The Wreck of the World (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 4 January 2018 - Reviewed by Peter Nolan
The Wreck Of The World (Credit: Big Finish)
Written By: Timothy X Atack
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman
Cast
Wendy Padbury (Zoe Heriot/Narrator), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon/The Doctor), Judith Roddy (Commander Lorne), Adam Newington (Twenty), Don McCorkindale (Porthintus), Richenda Carey (Professor Blavatsky).
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Originally Released December 2017

The Wreck of the World is a rare case of a Doctor Who episode title both poetic and literal. "The World" is the name of a long lost colony ship, a huge vessel sent out from a dying Earth like a message in a bottle. But its wreck has now been found, it’s crumbling metal bones creaking and shifting in protest as human feet step upon it for the first time in thousands of years. And naturally, one of the first things encountered by the expedition blunt and pragmatic Commander Lorne leads to the World is a funny little crumpled man, a Scotsman and a petite genius in a silvery catsuit.

The mutual suspicions that are the bread and butter of many Part Ones are present and correct here, but done with unusual charm. In particular, the expedition’s resident muscle, Porthintus, is a fun mish-mash of a Kroton, a Klingon, and the archetypical dictionary-swallowing NCO. The double act that emerges between him and Jamie lends an extra spark to the two groups teaming up, as they alternate between trying to beat the hell out of each other (Porthintus doing a little less ‘trying’ and a little more ‘beating’) and a jovial bond between soldiers. In parallel, Zoe teams up with her own opposite number, Twenty, though this is a bit less successful as it hinges on them both being ‘processed’ humans with artificially expanded intelligences and limited emotional range – something perhaps briefly mentioned about Zoe on TV but is depicted here into as essential an element of her character as being Vulcan is to Star Trek’s Spock.

Needless to say, there’s more to worry about than whether Lorne and company are pirates or genuine in their desire to rescue the artefacts of thousands of years of ancient Earth, from ancient Babylonian stones to early 20th century steam trains, and bring them to museums. Soon enough there’s an army of zombies to contend with, as the mysteriously undead occupants of the long broken down cryogenic chambers emerge by the hundred and swarm to overcome our heroes. A keen sense of menace and claustrophobia hangs over the whole story, and scenes of Porthintus, Jamie and Zoe making desperate scrambles through pipes while the former colonists close in, or of games of hide and seek (or hunt the needle) among the shadows and relics of the museum decks evoke the likes of Aliens and Pandorum.

Although, like other Early Adventures, we get narration it’s probably the least unintrusive yet, simply fading into the background for the most part. It takes a little while for Wendy Padbury to warm up to sounding like her four decades younger self, but by the second episode it’s hard to notice any difference and if Zoe seems a little sterner and more remote that’s largely down to a script that emphasizes that aspect of her character above all else. Frazer Hines’ hit-and-miss Second Doctor is sadly back to mostly missing the mark, though that’s largely down to a script that maintains such a high pace throughout that his Doctor doesn’t get as much room for the wit or character moments that Hines excels at.  In compensation, it’s a very good story for Jamie, who really shines here, both in the script and in Hines' good humoured performance. Plus, it has a sweet and melancholic maintenance droid that, with shades of D84 in The Robots of Death, will leave you a bit sad when she doesn’t hop aboard the TARDIS at the end.

All in all, The Wreck of the World is a fine, tense, survival thriller which excels in the sense of atmosphere it creates about the dying World. If some of the cast feel like an alternate take on well established characters, exploring roads largely untaken on screen, then it only distracts a little from an exciting entry in the Early Adventures series which matches the basics of the typical Troughton tale with the scares of a more modern horror film.

 





The Early Adventures: The Morton LegacyBookmark and Share

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

Written By: Justin Richards
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

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

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

Released: November 2017

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

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

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

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

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

 



Associated Products

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



Short Trips Series 7 - Episode 8 - The British InvasionBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 6 September 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The British Invasion (Credit: Big Finish)

Producer Ian Atkins, Script Editor Ian Atkins,
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Ian Potter, Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Wendy Padbury (Narrator)

The TARDIS lands on the London  South Bank in 1951, where the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe marvel at a huge futuristic looking metal dome. They have arrived at the Festival of Britain, which was a country wide event that looked forward to a prosperous nation after the darkness of the 2nd World War. Next to the dome is a futuristic looking satellite dish perched upon an old shot tower, something which the second Doctor simply can't resist a peek at.

 

The British Invasion is a finely crafted entry into the Short Trips series that perfectly encapsulates the TroughtonTroughton era. The story is written by regular Big Finish contributor Ian Potter,and narrated by Zoe herself - Wendy Padbury, whose impersonations of the 2nd Doctor and Jamie really are top notch.

 

The story centres around the Festival of Britain, which was a showcase for a healthy future for the UK, however one of the items on show, a system that lets you bounce a signal off of the moon and back isn't working quite as it should be, something that our intrepid trio are determined to put right. Included in the narrative are references to the sonic screwdriver, and a rather belligerent TARDIS, that seems to be putting obstacles in the way of the Doctor in order to thwart his good intentioned efforts. There is also the surprise appearance of a classic Doctor Who foe that expands somewhat on their original television appearance.

 

The British Invasion is a true gem of a story and should be experienced by all of the Troughton fans out there.The story is available to download from Big Finish.

 

 






The Third Doctor - #4 - The Heralds Of Destruction Part FourBookmark and Share

Saturday, 8 April 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
DOCTOR WHO THIRD DOCTOR #4 Cover_A (Credit: Titan)
Writer - Paul Cornell

Artist - Christopher Jones

Colorist - Hi-Fi

Letters  - Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

(Alistair Lethbridge Stewart - Created By Mervyn Haisman +
Henry Lincoln, appearing courtesy of Candy Jar Books --with thanks to Hannah Haisman, Henry Lincoln, + Andy Frankham-Allen)
 
Editor - John Freeman

Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton + Amoona Saohin

Senior Designer - Andrew Leung

RELEASED 11th January 2017

The micromachines threat becomes secondary to the machinations of a man, who wants to seize mastery over not only Earth itself, but time and space as well. He has been putting together a scheme, using the expertise of some true brain-boxes from Electronicon Ltd. The Doctor, Jo and UNIT must find a way to prevent this potential danger from becoming an all too present reality. And the untrustworthy renegade Time Lord, who prefers to be known as the 'Master', will have to be part of this effort to combat a foe, who the Doctor thought was defeated for all of eternity..


After some very enjoyable earlier instalments, this fourth chapter in this limited run of stories that revisit the magnetic Third Doctor really ups both the stakes and the overall quality to a new level. Writer Paul Cornell ushers in a lot more supporting characters, and such is his consummate skill, that readers are highly likely to be invested in the fates off both major and minor players in the story. It also is engaging to finally realise that whilst the Master is always a threat, there is another recurring character who is the actual villain of the piece. Such is his lust for power, that he not only is causing circumstances that threaten the Earth's safety, but his very own well-being is tenuous as well.

Just who this antagonist is, was revealed in Issue 3's cliff hanger, and whilst I will adopt some secrecy with this review, I can at least say that Barry Letts' extensive involvement both as a producer and director is probably the reason this memorable resident in the Who hall of infamy was brought back. The art and colours - from Christopher Jones and Hi-Fi - seem to have picked up in quality thanks to the relentless pace, invention and wit of the story. The impression on the reader also continues to be remarkable, almost as if an actual time tunnel to the early colour TV era is generated.

The Master continues to be one of the sure-fire highlights of this comic book, and this should be expected, given how much he made the Pertwee era a success. Tragically, this original version left viewers too early, when actor Roger Delgago perished in a car accident, during filming of a movie abroad. Cornell made the right decision to include him here, especially as Season 10 had the lowest amount of material for the Master, out of the middle three seasons of the Third Doctor era.

Also welcome in terms of adding to the limits of just five actual stories per season (albeit with much greater screen time than the typical TV outings of today), is the insight into Mike Yates' disillusionment with UNIT, and furthermore the wider society that he is sworn to serve and protect. Mike had a three story arc beginning with the sublime The Green Death, but this new story helps make his undercover work and subjugation to BOSS' mind control that much more significant, as the Master helps to sow some seeds of doubt and rebellion into his impressionable mind.

The final panels are some of the most electric, and present another gripping hook into the ensuing issue. The location and time period thus far has been fairly static - despite the Doctor's ability to again travel freely in his TARDIS - but now another cause for adventures in the fourth dimension dramatically reveals itself.

The net result - Issue Five is set up as even more of a must-read than its forebears...

 


BONUS:

Seemingly like clockwork (as of recent times), this edition provides both variant covers for the present issue, as well as smaller variants for the impending concluding issue of the miniseries.

Monochrome examples of Jones' ink process feature, one displaying a terrifying journey through the space/time vortex, and the other featuring the much-loved UNIT 'family' - alongside the micro machines.





The Third Doctor - #3 - The Heralds Of Destruction Part ThreeBookmark and Share

Saturday, 11 March 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
THIRD DOCTOR #3 (Credit: Titan)
Writer - Paul Cornell
Artist - Christopher Jones
Colorist - Hi-Fi

Letters  - Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

(Alastair Lethbidge Stewart -Created By Mervyn Haisman +
Henry Lincoln,appearing courtesy of Candy Jar Books --
with thanks to Hannah Haisman,
Henry Lincoln,and Andy Frankham-Allen) 

Editor - John Freeman
Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton + Amoona Saohin
Senior Designer - Andrew Leung

Published November 30th 2016, TITAN COMICS

Jo Grant’s mind is a fascinating place. But the Third Doctor needs to work hard to achieve some kind of progress in the fight against the metallic aliens that are threatening both Great Britain, and planet Earth itself. If he fails, he and his best friend remain trapped on the metaphysical plane of existence for all of eternity. Meanwhile the Master remains free, and a mystery emerges over just what the Second Doctor's plan involves.


This middle issue of the miniseries effectively acts as wrapping up what seemed to be the main story, and proceeding to establish what the true narrative actually is. It perhaps lacks the overt excitement and startling visual work of issues one and two, but the closing revelation – featuring the return of a long-forgotten foe - more than makes up for it.

The Third Doctor makes a partial breakthrough in managing to convince a faction of the Micro Machines to be on his side. This action that relied on tact and emotional smarts helps the UNIT forces that had been scratching their heads as they faced a standoff with these metallic creatures over in Fairford. The actual story behind what the Second Doctor is doing on Earth during the Third Doctor/UNIT years is revealed to a small extent, but with two further instalments to go, readers are left kept waiting for full answers.

Once again the original Master, complete with beard and a mixture of dark and greying hair, manages to be the most arrestingly compelling character. He this time manages to impersonate the Brigadier, but the manner in which this is kept a surprise is somewhat more subtle than some other such attempts. Also, the writer has done some fine work in this ongoing story to suggest just how versatile this most dangerous of renegade Time Lords can be, when it comes to creating gadgets and managing to infiltrate supposedly top-secret organisations

Humour continues to be very good here too. Cornell has proven time again with his TV scripts, novels and comic book stories how he can find the appropriate tone to make a story and its characters’ actions properly flow. I liked the way Jo triumphantly displayed a tome entitled ‘Everything I’ve Learned in the last Three Years’, which is a knowing acknowledgement of her good character development under the control of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks. It also manages to poke a little fun at the UNIT dating confusion that close followers of the show sometimes find so controversial.

There also is a well-done fight between the Master and his ‘most worthy of opponents’, as they trade off barbed witticisms and talk of the virtues of their respective “Martian Kendo” and “Mercurian Kung Fu” martial art skills. This manages to show that the Third Doctor’s love of “Venusian Aikido” has served him well in certain situations, but as a man of action he sometimes needs to up the ante.

On a slightly more negative note, the art is just a touch less effective this time round. A good portion of the action is set indoors, and without the use of some creative backgrounds or alternate perspective, this leads to a few too many panels looking a little stilted. Even the sections in Jo’s mind are a little too low-key after being so striking in the previous issue, but a couple of passage at least show good use of the crystalline cave, where the Doctor negotiates with the Micro Machines' ‘hive mind’. I also cannot fathom why Mike has been made to look the way he does; being more evocative of the one-off UNIT captains that featured, until he made his debut at the start of Season 8.

However this does not seriously prevent the story from working its charms, and the Third Doctor continues to be as authoritative and engaging as Jon Pertwee so consistently portrayed him on-screen. The twist that so stunningly closes the issues also manages to make sense, in terms of linking with the clues that had been carefully placed thus far. The final two ‘episodes’ look to be upping the pace, and the stakes, in truly epic fashion..


 

BONUS:


Variant covers are featured for this issue, as well as previews of Issue Four's cover and its variants. There are 'behind-the-scenes' examples of Jones' pencil and ink work for two different pages of the story.





The Third Doctor - #2 - The Heralds Of Destruction Part TwoBookmark and Share

Sunday, 1 January 2017 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Doctor Who: Third Doctor #2 (Credit: Titan)
Writer - Paul Cornell
Artist - Christopher Jones
Colorist - Hi-Fi

Letters  - Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

(Alastair Lethbidge Stewart -
Created By Mervyn Haisman + Henry Lincoln,
appearing courtesy of Candy Jar Books --
with thanks to Hannah Haisman, Henry Lincoln,
and Andy Frankham-Allen)

 Editor - John Freeman

Assistant Editors - Jessica Burton + Amoona Saohin

Senior Designer - Andrew Leung

Published October 12th 2016, TITAN COMICS

The Third Doctor and Jo return to the lab in UNIT HQ, where the TARDIS Is housed, and discover an unexpected visitor - none other than the Doctor's last incarnation, complete with a dark mop of hair and chequered trousers. Jo is delighted to see the other Doctor who was so kind to her during their ordeal in Omega's universe. The 'of-his-time' Doctor, however, was hoping such an exceptional event, and one needing him to cross his own time stream, would indeed remain rare. But the Second Doctor, in typically buoyant mood, assures his friends that he was again sent by the Time Lords, and in this case to help with the robotic entities threatening Earth.

Some of UNIT's forces are holding the invaders at bay with a makeshift, passable force field. Suddenly the Brigadier, overseeing the defences, is visited by a 'General Mayhew' who is coming across just a little more familiar than he should. Lethbridge-Stewart quickly unmasks the visitor, as none other than the Master. But is the evil renegade Time Lord to blame for the events that are occurring?

As the two Doctors try to solve the mystery of the 'micro machines', Miss Grant is suddenly attacked by the specimen that was retrieved. This forces the incumbent Doctor into having to perform a Gallifreyan mind meld and visit the inner psyche of Jo to both save her, and perhaps find a solution to the crisis at hand...


Paul Cornell continues to tell a story that is fun, amusing, and not entirely predictable, and yet there is homage aplenty to the much-loved Jon Pertwee era of the 'Classic' TV show.

The interplay of the Pertwee/ Troughton Doctors is hard to get wrong by even the weakest writer. In the hands of Cornell, this is thus a big plus point in a comic book teeming with positive attributes.

Of particular interest, is the way that these two regenerations of the title hero show their concern and affection for Jo Grant, in markedly different fashions. The Third Doctor is the protective patriarch, whilst his predecessor is the genial, funny uncle. Also well done is the Second Doctor's keenness to one day change his appearance, and be acquainted with Jo properly. This is a nice echo of a scene towards the end of The Three Doctors, where the 'present'  Doctor acknowledges how he used to be rather "sweet".

The actual main threat of the 'Heralds' does slow to a crawl, after the perils of Issue One. However, given there are three more instalments in the mini-series to follow, this is more than acceptable.

Art from Christopher Jones remains at a high level, and is both authentic in evoking the many stories of the Third Doctor and UNIT, but also having its own confident style. I enjoyed the way the Master's disguise was all too obvious on several occasions. This surely is a knowing homage to when either the Master removed the mock-up 'face' of someone he was impersonating, or (more memorably) when a character he was able to hypnotise had the false face of the bearded renegade Time Lord.

And Cornell is clever enough to have this apparent joke turned on its head, in an action scene which really needs to be read/seen to be appreciated properly, and which is my personal highlight of a sterling second instalment in the mini series.

The main characters of the (early 1970s) TV shows really feel just as we knew and loved them. Any newcomers will want to see some of the Pertwee stories based on the vitality of the players in this story. And the art stands on its own feet such that many readers will want to come back to look at the comic, just for its visual dimensions. Hi-Fi has made many of these Titan comics breathe full life, but deserves particular praise for the final product of this mini-series.


BONUS FEATURES:

Two separate pages at the latter end of the comic book show Jones' pencils at an earlier stage before the colour process took hold. One is devoted to the Master and the Brigadier, and the other for the Two Doctors and Jo.                                                                                                                    

There are also main/alternate cover variants for both the current issue, and the upcoming one as well. Issue Two also has full page cover variants separately.