The actual plot is mostly a commentary on what the Doctor Who novels have been up to this point, going so far as to describing the Virgin New Adventures and their negative perceptions in the fanbase. It’s not meant to deride fans of the earlier range, but to show how with Interference the world has changed. The Doctor is not quite relegated to the background character, but he’s not in much of the first half of the novel. Magrs and Hoad show just how broken the Eighth Doctor has become with the previous novel, and The Blue Angel is his attempt to return to some sort of normalcy, though this normalcy is never really achieved. The Doctor is unsure of his place in the universe, he doesn’t really know if he can trust his companions, and reencountering Iris Wildthyme doesn’t make him feel any better. He’s trying to figure out what the Obverse is (a parallel universe/dimension that will play into his future somehow) and what the Glass City’s purpose is. Like many things in this book, Magrs and Hoad leave just enough mystery for the Doctor to potentially come back and explain, or just leave as an oddity. The Doctor is an amnesiac, finds himself living with his companions in a village in winter that may or may not be real, and can’t stand being a plaything in essentially a story about gods. He’s much less kind to Iris here than in The Scarlet Empress, even though here he has much less reason to be. This characterization feels like a template for future authors to continue from using this book as a springboard.
Iris Wildthyme is in a new incarnation here and Magrs and Hoad characterize her wonderfully. Yes, Magrs created the character and really introduced her in The Scarlet Empress, but The Blue Angel sees her regenerated into a new incarnation, giving the authors the challenge of telling a story where that has to be established. Iris could have easily become a character who was a carbon copy of her earlier self, but setting several chapters in her own head allows the reader to understand this new incarnation of the character. Iris comes back to the range unfamiliar with the changes to the status quo, is disappointed that Sam isn’t there, isn’t really impressed with Compassion, but Fitz does work for her. There are two moments where Iris really steals the show in the book. First, a mall that is snowed in and under siege by alien creatures: Iris is put into the role of the Doctor here and she handles it with this serious tone and real understanding of the situation. There are two old women present, an old medium called Sue and Maddy, a woman who lost her son and replaced him with an alien, Ian/Icarus (one representation of the titular angel). Iris is able to get these people on her side and get to the bottom of at least some of what is happening in the book. Second, the climax of the novel sees her have to actively keep information away from the already mistrustful and confused Doctor which is a scene of real passion. It contains beautiful prose and emotions.
Finally, Fitz and Compassion are perhaps the most important characters in the book. The typical role of a Doctor Who companion can be boiled down to audience surrogate, but Interference ensured that Fitz and Compassion were anything but. Compassion is incredibly cold and calculating, though has a deeper soul as the travels she is undergoing are essentially slowly making her more human. Fitz, on the other hand, is trying to prove to himself and others that he is still Fitz, which of course he isn’t. They’re trying their best and it is heartbreaking to see them fail at this throughout the book, though the Doctor here seems to at least accept that they must travel together for now. Overall, The Blue Angel is a dense book that ends with twenty questions about what actually occurred and makes the reader question just how reliable things have been to this point. It’s laden with analysis, sees the regulars in physical and mental anguish at the same time, and keeps the Eighth Doctor Adventures on a mission statement to tell a story. 9/10.