It’s an incredible tight-rope trick to try to write a frothy DOCTOR WHO story set in plague-besieged Edinburgh.
After all, the actual details of plague are so horrendous, something straight out of Cronenbergian body horror, and these are books written for kids.
There’s a lot of death and suffering that’s unavoidable here, and to be fair, Morris does his best not to flinch from it.
But there are limits.
The reality is so horrible that it’s impossible for DOCTOR WHO to truly engage with this part of history. As such it becomes a novel where The Doctor and Bill and Nardole kind of skate around on the surface. This is not going to be a story where everyone lives. But its is a book where, by necessity, The Doctor dances around at the periphery, and it all feels a bit incidental.
At the start of his association with DOCTOR WHO, Jonathan Morris wrote the excellent FESTIVAL OF DEATH. There’s nothing so timey-wimey or self-consciously clever in PLAGUE CITY. There’s not much to show his taste for Douglas Adams sci-fi absurdity. Apart, that is, from one moment where The Doctor emerges from the fog performing – both playing and apparently singing – HOW SOON IS NOW? by The Smiths and LOVE WILL TEAR US APART AGAIN by Joy Division.
Now, the guitar was over-used in Series 9, and had fortunately been dialed back by Series 10. But this was such a bizarre and over the top idea that it actually made me genuinely laugh out loud. The result being a chapter in a book, which as a whole I fear won’t be particularly memorable, that I might never forget.