A Big Hand for the Doctor by Eoin Colfer

The First Doctor and Susan battle Soul Pirates in Victorian London.

This must be one of the most revisionist Doctor Who stories ever written. This is the First Doctor seen through the prism of his Tenth and Eleventh incarnations. The character here is full of twenty-first century cultural references, which doesn’t sit particularly well with William Hartnell’s TV incarnation. I fully expected him to say, “I wear an astrakhan hat now. Astrakhan hats are cool.”

This is a short story squarely aimed at children who have probably never seen any pre-Eccleston Who, and as such Colfer makes no attempt at being faithful to the era. The absence of Ian and Barbara alongside the Doctor and his granddaughter strongly suggests this is set before An Unearthly Child. We meet the Doctor well into a mission to hunt down Soul Pirates, in an apparently fully-controllable TARDIS. This element is probably the most jarring (although the Doctor’s vision of his mother is a contender. Surely no-one thinks his mother named him Doctor); the First Doctor just isn’t this kind of hero to begin with. He’s a fugitive, desperate to keep his secret from humans. It’s hard to reconcile his heroics here with the character who threatens to throw Ian and Barbara out of the TARDIS or bash a caveman skull in. As Phil Sandifer says in the first volume of his excellent TARDIS Eruditum, the Doctor at this time is still learning to be the Doctor. Here we basically have Tennant’s Time Lord in an old man’s body. Another thing is the near-constant referring to him as a Time Lord, which never happens to the First Doctor.

For a story about the Doctor and Susan’s pre-televised adventures, you really can’t beat Kim Newman’s excellent Time and Relative.

Not read A Big Hand for the Doctor yet? Buy now from Amazon:

 Doctor Who: A Big Hand For The Doctor: First Doctor – 50th Anniversary (Doctor Who Digital)

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One thought on “A Big Hand for the Doctor by Eoin Colfer

  1. Pingback: Hunters of Earth | Carlisle Who Fan

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