Let’s get this out of the way first: the Weeping Angels, though arguably Steven Moffat’s greatest creation, are perhaps the least suitable new Doctor Who monster for use in a novel (alright, we doubt anyone would want to read a book featuring the Adipose).
To his credit, author Jonathan Morris does just about pull it off, although he is perhaps helped by the fact that his original story idea didn’t contain the Angels. ‘Touched By An Angel’, therefore, should perhaps be more accurately described as a novel that happens to feature the Angels, rather than one in which they play a starring role.
Your opinion of the central plot of the book may well depend on your opinion on Doctor Who itself under Moffat. That’s right, it’s another wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey story, with a heavy dose of predestination paradox. However, if such a description leaves you cold then you needn’t necessarily discount this book, for the longer-form structure of the novel means that Jonathan Morris doesn’t have to match the often rushed pace of the TV series.
Although time-travel based shenanigans are the main focus the story is really a quite poignant – and occasionally even tear-jerking – exploration of grief and regret as Mark Whitaker is thrown back into his youth by the Angels with the promise that he can save his wife from the car crash that will kill her in nine years time.
Again, the extra time Morris has to tell his tale means that he can focus on the more everyday aspects of time travel. This is one of the most satisfying elements of the book, as it can explore how exactly one would survive day-to-day if transported back into one’s past in a way that, for example, ‘Blink’ could not.
Though it’s not an Angels story per se, they are well-written and even decidedly scary in an early sequence where Mark is hounded by one through the streets of London. Morris also manages to add to their lore without diminishing their impact (something, arguably, Steven Moffat failed to do in Series 5’s two-parter): his version of the Angels feed on the time energy created by paradoxes rather than wasted potential; hence all the business with sending Mark back into his own past. Another aspect of Doctor Who lore is also expanded on nicely and tied in with the Angels in a way that makes satisfying sense (to say more would spoil it).
Overall, ‘Touched By An Angel’ is a very solid and entertaining read. The characterisation of the Doctor, Amy and Rory – seemingly the hardest aspect of a Doctor Who novel – is pretty much spot-on, even if Amy and Rory can feel a little marginalised at times with the focus on Mark and Rebecca. Quibbles aside, the intriguing plot and superb handling of modern Doctor Who’s most striking aliens make this well worth picking up.
Published on Thursday 23rd June 2011 by BBC Books.