It’s a clash of the titans as the worlds of Doctor Who collide with classic mythology in this legendary new book by Richard Dinnick.
It’s probably worth making a little disclaimer at the start of this review, for anyone interested in picking up this book. The subtitle for Myths and Legends, “Epic Tales from Alien Worlds”, is ever so slightly misleading. This book is not, as some might imagine, a series of completely original stories that could pass off as extra-terrestrial legends. If you’re expecting the sort of thing a Time Lord might be told at bedtime, you might come away a little disappointed. What this book is then, in fact, is something more akin to 2015’s Time Lord Fairy Tales. This is a collection of well-known myths, rewritten and revamped with a Doctor Who makeover.
And quite a collection it is, too. There’s a really nice selection of famous legends serving as the inspiration for these new short stories. Greek mythology fans are especially well catered for, taking up the lion’s share of the offerings. The Trojan Horse, Jason and the Argonauts, Hercules and the Hydra. They’re all here and accounted for, plus a whole lot more, each with a distinctively sci-fi twist. You can trust us when we say you’ve never quite seen some of these stories like this before. And that’s only scratching the surface of what Myths and Legends has in store.
Whether you’re a classically trained Whovian or a newbie Whobie, there’s something for everyone in here. With the exception of the Time Lords, who pop up frequently throughout, each tale focuses on a different monster or species from the Doctor Who universe. Long-time fans will appreciate appearances from lesser known foes like the Jagaroth and the Great Vampires. The snake-like Mara also slithers into the story of Medusa, while Sutekh from Pyramids of Mars gets a mention in the riddle of the Sphinx. On the flipside, there’s plenty for younger followers too. There are stories with new series favourites like the Sontarans and the Weeping Angels. We even get the Racnoss taking on the role of the Minotaur. It’s a wonderfully eclectic mix that caters for fans of all ages, much like the show it’s based on.
What’s especially interesting is how well Myths and Legends ties into the recently finished Doctor Who Series 10. There are a handful of stories that seem perfectly pitched, considering what’s been seen on screen these past few weeks. The Cybermen are back to wreak havoc in “The Mondas Touch”, a brilliantly realised reinterpretation of the King Midas legend. Instead of everything he touches turning to gold, everything gets converted into a Cyberman! And if World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls hadn’t already fulfilled Peter Capaldi’s dreams, The Twelfth Doctor pops up to save the day here too. The universe’s favourite Time Lord doesn’t intrude too often on proceedings – certainly nowhere near as often as in Time Lord Fairy Tales – and it’s all the better for it. It’s nice to have some spin-off material that doesn’t need to constantly fall back on The Doctor.
The timeliness of this release doesn’t stop there, either. If Empress of Mars whet your appetite for the Ice Warriors, you’re in for a treat. The Martian marauders face off against the Daleks in an excellent take on the Daedalus and Icarus myth. It’s a delight to finally see these two long-serving giants butt heads. Plus, we get even more additions to Ice Warrior canon: say hello the Ice Lords and Ice Ladies! The acknowledgements at the back of the book suggest the author was privy to a few Series 10 secrets, and the influence is clear to see. It’s refreshing for a release to be so up to date, and so soon.
Best of all though are the stories featuring The Master. One particular tale takes place in between Utopia and The Sound of Drums, from Lucy Saxon’s perspective. Using the paradoxical TARDIS, she visits her husband’s past – and future – incarnations. While it’s thrilling to see the Delgado and Ainley Masters get a nod, the real surprises come when Lucy meets Missy. We won’t spoil it here, but it certainly helps to fill some gaps in Last of the Time Lords and The End of Time. Plus it definitely adds a bit more weight to Simm and Gomez’s fates in The Doctor Falls…
The collection ends with a similar story based on Pandora’s Box, starring Rassilon and (sort of) The War Doctor. Here we see the Lord President’s past and future, even explaining his regeneration from Timothy Dalton to Donald Sumpter. There’s even time for some Day of the Doctor set-up. Again, no spoilers here, but the final line is as perfect as they come.
We can’t wrap up this review though without mentioning the beautiful illustrations from Adrian Salmon. They’re not overwhelming – indeed, there are only one or two per story – but they’re incredibly effective. The minimalist style gives each drawing a distinctive edge, striking a clever balance between the recognisable and the mythical. In fact, they’re not a million miles away from the sort of thing you might expect to find on a Grecian urn. We can easily imagine these pictures adorning some priceless Gallifreyan pottery somewhere among the stars.
All in all, Myths and Legends is a fantastic addition to the ever-growing pile of Doctor Who literature. It takes everything we already love about mythology and regenerates it with newfound purpose. Of course, as ever with a collection such as this, some stories are naturally going to stand out over others. But there are definitely more hits than misses across the just-under-300 pages. And even then, everyone’s favourite stories are going to vary. That’s the beauty of what Myths and Legends offers. It ticks all the boxes and appeals to the entirety of Doctor Who’s long and dedicated fanbase in some shape or form. Not everyone will enjoy everything, nor will everyone enjoy exactly the same things. But we’re fairly confident you’ll be able to find at least one story in here that piques your interest. Richard Dinnick’s work is well worth your time and comes highly recommended.