Review: “Doctor Who: The Good Doctor” by Juno Dawson

912z0swceqlWith every new season of Doctor Who comes a new set of tie-in novels featuring the current Doctor. As season 11, the first season to feature Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor, just recently premiered, it’s time for the tie-in books to be released. The first of these, The Good Doctor, was released October 26 and was written by the New-to-Who author, Juno Dawson. It’s a novel that explores the impact the Doctor’s visits can have on a world and how religions might spring forth from them. It’s a pretty darn good book.

For a Good Doctor there’s only one rule: first do no harm.

On the planet of Lobos, the Doctor halts a violent war between the native Loba and human colonists. Job done, the TARDIS crew departs – only for Ryan to discover he’s left his phone behind. Again.

Upon returning, the Doctor finds that the TARDIS has slipped hundreds of years into the future – and that something has gone badly wrong. The Loba are now slaves, serving human zealots who worship a godlike figure known as The Good Doctor.

It’s time for the Doctor to face up to the consequences of her last visit. With Lobos on the brink of catastrophe, will she be able to make things right?

I love the idea of the Doctor inadvertently being the central figure of a religion. It only makes sense that someone who gets involved in the affairs of so many different civilizations would end up being a part of a religion or two. Former showrunner, Steven Moffat, briefly flirted with this idea during the Matt Smith Era (as it’s hinted that the Doctor has become a legendary, mythological figure in lots of cultures and also basically ended up being a central figure in the creation of the Church of the Silence – a church literally created to make sure he never says his name to the Time Lords on Trenzalore), but there’s never really been any meaningful exploration of the idea – in New-Who, at least – until now. Juno Dawson’s novel is a remarkable exploration of how the Doctor’s actions could influence a society to create a religion based around her, and then for that religion to get several facets of the Doctor completely wrong. I don’t want to go into any real detail as to just how this religion gets these facets of the Doctor wrong, but let’s just say that they get a lot of it pretty majorly wrong and that ends up fueling much of the conflict of the book.

The other major part of the book is a pretty typical Doctor Who plotline where there are two groups of people with differing ideologies for how their society should be run fighting against each other and the Doctor has to step in and sort it all out. The Temple, the main religious rulers who were inspired by the Doctor’s acts on the planet six hundred years earlier, is in charge and rule with a pretty big authoritarian fist while an underground group of rebels, made up of Lobos (anthropomorphic dog-like beings) and humans who don’t agree with the Temple’s rules, are plotting ways to take down the Temple and give equality to all beings of the planet. Naturally, the Doctor, Ryan, and Graham end up getting captured by the Temple while Yaz is captured by the rebels and this separation of our core group is what ultimately brings these two warring sides together in a climactic clash.

Juno Dawson does a remarkable job at capturing the feel of Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor and this new era of Doctor Who. This whole story feels like an episode we could see in this season and the Doctor and the companions all sound and feel exactly like they do in the series. Dawson perfectly captures and replicates the voices of the characters while also exploring and developing them some. We get a glimpse in this novel at how much Graham does care about Yaz, something we haven’t really seen in the show as of yet. We get a sense that the four of them have been traveling for a while, so it’s likely set some time after Arachnids in the UK. The novel trods along at a nice pace, never dawdling too much but also spending a good amount of time on each scene and allowing the story the room to breathe sometimes.

I love the idea of the Doctor influencing a planet so much that they develop a religion around her. I love the idea of that planet’s religion getting much of the Doctor fundamentally wrong. I love how Dawson explores this idea. I love how this horrible religion based around the Doctor has ended up being a terrible thing for many of the inhabitants of the planet. I love how the Doctor reacts to this religion and how it propels her through the novel to set things right. So much of this book was definitely great. My one complaint would be its length. I wish it was longer and had a bit more time to explore the Doctor’s relationship to religion and show us more of how the idea of her being the central figure of a religion actually impacts her on an emotional level. That’s a very small complaint, though, as these novels aren’t designed to be all that long and the authors who write them just don’t have the room in the novels to explore themes like this as much as I’d like. For what it’s meant to be, this novel is great. It explores this central idea in a really interesting and impactful way. It captures the spirit of this new Doctor and her companions perfectly and it gives the audience a new, interesting story that feels right at home with what they’re watching on TV. It’s great reading for anyone who loves this new Doctor!

4.5 out of 5 wands

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