Saturday, July 15, 2017


DOCTOR TO THE STARS (1964) by Murray Leinster (pen name for Will F. Jenkins) is a collection of three novellas originally published in various science fiction magazines. The stories and original sources are THE GRANDFATHERS' WAR (from ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, October 1957), MED SHIP MAN (from GALAXY MAGAZINE October 1963) and TALLIEN THREE (under the title THE HATE DISEASE from ANALOG SCIENCE FACT/SCIENCE FICTION, August 1963). All three feature space doctor Calhoun and his alien companion, the lemur-like Murgatroyd. In each of these stories, Calhoun is sent to various planets on what are ostensibly routine medical visits. However, he encounters problems, mysteries and crises which Calhoun solves using his medical knowledge.

In THE GRANDFATHERS' WAR, a sun is determined to be nearing nova stage, prompting the people of the planet Phaedra to send their children to the planet Canis, which is far enough away to escape destruction from the soon to explode star. Trouble is, the sun has yet to explode and Phaedra keeps sending younger and younger children to Canis, where the youth have set up their own society and are refusing to allow the adults access to the planet. Calhoun must intervene to prevent an interplanetary war between the generations as well as save the malnourished youngest members of the Canis population.

MED SHIP MAN finds Calhoun on a planet curiously devoid of all human life. Cities still stand but there are no people and what's up with that weird pulsating sensation? When a space ship passenger arrives on the planet carrying a suitcase full of money, Calhoun discovers a land swindle scheme on a planetary scale, solves the mystery of the missing people and puts an end to the "cattle rustling" techniques of a crooked consortium.

TALLIEN THREE sends Calhoun to a planet where most of the population has been infected with a madness causing disease, leaving only a handful of unaffected people to fight off their "possessed" friends, families and neighbors. The disease is man-made, cooked up by a mad scientist determined to rule the planet. Calhoun, of course, puts a stop to the evil scheme.

All of these stories are fast paced and well presented. Not much background or character development is given to Calhoun other than the fact that he's an extremely capable physician. While I was reading the book, I couldn't help but think that these stories would have worked well in the pages of DC Comics' venerable science fiction comic books STRANGE ADVENTURES and MYSTERY IN SPACE (both edited by the legendary Julius Schwartz). I envisioned scripts by Gardner Fox and John Broome and artwork by Carmine Infantino, Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane, Sid Greene and Mike Sekowsky. DC could have turned this material into a "Space Doctor" series. Heck, why not? After all, they did have a "Space Cabby" series.

DOCTOR TO THE STARS is good, old-fashioned, problem solving sf. A nice way to pass the time on a hot summer afternoon.

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