Doctor Who: The Beast of Babylon Review

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Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull gives his verdict on the 9th Doctor 50th anniversary ebook.

Doctor-Who-The-Beast-of-Babylon-Charlie-HigsonCharlie Higson has said in his thumbnail video provided by Puffin earlier this month that if he hadn’t written for the Ninth Doctor, he would have gone for William Hartnell’s immortal incarnation. Rather interestingly, he said that he felt Christopher Eccleston had to “do it all over again” just like William Hartnell way back in An Unearthly Child. Personally, I would have preferred him to helm a First Doctor story (anything would be better then the noxious novella Eoin Colfer delivered: A Big Hand For The Doctor) but still having an esteemed author such as Higson onboard, well, beggars can’t be choosers.

When I first picked up my copy of The Beast of Babylon I was confused. Within the first few lines, the Ninth Doctor had made an appearance so I could tick him off the list of necessities (unlike in Tip of the Tongue the Doctor and Nyssa were nonexistent) but where on Earth was Rose? Slowly as the story progressed I discovered that Higson had chosen to take the Ninth Doctor’s staunch companion out of the mix. At first I was annoyed, what is the Ninth Doctor without Rose, a constant in Christopher Eccleston’s woefully fleeting series? But soon I managed to forgive Higson as it turns out, much like the general consensus for Series One/Two, that Rose wasn’t essential in The Beast of Babylon. A companion was, though.

Much like the rather dry Evelyn Chan of Alex Scarrow’s preceding story, Spore, Ali of Karkinos is a one-off companion and she’s an interesting case. Ali is a bit like Adam Mitchell with a generous helping of Leela and perhaps a half-spoonful of Kamelion (it’ll make sense if you read it) thrown in for good measure. Initially I couldn’t warm to Ali, she was too pretentious and bumptious for my liking but by the end of the day and the end of the story, she’s revealed to be a bored teenager who just wants to help. What also makes her hard to like is that she forces herself on the Ninth Doctor until he has no other choice but to take her with him.

Without sounding like a repetitive teacher, characterisation, I find, is absolutely key in this series of e-books. Each author has ten thousand words to play around with and considering these are anniversary stories that celebrate each Doctor, the ‘Doctor-of-the-month’ must come across to the reader. Charlie Higson, a lifelong fan and watcher has the Ninth Doctor’s characteristics nailed to the metaphorical wall from the off although there’s something interesting with the Doctor we see here. Supposedly he’s post-regeneration and rather unhinged almost to the extent where he’s nearly dislikeable; fortunately Higson slips in a few amiable lines that make him like a demented Eleventh Doctor. Still, through the manic demeanour there’s a lot of Christopher Eccleston’s performance and so Charlie Higson has done the impossible and made a Doctor that stays true to the actor’s rendition whilst also giving them new personality aspects.

When I spoke to Higson earlier this month he said to me that he wanted to write a story that couldn’t be made into an episode of the 2005 series. It’s true; The Beast of Babylon would never have made it to the small screen but that doesn’t stop me relishing it. I can imagine it as the premise for a feature-length adaption of the show, if David Yates ever gets his way (pah).

Verdict: 9/10

This ninth offering from such a prestigious penman as Charlie Higson is a solid step from the classic era, there’s a broad difference between the layout of the previous eight adventures and The Beast of Babylon. Higson is a devout follower of the show as he’s expressed on countless occasions (not just in publicity for this story) and so naturally his first contribution is fantastic. Steven Moffat recently hinted that J.K. Rowling might write one of the next two e-books, which clearly means he’s had some if not a lot of involvement in this series. Hopefully he’ll read The Beast of Babylon and hire Higson on the spot. It’d be beastly not to.

As per usual I’ve compiled a list of all the e-books and yes, some moved position. In the comments of a couple of my previous reviews I’ve been accused of inconsistency but my opinion changes much like every other human being’s. Take The Rings of Akhaten for example, upon airing it received a ridiculous amount of criticism but soon that died down and a lot of haters became lovers after multiple watches. I’ve done the same, reread all of the e-books and naturally, my opinion has changed.

  1. Richelle Mead – the Sixth Doctor – Something Borrowed.
  2. Marcus Sedgwick – the Third Doctor – The Spear of Destiny.
  3. Charlie Higson – the Ninth Doctor – The Beast of Babylon.
  4. Malorie Blackman – the Seventh Doctor – The Ripple Effect.
  5. Michael Scott – the Second Doctor – The Nameless City.
  6. Philip Reeve – the Fourth Doctor – The Roots of Evil.
  7. Alex Scarrow – the Eighth Doctor – Spore.
  8. Eoin Colfer – the First Doctor – A Big Hand For The Doctor.
  9. Patrick Ness – the Fifth Doctor – Tip of the Tongue.

Catch-up on past reviews:

The Beast of Babylon is released on Monday 23rd September 2013.