Third Doctor Vol. 1 - Heralds of DestructionBookmark and Share

Saturday, 18 November 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Third Doctor Collection Cover.png
Writer: Paul Cornell
Art: Chritopher Jones
Colourist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Senior Designer: Andrew Leung
Senior Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editors: Jessica Burton, Amoona Saohin, Lauren McPhee, & Lauren Bowes
Published: 16th June 2017

Titan Comic's Five Issue mini-series starring the Third Doctor is collected together as Heralds of Destruction.  Whereas Titan's limited run of the Eighth Doctor had a different setting and story in each issue (with a running storyline throughout), the Third Doctor's run is entirely one story told over five issues. In that sense, it feels very tight and cohesive, and manages to capture the mood of the Third Doctor's wholly unique era quite nicely.

The story takes place somewhere during the Tenth Season, taking place after the Third Doctor's exile was ended by the Time Lords, but before Jo left, Sarah Jane arrived, and Mike Yates had his fall from grace. All of these little details play a role in this story, which arguably gave more real motivations and developments to these beloved characters than the actual show truly did at the time.  Yet that is not to say that this story doesn't feel like it could easily fit into that era.  In fact, it perfectly captures the tone of the UNIT days of Doctor Who. The voices of the characters are perfectly captured, and the art is great. The character likenesses are mostly spot on, though I personally felt Jo didn't always look just right.  But it is always going to be easier to draw the distinctive look of Jon Pertwee over the young and pretty face of Katy Manning.

The plot itself is rather fannish, with lots deep cut references to characters from this era (and before), but the execution feels so right, so very much of this timeframe in the show's history, that it almost doesn't matter what the story is. You've got alien invasions, UNIT shooting at it, the Third Doctor pontificating, the Master in his glorious Roger Delgado form, and even a few surprises along the way. What's not to enjoy?

I loved how this story takes little character bits, like the sometimes hinted at but never fully realized relationship between Jo and Mike, and brings it to fruition. Unfortunately, the constant interuptions of their work with UNIT become the reason they never truly made it work...and this also begins planting the seed for Mike to make the choices he made in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. I also rather liked the simple but effective motivation for the Third Doctor still sticking around on Earth and with UNIT despite his despised Exile finally coming to an end. 

If you, like me, have a soft spot for the Third Doctor's era of Doctor Who, there is little doubt in my mind you will find enjoyment in this book.  It's a story that feels like it was plucked straight from that era, and gives the Doctor and his supporting cast some lovely character moments to shine. 





The Marian Conspiracy (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 16 November 2017 - Reviewed by Peter Nolan
The Marian Conspiracy (Credit: Big Finish / Clayton Hickman)

Written By: Jacqueline RaynerDirected By: Gary Russell

Cast

Colin Baker (The Doctor); Maggie Stables (Evelyn Smythe); Sean Jackson (George Crow); Gary Russell (John Wilson); Jez Fielder (William Leaf); Jo Castleton (Lady Sarah); Anah Ruddin (The Queen); Nicholas Pegg (Reverend Thomas); Barnaby Edwards (Francois De Noailles); Alistair Lock (Royal Guard)

Originally Released: March 2000

A recurring issue for brave new explorers launching assaults on the vast continent that is Big Finish’s contribution to Doctor Who is that there’s just so MUCH of it. Certainly, as a relative newcomer to their work, who only started dipping into the ranges in 2013, I’m still balancing more current ranges with sifting through the early golden age of the first 50 releases. So maybe it’s worthwhile to look back at some of those formative stories and see which ones are seeking out, and also to see how almost twenty years of the development of Doctor Who (lest we forget, BACK ON TV) casts them in a different light than back in the day.

The Marian Conspiracy itself is a great jumping on point. More than that, it’s practically a soft reboot of the Sixth Doctor. While the Lost Stories range did wonders in improving his problematic TV persona simply by expressing his arrogant, egotistical, hotheaded tendencies through markedly better writing than back in 1985, here it’s like the entire characterization has been scrapped and Colin Baker’s Doctor rebuilt from scratch. The oft mention “Oul’ Sixey” is born here and, even if this story was lacking, it would be worth checking out as a vital bit of Big Finish history.

As it is, the story is anything but lacking. It’s an all time classic.

A rare “pure" historical, it features no aliens or mad scientists whatsoever, but simply concerns itself with the skulduggery and betrayals of Queen Mary’s court in 16th century England. And while contemporary Big Finish historicals like The Church and the Crown simply used history and its dramatis personae as a backdrop to rollicking adventure, this is more akin to early Hartnells – with an apparent mandate to educate the audience on the basics of the period (with added assassination attempts, naturally). This does raise the same question as most of the latter day revivals of the subgenre – how is that the Doctor seems to know he’s in a pure historical? It never even occurs to the Doctor that aliens could be behind events even though, across the whole of his lives, it should be his default assumption. I mean it’s always aliens in his experience. Except, as here, when it isn’t.

The lack of an outside influence does make the entire thing a paradox, of course. The Doctor’s pulled into events when he detects a history professor from the (very) early 21st century, Dr. Evelyn Smythe, is being erased from history from some anomaly in the 16th. But it turns out that she actually shouldn’t exist in the first place and only comes about because the Doctor incidentally saves her ancestor while trying to find the anomaly that only exists because he creates it by saving the ancestor while… you get the idea. From a modern perspective, it feels like this sort of thing would be made a central feature of the story but here it’s sort of tucked in like a slightly untidy bedsheet, in the hopes that nobody notices.

But that’s a quibble, and one beside the point of the story writer Jacqueline Rayner is telling. As an introduction to new companion Evelyn, it ticks all the boxes such debuts need to have. She’s got an immediately strong sense of whom she is as a character – strong willed, and borderline argumentative, but in the charming way that sees people sigh deeply as they give in to the inevitable and let her have her way; yet also deeply maternal and caring and acutely intelligent and insightful.  She’s quickly established as a woman you want to spend more time with as a listener. It’s all the more remarkable considering she’s so atypical a companion for the Doctor to invite about the TARDIS. A middle aged academic, she’s less about screaming and swooning over the nearest Thal, and more about an excitement to learn more about the world while maintaining a certain minimum standard of comfort. She’s a cocoa swilling, cardigan cocooned, handbag swinging breath of fresh air. And, sure, the Sixth Doctor seems a completely different man before they’re even introduced properly (her chiding of his interruption of her lecture would have seen TV Six stoked into a petulant rage, surely, followed by a prolonged sulk) but it does feel like Evelyn smooths the transition by credibly bringing out the best in him. He quickly seems to see her as an equal in all but her inexperience of the dangers of time travel, and the easy relationship between them is just nicer to see than his habitual bickering with Peri or Mel.

The exploration of Marian England is well sketched too. Having Evelyn blunder into a bar, believing Elizabeth is already on the throne is a very deft way of illustrating the real depth of passion tearing at the country’s fabric at every level of society. The eponymous conspiracy, joining together Protestant insurgents and agents of Catholic Spain in an unlikely alliance to put a more friendly face on the throne, is likewise a clever illustration of the issues involved. The debates between the Doctor and Queen Mary about the rights and wrongs of religious persecution shouldn’t work, as an epic case of telling, not showing, but the performances and script are so strong they absolutely work. It does push the Doctor into a strangely uncharacteristic tolerance of intolerance though. Really, Mary’s strident belief that all Protestants are marked by God Himself for damnation and that burning them alive and torturing them into converting is actually for their own good, isn’t that far from the stuff a Davros or a Cyberleader would come out with. But the Doctor never musters more than a bittersweet disappointment that he can’t reach her.

Of course, it’s not all talking and there’s a good deal of attempted assassination, framing people as deadly assassins, people threatening to blink out of existence as all of space and time warps around them, and the possibility of an ocassional stabbing. It all feels slightly tacked on but never less than fun and it all moves along at high enough a pace that it never outstays its welcome.

The Marian Conspiracy is an apparently effortless mixture of a very old fashioned view of what Doctor Who can, or should, be with a fresh and innovative companion and a complete rebirth for a classic Doctor. Even for those who think they don’t like pure historicals, this is well worth a listen or even, if it’s been a long time since you’ve heard it, a re-listen.



Associated Products

Audio
Released 30 Mar 2000
The Marian Conspiracy (Doctor Who)
$66.03



Time in OfficeBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 15 November 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Time In Office (Credit: Big Finish) Big Finish Release (United Kingdom):
First Released: Saturday 30th September 2017
Running Time: 2 hours
“Time in Office” is a rather fun anthology audio from Big Finish, which explores the idea of how the Doctor would deal with actually having to take on the Presidency of the High Council of Time Lords, of which he was appointed at the end of “The Five Doctors” (before he ran away again).  Each of the four episodes is a separate little story, all taking place during the Fifth Doctor’s reign in office.  Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, and Louise Jameson star, all of whom give a fun performance within.  
 
The Doctor and Tegan are heading back to Frontios to pick up Turlough, when they are taken out of their time stream and returned to Gallifrey, as the Time Lords have decided to force the Doctor to take his place as the President.  As you'd expect, the Doctor is wholly unwilling to accept this position.When he is confronted with the chaos that could ensue due to the mess Borusa left behind, he reluctantly accepts in order to prevent anyone else abusing the powers that Borusa had put in place before his disappearance.  So the Doctor gets inaugurated and must battle his way through a variety of tedious problems and bureaucracy before he can reach Tegan and stop them wiping her memory of him and sending her back to Earth.  The anthology starts off well, with lots of humour and a breezy pace, which is surprising considering how little is actually happening in this opening episode. Eventually, he manages to keep Tegan on Gallifrey by appointing her Ambassador to Earth (which despite not having any formal relationship with Earth, works out much better for the Doctor than accepting Leela's plan of marrying her). The episode’s main focus is just to put the pieces and characters in place for the following tales of the Doctor’s reign as leader of the Time Lords. 
 
The second episode opens up with The Doctor's first real task as President. is to deal with is to clean up a mess he didn't really make.  Two warring factions on a planet both believe themselves to be truly righteous in the eyes of their God, but their God is an alien being that feeds off the worship.  The Doctor and his presidential company travel to speak with the God in a Military TARDIS (or WARDIS) and hope to attempt to clean up this mess...but when the god realizes that Leela and the Doctor killed his Brother years ago, he vows revenge.  So diplomacy isn't an easy sell.  I enjoyed the concept of the second story...godlike beings that feed off worship, the idea of diplomatic relations falling apart because of one of the many adventures the Doctor and Leela taking down a despot backfires on them.  I also liked Tegan's solution to the problem. 
 
The third episode has the Doctor visiting the Academy and dealing with protestors as well as imitators disappointed in his selling out and joining the establishment.  I found this to be the funniest instalment, some great social commentary on the Social Media Protestors that exist today, as well as the fun references and in-jokes provided by the imitator fan of the Doctor.  Davison is in fine form throughout the set but I felt he was particularly on his game here. His presence as the Doctor is always there, but with an air of frustration at his current status.  You get the sense, particularly in this instalment, that his Doctor may seem like he is settling into his role as President, but he’d rather be anywhere else.  
 
The fourth and final story has the Doctor touring the new Capitol building, fully dressed to the nines in his robes and sashes…seemingly fully committed to his role as the President. But a plot to end his reign is afoot…luckily, that seems to be just what the Doctor ordered.  Again, it is a fine addition to the anthology…a set of stories that truly entertain the longtime fans. In general, I loved the tone of the whole set of episodes, it doesn’t take itself or the threats too seriously, and feels small in scale, even the big climax of this episode doesn’t feel too grandiose.  Maybe it’s because I have been listening more and more to the big boxsets with epic storylines, and less and less to the monthly range, but the lighter tone and story felt like a good release after listening to such dark and sweeping stories in the Eighth Doctor’s Doomsday Coalition and the War Doctor boxsets.  As much as I enjoyed those storylines, I think I needed the palette cleanser, and this fun set of short stories did the trick nicely.  Mixing social satire, allegory, sci-fi concepts, and just a good old fashioned Doctor Who fan “what if?” premise…”Time in Office” is a great listen for longtime fans.  





Warlord - JudoonBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 14 November 2017 - Reviewed by Simon Moore
Warlord Games: Judoon (cover) (Credit: Warlord Games)

Warlord Games
Released October 2016

Undoubtedly one of the highlights of Russell T Davies’ March 2007 television story “Smith And Jones” was its introduction of the Judoon upon an unsuspecting ‘Nu Who’ audience and the extra-terrestrials’ infuriatingly catchy single-syllable dialogue – "Blos So Folt Do No Cro Blo Cos So Ro"; a dialect which has already resulted in the creation of several Judoon Language Translators upon the World Wide Web.

Perhaps sensing the popularity of the race of “black armoured Rhinoceroid bipeds” within the wargaming community, as well as the potential for a “Doctor Who: Exterminate!” fan to field the “mercenary intergalactic police force affiliated to the Shadow Proclamation” on the tabletop, “Warlord Games” have now released a boxed pack of three 38mm scale metal Judoon figures as one of their first expansions for their miniatures game, and marvellously rendered they are too. Indeed, even though the “logical but stupid” single-cast aliens come supplied unpainted, their sculpts’ attention to minute detail, such as quarry scanners and incineration blasters, really makes them come alive in the hand the moment you take them out of the Gallifreyan-influenced translucent blue packaging.

For those interested in painting the Judoon, rather than simply owning the trio as collector pieces, matters could not be any easier either, as “Warlord Games” have already helpfully posted up a straightforward palette guide on their “Into The Time Vortex” website, and being predominantly black in colour should mean the vast majority of each miniature can be finished with a quick black prime and charcoal dry-brush. I certainly finished my first three models within just a few hours by using this technique and later just appropriately picked out the mercenaries’ collars, buckles, toe caps and equipment in either silver or red.

Slightly disconcerting however, is the fact that anyone who wishes to actually use the models specifically for “Doctor Who: Exterminate!” must first own a copy of the miniature game’s starter set, as the Judoon’s official Recruitment and Adventure cards are currently only available within that particular boxed product and cannot be found with the figures themselves. Fortunately, “Warlord Games” are slowly releasing such essential statistical data on their aforementioned “Into The Time Vortex” website as PDFs, and also apparently plan to sell physical copies of the cards at some point in the future. For now, though, the only way for a person to play “Judoon Rockets”, “Ricochet” or “You’re Under Arrest!” upon their opponent during a battle is for them to own the main game; albeit that's probably even more reason to pick up a copy… 

Fans of the intergalactic mercenaries will also need to buy at least two packs of the miniatures if they want to deploy a typical Judoon Faction for the game. This will allow them to ‘field’ a Leader, three (ordinary) Judoon and a couple of Judoon Enforcers. Unsurprisingly, this duplication of the same models has already led to much internet debate on the conversion possibilities of the sculpts, and having removed a few limbs and repositioned them myself, it seems perfectly doable in my eyes, even if a simple arm swap between two models requires some careful pinning.





The Ingenious Gentleman Adric of AlzariusBookmark and Share

Monday, 13 November 2017 - Reviewed by Elliot Stewart
The Ingenious Gentleman Adric Of Alzarius (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Julian Richards
Director: Lisa Bowerman
Featuring: Matthew Waterhouse
Big Finish Release (United Kingdom):
Due to released on: Thursday 30th November 2017
Running Time: 35 minutes

When you are a fan of a particular show and it changes, it's difficult to let go of what you loved about what it did and embrace the new. Doctor Who has regularly tested the allegiance of its fanbase from 1966 onwards with the introduction of regeneration for example. It’s not only the lead of the show that changes, the companions on rare occasion stick around, but mostly seem to arrive  only to be off before you could work out how to spell their full name. Adric was a pure example of this, not a popular companion, though his out of placeness, bad clothes, moods and mistakes spoke to my teen self more than someone dressed like my dad playing cricket.

Doctor Who had run for some time with the cliche dynamic of the doctor and one plucky young woman for the longest time. As the first 5th Doctor season arrived this all changed with a fully packed tardis, Adric seemed like a leftover piece of the transition that now no longer worked. I liked Adric’s relationship with 4th Doctor and missed it when suddenly Tegan and Nyssa and a New Doctor changed the feel of the show. The Ingenious Gentleman Adric of Alzarius picks up on that feeling and gives the listener a chance to relieve that period of the old familiar hero being a subject of a strong nostalgia it overwhelms you to nothing else.

 

Excellently read by Matthew Waterhouse, this short story follows Adric as he finds himself In a different position than usual, instead of playing second fiddle he is now a worthy side kick in fact a squire to the noble Sir Keeyoht of la Koura. Much of this story eludes to Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote and as it revealed later the  infamous ‘chivalrous quests’ in this insistence Is stop an evil man called the Doctor. Also Sir  Keeyoht of la Koura shows a passing resemblance to the 4th Doctor and Adric insecurity of the recent literal change of character of a new friend and mentor seems to be the crux of his new world. The subconscious shaping our Perception is a regular pattern in doctor who from the matrix being a terrifying mental landscape controlled by the master to surreal adventures in The Mind Robber. With a work like this you know what it’s coming, the reveal all is not what it seems because it isn’t. Buffy the Vampire Slayer followed a similar narrative in one episode “Normal Again’. Partly critiquing how fantastical the show had become with Buffy was shown as a patient in a mental ward. This story has a sting In it’s tail as Buffy fights back into the world we know in the series, the final shot is our hero Still in the hospital her doctor claiming ‘ we’ve lost her’. Adric was the lost companion, stuck between two opposing styles of the show and finally let go the following season. This audio story hints that with the 4th Doctor, Adric may have been destined for a stronger role and A better life.

This is a perfect example to having time to examine an unlooked aspect of the series, the Writing style and presentation lifts the concept away from it’s science fiction cliche roots. I am very keen to experience Adric again by the side of might and truth once again, If this was a pilot for The Ingenious Gentleman Adric of Alzarius, hurry up Netflix and commission a series. 






The High Price of Parking (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 11 November 2017 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
The High Price Of Parking (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by John Dorney

Directed by Ken Bentley

Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Bonnie Langford (Mel Bush), Gabrielle Glaister (Cowley), Hywel Morgan (Kempton/ Tribesman), Kate Duchene (Regina/ Seraphim), Leighton Pugh (Fulton), Jack Monaghan 
(Dunne/ Selfdrive), James Joyce (Robowardens)

Big Finish Productions - Released July 2017

Having successfully reintroduced Bonnie Langford’s Mel Bush as a returning character last year alongside the already popular TARDIS team of Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor and Sophie Aldred as Ace, the dynamic trio are all set for the first of a new trilogy of their ongoing adventures.

The High Price of Parking finds the travellers attempt to reach a galactic beauty spot and renowned tourist trap leads them to a nearby planetoid designed as a giant car park and named, appropriately enough, Parking. Here they quickly find themselves caught up in a civil war between the planet’s Wardens and a sect called Free Parkers. Beneath the rather obvious puns is a fairly standard Doctor Who plot with some nice twists and turns which builds to a satisfying conclusion.

As ever there is a competent supporting cast headed up by Gabrielle Glaister, who will be most familiar to television audiences from her role of “Bob”, the only character to have straddled the comedic universes of Blackadder and Upstart Crow. Here she plays the slightly out of her depth head warden Cowley and gets to share some enjoyable scenes with Mel. Bonnie Langford’s computer programmer is at her proactive best for most of this story. Also worthy of mention is Kate Duchene playing two very different roles, the first of these is Regina, tribal leader of the Free Parkers, and the other is super computer Seraphim. The latter role could easily have been very clichéd but the scenes shared with Sylvester McCoy in the play’s climax are very enjoyable with the Seventh Doctor as his “r” rolling best. Additional support comes from Hywel Morgan as the slimy Kempton and Leighton Pugh in several smaller roles including an enjoyable turn as Fulton an overzealous enforcer for Galactic Heritage.

Overall, this is an enjoyable tale which combines some light comedy with clever moments of jeopardy even allowing for the fact that the listener will know that whatever happens the three lead characters won’t come to any harm. The only slight misfire for long-term listeners is that having apparently established Mel’s return as taking place sometime after the departure of Hex, Ace seems to have regressed to a slightly younger version of her character. Unlike some of writer John Dorney’s more memorable offerings of recent years, this isn’t a story to set the world alight with originality but nevertheless is a promising start to this new trilogy of adventures.

 

The High Price of Parking is available now on general release.