The novel “The Pirate Loop” by Simon Guerrier was published for the first time in 2007.
The Tenth Doctor told Martha Jones the story of the mysterious disappearance of the starship Brilliant in a moment of danger. When she asks him to go and see what happened after they escaped the danger, the Doctor agrees to go and investigate.
The arrival of the Tardis on the starship is very chaotic. The Doctor realizes that there’s some kind of space-time distortion in the Brilliant’s engine room. The travelers try to reach the bridge to get more information but the distortion is creating problems on the starship. As if that weren’t enough, pirates arrived on board ready to kill the crew and passengers.
“The Pirate Loop” is part of a series of novels connected to the new “Doctor Who” series. They’re targeted to a wide audience by being linear enough to be appreciated even by very young readers but sophisticated enough to interest more mature readers.
For once, the Doctor doesn’t come across a mystery by chance or because someone asked for his help but it’s his companion, in this case Martha Jones, who’s become curious after he told her the story of the mysterious disappearance of the starship Brilliant or at least what’s known about it and asks him to investigate on it. Obviously the investigation is far from simple.
The arrival of the Tardis on the Brilliant is chaotic and the situation for the Doctor and Martha Jones quickly becomes complicated. Simon Guerrier introduces the various problems with an experimental engine that created a space-time distortion, an internal transmat system that’s not working properly and the presence of pirates on board.
This allows the author to provide in very few chapters all the bases of the plot and to get into its main part. The presence of space-time anomalies leads to strange events because it’s definitely a case where there’s no strict progression of cause and effect. The sense of what’s happening is not difficult to understand, especially for readers with some experience about science fiction.
The plot of “The Pirate Loop” is developed mainly through the interactions among the various characters and some of those created for the novel are important. In this way Simon Guerrier manages to give a certain depth to at least some of them, a positive element also due to the presence of various alien species.
There are cases of “Doctor Who” stories with characters who are over the top, starting with the Doctor. This is the case of “The Pirate Loop”, where pirates are substantially sentient badgers with behaviors that are often funny. They’re also ready to kill anyone who get in their way while they’re trying to take over the Brilliant but this element is tone down by the particular circumstances they find on the starship.
All this makes the novel’s tone tend to the lighthearted but behind the comedy there are also some important themes. The books in this series have a limited length but Simon Guerrier manages to develop various nuances connected to ethical and moral issues included in the story.
One of the results is that the division between good and bad characters isn’t clear at all. In the course of the novel, the Doctor and Martha Jones meet the pirates and the Brilliant’s officers and realize that the situation is more complex than it might have seemed soon after their arrival.
Superficially, “The Pirate Loop” may seem like a novel for kids enjoyable but nothing more, however, with the progressing of its plot it shows a deeper level of reading. From this point of view it’s similar to many television episodes and, together with the characterization of its protagonists, it’s what in my opinion makes it above average. If you’re interested in novels connected to the new “Doctor Who” series, in my opinion this one is a must-read.