The Web of Fear (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 24 November 2017 - Reviewed by Callum McKelvie
The Web of Fear (audiobook) (Credit: BBC Audio)
The Web of Fear
Written by Terrance Dicks
Read by David Troughton
Released by BBC Audio August 2017
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So I suppose I should be honest and up-front, The Web of Fear is one of my all-time favourite stories. The bizarre mix of cosmic horror, the underground setting and a likeable and amusing cast of characters completely work for me. I was utterly delighted when the story was discovered in 2013, but I first experienced it, like many others, through this novelisation by Terrence Dicks. My father had a friend at work who being a doctor who fan and discovering I was one, would occasionally give me old magazines and books. One day he returned with an almost complete set of target novelizations. Naturally I first went for the missing episodes and this story in particular. However having since had all but a single episode discovered, does this new reading still retain the stories original power?

First off we have David Troughton reading the novel, familiar to viewers from his performances in several stories including The Curse of Peladon and Midnight. David’s voice has a very low, eerie quality to it that works well with the subject matter. The most effective moments include a sequence in which our characters return to base, to find the bodies of soldiers covered in web. David’s description of these events genuinely is terrifying, slowing down his dictation so that every horrific detail is inched out bit by bit. His impersonations of the regulars are not too bad either, even if his Lethbridge Stewart sounds more like a general from any number of 60’s war films than Nicholas Courtney. His impression of his father, whilst not up to the level of Frazer Hines’s, is unmistakably the second doctor and he gets the comic timing just right. His impression of Jamie however is the one that steals the show is and at points it did sound exactly like Hines.

Terrence Dicks prose follows the television story almost exactly. After all by 1968 Terrence Dicks had joined the show as a Junior Editor when Web was in production. He does add a few nice little references, for example hints at the future friendship between the Doctor and Lethbridge-Stewart. He also omits the opening cliff-hanger to the previous serials Enemy of the World and (thankfully) remains the troubling Julius Silverstein to Emil Julius. One particularly nice addition is a few phrases giving an explanation of the events that take place between the reactivation of the Yeti and the Doctors arrival as London is taken over. With Troughton’s low tones, and a sumptuous score and roaring sound effects, this has a suitably apocalyptic feel.

The story is helped by a wonderful soundscape and music score. As far as I could tell (and please correct me if I’m wrong!) none of the original sound effects were used. This is actually somewhat refreshing, the new Yeti roars work wonders and help this version to stand on its own without conjuring memories of the television adaptation. The music especially seems to take more inspiration from horror movies than classic Doctor Who and it works in this versions favour. One odd omission is no version of the Doctor Who Theme, instead over the credits we get a bizarre ‘swashbuckling’ theme. Furthermore there’s no ‘wheezing and groaning’ sound played over the description. I suspect this for some odd copyright reason and I have no idea if this is the same with the other audio-book readings.

All in all if you’re a fan of the story, then you’ll find much to enjoy in this new adaptation. A splendid new version of an already established classic.





The Early Adventures: The Morton LegacyBookmark and Share

Friday, 24 November 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Early Adventures: The Morton Legacy (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Justin Richards
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast
Anneke Wills (Polly Wright/Narrator), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon/The Doctor), Elliot Chapman (Ben Jackson), David Sibley (Josiah Morton), Kerry Gooderson (Jemma Morton), Ewan Bailey (Blazzard / Copeland), Alan Blyton (Dexter).

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Released: November 2017

The Doctor, Polly, Ben, and Jamie land in 1860s London (much to Ben and Polly's disappointment that they are not home in their own 1960s), and they soon find themselves trapped when the TARDIS is stolen. They track it down to a man named Morton, who runs a private museum in his home filled with plenty of exotic items...and while it is clear he has the TARDIS, they aren't sure how to get to the workshop where he is keeping it. The plot thickens as there are mysterious deaths around town, with Morton as the prime suspect. The Doctor and crew must somehow keep him out of jail, at least long enough for them to find the TARDIS. So they make an attempt to solve the murders, become increasingly weary of an artifact in Morton's collection, and foil a couple of crooks who attempt to steal from the collection. The story is decent, there are some nice character bits here and there, but I think it is the format of these Early Adventures that holds it back. 

I'm not sure I see the merit in moving halfway between the Companion Chronicles style of "enhanced Audiobook" and the Full Cast Dramas I am (admittedly) more familiar with.  Having narration describe things that could be easily illustrated by one of the characters via creative dialogue seems odd, particularly when the rest of the story is presented like a regular Full Cast Drama. The narration slowed the pace, and while a slower pace makes some amount of sense for a story trying to replicate the 60s era of the show...it just doesn't really flow like an episode from that era, so the whole operation doesn't really work. While I still didn't really enjoy the narration in the Third Doctor boxset, it still seemed to work better than it does here, and in general, it just managed to capture the era's feel much better. Really, when the whole concept of the Companion Chronicles was to skirt around the fact that some actors are no longer with us, it seems odd to then try and move on from that idea and replace actors yet still hold back and do that narration thing. If you're going to do it, go full throttle. 

Up until this moment, I had not yet found any time to give Big Finish's Early Adventures series a real go.  I think the concept is actually really novel.  But while Frazer Hines' vocal inflections often have that Troughton feel, sometimes I found it too hard to distinguish when exactly it was The Doctor that was supposed to be talking.  Clearly Hines is doing his best, and he certainly remembers his old friend's vocal inflections well...but it might have been less distracting or just easier to know who is who by finding a better Troughton impersonator, much as they did in replacing the late Michael Craze with Elliot Smith as Ben (or Tim Treloar's very good Pertwee impersonation from the Third Doctor sets). 

Personally, I found the story hard to engage in, and I really think it is the format of this particular Big Finish range. If the goal is to recreate the tone and feel of the 60s episodes, it doesn't really do that, nor does it feel like a modern and exciting story featuring characters from a totally different kind of era. It is just middle of the road, and there is nothing more forgettable than middle of the road. 

The Second Doctor ranks among my favorites, but it is always going to be hard for Big Finish to ever really capture that spark, when there is no possible way to bring back the man who made the part so fun and alive. 

 



Associated Products

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Released 31 Dec 2017
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Doctor Who - The Early Adventures 4.3 - The Morton Legacy



100 Illustrated AdventuresBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 22 November 2017 - Reviewed by Stephen Blenkinsop
100 Illustrated Adventures (Credit: BBC Children's Books)100 Illustrated Adventures
Hardcover: 208 pages
Age Range: 7 - 12 years
Publisher: BBC Children's Books
Published 2 Nov. 2017

The latest hardcover large-format book, 100 Illustrated Adventures, published by Puffin, highlights one hundred of the Doctor’s ‘most wonderful, jaw-dropping and eye-popping escapades’ and claims to bring these episodes to life like no other episode guide.

So does it live up to this billing?  The book is bang up to date, covering the show all the way up to the end of the 2017 series.  Most stories are given a double page spread which includes a brief episode guide on one page – the incarnation of the Doctor and his companions, first transmission dates, number of episodes and the writer, along with a very brief (around 200 words) story synopsis.  The other page is typically devoted to a related piece of artwork.  It is these, as the ‘illustrated’ in the title suggests, that are the selling point of the book.  These were gathered from the publisher’s Illustrated Adventures competition which has provided art in a variety of styles ranging from detailed pencil drawings (including some stunning portraits) to abstract representations, and from comic strip styles to children’s drawings.  These are therefore original pieces of art that you won’t have seen anywhere before, and whilst the breadth of styles means that not all the art will be to everyone’s taste they all display great talent, imagination, and creativity and show a love for the show.

The inevitable question with this sort of book – is my favorite story in?  Well probably -  If we take the DWM 2014 poll as a benchmark most of the top 100 from that list are in and you have to get to 38th in the poll to find a story not included in this book (The Daemons – sorry!) and all in all only 32 of the DWM top 100 are not included here.  The choice of stories to include may also, therefore, be an interesting point of discussion for fans.

Overall, as an episode guide this book probably works better for the newer fan than for someone who has followed the show for a long time, but as a delightful, original collection of art that shows the passion and imagination of fellow fans, it works for all.

 

Amazon Link





The Eleventh Doctor Complete Year OneBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 21 November 2017 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
DOCTOR WHO: THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR COMPLETE YEAR ONE (Credit: Titan Comics)

The Eleventh Doctor Complete Year One
Writers: Al Ewing and Rob Williams
Artists: Simon Fraser and Warren Pleece
Publisher: Titan Comics
368pp
Published: November 21, 2017

The ones we love make up our world. When time claims them, nothing makes sense. Everything around us falls to pieces. It is up to us to pick up those pieces and rebuild, move forward, create a new world to live in.

That lesson can sometimes be impossible to learn. As it was for Alice Obiefune when she met The Doctor. Her mother was gone. Her job at the library was lost. Her landlord evicted her to knock down the building. Not even the thrill of time travel, the excitement of visiting alien worlds, meeting rock legends, or seeing the face of the creator could show her that the power to live, to keep going, was in her the whole time.

One could easily see the first year of The Doctor’s adventures away from his friends, the Ponds, as a collection of loosely connected, fluffy, stand-alone adventures, and they’d be right. Although there is a slight serialized arc (including a fascinating character on whom the spine of the story rests, who happens to be named Arc), practically every issue has its own beginning, middle, and end. The stories are energetic, crazy, and occasionally hilarious, perfectly mirroring the Eleventh Doctor’s persona. However, themes are touched on repeatedly, evolving from trip to trip as opposed to resolving and resetting for the next story. The continuous look at these themes from various angles is what makes the first year of Titan’s ongoing Eleventh Doctor series feel so monumental and epic.

Sure there’s a ravenous, and adorable, rainbow-colored dog devouring all the sadness and negativity of London. Yeah, there’s a run in with a false God wielding a black hole bomb and the Tardis continues to jump backward in time every few minutes. Sure The Eternal Dogfight shows up over Earth and someone gets a parasite by eating a space donut. All of that, plus Romans and an amusement park planet controlled by an evil organization, make for some truly dazzling spectacle, but what makes it epic are the people.

The stories told by Al Ewing and Rob Williams are funny, scary, exhilarating, and devastating because The Doctor and his new Tardis crew are the focus. The dividing chasm between what they want and what they need is the real quest. Alice needs to accept that the end of her mother’s life doesn’t equal the end of hers. John Jones (a Bowie-esque glam rocker in the early days of his career) needs to be patient with his identity. Arc needs to let go of fear. The Doctor needs to forgive himself for not being able to save everyone all the time. He needs to forgive himself for Gallifrey.

All the while a sinister being known only as the Talent Scout constantly tempts them with images of what they want. He can take away the pain by giving them what they think will fix them, essentially robbing them of what makes them people, taking away their stories.

Artists and colorists Simon Fraser, Boo Cook, Gary Caldwell, Warren Pleece, and Hi-Fi depict giant battles, goofy slapstick, and heart-breaking sadness with equal splendor. There are times when The Eleventh Doctor could step right off the page, or pull you into his marvelous space/time machine. Where they really shine however is in the expressions. You know precisely what these people are thinking and feeling without a single line of dialogue or narration.

The Eleventh Doctor Year One is one of the most moving Doctor Who stories ever told. It isn’t simply about a madman with a box who flies around fighting monsters. It is about us.

We are Arks, Time Machines transporting stories. Everyone we’ve ever met, all the things we’ve done, wished we’d done, wish we’d done differently, these memories make up the story of us. Our stories inform us, define us, drive us to do better. Perhaps we don’t always get it right, but we try. Even the last surviving member of an obliterated ancient alien race with a literal time machine remembers. It keeps him going. Keeps him trying. But it never ever stops him.

 

Amazon Link





The Tenth Doctor Complete Year OneBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 21 November 2017 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
DOCTOR WHO: THE TENTH DOCTOR COMPLETE YEAR ONE (Credit: Titan Comics)

DOCTOR WHO: The Tenth Doctor Complete Year One
Writers: Nick Abadzis and Robbie Morrison
Artists: Elena Casagrande and Daniel Indro
Publisher: Titan Comics
368pp 
Published: November 21, 2017

Traveling around in time and space means the passage of time is not linear. Between The Doctor leaving your sight and his return, he could quite easily have had dozens of other adventures over a few hundred years and saved as many worlds. For the companion, nothing has changed. For the universe everything has.

This is a major contributing factor to the wealth of spin-off media taking place in the Whoniverse. The Doctor is not constrained by the same limitations of other massive franchises. His continuity is fluid. As long as the possibilities of time and space remain infinite, we will never run out of stories about The Doctor.

What happened after Doctor Ten left Donna? He battled Cybermen at Christmas, faced The Waters of Mars, and prevented The End of Time, before regenerating for (seemingly) the eleventh time, right? Well, he also met an idealistic dreamer named Gabby Gonzales, saved the world from a race of beings feeding on negative emotions, visited an art gallery of block transfer sculptures, fought the Weeping Angels on the battlefields of WWI, and stared down the son of Sukhteh. And that was just the FIRST year!

Titan Comics has collected the entire first year of their ongoing Tenth Doctor line in an omnibus called DOCTOR WHO: THE TENTH DOCTOR COMPLETE YEAR ONE. It features the writing talents of Nick Abadzis and Robbie Morrison, as well as showcasing the mastery of artists Elena Casagranda, Eleonora Carlini, and Daniel Indro. The creative teams assembled have come together to tell the kinds of stories that only comics can tell, and do so exceedingly well.

What comics offer that other mediums don’t is the ability to tell larger than life stories with a fast pace that resonate. Readers have the ability to pause on a specific panel, re-read a line of dialogue or caption, and allow it to sink in. Onomonopias may give you an idea of what a particular action sounds like, but the reader is the final arbiter of the minute details. Unlike novels, comics don’t need to stop the action cold in order to set the scene - you turn the cover and you’re there.

The artists here take full advantage of their lack of budgetary constraints to lay out mind-bending pages of alien worlds, cosmic monsters, and even a few easter eggs for a reader to take in with awe. We have scenes of The Doctor (whose likeness is at times impeccably captured, especially by Casagrande)opening Gabby’s eyes to beautiful, ethereal sea creatures in the sky, and the stuff of nightmares invading the minds and bodies of the innocent, goliath statues tearing through ancient alien castles, a tank running down a small army of Weeping Angels, the not-God Anubis looming over tiny Earth primitives on his golden pyramid spaceship, and so much more. This is the vision of the Whoniverse fully realized.

As writers, Abadzis and Morrison write a Doctor that is at once instantly recognizable and a little foreign to us. He is still hurting over the loss of his friend, Donna, dreading what he feels coming, yet still regarding the universe with joy. Despite his assurance that he can never bring another human into this life, he sees in Gabby Gonzales a need to see what he sees. Some part of him knows that he has no choice but to bring her along.

Gabby Gonzales is such a fun, likable, and capable companion that it’s hard to imagine that she never appeared in the show. We see how her life of duty to a hard-working family that has sacrificed everything to give her a future is strangling her and pray that The Doctor will take her to the stars. Once he does, her love of art, knowledge, and the impossible are infectious. What the writers have given us is a character worthy of the title companion.

The first year of The 10th Doctor’s ongoing adventures delivers everything Doctor Who stories require: danger, heart, humor, loss, and the promise of more to come, on a scale that television has yet to match.

 

Amazon Link





Doctor Who - Shot Trips - All Hands On DeckBookmark and Share

Monday, 20 November 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
All Hands on Deck (Credit: Big Finish)

Producer: Ian Atkins; Script Editor: Ian Atkins
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery & Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Eddie Robson; Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Carole Ann Ford (Narrator)

All Hands On Deck is the second consecutive release to feature the Eighth Doctor and mention the Time War - what could Big Finish be building up to I wonder? The story also just happens to be my favorite Short Trip to date. It's not often that these stories move me to shed a tear, but this one did.

The story is in parts a sequel to The Dalek Invasion Of Earth where we catch up with Susan in 2213. She lives in an apartment block that is on the site of the old Coal Hill school. Everyone she has ever cared for has gone, most of them had died in the second Dalek invasion.

Susan has quite a quiet life, that is until she is called away to help with a series of planet-threatening emergencies. Firstly there is the Dalek artifact that suddenly comes to life. It oozes a yellow liquid that turns out to be custard. This is followed by the asteroid that seems certain to hit Earth but fades away at the last minute. Then we have the cyborg spiders that suddenly start to terrorise the neighborhood, but turn out to be harmless. Every day there seems to be a new threat. What can possibly be happening? Perhaps the man hiding in her cupboard might be able to explain?

Of course, the man hiding in her cupboard is the eighth Doctor. He is creating events in an effort to try to distract Susan from noticing a message that has been sent via tesseract by the Time Lords. A message requesting that Susan return to Gallifrey as soon as possible, and help fight the Time War. Will the Doctor succeed in talking Susan out of heading home?

The story romps along at a great pace. It seems that Susan hardly has time to draw breath before another Bubble' is sent to her, which whisks her away to help avert a new disaster. The story also has some rather lovely nods, not only is it sweet that Susan now lives in the old Coal Hill School, but it's also rather touching that from her window she can see an oak tree that was planted in memory of Ian and Barbara. The story also finds Susan reminiscing about her time attending Coal Hill School, times when she loved to listen to the Beatles, but always being wary when she talked about them to friends, just in case she mentioned a song that hadn't been released yet.

Carole Ann Ford is a great narrator. She steps back into somewhat world-weary shoes of Susan Campbell (nee Foreman) with ease. Between her telling and Eddie Robson's beautiful story, this tale delivers a massive emotional punch. I really am going to look up Robson's other works as he is a truly skilled author.

All Hands On Deck is an instant classic and the only entry in this series that I have listened to twice. Don't miss out on this one, I promise it could be the best £2.99 you could possibly spend.