Doctor Who The 1996 TV Movie: 20 Years OnBookmark and Share

Friday, 27 May 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
The TV Movie (Credit: BBC)

Starring: Paul McGann (The Doctor), Eric Roberts (The Master),
Daphne Ashbrook (Dr Grace Holloway),
Sylvester McCoy (The Old Doctor), Yee Jee Tso (Chang Lee),
John Novak (Salinger), Michael David Simms (Dr Swift).

Written by Matthew Jacobs 
Directed by Geoffrey Sax 
Music by John Debney 
Additional Music By John Sponsler and Louis Febre

A Joint Production by Fox and the BBC.

Transmitted in May 1996.

It does seem scarcely conceivable to myself that it is now two whole decades since the transmission of the most lavish TV production thus far seen in Doctor Who history. This is a beautifully directed collection of character drama and hi-octane escapades, and still stands up visually to this day. Of course, the script is far from perfect and the running time is somewhat on the short side, no doubt dictated by the many ad breaks that Fox TV needed for it to be able to afford showing the story. This still is a good watch, and has a pace to it that few of even the strongest four-part stories from the original 1963-1989 run could really pretend to boast, when viewed in one go.


It is a shame that Sylvester McCoy had such a truncated and gratuitously dismissive exit, involving a very careless departure out of the TARDIS without checking the surrounding area by scanner first. And although the actor does some fine work with very little screen time, he would perhaps have made a better cameo as a flashback to the Seventh Doctor's last full adventure. At the time writer Matthew Jacobs wanted a transition from the last of the classic series Doctors into this arrestingly romantic 8th Doctor, in order to honour tradition. However as was proved 9 years later on, the better method was to jump straight in with a new leading man and allow him to fully establish his credentials. It is rather curious that Paul McGann actually is present as a narrator in the very early stages. The script has a rather muddled approach to trying to honour the past but look forward at the same time. And many have commented over the years that brand new viewers who had never seen a single story with the Doctor would have been rather befuddled by the way the key principles of the show are conveyed.


If only Paul had actually had the opportunity to truly show his great skills as an actor in a proper ongoing series. We have many big finish audios to enjoy but most doctor who fans regard the TV medium as predominant. He eventually came back for the short but enthralling Night Of The Doctor, and it managed to pack a lot of continuity for audio and book followers alike. He really can be seen as a great prototype for the much loved David Tennant incarnation. Endlessly energetic, not afraid to take risks, and always looking to please people that he encounters. McGann is a rather modest and self effacing man in real life, and rarely does a fan-related event in the way that Tennant, Matt Smith, or Peter Capaldi would. But he clearly appreciates the opportunities he has had over the years, and respects the institution that is Doctor Who. He may still have another chance to blaze on screen, and perhaps this would be a multi-Doctor vintage. I cannot be alone in hoping along those lines.


Regardless, McGann can still be counted as a worthy Time Lord and one that kept the franchise alive as the face of the various BBC books, official magazines, and other merchandise that dotted retailers' shelves. He is instantly likeable in this story, and really makes the idea of a more passionate and relationship -conversant alien from Gallifrey seem credible. The line about the Doctor being half-human is one of the glaring weaknesses from the script, however and takes some of this boldness in McGann characterisation away. The idea of a man of many lives, and infinitely more knowledge and experience having the patience for us mere Earthlings was a wonderful element of the never-ending continuity that first had its roots in the days of William Hartnell and grainy black-and-white experimental efforts.


A couple of new 'companion' figures were introduced as well along with the Eighth Doctor. We have initially the rather thinly sketched Chang Lee, who is innocuous and passive but does have some wells of anger and frustration simmering beneath the surface. Jacobs does not really give us enough of a reason to care for this character in the crucial opening act. He has obviously fallen in with the wrong crowd and got into the lethal environment of gang warfare. He is young and reckless, and easily won over by the thoroughly malicious Master; along the lines of Eve seduced by the serpent in Eden. Yee Jee Tso is likable enough for the most part, but does struggle to make this character breath full life in various aspects.


Grace Holloway however is almost the equal of the Doctor in terms of being a relatable and inspiring protagonist. She clearly has a full life of worries and torrid emotions, as she tries to find the right man who can appreciate her demanding duties as a surgeon in San Francisco. She is in the middle of a date with a handsome man, and wondering if he is the one for her, before a fate-defining phone call gets her straight back to work. She was certainly not expecting a seemingly manic, eccentric with a Scottish burr calling out "I am not human.. I am not like you!".


That she turns out to be the Seventh Doctor's inadvertent killer, by using a 'cutting edge' probe is an interesting irony. Bullets did not kill our beloved rogue wanderer, it was the lack of earth technology and a determined medicinal doctor that ended up doing that deed. This makes the eventual romance between Grace and the new Doctor truly interesting. She sees him as a miracle man, but also somewhat terrifying. Ultimately she takes a leap of faith and trusts him, and proves to be of great value thereafter on more than one occasion. By the end, and the rather too neat way Grace and Chang lee are returned from the dead by TARDIS 'gold dust' the audience has been taken on a journey with a really engaging and relatable person. Daphne Ashbrook deserves plaudits for her efforts. She has a long sustained career on television and showed much range. Her acting chops are indisputable and a great asset for what was a much hyped venture, for which those who were responsible had invested so much hope.


Crucially this TV movie needed a robust and chilling villain. For much of the running time it did have it. Eric Roberts has famously been in the shadow of his sister Julia much of his career, but is still a fine actor. I certainly enjoyed his brief turn in Christopher Nolan's triumphant The Dark Knight. He does well enough in the dual roles of Bruce and then the Master proper. This in itself was not unprecedented, as the Anthony Ainley incarnation of the renegade had first come about from the disturbing fate Tremas had in the early 1980s Tom Baker story The Keeper Of Traken.


It is rather silly, especially today after the three rather weaker films in The Terrminator franchise, that Roberts attempts to emulate Arnold Schwarzenegger's most celebrated alter-ego. When those shades are not used and the terrifying snake eyes are in full display then the stout-hearted and quick witted McGann Doctor has a true equal and opposite. And even when Roberts waltzes in for the final battle revolving around the TARDIS' Eye Of Harmony - something that went over the heads of many a casual British and American watcher - and oozes camp rather than creepiness, he has a dominant presence. Ultimately he does not really belong in the elite of onscreen Masters, but definitely is worth being remembered all these years later.


Paul McGann as The Doctor (publicity photo from The TV Movie) (Credit: BBC)In terms of the audience participation, this feature needed to have a double triumph in order to justify further expenditure into an ongoing series or mini-series. Whilst there were pretty good ratings on BBC 1 over in the UK, the US side of things was lukewarm at best. Things were not helped by the ever popular Roseanne having its finale being shown around the same time on the networks; an ironic reflection of how latter day Sylvester McCoy stories had to contend with the UK's powerhouse soap opera Coronation Street. As this was a limited success in terms of pure numbers, Doctor Who just could not carry on at that point in time. However a certain Russell T Davies was only just now coming into his own..


On a perhaps more personal level I found the lack of any new Doctor Who, and the frustration entailed, further compounded by the decision at the time by BBC Video to delete the majority of classic stories in the catalogue. This was to allow the maximum number of editions of the TV movie on shelves everywhere. There probably was some sound enough economic argument, but I cannot have been the only collector out there grimacing as I missed out on invaluable ways to witness capsules of history. For a 13 year old adolescent that got a rush from exploring shops on the sly, whilst also trying to fit in socially with various peer groups with more current and inherently Nineties pop culture in mind, it did feel undoubtedly cruel.


Of course before long there was another medium altogether in DVD which made the return of all those stories suddenly something to look forward to. And nowadays every Doctor Who story that exists in the archives is available via streaming across the internet. But at the time, even for someone wildly imaginative like myself, this felt as troublesome a setback as any other.


Over time as well the rating for this story has been modified. When it first was released in the UK on videotape some of the early stages had to be edited down so that the youngest fans, who traditionally are the target audience of Who, could be catered for in terms of the video being a viable 'present'. Some years later when the BBC did a Doctor Who theme night, the full version of the story was shown for viewers, and most notably gave the full account of how Chang Lee lost his pair of friends. And then on DVD release the story finally could be shown uncut and with the 12 certificate retained, obviously reflecting the changes in what was acceptable language and violence according to censors.


So let's raise a toast to this one proper story that represents the dynamic, vibrant universe of time travel and twin hearts, from the final decade of the 20th Century. There were of course high profile charity shorts in the form of Dimensions In Time, and The Curse Of Fatal Death, with the latter's case being a sign of greater things to come from Steven Moffat. All the same, this feature-length tale has a great deal of verve, and willingness to try new things, such as suggest the Doctor truly wants to love and be loved, and that there is more than one way for a Time Lord to survive a final incarnation. This fascinatingly unique entity is worth at least one look, if you yourself have yet to sample its many attributes.

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

Monday, 18 April 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek











"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. 



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.

Eighth Doctor Mini-Series #4 - BriarwoodBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 30 March 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor #4 (Credit: Titan)
Writer - George Mann
Artist - Emma Vieceli
Colorist - Hi-Fi

Letterer- Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Editor - Andrew James
Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton & Gabriela Houston
Designer - Rob Farmer
Cover Art - Rachael Stott + Hi-Fi

Released February 17th 2016, Titan Comics

An arrestingly powerful being that seems to have sprung to life from the folk tales of yesteryear threatens a community of aristocrats and servants in the early 20th century. It has the power to completely subjugate even the most steadfast human that treads the earth. It reveals itself through a grisly combination of vines, leaves and bark, as it displays its sheer power of physical strength and mental control.

Ultimately a sacrifice of at least one person with much integrity and good will may prove unavoidable. And this is despite the considerable life experience and ingenuity of the evergreen, curly-haired Doctor. (And not forgetting the spontaneous problem-solving of Josie, who defiantly styles her hair in colours that raise an eyebrow or two in this altogether more reserved period in British history).


The budding new partnership of Josie and the ball-of-energy Eighth Doctor continues to ring true in this story, and I almost worry that this may one of a small handful of chances for the pairing that may not ever be taken up by another creative team. Within a seemingly short space of time, there seems to be an easy rapport, and solid understanding of what Earth girl and Gallifreyan semi-eternal each need and expect from one another. This story could have been presented in a deadly serious fashion and still worked handsomely, but the moments of levity that occur every so often are judged just right and consolidate the good character work of prior issues.

Writer George Mann certainly knows how to keep the reader hooked for the concluding fifth issue, and does so by an apparent 'flash-forward' where the Doctor and his green-blue-haired companion are at an auction of some significance. For the most part though this adventure is set in one place and one time zone, but is still rich in atmosphere, world building and confident in its use of an alien race. The Nixi has some superficial similarities to the dreaded Krynoid (of the Tom Baker TV era), but is rather more 'grey' in terms of its actual morality. It is portrayed as being not suited to our world as we know it, and of potentially devastating influence on any flora and fauna it comes across. Ultimately, though it is a threat that may be better off rendered  docile and dormant, rather than facing rather more brutal and desperate methods of defeat.  

Although artwork was on occasion inconsistent early on in this mini-series, last issue's The Silvering saw a definite raising of the bar. This trend continues with Briarwood. There are many wonderful images that deserve to etch themselves into the memory banks of the reader.

Page layouts are also pleasingly varied and the right choice of grand scale for action or visual exposition is mirrored by appropriate instances of smaller panels that solidify this story's emotional core. We are made to care for virtually every character we meet; whether a minor player or a major contributor to the plot. Clearly by now, Mann and Emma Vieceli have truly meshed in achieving both their individual and joint creative intents.

My one reservation that impedes this being a sure-fire classic is that the latter stages of the story feel a bit rushed. Having a crammed final page, with a squashed 'to be continued' just seems to be the result of not quite enough planning, and is unfortunate given how measure the telling of the story was for most of the preceding pages.



Once again there are a number of variant covers. In addition to the one featured with this review, there is a secondary cover by Will Brooks, and a tertiary one by Carolyn Edwards . The main image is nicely indicative of the main threat, and should help retain previous purchasers of these Eighth Doctor adventures. It is so striking that it deserves to catch the eye of those who roam their favourite comic stores and may not have yet given the Doctor Who universe a try in this ever-popular medium.

Titan have somewhat shied away from the light-hearted and satirical bonus strips of late. But by and large we have been granted some fascinating behind the scenes material. For this fourth edition of the mini-series, there is a nicely done 'q/a style' interview with Paul J. Salamoff, who is privileged in that he owns a refurbished version of the actual console from the 1996 TV movie. Salamoff has shown much career versatility in the space of two-and-a-half decades, by being a movie and book writer, a producer, a film executive, and a make up artist - all in addition to being well-recognised as a comic book creator and visionary.

The Diary of River SongBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 2 February 2016 - Reviewed by Damian Christie

Written by Jenny T Colgan, Justin Richards,
James Goss and Matt Fitton
Directed by Ken Bentley
Big Finish Productions, 2016
Stars: Alex Kingston (River Song), Paul McGann (The Doctor), Samuel West (Mr Song), Alexander Vlahos (Bertie Potts), Alexander Siddig (Marcus Gifford), Imogen Stubbs (Isabella Clerkwell), Gbemisola Ikumelo (Prim), Charlotte Christie (Daphne Garsington), Alisdair Simpson (Colonel Lifford), Oliver Dimsdale (Archie Ferrers), John Banks (Professor Straiton), Letty Butler (Spritz), John Voce (Jenkins),
Aaron Neil (Sanukuma Master)

“You know nothing about my life! You don’t know what I’ve lost, what I had to do, who I had to leave behind! You think you were a pawn in someone else’s scheme – you don’t know the half of it!”

River Song, The Diary of River Song: The Boundless Sea

Over the years, Doctor Who has hinted at River Song’s exploits away from her husband. On TV, we’ve seen some brief examples of her misadventures, such as her near death experience-cum-rescue on the Byzantium in the prologue to The Time of Angels and her dealings with Winston Churchill, Dorium Maldovar and Liz Ten (not to mention her impersonation of Cleopatra in a Roman army camp!) in The Pandorica Opens. She’s clearly also intimidated the Daleks at some point because she made one beg for mercy before dispatching it! Away from the TV series, she’s even applied her private detective skills in the e-novella The Angel’s Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery.

But it was only recently in the 2015 Christmas special The Husbands of River Song that we really saw River in full flight. She showed that, oblivious to the presence of the Doctor, she can be every bit as resourceful, charming, vivacious, black-humoured, demanding, commanding, duplicitous, ruthless, mischievous and self-interested as the unsavoury characters and groups that she encounters in her travels, eg King Hydroflax, the Harmony and Redemption’s maitre ’d Flemming. And, without his knowledge, she’s not above stealing her husband’s TARDIS on occasions to complete her missions! Alex Kingston’s performance in The Husbands of River Song was strongly reminiscent of Harrison Ford’s famous archaeologist persona Indiana Jones, another character not averse to gambling on huge odds and skating on thin ice while striving to stay one step ahead of the plot’s antagonists.

The Diary of River Song is a great opportunity to hear River in her prime, strutting her stuff and (no doubt in her mind) being pretty marvellous without the Doctor around. It follows a similar formula to Big Finish’s other Doctor Who boxsets (including the recent adventures of BF’s other resident archaeologist Professor Bernice Summerfield) – four linked tales, each part of a greater story but each being sufficiently different in style and atmosphere to maintain the listener’s interest. There is definitely a pay-off in the final instalment, as River runs into an earlier incarnation of her husband – the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) – and must assist him without giving away her identity and potentially disrupting the Doctor’s timeline.

Jenny T Colgan’s The Boundless Sea is the most entertaining of the first three instalments. It’s a riff on the old MGM/Hammer Egyptian mummy horror story, as River investigates disappearances at a newly-opened Mesopotamian tomb in the 1920s. The tomb is plagued by mysterious fireflies and a reanimated 3000-year old corpse with an insatiable thirst for fluids. Doctor Who in the modern era has really upped the menace of its monsters as protagonists find that they cannot suppress natural, inevitable vulnerabilities that play to the creatures’ strengths, ie blink (the Weeping Angels), don’t look away (the Silence), don’t breathe (the clockwork men in Deep Breath) or don’t think (the Bank Teller in Time Heist). The Boundless Sea offers its own variation on these themes and as a result, the sense of threat in the serial’s climactic stages is convincing. Colgan, however, still manages to elicit enough sympathy from the listener for the villain of the piece; the mummy’s back story is tragic and poignant in equal measure, and even River herself can relate to the character’s desire for another chance at life – and revenge.

Justin Richards’ I Went to a Marvellous Party is a traditional “who-dunnit” on a spaceship that is host to one of the galaxy’s most exclusive, elitist parties, hosted by a triumvirate that informally self-style themselves as the Rulers of the Universe: Marcus (Star Trek DS9 veteran Alexander Siddig), Isabella (Imogen Stubbs) and Bertie (Alexander Vlahov, better known as BF’s Dorian Gray). River, of course, receives an invitation for the most mysterious of reasons, and it is not long before she is playing sleuth after two murders occur aboard “The Party” ship. This instalment is the weakest of the four serials. As Richards himself admits in the “Making of ...” CD, his task as a writer is to ensure that events unfold in a manner that links with the next story in the quadrilogy. Unfortunately, this means Richards’ story is really a “by-the-numbers” contribution that appears to have been hastily written and isn’t necessarily well thought out (and given this is the first boxset in a new series, I’m surprised that a “by-the-numbers” affair is required so early!). The reasons for the murders and the identities of the killers are anti-climactic and dull and as a result the serial proves to be quite underwhelming and disappointing.

James Goss’s two-hander Signs is a little more engaging than Marvellous Party, largely due to the camaraderie between River and Samuel West’s Mr Song (in the CD extras, West jokes that the part is a great opportunity for him to show off his wares as the next Doctor Who!), but the plot is not compelling faire either. River goes on a quest in search of the spore ships, vessels that are once believed to have seeded life in the universe but are now being employed to extinguish it on civilised worlds. The narrative flits back and forth through time, as River battles radiation sickness and is nursemaided by the enigmatic Mr Song who seems more concerned with the ways you prepare triangle sandwiches and a pot of tea than he is with River’s health or the threat posed by the spore ships. Of course, Mr Song’s agenda is not as benign as it ought to be and River proves to be ... well, not quite herself (spoilers!).

However, the ending to Signs feels hurried and ill-thought out – and the manner in which River extricates herself from her predicament is unconvincing. One of the common criticisms of modern Doctor Who is the manner in which the Doctor and his companions can often “magic” their way out of trouble without logical explanation. In Goss’s conclusion, we’re also expected to believe that River simply out-thinks her way out of her predicament but there is little evidence in the dialogue to convey how she worked out she was ever in danger in the first place! In the CD extras, Goss says that he wrote this piece within a day or so – you are definitely left wondering if he should have committed some extra thought to the conclusion.

Fortunately, the quality of the writing improves in the final instalment The Rulers of the Universe, as the Eighth Doctor becomes entangled in “The Party” society’s agenda to capture a spore ship. Not only does Matt Fitton deliver a cracking script after Richards’s and Goss’s weaker efforts but he also raises the stakes at two levels – for the Doctor, it’s about averting a cosmic plan that will change the universe forever, while for River, it’s about assisting her man and ensuring his survival without letting him know who she is.

Paul McGann gets to stretch his performance as the Eighth Doctor; this is the Time Lord closer to the end of his eighth incarnation, at an unspecified point of the Time War (before The Night of the Doctor), not the Eighth Doctor as we last heard him in the first volume of The Doom Coalition. McGann conveys a sense of weariness and cynicism in his Doctor that comes from having already witnessed aspects of the Time War first hand, even if at this point he has resisted pleas to actively take part. As a result, with the focus more on the Doctor, The Rulers of the Universe feels more like a regular BF Doctor Who serial than a River Song adventure. Nevertheless, there are still some quirky River moments – especially when she explains to a perplexed Bertie how she manages to sabotage “The Party” ship, despite apparently lacking the resources to do so. This wouldn’t be possible in a regular Doctor Who release; it’s the sort of behaviour the Doctor (not to mention most other Time Lords) would frown upon and would never dare to attempt or exact!

The dialogue between Alex Kingston and Paul McGann suggests this will be a great River/Doctor pairing for audio. With River set to guest star in The Doom Coalition saga later this year, it will be fascinating to see how this relationship is developed, especially as she will be journeying even further back in the Eighth Doctor’s timeline.

Despite the inconsistency of the scripts in this boxset, Big Finish’s sound production values as ever remain high (I particularly enjoyed Howard Carter’s James Bond-like signature tune for River) and director Ken Bentley does an impressive job of casting the supporting characters. Alex Kingston, of course, owns not just the part of River but really the entire saga. She has a commanding presence on audio that maintains your attention from the get-go, even in the two faltering middle instalments. We see how ruthless River can be when she’s crossed, especially in the concluding moments of Signs: “I’m sure it’s all very nice for two omnipotent forces to play chess with the universe ... but they’re about to discover that a pawn can become queen!”

Kingston also skilfully conveys moments when River expresses a whole gamut of emotions, eg compassion, humour, sarcasm, sadness, anger and remorse. She really puts her heart and soul into the performance and eclipses most of the supporting actors around her.

Overall, The Diary of River Song is a relatively good, if not brilliant, start to River’s adventures on audio. The boxset has its hits and misses but Alex Kingston proves that she can hold her own in a River-centric series and the stories, as diverse as they are in terms of style and settings, at least show that there is great potential for ongoing adventures. There’s an unanswered question from this boxset that, while probably minor in the scheme of things, could inform future adventures. River talks in The Boundless Sea of doing her “penance”, as if the reason she has taken up residence in 1920s London is because of an overwhelming sense of guilt (perhaps over her part in the Silence’s efforts to assassinate the 11th Doctor).  By the end of the boxset, it’s clear she is done being manipulated, whether that’s by the Kovarian chapter of the Church of Silence, or the Rulers of the Universe. No doubt in future series, this is one lady who will mean business!



Eighth Doctor Mini-Series #3 - The SilveringBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 27 January 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek

Writer - George Mann
Artist - Emma Vieceli
Colorist - Hi-Fi
Letterer- Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Editor - Andrew James
Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton & Gabriela Houston
Designer - Rob Farmer
Released January 13th, Titan Comics

After their riveting and most risky escapades on an alien world, the Doctor and Josie have seemingly been able to relax a bit more, and explore the more sedate corners of time and space. Eventually the pair are in a good enough travelling state of mind to afford themselves some Victorian magic theatre. But soon the actual vanishing/reappearing mirror act on stage is revealed to be something far more disturbing. The time travellers must help not only some new friends, but indeed the wider population of Edinburgh, as an ultra confident showman aims to turn every soul into a servile puppet of his. And even the presence of the powerful Spherions cannot be totally escaped, as a make-shift solution is desperately sought..

This is one of the most handsome and confidently arranged comics on the visual front that I have had the pleasure to work my way through, and even outshines the best work on the Ninth and Eleventh Doctor ranges. A lot of detail is packed into each panel, and the character designs are done with the necessary thoroughness, and thus I never lost track of who was who, even with a decent number of players in the unfolding story. Emma Vieceli is a very capable artist, and I can only hope she has many more comic stories up her sleeve in the future. Once again female talent is being harnessed for the Doctor Who universe, and the intended recipients (in fans and the general public) are beneficiaries.

The official cover is full of excitement and colour. But despite it being another stunning way to attract a passer-by's attention, I must point out that its promise of the Doctor and Josie fighting their evil doubles is something which actually was never going to happen, given the scenario, and the rules of the magic mirrors involved.

Once again the Eighth Doctor is an arresting presence. As much as we can hope for, and certainly not expect , some form of TV outings for a strong actor like Paul McGann to feature in, the fact remains he had one of the most assured debut appearances of any Doctor. Therefore half the work is almost done for any given writer. But George Mann still puts a lot into adding that bit more of light and shade to this Doctor and giving him some memorable tasks to do. He shows a certain naivety in going along with the whole theatre/magic tricks scenario as long as he does, but there is always the chance that on some level he is anticipating the problem behind the ultra-perfection facade.

This is a very good outing for Josie as companion, making the most of what we knew before from her opening story, and making her more proactive throughout events than she was in Music of the Spherions. Her joie de vivre for the danger that is around the corner never extends into smugness, and her concern for others never quite erodes the sense that she is a self-sufficient and independent person.

Perhaps the main villain Silversmith is written in broad strokes, but he is still tremendously effervescent in persona, and almost charming. When the real version behind this illusionist is revealed, it is somewhat thought-provoking but also quite sad. There are no monsters as such involved in proceedings - unlike the first two titles in the mini-series - but we have a disturbing collection of assorted head and body parts, that seem to be able to exist purely for the dark designs of Silversmith.

The opener to this miniseries was a nice character piece, but almost a watered down version of The Eleventh Hour in having a localised threat. The second issue was much more grandiose, but had a somewhat predictable resolution. This effort however does well to mix the exciting ideas with a well thought out story which works very comfortably within the one issue format. The decision to make the overall arc tying these issues a bit more explicit is a wise one, and a multitude of questions will draw readers in for the upcoming fourth issue.


Extra Features  - Making Of The Comic (Page One)

With some detailed notes, this example of the composition of a page in the comic proper shows the meticulous care which enables strong underlying foundation, and therefore a very good chance of a strong end product. Titan certainly want to offer value for those who seek out these mini-series, and most likely do so in addition to the regular lines with the last three modern TV Doctors, and this level of insight is commendable.

Eighth Doctor Mini-Series #2- Music Of The SpherionsBookmark and Share

Monday, 4 January 2016 - Reviewed by Dan Collins
Writer - George Mann
Artist - Emma Vieceli
Colorist - Hi-Fi
Letterer- Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Editor - Andrew James
Assistant Editor - Kirsten Murray
Designer - Rob Farmer
Released December 8th, Titan Comics

This is the second part of a four issue mini series featuring the 8th Doctor. Previously we were introduced to a new companion, a free spirited artist named Josie. The two had a run in when the Doctor came looking for his copy of Jane Eyre and instead happened upon a young woman squatting in his cottage. They found a list of names and coordinates in the book and in this second issue they head off to Lumin’s world on their first alien adventure together.

Things get off to a rocky start (pun intended) when they land in the middle of a warzone between crystalline invaders the Spherions and their anamorphic cat-like victims, the Calaxi.  In typical Doctor Who fashion within seconds the pair is running for their lives, dodging transmogrifying bullets. Josie isn’t quite fast enough though and is wounded in the leg. When the locals tell them that there is no cure and she will be turned into a crystal creature, the Doctor decides to do the only thing he can to save Josie’s life. End the war.

As mentioned in a previous review, this miniseries is standalone stories that are just loosely tied together. Right now the thread that binds them is the list found in the Doctor’s copy of the Bronte novel. As such, any information needed from previous stories is passed along in the narrative or through the characters. A new reader could easily jump on board without missing a beat.

“War. It’s everywhere I turn. No matter where I go, or what I do, everyone is at each other’s throats. It’s as if the universe wants to tear itself apart”

That lament is one of the Doctor’s finest moments. It really harkens back (or is it foreshadowing in this timey wimey universe?) to his appearance in Night Of The Doctor. He is a man who is being haunted by death no matter where he turns. When Josie is gravely injured he knows this is his chance to steal back an innocent life that would have otherwise been lost.

So where does Josie rank amongst companions now that she has two adventures under her belt? I like her a lot. Though she might be portrayed as a sort of hipster/hippie because she is an artist with blue hair, spacers in her ears and no food in the cupboard, I think she moves beyond such a banal stereotypical characterization. She blew away my preconceptions and delivered a fantastic emotionally charged story. After being wounded she faces the situation with a sense of bravery and compassion that many wouldn’t be able to muster. The bleaker the going, the more poignant and heartfelt she becomes. She reacts to her tragic situation the way all of us would like to think we would, by being amazing, brave and kind. In short, the epitome of what the Doctor loves about us humans.

Overall, I really enjoyed this comic. The art was bright and vibrant, it did a great job selling this beautiful crystalline alien world. The story itself was a pleasant and somewhat uplifting read. The only drawback would be the miniseries format. With all the stories just loosely tied together, it lacks the cliff hanger at the end that keeps you anxiously waiting for the next issue to drop. Even still, the plot and characters have been fulfilling enough that number three will be on top of my “to read” pile once it comes out.