‘TEN LITTLE ALIENS’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
‘Starship Troopers Meets Agatha Christie’ with the First Doctor, Ben and Polly
If I read this book a second time, I’d probably enjoy this ‘Doctor Who’ adventure more.
‘Ten Little Aliens’ by Stephen Cole is one of the ‘Past Doctor Adventures’ from BBC Books in ‘Doctor Who’. It was originally published in June 2002 before it got reprinted in March 2013 for the 50th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’. The story features the First Doctor with his companions Ben and Polly.
I purchased the 2013 reprint of ‘Ten Little Aliens’ from the ‘Doctor Who Experience’ in Cardiff before it closed down in September 2017. It was one of a number of things I purchased from the ‘Doctor Who Experience’ before it closed down and that included books and ‘Doctor Who’ clothes. 🙂
I was lucky to get ‘Ten Little Aliens’ from the ‘Doctor Who Experience’ as well as the reprinted ‘Beautiful Chaos’ novel by Gary Russell. ‘Ten Little Aliens’ is a particularly interesting ‘Doctor Who’ adventure, especially to represent and celebrate the First Doctor era of the show. In that, it takes place towards the end of it.
Yeah! ‘Ten Little Aliens’ takes place towards the end of the First Doctor era, in between the two stories ‘The Smugglers’ and ‘The Tenth Planet’. The Doctor’s companions are Ben and Polly, who relatively shared more time with the Second Doctor than they did with the First Doctor in the TV show.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to have another adventure with the First Doctor, Ben and Polly. In fact, it’s interesting that there are adventures in between ‘The Smugglers’ and ‘The Tenth Planet’ featuring this TARDIS team, especially when the two stories in narrative terms are very knit together.
There is a short story – a Short Trip in fact – called ‘The Three Paths’ where it establishes how the First Doctor, Ben and Polly can have more adventures with each other in that limited amount of time I must check it out. In any case, it’s exciting this TARDIS team can have more stories to interact more.
Mind you, it is an interesting choice to have ‘Ten Little Aliens’ represent the First Doctor in ‘The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collection’ of books. Wouldn’t it be better to have a First Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan book to represent the era? Or have only the First Doctor and Susan represent it?
The ‘Destiny of the Doctor’ story ‘Hunters of Earth’ and the Puffin story ‘A Big Hand For The Doctor’ did that. Why didn’t this one? But as I discovered, ‘Ten Little Aliens’ seems to be pretty highly rated by the fans and it must be considering that it was chosen to represent the First Doctor for the show’s 50th.
With that said…after having read it all the way through…I’m sorry to say that this one didn’t really satisfy me. But hear me out! As a ‘Doctor Who’ story, it is an appealing premise. The story is essentially an ‘Starship Troopers meets Agatha Christie’. Not that I’ve seen ‘Starship Troopers’ mind.
But I liked the Agatha Christie part and so long as there was enough story and appeal to enjoy throughout, I could go along with this story. However, I did find myself struggling with getting into the guest characters especially with how there were a certain large amount in the story throughout.
How can I put it? Let me explain the overall outline of the book. The 2013 reprint starts off with an introduction by Stephen Cole. I did enjoy some of the interesting behind-the-scenes notes made on how Stephen Cole crafted the book. Had I kept those notes in mind, my experience would be better.
The story is divided into 18 chapters, although there are certain staves within each chapter, making them mini-chapters. It does allow you to process the book with reading each stave at time, with the exception of a certain chapter I found a challenge to get through but I’ll get to that chapter later on.
I had to read the first chapter twice in order to appreciate and absorb each of the supporting characters I need to get to know in the story. They’re essentially the ten ‘Starship Troopers’ characters that get caught up in this Agatha Christie murder mystery the Doctor, Ben and Polly meet.
Yeah, ‘Ten Little Aliens’ is essentially a play on the title ‘Ten Little Indians’, which was the original title for the Agatha Christie novel called ‘And Then There Were None’. I have seen one TV adaptation of ‘And Then There Were None’ when it got produced and shown on TV in 2015. I didn’t like it much.
Essentially that murder mystery had the entire main characters die at the end, hence the title ‘And Then There Were None’. I was expecting that to be here in ‘Ten Little Aliens’ with all the ten ‘Starship Troopers’ characters dead at the end whilst the First Doctor, Ben and Polly remained alive.
That didn’t happen. Instead we had ten alien creatures called the Schirr or the Ten-Strong within the heart of a hollowed-out moon wanting to take control of the ten ‘Starship Troopers’ characters. Three of them got killed and the Doctor, Ben and Polly were made to take their places by those little aliens.
The ten guest ‘Starship Troopers’ characters were a challenge to get into. Like with the thirteen dwarves in ‘The Hobbit’ movies, I could only pick out certain characters from the ten and not all of them. They were also hard to discern and at times there were ones who were so unlikeable to read.
The leader of the group is Marshal Nadina Haunt, who seems to have a history with a past incident involving the death of one of her teammates. She isn’t very nice to Shade at the beginning and can come across as no-nonsense when giving orders. There’s this shock twist with her character though.
There’s Shel, who’s like Haunt’s personal secretary in the story. It transpires later on that Shel is actually an android who is trying to protect something about this mission that the ‘Starship Troopers’ team is on. Shel also could be the key in answering the Doctor’s problem to defeat the foe.
There’s Shade who is like an outcast among the group of ten ‘Starship Troopers’ that go out on a training exercise that turns into a nightmare. Shade comes from Earth, which is considered to be frowned upon by the others. He also shares this interesting connection to Polly later on in the story.
Other characters in the group include Denni (who maybe a love interest for Shade); Joiks (who is considered a joker in the group); Frog (who actually sounds like a frog when she spoke); Tovel; Lindey; Creben and Roba. The latter four were a challenge to identify with as a characters in the tale.
Another aspect I found with this story is that it didn’t feel like a First Doctor adventure. It felt more like a Fifth Doctor adventure with the characters’ roughened attitudes and moments of graphic horror. I’ve considered the First Doctor era to be tamer compared to other eras of the TV show here.
Mind you, to give Stephen Cole credit, the First Doctor is written well in terms of character and mannerisms. I believed the First Doctor was speaking when reading the book and I could hear William Hartnell say his lines with authority as well as amusement, especially as he chuckles at times.
I also like how Ben and Polly are written as characters. It’s clear they’re just starting with the Doctor and they don’t know him that well. It’s also interesting how the two work well with the First Doctor, since they ask the right questions and come up with good suggestions for the old man to approve of.
However, there is one chapter that had me awake when I was away on holiday in Amroth, April 2019 when I read this book. In Chapter Fourteen, Stephen Cole decided to give us a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ where we had to read varying points of view as well as go back and forth in the chapter.
This is an intriguing approach to doing a chapter in a book, but I got completely befuddled when I had to go back and forth in the chapter and wondered how it was going to end. I had to go back and read certain parts of the chapter I hadn’t read in order to get a complete idea of what was going on.
I wonder why Stephen Cole went with that approach and I should’ve been more prepared when it came to reading the book late at night. I’m also wondering why he didn’t do that for the entirety or for most of the book. It’s the only chapter that seems to do that approach compared to the rest of it.
I’m not sure how ‘Ten Little Aliens’ can be adapted for an audiobook reading, considering the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ style of approach in Chapter Fourteen. Maybe that’s why they haven’t done it recently. I suppose if they did adapt the book for audio, Chapter Fourteen would have its own CD disc.
I wouldn’t mind it if Anneke Wills read ‘Ten Little Aliens’ as an audiobook. That way I could re-read and enjoy the story more. It would be a shame if I left ‘Ten Little Aliens’ thinking it was an altogether average tale since an audiobook reading would provide more weight and enjoyment to it throughout.
Overall, I didn’t find ‘Ten Little Aliens’ to be that spectacular as I hoped it would be. I wanted to like and enjoy ‘Ten Little Aliens’ as a great First Doctor adventure. But with the guest characters being too many and not likeable enough for me to appreciate, this story felt flat for me. This is a shame really.
I don’t think watching ‘Starship Troopers’ would help much either. 😀
‘Ten Little Aliens’ rating – 5/10
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