Review: Doctor Who: Lights Out by Holly Black

Lights Out

For the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who, Puffin gave readers a series of novellas by popular young adult authors, each one focusing on a different incarnation of our favorite Time Lord. With the dawn of the Peter Capaldi era, Puffin has given fans a complete set of Doctors with Holly Black’s “Lights Out” story.

And yet as I read the novella, I couldn’t help but feel this was less a Doctor Who story than one that Holly Black might tell with the Doctor inserted into it.

In many ways, this story reminded me of stories from the (then) annual Strange New Worlds collection that were written by fans about just one installment of Enterprise aired. Black’s story feels like it was written right after “Deep Breath” aired with multiple references to the Capaldi Doctor’s eye brows and his over more gruff demeanor. He comes across our first-person narrator on a future world where coffee is scarce and the two meet while waiting in line for some.

As a set-up, it’s decent enough, but even as a novella it feels like the Doctor’s involvement is tangential at best. Even given the more “at arm’s length” approach to the companions that Capaldi’s Doctor has taken, it still didn’t quite feel right here.

The second half features a few attempted twists and turns that I’m not sure work as well as they could or should.

All in all, I came away from this entry feeling a bit disappointed. I wonder if I’d read it closer to the time that Black wrote it and instead of having a dozen episodes to get to know this new Doctor if my feelings might have been different. As it stands, I have to call this one of the lesser entries in Puffin’s offerings.

I received a digital ARC of this novella from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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