THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVELS "INTERFERENCE -
BOOK TWO: THE HOUR
OF THE GEEK" AND "THE
TAKING OF PLANET 5."
PAUL MAGRS &
OFFICIAL BBC 'EIGHTH
RELEASED IN SEPTEMBER
This is a story about
As the Doctor FINDS
HIMSELF involved in
affairs aboard the
HIs old friend Iris
old ladies who are
being attacked by
savage owls in a
Corridors lies the
Valcean City of Glass,
whose King Dedalus
awaits the return of
his angel son and
broods over the
The Blue Angel
1. Was it completely fitting that Belinda was transformed into a giant squid, thrashing her newly granted tentacles as the captain of her ship stormed into the throne room on Valcea?
The novel draws heavily upon classical myths and legends, ranging from Icarus to the birth
of Zeus. As such, Belinda’s metamorphosis does feel fitting.
2. Or was it an ad hoc, impromptu, arbitrary change of form, perpetrated by Daedalus who laughed
aloud in glee as Captain Blandish informed the assembled rabble that they were about to die?
It could be interpreted that way, though the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
3. Or was it all to do with Belinda’s eventual, heroic status as commander-in-chief of the defending armies on the frontier water worlds during the final push that the worlds of the Obverse made on
the Enclave, and was she destined to find a new element?
And that way too. I think.
4. And did Blandish’s personalised weapon really go off as devastatingly as he had planned, destroying what remained of the throne room at the heart of the City of Glass?
Yes… and no. A whole host of possibilities and realities seemed to congregate as the
transdimensional Corridors fractured. As such it probably did and didn’t, concurrently.
5. Or did it merely set off a bizarre and unforeseeable chain reaction which splintered and shattered the transdimensional Corridors, causing them to mutate beyond anybody’s wildest dreams?
Yep - see 4 (above).
6. And did those fractured conduits open up even further complex channels into known and unknown universes, so that even more species were jeopardised and even more races were sucked ineluct-ably into the bloody fray?
Again, see 4 (above).
7. And was it so unforeseeable? Did Daedalus already know that the captain of the Nepotist was bound to seek to detonate his secreted device? Did Daedalus set the whole plan in motion, everything dependent on Blandish’s incendiary internal organ?
I hadn’t thought of that. As jade pachyderms go, Daedalus was certainly a wily fellow, and
this would make perfect sense given that we know of his master plan.
8. Did Daedalus rule supreme in the chaos and did he lord it over the ravening hordes?
Was this in the book? I must’ve missed something if it was. That would be hardly surprising,
however, given the inherent complexities.
9. How did he deal with the first new arrivals – the first being, naturally, the Daleks – who entered the space of contention, the threshold between thesis and antithesis bristling, buzzing, swivelling with fury?
This definitely wasn’t in the book, though had it been, it would have been suitably sardonic
as the Glass Men of Valcea (whom Daedalus sought to repress) have much in common with
the Daleks. Like the Daleks, they have just one organic component, are powered by static
electricity, and are utterly incapable of climbing stairs. That said, as somebody points out
during the book, men made of glass aren’t exactly built for war…
10. Did the Steigertrudes and Ghillighast, led by Emba united with Meisha, form an army between them
to defend the Enclave and maintain its fragile integrity?
I don’t recall them doing, but again I might have missed an intimation somewhere.
11. At what point did the Doctor arrive?
Where? In the main plot, he arrived when the TARDIS materialised on board the Federation
Starship Nepotist, though by that point we’d already met his domesticated self, languishing
in the other reality. Then there’s that Doctor from Eight’s future (but Iris’ past) wearing an eye
-patch and wielding an elephant gun who gets involved on Valcea...
12. And in which incarnation?
Tricky (see above and below!)
13. Was it really several, as many sources claim, and was it a tale as the legends have it?
The second and third Doctors seemed to show up briefly - if it was really them - and even
the eighth Doctor is sort of fractured. Then there was elephant-gun man too, and I suppose
even Daedalus could have been a twisted, future incarnation of the Doctor - his convoluted
stratagem to put paid to the threat he foresaw from the Glass Men certainly reeked of Time
Lord guile (and Doctorish guile at that), and he did claim to be a man “with many enemies.”
14. Did Iris forge an alliance between Cyber factions and insect races and lead an assault on the homeworld of the first if the unknown races to emerge, hungry, from the Obverse?
If she did, it must have been after page 279. Or before page 1.
15. Did Iris ensure that the earlier, merely eighth, Doctor was safely out of the way, on purpose?
This much, at least, is fairly clear.
16. Did she know what a can of worms had been opened?
The extent (and the source) of Iris’ knowledge is never revealed in this novel. It is implicit,
however, that she was fully cognisant of the gravity of the situation, hence her actions at the
end of the book.
17. Had she already been there and seen the outcome?
That’s certainly one possibility posited by the text.
18. Did she live, like Merlin, backwards through time?
Not knowing Iris. Nothing so dull.
19. In the end, did she remove her Doctor, because she knew what must eventually become of him, or simply because she couldn’t bear to see him there on the battlefield again, again, again and over again?
Again, the text leaves this a purely ecumenical matter, but Iris’ reasons would be revealed in
later novels. For present purposes, it is clear that for all her protestations otherwise, Iris still cares about the Doctor deeply.
The Blue Angel by Paul Magrs and Jeremy Hoad is an ineluctably lyrical, tendentious and high-brow piece of work which literally raises more questions than it answers. A tapestry of conflicting realities that threatens to transcend the boundaries of fiction, yet still has time to take the piss out of Star Trek, I think it’s fair to say that there’s not another Doctor Who novel out there like this one.
For me, this adventure is ground into my brain as a series of awe-inspiring fairytale images. Glass men in their glass city, oppressed by an elephantine King; blue babies emerging from inside people’s legs; warrior warthog women who don’t know a lot about art, but know what they hate; and Iris Wildthyme, in arguably her most lascivious incarnation. It’s little surprise that Piers Britton recently decided to use this novel as the foundation for a class on science fiction television design at the University of Redlands, California (though personally I doubt that any design, however superlative, could surpass the images borne of Magrs and Hoad’s inimitable prose).
However, ‘fairytale’ certainly doesn’t cover the book’s more contentious subtexts which, as one would expect, have caused quite a divide in opinion. With chapter titles as superficially risqué as “Iris Made Fitz Come…” and passages that see the ever-lecherous Fitz lusting after Iris, whilst fantasising about the Doctor all the while (!), are undoubtedly a step or two outside many readers’ comfort zones.
The vicious Star Trek lampoon is equally litigious, though I consider myself a Star Trek fan and I rather enjoyed it. Magrs and Hoad’s knowingly naff narrative sums up all the ways in which I feel Doctor Who is superior to Star Trek, whilst at the same time gently poking fun
at the fans of both series and their often fervent attempts to imagine romantic relationships between the regulars that just aren’t there. There’s definitely some delicious irony in turning the bridge of the Nepotist into a veritable harem of illicit sexual activity, whilst over the page having Iris ram her tongue down Fitz’s throat.
Aberrant bouts of homo-erotica aside, the authors’ characterisation is generally spot-on.
The Doctor is consistently well-drawn, particularly when he’s not the Doctor as we know him… which is often, here. Still reeling from the events of Interference, he’s desperately trying to cope with an injury that he can’t quite touch and a world that just doesn’t feel right
to him. He is inexorably overshadowed by Iris, however, who is much more engaging in her ‘Jane Fonda’ incarnation than she was in her ‘Beryl Reid’ body. Not only is she much more alluring in an obvious sort of way, but she’s far more ominous too. Her actions at the novel’s end are especially intriguing, particularly if the reader doesn’t know what’s to come later on down the line (as would have been the case upon first publication).
Compassion fares less well in her first novel as a companion. Spitting venom throughout,
the sponge-like Remote receptacle only serves to rile Fitz and lead the Doctor into making some curious decisions, which would of course have far-reaching consequences. In herself, she’s just unpleasant to read about - a real pity, after such a promising debut.
The storyline itself, however,
is completely over my head…
not to mention under it and at
either side. As my “answers”
to the authors’ decidedly dry
twenty questions illustrate,
The Blue Angel is a writhing
mass of allusion; inspired but
impenetrable, at least for me. I
did find certain aspects of the
plot utterly beguiling, however;
particularly those that challenged the reality of the Doctor’s world. I love the notion that the
Doctor might just be a madman living in a terraced house, his rampant imagination his only vehicle for adventure. Even here though, I’m still left with the nagging sensation that there’s far more to events than I’m picking up on; the relationship between the various levels of reality depicted by the authors is so intricate and inexplicable that Interference feels like
a Target novelisation in comparison.
On balance though, I can’t do anything other then advocate the post-haste purchase of The Blue Angel. I can’t make much sense of it, and you probably won’t be able to either, but ultimately any literary work that holds you spellbound right the way through and consumes your thoughts for a day or two afterwards (and your dreams for considerably longer) has certainly done something right.
† Not the twentieth question posed in the authors’ afterword. The actual question reads “Did she want to prevent her Doctor from seeing what really did happen next?”, but that wouldn’t have given me the same
scope to cover all the bases (or at least try to).
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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