To many who grew up alongside the revived Doctor Who, David Tennant is the Doctor, and so this month is very exciting – there’s not just the new Tenth Doctor audios, but this novel as well. Jenny Colgan’s In the Blood fits into the timeline towards the end of series four, and sees the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble return to contemporary Earth, where a strange affliction is making people hyper-aggressive before killing them.
Like many great Who stories, particularly those from the Russell T Davies era, there’s a socially relevant, satirical edge – this affliction begins by preying on Internet trolls. Inspired by the intense aggression that can sadly be seen on any social network, Colgan pokes fun at all sorts of Internet users. There is a problem in the setting, in that the satire seems very 2016 but Donna’s timeline necessitates that this is set in 2008 – web technologies have advanced a lot in these past years, and so the satire can at times feel slightly off.
This big concept, however, allows for big scale, and their investigation takes the Doctor and Donna on a journey from London to South Korea, then on to the jungles of Brazil. It’s a fast-paced adventure with tense set pieces, the highlight being a scuffle on a train speeding out of control. Imagine a Russell T Davies two-parter but with the budget of a Bond movie – that’s the tone here. The plotting sags a little in the final act, however, when two major villainous forces are revealed and their motivations aren’t entirely clear. It’s also worth noting that you may want to listen to Colgan’s audio Time Reaver before reading In the Blood, as a certain plot element ties the two together.
But the real highlight of In the Blood is the characterisation. Despite fan cynicism about Catherine Tate’s casting, the Doctor and Donna very quickly became one of the most beloved pairings of the revived series. They were incredibly funny together, and from the book’s first chapter, in which Donna gets kicked out of a spa for causing a robot masseur to explode, Colgan captures this perfectly; it’s easy to read the dialogue in Tennant and Tate’s voices. She also ties the story neatly into Donna’s character development, providing a new step in her journey from unsatisfied temp to a woman confident in her ability to change the world. Plus, there’s a characteristically lovely appearance from Wilf.
For fans of the Tennant/Tate series, then, In the Blood is a recommended read – though the plot isn’t without flaws, it does have a cracking satirical concept and a globe-trotting sense of adventure, but most of all, it’s a reminder of just how fun the Spaceman and the Super-Temp were.
DOCTOR WHO – IN THE BLOOD / AUTHOR: JENNY T. COLGAN / PUBLISHER: BBC BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 23RD