I will freely admit that while I’d heard of Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor and I could identify the scarf a mile off, I hadn’t ever seen an episode of his. I came to the Doctor during the Russell T. Davies reboot era and I certainly love me some David Tennant. But this past summer, when I was in Scotland, there was a few book stores and one of them was having a sale and I came across a slim paperback of Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster. How could I resist? I’d been to Loch Ness myself a day or two earlier and I’d always wanted to read a Doctor Who novelization. And this one featured the Fourth Doctor, so I was thinking win/win.
In the end, it was meh/meh.
Maybe if I was more familiar with Four and his companions I would have slipped into this world easier. In the past, I’d listened to some original audio stories featuring the Tenth Doctor and I’d enjoyed them so maybe it was the fact this was a novelization. Maybe if I’d seen the episode this book was based on, The Terror of the Zygons, it might have made a difference.
In the end, I think the problem was the level of the writing. I know Doctor Who is a kid’s show, but the newer versions have at least made a pretense of at least not pandering to adults (at the worst of times) and being downright scary while still not doing anything to distance the younger set (at the best of times) but this book was written at a 5th grade level with no attempt at all to use a thesaurus or words of more than three syllables.
The plot, about an ancient alien invasion who have been living in the highlands of Scotland for centuries and have a “monster” which simultaneously nurtures them and acts as a living battering ram, is not only simplistic but obvious. The way the story is told mimics (I’m making an educated guess here) the editing of the television show. Interestingly, the pacing of TV differs from the pacing of a novel so when we cut away to see the aliens in their control room, it merely interrupts the ongoing scene rather than provide added tension. When you add in the fact the author knows what’s coming so he highlights bits of information which would be better left as later discoveries to enhance the mystery, we’re left with a book a 10 year old would enjoy but anyone over that age, especially now, 40 years or so after it was originally written, will be bored silly.