Book Review: Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen by Terrance Dicks

frontcoverTitle: Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen

Author: Terrance Dicks

Year written: 1974

Publisher and year: BBC Books, 2011

ISBN Number: 978-1-849-90192-5

I ended up reading another Doctor Who book, I think I’m going to go through the whole set that I bought as I’m already half way through it. I bought these books on eBay and I think it was around £8 for the six of them. They’re all based on stories with the first three Doctors, this book is from a story shown in the TV with the Second Doctor played by Patrick Troughton and his companions Vitoria and Jamie. This edition is a reprint of the 1974 released in 2011 with a foreword from Stephen Baxter and a small explanation on who the Doctor and his companions are at the beginning and at the end there are short parts about the author and some additional notes about the book such as changes or things that are worth noticing.

Even though this is one of the books based on a story shown on TV the originals don’t exist any more as the BBC destroyed them. It was a six part story arc and the only part remaining is the second episode which is available on the Lost in Tome DVDs, there are also CDs with the story on but I’m not sure how much of the original is in there. I think the storyline is pretty true to the original though, having read a synopsis, there are a few changes.

backcoverI still really like the covers of these books, the art style brings them all together in the set, I’m not sure if they have more than just the first three Doctors in this style but the black and white picture of the Doctor himself in front of the coloured background image stands out to me. I also think that the art style used and the fact they stuck with the original edition of this tied it all together along with the illustrations inside. The back has a short blurb on the story and the dates of the original transmission (10 September – 4 November 1967). I like the fact that the whole thing isn’t on a white background, more a cream colour, it makes it less harsh and does make it appear like an older book.

Throughout the story there are illustrations, not that many and they are full page sized, but they are there. The style is definitely dated, to me anyway, and it reminds me of the books I read growing up like Enid Blyton ones which may have been from around the 50s – 70s so there was an element of nostalgia to me. I tried to find the least spoilery image as the book is about Abominable Snowmen so the image doesn’t show you much more beyond that. As the story is set in Tibet they do have Tibetan monks which do have the look of stereotypical illustrations of people from that area at the time. Everyone seems to be more exaggerated, a couple of them seem more like caricatures.illustration

I liked the extras in this book, again they were pretty short and stayed to the point with only a few pages on each one. The Changing Face of the Doctors section was especially helpful with it introducing the characters and where it is within their journey in the TARDIS. I forgot the times that these two companions came from so the little explanation was nice. I hope they have some companions not from current times, I think the reactions to even things we’d find normal now would be nice as I can’t think of one from the reboot who isn’t either modern or from the future (Jack Harkness), I may just be forgetting though.

The foreword was a nice touch in this one as Stephen Briggs actually saw the TV version and remembered it so it gives the point of view of someone who has seen or read both. The about the authors and between the lines are interesting but not that important, it does explain about some extra bits added in the story compared to the original TV serial like Travers’ dream at the beginning and the way the Doctor reacts to a certain plan but other than that it seems to have stayed true to the original.

The story itself is fast moving and very action packed for the 165 pages and was a pretty quick read, I think it took me about 2 – 3 hours when I was sat down and properly reading it without being distracted so it’s a nice length and nothing drags on but it’s not something that you’ll be spending ages engrossed in. The action starts pretty soon in, 14 pages in there’s action and there’s nothing before that’s too slow moving.

The story is set in Tibet in the 1930s and the majority of the story is based within a monastery. There are Abominable Snowmen who are killing and hurting people in the area and an English explorer is there looking for them. As this is doctor who they turn out to not be as they seem and are controlled by something else. As this doesn’t actually tell you more than the back I think it’s safe to say the bad guy, it’s the Intelligence, the same one that the Eleventh Doctor came up against in the Christmas special Snowmen and in another episode. This time the setting is different but there’s the general trying to take over the world thing. Other than this the story is based on Earth and the majority of the characters are human. There are more alien elements than in the previous book I read in the series but it’s not overly alien or space based.

One thing in the book that kind of stuck out to me as a bit odd is how little reaction the technology got from the monks. I would have thought that suddenly seeing something that’s beyond what we have now in the 1930s would have had some kind of comment at least. I guess it was probably done to keep the story moving more, I’m not sure if there was any in the original TV episodes, and it did move along well and smoothly, it just seemed odd. The rest of the story was good, to me anyway, it does feel like a Classic Who story and I liked the way they wrote the Second Doctor and his companions. I haven’t seen much with them but from what I remember they were true to the original TV series.

Throughout the book I don’t think there was any language or layout that dated it, the only thing about the language is how he wrote Jamie speaking with a Scottish accent. I think most people within the UK would be able to understand it pretty well and you do get the context of the rest of the sentence as it’s only odd words like doesna and cannae with most of the words in standard English. There isn’t anything that’s too specific to the Doctor Who universe that would need any prior knowledge aside from the TARDIS and that’s not really mentioned in most of the story.

I think this is a good book, it’s probably more one to get in a library if you’re not a big Doctor Who fan or you can get it for cheap in a set like I did as it seems to be around £4 – £6 for just this book. I like that it’s just a short story but it’s definitely a quick read, it keeps the story moving nicely and there are no slow parts I felt like could be skipped really. It does have the feel of a TV thing turned into a book because there’s less description that you often get in things originally books and focusses on the actions and the dialogue.

It is originally meant as a children’s book but I did really enjoy it and read it in two sessions which makes me think it was pretty good as I just kept thinking ‘I’ll read one more chapter’. The shortness of the chapters helped as well, they seemed to be around the 10 – 15 page mark most of the time, though there are a few shorter. To me it’s not one of those books you’d pick up and put down to read in short bursts as the story does drag you in and there are only a few times when there’s a break, I guess this is where episodes ended.

I think it would work well as a kids book, at least a teenage kids book or maybe younger. I remember reading my first Doctor Who book when I was probably around 9 and I’d say this is probably the same level as that, it was the original Dalek one, so I don’t see it being a problem for children that age but it will depend on the individual. There is some violence in it but it’s not that graphic, at one point someone is stabbed by someone else with a sword but other than that it’s basically the Abominable Snowmen running around and ‘swiping’ people and it’s only after that it’s obvious they died.

If you like Doctor Who, especially the Classic Doctors then this is worth a read. It’s a fairly nice action story even if you’re not that into the Doctor Who theme and more the Yeti angle. It does have the alien or sci-fi theme throughout the book as you’d expect with a Doctor Who book so if that puts you off then this book isn’t for you.

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