The Ambassadors of Death (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 24 February 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doctor Who: The Ambassadors Of Death (Credit: BBC Audio)
Written by Terrance Dicks
Read By Geoffrey Beevers

Released by BBC Worldwide - January 2018
Available from Amazon UK

Way back in the day, before home video, and before there were even many reruns of Doctor Who, many serials of the Classic Series were fondly remembered by fans via their novelizations printed by Target Books. There are probably still older fans who remember seeings bits of stories that never actually aired, because their memories of the Target Novelizations were so embedded into their memories of the show.  Now the BBC are taking those novelizations, and producing audiobooks of them.  So The Ambassadors of Death this is an audiobook adaptation of a novelization of a TV serial that aired in 1970.  Also, this is not to be confused with the television soundtrack of the story which was previously released, which was the soundtrack of the TV story with linking narration by Caroline John

With all that out of the way, I can say, I was not one of the fans who grew up with hte Target books.  I've never had an opportunity to read any of them, as I grew up i nthe wrong era and wrong continent for these books to be too available.  So this is really my first taste of what Target brought to the table. I can see why this line of books lasted so long, and managed to adapt nearly every serial from the classic series. The Story Editor of the Pertwee Era, Terrance Dicks, wrote this novelization (he actually wrote several and was fairly prolific in the book series), and his adaptation of the TV story he co-wrote is very detailed and captures the spirit of the original Pertwee story perfectly. I haven't watched The Ambassadors of Death in a few years, but listening to this I could just picture it all brought back to life in my head. 

Of course, an audiobook version of any book is only as good as the person reading it, and Geoffrey Beevers could read me the phonebook.  He has a great voice, actually voices as he distinguishes several characters with different tones and accents, and that voice encouraged me to zip through the audiobook.  Beavers also briefly played the Master on television against Tom Baker, and went on to reprise that character in severa Big Finish audio plays.  He was also, fact fans, the husband of Caroline John who portrayed Liz Shaw during the first season of Pertwee's tenure (including this very story).  I have all sorts of pointless trivia!

Anyhow this audiobook was quite good.  If you are on the go and want to relive the Target novels you once read (or, like me, experience them for the first time) you want be disappointed in this.  Beevers is a great narrator, and the audiobook reminded me just how entertaining the original Serial was. 

Short Trips - Landbound (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 13 January 2018 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Landbound (Credit: Big Finish)

Producer Ian Atkins, Script Editor Ian Atkins

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Selim Ulug, Directed By: Neil Gardner


Nicholas Briggs (Narrator)

Let me start by saying Landbound is FREE TO DOWNLOAD, via Big Finish thanks to the fantastic Paul Spragg Short Trips Memorial Opportunity.


The story is at times, quite a melancholy one about brief friendships and wings being clipped. In it we find the third Doctor in Bessie fleeing from his responsibilities at U.N.I.T. - bored with being tethered to one single planet and itching for the return of his freedom to roam the Cosmos.


In Whitby, the Doctor stumbles across a mugging, and steps in to save the victim, a local pub landlord called Ronald Henderson, or the Captain as he is known locally. As a reward for the Doctor's gallantry, Henderson invites him back to his pub, The Jolly Sailor for a glass or two of 'a decent vintage of Bordeaux'. The story slowly unfolds over drinks, and we find that the two of them may have a fair bit more in common that they at first thought. It is also revealed that Henderson quite possibly had an unfortunate encounter with a rather large, translucent, metal eating alien lifeform, something that, once a certain Time Lord gets his TARDIS back - he might just be able to help with a little.....


The story is written by Selim Ulug, the winner of this year's aforementioned Paul Spragg Short Trips Memorial Opportunity, and is narrated by Nicholas Briggs himself. The story isn't the best that the range has to offer, but is none the less very engaging and enjoyable. Nicholas Briggs does a fine job of making a very passable impression of the late, great Jon Pertwee. The story and it's sensibilities feel somewhat like a very modern take on a classic story.


Landbound is a solid entry to the series, and has the obvious plus in that if you haven't had a chance to sample a Short Trips story, or indeed are still yet to sample the Big Finish range, then Landbound is an enjoyable enough, free opportunity for you to do so.

Short Trips Rarities: The Switching (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 18 December 2017 - Reviewed by Peter Nolan
Short Trips Rarities: The Switching (Credit: Big Finish)

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: Simon Guerrier
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
Read By: Duncan Wisbey
)Originally Released: September 2017


An unapologetically slight tale, The Switching jettisons having much of a plot at all in favour of some fun character moments grounded in the UNIT family dynamic.

Though the blurb makes a half hearted attempt to play coy, and the script takes its time to say it out loud, it’s pretty clear from the off that we’re getting a classic Freaky Friday scenario with a Time Lord twist. In a way, it’s such a perfect idea it’s almost a surprise we never saw a version from Letts and Dicks on screen though I’m not sure Jon Pertwee’s pride could have taken playing across from another actor doing their best impression of him. As it is, we get Duncan Wisbey doing a remarkable job of capturing the Third Doctor’s sibilance and that slightly ragged edge to his voice. Except this isn’t the Third Doctor, of course, but the Master.

Surprisingly charming and pragmatic as he makes a nuisance of himself at UNIT HQ, it’s a reminder that, back in the day, the Master didn’t tend to kill unless it actually advanced his agenda. Instead, quickly discovering that the Doctor’s TARDIS is in parts all over the place and not fit for making an escape from Earth in, he restricts himself to having a bit of fun at his best frenemy’s expense.If there’s a flaw, it’s the Master’s surprise that the Doctor is clearly so habitually rude and disrespectful to his UNIT colleagues (everyone reacts with slight suspicion as to why ‘the Doctor’ is being so nice and pleasant to them). It feels like the Master should know the Third Doctor better than that. All the supporting characters are perfectly drawn, however, with Jo in particular note perfect.

Essentially a throwaway novelty, it’s nicely wry humour and talented and flexible reader this is well worth the handful of coins and half hour of your time it will cost you.


Third Doctor Vol. 1 - Heralds of DestructionBookmark and Share

Saturday, 18 November 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Third Doctor Collection Cover.png
Writer: Paul Cornell
Art: Chritopher Jones
Colourist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Senior Designer: Andrew Leung
Senior Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editors: Jessica Burton, Amoona Saohin, Lauren McPhee, & Lauren Bowes
Published: 16th June 2017

Titan Comic's Five Issue mini-series starring the Third Doctor is collected together as Heralds of Destruction.  Whereas Titan's limited run of the Eighth Doctor had a different setting and story in each issue (with a running storyline throughout), the Third Doctor's run is entirely one story told over five issues. In that sense, it feels very tight and cohesive, and manages to capture the mood of the Third Doctor's wholly unique era quite nicely.

The story takes place somewhere during the Tenth Season, taking place after the Third Doctor's exile was ended by the Time Lords, but before Jo left, Sarah Jane arrived, and Mike Yates had his fall from grace. All of these little details play a role in this story, which arguably gave more real motivations and developments to these beloved characters than the actual show truly did at the time.  Yet that is not to say that this story doesn't feel like it could easily fit into that era.  In fact, it perfectly captures the tone of the UNIT days of Doctor Who. The voices of the characters are perfectly captured, and the art is great. The character likenesses are mostly spot on, though I personally felt Jo didn't always look just right.  But it is always going to be easier to draw the distinctive look of Jon Pertwee over the young and pretty face of Katy Manning.

The plot itself is rather fannish, with lots deep cut references to characters from this era (and before), but the execution feels so right, so very much of this timeframe in the show's history, that it almost doesn't matter what the story is. You've got alien invasions, UNIT shooting at it, the Third Doctor pontificating, the Master in his glorious Roger Delgado form, and even a few surprises along the way. What's not to enjoy?

I loved how this story takes little character bits, like the sometimes hinted at but never fully realized relationship between Jo and Mike, and brings it to fruition. Unfortunately, the constant interuptions of their work with UNIT become the reason they never truly made it work...and this also begins planting the seed for Mike to make the choices he made in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. I also rather liked the simple but effective motivation for the Third Doctor still sticking around on Earth and with UNIT despite his despised Exile finally coming to an end. 

If you, like me, have a soft spot for the Third Doctor's era of Doctor Who, there is little doubt in my mind you will find enjoyment in this book.  It's a story that feels like it was plucked straight from that era, and gives the Doctor and his supporting cast some lovely character moments to shine. 

Doctor Who - The Thief Who Stole TimeBookmark and Share

Friday, 6 October 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Thief Who Stole Time (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Marc Platt
Directed By: Ken Bentley


Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana),
Joannah Tincey (Sartia), Alan Cox (Eamonn Orensky),
 Kieran Hodgson (Klick Chervain),
Des McAleer (Blujaw Skaldson),
Alex Wyndham (Linnis Skaldson), Jamie Newall (Greygul), Jane Slavin(Frithra), John Banks (The Sleek).

Romana has been cruelly abandoned by her old Time Lady friend, and the Doctor is left, to not only clear up a mess with the furious locals of the planet Funderell that concerns the 'accidental' killing of their God, but also to try to deduce what the Time Lords have done to the fascinating planet....Oh yes, and the TARDIS has been lost, absorbed by the ever moving liquid skin of the planet's surface......things are looking grim.....


The Thief Who Stole Time is essentially parts three and four of the previous story, The Skin of the Sleek - and starts, in true classic Doctor Who style, by quickly and efficiently resolving the cliffhanger from the previous episode. As with the the first two parts of this story, not only is the story telling first rate but the world building is fantastic and quite dazzling.


I felt that the only (very slight) let down is that new Time Lady Sartia (Joannah Tinceydescends into a moustachioed twirling villain far too quickly, readily explaining her dastardly plans to anyone who will listen - but this is quite fun in a way, and harks back to the time of simpler writing. It didn't detract from my enjoyment of this story as a classically staged four parter.


The standout performance for me was Tom Baker himself, who seems to be reaching new levels with the character through Big Finish, and is just an absolute joy to listen to for anyone who enjoyed his era, particularly the later years. I actually laughed out loud at a number of his one liners - yes they are expertly written by Marc Platt, but Tom absolutely owns every word by the manner in which he delivers them. Lalla Ward is also excellent of course and delivers some real gravitas to the scenes between her and Sartia, when she struggling to understand why someone who she thought of as a friend, should actually despise and resent her.


The Skin of Sleek and The Thief Who Stole Time are essential listening to any fan of the Baker era. Not to be missed.


Both stories are available now from Big Finish as a digital download or an audio CD. 

Associated Products

Released 31 Oct 2017
The Fourth Doctor Adventures - The Thief Who Stole Time (Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures)

The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 3Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 10 September 2017 - Reviewed by Thomas Buxton
The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 03 (Credit: Big Finish)Written By: Nicholas Briggs, Andrew Smith
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
Producer: David Richardson

Cast: Tim Treloar (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), George Watkins (Delralis), John Banks (Jickster), Amy Newton (Elaquon), Robin Weaver (Arianda), Iain Batchelor (Adam Rigg), Robert Hands (Major Hardy / Crewman), Richard Derrington (Commander Burton), Ian Cunningham (Sinko / Ronson / Lieutenant), Jake Dudman (UNIT Radio Operator) and Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)

Released by Big Finish Productions - August 2017

With much of Big Finish’s annual Doctor Who content becoming inevitably geared around taking advantage of their recently-acquired New Series licence, from The Lives of Captain Jack to The Diary of River Song to UNIT: Assembled in the past year alone, classic fans of the TV series – and indeed its accompanying audio storylines – might reasonably begin to worry whether the 1963-1989 Doctors will plummet down the agenda, to the point of them rarely warranting a look-in beyond the odd multi-Doctor crossover.

Quite to the contrary, however, as well as continuing the escapades of Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy’s incarnations via their Main Range along with William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton’s in the Early Adventures saga, the studio has reaffirmed its commitment to Jon Pertwee’s ever-wise, ever-courageous and ever-defiant version of Theta Sigma this Summer. Enter The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 3, the latest edition in an ongoing series of boxsets showcasing the incandescent Tim Treloar’s captivating take on the character in the late and great Pertwee’s absence.

This time around listeners can expect both a flavour of the new and the familiar from scribes Nick Briggs and Andrew Smith, their dual, standalone four-part serials combining shades of Who’s recent and distant past with innovative new conceits to form a potent concoction of wonder and adrenaline-fuelled action. While certainly not without its notable blemishes, particularly in the first half, Volume 3 is all but guaranteed to sate the appetites of long-running Pertwee aficionados as well as diverting its path just far enough from the beaten track of nostalgia to avoid intimidating newcomers either…

“The Conquest of Far”:

If we consider the two serials presented here as a wedded couple of sorts, their marital ceremony spanning the set’s sizable 5-hour runtime and the presents offered up at the reception conforming to that age-old saying of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”, then Briggs’ opening salvo unquestionably fills the first and third of those criterions. Much as he avoided plumping for the traditional “…of the Daleks” syntactical structure when titling the piece, the man best known for voicing Skaro’s finest in the New Series has crafted a classic invasion story centred on Davros’ creations to kick off proceedings, one set just moments after Series 10’s Planet of the Daleks (1973) to boot.

En route back from giving their archenemies a rather frosty reception on Spiridon, the Doctor (Treloar) and Jo Grant (Katy Manning, as bumbling but endearing as ever throughout Volume 3) soon find themselves inadvertently tumbling to the planet Far instead, ready to face another onslaught from the Kaleds’ final mutations with the Earth Alliance’s begrudging assistance. If nothing else, it’s certainly a premise which would’ve felt right at home in Series 10 as surely was Briggs’ intent, as would the motley band of human and alien resistance fighters with whom they work and vie to ascertain the likelihood of their – and indeed any Far resident’s – survival against the near-insurmountable odds of liberating a near-fatally weakened planetoid.

Unfortunately though, while “Far” gets off to a compelling enough start, soon splitting up our intrepid time travellers – as has so often been the case in the great Who serials – to meet the various factions living under Dalek tyranny on Far and teasing the Daleks’ nefarious purpose for the long since conquered world, events soon become rather predictable, leading to the same inevitable sacrifices and pyrrhic counter-plays for which the show’s invasion sub-genre has become so irreversibly known over the last 54 years. Try as they might to reinvigorate proceedings with their energetic, psychologically tormented takes on the wearied, warring rebels tasked with overthrowing the Dalek regime, supporting stars like George Watkins, John Banks and Amy Newton – among others – struggle to bring much depth to one-note players, each of whom’s sole purpose is seemingly to progress the rather mundane plot above all else rather than undergoing any thematic personal journey.

Even Briggs himself sounds as if he’s on auto-pilot as he voices Who’s most iconic foes, a fault again perhaps of his own creation given how little his script experiments with them – surely episodes like Dalek, Asylum of the Daleks and Into the Dalek have proven it’s possible to break the invasion, base-under-siege or interplanetary scheme mould? If Big Finish plans to continue rolling out stories featuring the Thals’ mortal enemies with such rapidity – between The War Doctor, The Churchill Years and Order of the Daleks in recent months, we’ve had more than our fair share of overblown, galaxy-threatening plots – then they’d best consider how to innovate upon such tired narrative structures for the characters, or perhaps give them a well-earned break as Steven Moffat did in the 2011 TV run.

Thank goodness for Treloar and Manning then, both of whom ensure what’s otherwise a disappointingly by-the-books first half for Volume 3 remains thoroughly entertaining listening regardless. Whether it’s the former channelling Pertwee’s immense authority and unyielding sense of hope, even in the gravest of circumstances where all chances of success appear lost, or Manning endowing Jo with an admirable aura of bravery, even when inside she’s clearly as terrified by the events of “Far” as any other player, the two wholly capable lead stars sizzle both when they’re sparring off one another and when they’re desperately attempting to ensure their quest to rid a planet of Dalek tyranny once more brings the least possible collateral damage.

“Far” marks an uneven start to the boxset, then, one which stays afloat thanks to its lead performers’ stunning turns – not that we should be surprised by this point, admittedly – but doesn’t come anywhere close to matching Third Doctor classics like The Time Warrior or Carnival of Monsters owing to its near-complete lack of imagination and narrative innovation.

“Storm of the Horofax”:

Whereas Briggs opted to draft the safer – ironically, given its scale and its surprisingly inferior quality – of the two serials comprising Volume 3, Andrew Smith takes anything but a conventional route, rounding out the boxset with the far more understated yet resultantly far more successful “Storm of the Horofax”. Not dissimilar to “Far”, this riveting four-parter does pay homage to story elements from past Who serials both classic and modern, withInferno, The Time Meddler and even the cracks in time arc from Steven Moffat and Matt Smith’s first televised run of the series in 2010 springing to mind on various occasions.

But if “Far” struggled to surprise, simply imitating what had come before without innovating upon the achievements of its hallowed predecessors, then Smith’s Earth-bound tale presents a model template for Briggs to follow should he hope to avoid making similar mistakes next time around. Every instalment of “Horofax” presents one of the aforementioned past conceits in a refreshing light which reinvigorates the serial at precisely the right time, with the story serving at once as a mystery, an invasion-driven thriller and an intimate personal drama but never seeming tonally disparate either thanks to the subtle yet elegant manner with which Smith weaves together his divergent plot threads.

Just as key to its success beyond the constantly subversive script, though, are Manning and Counter-Measures star Robin Weaver, the latter of whom plays a time-travelling psychic whose powers and hidden secrets threaten to play havoc with the Earth in both its physical and evolving temporal states. “Horofax” sees the pair strike up a refreshingly unpredictable dynamic, developing from sympathy to spite to supreme terror for reasons this reviewer shan’t spoil, not least since half of the joy of experiencing a brilliant romp like this is doing so with all of the major surprises intact. Better yet, Manning doesn’t need Weaver to play off in order to tug at the listener’s heartstrings either, some of her fraught exchanges with Treloar’s Doctor towards the latter stages of the play transporting Jo through a powerful emotional gamut unlike almost anything we saw the character experience on-screen in the 1970s.

As ever, all this isn’t to say that Smith doesn’t have scope to improve his Who contributions further should he return for Volume 4 or indeed as he presumably continues to write for Big Finish’s various other ranges. While Weaver’s at first tantalisingly restrained quasi-antagonist grabs our attention within just moments of her debut, once her true intentions become clear towards the second half, Arianda’s motivations for her actions seem difficult to trace, with the about-turn she performs of course inevitable – every serial needs its threat, after all – but also lacking the beneficial psychological context or backstory which might have lent her the depth of classic villains like Davros, the Family of Blood or the Master. Listeners won’t soon forget Arianda, that’s for sure, yet it’s tough to envision the Doctor truly fearing the prospect of her potential return either.

But tossing its minor characterisation issues aside, “Horofax” nevertheless excels at providing both the quintessential Third Doctor experience that fans of Pertwee’s early ‘70s era will have come for as well as the revitalising shocks in which “Far” came up so sorely lacking. Despite “Far” getting proceedings off to a disappointingly unambitious start, with “Horofax” Smith has ensured that both diehard Pertwee devotees and newcomers looking to explore the Third Doctor’s era should come out satisfied, ready for another slice of 1970s – or should that be 1980s? – action in the not-too-distant future.

Oh, and one more thing: stop, don't move!

Associated Products

Released 30 Sep 2017
43% off
The Third Doctor Adventures - Volume 3 (Doctor Who - The Third Doctor Adventures)