REVIEW: ‘The Good Doctor’ by Juno Dawson

Juno Dawson kicks off the Thirteenth Doctor’s era in books by showing our heroes what happens after they’ve gone.

Another day, another adventure for the Doctor and friends liberating the planet of Lobos. But when they accidentally return hundreds of years later, they find their influence got a little lost in translation. The human colonists now dominate the native loba as decreed by their God. The most exulted Good Doctor – a retired bus driver from Sheffield – and his Temple of Tordos.

With the Doctor’s philosophy distorted, exploited and (worst of all) misattributed, Team TARDIS have to set things right. Before the bitter fight between loba and human leaves them without a planet to save.

About the Author

Juno Dawson is a British author and columnist Her earliest works include Under My Skin and All of the Above before tackling mental health and gender identity. She’s worked closely with Stonewall and advocates for LGBTQ+ issues.

Dawson’s most recent titles include This Book is Gay and Mind Your Head. Her upcoming novel Meat Market about an androgynous woman catapulted to modelling stardom is slated for release in May next year.

Making her first leap into the Whoniverse over at Big Finish, Dawson’s first script was 1970s Torchwood LA adventure The Dollhouse. Which I reviewed over at BlogtorWho.

She also penned the third Aliens Among Us episode introducing the eponymous Orr, played by Samantha Béart, who became a fan-favourite. Which I also reviewed for BlogtorWho.

Alongside Una McCormack and Steve Cole, Dawson ushers in the Whittaker era in the first of three tie-in novels for the eleventh series of Doctor Who.

Setting the Scene

To distort the purity of the Good Doctor is an abomination

This is the first prose I’ve read from Dawson and it’s fair to say she starts out strong. The opening few pages has to do a lot in very short order and each element is introduced with a nice blend of the familiar and the alien. The result is that we get to follow a mini-story introducing new characters and a new setting, but without much exposition. The presence of a human colony allows Dawson to use familiar terms to set the warzone scene very quickly. Dawson also has a remarkably good grasp of how the series regulars talk and interact. Which is surprising given that The Good Doctor must have been written long before she saw any footage of the new cast. Whether this was down to good character briefs, insightful writing or both, this was a real treat to read.

Twitter Says…

I asked people on Twitter to tell me what they thought of The Good Doctor

Temples & Tunnels

The story moves at a decent clip, fitting a surprising amount of action into a svelte 226 pages. Yaz and Ryan in particular do a lot of running about to get between the loba camps and the temple. This could have made it hard to keep track. But Dawson does a good job at keeping the reader aware of their motivations at any given time. It’s much easier to remember who’s going where when you remember why they’re going.

The action is split between the two groups with the loba rebels being fun to follow as they move into a new setting with each appearance. The Good Doctor’s disciples at the temple are at their most interesting when plotting to . Dawson is careful to show us a range of perspectives on both sides, typically involving the oldest characters being the most zealous while the younger ones are more open to co-operation. A very sweet subplot between Tempika and Jaya is a nice bit of humanity in a sometimes quite brutal story. It also serves as a nice way to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion as things go full circle with the opening chapter.

With so much going on, I was only a little disappointed that a major resolution depends a little too heavily on the sonic screwdriver and luck. But there are enough moments of the Doctor thinking her way out of things that I didn’t mind one quick fix. Even Dawson seems to think so as she has the Doctor hastily explain why such a trick probably won’t work again.

Mykados & Pry

Before my last regeneration I was allowed to go anywhere I wanted, what exactly has changed?

Dawson uses the book to touch on several themes, but most of the time these take a backseat to the main plot. As in the current TV series, the fact of the Doctor’s new gender is not ignored, but nor is it given too much focus. The Doctor briefly ruminates on the change and there’s a dig at online trolls when zealous Mykados discovers that the Good Doctor is actually a woman. But this element is, perhaps wisely, not explored any further. Where the story really takes a stand is its damning criticism of how belief is exploited by the power-hungry. It’s not a critique of religion per se, but Mykados is practically the Tordos Pope and Dawson is merciless in framing him as a villain. Meanwhile Pry, leader of the loba rebels, believes in a cause with an intense zeal but is a much more complex type of belief.

Twitter Says…
The Good Doctor

In Dawson’s attempts to cram an action-packed story and exploration of some delicate themes, The Good Doctor borders on busy. There’s not a lot of time for our heroes to stop and breathe. But it’s effective in maintaining a consistent tension. In the right mood, you’re hooked throughout but it’s not a story to relax with. Most people, but kids especially, will adore the action and the comedy from Graham and the Temple Brothers. It may also deliver an important lesson on thinking critically on tradition and beliefs, which is always a good thing. Overall, a satisfying if a little overwhelming adventure for Team TARDIS.

Doctor Who: The Good Doctor is available to buy now.

Keep an eye out for reviews of Molten Heart by Una McCormack and Combat Magicks by Steve Cole coming soon.

Thanks to everyone who signal-boosted my call for Twitter responses. Special thanks to The Time Ladies; go check out their blog!

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