Doctor Who
Rip Tide

Author: Louise Cooper
Telos Publishing
RRP 10.00 (standard hardback),
25.00 (deluxe hardback)
ISBN 1 903889 12 X (standard hardback)
ISBN 1 903889 13 8 (deluxe hardback)
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Unsettling things are afoot on the Cornish coast. Strangers are hanging around the harbour and a mysterious object is found on the seabed. Could this have anything to do with the alluring Ruth, to whom local lifeboatman Steve has taken a shine, or the Byronesque Doctor, to whom Steve's little sister Nina feels irresistibly drawn...?

This novella was, rather worryingly, delayed for a month, pending approval from BBC Worldwide. For what reason, I wonder. Was there something in the original manuscript that proved unacceptable to the BBC?

Well, the Eighth Doctor - shock, horror - wears jeans. (What's the world coming to?) Indeed, he abandons his TV movie look entirely for a change, in favour of a lighter summer ensemble, complete with floppy sun hat. However, I don't really think that's a reason for any controversy.

More likely, the Beeb were uneasy about Louise Cooper's portrayal of the Doctor as the object of a 17-year-old's adulation. But whatever was in the original draft, proceedings remain proper and above board in the published version. Nina is not the first teenager to develop a crush for the Time Lord in arguably his most attractive incarnation - Samantha Jones did the same thing in the BBC's own Eighth Doctor novels. As before, he does not reciprocate the girl's feelings, despite having snogged a more mature woman in the TV movie. That said, no character has ever accused the Doctor of being a cradle-snatcher in quite such an explicit manner as he is in this book. (Which is quite odd, when you consider his track record for travelling the cosmos in the company of young girls.)

In case my review has given you the impression that this novella focuses primarily on the Doctor, I should point out that this is not the case. In fact, he hardly appears at all until almost halfway through the book. The main protagonists here are Nina and her big brother Steve. Previous Telos books have similarly minimised the Doctor's role: Time and Relative focused on Susan, while Citadel of Dreams turned its spotlight on Ace. But Susan and Ace are both familiar characters from the Doctor Who TV series, whereas Nina and Steve are not, which gives the reader the curious impression of reading a non-Who story that the Time Lord just happens to have strolled into.

The author's background in young adult fiction is reflected in the leading role that is played by Nina and in the simplistic (though proficient) writing style. Introducing the Doctor to a young readership through the eyes of such a character would have been a great idea for the first in a new range of young adult novels, and the length of the book also happens to be just about right for that market. However, I don't think teenage readers are the target audience for this series of expensive hardbacks.

Doubtless a younger reader would have been more surprised by certain plot twists than a veteran sci-fi fan like myself. I guessed, for instance, the purpose of Steve's unusual pendant long before it was disclosed. I also had cause to wonder why a couple of aliens, rather like the invaders in the movie Signs, would choose to visit Earth at all, given their particular allergies.

The author takes a little too long to tell her relatively simple tale - at 140 pages, not counting prelims and end matter, this is, I think, the longest Who novella to date. But that is not to say I didn't enjoy Rip Tide. On the contrary, there's plenty of human interest here, as Cooper reminds us how mere mortals such as ourselves might be affected if the Doctor suddenly walked into - and just as suddenly out of - our lives.

Richard McGinlay

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