Monday, 11 August 2014

Review: Into the Nowhere (Doctor Who) - Jenny Colgan

The last few months have certainly been a rollercoaster ride for Doctor Who fans. The Name of the Doctor! The Night of the Doctor! The Day of the Doctor! The Time of the Doctor! Splendid stuff, all of it. Not to mention a veritable plethora of audios, books, etc. (The Veritable Plethora of the Doctor, you might say.) It’s a great time to be a fan. Except – except for that one little matter. Come in, No. 11, your time is up. And much as I’m looking forward to Peter Capaldi’s tenure in the TARDIS (there’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to be brilliant), I’m really, really going to miss Matt Smith. Because, you know what, Doctor? You were my Doctor.

Thankfully he’s not gone, not entirely, because there are still adventures out there we haven’t previously heard about, and one of these has now been recounted, as part of the new Time Trips series, by Jenny Colgan. The series kicked off in style last month with A L Kennedy’s Fourth Doctor story, The Death Pit, and I’m glad to say continues in equal-but-different style with Into the Nowhere. This e-book features the Eleventh Doctor and Clara, and a planet which doesn’t seem to exist. It’s not in any of the literature. (There’s a lovely Douglas Adams reference here, which made me very happy – and a nod to Harry Potter later, too. I do like the idea that these universes co-exist.) But anyway, there it is, and of course they have to go there and find out more, and it’s… really not a very nice place, actually, though the reason why is not what you might expect.

Jenny Colgan – author of numerous romantic comedies, and one previous Doctor Who novel, the acclaimed Dark Horizons (well, I acclaimed it. I’m pretty sure other people did, too.) – writes beautifully here. This is dark and scary stuff, and it’s very very good. This planet with no name is a frightening place and the reader feels that, every step of the way. But as good, if not better, than this is the characterisation of the Doctor and Clara, which is insightful and believable. I’ll admit that I have struggled to really warm to Clara as a companion, largely because the – to my mind –rather uneven series 7b never totally gave me a grasp of who she was, apart from cute and pretty and with a nice line in sarky repartee. I didn’t feel much depth of personality came across, somehow, and hence it was hard to care what happened to her. I think she’s growing on me, though, and Jenny Colgan – by giving us insight into Clara’s inner feelings, post-Name of the Doctor, about what has happened to her and how it feels and what it all means – has helped to give her genuine depth. The Doctor is also very well characterised in all his lightness and his darkness. I don’t want to spoil the story for those who haven’t read it, so I’ll only say that things take an unexpected turn. It’s cleverly done, with some rather surprising imagery, and also very sad at one point in particular – but the end is satisfying and left me thinking.

Highly, highly recommended and I look forward to more Doctor Who stories from Jenny Colgan.