THE BEAST OF BABYLON
As part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations, lifelong Doctor Who fan Charlie Higson has written this Ninth Doctor ebook features Ali, a teenager from Karkinos, and her dangerous trip with the Doctor to ancient Babylon to try and stop a giant Starman before he destroys the Earth. The news that Young Bond author Higson would write the Ninth Doctor ebook was greeted among many fans with an enthusiasm matched by the man himself, who wanted his tale to be a thank you to Russell T Davies and to Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor. And a wonderfully fitting tribute it is.
Set somewhere in the thirty-or-so seconds at the end of Rose between the TARDIS leaving and re-materialising as Rose and Mickey prepare to go home, we learn just why the Doctor went back for his new companion. But more of that later.
The Doctor meets teenager Ali on her home planet of Karkinos as he hunts down a dangerous Starman. Still newly regenerated and newly parted from Rose, this Doctor is the damaged, slightly manic, lonely incarnation that Eccleston played so fantastically on screen in his short tenure in the role. He sees similarities between Ali and Rose, but there are also some very important differences. Ali is fiercely intelligent and has the Doctor and the TARDIS pegged quicker than you can say “Lots of planet have a north!”. She’s brave enough to join the Doctor in his hunt for the Starman in ancient Babylon, clever enough to operate parts of the TARDIS, and she proves herself a true warrior when faced with terrible danger, both from the Starman and the people of Hammurabi, the King of Babylon.
Higson’s love of the show – this guy knows the show and its history! – is written clear and bright across every page. The story itself is an absolute belter – the danger is tangible, the Ninth Doctor is depicted in all his odd-looking, goofy glory and the climactic beastie is suitably grotesque. Fittingly for a 50th celebratory book, there are nods to the show’s history with references to past companions and in the names that Ali uses for the Doctor.
The clues to who Ali is are there in Higson’s wonderfully odd metaphors, but the final revelation is a genuine shocker that works really well in this medium. So well, in fact, it probably wouldn’t be possible on screen.
With Doctor Who generally being a visual medium, when you read a written adventure you often wonder what it would be like if it was made into a programme. How would it look? How would they manage the effects? Bring the written word to life? The Beast of Babylon is genuinely made to be read and the surprise of discovering the truth about Ali is one that has you scrolling back with a mighty, “What? What?? What???”
As the story closes, we see a Doctor ready and willing to go back for Rose. Ready to start an adventure that brought an entire new audience to the newly revived Doctor Who. As a thank you to RTD and to Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor, The Beast of Babylon is exceptional. And I’d like to thank Charlie Higson for filling us in on a gap we didn’t even know was there. One thing I can promise you, you will read this book again.
BLOGTOR RATING 10/10