Short Trips Rarities: The Switching (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 18 December 2017 - Reviewed by Peter Nolan
Short Trips Rarities: The Switching (Credit: Big Finish)

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: Simon Guerrier
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
Read By: Duncan Wisbey
)Originally Released: September 2017

 

An unapologetically slight tale, The Switching jettisons having much of a plot at all in favour of some fun character moments grounded in the UNIT family dynamic.

Though the blurb makes a half hearted attempt to play coy, and the script takes its time to say it out loud, it’s pretty clear from the off that we’re getting a classic Freaky Friday scenario with a Time Lord twist. In a way, it’s such a perfect idea it’s almost a surprise we never saw a version from Letts and Dicks on screen though I’m not sure Jon Pertwee’s pride could have taken playing across from another actor doing their best impression of him. As it is, we get Duncan Wisbey doing a remarkable job of capturing the Third Doctor’s sibilance and that slightly ragged edge to his voice. Except this isn’t the Third Doctor, of course, but the Master.

Surprisingly charming and pragmatic as he makes a nuisance of himself at UNIT HQ, it’s a reminder that, back in the day, the Master didn’t tend to kill unless it actually advanced his agenda. Instead, quickly discovering that the Doctor’s TARDIS is in parts all over the place and not fit for making an escape from Earth in, he restricts himself to having a bit of fun at his best frenemy’s expense.If there’s a flaw, it’s the Master’s surprise that the Doctor is clearly so habitually rude and disrespectful to his UNIT colleagues (everyone reacts with slight suspicion as to why ‘the Doctor’ is being so nice and pleasant to them). It feels like the Master should know the Third Doctor better than that. All the supporting characters are perfectly drawn, however, with Jo in particular note perfect.

Essentially a throwaway novelty, it’s nicely wry humour and talented and flexible reader this is well worth the handful of coins and half hour of your time it will cost you.

 





Dragon's Claw (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 15 December 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Dragon's Claw (Credit: Panini)
Written by Steve Moore‎ & Steve Parkhouse
Artwork by Dave Gibbons & Mike McMahon
Paperback: 162 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

The second and final Volume of Fourth Doctor's run in the pages of Doctor Who Magazine (or as it was known then Doctor Who Weekly) strip, is Dragon's Claw. The Doctor, K9, and Sharon continue their adventures in Space and Time, traveling from 1522 China and then to spaceships and futuristic societies. 

With Sharon having been aged at the end of "The Time Witch" (which was the final story in the previous collection The Iron Legion), she is reluctant to return home when the Doctor manages to get her back to her own place and time. But luckily for her, they end up plucked from her home before they can leave the TARDIS, and eventually, she decides to leave the Doctor in classic Doctor Who style, by falling in love with a man she hardly knows and deciding to stay with him forever. It's kind of a shame they dropped Sharon from the strip, but I am sure with the show changing styles fairly drastically at the beginning of the 80s, and with it clear Baker would be leaving soon, they wanted to clean up the continuity a bit before the strip changed it's lead to Peter Davison.

The rest of this book features the Doctor solo or with just K9, and as they feature him in his Season 18 costume, it clearly takes place later in his timeline. There are some good stories featured throughout the book. The opening story, the titular "Dragon's Claw," is quite excellent. "The Free-Fall Warriors" and "Junkyard Demon" are also fairly memorable, and the closing story, "The Neutron Knights," is a solid final strip for the Fourth Doctor that also manages to set up a few mysteries and characters that would be picked up on during the Fifth Doctor's tenure. 

I would say that this collection is fairly notable for planting the earliest seeds of the internal continuity the strip has had in the pages of Doctor Who Magazine over the years.  There are characters, themes, places, and ideas that would continue through other Doctors and eras, and the earliest elements to that long and storied continuity begin in the strips featured within this collection. 

This book is another fine collection from Panini, who once again do a high quality job restoring the black and white strips to their former glory. There are a lot of stories within, in terms of quality of storytelling it can be a bit of a mixed bag, but overall it is a fine collection of stories wonderfully restored. 





Time Vortex VRBookmark and Share

Thursday, 14 December 2017 - Reviewed by Peter Nolan
Time Vortex (Credit: BBC Worldwide)
Time Vortex VR
Developed for the BBC by Goodboy Digital,
For use with cardboard headsets, Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR and HTC Vive
Originally Released December 2017
 
An update of the previous Time Vortex 360 game, now fully deployed for VR, Time Vortex isn’t going to change the world but it doesn’t intend to. Based on the single line elevator pitch “Imagine you could play the Doctor Who titles,” it’s a fun, if slight, idea well executed.

A brief tutorial requires you to play through the basic elements of the game while huge block capital instructions on what to do fly down the vortex in true 2005 style and gets you up to speed quickly, though thankfully, unlike some games, it only appears on your first play and you did have to sit through it over and over. Those elements are pretty straightforward – as you fly the TARDIS down the vortex, you have to hit glowing balls flying towards you, dodge asteroids, and pilot your way through the gates of force fields that block your way. Each energy ball collected, or hazard avoided, gets you points.

The real selling point here is the gameplay, which involves tilting your device left or right to steer, or tilt forward or back to pull up or dive down as you hurtle onward. If you have a full VR set like Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR or HTC Vive, or even a cardboard set up to slot your phone into, it’s better again as it’s actually moving your head as you look around the environment which directs your course. A particular delight is the fact you get ‘attacked’ from behind by asteroids that are travelling up the vortex faster than you – requiring you to turn around on the spot to face them so you can avoid them, meaningly you wind up flying backwards with the ‘past’ receding away from you.

These things can be tough to play, and we’ve all seen VR environments where the program gets easily confused and insists the walls are on the floor or slight turns of your head cause you to spin madly through the virtual world like a top, but none of these problems are apparent with Time Vortex VR. It’s responsive, but not annoyingly oversensitive and all the movements you make result in what you instinctively expect to happen. That’s important as there’s few things worse than a game that has a good idea but is infuriately difficult to actually control. In contrast to that, this is an easy joy to play and should be especially embraced by younger kids getting to swish their way around their living room in the TARDIS.  That’s particularly impressive as this is presented up front as a “Taster Experiment” with the warning that “Ideas May Break.”

All of this is accompanied by a suitably jaunty and enthusiastic version of the Doctor Who theme, while the Police Box itself probably looks most like the 1980s prop but is plainly intended as a compromise version that simultaneously resembles, to some degree, all and none of the TV incarnations. This ties in to the game’s take on the vortex itself which regularly transforms itself in a flash of light from one era to another. Not designed to be exact, they still raise a smile of recognition of the decade they represent. So there’s a distinctly 2005 looking one, one that’s in more open space with lots of asteroids ala 1987, and a rainbowtastic one that’s very Colin Baker. There’s also a 1960s inspired one, though it’s effectively a modern vortex rendered in black and white rather than the sweeping horizontal sheets of the Hartnell titles. It also creates the only slight quibble with Time Vortex VR, as it can be devilishly hard to tell the difference between the asteroids and the walls of the vortex itself when both are in black and white.

Time Vortex VR won’t be anybody’s idea of the big Christmas present under the tree, but it’s a perfectly judged stocking filler sure to provide kids from six to six hundred with a fun diversion as they jump around the house, getting under the feet of Mums, Dads and guardians as they try to serve up the Christmas dinner this year. Plus, it’s free to play for the first three months (what exactly happens after that is a little… vague) so there’s literally nothing to lose by giving it a literal spin.

 





The Iron Legion (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 14 December 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Iron Legion (Credit: Panini UK)
Written by Pat Mills,‎ John Wagner,‎ Steve Moore‎
Artowrk by Dave Gibbons
Paperback: 162 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

The Iron Legion is the first of two Volumes of the Collected Fourth Doctor strips from Doctor Who Magazine, it also happens to be the earliest comics from the pages of Doctor Who Magazine version of the strip. It is a good read, not as strong a run of stories as the strip developed into, but these are the early days of the DWM strip, so while they are often entertaining, they hadn't quite developed their voice as a strip yet. That is a minor complaint really, because when you get down to it these early strips in DWM capture a huge leap for the ongoing comic strip adventures of Doctor Who. 

The book also features the debut of DWM's first original companion, and the franchise's first companion of a race other than white, Sharon Davies. I rather liked Sharon, she has a good personality and works well with the Fourth Doctor.  Tom Baker's voice is most definitely captured within these stories, and that is really why, despite telling tales that are bigger and more sweeping than anything the show could have ever done at the time these were written and released, it somehow still manages to feel like they belong within the world of the show. 

The often beautiful Black & White artwork by Dave Gibbons is the most notable uptick in quality from what I have glanced and skimmed at of the TV Comic version of the strip that immediately proceeded it. One look at the opening page of "Doctor Who and The Iron Legion" and it far surpasses nearly anything TV Comic did in all the years it ran the strip.  From his depiction of the Fourth Doctor (for the most part, there are occasions where he can look a bit off) to the big sweeping pages of armies and spaceships...Gibbons really managed to draw something special within this book. 

The stories are also pretty solid, though I believe the strip only got better as it went along, there is no denying that these early stories are quite good. From the titular opening story, to "Doctor Who and the Star Beast" and "The Dogs of Doom," it has some pretty solid stories underneath all the beautiful art. 

This is the early days of Doctor Who Magazine's strip, so much so that the magazine wasn't even yet called Doctor Who Magazine, but Doctor Who Weekly.  It may not reach the same heights that the strip would under the Fifth, Sixth or Eighth Doctor runs, but there are some solid storytelling and great artwork, and despite the fact that Doctor Who has been living in comic strips nearly as long as he has been off adventuring on TV, it says something that one could easily, and happily, start reading the strip from the moment the magazine took over. Panini has also restored the strips beautifully in this collection, being released in their original Black & White forms for the first time since they were originally printed, along with some commentary from the people who made it...it's a collection that comes highly recommended. 





Warlord Games - The Return Of Doctor MysterioBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 - Reviewed by Simon Moore
Warlord Games: The Return of Doctor Mysterio (cover) (Credit: Warlord Games)
Warlord Games
Released January 2017

Of all the “Doctor Who” Christmas specials to choose from, “Warlord Games” decision to produce a two-figure collectible boxed set based upon “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” during the initial few months of its “Doctor Who: Exterminate!” miniature range’s release, doubtless had many a wargamer scratching their heads in mild bemusement. Admittedly, the “jolly detour to superhero goofiness” was apparently the sixth most watched show on Christmas Day in 2016, and, as the “first new episode in twelve months”, Steven Moffat’s adventure attracted an incredible amount of publicity and interest. But with hindsight, there surely could have been a few better alternatives to have gone with, not least of which may have been “The Next Doctor”; whose Cybershades and Miss Hartigan would have very nicely tied into the Nottingham-based company’s release of some plastic Cybermen just a few months later…

Selection quibbles aside though, as not everyone eats the Orange Chocolate Crunch first, these “beautifully sculpted pewter figures” really are a wonderful pair of models, and are packed full of intricate detail that can, at first, be easily missed. Indeed, in many ways, the ‘bare metal’ photographs of the duo as shown upon the range’s official “Into The Time Vortex” website, really don’t do their meticulous designs justice and it isn’t until one looks at the professionally painted versions that you can see the subtle niceties of Doctor Sim’s facial scar or the angular-markings on the Ghost’s face-plate.

Painting these two pieces is also great fun, as both poses, admittedly somewhat sedentary in nature, allow the brush-tip full accessibility to the entire casting. As a result, Aleksandar Jovanovic’s dastardly extra-terrestrial can quite quickly be brought up to table-top standard with a mixture of different greys and black washes for his jacket and trousers, whilst “the mysterious superhero” can have all of his ‘ribbed’ body armour efficiently ‘highlighted’ with just a dark blue dry-brush. Simple stuff for even the most inexperienced of hobbyists.

Naturally though, for those with both a steadier hand than I, as well as a talent for detail, there’s still the opportunity to emphasise Sim’s coldly ruthless stare with some deft touches upon the figure’s incredibly well-sculpted face, or to ‘draw in’ all of the cross-hatchings upon the Ghosts’ leggings; the latter of which is astonishingly evident on the “Warlord Games” publicity paint-job. 

Unfortunately, gamers wishing to utilise either the New York branch leader of the Harmony Shoal corporation or the masked vigilante in their “Doctor Who: Exterminate!” battles, won’t yet be able to do so, as “Warlord Games” have yet to actually produce either Recruitment Cards or Adventure Cards for them. However, the company has already ‘leaked’ online the Ghost’s statistics for their skirmish game and armed with traits such as “Wounds (4)”, “One man Army”, “Melee (3)”, “Fly” and “Fearless”, the character looks set to be an indomitable force for truth and justice (and probably the American way) once the cards are released as a PDF…





Torchwood #2Bookmark and Share

Friday, 8 December 2017 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
Torchwood #2 (Credit: Titan)
The Culling Part 2 (of 4) 
Writers: John Barrowman, Carole Barrowman 
Artist: Neil Edwards 
Publisher: Titan Comics 
FC - 32pp
 On sale: November 22, 2017

Torchwood has always struggled with a consistent tone. It’s adult, dark, violent, and sexual, but at the same time it’s a spinoff of Doctor Who, humorous and fairly immature. The characters are bursting with emotion and conflict, while somehow lacking genuine drama. The stakes are constantly high, without anyone being in actual peril. Children of Earth Aside, the quality of Torchwood is all over the place.

 

That troublesome tone is only present in Torchwood #2 in very small doses. There’s still a lot going on, without communicating a great deal of danger. Captain Jack and Gwen have a clone daughter running around in the ice, killing everything she touches, and this is a big deal because the Vervoids are planning a culling. While that is certainly very threatening, the drama of it doesn’t come through.

 

To be fair, this is the second part of a miniseries. The authors, John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman, are building a story, providing details when the audience needs it, rather than giving you all the goods up front only to burn out by the end. The entire story can not be judged by a single chapter.

 

What is remarkable is the authenticity of voice coming through the characters. Captain Jack reads like Captain Jack, Gwen is Gwen, and the same goes for Captain John Hart. Possibly unfamiliar characters like Shelley, Dana, James Sterling, and Gilly fit snuggly into the Torchwood comic book mold. A lot of that credit must go to Mr. Barrowman’s history with Torchwood and the excellent talent of Carole E. Barrowman. If nothing else, this feels like proper Torchwood, imperfections and all.