Twelve more tales of tinsel and terror from Dave Rudden in an inventive Doctor Who collection
Appropriately for a show featuring so much time travel, Doctor Who tends to create its traditions almost before they’ve even happened once. There seemed little doubt that the traditional return of past Doctors would mark the 20th Anniversary. Even though it had actually only happened once before. The word ‘traditional’ was being bandied about regarding the Christmas specials before The Christmas Invasion even aired. And now Santa has delivered The Wintertime Paradox, Dave Rudden’s traditional short story collection of spooky yuletide tales (by which we mean his second one) underneath trees all over the world.
The festive season in televisual Doctor Who has always kept things light and frothy in tone. Even when, say, snuffing out the lives of thousands of men, women and children aboard a space liner. But with this second volume, Rudden cements his reputation as an author who believes the proper place for socks is hanging at the foot of the bed, and the proper place for children is cowering under it. Possibly bunching up a little to make room for their parents.
The twelve tales contained within its pages keep the perfect balance of terror and whimsy. While some of its concepts will leave you staring at the ceiling in the dead of night long afterwards. As an Irish writer, Rudden even squeezes in a couple of trips to Dublin along the way. (And while it’s commonplace for London based fans, for Dublin born fans like Blogtor Who, there’s something lovely about turning a page to find the Twelfth Doctor and Bill battling holographic dinosaur monster in the same building where they hold Dublin Comic Con.)
The collection features enough ideas for an entire season of Christmas specials
The Christmas theme resonates strongly throughout. In fact, Rudden singlehandedly puts the lie to Steven Moffat’s onetime claim that Doctor Who had run out of Christmas stories. Davros is given a tour of how different planets celebrate, while Osgood’s meticulous present plans are derailed by a crisis in UNIT’s dimensionally folded Grey Archive. Likewise, the Paternoster Gang stage a doomed attempt to create the perfect Victorian Christmas. Meanwhile a Pond family turkey dinner at Stormcage goes about as peacefully as you’d expect. A recurring theme emerges that Christmas isn’t just a time of peace and love, or even of darkness and ghost stories. No, it’s a time for family to drive you up the wall as you stress out over shopping and cooking.
Truly unsettling ideas are scattered throughout, as well as some truly brilliant science fiction. The Seventh Doctor arrives in a human colony besieged by an apparently sentient, possibly carnivorous, forest. He’s immediately tagged as the sacrifice du jour and led on a death march into the heart of the woods. It may be obvious how his executioner’s mistake will unfold (they let him talk) it’s no less grim for that. While the mystery at the literal root of the problem has an original and effective twist. Elsewhere, a young girl and her father find the Plasmavore family (it’s French, n’est-ce pas?) in their doorway asking to be invited in on Christmas Eve. And Missy cuts a swath across Edwardian Edinburgh as she amuses herself by playing detective. Though naturally she’s investigating a murder spree for which, let’s face it, there’s only one real suspect.
One of Rudden’s great gifts is in capturing the distinctive voices and personalities of an array of Doctors, companions, allies and villains
Rudden’s characterization of Missy – hilarious, seductive, brilliant, but quite, quite, psychotic – goes beyond being a pitch perfect impression of the Gomez persona. It’s absolutely true to the Missy we know, but also adds a pitch black edge to slip between your ribs. This is Missy, only more so. And it’s emblematic of the affection for the Moffat era on show in the collection. That period grounds half the entries. Some by direct appearances by the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors. Others by those Doctorless adventures for Missy, Vastra, Osgood and Rory.
But over half a dozen Doctors, from the Fifth to the Thirteenth, appear during The Wintertime Paradox. And all their distinct voices and personalities are painted in with such skill it makes it look easy. Something a very many Doctor Who books down the years have made clear is anything but. Snaking in and out of their adventures, meanwhile, are the sinister Sibling Different and Sibling Same. Two paradox worshiping cultists in masks, they will seem teasingly familiar to Doctor Who readers of a certain vintage.
First introduced in the online story Canaries, they’re not in every adventure, but act as hidden instigators here, unseen observers there. Their plot climaxes in final story The Paradox Moon, as the Thirteenth Doctor is summoned to the Shadow Proclamation by a mysterious cry for help. Her quest to discover the source brings her face to face with the Siblings, and an abhorrence against what she cares most about in the world.
Whether Christmas or not, The Wintertime Paradox has more than enough chills for any time of the year
It may be a little late for Christmas, but The Wintertime Paradox contains stories to bring a December chill to any time of the year. A remarkable feat of inventiveness and variety that deserves the widest possible audience. Even more accomplished that its predecessor Twelve Angels Weeping, we can only hope for a third volume soon. After all, it’s a tradition…
The Wintertime Paradox by Dave Rudden
Twelve stunning Doctor Who stories for the long winter nights
Christmas can mean anything . . .
For Missy, it’s solving murders in 1909
To a little girl in Dublin, it’s Plasmavores knocking at the door.
For Davros, it’s a summons from the Doctor, who needs the mad inventor’s help.
The perfect collection for the bleakest – and sometimes brightest – time of the year, these are the tales for when you’re halfway out of the dark . . .
Out now from all good book stockists and libraries. RRP: £12.99. It’s also available as an audiobook, read by Sophie Aldred