doctor who - the stone roseJacqueline Rayner
BBC Books

Mickey is startled to find a statue of Rose in a museum–a statue that is 2000 years old. The Doctor realizes that this means the TARDIS will shortly take them to ancient Rome, but when it does, he and Rose soon have more on their minds than sculpture. While the Doctor searches for a missing boy, Rose befriends a girl who claims to know the future–a girl whose predictions are surprisingly accurate. But then the Doctor stumbles upon the hideous truth behind the statue of Rose–and Rose herself learns that you have to be very careful what you wish for…

There’s a group of Doctor Who fans that are vocal about enjoying their favorite sci-fi phenom when it utilized the “time travel” portion of the concept: The historical stories, that used fact-based history and wove stories around that. And indeed, Doctor Who was originally an educational program that used science fiction as its medium. There were far more historical serieals in the show’s first few years than there have been since. And while I fall more into the “whimsical space travel” category, it’s always fun to see the Doctor interact with various points in Earth’s history. Like he does here in this New Series novel, The Stone Rose.

The Stone Rose was the first novel featuring the Tenth Doctor, and as such it doesn’t exactly catch all of the subtle quirks and nuances of David Tennent’s portrayal as well as future Tenth Doctor novels, mostly due to not having much of a model to go with at the time. That’s okay, because your average Doctor Who fan’s imagination is strong enough to compensate for those oversights.

The story involves the discovery of a statue dating back to Ancient Rome that looks exactly like then companion Rose Tyler, down to the jewelry she was wearing when they found the statue at the local museum. This prompts them to go back to Ancient Rome, mainly to pose for the statue that’s going to adorn said museum so far into the future. But, when they arrive at their destination, they discover that things aren’t exactly as cut and dried as “pose for statue”; while helping a local to find his missing son, they stumble upon the artist that’s producing masterwork statues at a literally impossible pace, his method of which might be behind a bunch of disappearances of slaves, and the publican’s son. Also, there’s the issue of a literal goddess that seemed to have popped up around the time this statue maker got his mad statue-making skills, as well as a slave girl whose method of predicting the future has nothing to do with reading the stars accurately. All this, and the Doctor’s biggest challenge would be not having any pockets on his toga to put his sonic screwdriver in.

Overall, The Stone Rose was, for the most part, an entertaining bit of historical science ficiton. Having the Doctor and Rose interact with everyday Roman society was a nice change of pace, exploring the alien settings of human history, as opposed to an actual alien setting. It always strikes me how different historical cultures and their common ideas about their fellow humans and how they treated them can make anyone in this modern day and age cringe with comparison, if not outraged. It’s easy to forget that, and that part was handled fairly well. It’s when we get to the last bit, when we discover what it is behind everything that’s going on (I won’t spoil things for you), that’s where I’m still not convinced with the outcome. This is why I’m going to give The Stone Rose three and ½ TARDISes out of five. Good amusing story, but not great. Not too shabby for the first Tenth Doctor novel, though.