Mawdryn Undead (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 1 August 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doctor Who: Mawdryn Undead (Credit: BBC Audio)
Written by Peter Grimwade
Read By David Collings

Released by BBC Worldwide - July 2018
Available from Amazon UK 

I've always rather liked Season 20's Black Guardian Trilogy...not necessarily because of the Black Guardian, but I felt each story was rather good in spite of their interconnected storyline. In actuality, Mawdryn Undead was probably my least favorite of the three, though in this new audiobook context, I found I enjoyed the story better.  I'm sure the ugly design of Mawdryn and the lame 80s flashy redesign of the Black Guardian hurt my enjoyment, so maybe having those taken out of the equation helped my enjoyment factor just a bit. 

The story doesn't have too much meat on it, but I did find elements of the story were better presented in book form.  I felt I had a better grasp on Turlough as a character then I ever really did throughout the show, particularly in his early days as a pawn of the Guardian. We get more in depth as to what drives him, and how he feels about the whole deal he struck with the Guardian.  That is the kind of stuff a novel can do better than a TV series, particularly a series of this era.  On the show, Turlough seemed like a slightly conflicted jerk who I warmed up to after the Guardian left the picture.  In this book, I like him earlier on, because I felt he his conflict is better explored. 

The storyline with the two Brigadiers and the Blinovitch Limitation Effect, and the wacky time travel mechanics are pretty interesting, and feel like a precursor to the eventual Moffat/Smith Era of the show.  I still think that this stuff could have been better expanded upon, but the book gets into the gritty of it better than the show did.  Or my memory of the original TV version is just fuzzy.  I remember being slightly underwhelmed by this when watching it, but it has been so long since I have, it could just be that I am misremembering the whole thing.

The audiobook is nicely read by David Collings, and while unabridged only runs about 4 hours.  Easy listening for Classic Who fans.  Not the best story of the show's long history, but fans can not complain about this presentation. 





Land of the Blind (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 19 July 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Land of the Blind (Credit: Panini)
Written by Dan Abnett, Gareth Roberts, Nick Briggs, Kate Orman, Scott Gray
Artwork by Colin Andrew, Enid Orc, Martin Geraghty, Barrie Mitchell, Lee Sullivan
Paperback: 132 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

Available from Amazon UK

In the mid-90s, with Doctor Who off the air for a few years and showing no signs of returning, Doctor Who Magazine Editor Gary Russell tired of the comic strip playing second fiddle to the Seventh Doctor novel series, and decided it was time to change it up. Instead of continuing to have confusing continuities with a book series that possibly not all readers were reading, he decided that the Comic Strip should forge it's own path.  The first step to that was to stop the Seventh Doctor adventures in the strip. This was a bold move, because up to that point the Doctor Who Magazine strip had been pretty much running continuously in a variety of publications, but had always featured the most recent Doctor. Instead, the long running strip would now focus on different Doctor adventures.  Land of the Blind is a collection of the first batch of these comics, and features a story each for the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Doctors.

The book opens with the Fourth Doctor story "Victims," which has the Doctor and Romana thwart a plot to take down the Human Empire via beauty products on a Fashionista Planet.  The story here is okay, and the art is pretty bad, but there is a bit of charm to the premise...it is just rushed.  We then move forward the Fifth Doctor who has an adventure on the Moon with some evil Space Cows.  That is just the kind of bonkers premise I like in Doctor Who, particularly in comic form.  Following from there we venture back to the First Doctor with Ben and Polly, in which they battle a giant slug that is eating cryogenically frozen people or something.  It is fast paced and hollow, with little substance. It also doesn't really capture the tone of those early 60s stories.

The next stop is the Third Doctor, who is reunited with his first companion Liz Shaw as they stop a Professor who is using psychokinetic powers to kill his perceived adversaries. This story captures the tone of the Third Doctor era pretty well, and tries to give more detail to the offscreen exit of Liz Shaw from the TV series, which is nice.  The final two stories both feature the Second Doctor.  First up is the titular Land of the Blind and has the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe save a spaceport from some alien overlords who have trapped them there for decades. This is a pretty good story, with a good script and good art.  The last story in the volume is a one-off from a a Doctor Who Magazine special, called "Bringer of Darkness" which is told from the perspective of Second Doctor companion Victoria Waterfield, as she explains of an adventure with the Daleks that made her realize that her time with the Doctor was going to need to end soon.  It is a short but solid piece, with some good character development, including some stuff about the Doctor that surprisingly has paid off in the years to come.

While not the most cohesive period, for the strip, it is an interesting one.  There may not be a uniting factor behind all of the stories, whether that be a single Writer or Artist, or even a continuing plot thread.  But it does have some fun random adventures for these past Doctors. They are all pretty short and light, but that isn't always a bad thing.  Only a few feel like they rush to the finish line. I think this was sort of a lost period for the strip.  The Seventh Doctor had run his course, especially with all the Novel Continuity clogging up the works, and they didn't really find their voice again until the Eighth Doctor would finally launch as the star of the strip. So here is this weird little period, where they are trying to figure out their voice again, and they didn't even really have a regular Doctor starring.  As a bit of a novelty, this volume collects together some interesting stuff.  It may not be the best collection they have put together, but I still enjoy reading these old black and white strips.  





Short Trips 8.05 - Trap For Fools - Big FinishBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 5 June 2018 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Trap For Fools (Credit: Big Finish)

Producer Ian Atkins, Script Editor Ian Atkins

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Stephen Fewell, Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Mark Strickson (Narrator)

…St. Neot’s Refuge was founded in 3016 for the education of young men to the service of empire and state. In the quiet shade of Diaz’ world, each boy can develop that true sense of self-worth which will enable him to stand up for himself, and for a purpose greater than himself and, in doing so, to be of value to society; to be a man…’ School Prospectus.
 
‘Want to change the future, Turlough? Use a school,’ The Doctor.
 
I loved Davison's era, so I was quite excited to see that this month's Short Trips would be set in his era. The Doctor and Turlough are travelling in a not so crowded TARDIS, so that would set this story in quite a precise point in the fifth Doctor's timeline. Well, exactly between the televised stories of Resurrection of the Daleks and Planet of Fire to be precise.
 
The story opens with Turlough at school, but not at Brendon Public School, this time Turlough is at St Neot's Refuge, an off world public school. The Doctor is posing as a groundsman,. the TARDIS his hut. Turlough at first thinks that this is the Doctor's idea of some sick punishment, but it soon becomes evident that other, more sinister powers are at work.
 
Mark Strickson's narration is top notch. Not only does he slip back into the quite surly Turlough with ease, but his take on the fifth Doctor is nearly perfect. 
 
The Short Trips stories are nearly always ‘Doctor lite', which sometimes can be a bit of a disappointment. This is not in the case of Trap For Fools. Yes, the Doctor is flitting about in the background, keeping the schools cricket pitch in check, but this really is Turlough's story.
 
The monster in this is a fantastic creation. Writer Stephen Fewell (a Big Finish regular cast member) has outdone himself with the Entitlement. A race that just take what they want. And here the stakes are high. Not only are they slowly taking over the faculty, but they have also claimed the TARDIS. The climax to this story is a fantastic set piece, and very rewarding to listen to.
 
Trap For Fools is a very strong entry into the Short Trips range. I'll be eagerly looking out for more from Stephen Fewell.
 
A Trap For Fools is available from Big Finish here.




The Helliax Rift (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 28 April 2018 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
The Helliax Rift (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Scott Handcock
Director: Jamie Anderson

Featuring: Peter Davison :Blake Harrison :
Russ Bain :Genevieve Gaunt

Big Finish Productions - First Released April 2018
Running Time: 2 Hours Approx
Available on General Release from 31st May 2018

Big Finish are ringing the changes with the main range as it nears its twentieth anniversary next year. To start this off their fourth release for 2018 see them break with the tradition of trilogies of consecutive releases featuring the same Doctor and companion team. Instead, Peter Davison returns as the Fifth Doctor, this time travelling alone for what at first glance appears to be a standalone adventure. The Helliax Rift, from the pen of writer and sometime producer/director Scott Handcock introduces a new 1980s UNIT team headed by Russ Bain as Lieutenant Colonel Price, assisted byGenevieve Gaunt as Corporal Maxwell and Acting medical officer Lieutenant Daniel Hopkins, played by former Inbetweeners star Blake Harrison, a genuine casting coup for Big Finish.

The story opens with the Doctor already in situ tracking an alien signal which in transpires has also come to UNIT’s attention. This sets up a humorous encounter which references Peter Davison’s other famous role as Tristan Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small. Before long UNIT have captured their errant scientific advisor who quickly falls foul of Colonel Price’s impatience. He does however form an easier relationship with Harrison’s Daniel Hopkins, a likeable character very much in the mould of Harry Sullivan (who naturally is name-dropped) who slips very quickly into the companion role for this story. The other new UNIT characters Price and his comms officer Linda Maxwell are also well written characters and will hopefully have more interaction in their next appearance. Russ Bain’s Colonel Price is certainly far from being the new Brigadier in terms of likeability, especially during the play’s conclusion. Time will tell as to whether his relationship with the Doctor improves in future encounters, although one imagines the Doctor’s next incarnation will be even less likely to relate him.

The new UNIT team are joined for this story by an interesting pair of alien researchers played by Deborah Thomas and Anna Louise Plowman. There is additional support from Big Finish regulars Robbie Stevens and Jacob Dudman, the latter portraying a key role in the concluding act of the play. One does occasionally wish they would get someone less instantly recognisable than the play’s author to provide the voice of a lift.

As ever, there is evocative sound design from Joe Kraemer and Josh Arakelian, with some great 80s style music cues from Kraemer. After a rather mixed start to the year featuring the season 19 TARDIS team, this enjoyable story sees the main range very much back on track. This reviewer will be very much anticipating the return of the new 80s UNIT team for July’s Hour of the Cybermen, featuring some other very special guests.

As for the Fifth Doctor, “…now it’s time to take a bow like all your other selves…” but he will no doubt return at an as-yet to be confirmed date either later this year or early in 2019. In the meantime, our next few monthly adventures will see the welcome return of the Sixth Doctor for three seemingly unconnected adventures, beginning in May with the arrival of a possible new companion in The Lure of the Nomad.





Serpent in the Silver Mask (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 28 April 2018 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen

Serpent In The Silver Mask (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: David Llewellyn
Director:Barnaby Edwards

 Featuring: Peter DavisonMatthew Waterhouse:
 Sarah SuttonJanet FieldingSamuel West:
 Phil CornwellSophie Winkleman:

Big Finish Productions - First Released March 2018
Running Time: 2 Hours Approx
Available on General Release from 30th April 2018

 

The latest trilogy of adventures for the Season 19 TARDIS crew concludes with a whodunnit from David Llewellyn which brings the four travellers to space tax haven called Argentia. The story borrows its main gimmick from the 1949 classic comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets with the excellent Samuel West playing a number of members of the Mazzini Family, one of whom appears to be prepared to kill to obtain a significant inheritance. Unlike its Ealing Comedy predecessor, Serpent in the Silver Mask keeps the identity of the murderer behind the silver mask a secret until the play’s closing act. This gives the story much more the feeling of an Agatha Christie style mystery as the number of victims grow and the pool of suspects dwindles.

Peter Davison’s Doctor fits naturally into the role of detective, even to the point where he delights in keeping everyone in the dark until the killer’s identity is finally revealed. As ever they are ably assisted by Matthew Waterhouse's Adric and Sarah Sutton's Nyssa. Janet Fielding as Tegan has an enjoyable arc through this story as she develops a friendship with Joe Mazzini. Samuel West clearly has a ball playing the various Mazzini family members, with his flirting with the Doctor being a particular highlight. The cast are also ably supported by Sophie Winkleman as Sofia alongside Phil Cornwell as Superintendent Galgo and the robot Zaleb 5.

Unlike the average whodunnit the conclusion has an enjoyable twist. As ever there is excellent music and sound design, this time from Andy Hardwick.

After a couple of rather standard entries, this is a definite return to form for the main range. However, from the next release onwards, it seems Big Finish are about to mix things up a bit and move away from trilogies of consecutive releases featuring the same TARDIS teams which has been a regular pattern for the last ten years or so. After nearly twenty years it will good to see some new ideas coming into the main range which has been in danger of growing predictable. To start this off, the Fifth Doctor returns for a fourth consecutive release, but this time without any of his regular companions in The Helliax Rift.





Ghost Walk (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 24 April 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Ghost Walk (Credit: Big Finish)
 

Written By: James Goss
Directed By: Barnaby Edwards

Cast

Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Fenella Woolgar (Leanne), Sacha Dhawan (Matthew), Stephen Greif (Sabaoth), Carolyn Seymour (Mrs Stubbs), Philip Childs (Giles), John Banks (Louie), Rebecca Tromans (Nancy). Other parts played by members of the cast.

 

Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Guy Adams
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

This is an interesting new Fifth Doctor audio from Big Finish, which bounces around time and features a ghostly entity as the main antagonist.  The story is fun to piece together, as you have to wait for certain pieces before the whole picture becomes clear, but it is fairly satisfying when it all comes together in the end.  

The Doctor, along with Nyssa, Tegan and Adric land in some catacombs, but there they discover there is an entity that feeds off of their energy, and there is no real escape from the tunnels.  So the Doctor attempts to send his companions forward in time, in the hopes that they will remain safe while he concocts a plan to save himself.  While Adric and Nyssa end up in separate eras in which they are faced with the possibility of death...Tegan tries to stay behind with the Doctor. We end up following four stories in four different eras.  

So you've got the Doctor and Tegan trying to figure out a plan to defeat the entity in the catacombs, Nyssa having to prove she is not a witch to some villagers, Adric facing a hanging for stealing some bread, and in a more modern era, you have the Guide of a Ghost tour who is hearing a voice in her head...the apparent ghost of the Doctor talking to her.  

For all these different elements and different eras, as well as storylines that leave you hanging for whole episodes before being resolved, you'd think this story could be a lot messier and less entertaining...but it is a really tight script from James Goss, and Barnaby Edwards direction is really great. It has a good spooky atmosphere, good performances from the whole cast (even our main cast actually sounds closer to their 80s voices than they did in their last entry), a really unique story, even the music sounds like the 80s scores...it is just a lot of fun. Definitely recommended.