Virgin’s Doctor Who New Adventures have a reputation for being too dark and edgy. Transit, the tenth book in the series, is perhaps the most infamous for this reason. In fact, it is generally regarded as being quite bad because it goes too far in that direction, to the extent that it doesn’t quite feel like Doctor Who. I was very curious to read it for these reasons – I was also pretty excited to read the first novel with Bernice Summerfield officially in the position of the Doctor’s companions. She had been fantastic in her introduction in the previous book, Love and War.
Aside from an amusing little prologue, right after the first chapter, I had the feeling that this was very much not like Doctor Who as I know it. And why? Not because of adult themes (which I think Doctor Who is capable of addressing), but because the first (exceedingly long) chapter didn’t feature any recognisable elements from the Doctor Who Universe. It was all about a new character named Kadiatu – she lives in the 22nd century and has some money stolen from her. We learn about a complicated transmat system which allows people to take trains between different planets. There’s a lot of future slang and terminology and, frankly, I felt quite lost a lot of the time.
Eventually the Doctor and Benny arrive at the scene… unfortunately, they soon get separated and spend most of the novel apart, which is a shame, because I wanted to see some interaction between them. In fact, we don’t really get much of Benny at all, because she also spends a significant portion of the novel under an alien influence. She definitely felt very underutilised in the novel. I also really felt Ace’s absence, as she was such a big part of all the earlier novels.
What I did like, however, was getting to see the Doctor team up with Kadiatu. The two of them have a very interesting dynamic – Kadiatu is very different to any of his companions, quite a gritty character. The two of them spend a lot of time together in this novel and I enjoyed their interactions. Interestingly, Kadiatu is a descendant of The Brigadier and as such, stories of the Doctor have been passed down through her family. My inner fan did appreciate this reference.
Overall, though, this book is a mess. It has nice parts to it, but mostly I didn’t enjoy it because I didn’t really understand what was going on. Yes, there’s adult grittiness in the form of sex and violence, but these weren’t even problems, in my opinion. The problems stem from the fact that the storyline is a very confusing one and it’s made all the more confusing by lots of made up future slang terms. It’s something about an entity invading the transit system and causing problems – I couldn’t really keep up. Sadly, it was one of my least favourite Doctor Who novels so far – which is a shame, because I know Ben Aaronovitch, author of Remembrance of the Daleks, can do much better.