Out of all the new wave of spooks and alien monsters to become part of the Doctor Who mythos since its revival back in 2005, the Weeping Angels (created by current head-honcho Steve Moffat) are easily the best. Immortal stone statues that can only move when unseen, possessing frightening abilities, utterly cold and malevolent, virtually unstoppable and the only thing you can do...is NOT BLINK.
Much easier said than done.
The concept is unparallel creative genius, and in no time at all, the Angels have achieved the same notoriety and iconic status as more established Who baddies i.e. the Daleks or the Cybermen. And it's no surprise, really. 2007's BAFTA-winning masterpiece "Blink" (which debuted the Weeping Angels) and 2010's two-part sequel "The Time of Angels"/"Flesh & Stone" (a classic horror-ride) were Moffat's finest works. Moffat was able to produce some of the greatest episodes in the entire history of Doctor Who because of his highly original and unique concept, and simultaneously establish his creations as legitimately frightening foes.
But can such a VISUALLY brilliant premise work as well in a novel? Well, Jonathan Morris successfully proves that it can with Touched By An Angel, one of the latest in the Doctor Who series of hardbacks, featuring the Eleventh Doctor and his companions, Amy Pond and Rory Williams. Right away, I will say that this is another essential read for fans. It has everything you'd expect from a classic Who tale; psychological horrors, ethics being questioned, the consequences of time travel, characters you can emotionally invest in, and an overall impact that stays with you forever.
In 2003, Rebecca Whitaker died in a tragic road accident, leaving a widower in Mark. What makes the loss all the more painful...is that they were truly right for one another. Soul-mates. In 2011, the still-grieving Mark has withdrawn from all his old friends and family and is simply lost without Rebecca. Then he finds himself targeted by the Weeping Angels and the Doctor, Amy and Rory are too late to save Mark from being whisked back to the past.
Where he receives a message from his future-self...that he now has the power to save Rebecca.
As with previous TV outings of the Weeping Angels, Touched By An Angel is a story that's true to the nature of the evil statues and the stories they appeared in. This is a very tense, psychological & taut novel that will rattle you to the core. The sheer menace of the Angels and their essence has been captured perfectly by the author. Morris remains completely faithful to what they're all about, and is able to help the reader visualise them in a way as if you were watching them on the telly.
Similar to "Blink" and "Time of the Angels"/"Flesh & Stone", the Angels' motives remain hard to decipher. Just why did they target Mark Whitaker? Why do they keep showing up? And just how is the timeline of an innocent, ordinary man vital to their plans? The writer keeps you guessing, but he knows perfectly well where he's leading his story. The Angels' machinations are handled superbly, and when the truth about their agenda DOES come to light, the revelation is satisfying, logical and disturbing. Jonathan's plot is a thing of beauty, and does Steven Moffat proud, what with his well-paced, subtle unravelling of plot-layers, and his handling of characters.
Although the Doctor, Amy and Rory receive plenty of attention and are given meaningful enough roles to make them vital to the story, the REAL protagonists of Touched By An Angel are (without any doubt) Mark and Rebecca. Similar to Sally Sparrow from "Blink", Mark Whitaker has the biggest role, superseding that of the Doctor's. He's a tragic character, as is Rebecca. Throughout their lives, they've shared a great friendship and plenty of their own relationships/hardships, all of which makes you realise that Mark and Rebecca are simply MADE for each other.
Morris does a beautiful job of developing both characters, providing a strong look back on their lives, growing up and facing the struggles of normal life. You grow to love both Mark and Rebecca, and you really want the husband to save his wife. The finale is such a genuine tear-jerker. When Mark just wants him and Rebecca to live happily ever after, you really feel for him, and indeed for Rebecca (who is an equally strong character to love). The machinations of the Weeping Angels, the warnings of the Doctor and the questions and similar feelings from Amy and Rory, help make the love story between Mark and Rebecca even more tragic. It's such an emotional read, but one that isn't overdone.
Another positive to note is the trip to the past (from 1994 onwards in this case). Because the time period is still so fresh and vibrant in my mind, reading Touched By An Angel was made all the more believable and realistic for me. Because of Jonathan's wonderful references to things that are sadly no longer here (e.g. Woolworths, Our Price etc), classic TV programmes (`Allo' `Allo...', Cold Feet) and what life was like without no Chip & Pin, two-pound coins, HD, DVDs, plasma screens, mobile phones & laptops; it all grounds the time-travelling of Doctor Who in a way that's refreshing, yet also beneficial to the story.
The writing-style is excellent, the pacing is tremendous and the whole thing manages to avoid getting lost within itself. All this, plus subtle references to the Weeping Angels' history and a satisfying, believable ending make this book one to fit on your shelf. Doctor Who: Touched By An Angel is a novel no fan can afford to overlook. Trevor Baxendale's Prisoner of the Daleks is STILL the definitive Who novel, but this is truly a worthy runner-up. Pick up a copy, but never forget...
DO - NOT - BLINK!!!