Please feel free to comment on my review.
Nyssa becomes a Vampire
I’ve read this ‘Doctor Who’ book more than once now!
This is a fantastic novel and it’s a great one to feature Nyssa, my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ companion. ‘Goth Opera’ is a vampire story and is a sequel to ‘State of Decay’ from ‘The E-Space Trilogy’. The story is also a prequel/sequel to ‘Blood Harvest’, a ‘New Adventures’ novel with the Seventh Doctor.
‘Goth Opera’ by Paul Cornell is the first of a range of ‘Doctor Who’ novels by Virgin Publishing called ‘The Missing Adventures’ and was published in 1994. Paul has written a number of ‘New Adventures’ novels and has written episodes for the new series and co-wrote ‘Circular Time’ (my favourite Big Finish audio with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa).
The story is about the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan having a cricketing holiday in Tasmania, Australia in 1993. Whilst on holiday, Nyssa gets attacked during the night by a demonic child. Although unharmed, Nyssa ends up with two fang marks in her neck and slowly becomes a vampire.
I showed this book to Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) at the ‘Timeless Collectors’ sci-fi fair in Fareham in December 2014 before Christmas. Sarah and I chatted about ‘Goth Opera’ and it would make a really good Big Finish audio. I’m so happy that I’ve had my copy of ‘Goth Opera’ signed by the lovely Sarah.
This book contains a Preface by Peter Darvill-Evans who introduces ‘The Missing Adventures’ series of novels to a new audience of readers. The book isn’t too long since it has 11 chapters with a prologue and an epilogue. It was an engrossing read when I read the book on holidays and at home!
In January 2010, I stayed overnight with two friends, who are a married couple and ‘Doctor Who’ fans like me, at their house. They know of my love for ‘Doctor Who’ and Nyssa and lent me the book ‘Goth Opera’ knowing that I would enjoy it. I couldn’t wait to read this, as I went home on the train.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Goth Opera’ and soon had my own copy for Christmas 2011. It did give me the shudders when I was reading it and I felt anxious for Nyssa, giving me another ‘Terminus’ feel. But I thoroughly relished reading the book and it is good to read on holidays to Scotland for me.
On the front cover, the picture of Nyssa with fangs and blood dripping from her mouth is really creepy and disturbing to look at. Sarah told me that there was more blood on Nyssa’s shirt and she asked for it to be removed before it got published. I think that makes sense to have it done like that.
This adventure is set between the stories ‘Snakedance’ and ‘Mawdryn Undead’. I liked how the connections are made to Tegan’s recent traumatic experiences with the Mara in this story as well as those connections made to the TV story ‘State of Decay’ with E-Space and the time of the vampires.
Paul writes a blood-curdling and thrilling tale that’s compelling to read. I liked the contemporary atmosphere in the urban setting of Manchester and Tasmania with the nightlife and the pubs. Paul depicts the vampirism themes well and indulges his fandom by putting Time Lord history into the mix.
The highlight of this book for me is of course Nyssa. I had confidence in Paul’s writing for Nyssa, since he co-wrote ‘Circular Time’. I enjoyed Nyssa’s journey and her struggle in resisting to become a vampire. I felt for Nyssa and those scenes where she’s turning into a vampire were terrifying to read.
I’d be scared stiff listening to Nyssa as a vampire if this story was adapted into a Big Finish audio. I’m sure Sarah would enjoy and relish playing Nyssa in this, as it’s a story for her to ‘get her teeth into’. Sarah played a vampire-like Nyssa before in ‘The Eternal Summer’ and she was pretty superb in that.
The Fifth Doctor is very good in this too. I enjoyed how Paul writes Peter Davison’s Doctor playing cricket and displaying a vulnerable yet quietly intelligent side. He shows concern for his companions, especially when Nyssa becomes a vampire. I liked how the Doctor’s connection with Ruath is revealed.
Tegan is recovering from her traumatic experience with the Mara in ‘Snakedance’. She’s pretty edgy and snappy from the beginning of the story. Tegan gets to see what Nyssa goes through and is afraid for her friend’s life. She joins the Doctor in this adventure to rescue Nyssa and to stop the vampires.
Romana makes an appearance, connecting to the events of ‘Blood Harvest’. This is the Romana played by Lalla Ward who escaped E-Space and is now a Gallifreyan official. Romana features mostly in Chapter 6 confronting Ruath who gets her into the Time Scoop chamber on Gallifrey to get to Earth.
There is a renegade Time Lady who helps the vampires called Ruath. She’s the Doctor’s old flame and has an obsession to part of the vampire cause. She sacrifices herself for Yarven the Vampire Messiah, causing her to regenerate. She has her own agenda and wins her way with those vampires.
The vampires are led by Yarven, the Vampire Messiah. Yarven is one of the last of the vampires from the vampire planet in E-Space and he recently appeared in ‘Blood Harvest’. Yarven is a tall man with a pointed beard and I can easily visualise him as being elegantly gothic as Dracula himself in this story.
There are two young vampires called Jake and Madelaine. They come from Manchester and are two teenage lovers. They get to do things for Yarven and Ruath and look after Nyssa when she slowly turns into a vampire. These are two well-meaning vampires that I couldn’t help like in a strange way.
There’s a baby vampire called The Child that terrified and freaked me out when I read this story. This is the baby that attacks Nyssa at night and turns her into a vampire. This scene is from Chapter 1 and was very frightening to read for me, especially when the baby had its fangs biting into Nyssa’s neck.
There is a gothic castle that appears in this story. This is the Castle Yarven where the Vampire Messiah and his vampire kind live in Manchester, 1993. The Doctor and Tegan find a way in to rescue Nyssa and stop the vampires. What the castle actually turned out to be took me by surprise.
The story ends with the vampires defeated by the Doctor. But best of all, Nyssa is returned to normal. I really liked it when she hugs the Doctor and bursts into tears. I found it a really heart-stopping moment when Nyssa saves the Doctor from Ruath by sending her out into the time vortex.
I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed this captivating ‘Doctor Who’ book. I wouldn’t be surprised if Big Finish turned this into an audio drama as I would like that very much. I assume Big Finish would produce both ‘Blood Harvest’ and ‘Goth Opera’ as audios to complete that full listening experience.
I can see the cast for the audio drama including Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding with Lalla Ward. I easily heard Sarah’s voice as Nyssa when I read this book as well as Peter and Janet’s voices as the Doctor and Tegan. Sarah laughed happily when I told her this at Fareham in December 2014.
I really enjoyed ‘Goth Opera’ as a book. It gave me the shudders when Nyssa was becoming a vampire and it has to be the best Fifth Doctor novel with Nyssa. It’s well-written by Paul Cornell and it’s a book I’ll remember for years to come. I hope it’ll become a Big Finish audio drama someday!
‘Goth Opera’ rating – 10/10
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