doctor who sting of the zygonsStephen Cole
BBC Books

Martha had encountered several alien creatures in her time, and was no stranger to their evil agendas. Yet the Zygons were the first monsters she’d met who forced their prisoners into playing cards.

The TARDIS lands the Doctor and Martha in the Lake District in 1909, where a small village has been terrorized by a giant, scaly monster. The search is on for the elusive ‘Beast of Westmorland’, and explorers, naturalists and hunters from across the country are descending on the fells. King Edward VII himself is on his way to join the search, with a knighthood for whoever finds the Beast. But there is a more sinister presence at work in the Lakes than a mere monster on the rampage, and the Doctor is soon embroiled in the plans of an old and terrifying enemy. As the hunters become the hunted, a desperate battle of wits begins–with the future of the entire world at stake…

Ah, the Zygons. Only featured in the one four-part serial in 1975 (“Terror of the Zygons”), and as I pointed out at a Doctor Who fan club meeting, looked like a cross between a recorder and a pickle. But, they were reportedly also David Tennant’s favorite Doctor Who monster, and thus were once again brought back as one of the side antagonists in The Day of the Doctor event. But, before even that was ever dreamed of, the Tenth Doctor was featured in this nifty little yarn featuring him, companion Martha Smith, and the afore mentioned musical pickles. “Musical Pickles” being a great band name.

The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Martha to 1909, where a giant dinosaur-like creature that seems to resemble a famous loch-dwelling creature up north a bit is terrorizing a small village. They run into a gentleman hunter who, while traveling to the small village, explains to them about the massive gathering of hunters coming together to find and bag this overgrown critter, by order of King Edward himself. When they get to the area, the Doctor deduces that this creature is, in fact, a Skarasen, which can only mean there are Zygons nearby. So, while everyone else is searching around for the Skarasen, the Doctor and Martha go looking about to see what the Zygons are up to…which happens to be the old “World Domination by way of Impersonating World Leaders” gambit.

The Sting of the Zygons is, more or less, a sequel to the original “Terror of the Zygons” serial, Which, one could argue, could be considered a prequel, as it technically takes place several decades before the events in “Terror of the Zygons”. But, this particular Doctor had already lived through the first story in his Fourth incarnation, so if you look at things in a non-linear, timey-whimey standpoint…

…and my NERD ALERT just started flashing and beeping. Sorry about that. Let’s carry on with the review, shall we?

Once again, we have Stephen Cole cranking out another Doctor Who yarn, managing to pull off a nice period piece while playing with an alien species that, up to this time, had been only featured on that afore-mentioned serial from the 1970s, a comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine in 1981, and another novel and an audio play featuring the Eighth Doctor. Okay, there was also the novelization of the serial titled Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster by Terrance Dicks that expounded a bit more on the whole “stinger” ability the Zygons have, and the Eighth Doctor novel itself did go a bit deeper in the…

…huh, that’s an interesting shade of red that NERD ALERT is now flashing. And smoke seems to be issuing from it. I may have to reel this in, here.

Sting of the Zygons is a good Doctor story that manages to keep my attention throughout, written in a very cinematic way with some good dialogue, and managing to make an admittedly absurd-looking alien creation seem menacing, regardless of looking like they would sound like a calliope whenever they sneezed.