The Chimes of Midnight - Limited Vinyl EditionBookmark and Share

Friday, 4 November 2016 - Reviewed by Andrew Batty
The Chimes of Midnight (limited edition vinyl) (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Robert Shearman
Director: Barnaby Edwards

Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor); India Fisher (Charley Pollard); Louise Rolfe (Edith); Lennox Greaves (Mr Shaughnessy); Sue Wallace (Mrs Baddeley); Robert Curbishley (Frederick); Juliet Warner (Mary)

Big Finish Productions – Released September 2016

This deluxe vinyl edition of The Chimes of Midnight follows on from the story being voted the best of Big Finish’s main range in their 2015 poll (runner up Spare Parts will also get the vinyl treatment next year). The release is limited to 500 copies and comprises the original story and a brand new retrospective documentary spread across four discs.

The story

As noted above, The Chimes of Midnight has been voted the best of Big Finish’s main range, and I’m not going to argue with this. Chimes is one of those Doctor Who stories where all the elements come together to create something truly exceptional. The writing, performances and production are pretty near faultless.

Putting a Doctor Who spin on classic TV shows Sapphire and Steel and Upstairs Downstairs was a clever choice by Robert Shearman. From those inspirations he tells a story which is both darkly funny and genuinely moving, skewering the injustice of the British class system in the process.

This is a story all fans of Doctor Who should own, and demonstrates not only the best of Big Finish, but one of the best Doctor Who stories in any medium.

What’s different?

The move in format CD to vinyl has resulted in some unavoidable modifications to the story. Instead of the original CD’s four episodes, this edition is split into six parts of around 20 minutes each. Rather than ending on a cliff-hanger, each disc finishes at a convenient (usually dramatic) point in the dialogue. It’s better to think of this as a compilation spread across six sides than as a six episode version, although I suspect some purists may miss the original cliff-hangers.

The documentary

The fourth disc in this collection contains a brand new documentary looking back at the production.  We’re fast approaching the 20th anniversary of the start of Big Finish’s Doctor Who range and it’s great to see the company celebrating their history. The audio releases have been a significant part of the Doctor Who landscape for nearly two decades, and it’s nice to see them getting some more in-depth exploration.

The documentary rounds up a broad range of contributors to Chimes’ creation, and conveys they sense that the story’s success was in part due to the coming together of the right people at the right time. Along with writer Robert Shearman, director Barnaby Edwards and the Big Finish producers, we also hear from sound designer Andy Hardwick and composer Russell Stone. Hardwick and Stone give a wonderful insight into their craft, and it’s great to see these (sometimes neglected) areas getting the attention they deserve.

For me the highlight of the documentary is the interview with Robert Shearman, in particular his discussion of discarded ideas for the story, and an audio tour of his own house (which inspired the story’s setting).

The one thing that feels missing from this documentary is a contribution from the cast. It would have been nice to hear Paul McGann and India Fisher’s take on The Chimes of Midnight’s continuing popularity but it’s a minor oversight in this excellent piece.

Overall

The Chimes of Midnight is a Doctor Who classic of the first order and is essential listening for fans. The documentary accompanying the release is a fascinating insight into the story’s creation, which brilliantly captures the context of the time it was created.

This release is a limited edition of 500 at a premium price, so it’s a shame that it will have a small audience. Hopefully the documentary will get a wider release at some point. If Big Finish have plans to explore their back catalogue in future such releases it would be great to see some cheaper downloadable options, alongside premium, physical releases like this.

The Chimes of Midnight (limited edition vinyl) (Credit: Big Finish)





Doom Coalition 3Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 20 October 2016 - Reviewed by Ben Breen
Doom Coalition: 3 (Credit: Big Finish)
Paul McGann (The Doctor), Nicola Walker (Liv Chenka), Hattie Morahan (Helen Sinclair), Alex Kingston (River Song), Jeremy Clyde (George), Ian Puleston-Davies (Angus Selwyn), Richard Hope (Phillip Cook/Kal), Anna Acton (Kate Drury), John Shrapnel (Thomas Cromwell), Kasia Koleczek (Apolena), Glen McCready (Solvers/Abbot), Emma D'Inverno (Rosalia), Tim McMullan (Octavian), Janie Dee (Risolva), Robert Bathurst (Padrac), John Heffernan (The Imposter) and Nicholas Woodeson (The Clocksmith). Other parts portrayed by the cast.

Big finish Productions

The Doom Coalition series, which follows on from the acclaimed Dark Eyes box sets, is a very promising sequel saga.  The third installment has a large amount to live up to after the events of Doom Coalition 1 and 2.  In order to help the reviewing process, I won’t go into the more intricate plot details, partially to not make this review longer than it needs to be, but also to allow for those listening to the story to experience their own responses to the unfolding events.
 

3.1. Absent Friends

Mobile Phones are commonplace today, but twenty years ago they were still technically considered as a new innovation.  The opening of this story transports us to a time and place where a phone mast is considered an eyesore by residents of a small English village.  Living with the recent entrance of a mobile communications company into their midst, The promise of a free phone seems far too good to be true, an observation this reviewer made as soon as it was brought to the table.

Landing in the aforementioned small village, using debit cards (an unfamiliar technology to them), with a pin number that is actually a Doctor Who TV Easter egg, Liv and Helen are booked into a pub and The Doctor goes off to tinker with the Tardis.  As Helen goes on what would seem like a reckless journey that has the potential to rip holes in space and time, the mast is revealed to be causing problems of its own and they most certainly have far-reaching consequences.

This story’s relatively calm opening is supplemented by a suspenseful plot, along with some suitably awkward moments that contrast this to what might be expected.  This was a very much appreciated introduction, with an ending that might just leave you scratching your head.

 

3.2. The Eighth Piece

This story’s intro, after the structure of 3.1 Absent Friends, might come as a bit of a shock.  However, as the three simultaneous missions of The Doctor, Liv and Helen to uncover pieces of an ancient device begin to conjoin, the implications of what happened in the previous box set also begin to make a part of a greater whole.  Alex Kingston returns in an appearance that is not entirely surprising but is definitely a welcome re-entry into the series, with references to the prior events meaning that to fully grasp what’s going on, it is best you check out Doom Coalition 1 and 2.

 

3.3. The Doomsday Chronometer

The introduction to this episode actually takes place part way through the second story, 3.2 The Eighth Piece.  Confusing?  That’s how the rest of the story builds itself, around multifaceted plotlines that all converge to be part of a greater whole, much like the titular Doomsday Chronometer.  With the discovery of clues and hints pointing to pieces of the device, so to come references to other times in The Doctor’s and River Song’s lives, as documented in the television show.  This particular episode might seem convoluted, but eventually, it coalesces into an easier to understand line that works its way smoothly into the final part of this box set. Moreover, we see an appearance from a crucial figure we have not seen thus far in Doom Coalition 3, but whose return was, I think, inevitable.

 

3.4. The Crucible of Souls

The occasionally comedic overtones this concluding story provides are overshadowed by the high stakes situation.  If I say any more than that this review would surely double in length to accommodate the necessary plot summaries and character profiling.  Suffice it to say, it was very much worth the wait.

Doom Coalition 3 was definitely worth waiting for, with a cast who deliver their lines with great emphasis on their characterisation, a score that fits directly into the production and a plot that whilst it might be confusing is still understandable.  With the end of Doom Coalition 3, realisation dawns on the fact that all we as fans have to do now is wait for the conclusion of the saga.  Personally,  I am excited at the prospect of the final four stories and the potential they have to be at least as good as, if not better than Dark Eyes 4, the final box set in the preceding series.

 

This title was released in September 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until October 31st 2016, and on general sale after this date



Associated Products

Audio
Released 31 Oct 2016
Doom Coalition (Doctor Who)



Classic Doctors New Monsters: Volume One (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 9 August 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Classic Doctors New Monsters (Volume 1) (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by Phil Mulryne, Simon Barnard, Paul Morris, James Goss, Andrew Smith
Directed by Barnaby Edwards

Starring Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy,
Paul McGann

Released by Big Finish July 2016, order from Amazon UK

This reviewer confesses to have been pleasantly surprised as to how well the four stories in the box set all work to complement each other and the respective Doctors they feature. When this set was first announced there was a certain amount of scepticism about whether some of the visual gimmicks of the post 2005 creations would translate well to audio. Also, as the behind-the-scenes disc indicates there are only a finite number of “new” monsters which can be included without breaking continuity, as indicated by the presence in the fourth story of the Sontarans which do not seem much different to how they have already appeared in previous Big Finish outings and by the revelation that next year’s volume 2 will only be featuring three “new” monsters across four plays.

This collection gets off to a strong start with Phil Mulryne’s Fallen Angels which uses the Weeping Angels ability to send their victims back through time to excellent effect as the Fifth Doctor encounters a twenty first century married couple who have fallen foul of an angel in the crypt of a church in Rome and ended up in the fifteenth century where they soon encounter Matthew Kelly’s wonderfully temperamental Michelangelo. Newlyweds Joel and Gabby are well played by Sacha Dhawan and Diane Morgan (unfortunately this reviewer found the latter’s presence reminded him of annoying alter-ego Philomena Cunk) and are clearly intended to remind listeners of Rory and Amy and there are some clear parallels to The Angels Take Manhattan. Overall, the story is very much an homage to Blink and the silent presence of the angels is well-realised through clever use of music and sound-design. None of these stories attempts to offer a genesis account for any of the monsters featured and this is very much to their benefit especially here where the Fifth Doctor is shown very much in parallel to the similarly youthful Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, a role which Peter Davison responds particularly well to.

Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor is equally well suited to the second story of this set, particularly in the scenes with a courtroom setting. Simon Barnard and Paul MorrisJudoon in Chains is a clever tale which owes a debt to a number of well-known sources such as The Elephant Man and Pygmalion with one of the proto-companions even being called Eliza. Nicholas Briggs shows that the Judoon are capable of being much more than just space rhinos with a funny voice and the central character of Captain Kybo being a wonderfully nuanced performance. There is also a scene-stealing performance to enjoy from another Big Finish regular Nicholas Pegg as the wonderfully arch Meretricious Gedge.

The inclusion of one-off monsters the Sycorax for the third story of this set was initially suprising but James GossHarvest of the Sycorax proves that they have plenty of mileage left. Sylvester McCoy is reunited with former Red Kang Nisha Nayar who gives a great performance as Zanzibar, another great one-off in a collection full of similarly strong characters. There is also great support the rest of the cast, with particular mentions due to Giles Watling as the Sycorax Chief and Jonathan Firth as Cadwallader. This script has a great fast pace which definitely feels as if it could sit comfortably in a post-2005 series.

The set concludes in style with Andrew Smith’s The Sontaran Ordeal, which sits very much at the end of the Eighth Doctor’s life with the Time War beginning to make its presence felt. This is a solid final story which teams up Paul McGann with Josette Simon as Sarana Teel, an unlikely companion who just wants to bring peace to her planet. Her horror as she realises that the impact of the Time War means that there can never be lasting peace is wonderfully portrayed and her final confrontation with the Doctor gives a clear nod towards the inevitable events of The Night of the Doctor. Christopher Ryan and Dan Starkey also give excellent performances as variations on their new series Sontarans. Above all, this final story provides a hint of exciting things to come in next year’s much anticipated prequel to Big Finish’s War Doctor series, The Eighth Doctor: The Time War.

Overall, this is a set of four very different but equally enjoyable stories with too many highlights to mention individually. Based on the form of this collection and most of Big Finish’s other new series titles, the second volume also promises to be something special.

 





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.



Associated Products

Audio
Out 6 April
Doctor Who - Doom Coalition 2



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
DOCTOR WHO: THE EIGHTH DOCTOR #5 (Credit: Titan)

WRITER - GEORGE MANN

 ARTIST - EMMA VIECELI

COLORIST HI-FI

LETTERER - RICHARD STARKINGS AND
COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

SENIOR EDITOR - ANDREW JAMES

ASSISTANT EDITORS - JESSICA BURTON
& GABRIELA HOUSTON

DESIGNER - ROB FARMER

COVER 1: RACHAELSTOTT & HI-FI

COVER 2: WILL BROOKS

  COVER 3: CAROLYN EDWARDS

"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. 

 

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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.








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