Skip to content

Review of Goth Opera by PalindromeRose

23 May 2024

Virgin Missing Adventures

#001. Goth Opera ~ 8/10

◆ An Introduction

Doctor Who fans are notoriously difficult to please, but I think everyone was excited when it was announced that the ‘Novel Adaptations’ would be returning for one last hurrah.

Vampires have had a long association with the show, stretching right the way back to 1980, and the writers have continually showcased the complicated relationship they have with Time Lord society.

As the vampires of Great Britain make preparations for an age of endless night where the undead reign supreme, the Doctor realises that one of his friends has been bitten… and the transformation has already begun!

◆ Publisher’s Summary

"The time of humanity on this world has come to an end. The long night is starting. The age of the undead is upon us."

Manchester, 1993. The vampires of Great Britain have received a message: the long-awaited arrival of their evil messiah is imminent. It's time for a recruitment drive.

On holiday in Tasmania with Tegan and the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa is attacked by a demonic child. She escapes unharmed — except for two small wounds in her neck.

Why are the descendants of the Great Vampire so desperate to obtain the blood of a Time Lord? And what is their connection to a forbidden ancient Gallifreyan cult?

◆ The Fifth Doctor

Unfairly considered the weakest incarnation, when in actuality he was the most morally righteous, number Five proved on many occasions that he could take on the horrors of the universe. One of my close friends on Twitter absolutely adores this incarnation: it’s possible that I’ll recommend ‘Goth Opera’ to her, depending on how this review goes.

I could just picture Peter Davison darting about Manchester, following an evangelist head case and his army of religious nutters right into the heart of danger. I desperately hope that Cornell has written more stories for this incarnation, because he clearly knows him inside and out.

The TARDIS had landed out by the nets that morning. The Doctor had explained to the organisers of the competition that the police box was a small part of his collection of thirties memorabilia. They’d been delighted, such behaviour being just what they’d expected from the writer of By Lord Cranleigh’s Invitation, Seventy Years Of Charity Elevens, a piece that the Doctor had, apparently, had published in Wisden. Tegan had flicked through a pile of the Doctor’s cricketing magazines at one point, and had been delighted to discover a ferocious letters-page dispute concerning the details of one of the Time Lord’s historical reminiscences. Sometimes Tegan had glimpsed a giant old pain on his face, a sort of despair at how all the universe’s hopes could end in violence. He’d always try to do something about that. But he preferred to just be free to play.

◆ Nyssa

Nyssa was one of few companions to compliment the Fifth Doctor: both of them were practically minded, and both were fascinated by science. She was criminally underutilised in the show, but this is one of those occasions where the expanded media has picked up the baton. You could see how much Nyssa had evolved once you reached audio adventures like ‘Prisoners of Fate’. It’ll be fascinating to see how she was handled in the books.

Anyone else seen the original cover for this book? It was a bold decision to have a companion drenched in blood, and not at all surprising that WH Smith deemed it too graphic to be displayed in their shops. By far the most interesting thing about ‘Goth Opera’ is Nyssa’s transformation into a vampire.

Nyssa came from a distant planet that, Tegan had come to believe, was the interstellar equivalent of Public Service Broadcasting. She was so level-headed and logical. On a camping holiday, Nyssa would have been the one with the emergency matches and the insect repellent. Tegan would have been the one without a tent. Nyssa had been attempting to construct synthetic haemoglobin, an artificial blood substitute. If she could complete this experiment successfully, then no harm would come. She could manufacture as much as she liked, and use her new abilities to help the Doctor defeat the other vampires. It would, she thought with a survivor’s chilly optimism, be interesting to be a vampire. For one thing, the Master would not be able to evade or control her next time they met. She would be able to reach into him, to hypnotically bring Tremas to the surface. She and her father could work together then on the problem of vampirism, perhaps come up with a cure that might be used on other people.

◆ Tegan Jovanka

Some people consider the mouth on legs to be one of the weakest companions from the Classic era: frankly, they have no idea what they’re talking about. I absolutely adore Tegan, because she will happily speak her mind and not give a damn what other people think. She once described the Doctor as the most annoying man that she had ever met – they routinely got into more arguments than the average married couple – but they became genuinely good friends in the long run.

Despite not featuring on the cover for ‘Goth Opera’, Tegan receives some excellent moments throughout the book. A vampire attempts to drink her blood fairly early on, but she quickly outsmarts him; warding him off with a Gideon Bible. Hilariously, she then threatens to use Aussie wine like holy water if the blood-sucking creep shows his face again!

The countryside around Launceston was green and lush in a restrained, home counties sort of way. It was the first time Tegan had been to Tasmania. Apart from the plants and the shape of the houses, she couldn’t see a lot of difference between it and England. Tegan had, after all, become an air stewardess to see the world, the world being points to the north east and south west, having had enough of Brisbane and London. When her Aunt Vanessa had been murdered by the Master, the young Australian had teamed up with the tall, curly-haired adventurer in time and space known as the Doctor. However, before she’d got to know him that well, he’d fallen off a radio telescope and changed into a really dull Romper Room reject who’d rather play cricket than do anything entertaining. A charity cricket tournament in Tasmania was about as exciting to her as a Basic TARDIS maintenance course would be to the Doctor, and about a quarter as useful. If Tegan had never met him, she’d have had a career by now. She’d had the chance to go back and have a real go at it, but then he’d showed up again. The least he could do would be to take her to some alien planets, let her meet some interesting people. Some monsters. Why did the Mara have to have been a snake? Tegan could picture it, she kept on picturing it, wrapped around her brain. Always there, he’d said. Maybe he’d been making some metaphorical point about the nature of evil, but that wasn’t the way she saw it. She saw it like she was somebody with a terminal disease. Always waiting for the relapse. Just a question of time.

◆ The Endless Night

A vampire’s weakness to sunlight means they are confined to the shadows, only hunting during the dead of night. There’s been a wealth of temporary measures dreamt up that could stop them burning to a crisp; bespoke windows that go dark during the day, or specially engineered sun cream being two of the most popular. But what if you wanted a more permanent solution?

The vampires in ‘Goth Opera’ have devised a way to plunge the world into an endless night. That’s a really neat idea, though one I’ve spotted a fatal flaw in. With the endless night giving them carte blanche to go hunting any time of the day, there’s a distinct possibility that humanity could be hunted into extinction. The vampires can sustain themselves on animal blood for a short time, but it doesn’t provide nearly enough of the nutrients they need to survive. In short, they would become the cause of their own extinction.

◆ Goth Gas

Apologies for the dreadful title I’ve given to this section of the review, I genuinely couldn’t think of anything better.

One of the most interesting scenes in this book features the vampires springing a trap on Victor Lang: an American evangelist, certified head case, and all-round vile human being. The vampires had constructed a mortar, and began firing shells at the many religious nutters who had accompanied Lang. They contained a gaseous substance which caused all barn one of the nutters to explode, leaving the sole survivor a nervous wreck.

It soon becomes apparent that this gas carried the vampiric infection. Human beings absorbed the gas through their cell walls almost immediately, triggering the transformation. All barn one of Lang’s associates had unwavering faith in Christianity, and all barn one of them were carrying enough garlic to make even Wario sick! The transformation triggered, and they essentially killed themselves. The effects of this weapon are truly horrifying.

◆ Conclusion

Drink of the blood of common ugly humanity, eat of its flesh!”

The Vampire Messiah has devised a plan in which planet Earth will be plunged into an eternal night. Vampire DNA will be diffused throughout the atmosphere, transforming the entire human race. His people will feed on every continent, before turning their attentions to a much more difficult goal: the conquest of Gallifrey!

The previously mentioned evil messiah was an intimidating figure, who I strangely imagined being played by John Michie. Overall though, Ruath proved to be a far more interesting villain. One of the Doctor’s former classmates and friends from the Academy, she developed an academic interest in vampires that eventually grew into a crazed obsession; she was responsible for both the device that created the endless night, and the airborne vampiric DNA. Yarven may have ruled over the undead, but Ruath was the brains of the operation. Interestingly, I could imagine her being played by Elisabeth Dermot Walsh.

There are some incredible set pieces scattered throughout this book – like the vampiric massacre at Old Trafford – and the characterisation of the TARDIS crew is on point. Whilst it certainly wont win any awards for originality, ‘Goth Opera’ is a thoroughly fun little book that will have no issue grabbing your attention.

Review created on 23-05-24