The Curse of Fenric (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 14 April 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Curse Of Fenric (Credit: BBC Audio)Written by Ian Briggs
Read By Terry Molloy

Released by BBC Worldwide - September 2015
Available from Amazon UK

It is quite probable that The Curse of Fenric is my favorite story of the Seventh Doctor. I loved the atmosphere, where it developed the character of Ace, and her relationship to the Doctor and her past, and I loved where it seemed to be pushing the show...even if imminent cancellation shelved those plans.  Maybe that is for the best. The writer of the story, Ian Briggs, wrote his own novelization, and the results are pretty stellar. 

The way Briggs wrote it, it feels like a novel unto itself, it doesn't feel like it was based on a cheap TV show, it feels like an original novel that once got adapted for TV. That is rare in these novelizations.  But Briggs puts in a Prologe and an Epilogue, and instead of the standard Chapters, he breaks the story up into "Chronicles" which are the more straight adaptations of the serial, and "Documents" which give more in-depth background on elements of the story in a unique and creative way. 

It is things like that that up the ante, make this story feel like it is completely fresh, and not just a quick novelization of the story to sell some paperbacks.  Briggs seemed to put in some extra effort on this. I've been enjoying my audibook tour of the old Target books, but this one really jumped out at me.  I understand that apparently Page limits were removed for Briggs, and so maybe he felt the impulse to go wild with it. But there are elements to the story that Briggs expanded upon, and little details that he made clearer, and in general the story just feels thematically stronger. 

Terry Molloy does a good job narrating the story, managing to capture the characters and keep in that ominous atmosphere when needed. All in all...this was a great listen.  Having recently slogged my way through the less enjoyable Two Doctors audiobook, I found this was far more entertaining, and I breezed through it much easier. I think I can give no higher recomendation than, I didn't want to stop listening to it!





Survival (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 18 March 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doctor Who: Survival (Credit: BBC Audio)
Written by Rona Munro
Read By Lisa Bowerman

Released by BBC Worldwide - September 2017
Available from Amazon UK

In 1989, Doctor Who aired the final story of Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor...and then was quietly put into "hiatus," but was really just secretly cancelled. That final story was Survival, and involved the Doctor and Ace facing off against the Master and Cheetah People in Ace's hometown of Perivale. In the end the Doctor and Ace walked off back to the TARDIS, and they weren't to be seen together on screen again. It was one of the stronger efforts in that final era of the Classic show, and while you can definitely see the upturn in quality of scripts returning during the Seventh Doctor's era, I think it was very much a "too little, too late" situation for the series at the time. 

So we come to Target's novelization of that finale episode, which is written by the author of the television script Rona Munro, and it is actually slighlty better than it's television counterpart.  Munro adds in some extra details and character motivations which were lost in the TV adaptation, as well as whole sequences that were probably cut for time.  These details improve the overall story.  The television version was always pretty solid, but the book just works better in some ways. 

The audiobook is read by Lisa Bowerman, who played Karra the Cheetah in the original serial, and has gone on to become quite well known to Who fans as Seventh Doctor companion Bernice Summerfield in a wide variety of Big Finish audios.  She does a fine job as narrator for the most part. Her impression of Sophie Aldred's Ace is impeccable, though her McCoy is a little too cartoonish and distracting.

This is a good audiobook, it's a novelization that builds on and improves upon it's source material, and it is nicely read by Bowerman...even if her impression of McCoy is kind of awful.  Fans of this era and this story would most likely enjoy this one. 





Four to Doomsday (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 18 March 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doctor Who - Four To Doomsday (Credit: BBC Audio)
Written by Terrance Dicks
Read By Matthew Waterhouse

Released by BBC Worldwide - March 2017
Available from Amazon UK

Four to Doomsday seems like the type of story that is rarely going to make anyone's Top Ten list. It is a rather tedious and boring story, it doesn't have much of a thought provoking plot, and it lacks any real exciting action to make up for that.  I actually rewatched this story not too long ago when I was in the mood for some Fifth Doctor style stories, and even having recently rewatched it, most of it ended up being forgotten. If nothing else, Terrance Dicks' novelization really captures just how boring and forgettable the original serial was. 

The Fifth Doctor - along with Tegan, Nyssa, and Adric - land on a spaceship lead by some aliens who have visited Earth throughout it's history and gathered up locals each time they make it to Earth.  So there are some humans from various time periods in Earth's history aboard as well. But now they seem to be heading back to Earth to overtake it. Adric gets hypnotised or something by the evil leader, nd Tegan pouts about how much she wants to get to work some more....and eventually the only thing I remember from the story happens, which is that the Doctor uses the bounce of a cricket ball off a spaceship to propel himself back towards the TARDIS while floating in space.

It is a dul story, but I must give Matthew Waterhouse, who originally portrayed Adric, some credit, he does his best reading this dull story.  As much as I never cared for his character on screen, he proves himself a decent narrator, and actually does a pretty good impression of Peter Davison's Doctor as well! 

This is a release only for completists.  It is a lame story, and despite being nicely read by Waterhouse, that really can't make up for how uninteresting the story always has been. 





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.  




Doctor Who: The Day She Saved the Doctor - Audio BookBookmark and Share

Sunday, 18 February 2018 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Day She Saved The Doctor (audiobook) (Credit: Puffin)
Stories by Jacqueline Rayner, Jenny T Colgan,
Susan Calman and Dorothy Koomson
Read by Yasmin Page, Rachae Stirling,
Catrin Stewart and Pippa Bennett-Warner

Published by Puffin on 8th March 2018
Purchase the Book or Audiobook from Amazon

The Day She Saved The Doctor (Credit: Puffin)






 
This interesting take on Doctor Who includes four stories that are told from the point of view of the Doctor's companion, who in each of these cases are female. The collection is published quite handily on March 8th, which is International Woman's Day. Each story is written by a high profile, female author and read by an actress with ties to Doctor Who.
 

 

Story One - Sarah Jane and the Temple of Eyes
Written by Jacqueline Rayner. Read by Yasmin Paige.
"It's a snake. Great" - Sarah Jane Smith.
 
In this, the opening story of the four we find the fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith somewhere near Rome, at the height of the Roman Empire. While perusing a market they come across a woman who has quite literally just been struck blind. With the help of Sarah's finely honed investigative reporting skills, they discover that this isn't the first time this mystery blindness has struck, and rather mysteriously, the blindness only afflicts women.
 
As their investigation proceeds, it's not before long the Doctor is tied up and about to be slaughtered by a female cult - can Sarah Jane Smith save the day?
 
Jacqueline Raynor has a list of previous credits with Doctor Who that is VERY impressive, from
original novels, through to comics and Big Finish. This is probably why this story was my most anticipated of the set, especially as it featured my companion, Miss Sarah Jane Smith and my Doctor. Because of this, to say I was disappointed is sadly an understatement. 
 
The story is placed somewhere between The Brain of Morbius and The Hand of Fear, which doesn't leave a lot of space for it to fit in. Raynor's story deals with blindness and a female cult - which means there are a lot of similarities between this story, and The Brain of Morbius. Too many if I am honest, it all felt too familiar. I also struggled with Raynor's characterisations of my favourite TARDIS pairing. For me it didn't feel quite right.
 
Sarah Jane and the Temple of Eyes is read by Yasmin Paige, who played Maria Jackson in The Sarah Jane Adventures.  Unfortunately I found her narration very bland - which didn't help the weak story at all.
 
 
Story Two - Rose and the Snow Window 
Written by Jenny T Colgan. Read by Rachael Stirling.
"Ohhh! I will NEVER get tired of the TARDIS translation circuit." - Rose Tyler
 
The second story opens with the tenth Doctor and Rose playing cat and mouse with the International Space Station. They are looking for a time leak, and quickly find it in Toronto. Once they arrive in the Canadian city, they quickly find a tall building from where they have a better vantage point. The time leak is (rather handily) in the building opposite, where they can see a room that looks out of place from those surrounding it. This room looks bigger than it should be, and there is a roaring fireplace. The room is indeed out of place - by a couple of centuries. It belongs to a Russian aristocrat, Nikolai, and it's up to Rose to get into a corset, pop on a posh frock and enter the quantumly displaced room to find out exactly what is going on.
 
Jenny T Colgan (or J T Colgan, and also sometimes Jane Beaton) has written for Who before, and is also known for her romantic fiction. Which actually comes into play quite well here as there is definitely a spark between Rose and the enigmatic Russian aristocrat.
 
Colgan has great fun with the 'person out of time' concept, as we witness the pure joy and wonder Nikolai experiencing a 21st century warm shower for the first time. This also works the other way with the amusing imagery of a group of rather confused 21st century Canadian Mounties trapped in a snowy 19th Century Russia. Thankfully Colgan's characterisations of the tenth Doctor and Rose are absolutely spot on. The story is very fast paced, dashing between different time-zones faster than anyone could say 'time-anomaly'.
 
Rachael Stirling, who played Ada Gillyflower in The Crimson Horror, does a great job at reading Colgan's work, and throws herself eagerly into making a good impersonation of both Rose and the Doctor.
 
After the rather bland Sarah Jane and the Temple of Eyes, my faith in this new set of tales was well and truly restored.
 
 
Story Three - Clara and the Maze of Cui Palta
Written by Susan Calman. Read by Catrin Stewart
"Doctor, don't you think there is something strange about this place?" - Clara Oswald
 
Bored with her housekeeping duties Clara begs the eleventh Doctor to whisk her away to somewhere exciting, so he takes her to Cui Palta, where they find a colossal maze. As always, finding his curiosity hard to resist the Doctor leads them both into a maze, a maze that they discover seemingly has no solution. The pair are soon hopelessly lost and surrounded by the bones of those who previously wandered the maze's ever changing paths. The situation looks desperate indeed. 
 
Comedian, author, presenter, Doctor Who fan and sometime Strictly contestant Susan Calman's entry is a wonderfully breezy story that captures the pairing of the eleventh Doctor and Clara perfectly. If I had one complaint (and it is a small one), it would be that Clara sometimes falls into being the 'default' companion by saying things like "Look Doctor" a few too many times. Otherwise Clara and the Maze of Cui Palta is a lovely romp, lovingly written by a fan of the show.
This entry is read by Catrin Stewart, the Paternoster Gang's very own Jenny Flint, Catrin reads in a lovely bright and breezy way that perfectly suits this story.
 
 
Story Four - Bill and the Three Jackets
Written by Dorothy Koomson. Read by Pippa Bennett-Warner
“Time and Relative Dimensions in Space means....Life!" - Bill Potts
 
Bill has a hot date that she is VERY excited about. She wants to get herself a smart, new jacket for the occasion, and quickly finds a shop on the outskirts of Bristol centre that seems absolutely perfect. Inside, she finds a very helpful sales assistant named Ziggy. Bill picks three coats, but would love to see how they suit her, so Ziggy breaks the shop's strict 'no selfie' rule (they don’t want their designs stolen), and takes some polaroid pictures of Bill in the three different coats. Bill decides to go and get a coffee so she can ponder over which coat to buy, but strange things begin to happen. No one she knows now recognises her as Bill, plus there is an imposter in the TARDIS with her face. Can she convince the Doctor that she is the real Bill before she loses all of her own memories?
 
Dorothy Koomson is a contemporary author, originally from Ghana who has a dozen published novels to her name. Her entry into the Whoniverse is fast paced, claustrophobic, confident and sometimes quite frightening. It's a story of loss of identity and the fear of never getting it back. Bill and the Three Jackets has a lovely continuity with the series, especially proven when Bill employs the help of Lou - the 'chip girl' from the episode The Pilot. I enjoyed it immensely, enough for me to want to read more of Koomson's work. 
 
The story is very enthusiastically read by Pippa Bennett-Warner, her Who credit being that she starred as Saibra in season eight's Time Heist. Her impersonation of Bill is spot on. So much so that I had to check that it wasn't actually Pearl Mackie on reading duties.
 

 

Overall I felt that The Day She Saved the Doctor contained three very good original stories. It's odd for me that the story that I was looking forward to the most was the weakest, and the one I was least anticipating (Bill and the Three Coats) was my overall favourite.
 
The Day She Saved The Doctor is a highly recommended listen/ read. I have to be honest though, I'm not entirely sure that it is unique in the way it approaches it's story telling, as a lot stories featuring the Doctor are told from the companion's point of view.

This new entry into Who cannon though, is far more unique in introducing real female talent to a very male dominated world. There are around 500 'official' novels and novelisations that feature the Doctor. After a quick glance over the this very long list I found 30 by, or with input from female writers. Thats 6% - which is a truly shocking statistic.





Tenth Doctor Novels (BBC Audio)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 7 January 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Tenth Doctor Novels (Credit: BBC Audio)

Sting of the Zygons
Written By Stephen Cole,
Read By Reggie Yates

The Last Dodo
Written By Jacqueline Rayner, Read By Freema Agyeman

Wooden Heart
Written By Martin Day,
Read By Adjoah Andoh

Forever Autumn
Written By Mark Morris, Read By Will Thorp

Wetworld
Written By Mark Michalowski, Read By Freema Agyeman

Sick Building
Written By Paul Magrs, Read By Will Thorp

The Pirate Loop
By Simon Guerrier,
​Read By Freema Agyeman

Peacemaker
Written By James Swallow, Read By Will Thorp



Released by BBC Worldwide Auguest 2017
Available from Amazon UK

BBC Worldwide have released this collection of Eight Abridged Audiobooks from the Tenth Doctor's line of Novels, all of which feature Martha Jones as the Companion. The stories themselves range from mediocre to just plain decent.  Nothing in the collection really jumped out at me.  The readings all all decent, particularly those read by Freema Agyeman and Will Thorp.  Adjoah Andoh did a decent job as well, but Reggie Yates lacked something in his reading...while others found a way to capture the Tenth Doctor's voice in some way (Agyeman being the best in my opinion), Yates just never found a tone that worked for me.  His approach seemed to just be talk faster, but he missed key elements of this Doctor's delivery that took me out of the story, and just thinking "oh but the Doctor would've said it like THAT," which made it much harder to get into the story. 

It didn't help Yates that he was saddled with one of the least interesting stories of the bunch. In Sting of the Zygons, The Doctor and Martha battle Zygons in the early 20th Century...imagine Zygons on Downton Abbey, only somehow that isn't fun.  The second story of the bunch is The Last Dodo, read by Agyeman, which was a definite improvement in terms of story and reading.  The Wooden Heart is another decent story, but again nothing too stellar is found within this collection.  I did enjoy the Halloween themes and monster in Forever Autmn as well as the adventure with the sentient otters that is WetworldSick Building had some decent ideas, but the story is decidedly average. Peacemaker is another average adventure, this time with the backdrop of the old west, though I do think it got better as it went along.  This particular audiobook does show off some of the vocal range of Will Thorp, who does a lot of different Amercian accents. 

The one story that really jumped out at me was The Pirate Loop. Read by Agyeman, it has neat time travel mechanics, intriguing mysteries, unique storytelling devices, and Space Pirates who look like humanoid badgers.  What's not to love in all that?  Of all the stories, it seems the most memorable,  the only one I will probably continue to think of from time to time. 

Ultimately, this wasn't that impressive a set of stories.  There was nothing that was too bad, but everything was just middle of the road. A little bland. As someone who had not read any of the BBC original novels, these abridged audiobooks were sort of like a sampling of them...and it left me uninterested in reading more.  Because of the ongoing series, there is (or at the very least was) probably a lot of rules for what they could and couldn't do in the novels.  As such I think you end up with a fairly bland output of stories, things that certainly work as Doctor Who, but because of restrictions from the show itself take some of the edge out.  It could be that sme of the spark gets lost in the abridged nature of the audiobooks, or it could be the readings themselves weren't to my liking. For the most part, anything read by Thorp and (especially) Agyeman were more entertaining to listen to, but I can't say this was the most entertaining set of audiobooks. For collectors only, I would suggest just checking out either the audiobook of the prose version of The Pirate Loop, instead of going for the whole boxset.