The TARDIS lands the Doctor and Martha in the Lake District in 1909, where a small village has been terrorised 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. And as the hunters become the hunted, a desperate battle of wits begins - with the future of the entire world at stake.
Do you sometimes get a feeling of déjà vu when reading a book? Like you’ve have read it before, even if you haven’t? It’s not all that surprising when this happens, especially in genre fiction. There are only so many ideas to go round after all and all you can really do is hope that the writer brings enough of themselves to the book to make it stand out. For me these that’s part and parcel of what to expect when you pick up a sci-fi/fantasy book.
Sometimes it goes a little too far though and you find yourself wondering why you bothered to read the book in the first place. That’s exactly how I felt reading ‘The Sting of the Zygons’, a book that borrowed a little too heavily from Terrance Dicks’ ‘Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster’. Don’t get me wrong, ‘The Sting of the Zygons’ (there’s a nice little play on words with the title in the book) does its job perfectly well as a book, it certainly proved a viable alternative to cleaning out the bathroom last night. Zygon shapeshifting powers are used to chilling affect and the stakes are appropriately high for a Doctor Who novel; David Tennant’s Doctor is also portrayed very well. Normally you couldn’t ask for any more than that in a Doctor Who novel; normally I wouldn’t but ‘Sting’ was just too similar to ‘The Loch Ness Monster’. I found myself wondering why I was essentially reading the same story over again. It’s not surprising that the Zygons have never really been seen in the TV show if this what happens when you try to write a new story about them.
A tale then that wears its influences a little too heavily to be anything more than an entertaining diversion (although isn’t that what Doctor Who is at the end of the day?) Its short length, two hundred and three pages, saved the book as far as I was concerned. If the book had been fifty pages longer I would probably got quite cross with it (love the cover though).