There are two kinds of really good Doctor Who Target novelizations. The ones that take the episode’s original story and gently enhance it and the ones that wholly reimagine their source material. James Moran’s adaptation of his episode, “The Fires of Pompeii”, is a perfect example of the former. This novelization doesn’t rock the boat in any meaningful way. It’s very much the original episode, just with a bit of extra stuff to enhance the story. And it’s all the better for that.
Did you want a bit more insight into Caecilius and his family? You got it. How about a greater look at the soothsayer sisterhood? It’s right there. Even the Pyrovilians get a bit more development too. “The Fires of Pompeii” was never an episode that really felt like it needed a lot of expansion, but it certainly benefits from the small enhancements Moran adds.
The real joy of the book, though, is just how breezy and exciting it is. Moran’s prose manages to perfectly capture the excitement and danger of the TV version. The Doctor and Donna’s endless, playful banter perfectly translates to the page, as do the episode’s copious action set pieces. This isn’t the kind of story that needs a lot of quiet, introspection. It’s a romp in the best sense of the word, and Moran’s novelization perfectly encapsulates that.
At the end of the day, “The Fires of Pompeii” is a quick, action-packed read that’s never anything less than exciting. It won’t suddenly turn you into a fan of the story if you didn’t like the episode. But for those of us who did enjoy it, Moran’s novelization acts as a nice companion piece.
4 out of 5 wands.