Doctor Who: Dark Horizons
Chick lit author Jenny Colgan leaves the day job for a stab at Doctor Who.
Author: JT Colgan
Publisher: BBC Books
The big Doctor Who event book range started with a bang (Michael-flippin'-Moorcock!) but has petered along since then. Shada was good, but Gareth Roberts is a seasoned Who-scribe. Having him pen a novel (even one based on Douglas Adams' work) didn't carry the same thrill of the unknown as, say, the upcoming Steven Baxter volume.
Or this, by author Jenny Colgan. A big name 'chick-lit' writer, she might not seem an obvious choice to pen a story about Vikings and sentient fire aliens, but Doctor Who has always been open to new voices and styles. Genre hopping is the show's greatest strength
Unfortunately, Dark Horizons is a disappointment. The pleasure of Moorcock's book was the weird new shapes it twisted Who into. A Doctor Who story by Jenny Colgan could have done something fresh and unusual too. Instead, we got a J.T. Colgan novel – a very different thing. And in its way, just as by-the-numbers as one of the regular books written by Justin Richards or Trevor Baxendale.
The eleventh Doctor, flying solo, arrives in the Outer Hebrides. He quickly falls in with the locals – and a party of Vikings. More pressingly, there's something in the sea. Something with a penchant for starting fires and sinking ships. Don't get too excited - it's not the Sea Devils...
Colgan's got a nice, easy-going style and the pages certainly fly by. It's not a badly written book by any means - but it is an extremely boring one. The characters are a thoroughly bland bunch (though Viking Henrik does, at least, have a nice line in dry humour). Crucially, the life or death tension between the villagers and the Vikings never truly engages. You always know roughly where the story is going to end up. Likewise the book's central romance is so predictable, it's impossible to raise anything more than the vaguest of interest.
There's also the question of modernisation... Remember how the rebooted BBC Robin Hood series gave the cast boy band haircuts? This is the prose equivalent. You're not going to go into a Doctor Who book and expect historical accuracy, of course, but it's particularly noticeable here in the way the characters think and talk. In one hilarious scene, Henrik sees his fellow Vikings and has a Mitchell and Webb style, "We're the baddies!" moment, where it finally dawns on him that maybe sacking villages and murdering people isn't a particularly nice thing to do.
As a fresh new take on the series, Dark Horizons fails and as a traditional Doctor Who adventure, it's dull. It would be more acceptable as part of the regular £6.99 range (which appears to have mysteriously vanished of late), but as a full-price hardback, it's very underwhelming. Fingers crossed for Baxter's book…
Doctor Who: Dark Horizons is out now
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