Survival (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 18 March 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doctor Who: Survival (Credit: BBC Audio)
Written by Rona Munro
Read By Lisa Bowerman

Released by BBC Worldwide - September 2017
Available from Amazon UK

In 1989, Doctor Who aired the final story of Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor...and then was quietly put into "hiatus," but was really just secretly cancelled. That final story was Survival, and involved the Doctor and Ace facing off against the Master and Cheetah People in Ace's hometown of Perivale. In the end the Doctor and Ace walked off back to the TARDIS, and they weren't to be seen together on screen again. It was one of the stronger efforts in that final era of the Classic show, and while you can definitely see the upturn in quality of scripts returning during the Seventh Doctor's era, I think it was very much a "too little, too late" situation for the series at the time. 

So we come to Target's novelization of that finale episode, which is written by the author of the television script Rona Munro, and it is actually slighlty better than it's television counterpart.  Munro adds in some extra details and character motivations which were lost in the TV adaptation, as well as whole sequences that were probably cut for time.  These details improve the overall story.  The television version was always pretty solid, but the book just works better in some ways. 

The audiobook is read by Lisa Bowerman, who played Karra the Cheetah in the original serial, and has gone on to become quite well known to Who fans as Seventh Doctor companion Bernice Summerfield in a wide variety of Big Finish audios.  She does a fine job as narrator for the most part. Her impression of Sophie Aldred's Ace is impeccable, though her McCoy is a little too cartoonish and distracting.

This is a good audiobook, it's a novelization that builds on and improves upon it's source material, and it is nicely read by Bowerman...even if her impression of McCoy is kind of awful.  Fans of this era and this story would most likely enjoy this one. 





Four to Doomsday (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 18 March 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doctor Who - Four To Doomsday (Credit: BBC Audio)
Written by Terrance Dicks
Read By Matthew Waterhouse

Released by BBC Worldwide - March 2017
Available from Amazon UK

Four to Doomsday seems like the type of story that is rarely going to make anyone's Top Ten list. It is a rather tedious and boring story, it doesn't have much of a thought provoking plot, and it lacks any real exciting action to make up for that.  I actually rewatched this story not too long ago when I was in the mood for some Fifth Doctor style stories, and even having recently rewatched it, most of it ended up being forgotten. If nothing else, Terrance Dicks' novelization really captures just how boring and forgettable the original serial was. 

The Fifth Doctor - along with Tegan, Nyssa, and Adric - land on a spaceship lead by some aliens who have visited Earth throughout it's history and gathered up locals each time they make it to Earth.  So there are some humans from various time periods in Earth's history aboard as well. But now they seem to be heading back to Earth to overtake it. Adric gets hypnotised or something by the evil leader, nd Tegan pouts about how much she wants to get to work some more....and eventually the only thing I remember from the story happens, which is that the Doctor uses the bounce of a cricket ball off a spaceship to propel himself back towards the TARDIS while floating in space.

It is a dul story, but I must give Matthew Waterhouse, who originally portrayed Adric, some credit, he does his best reading this dull story.  As much as I never cared for his character on screen, he proves himself a decent narrator, and actually does a pretty good impression of Peter Davison's Doctor as well! 

This is a release only for completists.  It is a lame story, and despite being nicely read by Waterhouse, that really can't make up for how uninteresting the story always has been. 





Twice Upon a Time (DVD)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 17 March 2018 - Reviewed by Peter Nolan
Twice Upon a Time (Credit: BBC Worldwide)
Directed by: Rachel Talalay
Written by: Steven Moffat
Starring:
Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), David Bradley (The Doctor),Pearl Mackie (Bill Potts),Mark Gatiss (The Captain)
Format: DVD, Blu-Ray
Duration (Feature): 58mins
Duration (Extras): 100mins
BBFC Classification: 12
Executive Producers: Steven Moffat, Brian Minchin
Originally Released: January 2018

It’s an irony pointed out in last month’s Doctor Who Magazine that with 7.92m viewers more people tuned in to see David Bradley’s regeneration than William Hartnell’s back in 1966. Undoubtedly that’s partly down to the First Doctor’s original swansong being an event preceded by little fanfare. Good old Dr.Who simply has another of his adventures and then, once new foes the Cybermen have been dispatched with never to return, he has a bit of a funny turn and changes face. In fact, it feels less like the climax to The Tenth Planet than one of those cases where the beginning of the next serial is brought over to the end of the previous one in order to generate a cliffhanger. There’s certainly no sense of The Tenth Planet being about the Doctor’s decline and need to change.

Of course, it’s all different these days and modern regeneration stories and long goodbyes to beloved actors and a chance to take stock and sum up what their Doctor stood for and where the show may go from here. This has probably never been more true than with Twice Upon a Time, a story which takes place entirely during the regeneration, with the Doctor having been mortally wounded two episodes previously and, from the very opening shot, locked in a dilemma about whether he wants to go on at all or to finally, finally, go gently into the night. While simultaneously retroactively giving the First Doctor the chance to consider the enormity of that first regeneration – surely the most traumatic as everything you’d ever known is stripped from you, and even your forehead will no longer be the one your mother kissed goodnight, your fingers not the ones you learned to tie your laces with, your eyes no longer the ones that looked into your father’s eyes.

Ultimately a tale about self-sacrifice and duty, with both Doctors looking at the impact they’ve had, or will have, on the universe and deciding they have a moral obligation to march ever on, it’s appropriate that it intersects with World War I and Mark Gatiss’ Captain stoically prepared to die for his country as so many others had before him. The Twelfth Doctor has certainly had his issues with soldiers during his time in the TARDIS, so compassionate view of the Captain’s situation is an important component of the capstone on his era, while the “I’ve lost the idea of dying,” speech may be one of the lyrical things Doctor Who has had to say about the true nature of heroism.  It might also be the crucial moment where the Doctor loses the idea of dying himself.

Both Doctors do fantastic work here, with Bradley perhaps having the harder job – not because of the risk of comparison to William Hartnell (does anyone ever expect a note-perfect impersonation from this kind of thing?) but because of the balancing act being truthful to his own character’s drama while not stepping on what has to be, above all Peter Capaldi’s moment. As always, Capaldi dances wonderfully between gravitas, whimsy and the explosions of raw, tortured emotion that always bubbled under his Doctor’s stony exterior. It’s largely through his skill that the somewhat unlikely, and certainly disturbing, concept of the Doctor wanting to die somehow feels a natural development on the Twelfth Doctor’s journey. Even more impressively, he manages to make this conflict work for a Christmas Day teatime slot.

It all adds up to one last chance to appreciate just how great a talent Peter Capaldi is, and how lucky we were to have him on Doctor Who for as long as we did. If his impassioned final speech may be seen as a mission statement for whom the Thirteenth Doctor will be, for whom the Doctor will always be, no matter his or her external appearance, then his successor’s first line could just as equally be seen as a summing up of the man she used to be. “Brilliant.”

 

Extras

If it’s disappointing that Twice Upon a Time feels doomed to fall between the cracks – not included on the Series 10 set and near certain to not be included as part of Jodie Whittaker’s premiere boxset either, then at least it’s accompanied by a relatively decent set of extras for a one episode release. Between them the two documentaries and panel interview presented here, the extras clock in at almost two hours – about twice the length of the episode itself.

Doctor Who Extra: Twice Upon a Time covers the making of the Christmas itself, with contributions from Steven Moffat, Rachel Talalay, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas and Mark Gatiss. A highlight is the tantalizing glances of the partial remounting of The Tenth Planet that was ultimately cut from the episode itself (presumably because in aiming to be true to the 1960s original, it inadvertently creates the potential appearance of mocking the wobbly sets and wobblier acting). It’s a fascinating insight into the thinking behind the episode and full of anecdotes both fun and touching, from Mark Gatiss fulfilling a lifelong dream of having a Dalek mutant suck on his face to David Bradley and Peter Capaldi both almost corpsing with emotion the first time they found themselves amid the 1914 Christmas football match.

The End of an Era covers, in fact, the end of two eras – the first half placing Twice Upon a Time in the context of Peter Capaldi’s time on the show and the journey the Twelfth Doctor has gone on from remote, amoral alien to twinklingly inspiring university lecturer, the second looking back at Steven Moffat’s epic marathon of being responsible for making more Doctor Who than perhaps anyone else ever. It’s particularly nice to get Moffat’s personal highlight and lowlights on his run (Day of the Doctor being “the most miserable experience to work on") in his own words.

Rounding it all out is the full Doctor Who panel from San Diego Comic Con 2017. Watched from a point of time after the Christmas Special has been broadcast can make it a sometimes vague, fluffy experience as nobody can actually say much about the episode except in the most general terms. However, with Peter Capaldi, Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, Michelle Gomez and Pearl Mackie in attendance there can rarely have been such a concentration of pure wittiness in one room before and they banter off each other and moderator Chris Chadwick delightfully. And it’s a proper lump in the throat moment to see thousands of people give Capaldi a standing ovation in thanks for his three seasons and for him, in turn, and in the manner of his typical kindness and lack of self-regard, turns into an opportunity to make a speech praising those he’s worked with and giving them full credit for what they’ve accomplished together.

It’s an essential moment on a disc strangely missing the voice of the big man himself. The absence of a commentary really bites on this most important of stories, and he’s only a very sporadic presence in the other extras on the disc, mostly represented by old encounters with the team from earlier in his run.  Perhaps on the cusp of his departure things were too raw and intense to dwell upon on camera, but it feels like there’s an important and revealing interview waiting out there in our future to be had. It’s not, unfortunately, on the Twice Upon a Time DVD.

 

Packaging and Presentation

For all fans’ efforts, from making their own covers to petitioning specials to be included in boxsets, the shelves on which our physical record of the show sits have always looked pretty chaotic, a mishmash of logos, shapes and formats. Twice Upon a Time, vanishingly unlikely to find a home on The Complete Series 11, doesn’t help matters and seems doomed to sit awkwardly between the two seasons, a thin streak of white.  The cover too is pretty uninspiring, simply being the main publicity image for the episode. Despite the reasonably full listing of extras, it certainly looks pretty vanilla and rushed out when in your hand.

 






The Eye of Torment (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 15 March 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Eye of Torment (Credit: Panini)

Written by Scott Gray, Mike Collins, & Jacqueline Rayner

Artwork by Martin Geraghty, Mike Collins, & David A. Roach

Paperback: 176 pages

Publisher: Panini UK LTD

We have now entered the most current era of the comic strip, with the First Volume of the Twelfth Doctor's run, The Eye of Torment.  While the Twelfth Doctor has already left the TARDIS behind on television, his adventures are still carrying on in Doctor Who Magazine, and his final strip adventures with Bill will most likely continue until after the Thirteenth Doctor's first full episode debuts. But before his tenure comes to an end, we still have his earliest strips to review!

This volume is somewhat similar to the Eleventh Doctor volume The Chains of Olympus.  Both don't feature too many stories and are a bit forgettable collections, but both technically feature solid stories that are well put together.  This collection has the edge on The Chains of Olympus because at least this doesn't start some grand story arc that doesn't get resolved until later.  All four of the stories are standalone, which means you can read this volume in one go without feeling like you only got half the story. 

The opening story, the titular "The Eye of Torment"  is quite a good epic opener for the Twelfth Doctor.  It involves a spaceship trying to traverse the sun and accidentally awakening an evil race of killers that had been imprisoned there centuries before.  It's a good read! Clearly the folks behind the strip decided to do something different, rather than wait until after the Twelfth Doctor debuted on television, and keep the Eleventh Doctor running right up until then, they decided to wrap up the Eleventh, have a buffer story featuring the Poternaster Gang of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax ("The Crystal Throne" which is also included in this volume), before launching into Twelfth Doctor stories, but knowing they couldn't really do much with him until he debuted on TV, the first part released focused heavily on Clara, and didn't show the Doctor until the final page, in a big tease for his official debut the following week.  It was a great way to introduce a new Doctor...make the fans wait for it, and build to that big reveal...and once he arrives they are off to races.

The second story is an average and somewhat problematic Sontaran adventure taking place in the Sahara Desert during World War II.  I found this one weird mostly because the Doctor and Clara kind of team up with the Nazis...they each befriend some Nazi, and I found it just off. I don't believe we should always treat Nazis as inhuman, because I think it very important that we remember that it wasn't some other species that committed those atrocities...it was us, but I also don't see the Doctor and Clara befriending a Nazi and getting all worked about them when they are in danger. I mean they are still Nazis.  Come on now.  So when the Doctor is forced to help Sontarans and Nazis, against a Rutan threat it just left a bad taste in my mouth. It wasn't a horrible story, I just don't think I want to see Nazis made too sympathetic. 

The final Doctor and Clara tale is "Blood and Ice" which has them trying to thwart a mad scientist in the Antartica at a University on the site of where the First Doctor's regeneration initially took place, and Clara meets Winnie, a girl who turns out to be one of the Splinter versions of her from The Name of the Doctor. An echo of Clara meant to die saving the Doctor, and the idea of them bumping into one of these fractures is neat, I mean she was supposed to have been split into a whole lot of different people to restore the Doctor's timeline, why don't they continue to bump into them?  The mad scientist is trying to turn people into walruses and stuff so they can more easily live in Antartica.  Which is goofy, but that's okay, goofy can be entertaining...and the real focus of this story is about how Clara, and ultimately WInnie, deal with what Winnie's own existence means. 

The final story featured in the volume is the aforementioned "The Crystal Throne" featuring the Poternaster Gang. It is a decent adventure, but I am glad it did not venture beyond two parts.  The characters are fun, but I think by the end of the second part I was done with the gimmick of their lead of the strip.  I think the fact that it also features some mad lady trying to transform people into some kind of creature (this time big bugs), it felt a little bland after the Antartica story. 

As a launch for the Twelfth Doctor, this is only a mild recommendation. His debut story is excellent, and I rather liked "Blood and Ice," but I had some philosophical issues with "Instruments of War" and only mildly enjoyed the Poternaster Tale.  It doesn't have a lot of meat, but it is an easy read, and at least feels like a fresh new start after the long sweeping arcs of the Eleventh Doctor comic era.  Probably for completists only, but that debut story really is great. 





Genesis of the Daleks (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 9 March 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doctor Who and The Genesis of The Daleks (Credit: BBC Audio)Written by Terrance Dicks
Read By Jon Culshaw
With Dalek Voices by Nicholas Briggs

Released by BBC Worldwide - October 2017
Available from Amazon UK
Genesis of the Daleks is one of the strongest serials in all of Doctor Who. Not just of the classic series, but to this day you can still see ripples from it.  Davros made another modern reappearance fairly recently in the Series 9 opening two-parter. His story, and one can even argue that one of the earliest seeds of the Time War that served as the series main background when it relaunched in 2005, began in that wonderful story.  It has a ton of memorable moments, from the introduction of Davros, the great scene between the Doctor and Davros discussing philosophical questions, the Doctor's moral dilemma about whether or not to destroy the Daleks...up to the big finale with the Daleks taking over and turning on their own creator.  It's a great story, that never feels too padded despite it's six episode lengths.  Such an iconic story could, in theory, be lessened by it's adaptation in another form of media.  But the book only enhances the story, adds a bit more behind what the characters are thinking and motivations, and this audiobook of that book is equally excellent.  
 
Read by Impressionist/Comedian/Voice Actor Jon Culshaw, and enhanced by some sound effects, music, and even Daleks voiced by Nicholas Briggs...there are moments that make you forget you are even listening to an audiobook.  Culshaw's top notch impression of Tom Baker's tones is so perfect that it is beyond parody. There were genuine times I could have sworn I was just hearing Baker himself in the recording.  And since Culshaw also uses the same voice modulation device that Briggs uses for the Daleks to voice Davros...the conversations between The Doctor and Davros leave you completely caught up in the story. 
 
Audiobooks are, for me, the most entertaining when the narrator can do a wide range of voices and keep the listening interesting.  Culshaw is then the perfect narrator for me, as he can do so many different voices, and his Fourth Doctor is pitch perfect.  Having Briggs' Dalek voices mixed in as well keeps this one of the most entertaining of these audiobooks that I have listened to thus far.  
 
It also made me think.  I remember watching a classic story of the series, and someone who really enjoyed the modern show watched a bit with me out of curiosity.  They struggled with the old effects and cheap look. But the audiobooks can take an interesting story, and remove that element. The lesser visuals are no longer part of the equation, only the story.  I actually tried to forget what I know of the classic story, and try and picture it with more modern visuals. This story holds up, and I think if old fans who can't quite get past the old show's visual cheapness, but want a taste of these great old stories, these could be an interesting way to jump in.  
 
This is a classic story, one of the all time greats, and it is wonderfully brought to life by Terrance Dicks adaptation and Culshaw, with the help of Briggs, make the listening a true joy.  




Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Year Three #14Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 7 March 2018 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Year Three #14 - Cover A (Credit: Titan )

Writer: Nick Abadzis  
Artist: Giorgia Sposito 
Colorist: Arianna Florean 
Publisher: Titan Comics 

FC, 32pp, $3.99 

On sale: March 7, 2018 

There are many drawbacks to traveling around with a Madman in a box. Chances are pretty good that an alien, historical figure or something else altogether will attempt, numerous times, to kill you. Various time and space anomalies threaten to erase you from existence. Your personal life is going to be challenged. Any semblance of the person you once were will assuredly be gone fairly quickly (not always for the better). Perhaps the worst aspect to these wondrously dangerous adventures with The Doctor is that...they end.

    Gabby has been through a lot with The Doctor. As has her friend Cindy. The same goes for Anubis (once a terrifying deity, now an adorable, incredibly intelligent puppy-ish figure). Her adventures have not only opened her up to the vast magnitude of the universe but to a profound introspection, revealing to her truths about herself she could hardly fathom. She’s experienced joy, terror, the outrage of a time itself, and with issue 14 of Titan Comics’ Tenth Doctor comic, it all comes to an end.

    One unfortunate element to this series of comics is an overabundance of sci-fi gobbledygook and mind-twisting exposition. The majority of this final issues suffers from the same problem. There are so many characters, such big ideas, with so much going on that it’s difficult to take in. Not to say that the what’s happening isn’t interesting, far from it. It’s simply too much to absorb and appreciate in a single issue. True, this is the culmination of months worth of storytelling, but the pacing really throws off the magnitude of the final magnitude.

    That being said, tying Gabby into The Doctor’s past and future solidifies what works best about this series. The characters are phenomenal. Regardless of any shortcomings, the Tenth Doctor series may have suffered, they are far outweighed by the power of these fantastic characters.

As is true in the majority of Doctor Who comics, these characters come to life in every panel. Nothing about them feels false or contrived. At no point do they pander with out-of-character meta references. Each line of dialogue belongs to each character and would sound out of place coming from anyone else.

    Gabby and Cindy fit in right alongside companions of both modern and classic eras of the Whoniverse. They are every bit as rich and complex, and likable, as anyone that’s come before, and likely yet to arrive in the Tardis. There is a sense of sadness in knowing that we will never see them interact with any Doctor in live action because they are so utterly lively. I’m sorry to see them go.