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Beautiful Chaos, beautiful story
on 28 September 2011
One of the biggest reasons (if not THE biggest) why Series 4 of Doctor Who is my favourite is because of Donna Noble (Catherine Tate). A lot of that series' success can be attributed to such a deep, wonderful companion and the actress/comedienne who played her. Donna's impact (and Catherine's for that matter) on Doctor Who can never ever be forgotten or understated.
Donna's friendship to the Doctor, her valuable contribution and loyalty, her personality and family, and her heartbreaking departure all come to mind when remembering just what a great character she was. For Gary Russell to revisit all this for Beautiful Chaos is touching. For him to actually capture the essence of Donna, her world and legacy in this novel is nothing short of remarkable.
From the 2008 series of novels, Beautiful Chaos takes place sometime shortly before the finale of Series 4 (Turn Left/The Stolen Earth/Journey's End), though the prologue and epilogue are set after Donna's tragic return to normal life. The main focus though, is reflecting on the happy days of the Doctor and his best friend. Donna had been travelling with the Time Lord for a year, but Donna feels it's best to visit home to see her mum Sylvia and her granddad Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins), who has just discovered a brand new star which is to be named after him.
The Doctor and Donna are invited to come with him to the ceremony, and all looks set to be a great night for Wilf. But unfortunately, the Doctor notices something weird about the constellation of stars gathering...he's seen it before. And it's coming back to Earth.
I loved reading Beautiful Chaos. It's a story that's written very well indeed, possessing all the heart and soul that made Series 4 of Doctor Who so special. Gary Russell has a great respect and appreciation for what Russell T Davies created, and captures it all perfectly.
At first glance, the novel may seem like another typical adventure in the lives of the Doctor and Donna, and there IS the notorious alien menace, and great adventuring we expect from Doctor Who, but Beautiful Chaos is so much more than that. It's mostly driven by the characters and their interaction with each other. Not only is the character portrayal faithful and accurate to the TV series, all the original characters and all the various sub-plots/scenarios manage to remain wholly fresh and interesting. Not a moment is wasted here.
Along the way, we get another refreshing dive into Donna's thoughts and feelings, along with a look at the strained relationship she has with her overbearing mother Sylvia (Jacqueline King). Throughout the TV series, we never really knew why Sylvia was the way she was. In Beautiful Chaos, we're actually given a valid reason WHY she's so antagonistic and cut off from Donna and Wilf. You feel genuine sympathy towards Sylvia as a result and it's one of those mature issues that's handled so very well.
It's not just Donna that receives fine focus, Wilf gets his fair share of the spotlight, too. Like her granddaughter, Wilfred Mott is such a colourful character and has a strong supporting role in not just the plot, but also with the Doctor and Donna. There are some really heartfelt and touching moments featuring Wilf, particularly involving Netty, an elderly woman who he's developed genuine feelings for. Tragically, she suffers from Alzheimer's Disease which is (needless to say) a huge strain for all involved. However, Gary Russell handles this carefully, turning a difficult, sensitive issue into something that grounds the story, humbles the reader and makes us all be thankful for what we have in life.
Anything else? The Tenth Doctor is brilliant (as always!) with his friendships and interactions with Donna, Wilf and Netty, the return of the Mandragora Helix (last seen in 1976!) makes for an excellent antagonist, the pacing and writing are virtually faultless, the ending is satisfying, and the wonderful epilogue with Wilf points out the moral of this story.
Although the tragedy of fate will always be painful, we should be thankful for the good times we have with those we love. Remembering the good times more than the bad.
Doctor Who: Beautiful Chaos is a different breed of novel from BBC Books. It has a lot of heart and soul, more so than a lot of other hardback books in this series. It's mature, deals with several adult themes and may befuddle/disturb children who are reading it. But I think that's what makes it so special, and ultimately worthy of Russell T Davies.