THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
TIME" AND "PARADOX
OFFICIAL BBC HARDBACK
RELEASED IN JUNE 2011.
In 2003, Rebecca died
in a road accident. Her husband Mark
is still grieving. He receives a battered envelope, posted eight years ago, containing a set of instructions with a message: "You can save her."
As Mark is given the chance to save HIS SPOUSE, itís up to the Doctor, Amy and Rory to save the world. Because this time the Weeping Angels are using history itself
as a weapon.
The latest trio of eleventh Doctor novels give us tales hinging on temporal twisting and timey-wimey shenanigans. As a result, they feel very much a part of the latest series, which has been far more concerned with achronological jiggery-pokery than ever before. Touched by an Angel takes this approach to heart, with Jonathan Morris crafting a story that focuses on time travel, predestination, paradox and consequences.
Morris is currently leading one of the eleventh Doctorís ongoing strands of adventures, as he scripts the ongoing comic strips in Doctor Who Magazine. Here, as there, he proves to have an excellent grasp of each of the three leads, recreating their voices perfectly. Heís also the perfect choice to tell a complex tale of time travel, having previous form with such well-regarded novels as Anachrophobia and Festival of Death sitting proudly on his CV. And so it is deservedly that he gets to plunge into the TARDIS toybox and bring back those most time-troubling villains, the Weeping Angels.
Touched by an Angel is the first eleventh Doctor novel to give a star turn to a returning monster (The Coming of the Terraphiles came closest before, with the odd Judoon taking a walk-on part). Thankfully, Morris totally gets the Angels. He wisely takes a Blink-styled tack rather than following the lead of The Time of Angels; the six Angels at large here are weakened scavengers, and all the more cunning for it. Nonetheless, newer elements are also tilised here; not only must we remember that an image of an Angel is an Angel, but the first one that we meet is weakened to such a state that it only exists on screen, unable to materialise. Not that this stops it from doing a lot of damage - youíll never be comfortable near a CCTV camera again.
The Angels donít stay in the shadows for long, however. As well as manipulating events from afar, they get right into the action, including a fantastic sequence in which they cling to the roof of a speeding train, ruthlessly tracking one of its occupants. I could almost hear Murray Goldís over-the-top score as the TARDIS pursued the speeding train, Runaway Bride car-chase style.
Where the novel works best, however, is in its supporting cast. Morris grounds the story in a grimly familiar reality, with a believable, sympathetic lead. Rebecca Whitaker dies in a car crash in 2003. In 2011, her husband Mark is still grieving, unable to move on. Then he receives a letter, seemingly written in his own hand, telling him that he can save her. He becomes a player in his own past, a walking potential paradox. A Weeping Angel zaps him back to 1994, right in the middle of his own timeline. Naturally, the Doctor follows him back, to prevent him from succumbing to the temptation to interfere with his own past - except that Mark talks him down. He has a list of instructions from himself, showing word for word how to set up vital parts of his own life. It is if he doesnít interfere that history will change. Grudgingly, the Doctor lets him live a life in his own past in which he shadows his younger self. Of course, Mark doesnít tell the Doctor about the accident. And all the time, the Angels are following him.
By following Mark and Rebecca, through university and early jobs, from friends to lovers to man and wife, through haircuts good and bad, we grow to care about them both. Poor Mark only slips up a couple of times before doggedly sticking to the prescribed plan. He doesnít try to change history - except, of course, for that one crucial moment. Along the way, the Doctor and crew tail him, tracking anomalies on the ďwibbly detector,Ē intervening when events threaten to divert from the prescribed course. What follows drifts into farce, with the Doctor becoming more and more exasperated as he tries to keep people from meeting at the wrong time, getting people to weddings on time, making sure the right wallet ends up in the right hotel and thoroughly confusing a museum guard. Poor old Rory has to do a lot of the leg work, though.
Of course, we all know where events are heading, as 2003 grows ever closer. The truth of the Angelsí manipulative plan becomes clear, and events unfold with a tragic inevitability. While the Doctor gives a speech about the sanctity of time and the terrible domino effect that will ensue if people begin to interfere in their own pasts, what this story is really about is regret, and finding the strength to move on. While the Angels are utilised brilliantly, and there are some pleasing uses of time differentials and the Blinovitch Limitation Effect, what really makes this novel such a success is that we are always firmly on Markís side. We care about how his double-backed life will pan out, and we feel the pain that follows him throughout.Touched by an Angel is a more than worthy successor to Blink, and one of the strongest novels in the eleventh Doctor line to date.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2011
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This novelís blurb does not offer any clue as to its placement (beyond that it must take place after Amy and Roryís wedding in The Big Bang, but prior to Melody Pondís birth in the closing moments of The Almost People). We have have therefore placed it, together with its two sister books, between The Doctorís Wife and The Rebel Flesh (this being the closest possible placement to the last broadcast episode on the date of release).
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