THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE TV
STORIES "WARRIORS OF
THE DEEP" AND "THE
OFFICIAL BBC 'PAST
RELEASED IN MARCH
When a lighthouse
keeper reports seeing
a ball of light
plunging into the sea
Sands, UNIT sends Mike
Yates to investigate.
The last thing he
expects to find there
is an old friend - with
a new face...
Mark Morris’ second Doctor Who novel lives and dies by the same strengths and weaknesses as his first. “Deep Blue” is a coarse and grotesque affair that, despite its lack of freshness and its rather thin plot, somehow manages to entertain throughout.
On balance, I think that I actually found “Deep Blue” to be more compelling than Morris’ previous novel “The Bodysnatchers”, as this time around the author also employs a fascinating gimmick on which the story pivots – this is, essentially, a fifth Doctor adventure set during the third Doctor’s era (shortly after the events of “The Green Death”, when the
third Doctor has done a bunk leaving UNIT in dire need of their scientific advisor). I can almost hear the grumbling already as admittedly this sounds like a fanwanky continuity nightmare, but to be fair to Morris it works terrifically well. Not only does the author very elegantly bypass the continuity ramifications of the chronologically later meetings of the Brigadier and this particular TARDIS crew, but he also uses his unique set-up to examine one of the most interesting UNIT characters of the lot – Captain Mike Yates.
Of course, having lived through “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” and beyond, the fifth Doctor is well aware that Yates will soon sell out UNIT to the Golden Age Idealists before eventually redeeming himself in “Planet of the Spiders”. This allows the Doctor – and through him, the reader – to look at the character with the benefit of hindsight and see the thought processes and the inner turmoil that will lead him down that rocky road.
The regulars are just as perfectly captured too; particularly the two companions. I especially like how Morris handles the Doctor and Tegan’s continuing suspicion of Turlough – it is nice to be reminded that, despite superficial appearances, little things like having tried to kill the Doctor never really go away.
As for the meat of “Deep Blue”, well… It is certainly on a par with “The Bodysnatchers” in terms of gore. The opening sequence on the boat is absolutely chilling and really sets the scene for what is to come later in the story. In some ways, “Deep Blue” is even more disturbing than “The Bodysnatchers” was as here it is the Doctor and UNIT that are being metamorphosised in the most horrific of ways as opposed to characters that we do not
really care about – very nasty.
However, the novel is doubtless going to draw a lot of criticism as the alien threat , the Xaranti, are essentially just a natural version of the Borg from the Star Trek franchise – hell, they even have a Queen! Fair dues though, it works – I found an organic Borg to be even more frightening than a cybernetic one. Much more gross!
Without a doubt though the strongest element of this novel is its sense of despair; there are very few Doctor Who stories out there where it truly and credibly seems that all is lost. In this novel, by the time that the Doctor and the Brigadier have succumbed to the Xaranti, the outcome seems all but inevitable. Thank God for good old tap water and willpower…
On the downside, the episodic structure of this book drove me mad! The 249 pages are divided crudely into just four ‘episodes’, as opposed to the more traditional, shorter chapters, which really makes it a bugger to break up should you need to. Fortunately there is so much going on here that the story never really drags, but had it turned out to be a more mundane effort, this abnormal structure could well have proven fatal.
In all though, if you enjoyed the ghastliness of “The Bodysnatchers”, then “Deep Blue” is
most definitely for you, and if you have a penchant for UNIT stories to boot then this one is an absolute must. However, as I have outlined above, it is from perfect and the plot is hardly spellbinding. It seems that when it comes to Mark Morris it is not what he says, but it is how he says it…
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
For the Doctor, these events take place between Warriors of the Deep and The Awakening. For UNIT, they occur six months after the events of The Green Death.
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