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.  





Doctor Who: Tom Baker Complete Season One (Blu-Ray)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 14 July 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doctor Who Season 12 (Credit: BBC Worldwide)



Tom Baker - Complete Season One (Season 12)

Starring Tom Baker as Doctor Who
With Elizabeth Sladen, Ian Marter, and Nicholas Courtney

Written by Terrance Dicks, Robert Holmes, Bob Baker and Dave Martin, Terry Nation, & Gerry Davis

Directed by Christopher Barry, Rodney Bennett, David Maloney, & Michael E. Briant

Released by BBC Worldwide in July 2018
Available from Amazon UK

REVIEWERS NOTE:  This Review is based on the Region A (North America) Release of the Set.  I can find no real difference in the content of the set other than some packaging and label changes.

 

BBC Worldwide spent over a decade restoring every available Doctor Who episode, releasing them individually on DVD in the best possible quality, with each release packed with special features, and all lovingly remastered.  For some collectors, like myself, diving into my love for the series a bit late...collecting the classic stuff was daunting, pricey, and difficult to even find room for.  I only purchased a few classic DVDs, and watched most of the serials via my very excellent local library, which pretty much had everything. Now, the BBC has finally decided to begin releasing these stories on Blu-ray, and this time they are releasing a full season boxset!

Despite being a show that was shot on SD Analog Videotape in the 1970s, the picture looks remarkably sharp.  The source may be vastly inferior to anything you'd see today, but the details are pretty clear.  The classic Tom Baker opening looks particularly sharp.  Compared to the DVDs, the uptick is minor, but I did feel there was a tad less digital compression than what I had seen of the DVDs.  But the years of detailed restoration has paid off for this release, as stories look clear and look better than they probably evedid on TV or any other home media.  

As for Special features, it is packed.  The Doctor Who Restoration Team spent over a decade compiling special features for each individual story, making sure that even though you were only buying a DVD for a single multi-episode story, that you were going to be buying nothing bare bones.  And that pays off again here...every special feature made for all the individual story has been ported over to this release. The new features exclusive to this set include some Making Of Documentaries for stories that didn't really have them in their original DVD release, a rather mundane "Behind the Sofa" thing in which Classic Who actors watch clips of the old shows, and some other odds and ends.

If you bought the DVDs, I can't say that there is a pressing need to upgrade. The uptick in picture quality is noticiable, but minimal.  You already have most of the features (they have added a few new things, but on the whole you still have packed features on the DVDs), you have all the stories and commentaries. This may be the definitive version of all these great stories from a high quality year of the Classic show, but I don't blame those who already collected the DVDs from being hesitant to double dip for this.  What more you get isn't so great that it warrants replacing everything. 

But if you, like me, never got around to collecting all the old DVDs, or if you would love to unload the bulk of DVDs for the shelfspace saver that is this set (and likely the sets too follow)...then you won't be disappointed in the quality the BBC has put into it.  The source will never look as clean and clear as the latest series, but it is surprisingly good in this set!  





Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen (BBC Audio)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 24 June 2018 - Reviewed by Peter Nolan
Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen
Written by: James Goss
Based on a Story by: Douglas Adams
Read by: Dan Starkey
Runtime: 9hrs 44mins
Originally Released January 2018
Avilable from Amazon UK
Like the preceding Douglas Adams adaptations, Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen presents an unusual challenge for a reviewer. There are really three different bases on which it needs to be judged – Adams’ original story, the success of the adaptor in capturing that while perhaps finessing the rough, unfinished edges, and whether the final result is actually any good. In the audiobook version, a fourth element is thrown on top of even that.

In terms of Adams’ canon, there’s an inescapable sense of desperately sieving the dirt and rocks at the bottom of the well for any last drops of murky fluid that can reasonably be called ‘water’.

Shada was an epic hole in Doctor Who’s history filled with Gareth Roberts’ meticulous research and skilfully Adamsesque writing. It allowed us a best guess of what Adams might have done with all the time in the world. And The Pirate Planet was one of the last remaining un-novelized 20th century Doctor Who stories. Both were a bit of a holy grail. They offered up the chance to explore all the gags and insights Adams had scribbled into the margins in his typical ‘up to the last minute’ style. The Krikktmen was a story loosely sketched out, then rejected, then worked on some more, and then rejected again.

Its pedigree as a story deemed not worth making first or even second times around immediately makes it that little bit less of a glittering prize. Even in terms of Krikkitmen’s original afterlife as Life, the Universe and Everything (aka most people’s least favourite Hitchhiker’s novel), makes for a less auspicious start. The existence of Life, the Universe and Everything creates a unique problem for Goss in his adaptation too. Shada was a script brimming full of ideas and characters, and Adams cherry picked a couple for recycling in the otherwise original Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. But Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen and the third Hitchhiker’s novel as essentially the same plot, with the same villains, and most of the same gags, only with different characters as our heroes. It makes it less of an exercise is trying to spot the bits Adams would later recycle and more trying to spot the bits he didn’t.

 

Prior to this adaptor James Goss has shown himself one of the most talented and prolific authors of Doctor Who books and audios, with a keen ear for the style and tone of any piece. Here he tries to address the unique nature of the project by adding on a couple of extra layers to the plot, but not wholly successfully. Adams’ concept was always a villainous, universe shuddering plan that didn’t make any sense. There’s a villainous xenophobic race whose motivation and end goal don’t really make any sense, exposed as a front for motivations and goals that make less sense. In Goss’ version, then exposed as yet another front for even more nonsensical motivations and goals.And as for their methods -- the whole scheme is a basically a two million year plot to press a button, where simply walking up to it and pressing it in the first place would have done as well.

As part of the rearrangement of the furniture there are journeys to more planets than I recall in the original, and new elements of Adamseque parody and these sometimes fall flat or are tonally misplaced. The elongated quest takes the Doctor, Romana and K9, for instance, to a planet where people are addicted to being terminally offended by everything. They complain about rescue ships being agents of ‘the patriarchy’ and the Doctor winds up vilified for telling a woman she’d be prettier if she smiled more. It's an attempt at the type of skewering of social orthodoxy Adams did so well, but lands well wide of the target.

Possibly the greatest misstep is making this an adventure for the Fourth Doctor, Roman and K9 at all, rather than the originally intended Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane. It immediately makes it a less interesting proposition and increases the sense of being the poor relation to the other Adams adaptations. The notion of what an ‘Adamsesque’ Doctor/Romana/K9 adventure looks like has been codified and established across dozens of TV episodes, novels and audios and the writer and the team seem to go together perfectly. But that just makes it seem all the more exciting to explore the road not taken. How would Adams have written Sarah Jane’s character? What roads would the humour have gone down? It’s a shame to miss the chance to find out.

 

But how does this fare as an audiobook? Narration duties are taken on by Dan Starkey – most famous to TV viewers as Strax and several other Sontaran characters since 2008. There are no Sontarans on offer here, but he still marshals all the forces at his command in an effort that could only be called heroic. Adams’ prose has always featured an odd contradiction whereby it reads like it was designed to be spoken aloud, but when spoken aloud it sounds like it really needs to be seen written down. Goss’ text magnifies that effect even more. Starkey navigates the river of footnotes, parentheses, diversions, and sudden intrusions from text books with the skill of a white-water kayaker throwing himself off 150ft falls for fun.

He also deserves nothing short of a standing ovation for taking a book with literally dozens of characters and making them all distinct, recognizable, and memorable. Many of them appear for only a scene or two or – worse from the narrator and listener’s point of view – are introduced in one scene and then pop up again four or five hours later in the listening experience but must be immediately recognized and remembered.  At points he seems to be channelling the entire League of Gentlemen through one set of vocal cords. There are moments you could swear you listening to Reese Shearsmith’s angry old lady arguing with Mark Gatiss’ uncertainly plodding autocrat.  Other bits of Starkey’s mental casting are inspired, liked Hactar the evil (in principle) supercomputer sounding like nothing so much as a somewhat bored Welsh shopkeeper.

His Tom Baker is remarkable but takes a little getting used to. In essence, Starkey perfectly captures Baker’s louche, slightly ironic mode of delivery and tone of voice and then sticks with it. If his Fourth Doctor has a flaw is it that it doesn’t swoop around the full range of emotion and unpredictable acting choices Baker revelled in. But if this Doctor sails through the tale being ironically amused at everything, it’s no terrible thing. And with Baker’s voice being so rich and distinctive, being able to replicate it so well in any of its modes is worthy of great praise.

 

Overall then, Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen is worth checking out more as a historical footnote than as an original work. Strangely enough, more so to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fans than to Doctor Who fans. But it is worth checking out, especially in audio form, if only for Dan Starkey’s contribution.

 





The Fourth Doctor Adventures Series 7, Volume 2Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 29 May 2018 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Fourth Doctor Adventures Series 7, Volume 2 (Credit: Big Finish)Writer: Guy AdamsDan StarkeyJustin Richards
Director: Ken BentleyNicholas Briggs
Featuring: Tom BakerLouise JamesonGabriel Woolf
Released on:  May 2018
[Big Finish Release]

Running Time: 240 minutes

THE SHADOW OF LONDON by Justin Richards

"Good grief - it looks as if we are too late..."

 

The TARDIS materialises in the backstreets of London in the 1940s. Whilst K9 entertains himself in the time ship's library, the Doctor takes Leela for a walk in the streets.

But England’s capital is oddly quiet. There are no cars and very few pedestrians... whilst those people they do meet appear really quite English indeed. And all the while they are monitored by cameras feeding images into a secret control room.

Something strange is happening in the city. Traitors are running wild... and nothing and no-one are quite as they seem.

Whilst listening to The Shadow of London, with the Doctor and Lela wandering around the uncannily quiet streets of London, I was reminded on The Android Invasion. In fact, that very story is fleetingly referenced by the Doctor himself, so it wasn’t just me that noticed the parallels.

This episode has plenty of twists and turns, so I don’t want to reveal too much. I will though say that the monster in this is fantastic. A slobbering, growling, roaring beast that is absolutely perfect for this era of the show. The thought of it stalking you through the empty streets of London is rather unsettling. Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are on absolute top form. Darren Boyd makes for a deliciously duplicitous villain (or is he?). The story, by Justin Reynolds, could have easily been crafted by the great Terrance Dicks.

The Shadow of London is a great opener to this second part of Tom Baker's Series Seven with Big Finish.

.


THE BAD PENNY by Dan Starkey

 

"Goodbye Edwin...Goodbye!!!"

 

In the 1970s, hotelier Ron Tulip is having a difficult time. Many of his customers seem to be absconding without payment. The few who remain complain of strange noises and terrible sleep. And to top it all he’s just been summoned to the VIP suite... which is something of a problem as he didn’t even realise the hotel had one.

When turbulence in time takes the TARDIS off course, the Doctor and Leela find themselves visiting the same establishment and in the middle of a temporal paradox and a terrible plan.

Because that’s the thing about the Cross-Keys hotel.

You can check in... but you can never leave.

As with the previous story, The Bad Penny would not only fit perfectly into season fifteen of the classic show, but it also has a rather repulsive and brilliantly imagined monster - a time feasting parasite, which has created a tear in time that stretches across two hundred years. 

Dan Starkey (who needs no introduction), is on writing duties (and acting duties), and weaves a wonderfully taut story, that could so easily have folded in on itself under the complications of the paradoxes that it creates. The mental image that he conjures of the aforementioned creature is fantastic, all teeth and tentacles, it is something that the budget of the time could never have imagined, but thanks to some fantastic writing, in my mind's eye, it was terrifying.

The cast are all top notch, with the late Keith Barron being the standout as Lord Tulip, a delicious caricature of a working-class man who has been pushed over the edge by desperation.

The Bad Penny is a finely crafted time travel story, with a few lovely twists.

 


KILL THE DOCTOR! by Guy Adams

 

Umm...."Kill the Doctor!"

 

The TARDIS crew arrive on the planet Drummond, an Earth colony in the far future where everybody uses handheld computers from morning to night. Rania Chuma is the mastermind behind Rene.net, the data-stream network that tells you everything you need to know. Anyone who’s anyone uses Rene.net.

But ever since Rania was young she’s heard a voice in her head. That voice is the key to Rene.net’s success. And it’s a voice the Doctor might find familiar.

Whilst Leela chases a thief, the Doctor looks into the planet’s data-stream and something evil looks back. A subliminal command flashes through Rene.net to Drummond’s entire population: ‘Kill the Doctor’. When the entire planet is against you, where can you possibly hide?

Kill The Doctor follows the familiar pattern of being the first two parts of a four-part story. So when the Doctor and Leela land on Drummond and find that the fashion of choice is Egyptian chic, it doesn’t come as any surprise, as we know that Sutekh himself will be soon making an appearance.

The story’s driving force is Rene.net, - a powerful wireless network that will let Sutekh to convince the population of Drummond to turn on the Doctor. The actual concept of Drummond itself, is quite a modern one, with the population having to rely heavily on handheld phones that are powered by Rene.net. The whole population wandering the streets with their heads down, staring at their phone screen is, of course, a worryingly familiar image.

Sutekh makes his appearance through Rania - The Girl In The Fireplce's Sophia Myles - who plays the tortured soul very well.

The Doctor and Leela are split up quite early in the story. Leela is paired with Kendra, a girl who lives hand to mouth, the Doctor is sidetracked, having to find a new scanner for the TARDIS.

Sadly though Kill The Doctor is more filler than thriller, a taste of what Sutekh can do before the main event that follows. 

 


 

THE AGE OF SUTEKH by Guy Adams

 

"Of course I have a plan.....it involves a screwdriver.....and a LOT of running."

 

The world has changed. And the evil Osiran Sutekh is returning.

As blood sacrifices and worship boost the strength of the God of War, servicer robots walk the streets, killing those who have not converted.

Leela is working with the homeless population of the city, while the Doctor co-operates with the police.

A brutal battle is ready to begin. And if the Doctor and his friends fail, everyone in the galaxy will perish.

And here we have it. A proper, classic villain taking centre stage in a rematch with the fourth Doctor. Gabriel Woolf is back as the ancient Osiran. who is at first weak, but still very dangerous. Thanks to Rene.net he quickly changes Drummond into the image of Osiris, also transforming the local security team into Osiran Server Robots, who are, of course, disguised as mummies.

The story quickly ratchets up the tension from the opening two episodes, with the Doctor being helped by PC Joyce, who is a wonderfully written character that provides a lot of much needed comic relief, John Dorney is obviously relishing this gift of a role.

The writer, Guy Adams has, with these last two episodes, crafted a fine followup to a much loved, classic story.

 


To sum up - Series Seven, Volume Two of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, carries on the excellent run of stories from the first volume and is well worth your time and money.

 





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.  




The Robots of Death (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 1 March 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doctor Who And The Robots Of Death (Credit: BBC Audio)
Written by Terrance Dicks
Read By Louise Jameson

Released by BBC Worldwide - February 2018
Available from Amazon UK

Louise Jameson, who portrayed Leela alongside the Fourth Doctor in the 70s, reads Terrence Dicks' Target Novelization of one of her earliest episodes, and it's another solid unabridged audiobook of this classic line of novels.  As I stated in my review of The Ambassadors of Death, my familiarty with the Target line is somewhat limited.  I only really knew that they existed and that in the years prior to home video, a lot of fans were more familiar with the books than they were the original TV episodes. But from what I've gathered just listening to these two audiobooks, this really was a wonderful line of books, faithfully adapting their TV counterparts, while still feeling fresh. I've seen The Robots of Death a couple of times, I know the story, and yet this audiobook still felt fresh.  There are scenes I remember quite clearly, like the early TARDIS scene with the yo-yo and the Doctor giving his enigmatic explanation of how the TARDIS can be bigger on the inside...but Jameson's reading of it felt like I was getting it new again.

One thing I am enjoying is that these audiobooks, while unabridged, aren't terribly long.  This one was only about three hours or so long.  I listened to it in an afternoon while cleaning up around the house. A real long novel unabridge on audio can be up to 11 hours long, but these little adaptations of the show weren't terribly long books, but they weren't dumbed down either. Dicks does a great job taking the televised version, and turning it into a book that is both short and sweet, yet not compromising what the television version was all about. 

Jameson does a solid job reading this as well, and the occassional bit of music or sound effects help make the action soar. I don't know if I'd ever have time to sit and actually read every Target Novelization, but getting to sample them via the audiobook is not a bad route to take.  If you are curious about these old books, find a story you like that has been released in this format by BBC Worldwide so far, and give them a listen.  This was always a good story, and at three hours your time commitment is minimal.