An Episode on Your Mind's Screen

Paul Magrs takes us through the journey of Doctor Who and Martha Jones, who fight Voracious Craws. This book shows that not all TV tie-in books are a bore but could just be that much more imaginative and entertaining

Published: 17th February 2014 12:09 PM  |   Last Updated: 17th February 2014 12:56 PM   |  A+A-

I’ve mentioned the Doctor Who novels before; today I would like to review one of them. Because it is a thrilling book and because I would like to make a few points about TV tie-in books, which some people look down on, claiming they are not ‘real books’.

The novel in question is Sick Building by Paul Magrs (pronounced ‘Mars’ — how cool is that? I wish I was named after a planet!). It features the Ninth Doctor and Martha Jones. In the prologue, we are given the perspective of a kind of saber-toothed tiger who has learned of a great danger facing her world, and who is struggling to get to her three little cubs. She is terrified and tired, but her only concern is to keep her babies safe. Then, a mysterious blue box materialises in the jungle...

Within the first few minutes of her  arrival in this world, Martha has saved a young boy from the big cat, and the Doctor has communicated with her and convinced her it is not a threat. There is a threat looming over the planet, though: a Voracious Craw. Voracious Craws are immense worm-like creatures, featureless except for huge mouths with which they consume everything. Animals, plants, minerals, soil, water, earth, they simply absorb it all, leaving a void behind.

This planet has been named Tiermann’s World, after Professor Ernest Tiermann, a reclusive genius who lives here with his wife and son in a self-contained environment called Dreamhome. Dreamhome has its own climate and environment, all centred around a picture-perfect mansion. Inside, the Tiermanns live lives of luxury, waited on hand and foot by Professor Tiermann’s inventions: servo-furniture.

What is servo-furniture? Well, imagine a fridge that comes up to you and offers you a snack. A lawn mower that can do repairs and a talking dish washer. Everything in this house is an intelligent robot, catering to the family’s needs.

But Dreamhome and the whole world are threatened by that Voracious Craw, the destroyer of worlds. The Doctor tries to warn Tiermann, who is unimpressed and says he has already planned to escape with his family. The Doctor tries to get back to try and save the rest of the creatures in the world — and winds up locked up in the deepest dungeon of the Dreamhome!

What follows is a terrifying rush to save everyone on the world, and on the way there are some amazing scenes, both funny and exciting. Have you heard the song Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen? If you haven’t, go listen to it on Youtube. Now imagine Doctor Who singing it, with a robotic snack vending machine and a robotic tanning machine singing along for all the operatic bits — and singing it so as to distract and confuse a huge, hungry bear-like creature! Oh, and there is another scene where the Doctor and his friends defeat a fiendish foe by burping at it. That’s right, burping!

Not that this book is all fun and larks — there is a real threat and equal amounts of tragedy, villainy and heroism. And this brings me to my reasons why it’s okay to read tie-in novels: they are as likely to be great stories as any other novel. And why deny yourself a great story?

Then there’s the fact that it might be easier to get into a book like this because you know what the characters look like and sound like, and anything that makes it easier to get into a book is all right with me! You still have to use your imagination to picture the things that only happen in this book — so it is like collaborating with the author to project an episode on the screen in your mind! Tie-in novels also allow writers to explore characters further than the TV series could manage.

You can also discover good writers — Paul Magrs, for example — not only writes Doctor Who novels but also his own original books including a series called The Adventures of Brenda and Effie about Frankenstein’s bride and her friend, a witch, solving eerie whodunits! And anything that helps you find new writers and new books is just fine.

So the next time you find yourself reaching for a tie-in to your favourite TV series and someone tells you to read ‘a real book’, just look them in the eye and say ‘this is a real book!’


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