The Fourth Doctor: Gallery Of Ghouls (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 30 June 2016 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Gallery Of Ghouls (Credit: Big Finish)
The Fourth Doctor Adventures - Series 5 Episode 5 -
Written By: Alan Barnes
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor)
Lalla Ward (Romana)
Celia Imrie (Madame Tissot)
Nickolas Grace (Goole)
Stephen Critchlow (Noni)
Helen Goldwyn (Wax Marie)

Released by Big Finish May 2016
(purchase from Amazon UK)

In The Gallery Of Ghouls, we find the Doctor and Romana in Brighton, the year is 1833. They are there to visit the opening of the Brighton Pavilion, but unfortunately, the Randomiser made them materialise eighteen years too early.

From the off, the listener can tell that this story will be a somewhat lighthearted affair. The Doctor believes that seagulls are agents of the Black Guardian, and has issues with deck chairs, while Romana believes that eighteen years is 'the blink of a time tots eye', and is happy to while away the time touring Europe.

However, when they discover that Madam Tissot's Wax Exposition is in town, they both decide to take a look, after all, waxworks are the Doctor's 57th favorite thing.....or is that 58th?

The play on the name Tissot is, of curse quite purposeful. It turns out that Madam Tissot (the rather fantastic Celia Imrie) is a tad jealous of Madam Tussaud's fame, and feels a tad robbed of the limelight.

We join Madam Tissot and her son Noni (yes, Noni) at the Exposition, where Tissot is bemoaning a local rival Mr Goole (Nickolas Grace), who runs a similar attraction, Goole's Gallery of Ghouls on the other side of town. They discover the Doctor trying to put right a waxwork display depicting the death of Nelson. The Doctor insisting that he himself was present at the actual event, along with a Sea Devil. Things start to spiral out of control for the Doctor and Romana though as they discover that the head of Marie Antoinette has been stolen, and the finger of blame is of course pointing straight at the Doctor and Romana.

From here on in things descend into a dark farce. Who is the mysterious Mr Goole, and why does he seem to just melt away? Why are his waxworks so very lifelike? And are we really being invaded by aliens from the planet Slough? I'm sure you can see exactly where all of this is going.

The Tom Baker and Lalla Ward episodes always managed to squeeze in a lot of humour, and Gallery of Ghouls really drives that home. The comic timing between the pair are exquisite here, providing much comic relief after the previous two episodes of pretty hard sci-fi. The feel of this audio reminded me a lot of The Talons Of Weng-Chiang yes, it's dark, but there are a lot of funny moments. 

The cliffhanger to part one is expertly, and tightly constructed, and is also pure Who of the time. Our heroes are separated, The Doctor and Noni are trapped in Goole's Cellar Of Terror, where the lifelike waxworks, are seemingly coming alive. While outside Romana and Noni are trapped by an alien masquerading as a local policeman, welding Dick Turpin's blunderbuss.

Celia Imrie is a joy as the guileful Madam Tissot, whose claims all ring about as true as Walter Mitty. She speaks with a haughty French accent, which she loses in a moment of truthfulness, and is exposed as Mary Barnes, from Wolverhampton. Nickolas Grace is great as her much put upon son Noni. This audio is written by Alan Barnes, and directed by Ken Bentley.

K9/ John Leeson are absent from this audio, but much like the classic era in which this story is set, he is mentioned a lot (this usually happened when the terrain would have been a nightmare for the prop to negotiate).

All in all, there is a lot to recommend Gallery of Ghouls, I promise you that you will find it well worth a listen. Gallery of Ghouls is available from Big Finish now.





Fourth Doctor #2 - Gaze of the Medusa (Part Two)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 20 June 2016 - Reviewed by Tom Buxton
DOCTOR WHO: FOURTH DOCTOR MINI-SERIES #2 (Credit: Titan)Writers: Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby
Artist: Brian Williamson
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterers: Richard Starkings and Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Senior Comics Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editors: Jessica Burton and Gabriela Houston
Designer: Rob Farmer
Released: April 20th 2016, Titan Comics

If the superb opening instalment of Titan Comics' five-part Fourth Doctor miniseries gave fans of Tom Baker's incarnation the impression that they might be in for something special, then Issue 2 confirms those suspicions wholeheartedly, embracing its predecessor's strengths whilst building upon them so as to further fulfill the "Gaze of the Medusa" storyline's vast potential.

Penned once again by Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby, this similarly accomplished sophomore instalment doesn't so much centre on Issue 1's fascinating final panel revelation - namely that Sarah Jane appears doomed to be converted into a lifeless statue by the supernatural forces plaguing the TARDIS crew at present - as put it to one side for now. Instead, its focus lies on how the mysterious Lady Emily Carstairs' temporal machinations have forced the ancient Greek and Victorian worlds to abruptly collide, placing Sarah at the heart of the exposition as she converses with Carstairs about her somewhat tragic past while the Doctor tags along with his newfound allies, Professor Odysseus James and Athena, in the hope of rescuing his companion before it's too late.

This somewhat familiar premise might sound like a recipe for mediocrity to those readers still on the fence about picking up Titan's latest Doctor Who strip, but for all Part Two treads water as opposed to making genuine progress towards this one-off serial's endgame, there's plenty of compelling material to keep Fourth Doctor devotees hooked regardless. No more do the strip's merits come to the fore, in fact, than with the scribes' decision to separate their lead players for the majority of the issue, since their depictions of both Baker and Lis Sladen's characters are accurate in their emphasis on how each of the two characters can more than hold their own in the face of seemingly unfavourable odds. Yes, Sarah might remain in Carstairs' clutches here, yet by no means does that make her a passive participant in proceedings - if anything, that she manages to quickly convince Carstairs of how invaluable both she and her waylaid Time Lord can be to their foe if she keeps them alive only goes to demonstrate her endearing charisma, while the Fourth Doctor's constant joke cracking clearly does just as much to earn him the faith of his latest comrades as they plunge headfirst into a wealth of new dangers.

What's more, despite them having only five issues in which to depict the Baker era's most beloved assets and convey a captivating standalone narrative, Beeby and Rennie also show an admirable commitment to rendering their secondary constructs as equally sympathetic individuals to 'watch' develop. Odyesseus, for instance, displays a rather charming passion for the unknown that prompts him to seem believably reckless at times, with his daughter's determination to rein in this enthusiastic fervour for his own safety feeling similarly akin to some of the more memorable parental relationships we've seen on the TV series in recent years - albeit with the parent usually worrying more about their offspring than the other way around. Carstairs' surprisingly heartfelt backstory, meanwhile, endeared her to this reviewer far more than he might ever have expected upon picking up Issue 2, a trait which could bode extremely well for her memorability as a regretful antagonist of sorts in future issues should the capable writing team capitalize on her appeal between now and the "Medusa" arc's conclusion. Nothing's guaranteed, of course, but at the rate Beeby and Rennie are developing their impressive level of layered characterisation from issue to issue, chances are this five-part saga's primary and secondary constructs alike will linger in the memory of the strip's followers long after they've read its final panel.

Speaking of the panels themselves, thanks to Brian Williamson's phenomenal Gothic artwork, they're just as much a thing of beauty as the "Medusa" storyline itself. Whether he's depicting a simple, carraigebound exchange between the Doctor and his Victorian partners-in-crime with photorealistic facial imagery - not to mention authentically chilling mists surrounding the carriage - or the temporally unique, supernatural glare of the lamp of Chronos as it illuminates the room in which Sarah's busy untangling Carstairs' intentions or indeed the horrifyingly morbid cliffhanger moment which will all but guarantee that readers can't help but return for Issue 3 to discover what's next for the character, Williamson doesn't falter on any front whatsoever. Indeed, it's a wonder that he's not called upon more often to accompany the scripts for the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh or Twelfth Doctors' regular strips, since judging by the work he's produced in the space of two Fourth Doctor-centric issues alone, the man's got just as much to offer Titan Comics' ever-expanding franchise of Doctor Who comics as any other artist who's contributed to the various ranges to date.

Alternatively, though, Titan could take an even more obvious route once Issue 5 brings the "Medusa" arc to its end, commissioning a regular Fourth Doctor strip off the back of this miniature arc just as they did after their five-part Ninth Doctor miniseries, "Weapons of Past Destruction", met with such critical and commercial acclaim upon its debut on the comic-book scene last year. Certainly, based on the immeasurable strength of both Issue 1 and its immediate follow-up, there's no substantial reason to think why a fully-fledged continuation courtesy of Rennie, Beeby and Williamson couldn't continue to develop the pitch-perfect adapted rapport of the Fourth Doctor and Sarah, their era's much-loved supernatural array of adversaries as well as the supporting characters tasked with helping or hindering the pair in their adventures for many issues to come. Perhaps the Fourth Doctor will one day return to the TV series in the form of the Curator as introduced to us in 2013's televised 50th Anniversary Special The Day of the Doctor, but in the meantime, the character's printed incarnation evidently has plenty of life in him yet.





Eleventh Doctor Year 2: # 6 - The One (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 19 June 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
DOCTOR WHO THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR YEAR TWO #6  (Credit: Titan)

"THE ONE - PART 1 OF 2"

WRITER -
ROB WILLIAMS

ARTIST - SIMON FRASER

COLORIST - GARY CALDWELL

(ABSLOM DAAK CREATED BY
STEVE MOORE AND STEVE DILLON,
+ APPEARS COURTESY OF PANINI COMICS, 
WITH THANKS TO DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE)

LETTERER - RICHARD STARKINGS AND
COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT

ASSISTANT EDITORS - JESSICA BURTON
+ GABRIELA HOUSTON

EDITOR - ANDREW JAMES

DESIGNER - ROB FARMER

MAIN COVER BY ALEX RONALD

RELEASED MARCH 2ND 2016, TITAN COMICS

The Doctor, Alice, The Squire and their 'ally of convenience' Daak have finally located the ultra-confident, ultra-capable Professor River Song, after more than a few parsecs travelled across the universe. A reunion for this version of the Doctor and River is somewhat overshadowed by the continued threat offered by 'The Then And The Now' being. But perhaps some solutions can be found at last to this rather unwelcome scenario the TARDIS crew have been immersed in. And this could see the Doctor clear his name at last, long after the actions of a former incarnation that he rarely mentions to even the closest people in his life.

 

Reaching the halfway-point of Year Two, I continue to be impressed by the direction this timey-wimey, French-loaf-twisted arc runs along. There is lots of vigour and derring-do and all the regular characters are sufficiently engaging to make the spectacle resonate to full effect.

River Song once again is used to good effect alongside the Eleventh Doctor, and how nice to have her grace more than a few comic strip panels and play a full part in proceedings. As enjoyable as it was to see her appear frequently in the bonus strip, it is considerably more involving when we are reminded of the complex non-chronological timeline that she and the Doctor are forced to share together.

Abslom Daak continues to add colourful unpredictability to the storyline; his wildcard status is neatly complementary to the stalwart Squire and the thoroughly down to earth Alice. The Doctor clearly enjoys having to juggle many things all at once, and be pushed to his limits, but is clearly in a comfort zone whenever his beloved River is in close proximity.

There have been plenty of references to the Master, at this point, and with a bit of luck we will get to see him reappear. Being that this is pre-Capaldi-era, the expectation is that we get the traditional male version. (Although having Missy somehow appear would be truly special, the question would then arise how the Twelfth Doctor does not recognise her).

 

Year One for the Eleventh Doctor had plenty to it, and required readers pay attention and remember various pertinent details. This second year is more of the same, but 'dialled-up', and writer Rob Williams has showed just how many tricks he has up his sleeves. It lives up to the clever nature of the Matt Smith TV outings, and especially the carefully pre-planned 'Series 6a and 6b'; (within were never my favourite stories, but unquestionably ones that showed Doctor Who could yet again re-invent itself to compelling effect).

Artwork continues to convince and thrill in equal measure. Simon Fraser confidently portrays the frenetic travels through both physical space and the (often chaotic) dimensions of time. 'The Then And The Now' is a great idea, and continues to be used well. It is hard to imagine this remorseless foe being any better in televisual or audio format. The colour work for these stories is also more than acceptable, although some of the finishes for the Eighth and Ninth Doctor Mini-Series of recent times were just a touch stronger at leaving a lasting impression

This now well-established monthly series from Titan, dedicated to the bow-tie-wearing variant of the Doctor, continues to surprise and delight. It also remains faithful to both its source telly-box origins, and to the visually infinite universe of comics.

 

BONUSES

 

HUMOUR STRIP - LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR - (Art and Visuals by Marc Ellerby)

A solid comedic display again from Ellerby, who has his own unique brand of depicting the familiar 'TARDIS family', as well as supporting or one-shot characters. The tenuous nature of neighbourly relations gets to be the main focus in this mini-story, and should evoke familiar emotions for the vast majority of readers. This material would arguably look at home in a regular daily newspaper, and its reach never exceeds its grasp. 

---

Two alternate covers feature amongst the final pages. One is a photo-style image of the Doctor reacting to a figure that casts a curly haired silhouette on the TARDIS, in the backdrop. The other is a quirky collection of images, which charmingly conveys an abundance of joy and humour.





Tenth Doctor Year 2 #2.3 - Cindy, Cleo, and The Magic SketchbookBookmark and Share

Thursday, 16 June 2016 - Reviewed by Dan Collins
DOCTOR WHO: TENTH DOCTOR #2.3 (Credit: Titan)
Writer:Nick Abadzis
Artists: Elena Casagrande and Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Comicraft'sJimmy Betancourt
On Sale: December 2, 2015

In the previous two issues we saw Gabby and the Doctor out and about, once more gallivanting around the universe after stopping the destruction of Earth. While they are away, Cindy settles down to read the diary that her best friend gave her. She is hoping to finally learn the truth about this mysterious Doctor.

If I had to use just one word to describe this comic, I would probably go for… Bold. Why? Well let’s start with the overall story itself. This is a Doctor-lite issue. You know what I’m talking about, like those episodes where the actor playing the Doctor is on vacation and so they write a whole story that barely features the character. It has been done well with phenomenal stories like Blink. Sometimes though, they come up short, Love and Monsters being the most notorious example, though I personally enjoyed it.  Here we are just three issues into this “second season” of Doctor Who comics from Titan, and they are already taking a risk by excluding the two main characters from this story.  Both the Doctor and his companion Gabby are physically absent for the entire issue. We the reader are ultimately being guided by two of the more unlikable characters from previous story arcs, Cindy and Cleo. This could have been a disaster, maybe even should have been a disaster, but it wasn’t.  Mostly because Cleo has finally shed some of that hard exterior and revealed that she’s more than the thug who knocked the Doctor around during their last encounter. Cindy had a bit of a turn around too, though I feel like that has a lot to do with the second bold decision in this issue, the choice of storytelling device.

Here we are in a Doctor-Lite episode and the first page shows Cindy sitting on a NY park bench holding her best friend’s diary. She opens up the book and we are transported into the diary. We aren’t watching Cindy reading, but rather seeing with our eyes what she is seeing.  The pages are no longer comic book pages with panels, speech bubbles and captions, but instead paragraphs of text off to the side with quick sketches in the middle. Even the colour of the pages changes during this portion of the story.  And it works well! We get a mini “origin story” that tells us a little tale about how Cindy and Gabby bonded over a scary situation when they were just children. She then uses that feeling of terror and excitement to describe life with the Doctor. These diary pages also work really well as a catch up. If new readers came on board when “season 2” started, they might not know all about the Doctor. Here, through Cindy’s eyes, the audience are reintroduced to him, given a quick primer on just what sort of man the Doctor is and the stage is set for his reappearance most likely in the next issue.

There is a lot more to this particular story than just seeing what Cindy is reading. The book itself becomes the plot. There is something off with the diary. The pages are changing, almost alive. They start warning her how dangerous it would be if it fell into the wrong hands. Those hands belong to Mister Ebonite, the owner of the black market auction house. Dressed all in black, with his elongated and pinched face, he is giving off weird vibes long before he pulls out a flying skull and sends it after Gabby and Cleo. With weird mystical or magical powers that will undoubtedly actually be alien tech in origin, he gets the upper hand. When things are looking really bad for our rag tag misfits a familiar face makes an appearance. Even though this issue has been out for quite a while, I won’t spoil it for anyone who is planning to eventually get around to reading it. All I will say is that it was a pleasant surprise!

 

Over all I really enjoyed this issue. The diary portion was great. The little cartoons that accompanied the text were cute and perfect. I missed a bunch of the early issues in this series and so I benefited from the recap as much as any other reader would have. Both Cindy and Cleo get some great character development that makes them more likeable and relatable. Even if they hadn’t started endearing themselves to me, the twist at the end of the issue was more than enough to keep me coming back next month.

 

Bonus Strip: A Rose By Any Other Name By Rachael Smith

 

Rose-The-Cat wonders why the Doctor isn’t using his moping chair anymore, only to discover that he’s found all the companionship he needs inside a videogame.





The Peterloo Massacre (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 16 June 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
The Peterloo Massacre (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by Paul Magrs
Directed by Jamie Anderson

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Hayley Jayne Standing (Cathy), Robbie Stevens (Hurley), Gerard Kearns (William), Philip Labey (Thomas Tyler), Wayne Forester (Walton/Roberts/Rev Small), Liz Morgan (Mrs Hurley/Sister)

Big Finish Productions – Released March 2016

Every once in a while, Big Finish release a play which stands out from their large catalogue of Doctor Who releases as being something rather special. ThePeterlooMassacre, based on one of the darkest episodes of early nineteenth century British history, is the most recent example of such a play. Paul Magrs, who is better known for slightly less serious offerings to TheWorldsofDoctorWho, has produced a script which brilliantly captures the atmosphere of the tragic events of 16th August 1819. The massacre itself, a mass demonstration for reform by more than 60,000 people in St Peter’s Square, Manchester which was attacked by local militia, resulting in 15 fatalities and 654 casualties, is not a subject which would automatically lend itself to a Doctor Who story. However, sometimes it is worth remembering that events like the Peterloo Massacre actually happened and that real people were caught up in them.

By concentrating on a small number of fictionalised characters caught up in the massacre, Magrs is able to do what a pure historical story does best and concentrate on the human aspect. At the centre of this story is Nyssa’s relationship with Cathy, a maid who wants to speak up for workers’ rights only to find herself directly affected by the tragedy. Sarah Sutton is able to give Nyssa genuine compassion which particularly shines through in her scenes alongside Hayley Jayne Standing as Cathy, particularly when the human cost of the massacre becomes horrifically apparent. Peter Davison, meanwhile, gives one of his strongest performances to date as the Doctor realises far too late that he and his companions have arrived in Manchester on the eve of one of the darkest days in the city’s history. His growing anger as he seeks to protect his companions from the inevitability of the unfolding events is truly something to behold. This story really showcases the Fifth Doctor’s full performance range. Even Janet Fielding’s Tegan manages to be less abrasive than usual even when experiencing nineteenth century inequality towards women at first hand.

The only slight incongruity is that Nigel Fairs’ music score is occasionally a little intrusive but this really is a minor quibble in a story which otherwise delivers for its listeners in spades. Undoubtedly, ThePeterlooMassacre will be considered as one of the best audio releases of recent times and is certainly the highlight of the opening trilogy of plays for 2016. Echoing my concluding comment on February’s Aquitaine, we can hopefully look forward to many more stories featuring the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan. This reviewer is delighted by the confirmation at the time of writing that these three will be returning for next year’s opening trilogy of main range releases alongside Matthew Waterhouse as Adric. On the strength of these plays, roll on 2017!





The Fourth Doctor - Series 5.3/4: The Paradox Planet / Legacy of Death (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 11 June 2016 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Paradox Planet (Credit: Big Finish)

Legacy Of Death (Credit: Big Finish)
Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana),
John Leeson (K9) Simon Rouse (Drang),
Tom Chadbon (Embery), Paul Panting (Fyrax),
Emma Campbell-Jones (Shola), Laura Rees (Tyrus),
Bryan Pilkington (Lostar), Jane Slavin (Medea).
Other parts portrayed by the cast.

Released by Big Finish Apr/May 2016
Buy from Amazon UK (The Paradox Planet/Legacy Of Death)

The Paradox Planet opens with a lovely scene, in the TARDIS with the Doctor, Romana and K9. The Doctor has decided that it is time that he learns to play the violin (very badly) - his two companions are both trying desperately to convince him that he will never master it. It is the style of story opening that I remember this original era for. The comic timing of the three leads are truly excellent. I found myself chuckling during my listen on the walk to to work.

As the story quickly moves on, due to a collision in the time vortex, the Doctor and Romana are separated in time by one thousand years, and find themselves at either end of a battle that is being raged by the same race, on the same planet - but in two very different time zones. The Paradox Planet of the title is Aoris. With foreknowledge of extinction, the future faction are taking endangered species from the past, back with them to the future. The faction in the past are desperate to stop this, even if it might mean wiping out their own race in the future.

The story continues in LegacyOfDeath, which finds both factions able to time travel. The Doctor volunteers to travel back to the past as a peace envoy, in the hope of saving the people of Aoris from wiping each other out, but finds himself caught up in the paradox himself.

The two episodes are, as usual in this series of audios, both split into two parts - meaning that we have four twenty-five minute(ish) episodes, which is a treat in itself. Each cliffhanger is expertly written, if sometimes craftily resolved - but this doesn't detract from a very action packed and well written story that is pure science fiction. The paradoxes are all very well planned, and all pay off. John Leeson gets a lot of K9 time in both stories, in fact at times there are two K9s, along with two versions of the TARDIS. One of my favourite of the 'classic' stories is Logopolis, and there are some similarities here. I also noticed that other episodes had some great nods. The biggest being one of the resolutions to a cliffhanger, which is very reminiscent of The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang. Another episode that I felt heavily reminded of is The Face Of Evil.

The most fun to be had here are with the Doctor, Romana and K9 in the future Aoris, where they are essentially heralded as brave heroes, which when you find out as to why is very amusing indeed. 

The character of Machina is also a great reveal, which I didn't notice until I read them, but the credits to the story published by Big Finish give the identity of the character away (I have removed the offending credit here). If you can avoid reading the credits before listening, please try. Machina is essentially what seems to be a giant, old fashioned computer who is revered in the future. Romana's line upon stepping inside the giant computer is genius as she is disappointed that it is just a metal box with flashing lights on the outside for show.

Ultimately, both stories are tales of how a race can abuse a planet and it's resources without a thought for future generations. Yes it all gets a bit mind boggling, but at no point was I lost to any plot contrivances.

The cast are all excellent. Notables are Tom Chadbon as Emberry (Tom played Duggan from the classic City Of Death, he also featured in the 'not so classic' The Mysterious Planet). There is also Simon Rouse, who was originally in Kinda, here playing Drang.

Ultimately TheParadoxPlanet and Legacy of Death are both fun filled, intelligently written stories, which showcases Tom Baker in his absolute element. It is quite obvious that Lalla Ward and John Leeson also had great fun. These are a must for any fan of that classic era.

 










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