Review: Doctor Who Dark Horizons by Jenny T. Colgan

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“We need to reach out. We need to continue the line…”

On a windswept northern shore, the islanders believe the worst they have to fear is a Viking attack. Then the burning comes. Water will not stop it. It consumes everything in its path – yet the burned still speak.

The Doctor encounters a people under attack from a power they cannot possibly understand. They have no weapons, no strategy and no protection against a fire sent to engulf them all. The islanders must take on a ruthless alien force in a world without technology; but at least they have the Doctor on their side… Don’t they?

A thrilling adventure starring the Doctor, as played by Matt Smith.

I don’t often read TV tie-in fiction these days; this is not due to any snobbishness on my part – goodness knows I spent many hours reading endless Star Trek novels as a teenager – but more due to the towering and oppressive presence that is my TBR pile. So I was quite pleased to receive a copy of Jenny T. Colgan’s Dark Horizons, almost as a nostalgic step back to my younger self, scanning the library shelves for anything related to my favourite TV programmes. I would count myself as a fan of Doctor Who, swept back into it with everyone else in 2005, and Matt Smith is my favourite Doctor. There, I’ve said it. I have had my problems with some of the recent series, and those were mainly down to the running time; way too short, I felt, to really get some meat on the Doctor’s stories. Perhaps, I thought, a book will give him more breathing space.

And I was right. It feels like a real indulgence to read a Doctor Who story that really has room to spread out, time to let you get to know all the characters. Colgan does an excellent job of introducing you to them – the Viking raiders and the villagers scratching out a living on a remote piece of coast – before letting you get under their skin, and really come to care for them. I grew particularly fond of Freydis, a prickly, brave Viking princess fighting against the life she’s being thrown into, and Henrik, the young Viking lad who could so easily be a companion for the Doctor (and who thinks the TARDIS makes a terrible ship).

The star of the show for me (as ever) was Colgan’s Eleventh Doctor. He’s full of humour, and kindness, and slight exasperation with humanity, and his attempts to get the Vikings and the villagers to play nicely are as pleasing as you’d expect. There are flashes of the sterner Doctor as he tries desperately to reason with the alien entity causing chaos and death, alongside the Doctor’s willingness to put himself in danger for the sake of others. It was refreshing to see Eleven free from companions for a while too, demonstrating that he can carry a story perfectly well by himself, and there were plenty of little in-jokes and references for fans.

All in all Doctor Who: Dark Horizons is a satisfying romp of a Who novel, with a strong and utterly convincing Eleventh Doctor. I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in the Whoniverse for longer than the usual forty minutes.

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