Book Reviews

Book Review: Doctor Who: The Monsters Inside by Stephen Cole

Once Doctor Who returned to television in 2005 and was successful, there were new stories issues in novel form to complement the series. Many of these were good. The Monsters Inside was one that was not so good.

In the future, Earth sends its prisoners off-planet to Justicia, a prison-colony spread over seven planets. The ninth Doctor and Rose accidentally land here and are soon captured. They are separated, with Rose being sent to the teenage detention planet and The Doctor is sent to a Scientific Labor Camp. The Doctor needs t find a way to escape, get to the Tardis, and find Rose. However, along the way, he starts figuring out that there’s more to Justicia than meets the eye.

If you’re not familiar with the series, you’ll be pretty lost reading The Monsters Inside. In fact, if you’re not pretty much a fan who has watched the new seasons of Doctor Who (at the very least), you’ll be pretty lost. There are lots of references to series canon and events in The Monsters Inside.

It was fun reading about what each of the main characters was going through separately as they tried to figure out how to escape and find the other one. However, the setting was hard to deal with. They are in a prison where Earth has essentially exiled people in an out-of-sight, out-of-mind scenario. That the system has become flawed with those in charge acting in an authoritarian and exploitative manner toward the prisoners should be of no surprise. Justicia was designed as a for-profit prison center to let the good people of Earth continue on in their lives and not have to think about what’s happening here.

Sounds familiar, right? Wrong. The story takes a sudden turn as it’s learned those in charge of the prison are not all that they seem. The Doctor and Rose soon learn they are battling a nemesis they’ve seen before. Although they are from Raxacoricofallapatoria, they are a different family than the Slitheen called the Bathleen. Once this happens, any ideas about calling out the for-profit prison industry seem to disappear in favor of alien pursuit and revelations.

The characters are written well and behave in a way that works for The Ninth Doctor and Rose from the series. There was a lot of fun here as alliances with various human prisoners and aliens were made to help Rose and The Doctor reunite; as if there ever was a doubt that they would. The book felt a little strange that way; as if different people had written different parts with different ideas. On one hand, it seemed like it was trying to make a point, then it lost that. Then it seemed like it was trying to be a fun adventure with aliens as The Doctor and Rose tried to outsmart them. It lost that and tried for the action/adventure mode.

I remember when I was in a fan group for another science fiction series way back before the internet was a big thing. We’d do round-robin writing of stories where someone would start with an idea and the next person would take that story in his own direction, and then the next person to continue would add their own bit. That is what The Monsters Inside felt like to me. It seemed to shift gears a lot. It felt like one person came up with the premise of The Doctor and Rose being separated on Justicia and then sent it to another person to try to write their way out of it. Another person decided to add in the Slitheen, while another added in a chase sequence of sorts.

It’s not a horrible story, but it really doesn’t capture the essence of the characters in the same way many of the series’ stories do. I’d give it 3 stars.

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