Doctor Who
The Deviant Strain

Author: Justin Richards
BBC Books
RRP: 6.99
ISBN 0 563 48637 6
Available 08 September 2005

The Novrosk Peninsula: the Soviet naval base has been abandoned, its nuclear submarines rusting, rotting, forgotten. Until the Russian Special Forces arrive and discover that the Doctor and his companions are there too. But there is something else in Novrosk. Something that predates even the stone circle on the cliff top. Something that is at last waking, hunting, killing...

It is evident from the character dynamics of the TARDIS crew that they experience several adventures together between the television episodes The Doctor Dances and Boom Town. At the end of The Doctor Dances, the Doctor still doesn't entirely trust his new companion Captain Jack, yet during Boom Town the travellers are very much at ease in each others' company. This provides an ideal gap that is aching to be filled by the second batch of three Ninth Doctor novels, of which The Deviant Strain is the first.

As the book begins, the Doctor is still rather tetchy with Jack, who does himself no favours by taking the liberty of answering a distress signal received by the TARDIS. As in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, his actions precipitate a disaster, but once again he redeems himself. Strangely, though, despite the presence of Captain Jack being used as a selling point on the back cover blurb, the likeness of actor John Barrowman does not appear on any of the covers in this batch of books.

With its disused submarines and legends of Vourdulak, life-sucking vampires from Russian folklore, there's a distinctly X-Files flavour to the novel's opening chapters. However, the initial intrigue ultimately gives way to a standard Who formula, with a base besieged by blobby creatures that are not dissimilar to the Rutans.

Unfortunately, unlike the author's previous book, The Clockwise Man, which picked up during its final 50 pages or so, the plot to this one runs out of steam about two-thirds of the way through, and the rest of the narrative involves a tiresome pattern of entrapment and escape from the monsters and villains.

Nevertheless, if you're missing the all-too short-lived Christopher Eccleston Doctor, and/or you're hungry for the next series of the television show, this novel should help to tide you over.

Richard McGinlay

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