Okay, so it seems that publishers are just making books tailor-made for this site to review them now.
That right there is a picture of me holding the book Doctor Who: Time Lord Fairy Tales. I’ve become a big Doctor Who fan in recent years. You may recall that when this blog first started, one of my earliest posts was one in which I compared story elements from Doctor Who with those in classic fairy tales. Now, two of my cultural obsessions are coming together in a much more official way.
What can be said about this book going in? Well, the whole thing is written by an author named Justin Richards and it’s illustrated by David Wardle. The blurb on the back says “Fifteen tales of ancient wonder and mystery, passed down through generations of Time Lords”. Now, if that’s true, then Time Lord culture must be very, very similar to our own. These stories are very familiar. There are pretty much two ways to create books of fairy tales around existing franchises. You can either create brand new stories that exist as the tales told in the world that’s created (like J.K. Rowling did with The Tales of Beedle the Bard) or you can just recast popular tales using elements from the franchise (like the Marvel Fairy Tales comics that were published years ago). Time Lord Fairy Tales chose to go the latter route. In fact, there’s only one story that I don’t immediately recognize from somewhere else (#13- “The Grief Collector”. If anyone knows the root of this story, let me know in the comments).
Now, does that make this book bad? No, not really.
There are still some really fun stories here and seeing how they’ve been changed to reflect the Doctor Who universe is kind of interesting. Also, while the stories sometimes start off very similar, they can go in some very different directions. The story “Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday” is only similar to “Snow White” in certain parts. The rest is a story about a girl trying to stop an evil dictator from controlling a horrible doomsday machine.
As a collection of science fiction fairy tales, it doesn’t really offer anything new or different. Also, you never spend enough time with any of the main characters to really fall in love with them like you would with something like The Lunar Chronicles. I mean, I was glad things turned out well for them, but I was never really clamoring to see more. There are some interesting choices made in terms of Doctor Who mythology. The Doctor only appears in a handful of stories and is a side or background character in almost all of them. This actually makes a lot of sense, considering the character of the Doctor. He really works better in this setting as a magical helper of sorts. He’s so knowledgeable about the ways of the universe that all mystery and magic would get sucked out of it all if he were the main character. Instead, the main characters are the types who would usually be companions or one episode supporting characters. Even when he does appear, you can instantly tell it’s him. Heck, you can even tell which version of him it is (there have been twelve different versions of The Doctor) by his dialogue or the character’s description. The author also seemed to try his best to get the Doctor Who creatures and locations to fit the stories that were chosen, even to the point of leaving out some of the more popular ones. The Doctor’s nemesis The Master, never appears in this book. Neither do the Daleks, possibly the most popular race of antagonists in the TV show’s history. Instead, we get the Sontarans in two different stories, once as pigs in a “Three Little Pigs” riff and once as a troll in a take on “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”. The Cybermen appear in a “Pied Piper of Hamelin” based story. The Slitheen appear in an “Ali Baba” type of story. It all fits too. Every choice works with the kind of character or alien race they are. There are even some more obscure creatures like the Nimon and the Wirrn in there. Even though I’m a fan, I had to look those ones up in another tome that’s in my possession.
If you’re not that knowledgeable about Doctor Who stuff and still want to read this book, don’t worry. It’s not completely necessary that you know all about these creatures.
Overall, the book is fun but nothing particularly new and different. I don’t think it was aiming to be, though. Most likely, it was meant to be a book that combined familiar fairy tales and familiar Doctor Who concepts to create a sort of fusion literary comfort food for kids over in the UK. Yup, kids. Despite the majority of Doctor Who fans in the United States being full grown genre fiction fans like myself, it has always been considered a family show in its home country of Great Britain. And though it says “Dark, beautiful and twisted, these stories are filled with nightmarish terrors and heroic triumphs” in another part of the back cover blurb, it’s really not all that dark. At least, no darker than a normal episode of Doctor Who (so parents, have no fear). I even wouldn’t mind seeing some of these stories be used as the basis for some real Doctor Who episodes, providing they ever find a way to make it work. Really, it’s just a fun little treat of a book.