Schirr aliens, led by the Ten-strong, renegade subjects of
the Earth empire, have been using mysterious Morphiean dark
arts in acts of terrorism. Trainees of the empire's Anti-Terror
Elite Corps enter an asteroid training ground only to find
the apparently lifeless bodies of the Ten-strong. They also
find the Doctor, Ben and Polly. When the Schirr corpses mysteriously
disappear, one by one, so too do members of the training squad...
This novel is well timed to act as a follow-up to the recent
release of The Smugglers on audio CD (see our Audio
Books review section). Exactly how this story fits in between
The Smugglers and Hartnell's final adventure The
Tenth Planet is unclear, however, since one leads directly
into the other. It is possible that the "coldest place in
the world" where the First Doctor, Ben and Polly arrive at
the end of The Smugglers is not the Antarctic location
of The Tenth Planet after all. This is unlikely, though,
since that description of the locale is repeated at the beginning
of The Tenth Planet. I prefer to assume that Ten
Little Aliens (and perhaps a plethora of other adventures)
is set before the final TARDIS interior scene of The Smugglers.
TARDIS crew that Stephen Cole has chosen to work with is a
particular favourite of mine. Ben's cockney patter is brought
to the fore during numerous scenes conveyed from the sailor's
point of view. The writing of these scenes even takes on his
characteristic turns of phrase, making reference, for example,
to "a right array of bruisers", one of whom gets painfully
kicked in his "jewels". "Birds" whom Ben encounters range
from "dead tasty" to one with "a face like a bulldog licking
tar off a nettle"!
are also given close insights into the minds of other characters
via webset devices that allow the trainee soldiers to record
and share each other's experiences. A particularly inventive
sequence takes the form of a role-playing narrative, during
which the reader is guided through the viewpoints of various
characters, frequently being given the chance to choose which
perspective they wish to view.
the First Doctor in the same story as a team of Starship
Troopers-style trainees might seem like an odd mix, but
it's not so different from the situation he faced in The
Tenth Planet, when he had to contend with the pig-headed
General Cutler. Here the Time Lord must work alongside the
even more hard-nosed Marshal Haunt, the commander and instructor
of the trainees. Her character has many more layers to it
than Cutler's did, however.
the book, the author makes reference to the elderly Doctor's
increasing frailty, setting the scene for his approaching
established inside the asteroid, the novel sticks to this
setting until its end, employing the tried and tested Doctor
Who formula of placing characters in a confined area with
no means of escape (access to the TARDIS is restricted by
a force field). It takes perhaps a little too long for this
creepy mystery to unfold, but Cole maintains the reader's
interest by means of a palpable sense of imminent terror.
This is augmented by the constant presence of tiny flea-like
creatures, which hop all over the cavernous corridors and
over the characters themselves.
out of ten, then, for Cole's Little Aliens.
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