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Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go By by Dan Abnett

01/11/2011. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go in the UK

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pub: Audio Go. 6 CDs 360 minutes story. Price: GBP 20.76 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-4458-7733-4) read by: Michael Maloney.

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Let us be very clear this is an audio book of a reasonably hefty hardback. I’m talking of six hours of sound taking the strain from you of hefting said book. Not only that, it is a book of a television series. Bring on the ‘Charades’, I can do this.

The title refers, you heathens, to a Christmas Carol and that is the ostensible setting for the plot with chapter headings from different carols relating to what happens in that chapter. But this is only Christmas-esque, as the Doctor admits, he was trying to get them to Leadworth. The TARDIS arrives on distant planet and we are in a land of snow where the winters are getting longer and they don’t have Christmas. It’s not Narnia; there is no wicked witch, so come out from behind the sofa. We are once again a long way from Leadworth and there is some running away to be done.

As he leaves the TARDIS, the Eleventh Doctor with the Williams-Ponds, is still hopeful of some Christmas cheer. Of course they are immediately split up and it’s Rory who is left out in the cold. The Doctor and Amy are almost instantly captured and taken into a nice warm place while Rory has a long way to go before he sleeps.

We are on a planet called Hereafter and its being terraformed. Its inhabitants are the Maintainers who keep everything going but over the years they have forgotten much and formed their own basic society. They are suspicious of strangers although this is quite a new thing since the disappearances began and the new arrivals are seen as potential enemies. After not such a clever trick with psychic paper, the Doctor and Amy are on the run again.
It seems the disappearances might be linked to an ancient enemy of the Doctor who seek to make this planet their own. The Ice Warriors are on the move and the temperature is just how the lizards like it. Unfortunately for Rory, he is the first to nearly make their acquaintance.

Whatever you might think this is not the end of the plot. Come on. There are six hours to fill and the twists will keep you entertained.

Full of Amy-isms and Rory-isms, Dan Abnett has provided a very sound base for Michael Maloney’s interpretation of their style of delivery. I’m not quite sure about Amy although it did eventually grow it on me. If I was a linguist, I could probably tell you how many glottal hoops Maloney jumped through to achieve this. Alas, I cannot. Rory sounds just right to me and I almost felt he was in the room. The Doctor is harder to pin down as Matt Smith’s style and accent are more elusive but there was certainly enough of him in the text for Maloney to interpret. Actors do manage to make it sound easy. Maloney also does a very good Ice Warrior and possibly has been tutored by the vocally-brilliant Nick Briggs of Big Finish fame.

This plot would probably be an extremely heavily-laden forty-five minutes or possibly a two-parter. There is plenty of description in the novel which is always wholly unnecessary in a TV episode. The scenes and characters are clearly visualised and this explains some of the six hour length. At the opening of the novel, this scene setting gives us a nicely detailed introduction of the planet and its inhabitants, the society and the threat and all before the Doctor and team arrive. As we are familiar with the Doctor and the TARDIS, it is these new elements that need to be expressed and this is done very well and quite lyrically both by the author and the actor.

This is not a massive, ground-shifting story but I found it an excellent book to listen to. It is a good and enjoyable plot but there are no shifts in our impression of the characters. Nothing happens that changes them or us, not that it was it likely too as these kinds of themes are always avoided in this supporting media. The Doctor’s response to events is kept consistent with his previously established character and there is only surface skimming of him, Amy and Rory. The main difference to other novels is its length. A nice touch is that it has a pre-credits opener, with the opening music, just like the TV episodes and also has the music to mark the end of each disc which also coincides with the end of a chapter. My only niggle is that each track is not a chapter and there are no track names which make loading onto itunes a bit of a pain.

Sue Davies

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