Since we reviewed Jenny T. Colgan’s debut Doctor Who novel, 2012’s ‘Dark Horizons’, it is fair to say the Time Lord has been keeping her busy.
As well as numerous short stories, she has written audio scripts for Big Finish, including the opener for ‘The Diary of River Song’ and one of the recent Tenth Doctor Adventures.
Her latest novel In the Blood, set during 2008’s Season 4, brings the Ten and Donna Noble back to Earth for a globe-trotting adventure. Sparked by a trip home to Chiswick, the Doctor’s interest is caught by news of the multiple deaths of so called internet trolls.
With the press seemingly happy to revel in people getting the just desserts, the pair begins to investigate the death of local man who has literally boiled over with rage.
Packed full of incident, including a spectacular train ride, a perilous international flight and a hike through the Brazilian rainforest, the Doctor is kept from zipping around the world by TARDIS for perhaps the most bizarre reason yet; the Police Box is incorporated into an Artisan coffee pop-up shop run by a pair of hipsters.
Plenty of well-observed satire skewers our modern obsessions with self-photography, microblogging and celebrity culture. The Doctor bemoans a lack of manners in today’s society and he has got a point, but there is something sinister lying behind it all, ramping up the vitriol and pushing people to the edge in pursuit of its own agenda.
Colgan perfectly nails the sparky relationship between the Doctor and Donna, with interplay that you can easily imagine Tennant and Tate performing. Also, the frequent trips into Ms Noble’s headspace, such as her fantasising about meeting James Bond, are hilarious. Of course, the author has written for the pair in ‘Time Reaver’ and there is a rewarding connection between the two stories which we would not dare spoil.
It is not all larks though; a strong emotional core accompanies the quick-fire banter and social commentary. We must admit that we found it tough to see Wilf, Donna’s beloved Gramps, put through the wringer in some genuinely disturbing circumstances.
Ever the nit-picking fans, we did ruminate for a while about the story’s setting; Donna hails from the late-noughties, but the smart phones and social media seem incredibly up to the moment. However, on refection, the Doctor’s universe has always had the jump on real life by a few years, be it BBC Three, Mars Probe 7 or the ATMOS system, so in fact this is probably spot on.
Easy to devour and thoroughly engrossing, In the Blood reads like a big, bold love letter to one of the greatest TARDIS line-ups of recent years… albeit granted a scale that the television series budget could have never dreamed of.
Published on 12 May 2016 by BBC Books.
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