The Fourth Doctor: The Trouble With Drax (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 15 July 2016 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Trouble With Drax (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: John Dorney
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), John Leeson (K9/Cabot), Ray Brooks (Drax), John Challis (Rosser), Hugh Fraser (Charles Kirkland/Shopkeeper), Jane Slavin (Shopkeeper 2), Miranda Raison (Inspector Fleur McCormick), John Banks (Grunthar/Street-Cleaner)

Released by Big Finish June 2016 - buy from Amazon UK

Well – REAL trouble with Drax is that I just couldn’t remember the character (I know, I hang my fan head in shame). Yes, I know he was in The Armageddon Factor, but in all honesty, The Key To Time series left me a bit cold (with the exception of The Stones Of Blood, which I adore). So I did a bit of research, and just in case you might be in the same situation as me, here is a quick reminder as to who Drax actually is - he is basically a crafty cockney renegade Time Lord, who knows the Doctor from their Academy days. Drax is a bit shifty, and is pretty much always up to no good, while always tring to earn a fast buck. There you go – so, on with the show….

The Trouble With Drax opens with a Time Lord being hunted. At first you think it is the Doctor, but it is of course Drax, who seems to escape certain incarceration by the skin of his teeth. Meanwhile the TARDIS is taken off course and materialises on a spaceship. As the Doctor (Tom Baker), Romana (Lalla Ward) and K9 (John Leeson) step out, we are properly introduced to Drax, along with his companion Rosser and Sir Charles Kirkland, all three of whom desperately need the Doctor’s help to liberate an item from Altrazar, which as Romana describes it is a temporal Atlantis – an unreachable city that is lost in time, which has become a dumping ground for those with power on which to hide their most dark and dangerous secrets. To help persuade the Doctor to help, Romana and K9 will be held hostage until the mission proves a success.

I loved the idea of Altrazar. A world so lost in time that night, day, the past and the future are all happening at once. Drax is of course, the loveable rogue that you would expect. He has regenerated twice since his last appearance (which is probably a good thing as the original actor, Barry Jackson, sadly passed away in 2013). This time around Drax is played by Ray Brooks (THE David Campbell from the classic Peter Cushing film Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 AD). Ray is most definitely not the only Dr Who alumni here though as Rosser is played by none other than John Challis, who of course was Scorby in The Seeds Of Doom. Sir Charles is played by Big Finish regular  Hugh Fraser.

TheTroublewithDrax is VERY nostalgic, and quite funny. As well as a returning character, we have mentions of the Randomiser, the Black Guardian and the Blinovitch Limitation Effect (which features quite heavily in this story). My favourite scene must be when Drax first recognises the Doctor, saying it was good to see him with the Princess Astra, and not 'that shifty ice maiden'. Lala Ward’s response is, of course priceless. The plot twists and turns, and you will be surprised at the lengths Drax has gone to in order to perform the perfect heist, but the end sting, however clever it might think it is, will have you slapping your forehead and shaking your head.

Right, that’s me done – I’m off to The Rutan’s Tendril for a nice pint and a packet of crisps. TheTroublewithDrax is available from Big Finish now.

 





Doctor Who: Doom Coalition 2Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 13 July 2016 - Reviewed by Ben Breen
Doom Coalition (Credit: Big Finish)
Director: Ken Bentley

First Released: Thu 31 Mar 2016

Running Time: 300 minutes 0 seconds

 

During the Big Finish sale that celebrated 20 years of the eighth Doctor being a presence in the franchise canon after the 1996 television movie, I thought I’d look to see what was on offer.  I discovered that Doom Coalition 2 had been released and considering it was half price, I decided to purchase it.  When I discovered it had not been reviewed for this site, I was surprised but willing to take up the opportunity as I’d found the first one definitely worth listening to.  As with previous boxsets I’ve reviewed, I briefly go through each story in sequence.  Moreover, I have endeavoured not to spoil anything that couldn’t be gleaned from the cast list.

 

2.1 Beachhead

This episode opens with no prologue, just the introductory theme.  Though this lack of introduction means that it doesn’t directly tie into Doom Coalition 1, the fact that the second and third stories also begin in this way at least means that throughout some semblance consistency is maintained.  

After the events of Doom Coalition 1, The Doctor and his companions decide to take a holiday.  For those who have heard the third series of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, you’ll be aware that attempts to relax and take holidays that previous incarnations of The Doctor have taken rarely if ever end up as planned.  The Tardis is caught in a flood and from there things just get more and more life-threatening, not just for the Time Lord and those around him, but for humanity itself, thanks to the presence of the Voord, a race previously encountered within the Big Finish cannon.

 

2.2 Scenes From Her Life

With the previous story ending on a comedic note, the opening of the second part of this adventure darkens the tone somewhat with some ominous hints of what is to come, though no clear word on what is actually at stake. The Doctor and his companions are following a time machine’s energy signature, until they come across something that frankly is extremely dangerous.  Manipulation, facades and flashbacks follow.  But will the clarity of the situation and the realisation of what’s occurred come in time to allow everyone to get out alive?

 

2.3 The Gift

It’s a curse, they say.  It is 1906, and The Doctor and his companions find themselves drawn into a battle with The Gift, a psychic energy that is being manipulated to bend to the will of one of The Doctor’s enemies.  However, it won’t just cause problems for the people of the city but if left unchecked, it could tear the planet in half.  The question is if it can be stopped and if so,, how?

The mentions and build-up to River Song’s inclusion in the Doom Coalition series that feature at this story’s conclusion were somewhat marred by the fact that the cast list revealed her presence before even listening to this adventure in the first place.  However, the wait until the reveal is worth the time it takes to occur.

 

2.4 The Sonomancer

This final part acts as a continuation of the previous episode in the set, though not a direct one.  Its opening confirms River’s presence in the series as well as establishing the setting for this conclusion, a mining planet where the leading corporation isn’t the only issue to deal with.  The cinematic storytelling afforded by a full cast, if it hasn’t been said to be of good quality up to now, certainly shines in this final chapter and feels very much like high points of the television show in places.

As with the Dark Eyes saga and the first Doom Coalition entry before it, the sound design and score evoke a more cinematic atmosphere than some of the other ranges in Big Finish’s catalogue.  The production value on this set rises to the challenge of the first, most certainly matching, if not exceeding it.  The inclusion of a race that had previously been used in a different range with a different doctor is an appreciated touch, as the aforementioned race (the Voord) have now made a full cast appearance to add weight to their characterisation.  In fact, the casting of all four adventures has been well thought out, allowing all the characters to develop their own personalities and presence in the worlds they inhabit.

 

If you enjoyed the first Doom Coalition set, I’d say you’re definitely in for an entertaining ride with this continuation.  The summaries of the second and third stories in this set were deliberately written in a slightly vague manner, so as to not spoil any potentially crucial plot points revealed within those pieces of the overall puzzle.  If you haven’t listened to the first Doom Coalition box set, these adventures might stand on their own, but as there is a possibility you might be confused at The Eleven’s introduction, I’d suggest you buy both Doom Coalition 1 and 2 and see where you stand from there.  I am, to say the least, curious to see just how far Big Finish can push this run’s cinematic storytelling and the inclusion of River Song as a character, as she seems to fit right in where she has been included so far.






UNIT: Shutdown (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 13 July 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
UNIT: Shutdown (Credit: Big Finish)
Written by Matt Fitton and Andrew Smith
Directed by Ken Bentley

Cast: Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood), Warren Brown (Sam Bishop), James Joyce (Captain Josh Carter), Alice Krige (Felicity Lyme), Asif Khan (Jay Roy) Tyrone Huggins (Dr Kenton Eastwood), Nigel Carrington (Sir Peter Latcham), Beth Chalmers (Anna/Radio Announcer/Quizmaster), Harry Ditson (General Grant Avary), Dan Li (Dokan/Alien Leader), Akira Koieyama (Chiso/Tengobushi Assassins), Stephen Billington (Commander Bergam), Jot Davies (Sebastien/Major Disanto)

Big Finish Productions – Released June 2016

This is the second boxset of adventures featuring the new generation of UNIT headed up by Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart and Ingrid Oliver as her scientist sidekick Osgood. As with the first box set, this story is set at an indeterminate time at some point before Osgood was killed in the TV series as all the signs point to the audio incarnation being the human version of the character who first appeared in The Day of the Doctor. One thing that can said with certainty is that this set follows on from Big Finish’s first foray into the New Series, UNIT – Extinction, and sees the return of new team members Warren Brown as international troubleshooter Sam Bishop and James Joyce as Captain Josh Carter. Josh in particular is an extremely likeable character whose continuing character arc proves central to this box set (although anyone who hasn’t heard Extinction may find themselves at a slight loss to understand his apparent super-strength whose origin is only fleetingly alluded to). As much as Joyce is at risk of becoming another member of the rep company of overused Big Finish actors, this reviewer is a self-confessed member of the club that would wish to see Captain Carter remain a regular feature of this ongoing spin-off series given Big Finish’s tendency to kill off some of their best loved original characters.

It would be remiss of this reviewer not to acknowledge the action-packed opening and closing themes composed by Howard Carter which are probably one of the most successful for any of Big Finish’s many Doctor Who spin-offs and will hopefully remain in place for all future UNIT series (as opposed to the frequently altered theme variations of the Bernice Summerfield range over the years).

The four-part story itself was written is another excellent collaboration between Matt Fitton who penned the opening and closing instalments and Andrew Smith who penned the middle two episodes. For this reviewer the highlight was probably the third episode, The Battle of the Tower in which Smith made great efficacy of the regular Tower of London setting for UNIT’s base of operations. By a quirk of fate, an exciting scene which saw a pursuit into Tower Hill underground station unfolded whilst this reviewer was actually travelling on the district line to that very station. This story manages to take a different path to the more traditional UNIT vs alien conquest of the planet story which was told in Extinction and not fall in the trap of allowing the series to get stuck in a repeated formula as is wont to happen with some Big Finish box sets (Survivors please take note). The conspiracy-thriller opening chapter introduces the story’s human antagonist Felicity Lyme, a ruthless businesswoman portrayed by former Borg Queen Alice Krige. The gradual realisation that Lyme was not in league with aliens and instead acting to secure her own business interests was a very pleasing development. In terms of the story’s alien characters, the ninja style warriors known as Tengobushi and their Comishi masters are generally well realised if a little uncomfortably close to human Samurai, especially when their leaders speak with Oriental accents which might be perceived as a racial stereotype. The Behind-the-scenes discs suggests that the inspiration was linked to the idea that ancient culture such as that of Japan could potentially have alien origins but these wasn’t drawn out especially clearly in the play itself. However, this is possibly nit-picking at what is otherwise another very fine box set and overall the decision to not include any recurring aliens from the television series has paid off and allowed more space for the development of both Kate’s and Osgood’s characters and their new team. It’s only a shame that a couple of the more promising characters in the story didn’t survive until the end but UNIT has always had a high mortality rate so perhaps unsurprising. In any case this reviewer will be looking forward to the team’s next outing this November, in  which they will encounter the Silence.





Supremacy of the Cybermen #1 (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 11 July 2016 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
Titan Comics: Supremacy of the Cybermen #1 (Cover A) (Credit: Titan Comics)
Writers: George Mann & Cavan Scott
Artists: Alessandro Vitti & Ivan Rodriguez With Tazio Bettin
Colorist: Nicola Righi With Enrica Eren Angiolini
Letterer: Richard Starkins And Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Senior Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editors: Jessica Burton & Amoona Saohin
Designer: Rob Farmer
Released by Titan Comics - July 6th, 2016

“You know why I’m here, Ohila. Something is very wrong with time.”

There’s a whiff of The Pandorica Opens and A Good Man Goes to War’s bold, universe-spanning opening sequences about the first issue of Titan Comics’ new multi-Doctor crossover, Supremacy of the Cybermen, and that’s no bad thing. Not unlike last year’s Four Doctors Summer event, scribes George Mann – of Engines of War fame, if the name sounded familiar – and Cavan Scott don’t waste time establishing Supremacy’s similarly ambitious premise; quite to the contrary, within moments of proceedings getting underway, we’re brought swiftly up to speed with the present situations of the quartet of renegade Time Lords headlining this year’s team-up as the Ninth Doctor races to save a damsel in distress from the Powell Estate in 2006; the Tenth journeys with Gabby and Cindy to “the greatest shopping mall in the galaxy” in the 24th Century; the Eleventh and Alice pick up supplies for the Paternoster Gang in prehistoric times; and the Twelfth travels solo to the ever-increasingly popular planet of Karn so as to investigate the aforementioned universal crisis.

One might have forgiven this instantly audacious mini-series’ writing team for buckling under the weight of their own ambitions, particularly when they’ve crammed the various companions of each of those incarnations – as well as a fair few returning villains beyond the titular Mondasian cyborgs – into what would have already been a dense 25-page opening outing without them. Yet anyone who’s been following Titan’s array of regular Doctor Who strips since their debut in the autumn of 2014 will know all too well how competently their assigned strip-wrights tend to handle their serials and indeed, Mann and Scott don’t look set to represent the exceptions to the rule, somehow managing to balance these elements with unmistakable ease, ensuring each sequence has enough time to breathe wholeheartedly and that the reader will thus maintain a coherent sense of what’s occurring in each time-zone rather than longing for the next scene shift to occur in order to relieve their confusion. Just thinking of how critically acclaimed big-screen ensemble pieces like the Avengers or Mission Impossible franchises handle their hefty cast rosters will provide readers with a fair idea of what to expect going into this one, which says plenty for the safe hands in which Titan appear to have placed perhaps their riskiest Who-themed venture to date.

As if this supreme balancing act on Mann and Scott’s parts wasn’t enough of a substantial selling point to warrant a purchase, Supremacy Issue 1 simultaneously alleviates any concerns of lacking the canonical heft of a fully televised Who serial – especially in the absence of the TV show from our screens until December 25th – from the outset. In a welcomingly surprise turn of events, we essentially pick up the storyline of Capaldi’s Doctor straight from where we left off in last Christmas’ The Husbands of River Song as he encounters a face from his recent past, one who could very well hold the key to how the Cybermen have gained such an unparalleled foothold across time and space by the time that his former selves encounter their old adversaries here. Precisely how accurately this mysterious – yet familiar – benefactor is characterised in comparison to his televised self will doubtless define how successful his return in printed form proves with fans, but one would need to have missed the entirety of 2015’s Season Nine to miscomprehend the myriad tantalising implications this antagonist’s presence here will have for future issues so long as he’s portrayed with all of the necessary malice, self-perceived omnipotence and pompousness that many loved him for on TV last year.

Speaking of characterisation, whilst the understandably limited number of panels afforded to each Doctor in comparison to their solo efforts means the jury’s out on how effectively they’ll once again be brought to life here, Mann and Scott have evidently gotten the tropes of the four incarnations involved down to a tee, depicting a Twelfth Doctor whose brash exterior frequently fades to reveal an endearing sense of adventurous bravado, an Eleventh who never misses an opportunity to crack jokes even – or especially – in the face of potentially fatal dangers, a Tenth who willingly misleads his companions, Hartnell-style, in order to seek out intriguing mysteries as well as a gung-ho Ninth who’ll gladly dive into the action alongside Rose and Captain Jack regardless of the costs. Four issues stand between us and knowing for certain whether the scribes at hand will find enough time to offer any of these incarnations, their allies or their foes much in the way of satisfying character progression, but for now, at least we’re left into no doubt as to their understanding of how to provide a clear impression that we’re witnessing a continuation of the TV show rather than a ‘fan fiction’-style take on its leading constructs.

Any gripes? Well, by choosing to zip from planet to planet, timeline to timeline and TARDIS crew to TARDIS crew across their opening 25-page epic, writers George Mann and Cavan Scott don’t leave themselves a lot of time for character development so much as plentiful – albeit necessary – exposition, and despite their admirable efforts to clearly distinguish the dark, sombre hues of Karn and a ruined London with the far more eclectic, whimsical vistas of the Cosmomart and prehistoric Earth, Supremacy’s resident artists Alessandro Vitti, Ivan Rodriguez and Tazio Bettin would benefit from dedicating further time to reassessing their character designs, since some might mistake Jackie Tyler for Rose on occasion given the lack of effort afforded to individualising the pair beyond adding a few lines to the former’s face. On the whole, however, their artwork’s more than on a par with the finest produced in the various Titan ranges so far in terms of unpredictability and visual sumptuousness, with its failings constituting mere nit-picking elements at best.

If it wasn’t already obvious, then, the reasons to miss out on Supremacy of the Cybermen’s stellar initial chapter are so far and few between that they might as well be non-existent, particularly when juxtaposed with the countless reasons to cast aside any doubts and simply plunge straight in. Indeed, provided that the splendid fellows at Titan can keep up the excellent work undertaken here throughout this five-part multi-Doctor crossover, there’s every chance they’ll have a sure-fire critical and commercial hit like no other on their hands.





The Claws Of Axos (Audio Book)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 10 July 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Doctor Who and The Claws Of Axos (Credit: BBC Audio)Written By: Terrance Dicks
Read By: Richard Franklin
Released By: BBC Audio - JUNE 2nd 2016

4 CDS - APPROX TIME: 3 hours 40 minutes

Planet Earth in the late 20th Century is about to have some mysterious and unique visitors that rely on purely organic technology. Britain is the nation that welcome the Axons: beautiful, golden beings from another world that has since ceased to exist. 

Horatio Chinn - a Ministry of Defence official - is absolutely hell-bent on making sure that Britain does not lose a chance to have exclusive rights to the Axonite product 'offered' by the aliens. Despite being a rather foolish and gullible person, he proves to be a handful for UNIT -  headed up by the assured Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

A man known only as 'the Doctor' is rather more cautious about what the Axons are actually bringing to the bargaining table, but he himself is determined to do a scientific study on Axonite to fully understand its potential attributes. He is able to get some initial assistance from Professor Winser, as they do various tests on this substance at the Nuton Power Complex. But Winser gradually perceives the Doctor as a pretentious chancer, and not a credible scientist, as first assumed.

Before long, matters take a decided turn for the worse. The Axons are in reality looking to exploit Earth for its many rich minerals and energy components, and wish to implement their 'nutrition cycle'. They are not in fact a race of aliens, but a collective gestalt. They have had limited time travel powers up to now, but sense a chance to truly master the fourth dimension. Once the Doctor and his dedicated companion Jo Grant are captured, they fully act to seize upon this opportunity.

Meanwhile the Doctor's old enemy the Master is at large. He is to blame for the Axons visiting Earth in the first place, having been captured by them and divulged how to get to the small blue-green world.  Yet ironically he may turn out to prove as vital an ally to the Brigadier as the Doctor, if in a decidedly more ruthless manner.

The long-well-known saying "Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts", is potentially going to be made into harsh reality. Unless the mercurial Doctor and his allies can once again prove that there is no 'I' in 'Team', and that 'The Whole' is greater than the 'Sum Of Its Parts'.

                                                                                                             *

Claws is a story I can never call a classic, but remains a bit of a personal favourite. I remember back in 1992, when my father passed me a brand new VHS tape with a near manic smile, almost as if all his hard work that day had paid off for it. The cover illustration really was indicative of the psychedelic and unique four part story contained on the tape. At the time, the rediscovery of The Tomb Of the Cybermen was far more significant than an expected release of yet another colour Jon Pertwee story. But I was not yet a dyed-in-the-wool Who fan, and I could simply appreciate the two stories in different ways for what they brought to the table.

In all honesty, since the early Nineties, many of the TV story's flaws become more magnified with each passing decade. DVD is even more ruthless in exposing certain weaknesses, owing to the modest production values the BBC allocated to this Saturday teatime series. The acting was pretty weak as well when it came to the human guest cast. However, the Axons were well done, with the Axon Man, and 'voice of Axos' being malicious antagonists, that still retained a degree of substance and identifiable personality traits.

Also Jo Grant ended up with the 'short straw', in terms of spoken lines and was rather surplus to requirements. This is something of a glaring omission in a story dominated by male speaking roles. I can however excuse original authors Bob Baker and Dave Martin for this flaw, as their original story stretched to nearly double the length.

Once script editor Terrance Dicks was able to harness their ideas and reach consensus, he was able to establish a future role for the 'Bristol Boys', and many more stories from then would later materialise. Still, it can be argued that Baker and Martin's first collaborative effort was the most memorable and distinctive of all, once any gimmicks and milestones are removed from the 'product description'.

In book/audio form the ambitious parameters of the story are markedly better served. The listener's ambition can paper over any of the cracks that the original production displays, and there is some fine use of suspense as scenes play out in a more sustained manner. The TV version is rather fast-paced compared to most of its other Season Eight peers, with Terror of the Autons coming closest to being anywhere near as frenetic. The manner Dicks chooses to generate atmosphere and anticipation is rather more effective, and some chilling concepts fully resonate.

There also is better elaboration for various parties' motives, most notably Chinn, Filer, and even the Brigadier when he is forced to agree with difficult choices. Whilst some characters remain ciphers that just advance the plot - such as the generic Captain Harker who suddenly 'overrules' the Brigadier - it feels rather less of a problem in this version.

Richard Franklin is certainly a better audio narrator than a screen actor, and he never loses his gravitas - managing to relay just how high the stakes are here. His interpretations of the Brigadier and Benton do stand out as very different from the originals. But this is commendable, as it would have been far easier for Franklin to do an auto-pilot mimicry of the efforts of Nicholas Courtney and John Levene from the Seventies.

Music and sound effects continue to be a strength of the BBC audio production team. The haunting Axos theme that recurs through all four discs of this release is very nicely done. The Dudley Simpson score of the original story had its moments, but could be intrusive. By having intermittent music - as per usual for this type of audiobook - the drama and intensity is much better managed.

However I cannot unreservedly praise this book/audio reading. Dicks somehow never resolves a certain plot hole: quite how the Master could be 'absorbed' by Axos, but avoid divulging time travel theory as part of his 'freedom'. Also, some of the comedy that plays out between Chinn and his superior is decidedly unamusing. And when comparing this audio release to its most relevant competition, Death To The Daleks, I must stress that Franklin is inferior in vocal range to Jon Culshaw.

Ultimately this is an audio experience to enjoy for the vast bulk of its running time, and another success from BBC Audio. It is worth employing sufficient power to track this one down, and absorb its many delights.

 





Fourth Doctor #3 - Gaze of the Medusa (Part Three)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 9 July 2016 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
THE FOURTH DOCTOR #3 (Credit: Titan)Writers: Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby
Artist: Brian Williamson
Colorist: Hi-FiLetterers: Richard Starkings and Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Senior Comics Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editors: Jessica Burton and Gabriela Houston
Designer: Rob Farmer
Released: May 25th 2016, Titan Comics

Like it or not, it’s inevitable – every winning streak has to come to an end sometime. Just look at how Lost struggled to maintain the tension surrounding its array of long-running mysteries during its final few seasons, or how Doctor Who itself produced a rather divisive run in the form of 2012-13’s controversial Season Seven despite Matt Smith’s first two runs in the titular lead role having gone down a storm in 2010-2011. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to regular followers of Titan Comics’ Fourth Doctor miniseries, then, that after two immensely satisfying opening issues filled with nostalgic call-backs to the hallmarks of the Tom Baker era, visually stunning gothic action, intelligent characterisation and well-timed cliff-hangers guaranteed to draw readers back for me, Issue 3 doesn’t quite hit the same remarkable highs, resulting in a slightly less captivating reading experience than those which came before.

If there’s a root cause to be found here for the marginal drop in quality, then it’s undoubtedly the comparatively simplistic structure of the latest instalment in Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie’s five-part serial, “Gaze of the Medusa”. One would have hoped that, given the success with which the pair paralleled the Fourth Doctor, Odysseus and Athena’s search for Lady Carstairs with Sarah and Carstairs’ exchanges regarding the latter’s centuries-spanning plot, developing the personalities of each character involved at every opportunity, they’d see fit to continue this strategy here as the Fourth Doctor and Athena hunted for their now-united companions in Earth’s distant past. Unfortunately, though, the two scribes stray worryingly close to the overly set-piece-orientated approach often taken by mainstream comic-book writers at companies like Marvel and DC, with proceedings mostly consisting of predictable chase sequences that don’t so much give us a better insight into the current TARDIS crew – much as their on-screen incarnations are still perfectly adapted onto the page here – or their Victorian allies and adversaries – much as Odysseus and Athena’s endearing paternal dynamic still makes them fun to ‘watch’ – as stall subsequent character progressions for the remaining pair of issues, as if they’ve only just realized that they’ve still got 50 pages’ worth of speech bubbles to fill before their contract’s done.

Indeed, this sense of the series’ traction coming to an abrupt halt with Issue 3 carries through to its plot, which – as an easily foreseeable by-product of the aforementioned decision to structure proceedings around chases through the Carstairs residence and a sinister cave – does little to nothing, barring a frustratingly predictable twist at the last moment, to offer us a sense of exactly where the “Medusa” arc will head between now and its denouement in a few weeks’ time. A little ambiguity’s more than welcome here and there, of course, yet when readers are expected by their publishing overlords to shell out upwards of £10-15 in order to experience the entirety of a five-part arc, it’s hardly unreasonable for them to expect each instalment to come off as an inspired work of fiction in its own right rather than as a cumbersome work of little more than filler material. True, Issue 3 doesn’t scrape the bottom of the creative barrel for new twists to nearly the same extent as is often the case with many of the 22-part dramas dominating the US TV market at present, but knowing that doesn’t make the disappointment of consuming a narratively stagnated chapter such as this any less demoralizing, especially on the basis of the stellar opening duo.

Rest assured that for all its faults in terms of characterisation, structure and overall plot progression, however, Titan’s latest foray into the realms of 1970s / 1980s Doctor Who absolutely retains some of their mini-series’ defining strength in the form of Brian Williamson’s consistently astounding accompanying artwork. It’s a testament to the visual impact of the unashamedly grim but somehow still bold – not least thanks to the inclusions of antagonists playing on the concept of the cyclops of ancient Greek mythology – drawings on show here that although there’s nothing substantial to report in terms of how the “Medusa” tale moves forward at its midway point, a fair number of the readership are bound to find that they couldn’t care less, since they’ll be too preoccupied with immersing themselves in a rendition of the Victorian age so true to the gothic style of the Hinchcliffe histories that one could be forgiven for mistaking this for a printed adaptation of The Talons of Weng-Chiang, albeit featuring fewer monstrous rodents or soon-to-be Big Finish-endorsed detectives. At this rate, even if Rennie and Beeby somehow manage to undo much of the great work they completed over the course of the first two issues of this strip – though the chances of this seem as slim as Michael Gove’s chances of becoming Prime Minister of the UK at the time of writing – there’s little to no doubt that the mini-series as a whole will still be fondly remembered regardless on account of its stellar aesthetic output.

Nevertheless, whereas certain standalone chapters in Titan’s regular Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor comic-book franchises warrant a purchase on the basis of their own distinct merits regardless of the issues that precede or follow them, it’s safe to say that only those fans who’ve followed this particular five-part arc since its inception back in April will get the most out of what Issue 3 has in store for its owners. Even then, however, none of the material on offer comes particularly close to matching the plethora of memorable moments littered throughout Issues 1 or 2, making this specific edition a tougher one to give a wholehearted recommendation until it’s featured in one of the publisher’s yearly online sales of digital strips. Those craving an action-laden, character-light dose of Hinchcliffe-esque Who to kill the time until the Twelfth Doctor returns to our screens this Christmas could do worse than to head here, but ultimately, those looking for more value from their cash would be far better placed to try Titan’s ongoing sale on their regular Who strips instead.