ten little aliens 50th Ten_Little_AliensStephen Cole
BBC Worldwide / BBC Books
2002 / 2013

Deep in the heart of a hollowed-out moon the First Doctor finds a chilling secret: ten alien corpses, frozen in time at the moment of their death. They are the empire’s most wanted terrorists, and their discovery could end a war devastating the galaxy. But is the same force that killed them still lurking in the dark? And what are its plans for the people of Earth?

About a year after the big 50th Anniversary media celebration of Doctor Who, and I’m finally getting around to reading the eleven novels released, each featuring one of each incarnation of the Doctor. And since I not so much suffer as I revel in my slight case of CDO (it’s like OCD, but in alphabetical order LIKE IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE), I’ve started with the First Doctor novel in the collection: Ten Little Aliens.

As the title implies, the inspiration for this tale was the works of mystery writer Agatha Cristie. Matter of fact, in the introduction by author Stephen Cole, the concept was essentially “Starship Troopers meets Agatha Christie”. And this is essentially what this is–the Doctor and companions Polly and Ben stumble upon a murder mystery on a planetoid in the outskirts of the Earth Empire. The bodies of ten renegade aliens are suspended in time stasis, while a team of space Marines (not the first time I’ve written “space Marines”, an something tells me it won’t be the last) arrive to do some drills with a couple of kill-bots (not the first time I’ve written…you know what, forget it), but instead stumble upon both the bodies and travelers of that mysterious blue box that really shouldn’t be there. Awkward enough, but things get weirder when mysterious living angel statues (that are NOT the Weeping Angels, I assure you) start popping up, and bodies both living and otherwise start disappearing, and the ones that haven’t disappeared are beginning to turn from human to alien. And one chapter is written like a Choose Your Own Adventure story. I’m not making that up.

As a First Doctor tale, Ten Little Aliens was fantastic. The idea to make this an Agatha Christie style murder goes beyond merely conceptual–the author actually discussed the idea with Christie’s daughter Rosalind Hicks while researching an article on the mystery writer for an article and discovered that the family were fans of Doctor Who since the early days of the show–and you can tell the amount of effort that was put into the story. This isn’t just Hardy Boys in space (though…admittedly that kind of story would be cool); the story kept me guessing, the red herrings were good and effective, and the overall feel was tense and claustrophobic, making this one hum-dinger of a page turner. Even without the inclusion of The Doctor and his companions, Ten Little Aliens would have worked as a nice sci-fi mystery yarn.

But, Ten Little Aliens is a Doctor tale, a “Who-dunnit”, if you will (I’m quoting the author from the introduction, put the blunt objects down), and it’s a good one. My copy is, obviously, the 50th Anniversary reprint. Great story, satisfying read, recommended on multi-genre levels, here.