New Adventures With The Eleventh Doctor #10Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 27 May 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
The Eleventh Doctor #10 (Credit: Titan)

Writer Rob Williams
Artist Simon Fraser
Designer Rob Farmer,Colorist Gary Caldwell
Letterer Richard Starkings And Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt

Covers - Regular: Blair Shedd,
Subscription Incentive: Rob Farmer

Editor Andrew James
Assistant Editor Kirsten Murray
Released - March 2015

*Spoilers for this issue, which features many final events in the ongoing story-arc.*

 

"Hello,you are now owned by SERVEyouinc. Congratulations You" - The Doctor in a 'welcoming' mood.

 

No longer going by the moniker of the 'Doctor', is a man in charge of the insidious SERVEYOUinc who functions as an underhanded Chief Executive. Now fully involved with the corporation's plan to spread its state of monochrome hypnosis far and wide across time and space, this individual's former allies must do their best to fight a losing battle. The trio of Alice, Jones and the ARC creature show a real bond and a sense of justice which was not always apparent before. But will it be enough? Perhaps a very familiar apparition will play its part in steadying the ship before all chaos breaks loose for good...

Suitably building on the various oddball elements of issues gone by, this pivotal entry in the Eleventh Doctor line is as surreal as they come, and none the poorer for it. It evokes some of the themes found in such TV stories as 'Human Nature' and 'The Next Doctor' and explores the need for the genuine article present in order for problems to be resolved. By the same token the role of those closest to the Doctor is just as vital; the two human and one alien characters must constantly remind the Doctor just why he can never let self-pity and resignation take him over, even if many negative emotions are inevitable from being the last survivor of a powerful race. It has always been the TARDIS crew* that can prevent checkmate falling in favour of the enemy, and in this case an enemy so soulless that it is arguably not even in the 'evil' category.

This also is an issue that blends all the elements that have impressed in other stories - be they ones that followed the arc closely or were more standalone. They include: good character development, revelation, action set pieces, and some suspense over what a particular choice will entail.

Another big plus for me was the way that there was a constant sense of jeopardy, and an engaging element that puts the reader firmly in the same boat as the small team who somehow must find a solution with limited resources. Right until the dénouement nothing feels safe or guaranteed.

Granted, the coda does veer a little into sentimentality, with an almost overly utopia environment for those who appeared to be condemned victims. But ultimately the previously established themes and concepts of enforced joy and satisfaction being a curse, and the ability to manage 'ups and downs' as part of living life properly are what impress most. No Helen A, Fifi or Kandyman reprising their roles from the polarising 1988 TV story 'The Happiness Patrol' here, but nonetheless this provides a good evocation for the modern Doctor Who follower.

 

Alice continues to be written supremely well, and her major role in figuring out how to reach out to the Doctor enthrals the reader throughout. She also has help from an 'external hard drive program'; perhaps somewhat predictably, given all the set up of previous issues. But the story has real heart and soul to it, as we continue to observe the journey for the ex-librarian who has learnt life lessons most of her fellow Earthlings will never have the chance to.

This is also a very strong outing for Jones, with yet another new look which is both laughable and sublime, and evocative of the true uniqueness that is David Bowie. Even ARC isn't just there to make up the numbers and look amusing in any given panel, and even at one point performs a rescue manoeuvre which few others could conceive of.

Artwork is more than up to the ambition and objectives of the narrative. Simon Fraser did a stand out job in the brilliant 'timey wimey' issue 6, and this latest effort of his is almost up to that magnitude of composition and energy. Colour schemes are used with a real purpose, demonstrating a strong unison of effort between Fraser and Gary Caldwell.

Also pleasing is the portrayal of the very different Doctor-antagonist, the striking attire of Jones, the grey-purple backdrops of the city asteroid and most notably the symbolic Alice-as-the-Doctor front cover.

So in conclusion, we have various dangling story arc elements seemingly resolved with impressive finality. The story works as an ending, where so many conclusions to 2 parters on screen do somewhat falter and end up being the weaker link. And despite all the heaviness of mood and the sense of loss, the key aim of Doctor Who being fun escapism is not forgotten in the narrative.

 

BONUS COMIC SKETCH:

' We Love Titans' is a nice little bit of self-indulgence, which also ties into the main story's basic plot. A pony, a genie and a sinfully caloric hot drink are some of the elements of the deliberately thin story here.





Big Finish - Damaged GoodsBookmark and Share

Monday, 11 May 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Ruddock
Damaged Goods (Credit: Big Finish)
Written by Russell T. Davies, 
Adapted by Jonathan Morris
StarringSylvester McCoy, Travis Oliver, Yasmin Bannerman,
with Denise Black, Michelle Collins, and Peter Barrett
Directed by Ken Bentley
Released April 2015

Revivals are a funny old thing. In popular culture, they tend to happen because something happened, say, twenty years ago. These revivals tend to take the form of TV specials or talking head documentaries detailing trends or fashion crimes of the time - or, in music, themed anniversary gigs or 'special editions' of albums. 

Big Finish is having its very own 90s revival at the moment. Thankfully, it's chosen to leave out the dodgy fashions and the Macarena. 

The 1990s were, arguably, not a brilliant time to be a Doctor Who fan. The TV series was effectively dead for the entire decade, barring around fourteen minutes in '93 and ninety in '96 when it briefly stirred from its slumber. However, Who enjoyed an extended afterlife in print through most of the 90s, where old hands and hungry young writers were given practical carte blanche to bend the rules, and take the TARDIS to new, more grown up places. 

Having successfully adapted a slew of the New Adventures and Missing Adventures novels, Big Finish have now moved on to one of the big hitters, Damaged Goods, a 1996 novel by one Russell T. Davies, expertly adapted here by Jonathan Morris.

 

Damaged Goods is an interesting beast, looking both forwards and backwards. It's very much a New Adventure in that we have a mysterious chess-player of a Seventh Doctor, new companions, adult content, Gallifreyan super-weapons, and grisly death everywhere. However, there's also a germ of the sort of Doctor Who that Davies would bring us nine years later, with its late-80s council estate setting, strong female characters, and that instantly recognisable dialogue. In fact, the only person not talking like a character in an RTD episode of Who is the Doctor himself. Sylvester McCoy is in a mellow mood here, rrrrrrrolling his rrrrrrs, and clearly very much enjoying himself.

He's not the snappy Doctor of 2005 - instead his dialogue is mysterious and florid, much more the Cartmel Masterplan than the Bad Wolf scenario, but it's a refreshing look at what might have been if the likes of RTD had got their hands on the series earlier.

He's joined here by Travis Oliver and Yasmin Bannerman as NA Companions Chris Cwej and Roz Forrester. Both are already established by the time of the original novel, and Morris wisely doesn't waste much time introducing them, instead choosing to write them in by basically having them arrive with the Doctor and that's that. Oliver is gung-ho and likeable throughout, playing up nicely to the coded sexual come-ons he receives. Bannerman is equally good, but in truth doesn't have as much to do, being basically back-up whilst the Doctor solves mysteries and Chris.....gets involved.

The story isn't quite a straight adaptation, instead this is more the sort of rewrite that Davies himself would later perform on Paul Cornell's Human Nature - faithful, but retooled for audio with hindsight and a few changes made with Davies' blessing. There's still sex and drugs, but the famous same-sex fumble between Chris and David is now a little less explicit, and the cocaine being dealt by the Capper in the novel is now, a 'made-up drug' - Smile, perhaps in tribute to Chris Morris's 'Cake' episode of Brass Eye.

This doesn't mean the story's been in any way neutered. This feels more like the darker moments of The Second Coming and Cucumber. The dialogue sings, but it's dark as hell, with perhaps the only concession to a family audience being a note of hope at the end.

The real heart of the tale is the terrible bargain that Winnie Tyler (Michelle Collins) strikes in the 1977-set prologue. The moment where she gives away one of her twin babies, through a third party, to rich, childless Mrs Jericho (Denise Black). Collins plays a troubled everywoman, driven to do the unthinkable by desperation. Black's Mrs Jericho is utterly chilling, appearing initially meek and grief-stricken, before she literally transforms before your ears into a very prim and proper murderer, who calmly visits the vendor to announce that she has been sold a faulty child and wants an exchange, whilst all hell breaks loose around them. In fact, she's almost oblivious to it. Further darkness is added by the creepy Capper, a reanimated grinning corpse full of tentacles, played by Peter Barrett. Barrett has a tough gig, having to convey undead malevolence purely through a low, gravelly voice and gritted teeth. He pulls it off, but is overshadowed slightly by the more human menace of Mrs Jericho.

The sound design and Ken Bentley's direction are both first-rate. The cast and crew rise to the material brilliantly, and Morris brilliantly re-weaves RTD's story for audio. Morris also surprisingly drops in one or two very on-the-nose new series references which I won't bring up here. One is definitely a portent of things to come, considering Big Finish's recent announcements about a certain institute based in Cardiff. The other could be something. I'll leave you to decide. New series links or not, this is another excellent offering from Big Finish. it's perhaps the only time we'll hear a Davies story on audio, but, you never know.......