THIS STORY TAKES
OFFICIAL BBC HARDBACK
RELEASED IN APRIL
1500BC - King Actaeus
and his subjects live
in mortal fear of the
awesome gods who
have come to visit
their kingdom in
ancient Greece. Except
the Doctor, visiting
with student June,
knows they're not
gods at all. They're
For the aliens, it's the
perfect holiday - they
get to tour the sights
of a primitive planet
and even take part in
can THE DOCTOR bring
the Slitheen excursion
to an end without
And how are events in
ancient Greece linked
to a modern-day plot
to destroy what's
left of the Parthenon?
The majority of BBC Books’ full length Doctor Who tie-ins are wholly original affairs, popular aliens and monsters from the television series itself returning only in the
most exceptional of circumstances. But this month, in a departure from the norm, BBC Books have seen fit to bring back three of the Doctor’s most popular foes, two of which
are exclusive to the revived series.
And as its title proudly proclaims, The Slitheen Excursion sees the return of those dastardly Raxacoricofallapatorian renegades, the Slitheen; a divisive bunch, it has to be said. Very popular with younger members of the audience but perhaps less so with many adult viewers, the baby-faced assassins have not been seen in print since Stephen Cole’s grisly 2005 novel The Monsters Inside (one of my favourite outings for them, incidentally) and have never, to the best of my knowledge, crossed paths with David Tennant’s tenth Doctor.
The Slitheen Excursion is notable for boasting one of the best covers in the range - Lee Binding’s petrified Slitheen juxtaposed with the imposing image of the Greek Parthenon really conjures up a majestic backdrop for the story before the reader has even read a page.
“It’s a theme park…This place lets aliens see the dark past of humanity.
Their battles. Their gladiatorial games.”
Sadly the story itself is rather less stirring than its cover, though at least it can’t be said that the premise is uninspired. Taking a leaf out of the Navarinos’ (Delta and the Bannermen) book and twisting it grotesquely, a bunch of 350th century Slitheen are selling sordid time tours to a whole host of masochistic alien races. These aliens are prepared to pay good money to watch King Actaeus and his ancient Greek subjects kill each other in gladiatorial games or, if the mood should take them, hunt the humans down for sport themselves.
Unfortunately though, despite the interesting idea, I found the first half of the book to be very slow going indeed. The Doctor does not even come face to face with Cosmato Fel Fotch Hangle-Wang Slitheen or any of his cohorts until page 94 (getting on for half way through the book), the preceding pages instead spent building up a very detailed historical picture (and having the Doctor tackle a lion armed with nothing but his sonic screwdriver!)
Nevertheless, I really like how Guerrier portrays the
Slitheen here. This book posits that in or around the
350th century, the humans waged brutal ‘Platonic
Wars’ against the Raxacoricophalapatorians, and
that as such the Slitheen family’s actions in this novel
are – at least in part – motivated by revenge. It’s part-
icularly interesting to see the Doctor’s student friend,
June, react to the knowledge that her descendants will be as barbarous as her ancestors and how this informs her actions towards the end of the book.
Guerrier’s plot is also very cleverly crafted, the events in 1500BC tied into those today in the most brilliant of ways.
“I came back because I’ve still got your rucksack.
You’ll need your passport to get another train. Or… I could give you a lift.”
June, a student from the near future, I was less impressed with. At times she works very well, but for the most part I found it hard to get a handle on her. She is very much the temporary ‘holiday special’ companion, à la Astrid Peth in Voyage of the Damned, as she is there by the Doctor’s side right from the book’s opening scene and remains there until the end (and, in a nice little finishing touch, potentially beyond).
Dripping with historical detail, The Slitheen Excursion would without a doubt come as a real treat for someone who has a passion for or even a passing interest in Ancient Greece, but for me I found it distinctly middling. But then again, after being utterly spoiled by Guerrier’s splendid script for the recent Big Finish audio drama The Judgment of Isskar, The Slitheen Excursion was always going to have a hard time measuring up.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2009
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.
‘Doctor Who’ is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.