Just before I left for Canberra, a friend of mine decided to give me half a dozen Tenth Doctor stories. See, he was moving as well and decided that he would never read these stories again. Honest to God, I don’t know how he came to that decision. When I moved, I brought all of my books with me. I didn’t want to be looking for a book in a few months time (once I’ve finished my almost-pile of new books and re-read Harry Potter and Hunger Games) that I really wanted to read, only to have it be in the wrong state. That’s me being a book-a-holic, though. The silver lining here is that I have six brand spanking new Doctor Who episodes that’ll help tie me over until Season 8. I think I can live with that.
I did a little digging on the author of The Nightmare of Black Island, Mike Turner, and it turns out that Mr. Turner is part of the small group of people that worked on both Classic and New Who. I think that’s absolutely brilliant. Plus, it’s incredibly clear to me that Turner really knows his Doctor. He perfectly captured the essence of Ten’s quirky rambling and stormy anger as well as Rose’s stubbornness, kindness, and sarcastic humour. I could hear them both talking, yelling, and joking in my head. That’s not even mentioning the fact that Turner created each hero’s physical idiosyncrasies with effortless genius.
Here, I’ll flip to a random page and find a quote for you guys:
190…Rose and the Doctor aren’t on this page
37… here we go:
‘This estate!’ The Doctor nodded at the houses. ‘It’s all wrong. Not in keeping with the rest of the village at all. Why do they let people build things like this? It’s not on, you know, modern estate like this in a conservation area. I’ve a good mind to write to the council.’
Rose was speechless. The monsters were emerging from the trees now, there was nowhere to hide and the Doctor was wittering on about sympathetic building styles!
‘Still,’ he went on, ‘it’s probably attracting new people to the area and everyone living round here’s obviously doing quite well. Couple of cars in each driveway, quite a few four-by-fours…Which is good, ’cause it allows me do this!’
He raised his sonic screwdriver, winked at Rose and pressed his thumb against the button.
If you try and tell me you didn’t see Ten whirling around in a circle and tousling his perfect hair before coming to a stop in front of Rose and brandishing his sonic like a sword, I know you’re lying. I can even hear the intonation in his voice. Turner, you’re a genius.
Tennant has always been my favourite Doctor. People try and tell me that your first Doctor will be your favourite. I will always be grateful to Eccleston, but Tennant was something else. He was quirky, funny, sexy, depressed, and as cold as ice. What’s that quote again? From ‘Family of Blood’?
He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and can see the turn of the universe and… he’s wonderful.
Tim Latimer, that cutie redheaded kid from Love Actually all grown up, he understands Ten. Nine was amazing; he was sassy and hard and, let’s face it, downright hilarious. But Ten was something else. Ten had a childlike quality to him that Nine just couldn’t have had, fresh from the Time War as he was. And then this childishness got passed onto Eleven who took it to a whole other level.
So the point of that fangirl rant was to explain how important it is to me that authors get Ten right. I thought I had been impressed when I read Beautiful Chaos a few months ago, but The Nightmare of Black Island blew it away, in terms of characterisation. And, as I’ve said countless times before, characters will always be the most important part of a story for me.
Although, that being said, the plot of this story is pretty incredible:
Ten and Rose end up on this tiny island in Wales that teems with horrifying monsters straight out of a child’s nightmare once the sun goes down. There’s a disused lighthouse flashing a sickly green light, a returned local man living in isolation with only his nursing staff for company, and a young boy that is seeping into the dreams of all of the villagers. In true Doctor Who tradition all of these things link together and form a convoluted-but-surprisingly-not-confusing conclusion.
There is just one thing that I have a problem with in this story. And it’s a grammar thing. Yes, I am a grammar Nazi, we’ve already been here. Let’s move on. So, basically, in the second year of my writing course we learnt about this fun little phenomenon called a “squinting modifier“. It’s lazy sentence structure. If you’re ever reading a sentence and you have no idea what’s going on, or if the sentence makes no sense, it’s probably because the author’s thrown a dangling, misplaced, or squinting modifier in the mix. Most of the time it’s easy to figure out what the author meant. I mean, you’ll get a couple of giggles out of a sentence like this one:
Although nearly finished, we left the play early because we were worried about our sick cat.
But you know that the author meant that the play was almost finished, not the cat. (Just for the record, that sentence is an example of a dangling modifier).
The thing about Doctor Who is that, because the story lines are so fantastic and science-fictiony, that the misplaced, dangling, or squinting modifier goes unnoticed because weird things just happen in the Whoniverse. So when I read this sentence:
“Monitors showing the sleeping figures in the dining room hung in an ungainly tangle from the ceiling and huge power units throbbed in the corner.”
I was actually imagining a group of bodies hanging from the ceiling “in an ungainly tangle”. It was a pretty scary image until I figured out that it was the monitors hanging in that tangle. If you’ve seen “Day of the Moon”, where the Silence are hanging like bats from the rafters of that creepy children’s home, you’ll understand where I’m coming from.
Then there was just a tiny little tendency to overuse adverbs. “Adverbs are guilty until proven innocent”, a wise man once said. Whenever I write, I try to keep this in mind. If you have chosen the right verb, an adverb shouldn’t be necessary. Talking softly becomes ‘whispering’, ‘murmuring’, or ‘muttering. And running quickly becomes…well, that’s a redundant adverb, isn’t it?
OK, I’m stopping with the grammar rant now. I have been out of class for too long. I need to go back and learn things so I can stop lecturing complete strangers.
All in all, The Nightmare of Black Island encapsulates Ten and Rose, has a storyline with just the right amount of twists and turns, but is let down by some grammatical errors.
And just one more. Indulge me: