Doctor Who: Ten Little Aliens
Written by: Stephen Cole
Publisher: BBC Books
In his latest review of BBC Books’ 50th Anniversary Doctor Who editions, Dave turns his attentions to Stephen Cole’s Ten Little Aliens.
Oh dear. If I’m honest I’m now glad I didn’t read these books in chronological order as this first in the series would’ve put me off, big style.
So, we find ourselves in the 30th Century and Earth is at war with the Schirr, a race of giant Ogrons-crossed-with-pigs that we apparently annexed several years before and also the enigmatic, non-corporeal Morphieans who are staging huge terror attacks on Earth colonies via some sort of black magic. A team of veteran space marines on a training mission arrive on a remote planetoid near Morphiean territory and find the ten leaders of the Schirr insurrection in stasis, apparently dead, and three people trying to get back into a blue police telephone box…
The First Doctor, Ben and Polly have dropped into the middle of a story loosely based on Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” (also known as “Ten Little Indians” and other, rather more politically incorrect, names), as the marines begin to drop one by one and the stasisised Schirr also begin disappearing, much like the way the Indian/soldier/black dude figurines vanished with each murder in Christie’s novel. An unseen killer is seemingly at large and is preventing the Doctor from opening the TARDIS doors somehow.
Nice premise. Unfortunately it starts to go south less than halfway through. The previously unseen killer is unmasked as a number of living stone cherubs, a sort of rubbish Weeping Angel that predates Blink by five years. Part of the planetoid breaks off and flies at superluminal velocities that would make Captain Kirk crap himself into Morphiean space, powered by some sort of ‘magic’ reactor that runs off corpses. Wounded humans are seeing their wounds replaced with Schirr tissue and it seems that everyone but the Doctor is potentially mutating into an alien. Eventually we discover that only one of the Schirr is dead and that they have plans for him and the eight remaining humans. Can the Doctor foil the Schirr plans and turn his companions back into humans? Well, duh…
The overriding problem with the book is that it doesn’t make any sense. I get that the Morphieans were controlling the cherubs and were allied with the Schirr and were responsible for the humans being mutated; but why they were mutating them is never addressed. Neither is the source of Morphiean power; how the Schirr manage to wield it (apart from some vague reference to a past association between the two species); or how they attack the human colonies with it. I get the feeling that Cole was suffering from a problem I’ve faced myself, specifically how you manage to wrestle what’s in your head onto paper. Unfortunately he hasn’t managed it. By the time the novel turns into a choose-your-own-adventure book for the duration of Chapter 14 I’d already lost interest. Poor effort I’m afraid to say, especially for the 50th anniversary series. Surely the Beeb could’ve chosen better?