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Rip Tide

This is part of a continued detour from my EDA reading, as it fits into the gap year outlined in Vampire Science (VS) and (in terms of books at least) follows on from The Dying Days (TDD) in the Doctor's timeline.

Following the events of TDD, the Doctor appears to be travelling alone (temporarily) before getting round to picking Sam up from the rally he apparently leaves her at (before the events of VS.)

The short, scene setting opening is told from the perspective of the alien, Ruth. Then, we switch to Steve for a lifeboat sortie as a body is fished from the Cornish waters. Finally, the bulk of the story is viewed from the perspective of Steve's younger sister Nina.

For a long while, it didn't even occur to me that the shift in character viewpoints was happening as it was so expertly done. I was aware of the transitions on some level, but they seemed to shift so naturally with the flow of the story that I've only fully recognised them in my post-reading analysis.

The story begins to gather pace at around the fifty page mark, as it becomes clear that there's a bit of a mystery to be solved. This is the type of story you read because you want to find out what the motivations of the characters are, rather than simply being along for the ride. The aliens, such as they are, are an unknown quantity for the best part of the book, and the domestic tension between Nina and brother Steve provides a superb little subplot.

The Doctor seems to be a pretty good approximation of the character created for the TV Movie and expanded upon in Vampire Science, although there doesn't appear to be a deliberate attempt to further determine his character in Rip Tide. (Which is, I suppose, fair enough within only 150 pages.)

Nina herself is the nearest thing this story gets to a companion figure, as despite her initial misgivings as to the Doctor's intentions towards her (she thinks he's a sugar daddy), her curiosity gets the better of her and she agrees to go into the TARDIS (his attempt to assuage her reservations about him and convince her he's telling the truth.) Funnily enough, upon seeing the interior of the TARDIS, she has a little cry. Seems familiar.

The major thing that bugged me about Rip Tide was Steve's stupidity.

Scenario: You're a coastguard, you and your buddies drag a body from the sea. A few days later, you perform a favour for a fisherman, scuba diving to see if you can dislodge one of his crab pots. You discover the crab pot is ensnared on a strange metallic object of ship-like appearance, of which you do not seem to be able to determine the origin, and upon releasing the crab pot, you subsequently find a small metal object in the pot's remains. Thinking nothing of it, you later get a rash on your hands (which heals), while your friend the fisherman fashions said metal object into a pretty pendant. Later, your friend dies from a 'heart attack', but has burns oddly like yours all over his hands and chest (where the pendant would have rested should he have worn it.) The fisherman leaves you the pendant in his will. Having received the pendant and worn it, your hand rash returns and you get a rash on your chest. You start feeling tired and dizzy, and develop an unhealthy pallor.

Question: Do you a) Act like a complete simpleton and carry on wearing said pendant, or do you b) Put two and two together?

Now, I'm not saying that Steve should be thinking, 'oh, this is obviously an alien artefact of some description and it's giving me a disease'. But surely anyone with an ounce of common sense would be able to formulate the (incorrect, but good enough) opinion that the (remember, unknown) object they were wearing could be highly radioactive. In fact, that was my first instinct as soon as he developed the rash on his hands for the first time, and I didn't have a clue what was going on at that point.

I sincerely hope that the majority of Cornish people are more intelligent than Steve.

Still, this irritation (if you'll excuse the pun) can be excused, as Rip Tide is a great little read in which Louise Cooper's love for and familiarity with the Cornish coastal landscape is evident. The aliens' aversion to water is a touch of genius in an environment practically overflowing with the wet stuff, and the prose is consistently entertaining.

So why such a (comparatively) low score? Well, although it's great story, I'm not so sure it's a great Doctor Who story. If Steve wasn't so dumb, no humans would have died, and the Doctor could have just explained to Ruth that he could take her home in the TARDIS - job done. Not much excitement in that version of events, but it does seem to be a bit of a plot hole.


Review by Tom Hey

You visited the Whoniverse at 11:11 pm GMT on Thursday 2nd February 2006