Dan Abnett can’t be expected to be a genuine fan of every property he tackles in his ongoing quest to write every character there is, but he’s clearly seeped vintage Who. The Silent Stars Go By feels like the Target novelisation of a four-part serial from the John Nathan Turner era, complete with fourth episode twist and a constant helping of cliffhangers where your brain can’t help but kick in the opening bars of the closing theme, as the Doctor unravels the mysterious threats (one not so mysterious thanks to the atrocious pound shop Christmas card cover art) of a far off human colony, does a fair bit of running around, and faces down critters not seen since 1972.
So far so good harmless festive fun, but if there’s any flaw in telling a classic Who tale in 2011, it’s that the Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory fast become irritating caricatures over such an extended length, better suited to the static introspection of earlier doctors, the Seventh Doctor’s contemplative moodiness, or the Fifth Doctor’s quiet desperation. Abnett is a victim of his own skill in that convincing Amy Pond/Doctor/Rory banter for 30 or so pages quickly begins to grate over the lengthier demands of 300, especially when it’s clearly based on Season Five, early Season Six where there’s precious little character development to draw on to give their trading of verbal blows any real spark.
Writers blaming source material probably has a maxim up there with workmen and tools, but Dan Abnett would be more than welcome to give it a punt, and in spite of it all crafts a convincing romp that unites the spirit of Who past with Who present, all bound up in the worst cover art since the 1985 annual.