Book Review: Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion by Terrance Dicks

autonsqTitle: Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion

Author: Terrance Dicks

Year written: 1974

Publisher and year: BBC Books, 2011

ISBN Number: 978-1-849-90193-2

This is another in the series of books BBC Books reprinted and released in 2011 from an old series written in the 1970s. These are all based on scripts for episodes that were aired, or rather groups of episodes that created a story arc. This book is written about the Third Doctor and is his first adventure after regenerating so you get to see the character getting used to his new body which hasn’t happened in any of the previous books I have read in the series. The episodes ran between 3 January and 24 January 1970 and includes as the ‘companions’ in this story Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Liz Shaw though neither are existing companions, one just met him and the other has met but never travelled with him. It’s the only one so far that has everything existing in video form and it’s one that I have actually seen recently, it was shown in the UK last year on the Drama channel, so I know myself whether it has had major changes rather than just relying on what the book says changed.

As with others in the series this book includes two extra bits at the beginning and another two at the end of the book. At the front is an introduction written by Russell T Davis which is nice to see as he’s the first of these introduction or foreword writers that I actually recognise. There’s also a short piece on the Third Doctor, UNIT and Dr Elizabeth Shaw to explain the previous interactions and who they are without having to go into a lot of detail in the story. At the end there’s a short piece about the authors and a Between the Lines segment that explains anything that may be outdated to a modern audience or any differences between the original script and the book version.

autons2I feel a bit repetitive with this, if you’ve read my previous Dr Who book reviews you might agree, but I do really like the style of these covers. The Doctor Who logo in gold and the design on the back used as a background behind the blurb tie them all together and I really like the way they use the contrast between black and white and colour images on the front with the Doctor being in black and white against the bright oranges and yellows in the other parts of the image. I also like the way it uses a cream background rather than a stark white, I’m not sure if this is only with the rerelease to make it look older or if it was actually cream originally but it does make it feel to me more like an older book which fits the style of the illustrations inside and the cover art, at least to me, as they aren’t in a more modern style.

Throughout the book are illustrations, there seem to be more in this one than in the others I have read, and they are definitely stylised and look dated now. They give me a very nostalgic feel as they remind me a lot of books that I read growing up which were probably written around a similar time, things like Enid Blyton. This book is different from the others in that it has mainly smaller illustrations inserted in the middle of text, rather than it being a full page or the top or bottom.autons3

The story in this is definitely very sci-fi, I’d say it’s the most alien throughout the story and the alien threat itself is introduced before the Doctor is. There’s a bit of an introduction about why the Doctor had to regenerate and why he’s stuck on Earth which is a nice reminder as it’s been a while since I’ve read or seen anything about the end of the Second Doctor and beginning of the Third and I don’t actually remember that as being part of the story in the TV episodes. Apparently this is an addition so people will remember as it was originally part of the Second Doctor’s run which makes sense as an ending for that.

The story doesn’t take long to get going with people interacting with the alien things pretty much straight away. The Doctor does spend quite a bit of the early story in bed in hospital but there are some more action bits involved in how he gets out of there. There’s hints as to who the bad guys are fairly early and anyone who has seen the reboot episodes with the Autons (I especially remember them in Nine’s run) will have an image of what they are and the descriptions fit in very well. It’s all based on Earth but there are definite alien elements throughout that drive the story forward even when the Doctor himself isn’t involved. I don’t think there were any slow parts in the story, though some of the parts without the Doctor seemed a bit less flowing to me, if that’s the right word to use. I did like the ending and it all tied together nicely, there are hints to the big bad guy throughout so when the big reveal happens it’s nice to know what the thing is that the humans who see it are afraid of.

I have to say that I think this does stick pretty much to the original script, there are definitely parts that seem to have been added to but they’re things that you can’t bring across in a TV episode like the thoughts of a character. Some characters are given slightly longer parts than in the original but you kind of have to give characters names if you’re writing about them rather than ‘unnamed soldier drove along the road’ as they do have big parts in driving the story forward even if they aren’t big in it themselves.

I also think that it’s a good characterisation of the Doctor, he seems true to the character of the Third Doctor in the few things I’ve seen of him and I could imagine Jon Pertwee pulling the faces or saying the things he does in this. There are no actual companions at this point for the Third Doctor, though the closest is probably Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart who had been in previous stories with the Second Doctor. I really liked the way he reacted to seeing this person he knew changing completely.

Overall I think this is a good book, as it’s another short read at around 4 hours for me to complete I wouldn’t say that it’s one that’s probably worth its full price. I bought it along with the other five in the rerelease series for the first three Doctors for about £8 on eBay and I think that around £10 for all of them would be a reasonable price for most people given the length. It doesn’t get boring and does hold your attention well, I ended up losing track of time twice when I was reading it rather than putting it down when I meant to which is normally a good sign.

It’s one of the more sci-fi based stories of the books in this series but I think that, even without the Doctor Who element, it’s a good alien based story so if you see it in the library then it’s worth checking out for a quick read if you like the idea of mind control and everyday Earth objects being controlled by something else. As this was written for children I think this is appropriate for the age range it was meant for. I’d say that probably around 9 or 10 might be a good time to introduce it but that’s mainly going on when I first read a Doctor Who book and would vary person to person.

I think it’s a good book if you’re a fan of Classic Who as it covers a classic regeneration story and includes why it was forced on him. As all of these stories are canon I think it’s a great way to relive the stories if you’ve already seen them, though most aren’t available in full, or as an introduction to the actual TV episodes and the characters as they were rather than reading a book based on what other people thought the characters would react. I think if you’re a collector or fan of Doctor Who then it’s worth looking up even as an adult though don’t expect an in depth book, it’s very action based and moves pretty quickly with little description of the environments when the story gets going. It’s the kind of book I’d say is good for the Summer or a light read and definitely worth reading if you can find it cheap second hand, on eBay or can find it in the library though I’m not sure these are likely to be all that common there as I’ve never seen a Doctor Who book available apart from when new ones are out in the YA section.

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