‘THE CRAWLING TERROR’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Scary Spiders and Insects with the Twelfth Doctor and Clara
It’s a deadly threat and a web of deceit!
Oh I’m not talking about the book! I’m talking about the monsters featured in ‘The Crawling Terror’! And it’s what it says on the book’s front cover! As for the book itself, ‘The Crawling Terror’ is pretty good! I so thoroughly enjoyed reading/listening to this exciting Twelfth Doctor and Clara adventure!
‘The Crawling Terror’ is one of three ‘New Series Adventures’ in the ‘Doctor Who’ book series featuring the Twelfth Doctor and Clara to tie in with Series 8, the first TV season with Peter Capaldi. The book was released in September 2014 and it’s by Mike Tucker, who does a pretty good job here.
I purchased the book at ‘The Capitol II’ convention at the Arora Hotel, Gatwick in May 2017 from Mr. Mike Tucker himself. He even signed the book for me when I met him at that convention. I enjoyed meeting him and chatting to him about his writing ‘Doctor Who’ stories and other stuff too.
Mike Tucker is well-known for being a visual effects assistant/model effects supervisor for both the classic series and new series of ‘Doctor Who’. But he’s also a ‘Doctor Who’ writer for both books and audio dramas. I’ve heard quite a number of ‘Doctor Who’ audio stories by Mike Tucker for Big Finish.
These include ‘The Warehouse’; ‘The Genocide Machine’ and ‘Dust Breeding’ with Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor. He’s also co-written books like ‘Illegal Alien’ and ‘Storm Harvest’ with Robert Perry. This was the first time I had ever come across a ‘Doctor Who’ book entirely penned by Mike Tucker.
Mike Tucker had written a few ‘New Series Adventures’ books for ‘Doctor Who’ before including ‘The Nightmare of Black Island’ and ‘Snowglobe 7’ with the Tenth Doctor. This is the first book in a long while that he’s written for BBC Books and it is his first one featuring the Twelfth Doctor in 2014.
I think it’s fair to say that Mike Tucker gets often overlooked as a ‘Doctor Who’ writer and can be considered to be underrated. He’s clearly good writing ‘Doctor Who’ stories. From what I’ve heard and read so far, I wouldn’t at all be so surprised if he was considered to write for the TV series itself.
It was interesting to hear Mike Tucker’s stance on writing from watching DVD documentaries; listening to audio interviews on Big Finish CD; meeting him at ‘The Capitol II’ convention and hearing him on a panel talk with Gary Russell at that event. Clearly Mike has put some thought in his writing.
It was especially interesting to hear from both Mike Tucker and Gary Russell on how they approached for writing the Twelfth Doctor in the BBC Books. This is especially the case for Mike Tucker as he was writing for a Doctor who at that time was unfamiliar to the general public on TV screens.
I asked Mike Tucker and Gary Russell at the convention whether they drew inspiration from watching Peter Capaldi in other things like ‘The Thick of It’ to get an idea on how to write for his Doctor. But they basically said “No” and wrote the Doctor as he was without watching Peter Capaldi.
I suppose it makes sense considering Peter Capaldi would’ve had to make the part in his own way and for Mike Tucker writing ‘The Crawling Terror’, he wouldn’t be able to know who Peter Capaldi’s Doctor was without seeing him. So he basically underwrites him, hoping for the best that it sounds like him.
Maybe Mike Tucker was given a few hints and suggestions from Steven Moffat on what the Twelfth Doctor was supposed to be like in character. From reading/hearing the book itself, the Twelfth Doctor does come across as grumpy and sarcastic and that is what you’d expect Peter Capaldi to be.
Thankfully this is helped with Neve McIntosh providing the audiobook reading for ‘The Crawling Terror’. I purchased ‘The Crawling Terror’ audiobook off Audible whilst reading the book itself. Neve McIntosh is very well-known for playing Madame Vastra the Silurian in the new ‘Doctor Who’ TV series.
The book itself is divided into 21 chapters with a prologue at the beginning and an epilogue at the end. The story is about the Twelfth Doctor and Clara visiting Ringstone in Wiltshire in 2014. Something strange is going on as monstrous giant insects and spiders attack the village’s inhabitants.
The Doctor knows something’s wrong and it’s connected to strange symbols engraved on an ancient stone circle. The mystery takes the Doctor back in time to the Second World War where the crisis all started. Can the Doctor save Ringstone from the menace of the evil Wyrresters wanting to conquer?
Going back to Neve McIntosh, I found her reading of this story very good. Her Scottish accent is strong throughout this audiobook reading, but I found it relaxing as she was telling the story. She doesn’t do exact recreations of the Twelfth Doctor and Clara’s voices, but she does deliver the tone of them.
Of course, Neve McIntosh has worked with Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman before in the TV series. Neve previously worked with Peter Capaldi in his first episode, ‘Deep Breath’. So she’s able to deliver the strong Scottish voice of the Twelfth Doctor as she does get to sound like him in her performance.
Neve does do a lighter voice for Clara in the audiobook reading when performing her, but it’s not distinctive or sound like it’s a girl from Lancashire. 😀 The voices for the supporting characters aren’t anything special either, but somehow her reading of the story distracted from that particular aspect.
The story itself feels like it could come from a 1970s horror movie. Now that I’ve watched many 1970s horror movies in my lifetime, but I’m guessing that’s the approach Mike Tucker went with. It certainly is very compelling and frightening when giant insects and spiders are attacking people here.
The going back in time to 1944 subplot where the Twelfth Doctor is accompanied by police constable Charlie Bevan was interesting. It would’ve been nice if Clara went with him, but at least the Doctor sees for himself how this had all started with Jason Clearfield using his teleportation device experiment.
The stone circle part of the story does have echoes of ‘The Stones of Blood’ in this adventure. There’s even a reference made to that story. And of course Mike Tucker had to make a reference to Judson from ‘The Curse of Fenric’ in this story, because…you know…he worked on the story’s visual effects.
As I indicated, this is a story about the Twelfth Doctor who is basically starting in his new life from the early part of Series 8. There are references made to how he’s learning new things about his new body. There is a sense of uncertainty about whether he can perform the same skills that he used to.
But I like how Mike Tucker keeps the Doctor to remaining clever and being able to outwit his enemies as he should do so. The Doctor comes across as snarky at times and even called Clearfield an idiot using his sonic screwdriver. But clearly the Doctor is so determined to save Ringstone’s people.
I also like the references for Clara’s character in this story. There’s a reference to Danny Pink who happens to be her new boyfriend since the events of ‘Listen’. In terms of a character journey, she gets separated from the Doctor and has her own adventure with Angela Drabble, the veterinary surgeon.
However, Clara also suffers with her body being taken over by an evil Wyrrester called Gebbron and her mind gets placed inside a scorpion-like body. It was interesting to read/hear how Clara experienced that horrible experience as an arachnid and I’d hoped she would survive after this story.
The Wyrresters are an arachnid species in this tale in this typical alien invasion story on Earth. It was interesting how these aliens managed to control the insect and spider-like creatures in Ringstone, by making them giant-sized and even had people ‘zombie-fied’ to work as servitors under their control.
Jason Clearfield was interesting as a misguided Earth scientist who tries his teleportation device in 1944 before it goes horribly wrong. He becomes influenced by the Wyrresters and has his face damaged, causing him to wear a mask. It’s a very typical mad scientist villain development approach.
Like I said, the book includes characters like Charlie Bevan and Angela Drabble who join the Twelfth Doctor and Clara in solving these strange happenings in Ringstone. There’s also a little boy named Kevin Alperton who notices these peculiar occurrences, especially as he gets attacked by a mosquito.
There are also army characters featured in this story like Colonel Dickinson; Captain Wilson (not Sergeant Wilson from ‘Dad’s Army’ I might add) and Corporal Palmer who come to Ringstone to see these strange things happen. There’s also Robin Sanford, once a private who saw it happen in 1944.
There’s also Gabby Nichols who has a son and daughter that witnessed ‘daddy longlegs’ in their house. It was a shock when reading Gabby taking his son and daughter home from a village meeting about the insects and getting horribly attacked by monsters on a giant web. I wasn’t expecting that.
‘The Crawling Terror’ is very good as a ‘Doctor Who’ book by Mike Tucker. I’m glad I got my copy of the book signed by Mike when I saw him at ‘The Capitol II’ convention. This book is a good example of how to tell a ‘Doctor Who’ story right with the Twelfth Doctor and Clara by an underrated writer.
It feels like a 1970s horror movie story, especially with giant spiders; insects; webs and everything. The mad scientist part of the story is very good. I don’t think it’s strong in developing the Twelfth Doctor and Clara’s characters and relationships, but that’s a minor thing as the story feels very good.
‘The Crawling Terror’ rating – 8/10
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