THIS STORY TAKES
FOREVER TRAP" AND
OFFICIAL BBC HARDBACK
RELEASED IN DECEMBER
Donna Noble is back
home, catching up
with her family and
giving them all the
gossip about her
Her grandfather, is
– he’s discovered a
new star and had it
named after him. He
takes the Doctor, as
his special guest, to
the naming ceremony.
suspicious about some
of the other changes
he can see in Earth’s
arly that bright
star, right there.
No not that one; that
one, there, on the
ARE slowly being
converted to a new
path, a new way
Something is coming
to Earth, an ancient
force from the Dark
Since bowing out of Big Finish in late 2006 following the phenomenal I, Davros
mini-series, the former Doctor Who Magazine editor has busied himself with compiling encyclopaedias, directing cartoons, and even scripting comic books for the Doctor’s adventures stateside. But now Gary Russell is back, and it’s business unusual…
Had I known beforehand that Beautiful Chaos was a sequel to the 1976 Tom Baker serial The Masque of Mandragora, I doubt very much that I’d have approached reading it with quite as much zeal. I’ve always thought that the original Mandragora serial is grossly over-rated, and although it has been built upon nicely since by the likes of David A McIntee, I still would never have singled out the Helix as being top of the list for a comeback. Then again, the same could be said of the Nimon, and look how well their impromptu return turned out under Russell’s direction.
As it turns out, Mandragora is used to magnificent effect by Russell. At no point does it stand out as being outdated or redundant; in fact, I would imagine that a new reader – that is, one not familiar with The Masque of Mandragora – would simply accept the malevolent force as being a new series monster, just like the Vashta Narada or the Vespiform. Even the flood of references to the Doctor’s original adventure in San Martino are not all that intrusive – after all, he’s been everywhere and done everything and there’s no way that we could ever know it all, and I think that the readership accepts that.
“I could have humanity building farms on Mars.
In a hundred years’ time, we could colonise Alpha Centauri.
A new Mandragoran Empire, combining Helix energy,
human physicality and communications science. And then…”
In any event, Russell turns Mandragora on its head here; it’s not looking to hold the human race back any longer – it’s looking to ride on its coat tails and forge an empire!
However, for me what makes Beautiful
Chaos such an utter delight is that it
based almost entirely around the Noble
family. I’m especially pleased that the (stunning!) front cover depicts Wilfred Mott because this is his story; his time to shine. If you loved Bernard Cribbins’ character on television, then you are going to love this book.
From old Wilfred’s point of view, the events of this novel take place in May 2009, a month or so after the events of The Poison Sky (although I do get the impression that far longer has passed for the Doctor and Donna, given the adventures that they are reported to have had since). During this time, Wilfred has discovered a new star that the Royal Planetary Society have named after him – 7432MOTT – and bagged himself a lady friend, Netty. His daughter has fared less well in the interim, still grieving for her lost husband and now worrying about her own wayward daughter.
The television series - quite understandably given the circumstances - never acknowledged the death of Donna’s father, Geoff Noble. It was heavily implied of course, but never explicitly stated on screen. As such it always felt like we were missing a piece of the puzzle – and a bloody important piece, to be frank. The fleshing out of Sylvia’s struggle to adjust to life as a widow told in conjunction with what she really thinks about Donna’s travelling with the Doctor really makes for some remarkable, and actually rather stirring, reading. It certainly shows a whole new side to the old ‘those that are left behind’ angle.
“There’s a million ailments, illnesses and diseases in the universe.
If I believed something as malign as Mandragora could erase just one of them, I’d let it.”
The interaction between the Nobles, Netty and the Doctor is beautifully penned by Russell, particularly the passages dealing with Netty’s Alzheimer’s Disease. Netty’s deteriorating condition means that she is critical to the Doctor’s plan to stop Mandragora, and as such
he – not to mention Wilfred and Donna – are put in an impossible position when they have
to decide whether or not to ‘use’ Netty to save the world. The Doctor makes the call, as he always must, but in marked contrast to the cold manoeuvring of previous incarnations, here he does it with conscience. It’s a joy to read.
On the negative side, once again I don’t reckon much to Russell’s structure. In the past he has demonstrated an enthusiasm for long ‘episodes’ (or in the case of this novel, ‘days’)
as opposed to more traditional, shorter chapters, which really makes it a bugger to break
up the reading. Fortunately though, Beautiful Chaos is written with such pace and vigour
that it never really drags, but had it turned out to be a more run of the mill effort, this unusual structure could well have proven fatal.
Another minor grumble would be that, again true to form, Russell often goes off on tangents about supporting characters whose relevance is peripheral at best. Here, this particular trait is kept in check for much of the way – there are not many waffling Instruments of Darkness-style passages, thankfully – but even so the aberrant sections when they do present feel at odds with the pace of and indeed the brevity of the story.
On the whole though, Beautiful Chaos is a remarkable novel that I shall certainly take the time to read again in the future. The plot is great fun, fast and furious, and weighing in as it does at just over 200 pages I could easily imagine this one working as a forty-five minute episode on television – it certainly has the requisite energy.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2008
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
When is now? This story is explicitly set on Friday 15th May 2009, between the events of The Poison Sky (mid-April 2009), and The Stolen Earth (mid-2009).
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