Jonathan Morris wrote Plague City, one of a trio of titles released to mark season 10 of Doctor Who and the arrival of Bill Potts in the TARDIS. His story takes the TARDIS to plague-ridden Edinburgh in 1645, where a sinister masked figure known as the Night Doctor haunts the streets in search of those about to die.
Jonathan gives us the Doctor, Bill and Nardole at a stage where Bill is settling into TARDIS life and brings both the companions to life with style. The setting of Edinburgh seems authentic as someone who has only visited in recent years for the Fringe, but the story is redolent with Jonathan’s research as a ghostly tale takes in the disease and poverty ridden streets of the seventeenth-century city.
The story builds nicely, revealing one detail as it brings in a new twist. There appear to be two alien threats alongside the plague, ensuring the Doctor and his friends have plenty to do. Bill’s race and sexuality give extra insight into the time, and credit to the writing, which handles this with a gentle touch, not overplaying the ideas, but not glossing over them either. Nardole’s character development is interesting as well, and fans should be pleased to learn more about both him and newcomer Bill.
As the story reaches its conclusion they must venture into the Street of Sorrows, known in folklore as the street where plague victims were walled up to die (and part now of the Edinburgh Dungeons experience), originally named Mary King’s Close. Here they find the truth behind the ghosts and slithering creatures and a threat that can’t be resolved without catastrophe. There is also an examination of the moral conflicts between allowing history to happen while not wanting to watch people die of a disease we can now cure readily.
The ending is very twelfth Doctor, and jars slightly against the historic setting, but that is a minor qualm. Jonathan has written an excellent story, giving us more sense of the new characters and entertaining while informing at the same time.
PLAGUE CITY (DOCTOR WHO) / AUTHOR: JONATHAN MORRIS / PUBLISHER: BBC BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW