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VINE VOICEon 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.
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on 13 January 2009
A cracking story with the unexpected return of a particularly nasty enemy memorably encountered by the 4th Doctor and Sarah Jane. The adventure belts along very satifactorily and the stakes are as high as ever for the human race, but the highlight for me was the interesting exploration of the Noble family at home. Gary Russell offers a particularly sympathetic treatment of Donna's Mum, Sylvia, and provides some understanding of her harsh demeanour towards the world and Donna. Wilf is such a marvellously well drawn character, thanks to Bernard Cribbins, he just leaps off the pages. The family interactions together and with the Doctor were as interesting as the adventure. It makes Donna's departure even sadder.
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on 4 July 2016
This is a great story that in terms of content, style and tone is perfectly characteristic of the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble period of the programme. Timewise the bulk of the novel is set quite a way into Donna’s travels in the Tardis but before ‘Turn Left’. There is, however, a prologue and epilogue that frame the story. These feature Wilfred Mott and Sylvia Noble reflecting on what has happened to Donna after ‘The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End’ and her lack of memory of the Doctor.

This makes it more of a story about Wilfred than Donna or the Doctor. The prologue is effectively from Wilf’s perspective as he ruminates on what Donna has lost and how she was ‘better’ with the Doctor. This foreshadows where the character is in ‘The End of Time’ which was aired the year after this was originally published. His granddaughter might still be around but the person she became by travelling with the Doctor is lost. This causes Wilf to remember the similar type of loss of Netty. This novel becomes almost a recollection of those events.

The novel features the welcome return of one of the Fourth Doctor’s opponents, a foe whose return was prophesised in the story in which they originally appeared. Basically then this is a sequel to that story. The antagonist is sufficiently upgraded by the author to fit into the modern world. Assuming the persona of supercomputer Madame Delphi this entity plans to utilise modern technology in a bid to assume control over human civilisation. Being a megalomaniac by nature this is only its starting point to expand its influence into the entire cosmos. As such the novel touches upon the typical elements of technophobia and the risks of machines taking over that have all been seen many times before. But they are done well here.

The portrayals of Donna and the Doctor are perfect matches for their onscreen personas. Sylvia and Wilf are also expertly characterised whilst the author has still found space to develop them both somewhat without contravening or affecting what we see onscreen. He certainly portrays a more sympathetic side to Sylvia which makes her a more rounded character.

The other major character in the story is Netty, an eccentric, independent minded old astronomer who has a touch of Doctorish qualities herself. She’s the type of character you would imagine would get on well with the Fourth Doctor. She also provides a love interest for Wilf which wonderfully underlines the main alien plot. Her suffering from Alzheimer’s brings a very serious and human side to the story as well as forming a vital part of the plot resolution. This allows au to see the ‘darker’ methods the Doctor must occasionally use to prevail.

A thoroughly enjoyable read. One of the best Doctor Who novels published by BBC Books to accompany the series since its return.
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on 6 March 2009
As a Doctor Who writer Gary Russell has produced some great stories and can be relied upon to come up with an entertaining and thought-provoking read that comes straight out of the blocks and immediately captures the readers' imagination. Beautiful Chaos however, starts slowly, as The Timelord and his companion Donna return to Earth so that she can spend some time with her Mum and her Grandad; although the living legend that is Bernard Cribbins made was superb on TV as Donna's Grandad, these scenes seemed to me to drag on and to lack any real pathos. Meanwhile, a mysterious computer-based entity known as Madam Delphi is using the technology to either destroy or enslave members of the human race, in order it would seem, to build an army that will enable her to take over the world. It soon becomes clear that this entity has been thwarted by one of The Doctor's previous incarnations, as an ancient evil reawakens and threatens the cosmos once more.

As well as the return of a great Doctor Who villain, there are some nice moments that are reminiscent of the classic series: An archaeological dig becomes a nightmare as the diggers are gradually taken over, an electrician is reduced to ashes as he repairs a socket that is a conduit for madam Delphi's deadly energy and a ruthless businessman serves as recruiter for the alien's burgeoning army...
I also liked the fact that the cataclysmic events soon to overtake Donna in the TV series are hinted at here, giving the story some real tension, and The Doctor himself is unusually sober and ill-at-ease as he spends time in the company of Donna's family and attends an astronomy dinner with Wilf, his companion's Grandad. The book has a depth and a classic Doctor Who feel that will no doubt strike a chord with older readers, although I think this makes it less accessible for younger ones, especially the overly wordy middle section. Overall though it is a great addition to the collection and I look forward to the audio version which I feel has the potential to do the story greater justice.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 24 October 2013
This is the story chosen to epitomise the Tenth Doctor (as played by David Tennant) era in the 50th anniversary celebrations of Doctor Who. As such, it has a prologue and epilogue that may be a bit confusing to those not familiar with the relationship and events of the Doctor's travels with Donna Noble. However, that's not insurmountable to an interested reader.

Unfortunately, I felt that this story suffered, as a Doctor Who story, in being far too much about the trials and tribulations of Donna's family life and not enough about a Doctor-related event. It read a bit like a family saga, where the author has suddenly remembered they're supposed to be writing a Doctor Who book so they bring in an old enemy from the Fourth Doctor's time and try to tie that into Donna's family saga - not very successfully in my opinion.

This book has charm in its amusing anecdotes about the Doctor, and Donna, and her grandfather seems like a lovely old chap. But there's a lot of familial angst which doesn't sit well in the story, and there's a lot of rather hastily cobbled together action scenes (well, they seem hastily cobbled together to me). So the result is not so coherent, and not so interesting as you might like it to be as a Doctor Who story, particularly as a story that is indicative of the Tenth Doctor era in the 50th anniversary series. A pity, as I felt it could have added up to much more.
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on 5 November 2014
Great to see Wilfred Mott back in the book, and a story that has real heart and sentiment as well as the normal big action pieces. Some parts will make you laugh and other parts will bring a lump in the throat. Very well written.
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on 27 February 2010
I bought the abridged CD reading of this book last year and was not wildly taken with the adventure. Recently, however, having had the luxury of time, I have yomped my way through all the new series novels and this one stands out. The story as written is so detailed that considerable amounts of text had to be excised for the audio CD and I think that the quality of the story suffered as a result.

The abridgement does not do the story of Donna's family justice at all, and the closing chapter of the book actually made me cry - it is a lovely addendum to the story of Donna Noble and leaves you feeling considerably better about her being returned home to her mother's care. Sylvia Noble has generally been portrayed as a bitter and judgemental battleaxe - this story rounds her out very well.

I thoroughly recommend getting hold of this book whether or not you have heard the audio CD.
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on 16 March 2016
I found this book VERY slow to get going. Maybe because I've watched the show and knew the characters already, Donna, her grandad and mum. You'll get about half way before things get going. I was expecting it to be better. I Preferred Deep: Time.
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on 11 March 2015
A great Doctor Donna adventure (a reference to series four of doctor who). It's a good story that was well written with many parts about Donna' s family, well arguments. Although this adds emotion to the plot with interesting interactions between interesting characters, some of these conversations bored me, but that's because I prefer action. However, the ending was amazing and I loved the link between the start and the end.
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on 11 April 2015
I enjoyed watching the 10th Doctor but i have to say that Donna Noble was never my favorite companion so i was a little unsure how well her character was going to translate into book form but i needn't have worried as this novel is just the right parts of Doctor & Donna with Wilfred along for the adventure.Mystery,aliens and some excellent comedy moments.4 & a half/5
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