After having explored several forms of Doctor Who media (books, comic books, radio dramas, TV shows, and video games) I have to say that the books are my least favorite form of Doctor Who entertainment. While we weren’t assigned a book to read staring the titular Doctor, I happen to own one (titled The Doctor Trap, staring The Doctor and Donna Noble). However, every time I open it, I quickly grow uninterested. I think the easiest way to determine why this form of Doctor Who fails to grab my attention is to explore why all the other forms do grab my attention. In the radio drama, you have the Doctor’s sarcastic and aloof demeanor, which comes across really well. In the comic books you have the eccentric appearance of the Doctor, his insane entourage (which included a talking penguin), and lots of cool visual treats (TARDISes, Time Lords, early Cybermen). In the video game, you had interactivity and the cool visuals (personally, I found the acting to be a bit dry, especially on Smith’s part). In the TV show, you have it all: appearance, attitude, sounds, and visuals. The book, however, fails to deliver on almost all of those aspects. It certainly has the attitude, but it requires you to provide all the other aspects. As a very visual person, this can be an easy turn off, and in the case of Doctor Who, where so many other forms exist, it is a turn off.
In regards to the rest of the Doctor Who franchise, I think that the strongest aspect of the franchise is the TV series. Not only is that the original medium, but as the franchise has grown, reworked itself, it has become a story more suited for a medium that can express things both visually and orally. So much of The Doctor’s character is in what he says and how he looks. His quirky appearance, which stays mostly consistent over a given reincarnation, sets him apart from all the other characters, the world, and from The Doctor’s past lives. It helps define who The Doctor is, and how the world interacts with him (there are several occasions where The Doctor and his companion are questioned about their outfits). The visuals also help give the enemies of The Doctor a lot of life, as well as add some flare and eccentricity to the universe (have you seen the Daleks?). To add to it, the oral expressiveness of The Doctor, his companion, and The Doctor’s adversaries also help expand and define the universe by giving audio cues (Cybermen’s footsteps, Dalek’s shouting “EXTERMINATE!” and The Doctor saying things like “Geronimo!”) to important events, beings, or places, as well as giving impact to some of the less active moments through music. The Doctor Who theme song also is a very important and awesome feature in the show, radio drama, and video game.
Speaking of which, the video game is very similar to the TV show, as it can deliver both the visually impressive aspects, and all the important audio aspects (cues, Doctor’s inflection, theme song). The only difference is the game is a little slower, and a little more tedious than the TV show, as the player must move The Doctor, or Amy, around an environment and solve puzzles to progress. It’s not to say it’s a boring experience, but it certainly isn’t as fast paced and action-oriented as the TV series. In addition to being a slower, more constructed experience, the acting feels a little bit off, especially on Matt Smith’s part, which makes it a bit less entertaining than the TV show. However, there are tons of goodies spread across the digital worlds (little collectible cards with information on past Doctors and adversaries) to find and enjoy, which helps make it interesting despite a rather lackluster performance by the main protagonist.
One interesting thing to look at in regards to Doctor Who in relation to transmedia storytelling is how easy it is to expand the franchise to new places, and how easy it is to make those pieces optional. In The Matrix movie franchise, several of the transmedia aspects almost required viewers to have experienced the other various forms The Matrix franchise took (video games, animated shorts, etc). However, Doctor Who differs from The Matrix in that it tells the stories of a wandering humanoid alien, rather than the story of a civilization. Each story about The Doctor (an episode, a book, a comic book issue, a game, a radio drama) is usually separated from all the other episodes in most aspect. There are certainly some grander stories that are elaborated over the course of a series (season), such as the cracks in time and The Silence in Doctor Who Series 5, but for the most part each Doctor Who episode (or pair, if it’s a two parter) can be viewed separate of all the other episodes. However, to encourage viewers to explore different forms of Doctor Who, there are interesting pieces of lore, occasionally some references to past events, and a more complete understanding of who The Doctor is, how he fits into various events, and who certain races and people are. Thus, Doctor Who becomes a wonderfully optional transmedia narrative. If you don’t like a particular form of the franchise (in my case, the books) you never have to touch them, and your enjoyment of the other forms won’t suffer in the slightest.
Across all the different mediums there is one essential thing that needs to be conveyed in Doctor Who: The Doctor’s personality. And in all the mediums, despite how enjoyable I find the medium, that personality is conveyed. In the comic book you have The Doctor yelling at a TARDIS to pay attention, in the radio drama you have him assuming a managerial role at a random company, in the TV show he’s eating fish fingers and custard, in the book he’s making snide remarks, and in the game he’s getting chased around by a mutant Cyber-Human. His cynicism, optimism, eccentricity, and intelligence all shine through, despite The Doctor being portrayed in very different ways. This helps connect all the various forms of Doctor Who, and make each medium successful in its own way.