Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: At Childhood’s End by Sophie Aldred

audiobookHello to my readers once again! It certainly feels like it’s been a while! Now…I think I should have a reunion with a certain Dorothy McShane. I have made it abundantly clear throughout several different reviews that I am quite the Doctor Who fan. Much like every fan of any long running series I have a few favourite eras. So…when I heard that Sophie Aldred – who played the part of the Doctor’s final companion Ace during the classic era of the show (1963-1989 and in Ace’s case specifically 1987-1989) – was going to write a Doctor Who novel where Ace meets up with the current TARDIS crew I HAD to give it a listen! You could think of this as Sophie’s version of Doctor Who: Scratchman written by Tom Baker which I reviewed previously. However…before I discuss the plot I feel I should be honest about my general opinion on the show currently. If you wish to skip ahead to the review of the book feel free and jump to paragraph 5. I do feel though that this section does give my review context.

When Peter Capaldi left the show along with Stephen Moffat and various other behind the scenes figures I was fairly enthusiastic. Even more so when Jodie Whittaker was announced as the new Doctor. I’d heard from others that she had been really good in numerous TV projects so I was reasonably optimistic. Not so much when Chris Chibnall was announced as the new person in charge behind the scenes. For years with a few exceptions he came across as middle of the road at best with his Doctor Who work.

Unfortunately my low opinion of him did not change when Jodie’s era started. I still maintain that Jodie herself and her companions are talented or at the very least have some potential. However the way they have been written for the majority of her run – Jodie herself especially suffers from this – they either come across as one of three things: Excessively quirky to an annoying degree, utterly idiotic (Who doesn’t know who Nikola Tesla is for Pete’s sake!) or incredibly preachy. Case in point the big long speech at the end of one of the more recent episodes about climate change that felt like it came out of nowhere and went on for 6 hours. Even if Doctor Who is a family show I get the feeling that a lot of people who watch the show currently like I still do feel that the show has become self important and condescending to its viewers.

I still love the show for what it did for me when I was first introduced to it 15 or 16 years ago but I don’t want it to lose its soul. Even in the classic era which I adore or the David Tennant years the show could sometimes stand on a soapbox with a megaphone going ‘THIS IS THE MORAL OF THE STORY’ but even then it still felt like there was a fun story built around it and the show didn’t feel like it was condescending to me and treating me like an idiot or a three year old. I genuinely hope the Whittaker era improves and gets some generally better writing. Like I said I think everyone in front of the camera could do brilliantly if they were allowed to.

The plot of At Childhood’s End is as follows: It has been several years for Dorothy McShane, CEO of reputable charity A Charitable Earth since her days of travelling with The Doctor – or as she called him The Professor. Since the days of Ace. They didn’t exactly part on good terms. But things have been getting strange recently. Dorothy has been having terrible recurring nightmares. Nightmares about being abducted to a strange alien world. Again. At the same time groups of young runaways are disappearing and there is quite the bad rat infestation in Perivale, Dorothy’s old home town. Last but not least an alien satellite has just appeared above Earth. How is the Doctor involved in all this? Can Dorothy and The Doctor work past their old issues? Will they be able to solve this mess together for the good of the Earth? And will Dorothy be trusted by Graham, Yaz and Ryan? Is it time for Ace to come out of adventuring retirement?

This audiobook is solid gold! It feels like the perfect mix between the end of the classic era and Doctor Who as it is now. Sophie perfectly captures Ace once again after all these years (Big Finish audios notwithstanding) and her changes in character and mindset feel believable.It’s also lovely to have the odd reference here and there to non televised Doctor Who stories – Cybermen in the Blitz, the Ground Zero incident, Ace on Gallifrey – and a few others. Not forgetting the classic references to Ace’s era. Her writing is excellent, both exciting and engaging enough for you to get lost in the story and intelligent enough for it to feel like it is naturally what is required in the situation. Her choices of phrase can be wonderfully evocative at points. Both her original characters written for the book and her interpretations of the current TARDIS crew feel wonderful. Graham and Ryan got more than a few smiles out of me – as did Jodie herself – and the character development for Yaz in particular was very much appreciated. Any chance we could persuade Sophie to write for the TV series?

The narration for the audiobook is also done by Sophie who has fulfilled the role of narrator on several Doctor Who audiobooks and others as well. Her voice is very good in my opinion at keeping the listener’s attention and matching the character’s emotions at the time. Her narration for Jodie isn’t exactly perfect with regards to accent but I’ve definitely heard worse attempts at the Thirteenth Doctor! I’m almost certainly going to hear Sophie’s narration again soon.

NephriteIn conclusion I highly recommend this book. It is the perfect mix of Classic and New Who. I couldn’t stop grinning through most of the book. The adventure was very gripping and I certainly hope that Sophie could be persuaded to do another Who story of her own in some capacity. It might not be perfect for everyone but regardless if you enjoy the modern era, Classic Who or its all the same to you I’m sure this story will give you more than a few reasons to smile. After all this story…IS WICKED!



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