doctor who beautiful chaos 1 doctor who beautiful chaos 2
Gary Russel
BBC Books

Wilfred Mott is very happy: his granddaughter, Donna, is back home, catching up with family and gossiping about her journeys, and he has just discovered a new star and had it named after him. He takes the Tenth Doctor with him to the naming ceremony. But the Doctor soon discovers something else new, and worryingly bright, in the heavens–something that is heading for Earth. It’s an ancient force from the Dark Times. And it is very, very angry…

The tenth book selected for the 50th Anniversary re-release, featuring the Tenth Doctor. This particular story features Donna as the Doctor’s companion, and takes place as kind of a flashback that’s bookended between two scenes that take place after the events in the episode “Journey’s End”. Coincidently, this novel, too, was the last one written to feature Donna as the Doctor’s companion. Enough nerding out, now; let’s carry on with the review…

Beautiful Chaos finds the Doctor and Donna returning back to visit her family on the anniversary of Donna’s father’s death. Her mother’s her usual curmudgeonly self, and her grandfather had made a “special lady friend” in the interim. And also discovered a new star and had it named after him, and is being honored by the local astronomy community (they exist, apparently) for this by way of a posh dinner and award ceremony. That same night, a couple of bright star-like chaos bodies appear in the sky, moving independently and impossibly, and it may have something to do with some new technology that’s about to hit on an international scale. Seems an ancient alien menace that the Doctor defeated in Italy around the time of the Renaissance is readying itself for a comeback, lead by the mysterious Madam Delphi and a young go-getting CEO of the company that’s producing the Smart Phone/Multi-Media devices that will take over humanity, unless the Doctor can stop it in time. Good thing this came about, too, otherwise he’d have to deal with the horrors of hobnobbing at the Astronomy Club dinner.

To be completely forthcoming with you, oh beloved reader (and, I would presume, fellow Whovian), as a companion, I didn’t like Donna very much. Not that it was because I was a fan of Rose (no) or Martha (NO); it was because I found her personality rather off-putting. Harpy, one would say. Over time, though, the character has warmed up to me a bit more, as I noticed that Donna wasn’t written as your typical companion type, playing more as a foil to the Doctor’s egotism in ways. And while Beautiful Chaos isn’t the first Tenth Doctor novel I’ve read, it is the first I’ve read to have Donna as the companion. And here, by the way it was written (very well, by long time professional Whovian Gary Russell), we are given a glimpse beyond the surface level of the kind of dynamic the two had. And quite frankly, reading this was a far better Tenth Doctor experience than having to go through Martha Smith’s secret pining for his affections. She wasn’t as catty as Rose, but co’mon, there’s a limit to my gag reflex, here. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah.

I believe the reason why Beautiful Chaos was chosen for the 50th Anniversary reissues was because of the rather poignant plot point of Wilfred Mott’s lady friend, who is in stage 2 alzheimer’s. The sense of how much he cares for her, and is willing to do anything for her, while silently dreading losing her to the dementia he knows is coming–along with Donna’s mother coming to terms with losing her husband as well as not knowing whether she’ll see her daughter again while she’s traversing around with this Doctor character–gives this story an added depth beyond your standard serviceable Doctor Who yarn. Of course, this is a Doctor Who book, so we also get an alien race using technology to conquer humanity for their own purposes to keep things from getting to maudlin.

Brilliantly written, capturing the spirit of Doctor number ten and company, and packing in a nice, tight and satisfying sci-fi adventure story in only 242 pages, Beautiful Chaos was well worth my time. And ended a bit quickly, I might add.