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Retrospective: Magic of the Angels

Unbelievably, we haven’t had a Doctor Who Quick Read since 2013’s The Silurian Gift. The initiative – to get people reading more with low-cost stories that are accessible to all – looked to be discontinued last year after sponsorships fell through, but a new range was announced for 2020, with each book just £1. However, there’s not been a Doctor Who title in the range since the 50th anniversary. Nonetheless, the range brought us a number of great tales, including Terrance Dicks’ first NuWho fiction, Made of Steel.

Since 2006’s I Am A Dalek, Quick Reads has dabbled with Cybermen, Sontarans, and Judoon, and it was a safe bet that the ever-popular Weeping Angels would soon appear.

In Magic of the Angels, girls are disappearing all over London, and as the Doctor, Amy, and Rory go to Sammy Star’s magic routine, they think they know how. Because, naturally, Sammy’s glamorous assistant is a Weeping Angel.

As the creatures rely on visuals so heavily, it’s quite a surprise that they work so well in books. It’s a testament to the great work of both Steven Moffat, creator of the Angels, and writer, Jacqueline Rayner, who uses the statues to great effect. It seems she has taken a leaf out of Touched by an Angel (2011) by Jonathan Morris, dealing with the consequences of their powers just as much as relying on their inherent menace.

The concept of ‘killing you kindly’ by sending you into the past is really quite a grim one, and Rayner plays with it with wonderfully, introducing two old ladies who are victims of Star’s trick. Their debut scene ends on a chilling note, and Magic of the Angels is really their story. It’s sad and uplifting at the same time, leading to some beautifully poignant moments. And because it’s Doctor Who, of course they recognise Amy from something that hasn’t happened yet.

The three leads are all characterised well; the Eleventh Doctor is funny and sharp, Amy welcomes danger, and Rory is the emotional heart of the TARDIS team. Rayner captures their distinct voices and mannerisms; something that has surprisingly eluded a few writers in the novels (most notably, The Coming of the Terraphiles, truly one of the most off-note pieces of Doctor Who I have ever experienced).

The story is quite basic, but it surpasses the typical ‘running around a lot’ tropes of lesser books. Although there is running involved, naturally.

There’s also some nice bits of dialogue – like someone asking the Doctor what his magic trick is, to which he replies, “I escape” – and frequent allusions to past glories. The Doctor, for instance, tries his third incarnation’s velvet-jacket-with-a-red-cape look on for size.

The conclusion isn’t wholly satisfying, however. It doesn’t let the book down particularly, but there’s just something missing; something that just doesn’t feel right. It does hark back to the ending of Blink though – and surely that’s no bad thing!

A superb TARDIS team, time twisting drama, magic tricks, a Weeping Angel, and a tour around London: there’s something here for everyone.

Amy even dons Zoe’s silvery catsuit.

Philip Bates

Editor and co-founder of the Doctor Who Companion. When he’s not watching television, reading books ‘n’ Marvel comics, listening to The Killers, and obsessing over script ideas, Philip Bates pretends to be a freelance writer. He enjoys collecting everything. Writer of The Black Archive: The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang, The Silver Archive: The Stone Tape, and 100 Objects of Doctor Who.

Retrospective: Magic of the Angels

by Philip Bates time to read: 2 min
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