Continuing my journey through the Doctor Who New Adventures series of books, I came to Mark Gatiss’s Nightshade – a book which, as well as being a new adventure for the Seventh Doctor and Ace, also serves as a pleasant homage to the classic Quatermass serials of the 1950s. Plus, it’s set at Christmastime, which is a nice bonus.
The story introduces a man named Edmund Trevithick, who used to star as a famous TV character called Professor Nightshade, who investigated alien matters. He’s now retired and living in a care home, but before long he has a frightening encounter which is eerily reminiscent of the things on his show. The entity that the Doctor, Ace, Trevithick and everyone else encounters is quite a creepy one and it was certainly reminiscent of the kinds of things which would appear in Quatermass stories.
What was quite noticeable to me is that the Doctor is especially dark and brooding in this story – moreso than I have seen him portrayed before. He finds himself thinking about all his old companions and feeling very sad about their absence. He even starts to wonder if he actually achieves anything in his travels. This was an interesting portrayal and one I rather liked – though I did feel that he was unjustifiably mean to Ace. In fact, I’d go so far as to say his behaviour was downright toxic and that I’d have thought the events of this novel would have irreparably damaged their relationship… It’s pretty tense.
It wasn’t just the Doctor’s mood which was sombre though – the whole story was quite bleak. A lot of innocent people die during it and, not only that, they die after experiencing severe emotional torment – the reason being that an entity is taking on the appearance of people who have died, then visiting their loved ones and killing them too. It’s pretty horrible and as the side characters were often well developed, I found their deaths pretty sad.
But if you like slightly more serious Doctor Who, then this is a book you’ll probably enjoy. It’s fairlywell self-contained (as long as you know the Doctor’s past in broad terms) so don’t worry about needing too much foreknowledge. Definitely one of my favourite New Adventures so far.