Please feel free to comment on my review.
Three Types of Humans with the Ninth Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack
A lot happens to Rose! She gets married and beheaded in this story! Yeah! 😀
I’ve read and listened to ‘Only Human’, the ‘Doctor Who’ novel that was chosen to represent the Ninth Doctor era for the show’s 50th anniversary in 2013. The original book by Gareth Roberts was published in 2005 and this was to tie in to the transmission of Series 1 with Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper.
I purchased the original hardback novel before the book was reprinted in 2013. I also purchased the audiobook download from Audible with the story being read by Anthony Head. I enjoyed reading and listening to this story. ‘Only Human’ turned out to be an intriguing story for the Ninth Doctor and team.
In the story, a Neanderthal from Earth’s past appears in the present day in Bromley 2005. The Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack are alerted to this as they discover someone is meddling with time. Whilst Jack looks after the Neanderthal called Das in the present day, the Doctor and Rose travel back to the past.
They discover humans from the past, present and future are on Earth 28,000 years ago before 2005 happened. The Doctor and Rose also discover something worse. The human of the future called Chantal releases her monsters called the Hy-Bractors to destroy the human race. Will she be stopped?
This story takes place between ‘The Empty Child’/’The Doctor Dances’ and ‘Boom Town’. Captain Jack has been with Rose and the Doctor for a short while now. It was interesting to read this book and how the TARDIS trio interacted with each other before they split up from each other for separate adventures.
At the time of this review, if you’re wondering that I read/heard this story because of the recent transgender and racism controversy concerning Gareth Roberts, then the answer is no! No! I was going to read/hear this ‘Doctor Who’ book/audio before the controversy happened as it was in my schedule.
With that said, I’m saddened Gareth Roberts’ recent contribution to a ‘Doctor Who’ book has been dropped because of the controversy. Whatever his views and they are his own, I still find Gareth Roberts to be a decent ‘Doctor Who’ writer and I have enjoyed the stories he’s written over the years.
Gareth Roberts wrote a number of ‘Doctor Who’ books in the 1990s and the early 2000s, including ones for the Virgin series of ‘New Adventures’ and ‘Missing Adventures’ as well as this one for the Ninth Doctor era. He has also penned a number of ‘Doctor Who’ episodes for the new TV series lately.
The ones Gareth Roberts has written for the TV series include ‘The Shakespeare Code’ and ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp’ with David Tennant; ‘The Lodger’ and ‘Closing Time’ with Matt Smith and ‘The Caretaker’ with Peter Capaldi. I’ve enjoyed his episodes. He comes across as a witty, humorous writer.
But of course, the book ‘Only Human’ was written by Gareth Roberts before he became a writer for the TV series. It’s amazing that he was writing books for his favourite TV series before writing for that TV series itself. He also wrote episodes of ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’ after doing this particular book.
It was interesting to discover this book for myself and how he interpreted the Ninth Doctor era when it was being transmitted back in 2005. He had lots of contributions and help from people like Russell T. Davies, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss who also worked on the TV series when it was revived back in 2005.
Back in 2013, I purchased all of the ‘Doctor Who’ novels and audiobooks featuring the Ninth Doctor to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary. With the audiobooks, I managed to obtain them as CD releases from AudioGo when it was about. With ‘Only Human’ though, I purchased it as a download.
This was because ‘Only Human’ was only available as a download at the time. I’m not sure why that was the case, but by the time I had Audible as an app, I utilised it to purchase ‘Only Human’ as an audiobook download. Like with most new series ‘Doctor Who’ audiobooks, there’s little sound and music to them.
That was the case with ‘Only Human’ as it was just Anthony Head reading the story. But I was looking forward to finding out how Gareth Roberts interpreted Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor, Billie Piper’s Rose and John Barrowman’s Captain Jack in this tale involving Neanderthals and going back to the past.
After reading and listening to ‘Only Human’ in full…I found it to be an okay adventure. I mean Gareth Roberts still delivers decent work and this was still an enjoyable story to read and listen to. But in terms of it representing the Ninth Doctor era for the 50th anniversary, I did not find it to be so exciting.
In my mind, the Ninth Doctor era should be contemporary and full of ‘oomph’. There are elements of that in this story, especially when the Neanderthal called Das is living with Jack in Bromley 2005. But most of the adventure is set in the past with the Ninth Doctor and Rose solving a certain mystery here.
I would’ve chosen ‘The Clockwise Man’ to represent the Ninth Doctor era, especially as that was the first ‘Doctor Who’ book I read back in 2006 when I was getting into the series at the time. But of course, ‘The Clockwise Man’ is by Justin Richards. That could not be in the 50th anniversary collection
Why? Because Justin contributed ‘Dreams of Empire’ for the Second Doctor era. If you’ve noticed, each book in the 50th anniversary collection is by a certain writer who has contributed to ‘Doctor Who’ in books, audio and TV. Terrance Dicks, Jacqueline Rayner and Gary Russell are among these writers too.
With that said, ‘The Clockwise Man’ would’ve been a fitting book to represent the Ninth Doctor era as I recall it fondly and believe it highlighted the Ninth Doctor and Rose at their best. With ‘Only Human’ though, the Ninth Doctor and Rose are separated from Captain Jack for most of the time in this story.
I would’ve liked it if the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack were all together as a trio sorting out Chantal’s menace and getting Das back to his time period. Even ‘Night of the Whisper’, an audio adventure from Big Finish and AudioGo, did this right with the Ninth Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack together as the team.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when Captain Jack and Das record their journals and data logs in the four weeks they spend together in Bromley 2005 whilst the Doctor and Rose are away for their adventure. At least we know what happened to Jack compared to what we didn’t know with Nyssa in ‘Kinda’.
But aside from running around stark-naked to cause a distraction and get Das out of a hospital (Yes that did happen in the story! That’s so Captain Jack! 😀 ), Captain Jack didn’t do much in most of the story. The Doctor and Rose are the ones that get into the main heart of the adventure for Earth’s past.
Gareth Roberts though does write well for the Ninth Doctor’s Northern tones as well as Rose’s London mannerisms in the adventure. I could hear Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper saying their dialogue as their characters despite Anthony Head reading the story. This story would be really great if televised.
Speaking of Anthony Head (who played Mr. Finch in ‘School Reunion’), I found his reading of the story okay. He doesn’t do much of a performance on the Ninth Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack’s voices which is a shame. I would’ve liked it if he did. But still, Anthony does quite a decent job with reading the tale.
I am intrigued as to why Anthony Head read the story since he didn’t have much to do with the Ninth Doctor era. I thought it was because he narrated the ‘Doctor Who Confidential’ documentaries at the time, but that was Simon Pegg, not him. Why Anthony Head was chosen to read this tale, I don’t know.
I didn’t find Anthony Head to be a match of a reader to Nicholas Briggs who reads well for the Ninth Doctor era in both ‘The Clockwise Man’ audiobook and ‘Night of the Whisper’. He also does an authentic voice for Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor. I would’ve preferred it if Nick Briggs narrated this tale’s audio.
I’m not a fan of the evolution theme featured throughout this story especially with the Neanderthals as I’ve indicated in my review for ‘Bloodtide’. It was interesting how Das developed as an Neanderthal living in 21st century Earth with Jack before he soon fell in love with a woman called Anna Marie O’Grady.
The concepts of proto-humans and future humans living with Neanderthals in Earth’s past was intriguing. It does cause complications as the story progresses. I know this is a fantasy, but the evolution theme doesn’t work for me overall. I can’t take it as historically accurate as Gareth Roberts depicts it.
The subplot where Rose gets forced to marry a human called Tillun was amusing to read and listen to at times. Rose struggles to break free from the tribe led by Nan who wants her to marry Tillun. Rose even gets to dress up in a fur-skinned wedding dress. I’m sure that would’ve been itchy for her to wear. 😀
Rose also gets headless in the story. Yeah! Rose’s head get detached from her body by Chantal to threaten the Doctor. Very soon, Rose finds herself carrying her head around with her towards the story’s conclusion. Not sure how Rose manages to get her head back onto her body, but she thankfully does.
The whole business where the humans, including Rose, can breathe fire out of their mouths at the story’s end to foil Chantal’s plans was rather baffling as I read/heard it. I’m not sure how it worked out and I would need to read/hear the story again. But it did feel like it was a rushed solution to an impossible problem.
Chantal as a villain was interesting to read in the book. She comes across like a giggly little girl in a woman’s body. I’m not sure why she wants to destroy humanity with the Hy-Bractors as monsters. She’s clearly insane but I don’t think the thought process behind her motives as a villain gets explored.
The Hy-Bractors as monsters are also equally interesting. They come from behind the Grey Door and were developed by Chantal to eat humans and Neanderthals alike. They’re described as genetically engineered and large grey blob-like creatures. They also have scary voices according to Anthony Head’s narration. 😀
Whilst there is a BBC audiobook for this story, I wouldn’t mind it if ‘Only Human’ was adapted into an audio adventure by Big Finish. It’d be interesting to see how ‘Only Human’ would get adapted as an audio drama with Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper and John Barrowman leading the cast throughout.
Incidentally, the story is divided into 14 chapters with a prologue in the book. I do wonder how ‘Only Human’ would get adapted into an audio drama and whether it’d be like a two hour long episode story like what they did with those abridged readings of some of the Tenth Doctor novels. This could happen.
‘Only Human’ as a ‘Doctor Who’ story is okay for me. I wouldn’t class it as a great one to represent the Ninth Doctor era for the 50th anniversary collection of ‘Doctor Who’ books. But for what it’s worth, I enjoyed reading and hearing it with Gareth Roberts’ wit and Anthony Head’s narration. Quite decent.
‘Only Human’ rating – 7/10
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