange that something as... fleeting as the annual Quick Reads book is the end of the Tenth Doctor's fictional reign.* You can almost get through it in less time than it takes the Doctor to say his interminable goodbyes in The End of Time Part 2. Really, there's not that much to say about these Quick Reads as they're reduced to a relatively basic prose style and have to get through a story quickly. It might sound insulting to Justin Richards to say that I think he's well suited to this sort of thing but it's not - getting an adventure like this over so quickly and in as simple language as possible is a tough skill, and Richards' experience writing for children clearly helps him here. He's also very good at telling stories simply, and while I've thought his work for the Ninth and Tenth Doctor ranges could've done with losing some padding, or telling part of the story more quickly, this format allows no room for any indulgence. As such, it's got the pace and fire of one of the television episodes, something the standard length of the novels means they often lack.
The plot itself is a touch derivative, drawing heavily on the Krillitane plan from School Reunion and crossbreeding with a Pertwee era style attempt to invade via a major industry (such as either original series Auton tale or even, if you prefer, the author's own Fourth Doctor Missing Adventure System Shock). The Waters of Mars proved that you can still do interesting things with classic Doctor Who story templates and, while Code isn't in that class, it does manage a nice plot surprise around halfway through and - mark of good Doctor Who - has the villains defeated by ingenuity and with the help of a human rather than relying on a technobabble solution.
It might be no more than the literary equivalent of a bag of crisps, but like a good bag of crisps, it's a tasty and satisfying snack.
* Yeah, I know DWM's strip The Crimson Hand has one more instalment left, but it's been underway for three months already so this is the last complete story to show up. And you can shut up about Doctor Who Adventures already...