‘The Roundheads’ (Book/Audio)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Roundheads with the Second Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie

I’m surprised there isn’t a Kindle version of ‘The Roundheads’! 😀

Mark Gatiss is an acquired taste for me nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I quite like the guy. I’ve enjoyed his performances in many film and TV productions whether they’d be ‘Doctor Who’-related or whether they’re non-‘Doctor Who’ like the 2016 ‘Dad’s Army’ film and 2018’s ‘Christopher Robin’.

His efforts as a writer however can be varied for me. There are ‘Doctor Who’ stories I’ve enjoyed like ‘Robot of Sherwood’ and ‘Empress of Mars’ and there are stories I’ve found hard-going like ‘Sleep No More’. It depends on what mood I’m in concerning Mark Gatiss’ writing talents, which is intriguing. 🙂

Lately, I’ve been watching the ‘Sherlock’ TV series which Mark Gatiss co-produced with Steven Moffat. If I’m honest, I prefer it when Mark Gatiss is working alone as opposed to collaborating with Steven Moffat. Sometimes Steven Moffat’s voice in writing overrides Mark Gatiss’ voice, which is uneven. 😦

Now I don’t wish to say these things out of disrespect for Mark Gatiss, since it’s clear he’s had a stable working relationship with Steven Moffat and they must be really good friends. But there are times when I don’t feel the writing efforts of Mark Gatiss are as excellent as they should be nowadays.

This might be an issue concerning when Mark Gatiss writes ‘Doctor Who’ stories in prose form such as the Target novelization of ‘The Crimson Horror’. Whilst most of the novelization is a steady book overall, I felt it was ruined by its three preceding chapters that had nothing to do with the TV story. 😦

I also feel a slight dissatisfaction concerning ‘The Roundheads’, featuring the Second Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie. This is ironic, considering people have said many good things about ‘The Roundheads’ as a ‘Doctor Who’ story. Sadly, ‘The Roundheads’ didn’t really click for me as it did for everyone else.

Now I’m not saying this without having read a previous ‘Doctor Who’ book by Mark Gatiss. On the contrary, I read ‘Last of the Gaderene’ featuring the Third Doctor, Jo and the U.N.I.T. team and found it a worthwhile book. I wish I could say the same for ‘The Roundheads’ as a ‘Doctor Who’ adventure.

I purchased ‘The Roundheads’ audiobook as an 8-disc CD set from the ‘Bedford Who Charity Con’ in October 2021. This was the second thing I purchased at the convention – the first being the ‘Frontios’ Target novelization. The audiobook is read by Anneke Wills who plays Polly in the TV show.

I really want to say ‘The Roundheads’ is a worthwhile ‘Doctor Who’ book and maybe this is a story that requires more reads and listens than I give it credit for. But I couldn’t help feel underwhelmed from reading and hearing ‘The Roundheads’. This is a shame due to the rich material that’s included.

Anneke Wills is also a very good reader, giving her all in terms of voicing the characters of the Second Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie as well as reading the text provided by Mark Gatiss in the book. So, why is it that ‘The Roundheads’ didn’t have the impact that it should have had upon me here? 😐

Well, there might be a number of reasons for this. One is that the story is divided into 12 chapters with a prologue at the beginning. Now this might be the Terrance Dicks-approach to writing a ‘Doctor Who’ book that Mark Gatiss is using, except there’s one glaring problem I’ve found with this.

The chapters themselves are pretty lengthy. There’s a lot of detail to absorb in terms of reading/listening to each chapter that I found it tended to drag at times. This is a shame as you can clearly see Mark Gatiss is making the effort to describe the world he’s created for ‘The Roundheads’.

It’s also peculiar because ‘Last of the Gaderene’ wasn’t like that when I read/heard it not so long ago. The story itself is divided into 35 chapters with a prologue at the beginning. I’m quite surprised Mark Gatiss didn’t use the same approach in dividing ‘The Roundheads’ into more chapters instead of 12. 😐

Then again, ‘Last of the Gaderene’ was published in 2000 as opposed to ‘The Roundheads’, which was published in 1997. Maybe Mark Gatiss learnt some lessons when he wrote ‘Doctor Who’ books in the 1990s and 2000s and he divided his stories into more chapters for audiences to read them easier.

It’s clear from reading/hearing ‘The Roundheads’ that this is a ‘Doctor Who’ story that’s screaming to be adapted into a Big Finish audio adaptation. If ‘The Roundheads’ was adapted into audio drama for Anneke Wills and Frazer Hines to appear in; maybe I would appreciate and enjoy the story more.

There’s quite a lot of interaction between characters going on in the story, but very often I forget who some of these characters were. I also wasn’t sure if some of the characters were real-life people or created for the story by Mark Gatiss, due to this being a pure historical in the Second Doctor era. 😐

Yep, ‘The Roundheads’ happens to be a pure historical adventure, matching to the style of the early William Hartnell/Patrick Troughton stories of the show. I will give Mark Gatiss this; at least he delivers that feels like a pure historical adventure and it doesn’t include alien aspect throughout it. 🙂

But then again, that’s another problem I have with this book. Like some of the pure historical stories of the William Hartnell/Patrick Troughton, I found ‘The Roundheads’ rather hard-going and slow at times. Again, that might match the atmosphere Mark Gatiss was going on when it comes to telling this story.

However, I would have liked it if ‘The Roundheads’ had a more action adventure feel – perhaps in the style of ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ with David Tennant, which I’m currently enjoying on BBC One. But ‘The Roundheads’ has the disadvantage of featuring too many political elements to take the story in.

Yep, this story takes place at the end the Second English Civil War where the Roundheads and Cavaliers have been fighting each other. I can’t claim to know a great deal about the Roundheads and the Cavaliers since the Stuart era of English history wasn’t something I tackled a lot at school. 😐

I know that sounds ignorant of me and maybe I should have studied more of the Second English Civil War more in order to comprehend what’s going on with King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell and all that. Heck, I was able to learn more about the Stuarts from watching the ‘Horrible Histories’ TV series. 🙂

Ideally, a ‘Doctor Who’ story set in a historical period should provide an educational value for those who are unfamiliar with certain periods of Earth history. I feel that works better in a TV production and a full-cast audio production by Big Finish as opposed to a ‘Doctor Who’ book or an audiobook. 😐

If ‘The Roundheads’ was divided into 35 chapters as opposed to 12 chapters, maybe I could absorb the details going on between characters and the historical situation they’re in. It doesn’t help when the chapters in the audiobook overlap with each other as you’re moving on to hearing the next disc.

Disc 1 contains the prologue and Chapter 1 but contains the first half of Chapter 2. Disc 2 contains the second half of Chapter 2 and then the first half of Chapter 3, I believe. Disc 3 contains the second half of Chapter 3 and the first half of Chapter 4 and…you get where the CD structure goes from here.

I’m glad I purchased ‘The Roundheads’ audiobook as an 8-disc CD set as opposed to a download on Audible, since I would’ve spent about 12 long nights reading each chapter of the story without taking a break during each chapter. I took my time to read the book whilst hearing the audiobook CD set. 🙂

Incidentally, I purchased ‘The Roundheads’ 2015 reprint book as part of ‘The History Collection’. I’m surprised ‘The Roundheads’ isn’t available as a Kindle. I would’ve preferred purchasing the book as a download instead of reading the story in a paperback format with the audiobook in the background.

Another disgruntlement I have with ‘The Roundheads’ is how the Second Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie are split up from each other. Now, I appreciate Mark Gatiss writes well for these characters. I mean, I can’t say the depiction of the Second Doctor and his friends is unfaithful before the TV show.

However, it was often a challenge to see where the Second Doctor and his friends’ journeys were going when they split up from each other. The Second Doctor and Jamie are with each other for most of the time and Polly gets split up from Ben who ends up on a ship heading off for Amsterdam.

It was nice for the Second Doctor and Jamie getting to know each other. Jamie seems to be quite inexperienced in his travels with the Second Doctor and crew, since he’s barely had his adventures in stories like ‘The Highlanders’, ‘The Underwater Menace’, ‘The Moonbase’ and ‘The Macra Terror’. 😀

It was also interesting to see Polly befriending Frances Kemp as well as catching the eye of people like Christopher Whyte. Ben also befriends a pirate lady called Captain Sal Winter, who you could easily see Lynda Baron playing very well. 😀 Mind you, I wasn’t that fully invested in our heroes’ journeys.

It might have to do with the historical atmosphere that put me off or it could be that I’m not as invested in the TARDIS team of the Second Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie like I am with the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric. Most of their TV stories are still missing from the BBC archives after all.

Going back to what I was saying about the politics featured between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers, I found it a struggle to understand them. Again, this is due to not knowing much about the Stuart period of history very well as well as not being so interested in how the political world works.

‘The Roundheads’ is also serious as a ‘Doctor Who’ story compared to others I’ve seen, read and heard. I would’ve preferred it if ‘The Roundheads’ contained more humour like in order historical adventures like ‘The Romans’ and ‘The Myth Makers’. Sadly, that’s not to be found in this adventure.

One aspect of ‘The Roundheads’ I found interesting is when the Second Doctor takes a history book from the TARDIS for Jamie’s benefit, before he soon loses it. The book is picked up by Richard Cromwell, Oliver Cromwell’s son, and the Doctor and Jamie must find a way in retrieving the book. 🙂

Polly also ends up being involved in securing the release of King Charles I who was about to be executed by the Parliamentarians. I’m not sure how historically accurate that is when reading/hearing the book, but I imagine it’s a piece of artistic licence on Mark Gatiss’ part in the writing.

Whilst most of ‘The Roundheads’ has the feel of a pure historical adventure from the early days of the Second Doctor era, I couldn’t help be put off when some of the character swear Christ’s name in the book. That kind of blasphemy wouldn’t be shown in the ‘Doctor Who’ TV stories of the mid-1960s. 😦

I like how Jamie’s awkwardness is presented in the book when he’s considered to be a seer into the future, but he needs the Doctor’s help to cover up that he can’t really see into the future. It puts me in mind of when Jamie can’t play out the role of an authority figure in a story like ‘The War Games’. 🙂

The story concludes with the Second Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie departing in the TARDIS as usual at the end of a ‘Doctor Who’ story. There’s also an aftermath as to what happened to King Charles I when he’s executed and what happened to Oliver Cromwell, which I believe happened in real-life. 🙂

So yeah, ‘The Roundheads’ was rather underwhelming for me as a ‘Doctor Who’ story. That might not be the case for other ‘Doctor Who’ fans who can praise the heck out of it, but this one didn’t do it for me. Maybe with multiple reads/listens, I might appreciate ‘The Roundheads’ more as a story. 🙂

It’s certainly well-read by Anneke Wills in the audiobook and Mark Gatiss clearly has put a lot of effort in the rich detail he provides in his story. I just wish there were more chapters to absorb each aspect of the story and ‘The Roundheads’ is clearly screaming to be adapted into a Big Finish audio.

‘The Roundheads’ rating – 5/10

The previous story

For the Second Doctor was

  • ‘The Yes Men’ (Audio)

For Polly was

  • ‘The Yes Men’ (Audio)

For Ben was

  • ‘The Yes Men’ (Audio)

For Jamie was

  • ‘The Yes Men’ (Audio)
The next story

For the Second Doctor is

For Polly is

For Ben is

For Jamie is

Return to The Second Doctor’s Timeline
Return to Polly’s Timeline
Return to Ben’s Timeline
Return to Jamie’s Timeline
Return to The Doctors’ Timelines Index
Return to The Companions’ Timelines Index
Return to Doctor Who Timelines
Return to Doctor Who
Return to Sci-Fi

2 thoughts on “‘The Roundheads’ (Book/Audio)

  1. Timelord 007

    Excellent review Tim & i completely agree with your comments that this is a slow grind of a story all talk & no action.

    I struggled to finish this because i wasn’t interested in the plot & if story don’t grip me i lose interest, i think historical stories can be hit & miss & this one was a miss.

    5/10 a fair rating.

    I won’t comment on Boba Fett yet as my cousin & i are watching the three episodes Friday & the others episodes as they then air he’s been busy so haven’t had a chance catch up until Friday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon,

      Glad you enjoyed my review on ‘The Roundheads’. I’m pleased you agree with what I’m saying. I thought I was going crazy in thinking I was the only one underwhelmed by this adventure. This story needed more chapters to asborb each aspect of what was going on and like you said, there needed to be more action. I’m currently enjoying the ‘Delta and the Bannermen’ novelization/audiobook, which thankfully has more chapters and is easy to enjoy in terms of the story.

      I’m waiting for ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ to be completed on Disney+. In the meantime, I’m currently checking out the rest of ‘The Orville’, ‘Superman and Lois’ and ‘Around the World in 80 Days’.

      Many thanks for your comments.

      Tim 🙂



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