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. 





Power of the Daleks - Episode One - AnimatedBookmark and Share

Saturday, 5 November 2016 - Reviewed by Marcus
Credit: BBC Worldwide

Episode One of Power of the Daleks is arguably the most important episode in the entire history of Doctor Who. So much was riding on the success of the story. Doctor Who would only continue if it was proved possible to replace the leading actor. If the audience could accept such a change then its longevity was assured. Even if it came off air for while it could always return, refreshed and updated. If the experiment had failed, if only William Hartnell was accepted playing the Doctor, then the series would wither and die, and would now be an obscure relic of the past.

Given it is such an important episode it is one that been viewed by relatively few people. The entire story has been missing from the BBC archives since the mid-seventies , just a few clips and telesnaps remain.  Which make it such a joy that the story has now been animated, allowing a whole new audience to relive the excitement of the original broadcast.

The story is very well written, as would be expected given it was written by one of the creators or the original series, David Whitaker. He uses the change of the main character to push the story along, with Ben and Polly as confused as to who this strange man is as many of the audience would have been. The conflicting signals work well. The Hartnell reflection is contrasted with the ill-fitting ring. Is this man really the doctor? The recorder can get irritating through. 

The first thing the new Doctor witnesses, outside the TARDIS, is a murder, which gives the team a focus and serves to push forward the story, with The Doctor being mistaken for an Earth examiner.  By far the most anticipated part of the story was the reveal of the Daleks. The tension is ramped up and we get our first view of the metal monster, glinting in the darkness, draped in cobwebs.

Patrick Troughton nails the character of his Doctor from the start. His performance is superb and you certainly feel the mystery and the impishness of the character. This man may not be the character we are used to, but he certainly leads the action, keeping everyone guessing as to his motives. Troughton was a superb character actor, at the top of his game, and it shows. 

He is well supported by the two companions, the first to witness a regeneration. Ben and Polly, played by Anneke Wills and Michael Craze are very underrated, by virtue of so much of their contribution to the series being lost. But they make a good team and you can sense the confusion of two young adults plucked from 1960's London and now witnessing their only friend changing before their eyes. 

The animators have done wonders bringing the story back to life. The project has been intense, with budgets tight and deadlines always looming, but Charles Norton and his team have achieved something special. Some characters are realized better than others. The older actors, with defined jawlines and rugged features, lend themselves to animation more than the younger members of the cast.  The Doctor is superb with the characterisation spot on. The planet Vulcan is eerie and mysterious with pools of mercury bubbling away.

Full marks too to  Mark Ayres for his heroic work restoring the soundtrack. It's difficult to believe the original source was a domestic tape recorder plonked in front of a domestic television. The dialogue is now crystal clear and Ayres has used the original music and sound effects tapes to create both a stereo and 5.1 mix. 

The announcement of a  colour version of the animated story is a surprising development, especially given Norton expressing his opinion that the story works best in Black and White. I suspect many fans will double dip and get both versions and if the colour version being more young fans to the delights of the Second Doctor, then it is a worthwhile investment. 

Overall the Power of the Daleks is a supurb story, and well worth adding to any Doctor Who Library. And who knows, if sales are healthy enough, this could just be the start.

 

 

 



Associated Products

DVD - Region 1
Released 31 Jan 2017
28% off
Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks



The Macra Terror (AudioBook)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 11 September 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Doctor Who: The Macra Terror (Credit: BBC Audio)
Written by Ian Stuart Black,
Read by Anneke Wills,

First published by Target Books in 1987,
Released by BBC Audio - 4 August 2016.
Running time: 3 hours,  5 mins

In the 24th Century, a human colony enjoy a truly enviable lifestyle in their domain, which in many ways resembles a holiday camp from yester-century. Conformity and contentment go hand in hand, as everyone serves the interests of a society that runs like clockwork and never shows anything other than a positive demeanour.

But one of their own, a bearded and fidgety man called Medok suddenly insinuates that foul creatures are taking over control. No-one wants to believe his rather alarmist claims though, at least that is until a crew of four strangers arrive out of the blue...

 

This story has grown steadily in my affections over the years as a fan of Doctor Who, and also someone interested in social science and philosophy in general. I first encountered it when it came out at the same time as The Evil Of The Daleks on dual audio cassette in 1992. 

As a child back then I would devoutly replay these releases on my portable Sony 'Walkman' when travelling somewhere new, yet I would only fully engage with David Whitaker's epic.

Macra was just a curiosity. Not even a solitary episode existed, and having the Sixth Doctor / Colin Baker as the narrator somehow felt more opaque than the definitive (especially back then) Fourth Doctor/ Tom Baker.

But over time I have realised how the Season Four finale does suffer slightly from its seven episodes, and multiple locations, even if it remains great escapism. Macra is however concise, ascends in its suspense and feeling of high stakes, and makes the most of its overall premise.

 

As of today, only The Power Of The Daleks stands head and shoulders higher over this tale, as the marquee story of a season of Doctor Who, that said 'goodbye' to one talented actor in the lead, and 'hello' to an arguably more skilful thespian. Of course now we have the news that the debut Troughton story will make a comeback of sorts in the coming months, in the form of an exciting and newly envisioned animation.

For a great story to exist in the first place, it invariably needs a very strong and confident writer. Ian Stuart Black is one of the perhaps more under-rated scribes in Who lore and should be thanked for giving the show a vital shot in the arm when it began to falter in the latter half of Season Three. Today, we only have The War Machines (essentially intact), whilst Black's other two efforts - The Savages, and this story - are lost almost entirely. All three do however deserve to be remembered fondly.

I do think Macra is the cleverest and boldest of Black's three televisual serials. The novelization here accomplishes admirably efficient world building whilst maintaining the pace of the 'snappy' four parter structure.

 

The story has much to make the readership ponder themes and philosophy. One of the more overt is the need to be sceptical and questioning over what a person is told, and how they should invariably conform. If there is not enough of this independent thought, then the individual is in danger of losing their array of senses, and to be effectively brainwashed. Each chapter has something to say about the subliminal techniques used by the story's antagonists to wield power, and this manipulation is effective primarily due to the victim' sense of being euphoric and having the perfect life.

By making Ben Jackson the most susceptible of the TARDIS crew, when normally he is the most argumentative and dominant in nature, the original TV story managed to take viewers at the time on a journey where they questioned if what they thought they knew about the show's heroes was perhaps more superficial than first thought.

There is also a very strong amount of in-depth exploration on the nature of what is acceptable in society, and what is 'eccentric' or 'insane'. The various references to insanity and to hospitalisation/medication that controls said malady are as relevant to today's social confines, where the idea of normal is so strongly prioritised, they were in the 'swinging' Sixties, when this story was conceived (and had its regrettably one-off UK transmission).

The fate of one of the key guest characters of the story is also altered. Whereas in the transmitted story this person seemed to meet an abrupt end, in this version the author was allowed to present an alternative fate, as he held the full reins as the writer of the novelization. Consequently this key player in proceedings is allowed a fully formed arc and a sense of vindication.

 

And as an audio book, this stands up rather well too. Anneke Wills does a very respectable job in showing her range of skills, as the sole member of a one person cast. Many guest actors in the original show were strong, not least Peter Jeffrey (as the 'Pilot'), who later went on to have an even better role as the more villainous Count Grendel in the Tom Baker Era. But Wills uses the rich text of the book to narrate events and characters vividly, and switches personas for the various members of the colony distinctly and with full attention to detail.

The only niggling issue I have is that whilst her Second Doctor portrayal has much of the core mercurial spirit of Patrick Troughton, the actual voice - in terms of pitch - is more akin to William Hartnell. But I must admit, this is one area that is rather easy to criticise, much like Maureen O'Brien could only gamely attempt to portray her Doctor in The Space Museum, released earlier this year. Sometimes the sheer star quality of the main man in this sci-fi/fantasy phenomenon can be a double edged sword...

 

Sound effects and musical cues are well up to the usual standard for these BBC Audio releases. Such is the strength of the core text, and the dedicated, whole-hearted presence of Anneke Wills, these supporting elements act as a nice bit of icing on the cake, rather than something to break up a potential monologue. Whether you are clued-up on classic Who like myself, or someone who has only glimpsed the Macra in the Tenth Doctor belter Gridlock, this is a great addition to your audio collection. This late summer release lives up to the legacy of the sadly missing black and white BBC production.





Short Trips - Little Doctors (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 30 July 2016 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
Short Trips: Little Doctors (Credit: Big Finish)
Written By: Philip Lawrence
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman
Producer: Michael Stevens
Script Editor: Michael Stevens
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery & Nicholas Briggs
Cast: Frazer Hines (Narrator)
Released By Big Finish Productions - February 2015

 “It resembled a suit of armour perched on top of a small tank; its gauntlets were vicious pinchers that crackled with sparks; the head was shaped like a large, overhanging hood, but underneath, covering the dark recess where you would expect to see a face, was a metal grille. This was an Enforcer, and it wasn’t friendly.”

If you’ve been enjoying how Titan’s Fourth Doctor miniseries has cunningly integrated Ancient Greek mythology into its “Gaze of the Medusa” arc, then the second of Big Finish’s Short Trips outings released in 2015, Little Doctors, is worth a look thanks to its delving straight into the realms of Olympus – albeit a futuristic human colony-turned-homage to the classic city – via the watchful eyes of the iconic deity known as Zeus. As with Dale Smith’s January 2015 title Flywheel Revolution, Philip Lawrence wastes no time in creating an immersive world full of societal depth and compelling characters, detailing the points-based currency system at Olympus’ very core along with the jobs, past-times and fake historical mementos of Zeus’ citizens as if his life depended on this. That said, it’s to his equal credit that he always endeavours to ensure these spouts of background information don’t detract too much attention from the core narrative…when said narrative actually kicks into gear.

Had Lawrence structured his storyline in more of a fast-paced fashion akin to Smith’s approach in the previous release, then listeners would almost certainly have been guaranteed to feel every inch as hooked as this reviewer was with Flywheel. Instead, even by the time of Little Doctors’ halfway point, there’s little sense of precisely where the storyline’s heading – and trust us, that’s a criticism rather than a commendation in this case – beyond the Second Doctor, Zoe and Jamie’s investigation into the causes of the “drab apparel” of the city and its inhabitants, a plotline which produces an interesting message that’s extremely topical in our present terrorism-plagued world, but isn’t developed nearly enough to be especially satisfying as a whole. It’s never a great sign when the writer needlessly pads out a narrative when attempting to fill a mere 30 minutes of airtime compared to the usual 60-80 comprising standard Big Finish releases, and while Lawrence might have simply employed this strategy in order to allow for the necessary world-building at first – which, as we say, thankfully takes a backseat to the central plot once it finally gets moving – there’s a fair deal of patience required here before the relevance of this piece’s title – or even the threat facing our protagonists in the form of the Enforcers as well as a semi-rogue artificial intelligence – becomes clear in absurd fashion.

Whereas Peter Purves’ solitary purpose in Flywheel Revolution was simply to complement Smith’s already superb narrative with a diverse array of robotic and extraterrestrial voices, then, there’s all the more pressure on Frazer Hines to liven up a slow-moving narrative by successfully conveying the humorously logically unhinged set-pieces awaiting the audience in the third act, maintaining his much-acclaimed impression of Patrick Troughton’s Doctor and keeping a straight face when detailing how this cherished incarnation of the Time Lord employs one of his most iconic gadgets from the 1960s to best the army of facsimile versions of himself presently laying siege to the city for reasons too convoluted to outline here. True to form, though, Hines excels in each of these respects, bringing all of the customary energy and underlying wit to proceedings for which he’s become well-known based on his myriad previous contributions to Big Finish’s output under the Doctor Who licence. As with just about any flawed storyline, Hines’ performance isn’t quite enough to render Little Doctors as an unmissable purchase, yet that the 71-year-old Scottish great comes so close in this regard just goes to show how invaluable an asset he must still represent in the eyes of the studio.

In sharp contrast to Flywheel, the same can fortunately be said of the team responsible for orchestrating this disappointingly plotted instalment’s fantastic score, which seamlessly transitions from wonder-filled melodies intended to help portray the sprawling, initially breath-taking nature of Olympus’ scenery to far darker tones when Zoe has to navigate the city’s off-limits recesses in order to barter with the AI responsible for keeping its citizens’ aspirations in check. This reviewer has, in the past, noted that it’s hardly difficult to overlook the work undertaken by the technical experts involved with Big Finish’s audio dramas, but when the musical accompanies to one of their standalone narratives prove as spellbinding as these, it’s all but impossible not for us to take note, especially when the relevant storyline itself fails so greatly to impress – particularly from a structural standpoint – in comparison to this finely honed behind-the-scenes element.

Nevertheless, if asked to decide between wholly endorsing Flywheel or its immediate successor, this reviewer would find it similarly impossible to opt for any choice but the former. Every range must have its peaks and troughs of course, Short Trips undoubtedly included, yet given how sizable an impact Smith’s stunning junkyard-set title made the month before Little Doctors’ release, to witness Lawrence’s follow-up tale take such a notable step backwards in terms of structural and overall storytelling prowess is unpleasantly jarring to say the very least. There’s absolutely reason to take a listen in the form of Hines’ brilliant voice-work as well as the oft-majestic backing soundtrack and no doubt future releases will improve in providing more compelling narratives, but that doesn’t prevent this sophomore outing from representing a missed opportunity to capitalize on its mythological roots with a well-rounded mini-epic rather than the ill-paced vignette we’ve received here instead.

On the bright side, though, the third stop on our journey through 2015’s Short Trips adventures sounds far more entertaining – join us for a trip back to the days of UNIT as the Third Doctor tackles a mystery not dissimilar to that posed in 2009’s Planet of the Dead with the help of playwright Nigel Fairs, Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier and a certain Ms. Grant…





The Second Doctor Volume One (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 22 July 2016 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
The Second Doctor Volume 01 (Credit: Big Finish / Simon Holub)
Written By: John Pritchard, Ian Atkins, David Bartlett, Rob Nisbet
Starring: Frazer Hines (Jamie), Anneke Wills (Polly), Deborah Watling (Victoria), Wendy Padbury (Zoe), Elliot Chapman (Ben), Robert Whitelock (Curtis)
Producer: Ian Atkins
Script Editor: Jacqueline Rayner
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Released by Big Finish Productions - June 2016

If Big Finish’s latest quartet of Companion Chronicles tales confirm only one long-assumed truth, then it’s how essential a component Jamie McCrimmon was to the sweeping success of the Second Doctor era. More than anything else, The Second Doctor – Volume One serves as a rich four-hour showcase of the psychological, philosophical and emotional depths of Frazer Hines’ occasionally naïve, occasionally ill-tempered but ceaselessly lovable Scotsman, revealing new facets to the character that Doctor Who could never have broached back in the 1960s while simultaneously keeping those endearing elements of his personality completely intact along the way.

For Hines himself, restoring the defining aspects of a construct he first portrayed on-screen over almost half a century ago might well have seemed like enough of a challenge in and of itself, yet far from simply asking this of their leading man this time around, the production team task him with reprising his almost uncanny portrayal of Patrick Troughton’s Doctor throughout the box-set given the original thespian’s tragic absence from our mortal plane these days. It’s an immense relief, then, to assert that far from crumbling under the enhanced pressure, Hines excels all the more at resurrecting the second incarnation of the eternal Time Lord, instantly reminding us of the warmth, madcap wit and unyielding passion for the unknown that made Hartnell’s successor such an undisputed hit with his viewership both at the time of broadcast and, indeed ever since.

Unlike boxsets such as UNIT: Shutdown or the various Doom Coalition releases, though, the four serials comprising Volume One don’t share much in the way of direct connections, their underlying aforementioned character study being the only true element which loosely connects each standalone narrative. With that in mind, join us as we tackle these four stories in three stages, investigating each instalment’s merits and shortcomings in their own right before we deliver an overall verdict on the compilation:

  1. “The Mouthless Dead” – On the basis of this phenomenal opening chapter, one would have forgiven Big Finish if they’d chosen to delay Volume One’s launch by a month to July, since “The Mouthless Dead” presents the audience with a poignant, captivating tribute to the fallen soldiers of the so-called ‘Great’ War. Taking place in 1920s Kent, the narrative depicts the Doctor, Jamie, Ben and Polly’s haunting – both from a literal and dramatic perspective – encounter with ghosts of England’s recent past, enabling writer John Pritchard to delve deep into the consequences of the aforementioned global conflict from an immensely stirring personal perspective as a wandering young lady searches desperately for her allegedly fallen spouse nearby an isolated railway line. In the wrong hands, this could’ve come off as a contrived, borderline insensitive ploy to draw in listeners simply wishing to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, but the cast do Pritchard’s script a world of justice, with Anneke Wills and Elliot Chapman – both of whom reprise their respective roles as if Doctor Who had never left the airwaves – in particular bringing a compelling sincerity to their performances both when it comes to interacting with Jamie despite their qualms with his personality traits and facing the war’s immediate ramifications. Throw in an equally engaging sub-plot surrounding Jamie’s touching attempts to demonstrate his intellectual adequacy despite the rest of the TARDIS team often eclipsing his in this regard, and the result’s without a doubt the finest serial of the four presented here, an unquestionable masterpiece of which everyone involved should be immensely proud.
  2. “The Story of Extinction” – To its substantial credit, for all of its faults, Ian Atkins’ “The Story of Extinction” certainly tries to take a markedly different tact to its predecessors, framing its storyline via an elderly Victoria Waterfield’s distant recollections of a trip she, Jamie and the Doctor took to the planet Amyrndaa at some point between her entry onto the TARDIS in The Evil of the Daleks and her subsequent departure in Fury from the Deep. Yet whilst such inspired storytelling devices are all well and good in terms of shaking up a short story collection’s tonal status quo, they’re normally not enough to wholly redeem a lacklustre narrative, a trend which rings unfortunately true in the case of Volume One’s decent but far from spectacular sophomore effort. For all its delightfully metatextual discussion of the power of words, not least via a completely unexpected form of antagonist along with a series of brief sequences involving Victoria’s attempts – rendered with appropriate compassion by the returning Deborah Watling – to educate her Scottish companion in the ways of the English language, “Extinction” packs a disappointingly mundane core plot, one which comes up so lacking in overall ambition that such compelling contributory elements can scarcely serve as fitting compensation. There’s nothing wrong with opting for a more action-orientated narrative, but when the protagonists of that narrative rarely seem to be any real danger, not least since one of them is already relating the events to us decades later while alive, nor where the antagonists have much of an impact or voice beyond robbing a few voiceless supporting characters of their lives, and well, much of the suspense can’t help but find itself dissipated as an inevitable by-product of that approach.
  3. “The Integral” and “The Edge” – Strange as it might seem, it’s worth taking a look at the second pair of serials forming Volume One in unison. Whereas the first two instalments took place in wholly disparate settings, conveyed completely isolated storylines and featured different sets of companions aside from Mr. McCrimmon, the David Bartlett and Rob Nisbet-penned “The Integral” and “The Edge” not only share their TARDIS crews – with the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe banding together for the entirety of the two hours, albeit with Hines strangely taking on voicing duties for Wendy Padbury’s character in the latter despite Padbury starring in the former – but also fairly similar scientific facilities, complacent quasi-antagonists and moments of Jamie having to once again prove himself from an educational standpoint, to the point where listeners might almost find themselves struggling to differentiate the pair were they to listen from a random track out of the 16-17 clips forming the latter two serials. That’s not to say fans of Jamie or indeed the wider Second Doctor era won’t find elements to like in the boxset’s second half; both tales raise some intriguing concepts – such as mining intelligence from the “secret source of the galaxy’s acumen” or how the eponymous Highlander’s understanding of the supposedly universally adversarial intentions of extra-terrestrial species may well be misplaced – and always ensure that their leading stars at least have a fair number of exchanges with corrupt experimenters, benevolent aliens or each other to keep proceedings interesting, plus "The Edge"'s score constantly impresses whether it's backing a vivid description of a galactic labaratory's beautiful surroundings with whimsical beats or action-led chase sequences with darker, fast-paced melodies. On the whole, however, neither “The Integral” nor “The Edge” would warrant anything close to a hearty endorsement were they released as individual Companion Chronicles titles, making their comprising half of this otherwise largely compelling box-set all the more unfortunate a turn of events.

We’re thus left looking at something of a mixed bag in The Second Doctor Volume One, with the opening hour providing some of Big Finish’s most heartbreaking dramatic content to date, which is saying something given how much of an emotional punch Torchwood: Broken, easily one of the studio’s strongest works to date, packed in the same month as this collection’s debut; its immediate successor employing a largely engaging framing device only for the core narrative it’s framing to come up seriously lacking in terms of its scope or suspense and the two remaining instalments lacking narrative inspiration to the extent that many may struggle to tell them apart. Most devotees of this particular era of Who should find Hines’ stellar work as both Jamie and Troughton’s incarnation - along with the writing team's in-depth character study of the Second Doctor's most faithful ally - compelling enough to see them through and warrant their £15-20 – depending on the format they purchase – but if they’re to be tempted to purchase a second volume, then Pritchard, Atkins et al seriously need to up their game when it comes to ensuring their scripts consistently match the calibre of their cast ensemble.



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The Second Doctor (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles)






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