18 May 2014

From Russia With Gore (Review: 'Doctor Who: The Deviant Strain', 2005)


The short tenure, basically under three months, of the Ninth Doctor, means that there wasn't been a tremendous amount released featuring him at the time. While the revival of classic series novel publication may well mean some more, I'm only going to do one work featuring the Ninth Doctor.

So, courtesy of my local library, I am now looking at the fourth of the six Ninth Doctor tie-in novels, The Deviant Strain by Justin Richards.

Where we're at
This is from the second half of his tenure; featuring the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack. Only the Doctor and Rose actually feature on the cover of the first edition; the later reprints don't feature Rose, possibly to due use-of-likeness issues after she left the show.

The plot
The three time travellers arrive in Russia in the early 21st century, at an abandoned Soviet naval base, where something from even before the base was built is awake and killing people. They team up with Russian special forces to find out what is going on... and stop it before it is too late.

What works
  • There's a strong atmosphere of decay and corrosion in the naval base... it's a good setting to do.
  • The regulars are realised pretty well, especially the Ninth Doctor.
  • The resolution to the threat is a good one and typically Doctor-ish.
  • This is a base-under-siege story, a well-worn Doctor Who staple and easy to do well.
What doesn't
  • The levels of gore depicted on page are arguably a bit more than what would be allowed in the show itself.
  • The Russian Spetsnaz are allowed to be a bit more gun-happy by the Doctor than one might normally expect.
  • Creatures that feed on people's life energies is so cliché. 
  • The prose is OK, but there is no real tension between the chapters; I could happily read one chapter a night and be satisfied with that

Enjoyable enough, but this is hardly a page-turner and there are frankly better novels out there for Nine. The Discontinuity Guide calls it "workmanlike" and I'm inclined to agree.

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