Doctor Who
The Feast of the Drowned

Author: Stephen Cole
Read by: David Tennant
BBC Audio
RRP: 9.99
ISBN 1 846 07062 7
Available 03 July 2006

When a naval cruiser sinks in mysterious circumstances, all aboard are lost. Rose is saddened to learn that the brother of her friend, Keisha, was among the dead - but then he appears before them as a ghostly apparition. As the dead crew haunt loved ones all over London, the Doctor, Rose, Mickey and Keisha are drawn into a chilling mystery. What sinister force sank the ship, and why...?

Rather strangely, this audio book, like its predecessor, Jacqueline Rayner's The Stone Rose, is an Earth-based story featuring the recurring characters of Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler. These characters don't usually appear in consecutive stories, so there is a risk that the series might be perceived as lacking variety. In both books, the Doctor and Rose have already arrived as the story begins. However, whereas the TARDIS crew spent relatively little time in present-day London during The Stone Rose, here the capital city is the primary location. It is possible, therefore, that the Doctor and Rose immediately returned to the present day following their trip to ancient Rome, perhaps to check up on Rose's statue and to ensure that history had not been affected by their adventure.

Jackie and - in particular - Mickey play larger roles in this story than they did in the previous one. In fact, Mickey seems well on his way to becoming a full-blown companion, as he eventually did in the television series. Did Cole and Rayner know that Mickey was going to end up staying behind in a parallel universe? Is that why they make maximum use of the character in these books?

Another major character is Keisha, who is introduced here as part of a once close-knit gang comprising Rose, Keisha and Shareen. Rose's best mate Shareen has been mentioned several times on the television show, but presumably Cole has chosen to invent a new friend (or the BBC insisted) rather than use Shareen, in case the character should ever appear in a subsequent episode that might contradict this story.

This batch of audio books is clearly set after the episode New Earth - in which both Rose and the Doctor make frequent reference to the Time Lord's new appearance and personality - and probably also after Tooth and Claw. In The Stone Rose, the Doctor mentions an encounter with werewolves (though this might not necessarily refer to Tooth and Claw), while in this book Rose recalls the Doctor's comment about humans being composed mostly of water.

Despite the higher than usual word count of Cole's original novel, there are few noticeable omissions from this abridged reading. Jacqueline Rayner, who condensed all three books in this batch, is more ruthless in editing her own novel than she is with Cole's or Justin Richards's. Here the only notable excision is the revelation about Mickey and Keisha's "affair".

This remains a relatively adult narrative. For example, one character, Vida Swann, gives a two-fingered salute, while Cole's descriptions of the bloated white faces of reanimated victims of drowning - all luridly enunciated by David Tennant - are quite gruesome.

Tennant uses his own Scottish accent for the voice of Vida, while the villainous Rear Admiral Crayshaw sounds remarkably like Baron Silas Greenback from Danger Mouse. Unfortunately, his attempts at black characters are slightly comical, which is a particular shame because this book has three major ones: Mickey, Keisha and Keisha's brother Jay.

Nevertheless, the audio version of The Feast of the Drowned remains substantial fodder for Who fans of all ages. Feast your ears.

Richard McGinlay

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