Please feel free to comment on my review.
Adamantine with the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz
Are things heating up for the Thirteenth Doctor TARDIS team?
It’s taken me a while to read/hear another Thirteenth Doctor novel! 🙂 At this point, I’ve seen Series 11 and Series 12 of ‘Doctor Who’ featuring Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor. For the most part, I can safely say how happy I’ve been with the Jodie Whittaker/Chris Chibnall era of ‘Doctor Who’ since it began.
I know there’s still disgruntlement among a lot of ‘Doctor Who’ viewers/fans who don’t praise the Jodie Whittaker/Chris Chibnall era as much as I do compared to previous eras. I just find I can enjoy the era more and I find the characters of the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz very likeable.
I’ve written a few Thirteenth Doctor stories myself, which include ‘Hank Prank’ and the ‘Zorbius’ story ‘The Two Salvadors’. I find it fascinating to explore the Thirteenth Doctor era by writing stories about her and companions and it’s so good to do that along with the TV series and other mediums. 🙂
In writing ‘The Two Salvadors’ for 2020, I read/heard the ‘New Series Adventures’ novel of ‘Doctor Who’ called ‘Molten Heart’ by Una McCormack. At the time the book was published, three ‘New Series Adventures’ novels with the Thirteenth Doctor were published to promote Series 11 for 2018.
That included this, ‘The Good Doctor’ and ‘Combat Magicks’. I’d only read ‘The Good Doctor’ beforehand in 2018 to review it for my 55th anniversary celebrations of ‘Doctor Who’ on ‘Bradley’s Basement’. It has taken a while to get around to reading more Thirteenth Doctor stories after that. 🙂
Thankfully I’ve been able to read ‘Molten Heart’ and I can now share with you what I made of it. I enjoyed reading ‘Molten Heart’. I don’t think it’s as good as ‘The Good Doctor’, but Una McCormack seems to have gotten into the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz who were pretty new then.
Incidentally, the book had been commissioned by Stephen Cole and was written before Series 11 began on TV. The only information available to authors like Una McCormack about the Thirteenth Doctor team was a character crib sheet and script extracts from ‘The Woman Who Fell To Earth’ tale.
There were also images of the Thirteenth Doctor TARDIS team that Una McCormack had to rely on too. I don’t know how Una was able to do it, but she was able to flesh out the characters of the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz well. It matches to what and how they sounded like on TV.
Una McCormack has written a fair amount of ‘Doctor Who’ stories over the years, especially for Big Finish. This includes stories like ‘The Window on the Moor’ with the Ninth Doctor and ‘Field Trip’ with the Twelfth Doctor. She’s also into her ‘Star Trek’ novels, including one for ‘Star Trek: Picard’. 🙂
I’ve enjoyed Una’s storytelling in ‘Doctor Who’ over the years. I can’t say I find it as good as other writers like Jonathan Morris and John Dorney, but I do find Una can come up with some good and decent stories evoking the spirit of each era. It seems the case with this certain novel ‘Molten Heart’.
The story has the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz visiting the planet Adamantine. Down below its surface is a crystalline wonder world. It has lava seas and volcanic islands. It’s also home to a lot of living rock-people. That I imagine could be quite tricky to visualise in a TV medium for ‘Who’!
‘Star Trek V’ had that same problem too and it fell through in the end. 😀 Meanwhile, the Doctor and her friends find the planet Adamantine under threat. The seas are shrinking, the magma’s cooling and mysterious, fatal seething pools are spreading fast. Can the Doctor and her friends solve this mystery?
The book is divided into 11 chapters. Not that I object to an 11 chaptered book, but when you read the story with the audiobook in the background at the same time, it can be a challenge to absorb every detail featured in the tale. This is especially when you’re getting to visualise a new alien world.
Speaking of the audiobook, ‘Molten Heart’ was read by Dan Starkey, who is well-known for playing the Sontarans in ‘Doctor Who’, both on TV and audio. I purchased the audiobook as a download via Audible. It was nice to have the audiobook to listen in the background whilst reading ‘Molten Heart’.
Dan Starkey is an extraordinaire in ‘Doctor Who’. I enjoyed his reading of the story, although I am curious as to why he was chosen to read the tale. This is taking into account that the Sontarans don’t appear in Series 11. Neither did Dan Starkey play a guest character in one of the stories for Series 11.
I know that’s a minor nitpick, but it just makes me curious. Why was Dan Starkey chosen to read ‘Molten Heart’ when as far as I’m concerned, he’s had no association with the Thirteenth Doctor era by this point? Is it to reassure young viewers who were getting used to the change of a new Doctor?
Was having the story read by the guy who played Strax and the Sontarans going to assure people that it’s still a ‘Doctor Who’ story and that they’ll be persuaded to purchase the ‘Molten Heart’ audiobook as well as the novel? Then again, BBC Audio do have a habit of picking a random narrator.
Mind you, Dan Starkey did read ‘Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen’ when it could’ve been Lalla Ward reading the tale. But what does that say about the voices Dan Starkey gave to the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz. Did he make them sound so authentic like they were in the TV series itself? 😐
Well, actually, yes. I’d like to think so. I enjoyed the voices Dan gave to Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor as well as to Graham, Ryan and Yaz. They do sound like the characters they were on TV. Dan must have seen some Series 11 ‘Doctor Who’ clips in secret in order to get the voices of the characters here. 😀
How about Una McCormack’s writing for the TARDIS characters? Do they sound believable in print as they did on TV? I certainly like to think so. I could easily engage with the Thirteenth Doctor’s character as she is full of adventure and curiosity, wanting to know more about the planet Adamanatine here.
She’s also curious about the planet’s people, determined to help those who are oppressed by the oppressors wanting to keep the old order of things and not to go beyond the surface of the planet. The Doctor’s characters feels very reassuring and hopeful just like she sounds during the TV series. 🙂
Graham’s character is very well written in the book. I enjoyed it whenever Graham had some jokey comments to make in the story and when he’s being serious at times. I enjoyed his interaction with Yaz when they journeyed together with Quartz, trying to find more of what happened on the planet. 🙂
In their journey, Graham is more trusting than Yaz about whether Quartz is a good person or not. It’s interesting how Una writes Graham being trusting of the Doctor’s extraordinariness compared to how he was in ‘The Woman Who Fell To Earth’ when he was sceptical about aliens being in Sheffield.
Ryan is also very well-handled in the story. It’s interesting when Ryan teams up with the Doctor and Ash as they go on a journey to find Ash’s father and learn more about what’s on the surface of the alien planet. Ryan has more interaction with the Doctor compared to Graham and Yaz, which is good.
I liked it when some of Ryan’s favourite movies get mentioned like ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Even the ‘Star Wars’ movie ‘The Force Awakens’ gets mentioned! Might refer to Tosin Cole’s little role in that film. I wonder if Ryan has seen movies like ‘The Last Jedi’ and ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ at cinemas yet.
(scoffs) Oh what?! Yeah that’s right, I said it! Let it all out! Come on! 😀
Yaz’s character was also well-handled too. I like how we get to see from Yaz’s point of view at the beginning of the story on why she enjoys being with the Doctor and why she wants to travel in the TARDIS. It’s that side of her character that we don’t often get to see when watching ‘Doctor Who’. 🙂
I also like how Yaz tries to aspire to be like the Doctor, especially when she and Graham are together, trying to solve the mystery of Quartz and what his motivation is. Yaz’s confidence in the Doctor is unwavering, even when she tries to persuade Emerald that the Doctor can help her people.
In terms of the other characters, they include Ash, who’s like the moral heart of ‘Molten Heart’. She’s the daughter of a scientist called Basalt, who’s trying to prove to the people of Adamantine that there is life beyond the surface. Ash can be pretty brave and resourceful when the need comes.
Very often when reading/hearing the story, I found it a challenge to picture the rock-people as…well, rock-people. Most of the time, they sound like human beings. Perhaps that’s a good thing, but I wonder how a challenge it would be to visualise the rock-people of Adamantine for a TV production.
Quartz is a fascinating character to read in the story. At times, you wonder who he’s really working for. The Doctor doesn’t fully trust him upon meeting him. It’s also intriguing how Quartz tries to work for two sides – his friend Basalt and the planet’s ruler Emerald. Will he work for the right side?
Basalt is a character we meet halfway in the book. I did wonder if the Doctor, Ryan and Ash would end up finding Basalt dead as that tends to be often the case when searching for a missing character. Basalt turns out to have an open-mind and a scientific curiosity, which the Doctor approves of in this.
The antagonistic character of the story is Emerald, the planet’s ruler. She’s very dismissive of Basalt’s scientific theories and disapproves of the notion that there might be other life outside of Adamantine. I would’ve liked it Emerald ended up being a full-blown villain, but that isn’t the case. 😐
There are other supporting characters like Onyx, Ouolulu, Lapis-Lazuli, Silver, Sapphire, Ruby and Pearl, but they don’t contribute much to the story and often have a few lines to say. And yes, it’s not escaped my notice that most of the supporting characters’ names are based on minerals and such. 🙂
There is a claustrophobic atmosphere featured in this tale, especially when our main heroes get to journey through tunnels in the crystalline wonder world filled with lava seas and volcanic islands. Again, I wonder how it would be presented if ‘Molten Heart’ became a TV tale instead of a novel. 😐
In terms of the story’s placement, I’ve come to the decision that ‘Molten Heart’ takes place between ‘It Takes You Away’ and ‘The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos’. This is due to the fact that Ryan calls Graham ‘granddad’. I’m glad I picked on that, otherwise I would’ve placed it wrongly in a timeline.
Another interesting aspect about this story is that Una McCormack was trying to go for a C.S. Lewis ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ feel as well as a ‘Hartnell-ish feel’ to it. That’s interesting discovering that. I guess it fits with our four TARDIS members alongside four heroes in ‘LLW’ and four in the First Doctor era. 🙂
‘Molten Heart’ has been an enjoyable ‘Doctor Who’ book to read and listen to, featuring the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz. I wouldn’t say it was a great story compared to ‘The Good Doctor’, but I’m pleased I’ve read it and Una McCormack writes well for the Thirteenth Doctor team.
I also enjoyed the story with the audiobook read by Dan Starkey in the background. I’m keen to check out more Thirteenth Doctor stories and I hope I will have done that by the time you read this review. I continue to enjoy more of the Thirteenth Doctor era, despite the persistent resistance to it.
‘Molten Heart’ rating – 8/10
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