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Nothing O’Clock Review

Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull gives his verdict on the 11th Doctor ebook by Neil Gaiman.

Neil-Gaiman-nothing-o-clock-300I’ll admit that I felt a little conned when Neil Gaiman was announced as the final author in Puffin’s e-book series, 11 Doctors 11 Stories. He’s already written for the show itself, twice (the brilliant The Doctor’s Wife and the lesser so Nightmare in Silver) and you could contest and say another children’s author ought to be writing for the Eleventh Doctor. But the decision has grown on me so I’m not too irked now but I still think there could be someone else. Gaiman’s story Nothing O’Clock isn’t perfect but it’s enjoyable and exactly what you’d expect from such a prestigious penman.

Set early in the Eleventh Doctor’s first series Nothing O’Clock jumps into the TARDIS immediately after a fun-sounding adventure featuring the Skeleton People and the Toad-King. The Doctor and Amy Pond are solid friends – not quite to the extent of in Series Six or Seven: Part One – and they’re pulled into action when the TARDIS materializes in Amy’s garden to discover everyone has mysteriously disappeared, seemingly claimed by a voice in Amy’s head. Gaiman has stayed relatively true to their characterisation (yes, I’ll be babbling on about that a bit more) but something seems a little off with Amy. She’s just a tiny bit too stupid, considering how intelligent the fiery redhead is in the show and spends much of the time at the Doctor’s heels, whinging about Rory and getting kidnapped. I always admired Karen Gillan’s character for her resilience and uniqueness; she wasn’t a damsel in distress. Unfortunately Gaiman plays her on a duff note, which is completely bizarre considering how well drawn she was in The Doctor’s Wife.

The Eleventh Doctor, on the other hand, is a giddy, hyperactive child who runs up the walls time and time again. To quote Madame Vastra, “business as usual, then”. Gaiman’s version is really close to the original (played by Matt Smith). Well, it should be considering he recently wrote a dual monologue for the actor in the recent Nightmare in Silver. He captures Smith’s eccentricities and quirks nicely – describing him as “made of elbows”, a superlative and thoroughly accurate metaphor for the Eleventh Doctor. But here we come to the main problem with Nothing O’Clock, it’s too short and so neither Amy nor the Doctor nor the TARDIS get a gratifying enough airing.

The Eleventh Doctor’s first console room is possibly my favourite ever (I’m a not a fan of the new one, you see) and as I picked up my copy of Nothing O’Clock I had to restrain myself from skipping to the bit where Gaiman described it. As per usual his descriptive powers are excellent but alarmingly condensed. These e-books have always suffered from rushed everything syndrome but here it’s really visible, Gaiman just has too many thoughts and ideas to cram into ten thousand words. Nothing O’Clock could easily go on for seventy thousand words with the amount of juicy action and character development wedged into its current e-book form.

Verdict: 8.5/10

It’s a testament to Gaiman’s love and fervent passion for the show, he just can’t resist writing for it but maybe he should have missed this one out. Whilst Nothing O’Clock has its flaws it also has its respective highlights; the Kin are a very menacing villain. Particularly in their unique takeover methods, appearance and, well, Jagaroth-esque… you’ll see. Amy may be a tad too clingy and the Eleventh Doctor a smidge overdone but Nothing O’Clock is an undemanding and beautifully detailed read: a perfect way to spend half an hour whilst the scant few days countdown to The Day of the Doctor.

Now that this lovely little succession of novellas has drawn to a close the below listings are the final and definite rankings. I’ve not changed anything around (other than add Gaiman’s story in) and this is how I rank them. Now it’s time to make way for the Time Trips series…

  1. Richelle Mead – the Sixth Doctor – Something Borrowed.
  2. Marcus Sedgwick – the Third Doctor – The Spear of Destiny.
  3. Derek Landy – the Tenth Doctor – The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage.
  4. Charlie Higson – the Ninth Doctor – The Beast of Babylon.
  5. Neil Gaiman – the Eleventh Doctor – Nothing O’Clock.
  6. Malorie Blackman – the Seventh Doctor – The Ripple Effect.
  7. Michael Scott – the Second Doctor – The Nameless City.
  8. Philip Reeve – the Fourth Doctor – The Roots of Evil.
  9. Alex Scarrow – the Eighth Doctor – Spore.
  10. Eoin Colfer – the First Doctor – A Big Hand For The Doctor.
  11. Patrick Ness – the Fifth Doctor – Tip of the Tongue.

 Catch-up on past reviews:

Nothing O’Clock is released on Thursday 21st November 2013.

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