While the new version doesn’t have the same spark for me (especially recently), I still love the classic Doctor Who series. The continuing adventure of the alien from the planet Gallifrey and his revolving door of Companions, who travel in a time machine called the TARDIS (stuck in the form of the now obsolete police box from England, where the show is made) is fun to watch and even though Pluto TV has a channel dedicated to the show and I have a few DVDs I miss having time to watch it. The Doctor himself has been played by numerous actors over the years thanks to regeneration, a process the Doctor’s people use to restore their bodies with different physical and psychological characteristics becoming more dominant. This allows each Doctor to be his (or currently her) own Doctor but still be the same person. It was a process born of necessity when the original Doctor, William Hartnell, became too sick to continue the role.

While the majority of my collection are novelizations of episodes, including one American-produced novelization, I do have one original to books tale. If you’re a fan this doesn’t come from the “wilderness years”, the time between the original and current TV show, but features the aforementioned original Doctor and his original Companions. There’s the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan, and two of her schoolteachers, science teacher Ian Chesterton and history teacher Barbara Wright. The show was originally intended to teach science and history to kids but it fell from that game plan rather quickly and became a series that only died after decades of being on the air because the new head of the BBC’s TV network hated science fiction even when it gained them a worldwide audience. Who needs money when you have snobbery?

Simon Guerrier’s Doctor Who: The Time Travellers, published by BBC Books in 2005, follows the crew of the TARDIS (standing for “Time And Relative Dimensions In Space”) in a story where they aren’t the time travelers of the tale. (And yes, the book has two “l”s and the word only one. I guess it’s either a mistake on the cover or another one of those spellings that different between us Americans and England, like “colour”.) I did a Chapter By Chapter review of the book if you want my immediate thoughts while reading through the book (there are spoilers in that form mind you) but here is a spoiler-free review of the book as a whole.

After their most recent adventure (the TARDIS Fan Wiki places it just after the events of the episode “Planet Of The Giants”) the crew are surprised when a man hits the ship while still in the time vortex. They find themselves in 2006 (the book was published in 2005) but it’s not the world we recognize. Events of another episode didn’t happen and a war has started between England and South Africa, and the latter is winning. Thanks to experiments with time travel the British government thinks they have a way to end the war, but the experiments are causing havoc with the fabric of time itself and flooding the world with alternate timeline duplications of people involved. It’s up to the Doctor and friends to stop the experiments and hopefully set things right before everything is doomed.

For the first half of the book the story isn’t all that out of place with the show as it existed back in 1963. The TARDIS is often referred to as “the ship” as in the early days. The character portrayals are in line to the point that I can hear the actors  (William Hartnell, Carole Ann Ford, William Russel, and Jacqueline Hill, respective to how I listed the characters earlier) and so is how the story goes, though without budget and children’s show constraints the book does take a few liberties. This is set during a war, and one that has caused a shift in the way England operates. We learn it was due to (and this is a mild spoiler so move to the next paragraph if you want to avoid it) the vents of another episode, “The War Machine” hasn’t happened. Without the Doctor and his Companions at the time stopping it the Machine took over, and set up numerous events differently than remembered.

This plays into Guerrer’s theme for the story, and it’s here that the book takes a turn away from what the early show had established. There are nods to later events, but the author outright ignores one key aspect of the series, that events are set in stone (what the current series refers to as fixed points in time) and can’t be altered. There are still points that can be altered, or there wouldn’t be much of a series, but this book states that every time the Doctor and his Companions leave the TARDIS they alter history, meaning the Time Lords may actually be right in their position of observing from with in a TARDIS when they travel to a place in time and space to study it and not interfering when, for example, the Daleks make their attack. It’s a rejection of one of the recurring themes of the show, and by the end of the book the story takes a much darker turn, leaving the style of the show and becomes something closer to the new show. This is all the only problem I have with the book outside of not explaining why this particular war is taking place.

The story itself is quite enjoyable, and though subverting a main series theme plays well with the other themes. Even when the style changes the Doctor is still the first Doctor, someone who would rather get involved with events but is forced to play the hero role for various reasons. In this case it’s because the government experiments are unraveling history. (I’m guessing someone who lives in the Canary Warf area can follow the changes better than I can as an American who has never left New England unless you count New York.) The characters native to this story are good characters, evil when they need to be but with understandable reasons, meaning they’re just a victim of circumstances. Even the terrible general is given a reason for why she acts the way she does. There are also nods to other past stories both before and after the episode this story takes place after. Most of them are worked well into the story, but it causes the question of which episodes happened and which didn’t, something I can better explain during the Chapter By Chapter reviews linked to before since that requires spoilers. So it eventually does fall into some of the unavoidable traps in time travel stories.

In short, the book isn’t perfect and some of it comes down to preference, but it’s not a badly written story at all. For Simon Guerrier’s first novel (he had written Who stories for Big Finish’s audio dramas before this so he’s not a total novice to writing Doctor Who, just to this format) it’s quite well done and a good read. I may want to read this again so for now it will be staying in my collection but if you come across it in the future, or the past if you are a time traveler yourself, this is a good book to read, especially for classic Who fans who will appreciate this Doctor and his Companions more but everyone can get into the story with minimal points of getting lost. So give it a try.