Illegal Alien was among the first of the BBC Past Doctor Who Adventures novels which ran from 1997-2005 and actually began life as a potential TV story for Season 26 and later the unmade ‘Season 27’ which would have aired had the BBC not cancelled the show in 1989. Written by Mike Tucker, a visual effects assistant on Classic Who and model unit supervisor for NuWho, and script editor Robert Perry, this book is essentially a direct novelisation of the script for the unmade TV story, and is therefore split into four parts. With the end of each part being equatable to the cliffhangers seen in the TV show, a nice addition.
The book features the Seventh Doctor and Ace facing off against the Cybermen in Britain in World War II, a concept that works really well and can draw off several Nazi-related themes in a similar fashion to the TV story Victory of the Daleks does with the Daleks and Churchill. But for the first few chapters, the book reads almost like a detective story – the first-person narration of detective Cody McBride makes this story read like a Noir in some places, making it even more of a shame that this was never adapted for television.
The version of the Cybermen that are intended to be represented in this novel is unclear – the original cover depicts a Cybermen from The Wheel in Space, whereas the republished version from The Monster Collection in the 2010s features a Cybus-Industries Cyberman, as seen from 2006’s Rise of the Cybermen. However, the descriptions in the novel as well as the era it was set in would suggest that the Cybermen are a more upgraded version of the kind seen in Silver Nemesis. Interestingly, this book depicts Cybermats, the entire cyber-conversion process and the concept of a critically damaged Cyberman scavenging humans for parts long before NuWho did. If this episode had ever been produced, it would have required a monumental budget.
The setting of the Second World War also allows for some interesting character development for Ace, who encounters Nazis in the flesh having already fostered a growing hatred of them since her best friend from her childhood was murdered by Neo-Nazis, showing a continuation of her character arc from Season 26. Ace also spends the majority of this book separated from the Doctor, and figures out what is going on independently, showing a wealth of character development since Remembrance of the Daleks.
As previously mentioned, this novel was recently made a part of The Monster Collection series, which also included re-releases of Tenth Doctor novels like String of the Zygons and Prisoner of the Daleks, and reviews of those novels will follow.
Overall, Illegal Alien is a great read with some truly memorable characters and a story that gives us a unique insight into what the unmade ‘Season 27’ would have been like. Undoubtedly, had this story been made, it would have been one of the most ambitious Doctor Who stories to date.