What’s it about: The Doctor has to use all his wits to prevent The Weeping Angels from changing time…
Nutty Professor: One of the finest novels for the geeky eleventh Doctor because he springs from the page exactly as he is on the screen and yet is afforded the sort of depth a novel can allow. He has the voice of a young man but the authority of somebody much older and looks as though he is on the way to a fancy dress party dressed as Albert Einstein! Just because you can rewrite time it doesn’t mean that you should and besides the Doctor is an expert at these things. The Doctor definitely looks like somebody who is off to university, just not in this decade! Naturally he thinks the maths department is the coolest and is described brilliantly as all fringe and tweed. He has absolutely no idea what the monetary value of anything is and I think that’s rather sweet. The Doctor’s gag with the wallet is pure Matt Smith. The TARDIS is a cross between an avant-garde brass sculpture and a child’s activity centre with the child in this case being the Doctor. He darts around the console in his element and Rory had an interesting theory that half the buttons didn’t even do anything – he just pressed them because they made an interesting noise! Astonishingly this book builds to a conclusion where the Doctor has to argue that an innocent woman has to die. The Doctor is a clever bastard as he lures the Angels into a trap under the illusion that they are leading him into a trap.
Scots Tart: Amy has a look that reminds Rory that he is a married man. Rory wonders if he would risk all of time and space if it were Amy who had died and quickly concludes of course he would.
Loyal Roman: As is the norm with the latest series (and in the novels) Rory upstages Amy completely and Morris brings the character to the fore in important moments of the book and allows him to play the hero in his own unique (fairly useless) way. The Doctor says that he knows who Rory is but he full of surprises nonetheless. Chasing after Amy with a long-suffering smile just about sums Rory up. Only Rory could feel jealous of Amy flirting with himself from the future and when he sees himself he notices that he does have a surprisingly large nose and gormless face! He seems to spend his entire life waiting for people – zapped back to 2001 he had to wait for an entire month until a point where he knew the Doctor and his younger self would be.
Twists: The teaser is brilliant because it not only conjures up 2003 in a few sentences (something that Morris excels at in this novel in various years that are visited) with mentions of Iraq and Saddam Hussein but it also manages to stress the horror of the Weeping Angels advancing in the flashing light of the flickering emergency lighting. The idea of the Angels appearing on security monitors but not in reality is really scary and as Mark runs through the town each new screen shows the creature getting closer and closer. Mark reading a note in his own past that he wouldn’t write until the future that tells him he can save his wife’s life is Moffatt’s style of timey wimey cleverness at its emotional best. The Doctor describes Mark’s interference in his own life as the first pebble in an avalanche but how can he fail to warn his mother of his father’s death in a few years? Those insidious Angels have taken Mark back into his own personal timeline to create a paradox and they can feed off of the potential time energy. There is more chilling imagery as the Angels hang from the rafters of a school disco lit up by the pulsing coloured lights. Morris highlights the torture of being in a long-suffering relationship and Mark and Sophie’s time together is described as an obligation to be endured. Mark wins the lottery in his timeline because his older self writers the numbers down so when he goes back in time in the future he will know the numbers and allow his younger self to win! Argh – boss eyed! The lights go out in the museum and the Doctor activates the green glow of the sonic only to reveal an Angel lunging out of the darkness towards him…eek! Imagine if you learnt that every step of your life was manipulated…by you! The Doctor admits that he got it wrong (a rare event!) and the Angels haven’t been trying to get the two Marks together but keep them apart until the right point. The book constantly points to the older Mark affecting his younger selves life and so when the younger Mark discovers the mysterious benefactor in his life and seeks him out it comes as a complete surprise. Best way to stop a car crash between two vehicles? Put something large and very obvious between them. In a moment of astonishing adult drama Mark tells the Doctor that he didn’t warn them about the events of September 11th because he was told not to interfere with history and how much that hurt him. If Mark saves Rebecca he will wipe out the last nine years of his life where he went back in time and pushed his life in the right direction – he might not even meet Rebecca in the first place! When it comes Rebecca’s death is one of the most moving moments in any Doctor Who novel. I love how the book doesn’t take the obvious route of having Mark being inadvertently responsible for Rebecca’s death and far more bravely it comes as a conscious choice which is much more bold and heartbreaking.
Funny bits: Whilst juggling touching character moments and scares, Touched By An Angel is also very funny. There are plenty of examples of Morris’ sparkling wit throughout this book but these are my favourite moments…
· ‘Whenever the space-time continuum goes wibbly it lights up. Or it would if the bulb worked. It also boils eggs. That’s not a fault. It’s a feature.’
· When Mark gets on a train in 1994 Mark can’t understand why it is so quiet when he realises that nobody is chatting on their mobile phones!
· ‘If reasoned argument doesn’t succeed you’ll leave me no choice but to resort to brute force’ says the Doctor before thumping square in the face!
· ‘The Wibble Detector never lies!’
· ‘Do I look like the sort of person who would kidnap a bride on her wedding day in a police box?’
· ‘Really? The whole universe? Depends on me wearing a fez?’
Result: Touched By An Angel is like the best of all worlds. You have the likable human drama favoured by the Davies era; the clever wibbly wobbly timey wimey cleverness of Moffatt’s reign and it is all tied up by Jonathan Morris’ unique brand of imagination and wit. It’s a book that is firing all cylinders, often at once! I love how the clever ideas are all channelled through Mark and his perfectly normal life – its not just cleverness for the sake of it (like the series feels like sometimes) but grounded in character at all times. Being able to explore so much of Mark and Rebecca’s lives through the book they become the most vivid characters we have met since the NSAs began. Rather than use them as a force for action Morris wisely builds up the intelligence of the Angels and uses them as creepy silent observers and it marks their best use since their introduction. The regulars shine, the prose is bubbly, there are constant surprises and you will want to keep picking it up every time you put it down. If this doesn’t convince Steven Moffatt to give Jonathan Morris a shot at writing for the series (ala Gareth Roberts/Only Human) nothing will. Top dollar: 10/10