From dashing young officer to eco-terrorist to wannabe Buddhist in the space of three stories, Captain Mike Yates enjoyed a remarkable character development for a Doctor Who companion. Deep Blue is an attempt to fill in the blanks between the Boy's Own-style Mike Yates who appeared as the man from the ministry in The Green Death and the 'traitor' who pulled a gun on the Doctor in The Invasion of the Dinosaurs.
It also neatly pairs him up with a Doctor not dissimilar to himself in terms of manner, appearance and outward age - number five, to be precise. This calls for a little creative jiggery-pokery - what are the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough doing in a Pertwee-era UNIT adventure? - but Morris handles it well. There's a touch of Robert Holmes about his style: the premise might not be the most startling or original (this is that old chestnut about little green men) but the pacing, insight and, above all, characterisation lift it to another level. Personally, I haven't watched a Fifth Doctor adventure since The Caves of Androzani was broadcast so I was stunned by the way he, Tegan and Turlough, and the UNIT regulars for that matter, sprang to life before my eyes. I know, I know - every reviewer seems to say that about these new BBC novels. But that's what puts them above other TV/movie tie-in novels: the original TV characters were so memorably written and acted that, unless the author makes a complete hash of it, the reader finds them coming to life again with very little mental effort on his or her part.
As for the set-up, well it's those damned alien invaders again, this time plaguing an English seaside resort. Why do aliens keep trying to invade Earth in the late twentieth century? Surely it's becoming a bit passe, like an intergalactic Majorca. I mean, everyone goes there. Why not try somewhere a little off the tourist trail, like Mondas or Skaro? Anyway, Morris tells the story well - suspenseful build-up in the first part, all-out action in the second - and brings a neat twist at the end. His division of the book into four large chapters, following the classic four-episode format of the series, is a nice touch too.
Deep Blue is a corking read and I suspect, like those late night Pertwee/Baker video sessions some of us indulge in, an excuse to wallow in a little seventies nostalgia. It also raises the galling thought that somewhere, in a parallel universe, Doctor Who is still on the air in that magical tea-time slot and, thanks to digital effects and a new generation of script writers like Morris, McIntee, Perry and Tucker, enjoying another long-overdue golden age.