Don’t feed the trolls

SFX - - Reviews - Rhian Drinkwa­ter

re­leased 12 May 335 pages | Hard­back Author Jenny T Col­gan Pub­lisher BBC Books

The cast­ing of Cather­ine Tate was one of the most con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sions of Rus­sell T Davies’s time as Doc­tor Who showrun­ner – could the co­me­dian known for her brash char­ac­ters re­ally work in the TARDIS? For­tu­nately the an­swer was yes, and Donna be­came the stand­out com­pan­ion of new Who: de­ter­mined, in­de­pen­dent and al­ways car­ing. It was the show’s loss when she left af­ter just a year, so a re­turn to the TARDIS duo’s time to­gether is very wel­come.

In The Blood sees the Doc­tor and Donna back on mod­ern- day Earth and fight­ing a very 21st- cen­tury vil­lain: in­ter­net trolls. Or rather, alien par­a­sites – Rem­paths – which feed on the re­sent­ment and frus­tra­tion of on­line com­menters, build­ing up their anger un­til killing them.

The stand- out fea­ture of this book is the way Jenny Col­gan cap­tures all the char­ac­ters – the Doc­tor, Donna, her grandad Wilf, her mum Sylvia; all of them are pitch- per­fect, and you can hear ev­ery line in the ac­tors’ voices. Oc­ca­sional pop cul­ture ref­er­ences from the Doc­tor grate slightly, but are again ut­terly in tune with his on- screen per­sona.

Un­for­tu­nately the rest of the novel is weaker. Web­site com­menters, on­line trolls and in­ter­net misog­y­nists may seem like the stuff of a story for our age, but from the over­weight slob liv­ing with his mother and yelling at ac­tresses on­line, to Donna’s friend, who out­sources her do­mes­tic life to clean­ers and nan­nies while barely lift­ing her eyes from her smart­phone, the book takes the line of right- on cliché rather than gen­uine ex­am­i­na­tion. And as the Doc­tor and Donna rush around the world chas­ing in­ter­net con­nec­tions the var­i­ous fac­tions and in­ter­ests never feel well ex­plained, leav­ing the con­clu­sion some­what con­fused and un­sat­is­fy­ing.

Donna’s also about to re­turn in a new se­ries of Big Fin­ish au­dios star­ring Tate and Tennant – re­view next is­sue.

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