The Eight Doctors opens with a small prologue setting the novel right at the end of the TV Movie. The Doctor has left Earth and finds himself back in the room with the Eye of Harmony where the Master has laid one final trap for his archenemy, something to make him lose his memory so he has to cross his timestream to earlier adventures and the paradox it causes will for whatever reason restore the memories up to that point. There’s also a subplot on Gallifrey where President Flavia (not the previously established President Romana) and a bunch of Time Lords watch in awe and horror as the Doctor travels his path. Ryoth, a Time Lord of the Celestial Intervention Agency, uses a Timescoop in an attempt to stop the Doctor but is eaten by a Drashig halfway through the novel. He’s supposed to be the villain of the piece, but as he dies halfway through and without much interference from the other Time Lords, the back half of the novel is without a real villain. The first segment takes the Doctor to where it all began, the I.M. Foreman junkyard. This time it’s the 1990s where poor vegetarian Samantha Jones is being attacked by some drug dealers because she’s an informant on the evils of crack cocaine. It becomes readily apparent that Terrance Dicks cannot write for an anti-drug PSA as the first few chapters try to be, so much so that they end with Sam in danger and the Doctor abandoning her. Yeah, this is not a good start to the novel as Sam is made out to be our new companion with a weak characterization as annoying vegetarian and activist. There is no sense of personality with Sam, no sense of humor or chemistry with the Doctor leaving the audience no drive to see if the Doctor is going to save her in the end.
After the segment at Coal Hill School, we go through the Doctors chronologically, starting with a rendezvous with the First Doctor during the events of An Unearthly Child. The scene is the forest of fear and the caveman Za is injured; the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan are escaping the tribe of Gum and the reader can guess where this is going. The Doctor is about to commit a murder so he can escape and the Eighth Doctor comes in to stop him. It’s a quick little sequence as well as the sequence with the Second Doctor, set during The War Games where the Doctor must call in the Time Lords to help with beating the War Lords plan. Both as segments Dicks is able to make them both easy to read, but nothing is above average in the characterization and the plot leaves much to be desired. The Third Doctor’s segment however is the weakest of the novel, taking place after The Sea Devils. It can be accurately described as a redo of the ending of The Daemons where the Master finds his TARDIS and escapes, whilst the Doctor acts horribly to Jo and everyone around him. Odd considering Terrance Dicks was script editor for the Third Doctor and novelized much of the novels of the Third and Fourth Doctors.
The section of the Fourth Doctor is one of the highlights, taking place in the closing moments of Dicks’ own State of Decay. The Doctor and Romana are lured away from the TARDIS and in the midst of a cult of vampires wishing to make the Time Lords their new king and queen. The Eighth Doctor shows up and begins to get in on the vampire slaying action as well as giving the Fourth Doctor some of his blood to stave off death at Logopolis. Terrance Dicks obviously enjoyed writing this one because the quality of the short passages shines through the rest of the book’s problems. The Fifth Doctor’s section doesn’t work however as it’s another continuity fest with Raston Warrior Robots, Sontarans, and Drashigs. Most of all, it is a dull segment of the book, overshadowed by the Sixth Doctor’s segment. The Ultimate Foe is the setting of the penultimate segment where the Doctors have to uncover the conspiracy to kill the Doctor over the course of the Trial with the Valeyard. The Sixth Doctor is a bit out of character being portrayed as just a fatty at points, but it’s at least enjoyable and close to his television counterpart. I shall not comment on my favorite Doctor’s portion as it really isn’t a plot and just happens. Then the book is over and we can get on to something better. 4/10.