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Keeping Up With The Joneses Review

Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull gives his verdict on Nick Harkaway’s latest Time Trips story.

If you’re a puzzled naïf like myself and you had no idea that ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ is a popular phrase meaning, ‘try to maintain the same social and material standards as one’s friends or neighbors’ then welcome to the club. When the title was announced for Nick Harkaway’s thoroughly enjoyable Tenth Doctor romp my mind instantly jumped to the conclusion it’d be an adventure shared with medical student Martha Jones. I was miles away from the truth.

Doctor-Who-Keeping-Up-with-the-Joneses-300Keeping Up with the Joneses is set in a Welsh village called Jonestown with the Doctor going by the name of John Jones, populated by people like Arwen Jones. The weak link in this obvious theme is a young widow called Christina de Souza. Last ‘seen’ in the ludicrously underrated Planet of the Dead, de Souza is the Doctor’s companion for Keeping Up with the Joneses and although she helps out in asking all the necessary exposition questions she’s not a companion in the conventional sense. I shan’t spoil some of the revelations in store because you’re certainly in for a treat.

One would expect the TARDIS to materialise in Jonestown, perhaps in an alley (the Doctor has a penchant for them) or a field but no, not in this case. Rather than landing in Jonestown the TARDIS lands on Jonestown. And when it happens the Doctor just so happens to be in the Hungarian bathroom brushing his teeth (“He didn’t actually need to brush his teeth – his body didn’t allow the sort of decay toothbrushes were supposed to prevent – but he liked to do it anyway because he enjoyed the mintiness frothing over his tongue and out of his mouth. It was like a carwash for the tonsils.”) Keeping Up with the Joneses is full of delightful little references – triple brownie points to whoever spots the nod to the late great Iain Banks – and it reminds me of Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS in more than one respect. When the TARDIS ‘lands’ on Jonestown it becomes a part of it so the Doctor and Christina find themselves dashing through this sleepy little township opening doors here and there and finding themselves in the console room or the TARDIS’ expansive library.

Having the TARDIS actually spread itself across a village is an ingenious idea but every good story needs some kind of antagonist and this is a sinister storm cloud thundering through the ship’s corridors. While not being the most memorable or evil of villains the storm certainly proves a violent terror for the Doctor and Christina to run from.

Harkaway had a clear vision when he set out to writing Keeping Up with the Joneses, that much is obvious, and it’s to explore the Tenth Doctor as a character more. While we don’t get quite such an insight into the darker Time Lord Victorious (the Doctor recognises Christina so naturally this is set post-Planet of the Dead although it could be between the aforesaid story and The Waters of Mars) we see a whole lot more of the Doctor’s endless waffling on about the most irrelevant things. He’s forever running a hand through his hair or stuttering ‘well’ or grabbing people’s hands and shouting, ‘allons-y!’ then speeding off at breakneck speed; it’s typically the Tenth Doctor so in terms of characterisation Harkaway nails his tics and mannerisms on the head.

Unfortunately Keeping Up with the Joneses is not without its faults. Occasionally the whole thing gets a bit too confusing to the point where you think it’d put a basic Steven Moffat script to shame. The story feels like something that’d come across beautifully on screen but on paper it’s a bit cluttered at times.

Nonetheless Keeping Up with the Jones is an amiable quirky story (Harkaway managed to coax the BBC into letting him away with an extended length, which is in no way a bad thing as there’s lots to clear up) that’s bound to keep your attention. If everything gets a bit too bizarre and bewildering then there are a more than a few very amusing gags courtesy of the erstwhile Tenth Doctor’s gob.

Verdict: 8/10

Next time in the Time Trips series we’ll be heading down under for some blokarting with Jo, the Third Doctor (probably the Master) and Trudi Canavan, I look forward to it.

Step back in time...

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18 comments
OnceTheDoctor
OnceTheDoctor

I like all of these Who books but it is so hard to keep up with them all. There's so many different varieties and sets!

Judge Claude Frollo
Judge Claude Frollo

Christina? The Doctor has an adventure with me

Oh... wait, it's that Christina. *groans* And here I thought Donna was returning!

GibbyBlogger
GibbyBlogger

The TARDIS is a village? Best idea ever! Must read this!

Even if it means another adventure with the insufferable Christina de Souza...

Nightmarish
Nightmarish

Sounds interesting, might read it if I remember.

The Finn
The Finn

Thank you for this. Your reviews are always great to read, PK-S!

Chronos the Fannibal
Chronos the Fannibal

I haven't read a Doctor Who book in ages, though just ordered 'The silent stars go by', 'Touch of an angel' and 'Plague of the Cybermen' recently so hopefully they will get me back on track with reading more Doctor Who books in the future...

the doctors name is bob
the doctors name is bob

I've never read a doctor who book except for the "quick reads" books are thy worth getting? 

Meh Meh Meh Meh Meh
Meh Meh Meh Meh Meh

Sounds very interesting. The last Doctor Who book I read was "Shroud of Sorrow." It was great.

ilyootha is in the Divergent Universe
ilyootha is in the Divergent Universe

Hmm, sounds very intriguing, and reminds of the novel Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible a bit. I think I shall read this e-book. Thanks for the review!


Temporal_Tomato
Temporal_Tomato

@Chronos the Observer  I just back ordered a massive set of EDAs and PDAs to keep me busy until series 8, and I'm quite perturbed by the fact I've read/seen/heard nearly every piece of Eighth Doctor media over the last few years. I use him as the Doctor I fall back on during long waits due to the sheer amount of stuff he has... O.o now there's only a hand full...

sontaran17
sontaran17

@the doctors name is bob There are a few gem's when it comes to the full length novels (These are Time Trip ebooks) especially in the Eleventh Doctor Era: Dark Horizons, The Silent Stars go By, The Dalek Generation, Plague of the Cybermen and Shroud of Shorrow are all brilliant! The 50th Anniversary Short stories are a fun little read - and the 3 short spinoff ebooks (Later printed in one collection) "Summer Falls" "Melody Malone - An Angels Kiss" and "The Devil in the Smoke" are really great aswell! Doctor Who Novels are a brilliant way to pass the time, and they serve wonderfully to extend the adventures of the Doctor!

Chronos the Fannibal
Chronos the Fannibal

It just depends really which ones you consider worth getting, some of the books people may find boring and not so like but others may find it good and love it. If it sounds interesting to you should just give it a go :)





PK-S
PK-S

@Meh Meh Meh Meh Meh  Shroud of Sorrow was good, if memory serves me correctly - although rather dissimilar to this. Except the villains are quite alike.

Adric the Genius
Adric the Genius

@sontaran17 @the doctors name is bob Prisoner of the Daleks by Trevor Baxendale, a Tenth Doctor story set before the Time War, is fantastic.  It really shows the power and terror of the Daleks; they destroy planets and even kill what would seem like a companion character in the first few chapters.  As the more traditional companion is killed, the Doctor ends up working with Space Major Jon Bowman, a veteran of the Dalek wars.  A brilliant read.  Almost all of the New Series Adventures are worth reading, especially this one, The Silent Stars Go By, Dark Horizons and The Dalek Generation.

Temporal_Tomato
Temporal_Tomato

I Agree, War and Legacy of the Daleks are brilliant, and The Dalek Generation only makes me wish Nick Briggs was offered to write for the show...