A soviet era nuclear naval base has been abandoned. The town surrounding it is surviving essentially at a subsistence level. There is something far more dangerous than the radiation leaking from the subs. It's been there quite a long time sending out a message for help, which Captain Jack inadvertently answers forcing him, Rose and the Doctor to ride in for the rescue. Though their Russian is perfect, at least one person knows that there's more to the arrival of the threesome than their cover story implies.
I love Doctor Who with a ridiculous passion but that being said, this book left so much to be desired. Because Eccleston was only the Doctor for a short time, these stories are precious. After all, who doesn't want a bit more of the Fantastic? Unfortunately, this book is almost painful to read. It's a scant 256 pages and yet felt like a tome that was never going to come to an end. This is the first of the Doctor Who books that I almost gave a DNF rating.
When the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack arrive, they discover one young man dead and his girlfriend Valeria drained of her youth. She is nothing but a husk, with no ability to communicate and absolutely incapable of taking care of herself. Because this is not the first time something like this has happened, townspeople have become suspicious and actually blame Vourdalk - a vampire from Russian folklore. That sounds interesting doesn't it? Naturally, it cannot possibly be Vourdalk as we discover when the Doctor begins investigating. Nope, it's all about aliens, glowing blue blobs and zombies. It seems some people decided that they want to live forever. The story takes a massive turn and feels like a bad rip off of Stephen King's Tommy Knockers. Since King already told this story and brilliantly at that, inserting the Doctor does nothing but remind us that we're reading an author with less than half the talent of King.
The story quickly turns from an intelligent investigation to the Doctor, Rose and Jack running from the blue blobs, and setting shit on fire. That's when it absolutely lost me because it felt like a complete bait and switch. Yes, I get that as much as the Doctor is a super brilliant Time Lord, he spends a good deal of time running and dodging to get away from the bed guys but that usually comes with a coherent story which The Deviant Strain greatly lacked.
In terms of characterisation it was absolutely off. Yes, I can picture Captain Jack running into combat and working to save someone he saw as vulnerable and need of his help. My question however is where did my smiling, flirtatious Jack go? He was absolutely generic. Even though The Deviant Strain is set before Torchwood, there should still be some sense of who Captain Jack is. This character is such a cardboard cut out with no personality that he really could have been anyone with the name Captain Jack tacked on for fan service.
Then there's Rose, who runs around tossing herself at anything that looks dangerous. She's like a fish out of water. I didn't recognise her at all. She seemed to be there so that the Doctor could explain what is going on. Yes, I realise that this is the main function of the companion in the Who universe, however; each companion has a personality that is distinct. Rose just ran and threw herself at stuff without trying to figure out the big picture or even giving the Doctor a sense of humanity which is something that she was really good at.