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Doctor Who: Beautiful Chaos Hardcover – Dec 26 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books (Dec 26 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846075637
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846075636
  • Product Dimensions: 18.6 x 11.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #114,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

About the Author

Gary Russell is one of the script editing team for Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, and the author of many novels and reference books in the Doctor Who range. A former editor of Doctor Who Magazine, he was the producer of Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish Productions for eight years. He lives in Cardiff.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9a42b1d4) out of 5 stars 63 reviews
49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a457dbc) out of 5 stars Best tie-in novel yet - by far Feb. 25 2009
By Dr W. Richards - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My expectations for this novel were not high, I'll admit: I've read all the Rose-era novels, and for the most part they're forgettable. I did enjoy some more than others - Jacq Rayner's Winner Takes All stands out for snarky Nine and Mickey, and some rather nice Nine and Rose segments, but the Jack novels were mostly awful because of very poor Jack characterisation - no more than a caricature. The Ten and Rose novels were mostly readable, but I've read far, far better fanfic.

I think overall my issue with the novels is something that isn't really the authors' fault: they're aimed at a teenage audience, for the most part. The focus isn't intended to be characterisation or character development; for the most part, the audience wants familiar characters and a plot that has enough twists and scary bits to keep them interested. Personally, I tend to need a bit more than that to keep me interested, in particular character development and relationship development - and I stress that I mean relationships of all kinds: family and friendship above all.

Beautiful Chaos gave me all that and more, and above all characters I could recognise, whose dialogue leaped off the page such that I could hear it in my head as I read, and really developed Sylvia and Wilf, and Donna's relationship with them, beyond what we see on-screen and made the Mott/Noble family so very much richer as a result.

The book actually starts post-Season 4, with Sylvia visiting Wilf up at the allotment, and we get to see the impact on the two of them of what the Doctor did to Donna - whether or not any of us feels that he had a choice, it can't be denied that he left Wilf and Sylvia with an enormous burden and didn't do anything to help them cope with it. This prologue, and the epilogue, are close to heartbreaking.

The main story is set some time before that, after The Doctor's Daughter and before the Library episodes. The Doctor brings Donna home for the first anniversary of her dad's death, and of course he gets caught up in an adventure. It's a rattling good alien adventure - the Mandragora tries to take over Earth - but there's the backdrop of Donna's family dynamics, her conflicted relationship with her mum, the secret of what she's really doing with the Doctor which she and Wilf are keeping from Sylvia - and Wilf's lady friend, who is an Alzheimer's sufferer.

The Doctor, surprisingly, even seems willing to play domestic, at least a bit - but Russell gets him perfectly as well, including his manipulative side. And the Doctor-Donna close friendship is played perfectly, as is Wilf's love and protectiveness for Donna. He and the Doctor understand each other perfectly on that one, which make the post-Journey's End bookends even more poignant.

Much to my surprise, this book gave me a much better understanding of, and even sympathy for, Sylvia. I'm expecting that the other Donna novels won't live up to this standard. Whether they do or not, if you're a Doctor Who fan and loved Donna's time as the companion, this one should be added to your reading-list post-haste.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a45b204) out of 5 stars Heaven Help Me, I Like a Donna Story Aug. 24 2009
By Steven W. King - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There has been a recent trend with many of the New Series Adventures, and that trend is emphasizing how poorly the characters have been written on New Who. Don't get me wrong, they haven't necessarily been poorly performed, but it seems to me that with Freema Agyeman and Catherine Tate, the strength of the characters are in the actors, not necessarily the writing. There are exceptions to this rule, generally Russell T. Davies understand his creations and knows how to write them (well, some of the time), and Paul Cornell turned in a wonderful story with Martha, and Steven Moffatt did a good story with Donna, but for the most part these characters have suffered from a lack of characterization in other scripts, forcing the actors to bring any depth to the part themselves. Many of the writers seemed to treat Martha as Rose 2: The Unrequitted, and Donna as, well, a large sight gag with catch phrases added in from time to time. Thus, when it was time for novels written starring these characters, these deficiencies became glaring. Most of the novels with Martha don't seem to give her much more to do than react. Take any companion from the worst of the Target novelizations, and you could substitute them for Martha and have the same book. But Donna has suffered the worst. "The Doctor Trap", an otherwise decent read, had some of the worst characterization of Donna that I have seen. If the author of "The Doctor Trap" had created his own character instead of using Donna, he may have gotten away with it, but the Donna on the page in no way resembles the Donna from the show. It is with all this in mind that I say that Gary Russell has, with "Beautiful Chaos", done a decent, nay, excellent job of providing depth to Donna. In fact, he does the same with Donna's family.

There has been debate in the Doctor Who community over how much time should be devoted to the companion's family. Spending multiple episodes on Mickey and Jackie in series one, showing how those left behind when Rose went off with The Doctor, was something new in Doctor Who. I'll say that again, Russell T. Davies added something NEW to Doctor Who. In a show with a 40 year history, this is an accomplishment. However, this is something that RTD is skilled in: character moments. And while Mickey and Jackie are both loved and hated, they were at least a tool to see something new and there was genuine character growth. I personally wish we had seen more scenes being critical of Rose, for I personally found her to be a shallow and often selfish character. But that's neither here nor there at the moment. There were attempts to imitate this with Martha's family, but she wasn't a companion long enough to see real growth and change with her family, most of that change occurred in a questionable series finale. But with Donna's family, apart from her wonderful grandfather (is it the script or Bernard Cribbins that make the character work so well?) Donna AND her mother are rather hit and miss. In fact, more than Martha and more than Rose, there was so much wasted potential in their characters (wasted potential being a theme for Series Four, in my opinion). "Partners in Crime" did some good set-up, but so much of the season and the development seemed a vehicle for the Really Big Amazing Stuff at the end of the season. We sacrificed stories and characters so we could get Rose and the Doctor back together . . . sort of.

What Gary Russell does in "Beautiful Chaos" is fill in the gaps, and these were gaps that desperately needed to be filled. In this new age of Doctor Who, character has became as important as the stories of old, and even in the episodes that are weak, we need good characters. What is shameful is that it took a novel to get inside the Noble family and expose the heartache and pain that lurked beneath the surface of each character, and that this novel is essentially a flashback to something that happened shortly after "Silence of the Library/Forest of the Dead". It has a post-"Journey's End" framing narration, before heading back to an incident involving the Mandragora Helix. But while the old-series fan in me gets all giddy about the return of an entity from one of my favorite Tom Baker stories, the writer and artist in me loves getting to see the Noble family, and that is something I never thought I would say. Gary Russell is picking up the characterizations from "Turn Left" and going deeper, showing how Donna has grown, making Sylvia Noble more sympathetic (and infuriating), and showing Wilf's weakness. This is a hurting, broken family because it is a family haunted by death. This isn't the vague and mysterious death that follows and haunts the Doctor (according to the new series), but a very real and painful death. The death of both Wilf's wife and Donna's dad in the span of a year. These are the rocks upon which the Noble family shattered. Wilf had to bury his pain to be strong for his daughter (despite still hurting), Donna lost her father, and what girl doesn't have a special relationship with a father who is loving and gentle, and Sylvia lost her mother and her husband, and she sees her father as fragile and broken, and her daughter as irresponsible and courting death. The Doctor, therefore, represents everything she fears . . . more death in her family.

So all in all, Gary Russell effectively raises both Sylvia and Donna above being the charicatures they were in the show and makes them into genuine characters. This is a great feat. Wonderful. What about the story?

While being well-paced and well-written, I'm sorry to say that the story itself is perfectly average. With New Who's tendency (especially on the part of RTD) to repeat itself I couldn't help but see elements in this novel that I had seen on the show. The return of the Mandragora Helix has a bit of a Sontaran Strategem feel to it. The story of Dara Morgan borrows from how The Master created Harold Saxon. In fact, the whole M-TEK aspect of the plot is quite reminescent of how Cybus industries created the Cybermen AND how the Archangel network enabled humanity to accept Mr. Saxon. Perhaps these are merely sci-fi tropes that are repeated so often as to be included in any given book at any given time. Perhaps they are a reflection of a social consciousness and love-hate relationship with identity theft and modern technology. Or perhaps intentionally or unintentionally Gary Russell is borrowing from the show. It is interesting how in the 1970s the Third Doctor fought off an alien invasion every week. Now, as the first decade of the millennium draws to a close we have aliens manipulating our technology and essentially invading from within. This idea was probably best (and most casually) seen in "The Story of Martha" in which we find an alien race that doesn't invade, but slowly takes over the world economy through business. At least, it was interesting until The Master showed up and killed them. A good idea, quickly quashed by the need to advance the story and end the book. Yet another wasted opportunity.

When you get down to it, the portrayal of The Mandragora Helix leaves me wondering if another alien threat would have been better. Yes, more books will be sold if we bring back a villain, but much as the alien plot in "The Sontaran Strategem/The Poison Sky" fit the Zygons more than the Sontarans, I don't know that using technology to enslave humanity fits with an alien that derives its power from belief in astrology and the zodiac. Reasons were given in the story, but it could have been any other alien and it wouldn't have been any different.

A great many of the Doctor Who books I have read have been boring or forgettable (or books that you desperately WANT to forget). Despite the criticisms of the overall story, particularly it's choice in villain, I don't believe this book to be one of the boring, forgettable ones. Quite the contrary, I rather enjoyed it. It wasn't particularly challenging, but it was good for an afternoon of escape. So, if you are looking for an entertaining Doctor Who book, one that at the very least is a fun ride, then you could do far worse than "Beautiful Chaos".
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a45b258) out of 5 stars Like finding a "lost" episode Feb. 8 2009
By A. Gammill - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After the very memorable 4th season finale of Doctor Who, I admit I was dying to know what would happen next. And while (SPOILERS ahead) most of the action in Beautiful Chaos is told in flashback, it does indeed address the post-Donna fate of characters we've come to know and love. I don't want to spoil any more of the plot for you, but I will say that the story is very true to Doctor Who universe. And Gary Russell does a fantastic job with dialogue, especially the dynamics between Donna's doting grandfather and her demanding mother.

Movie and t.v. tie-in novels are traditionally sub-par, but I think the DW books get better with each new release.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a45b324) out of 5 stars More Donna Novels, please! Oct. 31 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I waited anxiously for the Donna/Doctor Ten novels to come out, and on the whole, I was not disappointed; and "Beautiful Chaos" is the best. Unfortunately, they appear to have saved the best for last, because it doesn't look like there will be any more Donna books (Martha got twelve!). This is sad, because of all the Doctor Ten books, the ones with Donna are pretty much just as good as most of Season Four was -- sharp, funny, and touching, often all at once.

The characterization of Donna, Wilf, and most importantly, the Doctor, are excellent here; Gary Russell does a fine job of capturing the voices, to the point where you can almost see it as filmed episode rather than novel. His twists and turns are excellent, and despite the sadness of the ending (no spoilers)--or perhaps because of it--this does stand as one of the finest of the Young Adult Doctor Ten novels.

I just wish they had opted for more Doctor Ten/Donna novels. It's a shame her time with the Doctor was cut so short when she was such a very good companion!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a45b7ec) out of 5 stars We have so missed Donna Noble May 15 2013
By Dr. Fred - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Author Gary Russell has also been a script writer for the TV series and in this book does us all a big favor. It starts and end with the time when Donna Noble has all memories erased by Doctor Who
to save her life. In between is a very good story. Typical of other Doctor Who books with an evil force wanting to take over the Earth and universe. What makes this special is Donna Noble. The author knows
Catherine Tate, who played Donna on TV, and perfectly captures the spirit of Donna in this book. The best part, for me, was the interaction between Donna and The Doctor. In looking back at all my DVDs
of seasons with Doctors nine to eleven and then old ones I have bought I have to say that Donna Noble is my favorite associate. Her grandfather is also very well handled and always was interesting.
We like Clara well enough as well as Amy, Rory, Martha, Rose and Sarah Jane. However Donna Noble adds something extra. And Catherine Tate herself is an excellent actress, more experienced than any
past or present associate. A brilliant writer herself.