The Triumph of SutekhBookmark and Share

Thursday, 23 July 2015 -  
 
The Triumph of Sutekh (Credit: Big Finish)
Doctor Who – The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield
Volume 2: The Triumph of Sutekh
Written by Guy Adams, Justin Richards, James Goss, and Una McCormack
Directed by Scott Handcock
Starring: Lisa Bowerman (Professor Bernice Summerfield), Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Gabriel Woolf (Sutekh the Destroyer)
Released by Big Finish Productions – June 2015
Following on from last year’s Volume 1, this boxset follows a similar format with long-running Big Finish regular Lisa Bowerman as the eponymous archaeologist Bernice, who is once again reunited with her former travelling companions, the Doctor and Ace, in rather surprising circumstances. Like last time, there is a effectively a single story running throughout the four adventures which make up Volume 2 but this time around, the stakes are much higher as we are presented with a clear threat from the very beginning. As the box set’s title reveals this series features the long-awaited return of Gabriel Woolf, reprising his well-known television role as Sutekh the Destroyer from the 1975 story Pyramids of Mars.

The Pyramid of Sutekh finds Bernice reunited with the Doctor in less than pleasant circumstances as the long-lost tomb of the Osiran Sutekh has been uncovered. Bernice must try to save the Doctor and prevent Sutekh’s attempts at self-revival. Along the way she is joined by a mummy with recognisable voice which is not credited so I shall also maintain the pleasant surprise, except to say that it will be very familiar to followers of Benny’s solo adventures. It is notable that the Doctor is given a more prominent role to play as there was some criticism that the Doctor and Ace were only featured peripherally in the last year’s boxset and it is great fun to hear Sylvester McCoy utter one of the most infamous lines in the history of Doctor Who.

The Vaults of Osiris finds Benny reunited with Ace, this time on present Earth as they attempt to make sense of recent events and discover the means to prevent the seemingly unstoppable triumph of Sutekh. This is a fun romp with some nice suprises, even allowing for some occasional lapses from the Big Finish school of dodgy foreign accents.

The Eye of Horus sees Benny once more reunited with the Doctor, who is very much not himself in this rather unusual episode. Set in an apparent forgotten period of Ancient Egyptian history this episode feels a little uneven and a little too comedic. It is however saved by the sinister presence of Woolf as Sutekh.

This set culminates in The Tears of Isis. This is another slightly unusual story which finds our protagonists witnessing the end of the world and the ultimate triumph of Sutekh. However, this is the virgin New Adventures universe and even at the darkest of times, the Doctor is not to be underestimated. Suffice to say there are some neat twists in the story’s concluding scenes which lead to a satisfying conclusion and the final confrontation between McCoy’s “Little man” and the Woolf’s deliciously evil Sutekh make for an enjoyable listen.

Overall, a very enjoyable set of stories if at times rather whimsical. The highlight is definitely hearing Woolf give further voice to Sutekh, but fans of Pyramids of Mars may be left wanting a sequel that is more in keeping with the gothic horror style of Season 13.
 




The Massacre - Audio BookBookmark and Share

Thursday, 23 July 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
The Massacre (Credit: BBC Audio)

Written by John Lucarotti,
Read by Peter Purves,
Released by BBC Audio, 21 May 2015

This First Doctor historical was amongst the many early Doctor Who tales to be wiped by the BBC, at a time when home video releases were not yet introduced. Fortunately, as with all the other 'lost' stories, a soundtrack copy was retained and this story was the first of a wave of audio CD releases of various First and Second Doctor stories at the turn of the century.

Original viewers of all ages saw a sophisticated but non-preachy historical drama. The Doctor quickly leaves Steven to manage on his own in 1572 Paris; full of political turmoil between the Catholic and Huguenot religious groups. The Catholic Abbot of Amboise catches Steven's eye, and soon this loyal companion wonders if his older friend is playing a very risky game of impersonation. A young girl called Anne Chaplet soon needs Steven's help as she flees the Abbot and attempts to warn the Huguenots of a deadly conspiracy. But history tells of the inevitable Massacre of St Bartholomew's Day, and time cannot be rewritten despite the sheer pointlessness of the violence that ensued...

            A great cast was involved, many going on to be in later colour stories which all are now available. Examples include: The Deadly Assassin's Eric Chitty as Preslyn, Warriors' Gate's David Weston as Nicholas Muss and Arc of Infinity's Leonard Sachs as Admiral De Coligny. There is even a turn from Eric Thompson, father of the world-famous Emma. Also director Paddy Russell debuted here, and was behind later notable stories for the Third and Fourth Doctors.

 

The novelisation was published in the summer of 1987, and saw credited writer John Lucarotti bring to novel form the original scripts he created, after a number of amendments by script-editor Donald Tosh. Ultimately Tosh rewrote the story to be a very different one, but only received a co-author credit in the final episode.

Why Lucarotti did not approve of the final version is of real interest. Upon being promised a third historical story from initial showrunner Verity Lambert, Lucarotti then found the new team of John Wiles and Tosh to be rather less harmonious with his vision of Doctor Who. A rather darker show was being established, with grim endings such as the fate of the Drahvins, the fall of Troy, and the many tragedies in The Dalek Masterplan. This perhaps was for the best as the fledgling Saturday tea-time show made its case for continued existence, long before it was famous globally.  

Even after two other story rejections, and finally getting a green light on using the Huguenot massacre as the backdrop there were still problems. William Hartnell was getting more difficult to work with and had poor health, and the then-showrunners wanted to try and remove him as lead on the show. Lucarotti's proposal of a double role for Hartnell as Abbot and Doctor was not in line with this intended path. This reputable TV writer was ultimately so dismayed that he wanted no on-screen credit. He did not get that wish but was paid for all four instalments and many years later retained the right to adapt his intended story for book form.  The novelisation was enjoyed by both fans and general readers alike and now gets further exposure today as a CD/ Internet Download.

 

This story significantly manages to intertwine historical fact with fiction. Charles IX and Preslyn are real-life figures who are used for plot purpose; the former being a weak willed monarch under the thrall of his mother Catherine De Medici, the latter being a little paranoid but nonetheless a notable scientist of his time.

Notably unique to the novelisation is the framing device of Time Lords putting the Doctor through either an inquiry or another trial, but which future Doctor is not made too clear. More focus emerges as to the morality of his interference in events, and perhaps his eventual abandonment of the various people he meets to their fates.

The plot differs increasingly from Tosh's version after the initial sections that resemble Episode One. The key character difference is the Doctor is far more involved throughout. In theory William Hartnell would have shown his full range and poise (and as much as terrific glimmers of the Abbot did make it to screen).

As we know though, the production team were against the lead, and maybe his ill health would have also been too much also.

The paramount goal for our regulars is to survive, and it is particularly urgent, but we also care for the various Huguenots who try their best to fight a growing tide. Even  some sense of the pressure on the Catholics is generated by Lucarotti, though their ends certainly never justify their means. 

Peter Purves continues to impress, after my prior sampling of his efforts for Big Finish. He uses his theatre roots, which involved considerable variety from one play to the next, to solidly portray a host of players in the story, along with their myriad characteristics. The Doctor's voice again is done well, conveying the essence of Hartnell's rather complex interpretation. What music we do get generates a heightened atmosphere, and there are fine sound effects such as the gallops of hooves, crowd noise and other effects to signify action moments.

Our narrator only stumbles when attempting rage in voices that are markedly different  to Steven. Also while his Anne is passable, there is never any real doubt of this being a male imitation of a female, but then very few can overcome this downside of the solo-contributor format.

 

All the same, we are afforded a chance to experience the book's enticing prose, and how it plays to the mediums' best strengths. There is plenty of Steven's immediate perspective. How this man from the future uses his wits over any of his inbuilt skills or training is gripping, as is his role in partially defanging the Catholic conspiracy. Most fans agree that The Massacre is Steven's peak during his time as a companion.

Along with sterling heroes we need a good set of villains. The Catholics who ultimately win are to be respected as much as reviled. Simon Duvall is built up in the most notable antagonist, demonstrating a suave nature along with having a strong plan. How the Abbot and Duvall's fates are intertwined, not least due to the Doctor's ingenuity, is a payoff that works handsomely.

Of more trivial interest, we are introduced to some minor characters who were not retained for the final TV version, e.g. the bumbling locksmith who understandably is foiled by the TARDIS' secure door.

 

It is to be commended how Lucarotti has no easy answers and does not assume a moral highground. Even the characters we most empathise with such as Gaston, Lerans and Muss are not angelic by any means. The charismatic Admiral De Coligny is helped during the timeframe of Steven and the Doctor being around, but upon their departure he receives no better a fate than assassination. Such is the inevitable course of history. And had he been spared then he likely would have implemented methods little better than his religious enemies.

Praiseworthy also is the 'identical Doctor' aspect, which was repeated in other ways  throughout the TV show's long history. In this novel version the way both the Doctor and the Abbot show initiative and smarts is more exciting than the somewhat clumsy manner the TV Abbot saw himself into trouble. The Doctor is of course the wiser and sharper of the two, and having one of this religious zealot's own allies be manipulated into his downfall is most enjoyable.

A small flaw perhaps, but one most classic Who stories are guilty of, is the sheer lack of notable female characters in comparison to male. At least we do have two solid roles in the form of the ruthless Queen Mother and the young, vulnerable but brave Anne Chaplet.

The manner of how the Doctor manages to avoid the wrath Catherine shows the First Doctor at his typical smart best, and is especially exciting knowing he must convince as a man who only resembles him in appearance. Meanwhile the Steven-Anne dynamic is used very well to evoke real concern for the many innocents caught up between the scheming factions. It is one of the very first instances of a 'pseudo companion', i.e. who may qualify but circumstances finally say otherwise.

 

Catacombs has been a great trope over the years for Who, and they are sadly jettisoned in the TV equivalent. Along with the use of a crypt under Notre Dame, this story really has much to offer in terms of atmosphere.

Indeed, there is much suspense and intrigue, and yet the final sections do lack a touch of the all pervading sense of doom of Tosh's work. The debate between Steven and his mysterious mentor over what they can or cannot do regarding historical events is far less confrontational.

Tosh's rewrite saw potential descendant of Anne, Dodo, take up what initially appeared to be the Frenchwoman's place abroad the TARDIS. Yet I personally prefer the way that Anne is safe thanks to the Doctor's efforts. albeit with the only fleeting reference to Dodo in the epilogue Lucarotti opts for. At the same time, it is a shame that the famous soliloquy by Hartnell is nowhere to be found. It is a key moment  of Who folklore and wonderfully recreated by David Bradley in An Adventure In Time And Space from autumn 2013.

 

This is perhaps not a story to be digested in one sitting as the previous off-air soundtrack can be. It is very ambitious and intricate, and requires a lot of close attention from the listener, but is more than worth it as the foundations are rock solid. Whilst reflecting the deliberate pace of the Hartnell era, it never feels tedious. This pivotal historical is as relevant to our society and its political and religious unrest as it was back when first pieced together under the most fraught of circumstances. 

 





Interview with Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman (Berlin, 17th July 2015)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 23 July 2015 - Reviewed by Pascal Salzmann
Berlin-interview

Peter, being a die-hard Doctor Who fan yourself, were you nervous about living up to the huge expectations of the fans?
 
Peter: I was very nervous about playing the part, but I didn’t really think about the expectations of the fans. Because that’s not very useful. It would make me just more nervous. I just tried to think about playing the part as best I could.
 
Does it take guts to alter this much-loved character?
 
Peter: I don’t think he has altered much. I just felt very privileged to play the role. But it was frightening and is frightening, but luckily Jenna has been a fabulous support, help and friend to me and I was very lucky that she was playing the role when I arrived. She made it a very enjoyable experience as well as a challenging one.
 
So what was it like to see the TARDIS for the first time?
 
Peter: I saw the TARDIS once while David Tennant was the Doctor in an episode called Fires of Pompeii. I thought this would be my only involvement with Doctor Who. So I was very pleased that they asked me to be the Doctor. With Fires of Pompeii they offered me the part and I didn’t even read the script and said that I just want to do this. But my wife said “No, you mustn’t. You are a professional actor. You have to read the script and see what it’s like.” David was great. He showed me the TARDIS which I found quite moving at the time but I didn’t realise that a few years later I would be “driving” it myself. It is a very wonderful place to be. And also I am realising how popular the show is growing around the world and it’s interesting to go and meet the fans to see how it’s going down in other countries.

 
Jenna, how would you characterise your relationship with the Doctor?
 
Jenna: I think Clara is his conscience and his moral compass. Perhaps even his school-teacher in his social skills, teaching him how to interact with humans. I think Peter’s Doctor is a lot more Alien than the Doctors we’ve seen before. Clara helps to integrate him. There is a lot of history between them. She is the companion who has been there throughout all of his regenerations. So she is the long-standing friend.
 
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey from Clara Oswald, the impossible girl, to the school-teacher?
 
Jenna: With the impossible girl we didn’t really know Clara like we know her now. She had to be kept a mystery from the audience and from the Doctor, so we couldn’t really get to close to her. Series 8 allowed us more freedom to see more of her life, her home and what she does away from the Doctor. Also to see her struggle with and enjoying the two different lives she leads. We could finally explore her domestic life a little bit more, whereas we are a lot more space-bound in the upcoming Series 9. It is a lot more about life in the TARDIS and visiting as many planets and places as they can to have reckless adventures.
 
Jenna and Peter, which characteristic of your roles do you like and which do you dislike?
 
Jenna: I kinda like my bad qualities. Clara is really flawed. Egotistical and stubborn. A control-freak. And at the same time she is kind, brave, adventurous and romantic. But I like the fact that she is totally flawed.
 
Peter: I don’t dislike any qualities of the Doctor. I like everything that he does. I like the fact that he is tricky and distant. Sometimes friendly, sometimes clumsy, sometimes arrogant. I like all of it. And all of them.
 
Were you certain that an older, darker Doctor would work from the beginning or were there doubts?
 
Peter: No. I had no idea. You can’t second-guess the audience. You can’t try to come up with a version of the Doctor that is just good for marketing. You have to find out how you feel as an actor about this role and try to be true to that. While at the same time, playing the role that Steven [Moffat] writes. Matt, who I absolutely loved, was a very accessible and friendly Doctor, so we automatically tried to be a little less of that. But I think that’s all right. I didn’t want to seek the audience’s approval. I think it’s important not to ask the audience to love you. They must find out for themselves whether they like you or not.
 
The show has grown in popularity all over the world. Do you think it has something to do with changed viewing habits and new ways to watch TV like online streaming?
 
Peter: Yes, the way that people watch television is very different now. They can have access to all kind of programmes through different platforms and can watch whenever and wherever they like. So that helps a programme like ours, which is to some extend a kind of “cult”. People tend to discover Doctor Who and it’s a quiet, private thing and they don’t necessarily want it to become a big fan-thing that other people know about. Especially because in its history a lot of the time the show has been under-the-radar and people have loved it without being validated. There were times when you felt like being rebellious for being into it or you were not one of the cool kids for being a fan. Now it’s really cool, which is nice!
 
What do you think is the main difference between the new and the old show? Are the scripts today better than they used to be?
 
Peter: Part of the joy of it is that we make a programme that has the spirit of the old series but has the technical prowess of the modern, digital age. We have CGI and wonderful make-up and costumes. You couldn’t do the show today as it used to be done back in the days. The old show was only ever meant to be watched when it was transmitted. That was it. There wasn’t even a video industry and the show wasn’t expected to be examined in detail. An episode just existed for 25 minutes on a Saturday night. I get annoyed when some people say unkind things about some of the production values. The early show didn’t have much money and the makers didn’t have much time. But they had huge imagination. And it was the imagination and the images that the show triggered in children that was special. I was a child when Doctor Who began and it fired my imagination.
 
Can you tell us some secrets of the upcoming Series?
 
Jenna: Vikings!
 
Peter: Yes, Vikings. Very good!
 
Jenna: Our secret number one.
 
Peter: They are real Vikings! They are not Robot-Vikings or Space-Vikings.
 
Jenna: Actual Vikings!
 
Peter: In Viking times on Earth. Which is great. And that’s when we meet…erm….some more Vikings. [Jenna and Peter laughing]
 
How scary is it for an actor to suddenly be the face of such a phenomenon?
 
Jenna: I remember that Matt described it to me like a freight-train that you jump on. And that’s what happens. As soon as you start filming, you end up enjoying the job so much and that you are going to work every day and the storytelling is so dynamic. It’s almost too much fun. The filming part just takes over.
 
Peter: I just sort of try not to look down. If I become over-conscious of the scale and interest in the show it would probably make me a difficult person to live with. I don’t think it’s a very natural situation to be so recognised. I asked David Tennant about what is going to change for me. He told me that I will become incredibly visible. At home, in the Uk, that means when you go to the Grocery Store or wherever you look like the Doctor, so people will look at you all the time. But it’s fine. You receive a lot of affection.
 
You have been to Comic Con, doing conventions and promotion, now you are here in Germany. How do you keep your energy up? Is this side of your job still exciting or is it stressful?
 
Jenna: We drink a lot of coffee.
 
Peter: We do. And we are looked after by our wonderful team from BBC Worldwide. To be honest, we are in the middle of filming episode eleven right now. The production team has now been off on holidays for two weeks. And we have gone to Comic Con and to L.A. and now to Berlin. We don’t actually do that much. It takes nine months to film the show, so that’s what we spend all our time on. But you are right, this here is a different energy and a different way of being, that we have to get used to, too. But I think it keeps you young. When I started the job I thought I will get me an exercise bike, but it soon became clear that I didn’t need to do any exercise. Working from 7 a.m. in the morning to 7 p.m. at night is better than going to the gym.
 
Jenna, which Doctor would you like to hang out with at a pub?
 
Jenna: I’m happy doing that with my current Doctor. But if I had a TARDIS I would not go to the pub. I’d be on some other planet somewhere. If you got all of time and space, I definitely wouldn’t be in a pub.
 
Can you tell us about your sweetest gift by a fan or a fan encounter?
 
Jenna: I had very recently gotten a little box from Rome and it was a wooden box with Clara’s leaf from Series 7 carved into it. I thought it was really extraordinary.
 
Peter: I popped into the Doctor Who Experience once. I had this Saturday off and I thought of what I could do this day. So I decided it is going to be Doctor Who at the Doctor Who Experience. My wife actually persuaded me to do it. She said “you are going to make a lot of people very happy”. And I did. But they made me so happy, just by their affection. There were hundreds of fans and more kept on coming. I was kneeling down because I had my photograph taken with some children and suddenly this little girl screamed “Doctor Who”. And she came running and threw her arms around my neck. She was very small and she totally believed in Doctor Who. It was absolutely lovely. That was a wonderful experience. You are at the centre of a child’s utter believe in the magic of this character.
 
Jenna: The day before I started filming – no one knew I was a companion yet – I was walking around in London and suddenly heard the word “Cardiff”. I turned around and saw this little boy, fully dressed up as the Doctor with his Sonic Screwdriver. The chances of this happening, a day before filming… That was very sweet.
 
Have you taken any props from the set which no one knows about?
 
Jenna: I’ve been trying for so long.
 
Peter: She is always trying to steal stuff.
 
Jenna: I haven’t taken anything. But I want to. I want to steal some stuff.
 
Peter: I don’t take anything. Well, they need it.
 
Jenna: [laughs] Some bits from the TARDIS. I usually ask if there are any replacements before I try to steal them. There isn’t, so I cannot do it.
 
Peter, does your Doctor develop a catchphrase this series?
 
Peter: Catchphrase? I’m not interested in catchphrases. The Doctor never used to have a catchphrase. That is a fairly new development.
 
Jenna: “Shut up”?
 
Peter: Shut up?
 
Jenna: Someone was asking you to write that down recently.
 
Peter: Oh, yeah. But I don’t need a catchphrase.
 
There is a big discussion going on about budget cuts at the BBC. Do you think this will have any impact on Doctor Who?
 
Peter: Probably, at some point. It’s all in such a state of flux. The thing about Doctor Who is, it is a very powerful money-maker for the BBC. So hopefully it will be looked after. It would be silly to reduce the quality of what we are making. It is bringing so much more money back in and all that money is used to make other programmes. Not Doctor Who. [laughs]
 
So what do you both watch on TV?
 
Jenna: We watch…
 
Peter: Not together….
 
Jenna: No, not together. Game of Thrones. Mad Men. I really like Black Mirror and Inside No 9. Masters of Sex.
 
Was there a moment when you thought the Doctor and Clara found their groove?
 
Jenna: I think at the end of episode one. Not found our groove, but for me there was a moment of something different and new. We connected.
 
Peter: I felt very connected to Jenna right from the start because she made me feel so welcome. She looked after me. The nice thing is, we were both very conscious of not getting into a groove. We wanted to explore these characters as thoroughly as we could, so we were trying to not go to a place where we would feel too comfortable. That was the point of their story. They get to know each other as we were.
 
Will Series 9 continue to focus on the characters like Series 8 did? Last year we had the Doctor finding himself and Clara finally becoming a well-rounded character.
 
Jenna: They are a lot more united now and just enjoy the moment and the adventure. We are doing two-parter episodes as well this year, which is new. So we can have cliffhangers and explore the stories, the places and the characters for longer. I feel like we definitely moved into a different place this year.
 
Peter: I think they are much more bonded. The Doctor wants to enjoy himself with his wonderful friend. The thing that is tricky about the Doctor and his relationship with companions… You know, Christopher Eccleston says in his first episode “I can see…everything. All there has ever been and all there ever will be. And that drives me mad”. So in a way, the Doctor knows the fate of all of his companions. That makes it…difficult. But in this instance he is deliberately enjoying the relationship and this great toybox of time and space that they can explore together. But of course, as it’s Doctor Who, there is an ever deepening shadow pursuing them.
 
Will you both be back for Series 10?
 
Jenna: We haven’t read the script to episode 12 yet.
 
Peter: No, we haven’t got to the end of this series. So we don’t know yet what happens to us.
 
 
Thank you very much for the interview!
 




New Adventures With The Eleventh Doctor #12 - Conversion Part 1Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 18 July 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
 Eleventh Doctor #12! (Credit: Titan)

WRITER: Rob Williams
ARTIST: Warren Pleece
  COLOURS: Hi-Fi
LETTERER: Richard Starkings + Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
DESIGNER - Rob Farmer
EDITOR - Andrew James
ASSISTANT EDITOR- Kirsten Murray
COVER BY: Simon Fraser
PUBLISHER: Titan Comics
RELEASE DATE: May 20, 2015

A new set of adventures begin for our heroes, opening with a visit to Berlin garnering unwelcome attention from some East German soldiers. Soon, a near-fatal experience in space faces the Doctor and Jones before a mysterious 'non-comet' consumes the TARDIS. It threatens to break down the Doctor's ship in a permanently destructive fashion. But then the strange comet heads for Earth!

Just why is the TARDIS seemingly putting up no fight against the flames of the comet? And how can ARC assist, given his connection to the Entity? A whole different ball game may play out on the ground level of our small blue-green world, and some not-so-friendly acquaintances of the Doctor's are poised to make their presence known.

 

Yet another winner would be my immediate assessment for this story. Things certainly get off to a flying start as we see the Doctor and Jones bantering whilst on a motorbike chased by East Germans who may well believe they have Western spies to apprehend. On a personal level to me, the Cold War will always have much resonance so I was glad to see a (brief) call-back to such times in one of Titan's ongoing comic book lines.

Furthermore, this latest designated team of creative talents on the Eleventh Doctor line do a great job, and make Conversion a fine 'jumping on ' point for those unfamiliar with either this series or Titan Comics various output in general.

Warren Pleece  was last involved with the two-parter storyline of Issues 7 and 8. While not working for this title a number of months he seems to have gone away and acquired more insight into the very quirky (but enthralling) style that Doctor Who is meant to have. I found his panels showing the bike/helicopter chase a great 'grab' at the start. Also the later sections with the Roman soldiers and the melting TARDIS control room shone brightly as examples of how to tell an action story with real purpose and thematic depth to it.

There is a barnstorming cliffhanger to bridge into issue 13, tying in with the story's title and featuring a race of foes that the Doctor may ever so slightly tire of given his long-term association with them.

 

With much adherence to the Matt Smith era's style clearly evident, this effort builds further on the strong televisual foundations, due to the huge scope afforded by the comic book medium.  By this point I have come to expect writer Rob Williams to produce gold for the huge extended universe that is this franchise. His choice of giving Romans a part in proceedings is also fitting given their memorable role in the Series 5 finale The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang.

A lot of set-up is done in this issue, and is successful; making us care for the rather hapless tin-plated soldiers who may wield a sword well enough, but could never grasp the basics of machine gun or space ray weaponry. How the Entity will make the returning monsters for this new storyline operate in a different fashion to before remains to be seen. Given the previously clever use of twists and 'added spice' to well worn tropes in earlier stories for this TARDIS crew, I except very good things.

 

Bonus Humour Strip:

Marc Ellerby is a consistently sparky writer month-in month-out. Here he produces a fun one page work focusing on a game of football at Leadworth. Bow-Ties For Goal Posts features just the Doctor and Rory this time round, with a brief reference to River Song.  I did find the lack of knowledge by the Doctor of this far-reaching sport a little odd, especially given his direct use of a football several times on TV (e.g. with Craig in The Lodger) . Perhaps he was coming of a draining recent adventure and his considerable set of memories was clouded briefly? But a cleverly done X-Men reference more than makes up for this. 

 





The Fourth Doctor Adventures #407 - The Fate of KrelosBookmark and Share

Friday, 17 July 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Ruddock
The Fate of Krelos (Credit: Big Finish)
Written and Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Starring Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, and John Leeson
with Michael Cochrane and Veronica Roberts
Released July 2015

When is a story not really a story? Doctor Who's famously flexible format, whether you watch, listen, or read has so many possibilities - good or bad, and so many different types of pace to play with.

 

One episode cutaway with Daleks and no regular cast? Check. Epic serials with serials tucked within? Check. Trilogies, season-long arcs, Doctor-lite episodes, box sets, monologues? Check. It's a versatile old stick.

 

The Fate of Krelos represents a bit of a departure from the tight storytelling of the recent Fourth Doctor Adventures. The structure is unique, as three quarters of it is set-up for the following story, season finale Return to Telos - more about that later.

 

The Fate of Krelos is ostensibly a story about the Doctor and Leela taking a day off to climb a mountain and go fishing. They chat, bicker, and discuss the purpose of fishing. It's all quite uneventful for them, until they meet a collapsed mechanical man whilst climbing. The mechanical man is actually a vessel for the consciousness of the elderly mountaineer Geralk (played delightfully by Michael Cochrane) - who's safe at home in the opulent city of Krelos. They while away a little time together until a frenzied K9 attempts to climb the mountain to rather incoherently warn them of a terrible danger that he can't.....or won't explain. Then they make their apologies and leave Geralk to it.

 

The Doctor dutifully 'parks' the TARDIS in hover mode, and next thing they know, they step back out to find Krelos decimated - overrun by parasitical creatures as a by-product of K9's meddling with the TARDIS's architectural configuration. 

 

And what has K9 done? Well, for reasons best known to himself, he's plugged himself into the TARDIS and taken it upon himself to flip the desktop theme back to what us fans might describe as 'Lime Grove '67', complete with a bit of Jamie's kilt snagged on the console, and possibly the odour of foam and the odd kirby wire. Much is made of this change of atmosphere and configuration. It's odd to hear this Doctor, never one to look back, musing over his past. It's not that subtle, and with the Doctor and Leela talking at length about Jamie and the past in general, it's quite clear that it's building to something. 

 

What's less clear is why neither the Doctor or Leela notice that K9 is behaving very strangely right until the end, he basically disobeys every order given, puts everyone in danger, and makes no sense whatsoever. The listener is given every clue that something is seriously awry, and John Leeson works hard garbling and stuttering his delivery to emphasise this. K9 is, essentially, possessed - and the culprit is clear when he utters a familiar phrase at the cliffhanger. But, he is acting oddly throughout, and it's painfully obvious that we're supposed to know something is wrong. I'm not sure if the point was to highlight how little the Doctor and Leela really listen to K9, but it sticks out a mile, and it's jarring how unaware they are, when everything from script upwards is screaming at us that K9's having something of a metal breakdown.

 

The Fate of Krelos is really just build-up for the big finale of Return to Telos. We don't learn a lot about Krelos, bar some engaging scene-setting by Geralk. We also only meet two of its inhabitants, so it's hard to get too involved in what happens to its civilisation. Writer-Director Nick Briggs gets some nice stuff in about the technology and culture of Krelos, but the meat of what goes on in these two episodes is the conversations between Tom Baker and Louise Jameson, and John Leeson's off-kilter portrayal of the possessed K9.

 

Baker and Jameson are coming to the end of their time together, as we edge towards the end of Season Fifteen - so this is the Doctor and Leela's pause to reflect. Very effective too, from fairly trivial exchanges to the weightier stuff when the Doctor spells out his reasons for not crossing his timeline and saving Krelos. Tom and Louise are, as ever, wonderful. Leeson gets a meatier role than usual, and has a lot to do, which he does well. Selling the character of a robot dog suffering from possession by a malign force whilst still staying true to your character can't be easy.

 

The Fate of Krelos is very enjoyable. It proves that you can continue to do different things with a set format, and will no doubt make a lot more sense in context next month when Return to Telos is unveiled. This is perhaps the least individually effective of this years series, but it proves in more ways than one that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

 





The Ninth Doctor Mini-Series - Issue TwoBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 14 July 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Doctor Who: Ninth Doctor #2 (Credit: Titan)

Writer - Cavan Scott, Art + Colours - Blair Shedd

Letters: Richard Starkings/ Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

Colour Flat Assist: Anang Setyawan

Designer - Rob Farmer, Editor - Andrew James

Assistant Editor - Kirsten Murray

Following the near catastrophic events abroad a war ship, there is more peril facing the TARDIS trio. Rose happens to be the most immediately in danger as she is exposed to the volatile Time Vortex. The Doctor races to save her, but appears too late. But help for the Londoner with a heart of gold may come from the most unlikely (and inky) of individuals.

However the bigger picture soon comes into play as the legacy of the Time War is felt. Super-weapons that were never meant for 'lower beings' than the Gallifrereans are available for the right price, which could have some cataclysmic results.

 

This is another splendid effort from all concerned once again; reading very well and never losing pace or incident as one page follows another. As one would hope there is an attempt to fit into the well-woven 'Bad Wolf' arc which Russell T Davies executed to a tee in the maiden series of modern Doctor Who.

The settings and way that the story is told alter somewhat as there is less violent action and instead some more picturesque imaging and emphasis on character growth. Yet we still get some more backstory for both the Time War and Captain Jack as well, and the mix of different ingredients is effective to say the least.

Superb characterization and dialogue makes this story really come  to life. This is as much as a paper or electronic comic can fizz with energy.

It also feels like the Ecclestone incarnation of our heroic Time Lord is back to dominating the immediate action before us, albeit with all his foibles and volatile emotions. We gain some very pertinent insight into Captain Jack's exciting life as a time traveller, and even a time when he was young and green. His loud confidence and the Ninth Doctor's snappiness continue to be involving; the one being the perfect foil for the other.

Yet not only is there this uneasy relation between Jack and the Doctor, but also some sense of bonding. I feel this which is what this 'missing adventure' really should be offering fans - especially given the camaraderie that opened Boom Town (which felt very rushed when the initial stories first aired in 2005).

Rose's stoic reaction to what should be certain death is engaging, and her enforced employment for a squid/octopus-like alien is one of the most entertaining examples of Doctor Who's ability to mix people from different places and times and yet feel credible with something to say about society in real life.

Most of the guest characters are certainly not in the right morally but they are hardly villains either, forming a motley collection of arm-wheelers-and-dealers from every corner of the cosmos.

 

A perhaps shameless homage of Star Wars' Tatooine desert world manages to just about feel fresh, thanks to the use of an impending supernova plus a sun dominating the skyline. Of course such liberal borrowing of iconic sci-fi can also fall flat in Doctor Who, as the The Rings of Akhaten  sadly proved.

Perhaps the overall arc is not being advanced as much as it can be, but later instalments will hopefully justify this creative decision by writer Cavan Scott. We are still left in some doubt just which major space power locked in war - the Lect or the Unon - will cause the most damage with munitions that belong back in the 'inaccessible' Time War. But still much impresses, not least the Doctor's attempted auction of one of his most prized assets. His companions reacting in panic to this is the comedic and dramatic highlight of this issue. The ensuing cliffhanger falls into place well enough but maybe without offering the 'gut-punch' that the best interruptions in Who stories manage.

 

Blair Shedd's work with art and predominant colours continues to be grandiose, and yet also intimate when needed. This is the calibre of art strong enough that any given panel would be worthy of being a screensaver or wallpaper. Both the regulars and the original characters get strong facial expressions which are pertinent to both the types of individuals they are, and the themes that connect them to the plot. 

The management of foreground, middle ground and background is commendable also. This degree of composition reflects Scott's story needs and almost always comes off as effortlessly strong. Also, the use of the TARDIS and Time Vortex in the opening few pages is especially riveting and helpful in establishing the well-judged pace that makes this a very fine read.

My views then on this new addition to the Titan range then have not changed. It is the very best of a fine bunch, and I hope issue five will end up being instead the 'end of the beginning'.

 

Bonus Humour Strip:

Given some of the efforts we have been treated to in other editions, Hot Springs Eternal from AJ is just about worth a look. The overall joke would be funny to a total newcomer but otherwise makes the Ninth Doctor look like a buffoon. This is only meant to take place when he is attempting to look carefree, and not the lonely alien he is so conscious of being post-Time-War. This Doctor for me is meant to be full of gravitas when showing off his superior knowledge of space and time, and not just clumsy and headstrong.

 








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