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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Doctor Who: A Big Hand for the Doctor: First Doctor by Eoin Colfer

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Title: Doctor Who: A Big Hand for the Doctor: First Doctor
Series: Doctor Who Fiftieth Anniversary Eshorts, #1
Author: Eoin Colfer
Copyright: 2013
Pages: 41
ISBN: 9781405912051
Publisher: Puffin Books
Author Website:
Twitter: @eoincolfer, @PuffinBooks, @bbcdoctorwho, @DoctorWho_BBCA
Format: ebook
Available: 1-23-2013
Rating: 3/5 stars

OK, so maybe not everybody that reads my blog (those few that do, thank you!) know this, but I am a HUGE Doctor Who fan. Possibly bordering on obsessed. It's hard for me to explain really, but the show makes me profoundly happy. I just love it. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the show, and I don't think there's a better time to be a fan of the show. So much is being done to celebrate the anniversary, and one of my favorites is a series of 11 new eshorts celebrating all 11 Doctors being written by some of the biggest names in young people's literature. Each eshort is going to be released on the 23rd of the month, with the eleventh story released on the 50th anniversary date, November 23. They are keeping each of the writers under wraps until early in the month of release for their story, so really, nobody knows who is writing which Doctor.

Eoin Colfer (of Artemis Fowl fame) was selected to write the First Doctor's story. In this new adventure, the Doctor is facing off against the Soul Pirates, a vile alien species that kidnaps children and harvests either their brain power to power their ship or their organs to repair themselves, allowing them to live inordinately long lives. The Doctor had been tracking them and wanted to put a stop to their evil ways, and along the way his granddaughter, Susan, is also kidnapped by the Soul Pirates, thereby making this a personal fight for the Doctor. What follows is a brief but exciting adventure as the Doctor does what the Doctor does best, saving the day.

(Full disclosure here: I've come at Doctor Who more with the New Who than the Classic Who. I remember watching Doctor Who in the late 70s/early 80s with Tom Baker, but I never really understood what I was watching, since I never saw a full story in a row. I've watched several of the William Hartnell stories now, but haven't seen them all.)

The First Doctor was portrayed by William Hartnell from 1963-1966, and his characterization of the Doctor was different from just about every regeneration of the Doctor that we've seen since. He's slightly grumpy, slightly curmudgeonly, and not very proactive. He was more of the think it through type rather than a call to arms type of Doctor, and I've read several reviews of this short that find fault in Eoin Colfer's First Doctor, as that is not necessarily the characterization that Colfer went with. Colfer's Doctor is a little more witty and adventurous than Hartnell's Doctor, and for hardcore Whovians, I can see where this would be a problem.

However, I think Colfer is creating a First Doctor for a new generation. Kids today, and especially their attention spans, probably wouldn't hold up well to Hartnell's characterization of the Doctor, so Colfer took the basic idea of the First Doctor and updated him a little bit. He still thinks things through, but he's a little more proactive in his execution of a resolution. He's still slightly grumpy, but has a certain wit that runs through that grumpiness. I've read complaints that the Doctor drops too many current references (Harry Potter, for instance). I'm sorry, but if he went around in this story only dropping references to things that happened in the 1960s when Hartnell was portraying him, kids today wouldn't understand those references. I think that's the point that many hardcore Whovians are missing, that these stories are written not for them, but for kids, and modern day kids, not kids in the 1960s. Maybe I'm wrong, and Colfer is actually doing a disservice to the memory of the First Doctor and William Hartnell, but for this reader, I think he did an admirable job of taking the old and making it new again.

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