New Adventures With The Tenth Doctor: Issue 6Bookmark and Share

Friday, 30 January 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek

Tenth Doctor #6

The Weeping Angels of Mons - Part One 
 

WRITER - ROBBIE MORRISON;
ARTIST - DANIEL INDRO;
COLORIST - SLAMET MUJIONO;  
LETTERER -RICHARD STARKINGS AND COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT;
EDITOR - ANDREW JAMES;
ASSISTANT EDITOR - KIRSTEN MURRAY;
DESIGNER ROB FARMER 


After a chilling pre-titles sequence set mere weeks into the First World War and featuring a pair of young British soldiers, this new story picks up again several years on during the Battle of the Somme. The Tenth Doctor and Gabriella Gonzalez are seemingly thrown into an all too familiar and haunting source of peril - following their somewhat bizarre first two escapades together. The TARDIS is quickly put out of commission by one of the more potent forms of artillery available in the early 20th century, and the Doctor sustains an injury that forces him to rely on his young friend's initiative and bravery. Although they manage to stay on the side of the battle where the British have control, their presence as casually dressed civilians is naturally viewed with suspicion. But the military trial system is the least of anyone'sworries as a terrifying foe that operates on time itself has come back to haunt the Doctor once again. 

The creative team has an overhaul in this new multi-part story for the Tenth Doctor and Gabby. Robbie Morrison who has been behind the recent Twelfth Doctor stories now gets to show his creativity with the iconic former incarnation of the Time Lord. Artist Daniel Indro makes his debut for Titan's Doctor Who line; his track record including famous characters 'Sherlock Holmes' and 'The Green Hornet'. For those drawn to this edition by the superlative cover it is worth clarifying that Tommy Lee Evans is the person responsible, but the overall standard in the main content is by no means inferior - just markedly different in style. 

Some enemies from Doctor Who are made just as intimidating in comic strip form as they in the parent TV format. I believe the Weeping Angels are one such successful translation. The sudden change of expression from any given panel to the next being distinctive and imposing. Even to this day they are arguably Steven Moffat's finest villainous creation. Just to recap on their unique style: a simple touch from any of the stone statues is enough to send a person back in time to live out the rest of their life, but sometimes in a manner which makes that remaining lifetime a cruel form of imprisonment. There is also the certainty that the victim never gets to meet anyone they cared for again in their 'normal' lifespan. Doubly obstructive is the Angels' capacity to turn to impervious stone when being observed, with any 'blink' allowing them to advance so much faster than a normal sentient being would in that fraction of a second. 

But while it is good to have the Angels back, it is somewhat more jarring to have such a change in style after two very successful stories that balanced darkness and light ably. This story is incredibly grim, and while that may be appropriate for the dark time that was the Great War, there is not even some black humour included as a concession. Some of the minor characters are not drawn terribly well and seem rather overshadowed by the premise and the setting. Still, the first person narration from Jamie - a British corporal - makes him by far the best original guest character. He seems astute enough to bond with his fellow soldiers and know their key attributes. Captain Fairbairn is serviceable also, if a little too routine in his mistrust of the Doctor and Gabby. Perhaps there is something more to him though that later instalments can offer? 

Another difficulty lies in distinguishing one uniformed character from another. There is not enough in terms of different builds or facial expressions at times. However, this is just the first instalment of four and perhaps this will be remedied as the plot allows for more back-story and idiosyncrasies to filter in. I also was a bit confused by the rather spiky dynamic between the Doctor and Gabby - which perhaps hints at some further story, or altercation in the TARDIS, which preceded these current events. But the cynic in me reckons that minimal communication between prior scribe Nick Abadzis and Morrison is just as likely. 

Despite all this, the reader is provided with a strong visual work overall, with backgrounds being consistently good, and the colouring suitably grey/brown for the most part. There have been better opening entries in the Tenth doctor series and also the other two Titan Who lines, but I cannot deny the potential for this story to go places and do something special. I have always been interested in historic wars, and regarded the Weeping Angels as first rank adversaries. With a bit more tweaking and clarity this story could still be one for the ages. 

Bonus Humour Strips: Rather in keeping with the main feature, these are just a touch below-par this month. 'To Heck and Back - Part Two' by AJ takes the decent opening and goes a little too far in defusing the original tension that featured when the Doctor took on the 'Beast' with the power of voice alone. The demonic entity seems to have morphed into a rather cuddlier type of alien and barely manages to make a dent when replying to a supremely confident Time Lord. The story ends up feeling pointless, and lacking the right brand of satire. 
The latest 'Rose By Any Other Name' - from writer/artist Rachael Smith - has still enjoyably vibrant art and a truly lovable feline protagonist to rival K9. But the conceit that this cat would liken human being Rose to any type of household pet simply evokes a raised eyebrow rather than a chuckle.





Doctor Who - The Rani EliteBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 28 January 2015 - Reviewed by Damian Christie

Written by Justin Richards
Directed by Ken Bentley
Big Finish Productions, December 2014

Peri (confused): A Time Lord! But that means ... No, you can’t be!
The Rani (satisfied): So you do know me, after all! I knew you would. Spit it out, girl! I can see it’s on the tip of your tongue!
Peri (in horrified realisation): The Rani!
Peri and the Rani, The Rani Elite

It is a little ironic that the release of The Rani Elite occurred only a month after the broadcast of Dark Water/Death in Heaven, the two-part finale in Doctor Who’s most recent TV series. The revelation that Missy was a female incarnation of the Master invited vast debate in online forums by fans, with some decrying the Master’s gender swap and others praising it. Those who opposed it in particular bemoaned that it would have been more “logical” if Missy had been another former Time Lady nemesis the Rani, particularly as the uploading of dying minds into the Nethersphere was apparently more in tune with the Rani’s modus operandi.


Realistically, there was never any chance that Missy would have been the Rani. This is because the Master is the most well known foe after the Daleks and the Cybermen to audiences of the modern series. If Missy had been the Rani, the modern audience’s reaction would have been “Who?” or “Huh”? As much as long-term fans may dislike this answer, it’s really as simple as that. The Rani featured in two stories in the latter years of the classic TV series – not least in an era when the show was in decline and maligned by the BBC, the audience and some fans alike. She certainly didn’t leave such a lasting impression that she deserved to be Missy. (Yes, the Rani has been in plenty of other Doctor Who spin-off fiction over the years and even the 30th anniversary short Dimensions in Time but again that’s not enough of a CV to impress a modern viewing audience!) There are plenty of other Time Ladies, notably Romana and Susan, who could have also been just as entitled to be Missy if the Doctor Who production team hadn’t been bold enough to make her the Master’s latest incarnation.


Fans of the Rani will simply have to settle for The Rani Elite as a consolation prize. The one thing in this story’s favour is that Big Finish has finally revived the character for audio; indeed, after 15 years of holding the Doctor Who licence, it’s surprising Big Finish never brought the Rani back sooner. Siobhan Redmond, best known for television work such as The Bill, Between the Lines and Holby City, has succeeded the late Kate O’Mara in the part (she is only the second actor to play the Rani, albeit the third Scot to play a Time Lord/Lady in the last year, after Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor and Michelle Gomez’s Mistress). It is also fitting that to herald the renegade Time Lady’s return to the Doctor Who universe, she is pitted against the original TARDIS team that she fought in 1985’s The Mark of the Rani: the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant).


In The Rani Elite, the Doctor and Peri answer an invitation to the CAGE – the College of Advanced Galactic Education – where the Doctor is to receive an honorary degree in moral philosophy that even he’s not certain about but he anticipates is “well deserved!” Deliberately arriving a day before the ceremony, it isn’t long before they discover that someone is conducting unethical medical experiments on some of the CAGE’s brightest students, in the process substantially altering their personalities. It soon becomes clear that the galaxy’s foremost authority in moral philosophy Professor Baxton isn’t whom she seems and her plans for the Doctor are not as benevolent as an honorary degree.


While the premise I’ve described is actually quite intriguing, it is dependent on the listener knowing as little as possible about the story for it to be effective. Unfortunately, it is all too predictable from the start because we know from the title that the story features the Rani; further, there was much publicity about the character’s revival and Redmond’s casting from Big Finish five months before the serial’s release. As a result, any opportunity for genuine surprise or twists is lost. Imagine how more effective the story would have been if it had a less revealing title and Redmond’s casting had been kept secret (she could have been credited simply as Professor Baxton on the CD sleeve) until the episode one cliffhanger. This would have been genuinely surprising for listeners and made the story far more engaging. The problem with knowing about the Rani in advance is that you’re then second-guessing exactly what her latest scheme is (and in this reviewer’s case, it didn’t take a lot of guesswork at all).


By comparison, Big Finish should have taken a leaf out of the book for one of its earliest Doctor Who releases over a decade back. The 2001 serial Dust Breeding marked the return of Geoffrey Beevers as the Master with little prior fanfare, making it a genuine, astonishing twist for long-term fans upon the first listening. To this day, it still remains one of Big Finish’s masterstrokes and brilliant cliffhangers. The only announcement at the time of that release which seemed significant was that Beevers was a guest in the story with his late wife Caroline John, presumably as a new character. To have revealed that Beevers would have been playing the Master would have ruined the tale – and the experience of not knowing who the villain was.


As a result, by revealing its trump card so early, The Rani Elite also lacks a major twist to the plot. In the two previous releases – The Widow’s Assassin and Masters of Earth – there were at least some unpredictable turning points to the tales that kept them ticking along and maintained the listener’s flagging interest. The Rani Elite is largely run of the mill from the moment the Rani reveals herself at the episode one cliffhanger, as the major characters get caught, escape, get recaptured and escape again.

U
Rather ironically for those fans that would have preferred Michelle Gomez had played the Rani on television, the Rani’s agenda (spoilers!) is eerily similar to Missy’s and certainly consistent with her grand plan in 1987’s Time and the Rani. It doesn’t matter that the Sixth Doctor is effectively encountering the regenerated Rani out of chronological order (for the Rani, these events occur post-Time and the Rani) because while we know the Doctor himself isn’t specifically threatened, Peri’s fate, occurring as it does after her muddled departure on television, is now much more open-ended. Indeed, for a while, you are left seriously wondering if Peri is still destined for a tragic end. After all, in this loose trilogy of Sixth Doctor adventures, Peri has been subjected to no small amount of repression by unconnected malevolent forces. In The Widow’s Assassin, we learnt she spent five years under the thrall of a mind parasite whilst Queen of the Krontep, and in Masters of Earth, upon her first trip back in the TARDIS, she was infected by a Varga plant and started to undergo a physical transformation into a Varga herself. In The Rani Elite, Peri finds herself again subjected to mind manipulation, a prospect that naturally terrifies her after the events of 1986’s The Trial of a Time Lord, and Nicola Bryant convincingly portrays that terror.


Once again, Big Finish’s sound effects and a strong cast help to paper over some of the cracks in Justin Richards’ script. Siobhan Redmond does Kate O’Mara’s memory justice in her portrayal of the Rani, faithfully continuing O’Mara’s original rendition of a highly intelligent, ruthless, amoral and calculating scientist with a superiority complex. In fact, were it not for the Scots lilt in Redmond’s voice, her portrayal would be almost indistinguishable from O’Mara’s performance.


Redmond’s interpretation is also a vastly different one to that of Gomez’s Missy – the Rani has none of the Master/Mistress’ megalomania and vindictiveness, she is simply cunning and matter-of-fact. She is a scientist that is dedicated to seeing the results of her experiments through to the end, whether by fair or foul means. She doesn’t necessarily enjoy killing or inflicting pain but she’s not squeamish about either, as she clearly demonstrates over the course of the story.


Colin Baker’s Doctor, of course, is the perfect sparring partner for Redmond’s Rani, someone that is at least her equal on an intellectual level (the Rani, of course, considers herself the Doctor’s superior, resorting to the insult of “Double Gamma” to make her point!). Baker, as ever, delivers a commanding performance but, as in Masters of Earth, injects plenty of humour into the dialogue too, eg:

The Doctor (to the Rani): And it’s a good job I did turn up early!
Peri: In time to thwart your plans!
The Rani: Thwart my plans? You must be a devotee of the cheapest forms of melodrama!
The Doctor: Forgive her, she’s American!


The younger members of the cast also deliver strong performances throughout the story. Becky Wright delivers a fearful, sympathetic turn in the first episode as Lizzo, one of the students at the heart of the Rani’s unethical medical experiments, while Charlie Morton (Reev) provides a slimy underling for the Rani and Mike Noble (Miklev) able back-up/moral support for the Doctor and Peri.


Ultimately, The Rani Elite, while full of promise, is a “by the numbers” Doctor Who tale. It is not only a weak serial in its own right but also the weakest link in a trilogy of Sixth Doctor stories in the last three months that have all been of mixed quality. All the serials have had some good ideas to recommend them but the stories have often been found wanting. This is a pity, as Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant have been fantastic in all of them but there hasn’t been enough character development between the Doctor and Peri that reflects their rekindled friendship after the traumatic events of The Trial of a Time Lord. The return of the Rani also under-delivers in its promise but there is certainly potential for the character to be reused and for Siobhan Redmond to stamp her authority on the part. Another round between the Rani and the Doctor and Peri, as well as encounters with other Doctors, ought not to be out of the question but Big Finish needs to conceive stories that will make the villain’s future appearances memorable and exciting for the listeners. In other words, more focus on the scripts, and less attention to the publicity.

 





The Romance of CrimeBookmark and Share

Monday, 26 January 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Ruddock
The Romance of Crime
Starring Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, John Leeson, Michael Troughton, Miranda Raison
Written by Gareth Roberts
Adapted by John Dorney
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Released January 2015
Big Finish have done a sterling job of recreating and complementing eras of classic Doctor Who over the years, be it new full cast adventures for classic TARDIS teams or the more stripped back Companion Chronicles and Lost Stories, often using the medium of audio to expand the scope and defeat the on-screen budget issues of the TV series. Often these tales are respectful riffs on a bygone era that go off in different directions, or shade in character development of the type that you’d see in the modern series. Perhaps it's the version of Classic Who you think you remember.

The Romance of Crime is different. Skilfully adapted by John Dorney from Gareth Roberts’ classic Missing Adventures novel (Scarily, twenty years old this month, where does the time go?), and reuniting the Fourth Doctor, Romana II, and K9 for the first time since 1980, it goes one better. It's not just a strong evocation, or a clever riff on an old idea. It is Classic Doctor Who. It’s as if someone taped Doctor Who on Betamax in 1979 but the picture on the ancient tape was lost to drop-out, leaving the soundtrack intact. Roberts has a particularly strong affinity for this era - this story forms part of a box set with Dorney's dramatisation of another of his classic novels, The English Way of Death.

The story itself could be a period script by Douglas Adams or David Fisher, directed by Michael Hayes. It has an artfully Dudley Simpson-esque score from Howard Carter, a strong cast of supervillains, ne'er do-wells, preening artists, and inept detectives. The dialogue both zings and sings. Basically, The Romance of Crime would be on to a winner even if presented as a more modest audiobook. However, Tom BakerLalla Ward, and John Leeson, with solid support from Michael Troughton and Miranda Raison make this something extra special. 

This particular TARDIS crew has never reconvened before for TV or audio, for perhaps obvious reasons considering Baker and Ward were once married - but here they are, exuberant as ever, and sounding like they've stepped straight out of Season Seventeen. That spirit of '79 chemistry is still there, and Roberts' story both captures them to a tee and gives them all good material to get stuck into. Tom, in particular sounds like he's having an absolute blast. Any script that can pull off a scene where the villain captures the Doctor and tortures him whilst explaining the entire plot is doing something right.

The plot deals with shady goings on at the Rock of Judgement, an asteroid-based prison. The TARDIS arrives just as vengeful super-being Xais is resurrected and all hell breaks loose, with cockney gangsters and dim Ogrons thrown into the mix. Miranda Raison is excellent in the dual roles of Xais and Margo, the unfortunate officer on the Rock that Xais possesses. Xais is a well-drawn villain, played by Raison with strong hints of Eldrad from The Hand of Fear. She's psychotic, with the rather nasty power to crush people to death with telekinesis, but is given a tragic backstory and a good reason to hate 'normals'. Elsewhere, Michael Troughton as cowardly artist Menlove Stokes comes very close to stealing the show in his scenes with Romana. The strong cast is rounded out by Marcus Garvey as hopeless, yet totally self-absorbed gumshoe Frank Spiggot, Graham Seed as the scheming Pyerpoint - and writer John Dorney, doubling up here as an Ogron and one of the Kray-esque Nisbett brothers.

Crime of the century. Go get it.




Doctor Who - Masters of EarthBookmark and Share

Saturday, 17 January 2015 - Reviewed by Damian Christie

193. Masters Of Earth (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by Mark Wright & Cavan Scott
Directed by Nick Briggs
Big Finish Productions, 2014
Reviewed by Damian Christie


“But it doesn’t happen that way ... The Daleks don’t get wiped out – not yet anyway! I was there when their schemes unravelled, when the people of Earth walked free ...”

The Doctor, Masters of Earth

Much like the previous release of The Widow’s Assassin – which carried a lot of baggage from the TV series about the eventual fate of Peri Brown – Masters of Earth is heavily influenced by a vintage Doctor Who serial that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary – The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

The 1964 serial marked a seminal moment in the series’ then short history – it not only resurrected a menace that had captured the imagination of a generation of young children only a year earlier but it was also the first time Doctor Who brought an alien threat close to home. The sight of the Daleks in the deserted streets of London and trundling around famous landmarks like Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament undoubtedly left a haunting mark on the collective memory – and would create a template for later production teams to bring more alien threats to modern day locations. Many people over the years when they fondly talk about The Dalek Invasion of Earth have unconsciously channelled Jon Pertwee’s later remark that it is far more frightening to confront a Yeti on the loo in Tooting Bec than on a far flung planet.

However, barring the many iconic moments that the serial evoked in the viewers of the time and long-term fans of the TV series, The Dalek Invasion of Earth isn’t an especially great story. In fact, by modern day standards, the serial suffers from sluggish storytelling and padding (it could have been told in four episodes, not six), extremely clunky production values (not least the Daleks themselves, their pet Slyther and some of the unconvincing miniatures!) and some cringe-worthy acting from the wooden Robomen. Yet, in spite of all these shortcomings, the serial has had an enduring legacy. In addition to inspiring the second colour Peter Cushing film in 1966, The Dalek Invasion of Earth over the years has been revisited in plenty of Doctor Who spin-off fiction, some average, some awful and some jaw-droppingly extraordinary, notably  Nick Briggs’ two-part Lucie Miller/To the Death in 2011 for Big Finish. But I’ll come back to that one later ...

Masters of Earth therefore can’t really stake any claim to being a wholly original spin-off/prequel to The Dalek Invasion of Earth. But then again, the production doesn’t strive to be original – it’s plainly an unashamed love letter not only to the original 1964 serial but indeed to a majority of the 1960s Dalek tales (even the title is inspired by the famous boast a Dalek made in the TV serial). Much effort is made within the production to emphasise that the Daleks of Masters are the same models featured in the original serial (both evident on the sleeve artwork and Peri’s own description of the metal meanies in dialogue when she notices the satellite dish arrays mounted to their backs). The extermination soundbite also mimics their 1960s guns, not the more familiar sound effect of the modern TV series. Throw in the Slyther (the 1960s equivalent of the Silurians’ Myrka!), Varga plants (from The Dalek Masterplan) and elite squads of Robomen, plus a cross-country scenario that channels Terry Nation’s later apocalyptic drama Survivors, and you have the perfect makings of a staple Dalek serial that Nation could easily have cooked up in five minutes (Nation was notorious for rehashing a lot of his scripts in the 1960s and ‘70s).

For the most part, Mark Wright and Cavan Scott’s script is a rather dull Dalek story told with some atmosphere, in a similar vein to the source material that inspired it. It’s an odd mesh of 1960s Doctor Who capped off with a 1980s flavour that is embodied by Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor and Nicola Bryant’s Peri Brown. The serial is for the most part sluggish and very much a run-around story until the episode three cliffhanger. Only in the final episode does the dramatic tension go up several Dalek rels – listeners are presented with an innovative, exciting variation on an old theme that takes cues not just from the original 1964 serial but from modern Who’s Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel two-parter and even James Cameron’s original Terminator film. The Daleks even perish in a fashion that is more 1980s Who than 1960s – the death toll would make ‘80s script editor Eric Saward proud!

The problem is this surprise plotline almost feels tacked on – like an afterthought (although there are hints about some characters and their motives throughout the broader serial, it is not evident on a first listening). It also leaves more questions than answers for the listener (to elaborate in this review would unfortunately mean lots of spoilers!). Wright and Scott have a brilliant idea but don’t afford themselves enough time to wrap up the serial satisfactorily and convincingly.

The production itself makes up for some of the script’s shortcomings; Big Finish as usual excels itself in the sound design department. Nick Briggs – the Dalek Prime himself – not only lends his voice talents to the creatures for the umpteenth time but also directs the story and composes the music while sound designer Martin Montague does an exceptional job with natural, everyday sounds (eg seaside birdsong, wind, motorcycle engines, other motors) and manufactured fantasy noise (eg the whirring of a Dalek as it travels through a corridor, the traditional “heartbeat” of Dalek machinery, the rustling of the Varga plants and the elephantine roars of the Slyther). As a result, there is plenty of atmosphere at various points of the story, especially when the Doctor, Peri and the supporting cast are treading through what turns out to be a Varga plantation and later on a trawler on the North Sea when they are attacked Kraken-style by the Slyther (plural).

The cast is also impressive, given most of the characters are underdeveloped and quite two-dimensional (although this is deliberate for some characters in the first three episodes). Given the story is set in Scotland, the supporting cast are, of course, Scottish. However, while there has been a strong effort on the parts of the writers and the performers not to resort to stereotypes, inevitably some of the characterisation and dialogue does border on type, eg Brian McCardie’s portrayal of Alan Weir. Tracy Wiles, on the other hand, brings attitude and spirit to the story as Moira Brody, a hero of the human resistance whose exploits will inspire other rebels to eventually overthrow the Daleks. The character with the most promise that is the most horribly underused is Kyle Inskip, played by Hugh Ross. Given how outstanding Ross has been as civil servant Sir Toby Kinsella in the Doctor Who audio spin-off series Counter-Measures, it’s almost criminal how small his role is in the narrative. If the writers had been more imaginative, Inskip could have provided a great foil for Colin Baker’s Doctor.

Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are, of course, on-song as the Doctor and Peri. In their one and only Dalek story on television (Revelation of the Daleks, 1985), they were bit players in the overall narrative. In Masters of Earth, while the Doctor and Peri cannot interfere in what is essentially a fixed point in time, they are very much part of the action and more often than not at the forefront of events. To again emphasise what an almost traditional 1960s-style tale this is, the duo in many ways fulfil the roles of the First Doctor and his companions in many purely historical tales of the same period – arriving at points in time that they know they cannot alter but inevitably getting caught up in those events, no matter how hard they try to avoid them.

The portrayal of the Doctor and Peri in this tale – occurring shortly after Peri rejoins the Doctor in his travels – is much warmer and affectionate than it was on TV in 1985. Bryant delivers a confident, mature and courageous performance as Peri who isn’t afraid to stand up to the Doctor when she has to, but she still displays her vulnerable side. No sooner is the young woman coming to terms with her sense of self after five years in the thrall of an alien mind parasite than she finds her will again put to the test when she is stung by a Varga plant. Baker clearly also enjoys the opportunity to work with Bryant again, particularly in scenes when they spar over some of the Doctor’s more questionable actions. 

Baker’s Doctor maintains much of the warmth and good humour that the character has developed over the last 15 years of Big Finish but he is never lacking in moments when he has to express steel in his voice or disgust and horror at the Daleks’ and other antagonists’ actions. Perhaps a little too much, Baker also lets his enthusiasm for teasing the Daleks show through. “Oh dear, it’s all going a bit Dalek-shaped, isn’t it?” is definitely one of his funnier quips!

Masters of Earth is entertaining in parts and compelling in others but mostly for three quarters of the story it’s just plain dull. While a tale that honoured the golden anniversary of The Dalek Invasion of Earth may have seemed a good idea in script meetings at Big Finish, Masters of Earth is almost a dull retread of the original story. Even when the tale finally starts to get interesting, the listener’s enthusiasm is cut short simply because the narrative runs out of time. While Doctor Who fans are likely to persevere through it, it’s hard to imagine a casual listener would dedicate that much effort and would probably run out of patience before the critical turning point in episode three.

Indeed, for a more profound and action-packed spin-off to The Dalek Invasion of Earth, then fans should instead listen to the aforementioned two-part Lucie Miller/To the Death. That audio tale is a more dramatic take on the original 1964 serial and shows that the Doctor and his companions are not invulnerable and that there are real consequences to fighting the Daleks, something that Masters of Earth barely touches on. Masters is a footnote by comparison, a Dalek “greatest hits” album that doesn’t quite pay off for the listener.

 

 





New Adventures with The Eleventh Doctor - Issue 6Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 14 January 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek

Issue 6: Space In Dimension Relative And Time
Writer -Rob Williams
Artist - Simon Fraser
Colorist - Gary Caldwell
Letterer - Richard Starkings/ Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
Editor - Andrew James
Designer -Rob Farmer

Effectively held hostage by a long-forgotten enemy of the Doctor, the TARDIS crew must try and stop a major distortion in the time vortex itself. Being a Time Lord should give the long-lived hero a sporting chance, but will he go to the extent of sacrificing any number of his fellow travellers?

Any story opening with the panel 'The End' would be lacking something were it not to take a head-scratching premise and run riot with it. Doctor Who of the 21st century has offered numerous 'timey-wimey affairs' - especially with incumbent showrunner Steven Moffat. This story gives the great man a run for his money, and uses the particular comic format to wonderful effect. Every panel of this story has something to offer, and the layout of reverse chronology and back again offers notable re-readability, which is quite unusual for most comic book stories.

The Eleventh Doctor is truly in charge here, but at the same time very keen to make sure that his companions offer a helping hand. Of the three of them it is perhaps somewhat surprising which one provides the best and most dramatic way of confusing the villain. I will not disclose exactly who is involved in making life difficult for do-gooders, but can say that we have another nod back to Classic Doctor Who - akin to 12th Doctor effort 'The Swords of Kali'.

A lot of the dialogue is on the money this month. There are quite a few speeches and bits of exposition that may have been a bit over-done were this to be more conventional a tale. Yet with so much material demanding multiple viewings, a bit of excess is justified. And as the frantic task to unbend the convolutions of chaotic cause-and-effect take centre stage, there is still some very engaging characterisation which lets the reader know some inner feelings and beliefs that the regular protagonists harbour.

Alice and ARC are both very well-done companions that offer interesting but very different qualities. The pastiche figure of Jones is to my mind perhaps a bit weaker in realisation, but still fulfills plot requirements comfortably. There is also some real suspense over just who will be left standing out of this quartet. Without spoiling the storyline, it would appear the worst does happen - but it's lasting effects seem to be minimal. What could have been a big weakness instead amounts to both a justified reset button and a definite progression for the TARDIS crew.

Although I enjoyed Boo Cook's contribution visually in the previous two issues, the return of Simon Fraser is certainly not unwelcome. And he clearly knows how to best use his style to tell such a dynamic story. In addition to dialogue, Rob Williams' writing in general is consistently engaging; managing to make this adventure stand up as a solo piece for the more casual sci-fi or comic aficionado. Somewhat of a relief is the lack of any overt 'SERVEYOUinc' story arc threads, which allows for this issue's villain to stand on his own balletic feet.

In summary, with fizzy dialogue that reflects the sheer zaniness of events, along with simultaneously gripping and carefree plot mechanics, this is a must-read. It will both satisfy fans of this Titan series, and convert those somewhat more sceptical about Doctor Who's suitability for this medium. I was perhaps not too impressed with earlier one-offs starring the Eleventh Doctor, but this holds up as a work of art which rivals the crème de la crème of visual storytelling.

** Bonus comedy strips: AJ's 'Ice Cold' sees the apparent return of an alien that has both helped and hindered the Doctor during his many lives. A sneaky twist however provides a fine punchline.
'Bus Replacement TARDIS' from Marc Ellerby is a wonderfully irreverent effort and also appropriately set in snowy conditions. Amy and Rory struggle to cope with the climate and and an infuriatingly bubbly Doctor who fails to apologise for the change to their 'normal' travel and accommodation.




Twelfth Doctor #3 - The Swords Of Kali (Part One)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 9 January 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #3Writer - Robbie Morrison
Artist - Dave Taylor
Colorist - Luis Guerrero
Designer - Rob Farmer
Letterer - Richard Starkings/ Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Editor -Andrew James

"Take your time, why don't you?..shoot the distinguished gentleman with the twinkle in his eye --or the raging monster that's about to rip him limb from limb?!" - The Doctor demanding to be rescued.

The villain roster goes from one supernatural entity to another in this new multi-part story. The Doctor and Clara are ushered through India's past and future in a bid to stop a form of vampire creature which has infiltrated the country's 'premier dynasty'. Originally a deliberate break from action was planned, but the Doctor had been hailed by a gentleman called 'Tiger' via the TARDIS phone. Tiger is a friend from long ago again needs some help. 'The Swords Of Kali' features a good handful of time zones and locations with the dramatic events having one TARDIS occupant stranded in 1825 and the other in 2314 trying somehow to reach them. 

There are echoes of the Jagaroth (from 1979 TV gem 'City of Death'), in that a supernatural family have helped mould and direct Mumbai's path from a tribal nation to a cutting-edge interstellar presence. There are other nostalgic details too: the Fourth Doctor's image is featured in a picture on a wall, and the Mona Lisa has once again been affected by the Doctor's actions. There is even a cameo from Leonardo Da Vinci (who was absent from that same Classic Series story). 
And for those only familiar with modern Who, the plot is worthy of 'Blink' and other 'timey wimey' TV installments; not letting up in pace, but thankfully avoiding being rushed. There are many strong original characters once again, but the stand-out is Rani Jhulka. She is a remarkably powerful and quick woman, who saves a couple from some thugs in the pre-credits section, and proceeds to infiltrate a fortress - where she meets up with one of the regulars. With a striking look, and a distinctive way of speaking, she is a much better realisation than Jenny from Series 4 tale 'The Doctor's Daughter'. 

Morrison's writing is again fluent and full of incident, but also offering engaging themes and strong characterization. Dave Taylor reprises his memorable artwork - with sterling support from colourist Luis Guerrero. Both the regulars and the guest characters are drawn with full life and emotive range, and the pages of this comic almost seem to turn of their own accord. Imagery and symbolism are strong too: the atmosphere generated by various sources of light and energy against the backdrop of night-time is inspired. For those readers living through wintry conditions this provides an added edge.
The villains and monsters involved are certainly not the run-off-the-mill stock which Doctor Who sometimes is guilty of, and there is real sense of jeopardy and high stakes. Again this clearly demonstrates how artist and writer are getting their combined vision across.

Much complex shifting from one time zone to the other is central to the plot. This could have been clumsy, but instead is handled well and only adds to a story filled with incident and excitement. The Twelfth Doctor is typically brusque; his portrayal keeping with continuity in that he is really struggling to relate with Clara. Furthermore he is arguably chillingly indifferent to a young woman's grieving for her murdered father. Yet the Doctor is still a hero and will gain retribution for the violence perpetrated by the vampires. One downside in all this packed excitement is that fans of the Clara character will see her being overshadowed by both the actual events and some of the new protagonists featured. Yet the theme of Series 8 is maintained with her well-intentioned efforts to make startled onlookers understand the Doctor's seeming apathy for the crisis unfolding. And with her left to cope with the crisis alone, perhaps the former 'Impossible Girl' will pull off something remarkable. 

** 
Bonus Humour Strips: 'Dark Water' (AJ/RF) advertises a specialist drink that is produced on a Cyberman dominated world. Somewhat disturbingly it reminds us of the dehumanising process that the Cybermen hinge on to multiply, and yet the tone is not muddled. 
'Planet of the Diners' (courtesy of Colin Bell and Neil Slorance) uses Doctor Who's time-travel element at its most frenetic, but still succeeds as a bit of an enjoyable diversion. The lack of noses on the faces of characters is perhaps odd, but otherwise this is colourful and convoluted fun.