Fiction Reviews

Doctor Who: In the Blood

(2016) Jenny T. Colgan, BBC Books, £12.99, Can$24.99 / US$18.99, hrdbk, 336pp, ISBN978-1-785-94110-8


To some, Scots-born writer Jenny Colgan is the author of more than a dozen romantic comedy novels as well as others in her 'Cupcake Café' and 'Rosie Hopkins Sweet Shop' series; but to certain readers she is Jenny. T. Colgan, seemingly the 'T' standing for 'TARDIS', and is the author of one Doctor Who novel – Dark Horizons from 2010 (featuring Matt Smith’s Doctor, though the fourth Doctor, Leela and K9 also make an appearance) and the short story 'Into the Nowhere' in 2012, and now we have the novel In the Blood featuring the tenth Doctor, David Tennant and his companion Donna Noble, played by Catherine Tate, and where Donna travels her grandfather, Wilfred Mott, can’t be too far behind. Colgan is a well-known Whovian and when she was 11 won a Doctor Who competition, and met fifth Doctor, Peter Davidson, who, seemingly, mistook her for a boy! That aside, we are clearly in the safe hands of a long-term Who fan.

In In the Blood internet trolls are thriving, even people who seemed nice and calm with not a bad bone in their body are becoming nasty and spewing their bile on social media. It’s like a Mexican wave of nastiness which is spreading round the world, followed by another wave, this one of death, as the trolls start to die. Cue, the Doctor and Donna to find out what’s wrong and put a stop to it. Why are people acting this way? And why would someone or something want them to behave like this in the first place?

I have to confess to not being a particular fan of spin-off novels, all those novels inspired by movies and TV series, and comic books and the like. That’s not to say that they are not well written and BBC Books have been particularly good recently at attracting big-hitters like Michael Moorcock, Alistair Reynolds and more recently A. L. Kennedy into the fold. My main problem is that there is no real threat of danger or jeopardy or anything revelatory, particularly with the Doctor Who books as we know the Doctor survived to regenerate into his successor. However, this is great fun as Colgan clearly knows her Who, particularly this pairing, and has delivered a funny, fast-paced, page-turning novel told over 63 chapters with the added complication that the action is world-wide but the Doctor doesn’t have his trusty TARDIS to rely on, and has to make his own travel arrangements just like everyone else. This throws up some interesting situations and scenarios as the action moves from England to South Korea and Brazil including runaway trains and hijacked planes.

My only slight quibble is that this is a very up to date novel with regards to technology and social trends and events and considering Donna’s adventures with the Doctor clearly took place in the 2000s up to 2010, some of the things mentioned in this novel were not around during her stint as companion even if it was not that long ago, but, hey as Steve Miller once sang 'time keeps on slipping into the future'. That aside, Colgan really has nailed this pairing and with the exotic settings we get more than a fair share of action and adventure and derring-do.

Big Finish, the audio production company have had the major coup of signing Tennant and Tate up for a series of three audio adventures, and one of them – “Time Reaver” – has been written by Colgan, and has already been regarded as a bit of a companion piece to “In the Blood”, so don’t be surprised if some of the minor characters that Colgan has created here also appear in audio form.

Ian Hunter

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