The Target Book Artwork ExhibitionBookmark and Share

Sunday, 1 May 2016 - Reviewed by Marcus
Genisis of the Daleks (Credit: Chris Achilleos)
Doctor Who: The Target Book Artwork
London Cartoon Museum
35 Little Russell Street,
London 
WC1A 2HH

Thursday 28th April - Sunday 15th May 2016
 
Mon - Sat: 10.30 - 17.30
Sun 12.00 - 17.30
For those of us who grew up in the seventies, Doctor Who was a transient experience, appearing on our tv screen for 25 fleeting minutes each Saturday, then gone, forever lost into the ether. There was no catch-up and no repeat,  no DVD release to collect and treasure, not even a Doctor Who Magazine to help us analyse and review each story.  

But we were lucky, we had one great advantage that would enable us to relive each story, savour each experience. We had the Target books.

The paperbacks were the essential purchase for the fan of the era, The novelisations that allowed us to replay the stories in our mind, to archive the memories. It's probably true to say that without that initial range of books, the series would not have gained such a foothold in the affection of so many people, and may not even exist today.

And those  books had covers. Glorious illustrations conceived by talented artists that gripped the casual browser and summed up the story inside.

We loved those books, collected them, and treasured them as one of the few permanent contacts we had with the stories from the programme we loved. The covers became etched into our memories, their bright vibrant images often more enduring than the black and white flicking images from the episodes themselves.
 
So what a joy it is to see those all so familiar illustrations in their original form displayed at the new exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in London's Bloomsbury.
 
The exhibition features thirty exhibits, featuring artists covering stories from every era of the classic series.
 
From Chris Achilleos  we have those iconic Hartnell covers from The Daleks and The Web Planet, showing the brooding, slightly sinister first Doctor, which gave many of us our first introduction to the original. Ten pieces from the artist are featured including the epic Space War showing a snarling Ogron and the classic cover to Genisis of the Daleks, reused for this month's DWM.
 
The later Target period is represented by  Andrew Skilleter  and by covers from Destiny of the Daleks,  through to The Mark of the Rani, showing the Rani in full hag mode. Other artists represented include Roy Knipe, Jeff Cummins, and David McAlister, with covers as diverse as The Doomsday Weapon, showing a snarling Master through to the glinting chrome splendor of The Giant Robot.
 
Seeing the covers in their original form, devoid of logos and titles, really allows you to appreciate the tremendous work which went into creating them. The detail is  superb and the memories come flooding back. The displays take up most of the first floor of the small museum, with plenty of room to study the detail and appreciate the skill involved to create them.
 
The collection has been put together by the current Doctor Who Brand Manager Edward Russell, a self-confessed fan of the book range, who has managed to persuade collectors from around the world to loan their precious material for the exhibition. The effort is well worthwhile and the exhibition is unique in allowing so much original material to be seen together.
 
The exhibition is timed to coincide with the re-release of a series of  the novelisations this time published by BBC Books, complete with new artwork from  Chris Achilleos, some of which is also displayed.
 
The exhibition runs for just two weeks. It's definitly worth a visit, not only if you are a fan of the original range, but for any Doctor Who fan who wants to experience some of the history of the show, and one part of what makes it so enduring. 
 

 



Cybermen - The Invasion (Audio Book)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 30 April 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
The Invasion (Credit: BBC Audio)

Original Novelisation by Ian Marter

Audio Performances And Narration: David Troughton

Released: 7th April 2016, BBC AUDIO.

Duration: 5 hours approximately.

The TARDIS crew have overcome unpredictable and un-nerving events in The Land Of Fiction and return to their familiar time/space dimension. But it is a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire. A quick control manoeuvre saves the TARDIS from an alien missile fired from the vicinity of the Moon, and the Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot travel down to Earth.

The heroic trio have ended up in a relatively innocuous field with cows, but the time ship needs some circuit repair work before further travels are possible. Ideally, help is needed from someone native to Earth. Knowing that they are in the general time zone where they last met their ally Professor Travers they set off to nearby London.

But it is a somewhat different London from the one Jamie and the Doctor last visited, when the Underground was brought to a standstill by the Great Intelligence and its 'Yeti' forces. International Electromatics has made a decisive impact on the lives of consumers from all walks of life. The head of the corporation, Tobias Vaughn, is clearly a man of great vitality and drive, but he harbours a number of terrifying skeletons in his cupboard.

Eventually the Doctor crosses paths once again with the charismatic and brave Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart, who has risen up to the rank of Brigadier, and who heads a military organisation known as UNIT.

Professor Travers is absent, and instead his apartment is rented to a Professor Watkins and his photographer niece Isobel. Watkins has seemingly been kidnapped by Vaughn's men and it falls on the Doctor to try and retrieve him, as well as help UNIT's investigations into just what International Electromatics are up to.

Before long Watkins' niece Isobel and her new friend Zoe fall into Vaughn's clutches, and the Doctor and Jamie must employ their wits in order to save them. A far bigger problem soon manifests itself: the emotionless Cybermen are planning to invade Earth, and they know that the Doctor is one of the few things that will stand in their way..

 

One of the most confident stories of Season 6 - along with the vitally important The War Games - The Invasion was pivotal in setting the groundwork for the imminent colour era of Doctor Who. It is also one of the longest stories in the show's history at eight parts; itself an episode quota that was never seen before or since.

It could have come over as unwieldy and padded, but wonderful one-off characters such as Vaughn, Packer, Travers, and his niece all play their part to perfection. Having the first four episodes feature more of Jamie, and the latter four feature more of Zoe was also an unusual aspect at the time but paid off well. Even though the story is essentially action and thriller rolled together, there are some other notable themes. These include the dangers of technological progress, the price paid for being successful at all costs, the rise of feminism and its clashes with old-school male institutions, such as the military, and the importance of friendship and loyalty. The story was of course vital to Doctor Who's long-term future, and it is good we have it largely intact, although there is still a vague hope that episodes one and four are found somewhere one day.

David Troughton has contributed much to film TV and theatre over the years, and still is a busy actor to this day. I myself have had the pleasure of seeing him live on stage in Stratford-upon-Avon, and he had a poise and assuredness that made him magnetic to watch. He also has appeared many times in classic Doctor Who, as well as the modern show, with The Curse Of Peladon remaining his most significant contribution. 

Troughton sounds uncannily like his father Patrick, and thus delivers a recitation of the Second Doctor that gives much of this 'alternate take' on the official story an identity and compelling nature all its own.

However a number of the voices of the original are somewhat missed. I have returned to both the VHS and DVD releases of The Invasion many times since first purchasing them, and much of the reason for that were the strong performances across the board. This meant that whatever the quality of this new audio book, I would regard the Brigadier, Packer, Vaughn and Professor Watkins as 'the original and best'. Our audio perfomer nonetheless does very well to provide a rich vein of identity and distinctive personality in his voices. His narration is also very good, and manages to keep a potentially demanding runtime pass by relatively without fuss.

As with the recent Death to the Daleks release, we have the participation of multi-skilled audio icon Nicholas Briggs, who does a fine job of updating the monster voices that Peter Halliday had provided in the original 1968 TV serial.

Sound effects and music are serviceable here. For the climactic battle scenes there is plenty of sound and fury. The occasional melody comes along to signify a chapter of significance, as well as beginnings and ends of (the in total five) CDs. Yet otherwise, and especially for such a long run time, the production can feel a bit sparse.

The much-missed Ian Marter played companion Harry Sullivan, who was himself a member of UNIT, and is the writer of the text behind this unabridged reading. The book is generally very faithful to the original story, with the odd extra death or variant set piece slotted in. Thus, despite this audio release's cover and title, the prominence of the Cybermen remains somewhat minimal.  The heart and soul of the antagonism is still to be found in the form of Tobias Vaughn. There is a fascinating relationship of power between him and his security chief Packer, which is developed by the story being as long as it is. The novelisation does well to make Packer a bit less incompetent and displaying some insights that are of potential use to his superior.

And as a book in its own right, Marter has made sure to move events along at a steady clip. Most of the prose is pleasant to the ear, and there is a good amount of adjectives that stand out as creative. Some extra dialogue and emotion also make this version distinctive.

 

Overall this release is another a fine exhibit of a story with a perennial enemy of the good Doctor. A previously released soundtrack of the story is still available second-hand, but adds little to the official DVD, complete with excellent animation by the now sadly defunct Cosgrove Hall.

This release offers all the excellent prose and urgency that Ian Marter brought to his Doctor Who novelisations, and of course the versatile acting skills of David Troughton. It is truly deserving of a science fiction aficionado's time.



Fourth Doctor #1 - Gaze of the Medusa (Part One)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 28 April 2016 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor #1 (Credit: Titan)
Writers: Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby
Artist: Brian Williamson
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterers: Richard Starkings and Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Senior Comics Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editors: Jessica Burton and Gabriela Houston
Designer: Rob Farmer
Released: March 23rd 2016, Titan Comics​

Vintage Doctor Who – that’s the best way to summarize the joyful, relentlessly entertaining experience that awaits fans as they approach what feels like Titan Comics’ one-hundredth title set in the worlds of the BBC’s longest-running science-fiction drama. Given the sheer number of Doctors the publishers have been juggling around of late what with their ongoing series themed around Eccleston, Tennant, Smith, Capaldi and even Hurt (on occasion, anyway)’s incarnations, one might have initially expected their writing teams to falter under the weight of yet another version of the Time Lord – particularly one so esteemed as Tom Baker’s – but true to form, their The Fourth Doctor saga looks set to enjoy just as much critical success as its esteemed predecessors, if not more-so, based on its opening outing.

Just as many Baker devotees will surely have hoped, much of the appeal of his first Titan-produced comic strip adventure lies in its capitalising on the elements which made his era such an enduring hit: extra-terrestrials masquerading as human beings as they pursue sinister machinations, and best of all a reprise for the much-missed Lis Sladen’s Sarah-Jane, who continues her travels alongside John Smith at some point after the events of “Pyramids of Mars” (though the continuity references are justifiably kept to a minimum here so as not to leave newcomers in the dark). Throw in a deliciously gothic Victorian London backdrop which couldn’t feel more reminiscent of “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” if Jago and Litefoot appeared in the background, and the result is a promisingly authentic debut narrative which could well give the strip just as much as momentum as the Ninth-Twelfth Doctor series already have so long as its next few instalments pan out effectively.

As the tale’s similarly 1970s-esque title – “Gaze of the Medusa Part 1” – suggests, writers Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby take a refreshingly bold dive into Greek mythology in this instance, weaving iconic creatures such as the Cyclops and Medusa herself in a manner which already seems far more seamless than BBC One’s attempts to merge myth with modernity in Atlantis, with the aforementioned adversaries all but guaranteed to herald from distant nebulas as was the case with the show’s take on the Loch Ness Monster in “Terror of the Zygons” or Egyptian deities in “Pyramids”. That said, barring a last-minute revelation surrounding the original femme fatale’s stony complexion, there’s sadly not much time for the scribes to develop these potentially fascinating ancient antagonists’ characterisation here, with much of their focus lying instead on bringing perhaps the most beloved TARDIS team in the show’s history back to life.

Suffice to say that any new work of Who fiction which dares to cast Baker’s eccentric, lovable galactic hipster in its leading role must live and die based on its depiction of his and Sladen’s characters, which makes Rennie, Beeby and Brian Williamson (who takes on artistic duties here, rendering the Doctor, Sarah-Jane in an impressively realistic style that goes so far as to border on the uncanny)’s success in this regard that much more of a substantial relief. Far from them coming off as caricature versions of their televised selves, both constructs instantly boast the same USPs on the printed page in 2016 as they did three or so decades ago, with the Doctor taking advantage of every and any opportunity to crack a quip about Buffalo Bill or War and Peace and Sarah brimming with much the same honest charm and intelligence as she did in both Who and her subsequent beloved spin-off series. Indeed, it’s overwhelmingly reassuring to see that the writing team understand their leading players’ strengths to such an extent that even when readers are presented with a relatively uneventful, oft-meandering yarn such as “Part 1”, they’ll still probably have a great time thanks to the protagonists’ instantly endearing dynamic.

Better yet, those readers who’ve been waiting for a “but…” to signal a shift towards this reviewer’s gripes are in for a shock, since in no small part thanks to Rennie and Beeby’s dedication to producing an authentic continuation of the Fourth Doctor era in terms of plot tropes, mythological intrigue and characterisation, the aspects which warrant even a single complaint are far and few between. Perhaps in an ideal world the core narrative surrounding Sarah’s untimely abduction by said legendary figures and the Doctor’s simultaneous encounter with a fearful father and his reckless daughter – whose names seem far too similar to those of other Greek icons to be a coincidence – could have received a little more attention so as to allow its sophomore chapter to kick off with a greater degree of momentum, or perhaps we could have had at least a wink or two to other elements of Doctor Who’s Victorian era continuity such as the Paternoster Gang or a certain barmaid-turned-Impossible Girl, but that these so-called shortcomings barely ever came to mind in the initial read-through speaks wonders for how captivating a ‘season premiere’ everyone involved has concocted in this instance.

Indeed, rather than supporting those fears of oversaturation discussed at the beginning of this review, Titan’s latest canonical contribution to the worlds of Doctor Who only seems to confirm once again that BBC Worldwide has placed their much-coveted licence in precisely the right mittens. Not only have Rennie and Beeby showcased in abundance their understanding of the narrative elements which helped the scripts of Robert Holmes and company succeed, they’ve also accomplished the enviable feat – and in 30 pages, no less – of perfectly encapsulating the appeal of Baker and Sladen’s heroes to the point that it’s difficult to imagine any reader being dissatisfied by the end result. What lies in the immediate future for the Fourth Doctor saga remains to be seen, yet if its pilot episode in any way offers even the slightest of hints at what’s to come, then anyone wise enough to follow the series should be in for a simultaneously thought-provoking, exhilarating and hilarious ride.

The end may have arrived for Baker’s scarf-donning, jelly baby-offering wanderer of time with “Logopolis” in 1981, but judging by the immense strength of their debut take on the character, the moment’s been prepared for by Rennie, Beeby et al ever since.



The Churchill Years - Volume 1Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 26 April 2016 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley

The Churchill Years (Credit: Big FInish)

Cast

Ian McNeice (Winston Churchill), Danny Horn (Kazran Sardick), Holly Earl (Lily Arwell), Emily Atack (Hetty Warner), Michael Gould (Frederick Lindemann), Derek Riddell (Lt-Commander Sandy McNish), Phil Mulryne (Able Seaman Phillips), Jo Stone-Fewings (Major Wheatley) Amerjit Deu (The Swami), Stewart Scudamore(Danvers), Alistair Petrie (Julius Caesar), Laura Rogers (Queen Tristahna), Carolyn Seymour (Mrs Whitaker), John Banks (Mr Rogers) and Nicholas Briggs (The Dalek)

Producer David RichardsonScript Editor Matt Fitton
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

The Churchill Years is another great idea from the Big Finish team that expands our Whoniverse further still. We know that the Doctor and Winston (Ian McNeice) had a history. It was made quite obvious in Victory Of The Daleks that the pair were friends, and had met before. The Churchill Years aims to fill in some blanks for the audience, and share some of that history.

 

The Oncoming Storm by Phil Mulryne

The first story in this set of four is The Oncoming Storm. We find Churchill in 1939, before he becomes Prime Minister. As the story unfolds, an unusually smooth stone is discovered on the banks of the Thames. The stone seems to briefly give anyone who touches it a Godlike amount of intelligence, but only for a very short time. 

The enemy here is not only the Nazi threat, but also some strange soldiers, who speak in a very peculiar way. Churchill is helped by his new secretary Hetty Warner (Emily Atack), Frederick Lindemann (Michael Gould) and Lt- Commander Sandy McNish (Tooth and Claw’s Derek Riddell). 

Alongside McNeice, it is Atack who really stands out. Hetty Warner is a great creation that put me in mind of Marvel’s Agent Carter. I felt the alien threat here to be quite familiar, and vaguely underwhelming. They bark orders as if reading from a thesaurus, repeating adjectives in the same sentence which all the same meaning. 

There is an appearance by the 9th Doctor, who when voiced by McNeice as part of the narrative, doesn’t quite sound right. I could imagine the character speaking the words, but when voiced by such a non-northern accent, I found it quite strange to hear. Although the Oncoming Storm has a few minor shortfalls, it is a promising start to a brand new entry to the Big Finish cannon. 

 

Hounded - by Alan Barnes

We now skip forward to 1941, and find Churchill troubled by a huge and vicious black dog. Thankfully Doctor number 10 is on hand to help out, along with the mysterious Swami. Can the Doctor and Hetty save the Prime Minister? Well…that would be telling….

Guest stars here are Jo Stone-Fewings (previously seen in Bad Wolf and Parting Of The Ways) as Major Wheatley, and Amerjit Deu as Swami.

I felt that Hounded was the weakest of the four stories. For me it was the inclusion of the Swami, who is at first all potions and chanting, something that I feel doesn’t sit well with Dr Who. 

The story is given added gravitas towards the end when the story takes a very serious turn. Emily Atack endears us even more to Hetty, who here works closely with the Doctor. For me McNeice’s voicing of Tennant’s Doctor was much more assured that his try Eccleston, and at times I could have even mistaken the voice for Tennant himself.

 

The Living History - by Justin Richards

The war is over and Churchill is no longer Prime Minister. A surprise visit from the 11th Doctor and his travelling companion Kazran Sardick (Danny Horn getting a second chance at the character) lures the eager Churchill into the TARDIS and off on to meet one of his heroes, Julius Caesar. But trouble lurks in 55 AD in the shape of a Bronze God.

The Bronze God in question, is of course a Dalek. Appearing with Ian McNeice and Danny Horn are Alistair Petrie as Julius Caesar, Laura Rogers as Queen Tristahna (who also played Isabella, along side Horn’s character in A Christmas Carol), and finally of course, Nicholas Briggs as the voice of the Dalek.

I loved The Living History, from the re-introduction of Kazran, who we find is on one of his many jaunts with the Doctor, to the idea of Julius Caesar and Winston Churchill plotting to go to war against a Dalek. The Dalek menace is at it’s greatest here as the creature is damaged and vulnerable. It needs power to recharge the circuits on it’s ship, power that is of course hard to come across in 55 AD, until it stumbles upon a couple of time travellers. The Doctor is cleverly written out of most of the plot, making this the most ‘Doctor-lite’ of the collection, but it works well. Leaving Churchill and Sardick to have their own adventure. Fantastic stuff.

 

The Chartwell Metamorphosis - by Ken Bentley

In the final chapter, Sir Winston is now retired, living in Chartwell, and keeping butterflies. However when a strange looking cocoon turns up things take a turn for the worst. 

Although essentially an invasion story, Bentley’s entry is about clinging onto life for as long as one can. Guest stars are Carolyn Seymour as Mrs Whitaker, Stewart Scudamore as Danvers and John Banks as Mr Rogers. We also have a delightful turn from Holly Earl, who brings back her character Lily Arwell from The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe. Lily has been placed at Chartwell as a nurse by the 11th Doctor to watch over the ageing Churchill. 

Ian Mcneice is at his best here, portraying Winston as a rather curmudgeonly and short tempered old man. It’s clear that this role is a gift to him, and he is enjoying himself immensely. The plot is quite dark, finding Churchill in the twilight of his years, desperately trying to extend his own life, even if for a moment at least it might put others in danger. This quite a change for the character, but Bentley has written it in such a way that the listener does sympathise. The Doctor turns up in the final act to save the day, and the story ends on a pleasant twist of events. I have a feeling that we will be hearing from Lily and Winston again.

 

As well as the four stories, we are also treated to a good hour of behind the scenes VAM, which includes features on each story, and a talk with the cast. To close, there is a massive hint from Ian McNeice himself that there will be more from Churchill Years.

 

The production values on all four audio stories are of course excellent, with Iain McNeice doing a fantastic job portraying the sometimes irascible Churchill. 

It was great to feature the return of two characters (and actors) from two of Matt Smith’s Christmas episodes. Danny Horn and Holly Earl brought a great sense of continuity and charm to events.

Another very nice touch is that each story opens and closes with the Doctor Who theme faithful to the incarnation of the Doctor to feature in the plot.

I’m ashamed to admit that I am quite new to the world of Big Finish. Being a bit of a completist, I was very concerned at the size of their back catalogue, and how much this might dent my wallet. I’d happily recommend The Churchill Years for a Big Finish novice, but be warned, it will give you the yearning for more.



The Space Museum (Audio Book)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 20 April 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
The Space Museum

Following a truly wondrous adventure in Palestine at the time of the Crusades, the four time travellers, who have little idea where their destination is next, are caught in bizarre trap of cause-and-effect. Once they establish that their next moves are critical to their future, they realise they are potential saviour of an oppressed race known as the Xerons, who are being treated as no more than mere nuisances. This results from the Morok Empire seeking to turn a given planet and culture from notable achievements and culture into simply another functional collection of exhibits. Each move the Doctor, Vicki, Barbara and Ian make next could result in either another victory, or a final end as preserved specimens next to a barely descriptive plaque..

 

Oh, the poor, barely lamented Space Museum. Despite surviving the archive purge of the 1970s, this unremarkable story is often forgotten by general viewers and Who aficionados alike, as if it had indeed gone missing. The main superficial presentation and image of the story was off to a bad start from early on, due to the showrunners' budgeting decisions. (One can enjoy The Chase thanks to its reasonable production values and knowing humour, but it cost its predecessor dear). So, even more so than normal, the set designs were weak, making proceedings feel rather hollow and meaningless.

This made an already talky story into one that looked especially cheap, even by BBC 1960s standards. William Hartnell is also absent for much of the final two episodes, having been in decent enough form to help bolster the intermittently promising opening sections. Also for me, Mervyn Pinfield was a stage director in essence more than a TV one. Although he undoubtedly helped Verity Lambert in producing a then-ambitious 'tea time show for the family' he himself seemed to be just a step or two behind the actual pioneering entertainment format of television.

There is a pretty good central hook which explores causality and choice in a way rarely done in general. The main threat of becoming lifeless exhibits is a great premise but like so many mediocre stories that followed in decades since, the latter half of the story is a missed opportunity, and seemingly forgets the considerable  prospects in favour of a very tired 'overthrow oppressors' finale. The problem is compounded by Barbara and Ian not being given anything memorable to do. Consequently the story is 'seen it all before', which certainly was unlike early Doctor Who at the same, and when it comes to ranking the story in its particular season, most would agree it was the low point. (Although some revile the rather over-ambitious The Web Planet).

It does however act as a fine exhibit - if I may borrow the term from the dastardly Moroks - of the full potential of Vicki, and this is magnified in the way author Glyn Jones has embellished and filled out the entire later half of the story to portray something a little more urgent and meaningful, rather than just a few badly dressed. actors of little experience and/or renown at the time. (Star Wars fans may well know that Jeremy Bulloch had an early role onscreen here, before becoming the rather charismatic Boba Fett).

This novelisation does have the unexpected depth of building up to Vicki's farewell story. Perhaps it is my sense of irony, that the Trojan Horse reference that briefly pops up, also can be used as a link to the fine The Myth Makers. Vicki is clearly attracted to one of the Xerons, and is now fully becoming a woman with some agency and self-respect. A far cry then from her very first appearance in the show, which was rather child-like, but no less likable for it.  A maze needing to be solved is also part of Glyn Jones's efforts to make this more than just another B-movie-esque effort,

And in all honesty, the novelisation text is well above average when it comes to using vocabulary and original sentences. It thus manages to stylishly convey character motivations and perspectives. However the overall plot and element of surprise and drama is still not that impressive when comparing this book to the better novelisations of yesteryear. Therefore some of the urgency of the story, that the author surely hoped for, does not reach out.

The death/defeat of the Moroks is done in dismissive way, just as on TV, but with some added dark humour that ties in with an earlier sequence concerning Governor Lobos' love for chess.  Unusually for Doctor Who, a humanoid race is granted annihilation and presented as a mere trifle. It may be one thing common to historicals for major deaths and massacres, but does stand out like a sore thumb for an escapade set far, far away in space.

Some fans will always have a soft spot for the Doctor's flesh and blood granddaughter Susan. I personally have always been more engaged by Vicki. In many ways she filled the role of a surrogate Susan, but was also clearly first and foremost an Earth girl, from somewhere in the not too distant future.

Appropriately enough the actress who played Vicki is the stalwart solo vocal contributor to this 5 disc release by BBC Audio. Maureen O'Brien is certainly not the first person that springs to mind when mentioning a person that waxes lyrical about their Who connection, and has been to conventions galore. But she is still someone that appreciates the show's importance, and once very frankly told an interviewer she needed the fan base of the show to give her book sales a significant boost.

Her takes on the regulars are all pleasant and authentic, with her 'as then' Vicki being excellent. Other voices are more mixed. The Moroks mostly are over done in being shown to be alien and cold. Some Xerons are pretty good, but undone by the source material's troubles with certain minor characters tending to blur after a while.

Music occasionally grabs hold during the auditory experience and sends a chill or two down one's spine. But the crucial opening CD barely has a note of sound other than the narration and a few effects. This does seem an odd way to do things.

Overall, this release is not to be dismissed and is worth a listen at least the once or twice. Yet it is not something to begin a relative newcomer's journey into either the First Doctor era, or indeed black-and-white tales of decades past. The inimitable Hartnell was the original version's primary saving grace, and rarely feels present here, such were his many visual acting gifts that were conveyed on-screen. 

Taken as an attempt to improve on the many shortcomings of the original story, this is a partially successful attempt. If half-decent characterisation and some (often predictable) throwaway humour is of interest to a given listener, then this is quite worthy of recommendation.



Eighth Doctor Mini-Series #5: A Matter Of Life And Death ( Finale )Bookmark and Share

Monday, 18 April 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
DOCTOR WHO: THE EIGHTH DOCTOR #5 (Credit: Titan)

WRITER - GEORGE MANN

 ARTIST - EMMA VIECELI

COLORIST HI-FI

LETTERER - RICHARD STARKINGS AND
COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

SENIOR EDITOR - ANDREW JAMES

ASSISTANT EDITORS - JESSICA BURTON
& GABRIELA HOUSTON

DESIGNER - ROB FARMER

COVER 1: RACHAELSTOTT & HI-FI

COVER 2: WILL BROOKS

  COVER 3: CAROLYN EDWARDS

"What happens next will define you. This is your chance to show the Universe who you are. Will you be born in a haze of blood and war, or will you choose a better path?...I love it when people make the right choice! Now, here’s the plan... It’s up to you. Right now. Right here. Make your decision well." - The Doctor

 

The curly-haired TARDIS captain, and new shipmate Josie, soon are caught in the middle of a thoroughly perplexing moral dilemma, when they take in the apparent luxury of a Bakri Resurrection Barge out in deep space. The Doctor is forced to use his scientific genius and a hint of rushed inspiration to resolve a major crisis. But the real battle concerns Josie, and a being that is in many ways the mirror image of her..

 

This final story of the vigorous and eclectic miniseries is introduced via a traditional set-up in many ways, but some very strong emotional beats, worthy of the 21st century brand, are part of the storytelling process at the same time.

This story is set in the continuity/canon spectrum before 'psychic paper' became the norm for plot acceleration, and was used by the 'modern' Doctors.

However there is a little premonition of the Ninth Doctor with one of his more important quotes upon achieving triumph. I personally have mixed feelings over this somewhat needy self-reference, but it clearly signals an intent to tie what is a somewhat 'limbo' period of Doctor Who history with the much more fluid and popularly accepted modern incarnation of the show.

Also remarkable is a display or two of simmering anger that is presented by the Eighth Doctor. Fury is not the first component a person would use to characterise him, but this is organic in that it strongly ties with the shocking revelations over Josie's true identity.

The core themes of this tale bring to mind, in some respects, the uncompleted Shada, which of course has been 'finalised' in multiple video/audio/novel versions. One of those variant did allow another chance for Paul McGann to flex his considerable acting muscles, and in a production that was readily available for a long time as a mainstream webcast.

In both a subtle and tantalising manner the auction mystery of Issue Four is addressed.  A suggestion is made that the Doctor and Josie were attending an event eerily similar to one in years gone by, that was critical to the future of the Doctor's youthful cyan-haired friend.

Much emotional power is generated in this finale story from the pen of George Mann. The art continues to be a delight as well, with some lovely sections of exposition framed in plaited blond hair, rather than the conventional square or rectangular panel outlines.

Ultimately, this is nothing shy of being a wonderful end to a comfortably above average short term series from Titan. Thus I wish there is more to come with the ebullient 'Victorian gentleman' of Gallifrey, who was the first to bring a strong element of romance and passion to the Who mythos.

Certainly the final 'the end... ' caption does inspire hope of at least another mini series, if not a full blown monthly one.

Lastly, do keep your eyes peeled for a pay-off of a different kind. The previously subtle link to the Twelfth Doctor comic Unearthly Things, is made into a rather more explicit one. Readers are treated to a cameo of the most recent TARDIS crew playing a little game of 'spying' on the past life of the valiant Time Lord. 

 

SPECIAL FEATURES:

As well as the splendid main cover, there are two variants which convey the action and warmth of the Eighth Doctor respectively, to telling effect. Some preview art for the new Fourth Doctor monthly series is included also.






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