The novel “Wooden Heart” by Martin Day was published for the first time in 2007.
The Tardis brings the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones to the starship Castor, which apparently is deserted. Exploring it, they realize that this is an old prison ship that now seems out of use and is drifting into space. Despite that, following what appears to be a normal corridor at one point they find themselves in a forest.
Trying to figure out where they ended up, the Doctor and Martha discover that there’s a village in the area inhabited by people who have no idea of the Castor’s existence. On the other hand, in the village the children started disappearing and some prophecies promise destruction.
“Wooden Heart” is part of a series of novels connected to the new “Doctor Who” series. They’re targeted to a wide audience by being linear enough to be appreciated even by very young readers but sophisticated enough to interest more mature readers.
Most of the adventure in “Doctor Who” begin on Earth or with the Doctor arriving to another planet but occasionally the Tardis finds something else. In “Wooden Heart” this is a starship adrift in which no signs of life are detected. Obviously the Doctor gets immediately curious and wants to investigate.
The twist crucial for the novel happens soon when Doctor and Martha Jones are exploring the starship Castor to understand why it’s adrift and suddenly the corridor is replaced by a forest. That event introduces an even bigger mystery because the travelers have to understand where they are and in the village in the forest there are big problems.
The plot ends up including a series of mysteries as it started with the one about the starship Castor and then moved to the ones in the village with children who started disappearing and the prophecies of doom. The villagers don’t know what to do, so the Doctor and Martha try to help them but it seems that every discovery about the village, its inhabitants and the forest only makes the mystery thicker.
Actually, for the readers who already have some experience with science fiction, it’s quite easy to understand the sense of at least part of the events in the novel. The stories of these “Doctor Who” books are not complex and tend to use well-known narrative elements to avoid having to explain them in detail in order to use their limited length to develop the plots.
In my opinion, however, the story is still enjoyable because many details related to the various mysteries are revealed slowly and this allows to better understand what’s happening. It’s also a way to keep the readers’ interest even when they figuer out what’s behind the existence of the forest and its inhabitants.
This is important also because initially the villagers that interact with the Doctor and Martha Jones seem built on trivial stereotypes but in the end it’s discovered that the reason isn’t that the author Martin Day is lazy but there’s an explanation connected with the various mysteries.
As for the protagonists, the Tenth Doctor is satisfying and reading the novel I could hear in my mind David Tennant’s voice say his lines while I have various doubts about Martha Jones. I wonder if the author hadn’t gathered enough information about her to reproduce her properly in the story or even wrote it thinking about Rose Tyler. The dialogue at the end of the novel between the Doctor and Martha Jones is at least ambiguous.
In the end, in my opinion, the set of seemingly unconnected and uneven mysteries is the best part of “Wooden Heart”, especially as the author ends up putting it all together. It’s a novel that’s far from perfect but overall it seemed fun to me so I think that “Doctor Who” fans might like it.