I really enjoyed the Quick Reads range: these were relatively short stories designed to get people reading, and to give novel-readers a break from something lengthy.
Unbelievably, it’s been over 10 years since the first Doctor Who one – I Am A Dalek by Gareth Roberts – was released – and three since the last! That was February 2013’s The Silurian Gift, one of only two Eleventh Doctor stories for the range (the other being the excellent Magic of the Angels, co-starring Amy and Rory). The series didn’t bother with creating new monsters, instead relying solely on the draw of Cybermen, Judoon, Sonatarans, and Krillitane; with Homo Reptilia having made its return in 2010 and being an ongoing presence, thanks to Madame Vastra, throughout Matt Smith’s tenure, the Silurians were a natural fit for the Quick Reads.
Amid a sea of returning foes, The Silurian Gift fares wonderfully well.
It naturally feels like a sequel to Warriors of the Deep, but also has hints of The Tenth Planet, Inferno, and Planet of the Ood – and not just because of the icy climes the Doctor finds himself in (a good contrast to the fairly lush environments or cityscapes of the other Quick Reads). As a Silurian tale, there’s a moral dilemma sitting at its heart and genuinely feels like a Malcolm Hulke-penned book. This isn’t just because it stars his most famous creation – sans that lovely third eye – but also as it reflects the concerns of this generation.
We all know there’s a fuel crisis, and The Silurian Gift revolves around the Fire Ice, a miraculous new power source, originally stored by the former inhabitants of the planet. It adds weight to Eldane’s argument in The Hungry Earth/ Cold Blood (2010) that in return for space on the Earth, the Silurians can give humanity technology beyond our wildest dreams.
Writer, Mike Tucker, packs in a lot of narrative; it helps that the pace is fast, the prose very enjoyable and grabbing, and the characters all well realised. He’s got the Doctor down to a tee. Lizzie is, in some ways, a traditional would-be companion, but offers something pleasingly different from the Time Lord’s recent batch of friends. There are hints of Ace in there, certainly, but she doesn’t spend enough time with the Doctor to actually feel there’s a genuine connection.
The big news, however, is that the Myrkas are back!
Who groaned? The race of cybernetically-altered wee beasties may not have been realised fully in their sole TV outing, but the idea works. Tucker uses them fleetingly but well nonetheless. It’s great that their part in the Silurian-Sea Devils mythos isn’t ignored. After reading The Silurian Gift, I genuinely feel they could make a solid reappearance in modern Who. That’s an achievement in itself!
(Of course, if you want a bit more Myrka action, you should check out The Scales of Injustice, reprinted in 2014 as part of BBC Books’ “Monster Collection,” and originally published in 1996.)
The book still manages to deliver a surprise or two, even if it’s a short burst of Doctor Who to fill the gap between series, or cater for anyone pining for the Eleventh Doctor.
Yes, it’s a Quick Read. Yes, you can read it within an hour or two. But it’s without doubt one of the strongest Doctor Who books in the Quick Reads range.