Doctor Who has a long history of charity anthologies. For decades, fans have combined their creativity and generosity into these anthologies, telling new stories in the Doctor Who Universe while raising money for numerous charities. The anthologies may technically be unauthorized, but they’re one of my favorite aspects of the Doctor Who fandom. Which is where Kenton Hall and Chinbeard Books’ latest anthology, Regenerations, enters. When Hall reached out to offer a copy for review, I jumped at the chance. I love Doctor Who anthologies and I love the War Doctor. And, having finished the book, it’s well worth the read. It’s a unique, clever Anthology that loving you played with Doctor Who canon while raising money for the charity “Invest in ME” – a UK-based charity that researches Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. (4 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: The publisher provided an advanced copy in exchange for a fair review. All thoughts are my own.)
Regenerations edited by Kenton Hall
The Time Lord formerly known as the Doctor has been fighting the Time War for as long as he can recall. His previous lives — all those triumphs and tragedies — have been boxed up and filed away, too painful to revisit. That is until something — or someone — begins tugging at the thread of the Doctor’s past. As familiar stories twist and shift, threatening the stability of the universe itself, the reluctant Warrior finds himself with only one option. He has to save the Doctor.
A charitable anthology of twisted tales, raising money for Invest In ME .
The War Doctor feels uniquely situated for these kinds of anthologies. Being the Doctor who fought in the Time War, there are lots of opportunities for authors to tell the kinds of strange stories they couldn’t tell with a different Doctor. It’s one of the things that drew me to Seasons of War, another War Doctor anthology, and it’s what drew me to Regenerations. Unlike most anthologies, though, where the stories are disconnected, Regenerations has an overarching narrative that ties all of the shorts together and provides a feasible foundation for those stories to build off of. Sometime during the last days of the Time War, a plan is put in motion to try to prevent the time war from ever happening. The idea? If the Doctor never meets the Daleks, then the Daleks will never develop an interest in time travel or an animosity toward the Time Lords. And so, two agents are sent into the Doctor’s past and time begins to unravel.
What follows is a collection of stories that are riffs and twists on classic Doctor Who serials along with shorter stories that further the War Doctor’s quest to uncover what is going on with his past. The majority of the shorts, particularly those not written by Kenton Hall, are unconnected to the overarching plot of the anthology, but all of them work as interesting inversions of familiar tales. If you’re a fan of classic Doctor Who, you’re going to love these stories. Each of them takes the plot of a classic serial – “An Unearthly Child,” “Genesis of the Daleks,” and “Time of the Rani,” to name a few – and add some new element to the mix. Whether it’s a surprise appearance of a villain who wasn’t in the original serial, or a change in location, or even a change in outcome entirely, these remixes are devilishly fun. The more familiar you are with the original story, The more you’ll enjoy what these authors do. While I wouldn’t say there’s a weak story in the bunch, I would say that some work better than others. For me, the more an author messed with the serial, the more I enjoyed their story. In that context, it should be of little surprise that my favorite story is Alan Ronald’s “Terminus of the Daleks,” a story that reimagines “Genesis of the Daleks” as a play that Time Lord thespians perform to celebrate the day the Doctor killed the Daleks. Still, if you love Doctor Who there’s a story for you in this anthology.
Even the stories that further the anthology’s narrative (mostly written by Hall and rarely wholly remixing other Doctor Who stories) are lots of fun. The plot, itself, is compelling enough, even if it doesn’t entirely make sense in the end. In all fairness, most Time War stories feel a bit too complex; it’s hard to fully wrap your head around shifting timelines and paradoxes. But still, Hall’s narrative is enjoyable, packed with easter eggs, and gives the anthology a kind of structure that most anthologies don’t have. It’s intriguing and well-executed and fans of the War Doctor or the time or should delight in it.
At the end of the day, Regenerations is a great Doctor Who anthology. There is a surprisingly solid framing device and narrative that gives the whole book a structure and momentum that most anthologies lack. And there are some fantastic shorts from a variety of authors that put a new spin on classic Doctor Who serials. It may not be perfect – the overarching plot is a bit too complex and some stories are better than others – but it is enjoyable. It’s well worth the read, especially with all proceeds going to charity. If you’re looking for some new Doctor Who adventures, give it a read.
(4 out of 5 wands.)