The Silent Stars Go By
Reviewed by Eddie McGuigan
Dan Abnett’s hardback and audio story is as Christmassy as a Christmas thing, and immediately captures the essence of both Christmas Specials and the present incumbents of the TARDIS, with the Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory, landing on a snowy planet soon to be invaded by old enemies, the Ice Warriors.
Frontiersmen from old Earth are set to terraform this snowy wilderness but have also managed to create a culture and society of their own, with their own history and, importantly, winter festivals. However, like any society, it has its rivalries and problems, and Abnett creates a likeable and believable place for the drama to unfold. Add in the Ice Warriors and we have a thumping, old fashioned, yet modern yarn likely to keep the newbie kids happy as well as gnarled old die hards like me.
His versions of the TARDIS crew is spot on from the get go, and it’s easy to imagine Matt, Karen and Arthur in the roles as they are first bickering happily and then separated, and, in the greatest traditions of Who, blamed for the creeping troubles that are reminiscent of the Peladon stories, as well as the base-under-siege echoes of the Ice Warrior’s original appearances. Abnett also has the Ice Warriors on pat, and the whole book gels perfectly.
It’s a more sophisticated read than you’d first think, too, and works on a few levels – as a homage to the old Who stories, as a modern Dr Who adventure and as an allegory of modern life and society crumbling around people who are, primarily, good.
This is the Christmas Special we’ve never had, and really should do. It has everything we need and expect in a Christmas episode – snow, festivals, old monsters and the Doctor’s crew – without it being crowbarred into something else, like, for instance, A Christmas Carol or, to some extent, throwing some tinsel and turkey around The End of Time.
If you don’t normally read the new fiction, you should give this a try. As a great fan of the missing and new adventures, this is a tale which does justice to those, as well as being evocative of the Target books of old. It’s nice too to see Dan Abnett writing a proper, sprawling, clever romp with many levels, and this is definitely one which could be easily adapted – and in my opinion should be – for tv.