Escape Hunt - When Worlds Collide - Doctor Who - The Live Escape GameBookmark and Share

Friday, 18 January 2019 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Doctor Who Escape Game (Credit: Matt Tiley )

…Or six go on an adventure in Space and Time.

 

I was lucky enough to get an invite to the Bristol unveiling of the new BBC and Escape Hunt collaboration, When Worlds Collide. An escape game with a Doctor Who twist, where you and a group of friends are locked in a room, and must help the Doctor by solving a series of puzzles that will stop the Cybermen breaking through a tear in space and time, and into this reality. The arrival of this new, very immersive game is extremely welcome in a year where there is no more new Who on television, and no exhibition in Cardiff.

 

I gathered five colleagues who were also fellow Doctor Who fans (Rhona, Nikki, Sarah, Stacy and Jack) and headed to Escape Hunt, at Cabot Circus in Bristol, to battle the Cybermen, and help the Doctor.

 

The game area can only be accessed by a lift, that added to the mystery, we were greeted by a friendly member of staff, and ushered to a cosy waiting area, where the last lot of intrepid adventurers were having a group photo taken. All of them were grinning from ear to ear, and waving sonic screwdrivers triumphantly.

 

Axel was our host for the evening, he told us that everyone who had played that day had successfully escaped the game (no pressure at all then)! We were politely asked to wait for a few minutes while the team went about ‘resetting’ the room, then after locking away our mobile phones, and enjoying some welcome snacks and drinks, we are told by Axel that our time had come.

 

We were guided to an imposing looking door, where we gathered around and listened to Axel explain to us the rules of the game, he also reassured us that he would be watching remotely at all times, and would happily offer up hints and tips should we need them. He then gave an embarrassed and apologetic look as his mobile phone started to ring, pulling it out of his pocket, he glanced at the caller ID and, with an excited glint in his eye,  showed us who was calling...…and THIS is exactly when our adventure started.

 

Doctor Who Escape Game (Credit: Matt Tiley )I'm not going to give any spoilers, I think that would be a disservice to all of those who have have worked so hard to create the wonderful atmosphere of the game. If you have taken part in an escape room before, you will be familiar with the format. You are essentially ushered into a room full of clues, puzzles and red herrings, where you need to work together as a team to progress. The types of puzzles we had to solve covered all bases, from lateral-thinking through problem solving and a bit of physical agility. We rushed around manically, while a countdown on a large screen relentlessly ticked down from sixty minutes towards zero. 

 

But of course this escape room had a big theme Some of the puzzles had a Doctor Who feel, plus there were some  rather familiar looking props strewn around the room, some of which were an integral part of events. The game itself progressed through two rooms, each one strewn with Doctor Who easter eggs, some of the puzzles were really quite fiendish, some quite straight forward. If we were found to be really struggling, completely off track, or generally being thick, Axel's encouraging voice would come over the intercom and offer us a bit of gentle guidance, not exactly telling us how to solve a puzzle, but offering a hint such as "Hey guys, have you thought to look over there?” Then there were the times he’d chip in with the odd sarcastic quip like “I really don’t think waiving that sonic screwdriver at that plant will help”.

 

Doctor Who Escape Game (Credit: Matt Tiley )The last few minutes of the game were quite intense. I honestly thought that we were going to be the first losing team of the day, but fuelled on by clouds of dry ice, great audio effects, and some restless Cybermen, we scraped through by the skin of our teeth, and escaped through a set of very special doors with just two minutes to spare.

 

After our escape Axel took us back through the game, offering a commentary on where he thought we did well, congratulating us on our team dynamic, and praising how at one point we all split up to try to crack a puzzle independently, in order to save time.

 

Back in the lobby, we all posed for our celebratory photo, eagerly brandishing a thirteenth Doctor sonic screwdriver. We left on a wave of adrenaline, with a certificate declaring that we had completed the game in twenty-eight minutes, not fifty-eight (don't worry Axel - we won't tell)!

 

Doctor Who Escape Game (Credit: Matt Tiley )The gameplay itself is a very immersive and enjoyable experience, where you do really feel like characters in a Doctor-lite episode.  The lower age range for players is ten years old, and while there is nothing age inappropriate about the game for children around that age, I’m not sure what your average ten year old would get out of the experience. We had a team of six adults, who all agreed that we would have really struggled  without Axel’s gentle guidance. I would  say you need at least a team of four to get the full benefit, but with pricing ranging from £30 -  £33 per head, and no discount for children, that isn’t necessarily a cheap hour. But - we fans generally have very deep pockets and are faced with year with very little new Doctor Who. Plus it’s the nearest any of us will get to being a true companion.

 

Doctor Who Escape Hunt is open in Bristol now, bookings can be made HERE. The game will be coming to Escape Hunt venues in Leeds, Oxford, Manchester, Reading and Birmingham soon.





Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor - Issue #3 (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 16 January 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Thirteenth Doctor - Issue #3 (Credit: Titan)

Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Rachel Stott
Colourist: Enrica Eren Angiolini

33 Pages

Published by Titan Comics 19 December 2018

****These reviews may contain MINOR SPOILERS, Reader Beware****

The third installment of the Thirteenth Doctor ongoing comic from Titan Publishing fills in a bit more background for our guest character Perkins.  We begin with Perkins holding the gang hostage in the TARDIS, but he is easily thwarted by the state of grace nullifying his weapon.  He then fills them in on what he and Schultz had been up to, collecting all sorts of items for the alien being they called the Hoarder. It turns out part of what he wanted them to steal was alien children, to be held as hostages, and he at least claims to hold their own descendants hostage in order to keep them stealing for him.  

So the Doctor decides they have a new enemy to face off with, one that is not only stealing artifacts from all of history but has cages full of children as well.  They head out to try and find Dr. Schwartz and take on the hoarder, but are almost immediately caught in a trap with walls closing in on them.  Their only option of escape is to jump down a hole not knowing how far it actually goes down.  And that's our latest cliffhanger. 

I think despite a lack of action until the final pages (and even then the action was walls closing in on them), this was a solid installment.  I think the reason being that it helped develop the actual stakes our heroes are facing off with.  Bad guy has cages full of kids. Got it.  Before hand, it was vague energy beams and a shady guy who we didn't know much about making threats for reasons we didn't really know.  They weren't bad reads, but before now I can't say I was really invested in where the story was going.  Now I am.  That is probably the best praise I can give a single issue of a comic.  





The War Master: Master of Callous (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 7 January 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The War Master: The Master of Callous (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: James Goss, Guy Adams

Directed By: Scott Handcock

Cast

Derek Jacobi (The Master), Silas Carson (The Ood), Maeve Bluebell Wells (Cassandra King), Samantha Béart (Martine King), Simon Ludders (Elliot King), Pippa Haywood (Teremon), David Menkin (Herschel), Barnaby Edwards (Jaques), Richard Earl (Sassanby), Kai Owen (Porrit), Joe Shire (Calia), Angela Bruce (Mother), Wilf Scolding (First Soldier) and Tom Forrister (Second Soldier). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer Scott Handcock

Script Editor Nicholas Briggs

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Derek Jacobi returns to the role of the Master for the second set of stories, this time it is four episodes that follow a single storyline, as opposed to the slightly more episodic nature of the first box set.  The story takes place on a colony planet called Callous, in which a small group of artists attempted and sort of failed to make a home. Their livelihood depends upon a mine, and the story revolves around this mine, its contents, the people who give everything to make the mine viable, the planetary governor who wants to take everything she can from the inhabitants, and the Master who has his own secret plans and machinations.  In short...it is an excellent story. I recommend this box set, there will likely be SPOILERS ahead, so reader beware.

The opening episode, Call for the Dead follows Elliot King, the frustrated would-be leader of Callous, whose long attempts to make the mine worthwhile have yielded very few positive results, and the Governor bleeds him dry whenever she gets the chance.  He has spent so much time trying to make the mine earn just enough money to keep up with his payments that he has basically lost his family...his wife and daughter moved off-world, and while his wife is very ill, his daughter misses him daily. Meanwhile, he is being stalked by an odd with a ringing telephone, and when he finally answers the call, the Master is on the line.  Without getting too deep into it, Elliot decides to take his own life not long after his chat with the Master, and whatever plans the Master has are clearly set into motion.  Elliot's daughter Cassie and her wife Martine come to Callous to take over where her father left off.  Only Cassie is more adept with the mine than her father ever was.  He was an artist trying to make a living digging in a mine, as she went to school specifically to learn how to mine properly.  But when she too runs into trouble...another Ood phone call comes her way, only this time the Master offers his help.

The set continues with The Glittering Prize, and this time the Master is posing as Mr. Orman, a kindly gentleman helping Cassie to get the mine working.  They strike a substance that could make them all rich...but if the Governor finds out they have it, she is sure to come and attempt to skim even more profits off their hard work.  The Master offers his help yet again, helping them plot to sneak the substance off the planet and hide it from the governor until they can safely make their money off of it.  But the substance has a psychic side effect, as it slowly can drive people mad or hallucinate, and it seems to drive the Ood workers completely out of sorts.

The Persistence of Dreams focuses solely on Martine as she tries to keep her sanity guarding the substance.  She is accompanied only by an Ood bt finds herself hallucinating about her late mother, Cassie, Mr Orman and more...never knowing what is real and being driven to the brink of sanity by the awful substance. When the Ood seems to go mad as well and attempt to kill her, she launches herself into space, and hopes that hope can reach her in time...but of course, the Master has other plans.

The set is closed out by Sins of the Father which sees the Governor arrive on Callous and demand the substance because someone tipped her off that they had found it.  She has captured and is torturing the Master daily for answers, but no mere Governor can really get anything out of the Master! Cassie has been cast out by most of the inhabitants of Callous, who blame her of much of their current woes, particularly the homicidal Governor who intends to kill them all for answers.  But the Governor didn't count on her prisoner actually being someone of influence.  She didn't count on his control of the Ood, or his ability to escape his chains...and the Master's plan finally comes into focus. He just needed the substance. Callous just happened to be his best route of getting the rare stuff, and he has beaten everyone before they even knew he was a threat.

The story concludes with the Master meeting a Time Lord to sell off the substance so the Time Lords can build a new weapon against the Daleks.  It seemed almost odd to me that the Master would do all this for such a petty thing as money and helping the Time Lord cause. Just seemed off...but then a smaller item was thrown in for his payment. The Chameleon Arch.  It nicely tied in with the very item he was using when we first met this Doctor on TV (and actually used at the end of the previous box set, putting this one ahead of that timeline wise), and makes all his efforts in this story seem perfectly worth it for his character.  It may have been a mild hassle putting all those pieces into place, but he got what he truly wanted out of it. An eventual escape from the Time War.

This is an excellent set, that somehow managed to top the first War Master set. And that was a tall order, as that first set was wonderful. I am already excited for more, as Big Finish have clearly been chomping at the bit for years to tell Time War tales, and they are reveling in it with every chance they get. Whether they focus on the War Doctor, the War Master, or just seeing the seeds of the war in the Eighth Doctor or Gallifrey sets. In all attempts, they have made some exciting stuff.






Doctor Who - Short Trips 8.12 - The Devil's FootprintsBookmark and Share

Sunday, 6 January 2019 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Devil's Footprints (Credit: Big Finish)

Producer Ian Atkins; Script Editor Ian Atkins
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Penelope Faith; Directed By: Helen Goldwyn

Cast

Bonnie Langford (Narrator)

The Doctor's old friend, the reverend HT Ellacombe, has been out of touch for too long. But when the Doctor goes to find him, he and Mel discover something else entirely: unidentifiable footprints in the snow around the Victorian village where he lives.

The villagers are terrified that the very Devil walks their lands in the wintry nights, but with the Doctor distracted by finding his friend, it seems it’s up to Mel to do the snooping around in attempt to uncover the truth.....

 

The Devil's Footprints is the kind of story that Doctor Who does so very well. It takes a real event, and adds the Doctor into the mix. The actual event the story is based on happened in 1855, in Devon. Where after a heavy snowfall a trail of hoof-like imprints in the snow appeared, stretching up to 100 miles.

 

In this latest entry to the Short Trips range, writer Penelope Faith expertly weaves the Seventh Doctor, Mel and alien possession into the mix. The TARDIS materialises in Devon, in the year 1885, where the Doctor bumps into an old friend, who the Doctor discovers, might not be quite what he was the last time they met.

 

The story is read by Bonnie Langford, in it her character Mel takes the lions share of the action. The plot romps along at quite a pace, and Langford really throws herself into narrating duties, even providing us with a great take on the seventh Doctor. Rolling R's, bluster and all.

 

The story of a small town harbouring a possible devil bears inevitable comparison to 1971's The Daemons, but manages to be original enough not to totally clash with that classic.

 

The Devil's Footprints is a story that is well worth a listen, and is available HERE from Big Finish.

 





Warlock's CrossBookmark and Share

Friday, 4 January 2019 - Reviewed by Callum McKelvie
Warlock's Cross (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Steve Lyons
Directed By: Jamie Anderson

Cast

Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Tracey Childs (Klein), Blake Harrison (Daniel Hopkins), Genevieve Gaunt (Linda Maxwell), Richard Gibson (Colonel McKenna), Tom Milligan (Gregory Lord), Russ Bain (Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Price). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer Nicholas Briggs
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

This year’s main range, ‘UNIT’ trilogy concludes with Warlocks Cross. So far the UNIT trilogy or the ‘Daniel Hopkins’ trilogy has been excessively dark, dealing with some incredibly bleak themes. The first, The Helliax Rift was a story that dealt with some interesting ideas in a way that had some gut-wrenching impact. The second, Hour of the Cybermen was an exercise in Sawardian nastiness and violent as a result. This final installment is no different. What results is an emotionally hard-hitting and bleak affair full of characters haunted by their past, be they Klein, Hopkins or UNIT itself. The story itself also certainly sits comfortably in that area of Doctor Who stories which can be described as having elements of horror within them. In short; it’s bloody frightening.

Steve Lyons script concerns the Doctor arriving at UNIT in its dark period of the 1990’s. When here he reunites with Dr. Elizabeth Klein and becomes embroiled in a mystery involving a forgotten psychic research facility, the titular Warlocks Cross and Daniel Hopkins, still alive after his part cyber-conversion. As I stated above, Lyons really has let his darker side come out here and those who were perhaps hoping for a more jolly installment in this year's trilogy may be disappointed. This is as adult as Doctor Who can get and the scenario he creates, allows for some interesting thematic scenarios involving themes of paranoia.

McCoy himself is wonderful here. After last months, The Quantum Possibility Engine allowing him to explore the lighter side of the 7th Doctor, it’s great to see him return to the more sinister aspects of his interpretation. McCoy gives a very quiet and understated performance throughout, the sequences with Hopkins are some of the highlights, as this Doctor shows a distinct lack of sympathy and seems to play games with Hopkins. And what of Daniel himself? Well if there’s one thing that has been consistently good throughout this year's trilogy, it’s been Blake Harrison's performance. In the space of three stories, Harrison has taken an incredibly likable character and managed to transform him into one of best original characters Big Finish has created in a long time. Original Doctor Who Villains are a hard thing to create, but Hopkins must sit among the best. Of course, another talking point of this release is the return of Elizabeth Childs as Klein. Admittedly this isn’t a Klein focussed story, she has a great deal of wonderful moments of course and she does get some character exploration, but she is very much a bit character here, which may disappoint some. However, Childs is great as always and honestly, it was refreshing to see a version of Klein more at peace with herself, despite a few underlying ‘ghosts’.

All in all, Warlocks Cross, can be seen as a rousing success. This UNIT trilogy has been the highlight of the main range this year, resulting in some wonderfully rich stories full of depth. Here’s hoping that we haven’t seen the last of Daniel Hopkins!

 

 



Associated Products

Audio
Released 31 Dec 2018
Doctor Who Main Range #244 - Warlock's Cross




ResolutionBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 2 January 2019 - Reviewed by Matt Hills
Resolution: The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER) (Credit: BBC/James Pardon)
Writer: Chris Chibnall 
Director: Wayne Yip
Executive Producers: Chris Chibnall and Matt Strevens

Starring: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Charlotte Ritchie, Nikesh Patel, Daniel Adegboyega and Nick Briggs

BBC One (UK)
First broadcast Tuesday January 1st 2019

It may have displaced Doctor Who's Christmas Day tradition, but the "spatial shift" in TV listings for 'Resolution' made this story no less of a gift. With sections of fandom wanting a return of old monsters, and with some arguing for stronger narrative threats for Jodie Whittaker's Doctor to face off against, 'Resolution' delivered in spades. And though it might be a truism to suggest that no new Doctor is truly forged in steeliness until they have faced the Daleks, it's a piece of lore that's extremely well borne out here.

And what a Dalek! Given the presence of a lone reconnaissance scout, this immediately had the feel of 2005's Rob Shearman-penned story, albeit reworked through the distinctive filter of Chris Chibnall's vision for Who. A steelpunk Dalek neatly recapped the sonic screwdriver's new origin story from S11.e1, with Chibnall again deciding to cast his showrunner's remit to 'make it new' into the narrative universe, having both Doctor and Dalek recreate their own remembered versions of the show's icons. At first, I was concerned by the DIY Dalek's design -- it reminded me of unofficial replicas and assorted fan builds seen over the years -- but on reflection, there was just the right blend of RTD-era industrial vibe, innovation (including the red-lit section set within the outer casing) and clanking homespun realism, given the story's clear justification for all this. The resulting 'Sheffield steel dalek' will likely prove to be a one-off boon to merchandising ranges, but Chibnall astutely mined Dalek mythology for some striking images and pay-offs; the mutant-on-the-back recalled iconic imagery from 'Planet of the Spiders' more than previous Dalek tales (and was occasionally a touch unconvincing, for my money), whilst the use of Dalek 'bumps' as housings for rocket-launchers was nothing less than inspired.

This may have felt more like 'trad' Doctor Who at times, but it was also full of surprises and brilliant bits of imagination. Having the Doctor confront this Dalek inside GCHQ was probably my favourite moment of series 11, combining a realist/spy-thriller version of how a lone Dalek might actually try to seize power in today's Britain with the inventiveness of Doctor Who at its very best. There was an air of inevitability about the scenario, once you realised where the script was going, but it fused the ordinary and the fantastical in a perfect way for a post-Snowden culture. Likewise, removing all wifi -- no Internet and no Netflix! -- made the Doctor's arch-enemy a resolutely contemporary menace, even if the 'family cutaway' struck a slight misstep in terms of its broad comic intent and clunkiness.

Another inspired moment, however, was the way that UNIT's non-involvement was tackled. Undoubtedly well aware of old-school fan complaints along the lines of "why weren't UNIT called in?", the showrunner dispatched these mercilessly. But the presence of a call centre operative reading off her computer screen put UNIT's demise squarely into the context of government efficiency savings, as well as implicitly evoking Brexit-style wrangling over international funding. Any long-term fans pondering how UNIT could have been so savagely undone via these real-world resonances might want to additionally consider the extent to which UNIT perhaps belongs properly and organisationally to the age of 1970s' public services and internationalism -- a world now undermined by decades of neoliberalism (traversing both major UK political parties). The scene may be strongly satirical, but its commentary remains perfectly evident: we can't have nice things like UNIT via any current politics of austerity or isolationism. Instead, extraterrestrial-incursion security has seemingly been privatised, resulting in MDZ's feeble defence of the former 'Black Archive' (you can't imagine Kate Stewart or Osgood allowing a Dalek scout to wander off with weaponry and propulsion systems).              

Resolution: Daniel Adeboyega (Credit: BBC/James Pardon)This was very much a two-pronged 'Special'; a sort of double-A-side seeking to combine Dalek shenanigans with the emotional weight of Ryan's father reappearing. Perhaps these strands didn't always rest side-by-side as comfortably as the features of Aaron's combination oven, but on the whole 'Resolution' was a successful hybrid. It followed a textbook pattern by uniting its main plot threads at the denouement, both thanks to Aaron's engineering specs, and via the sting-in-the-tentacle of the Dalek's desperate final attempt at human possession. The thirteenth Doctor remained characteristically fallible, mind you, with her Dalek showdowns never quite going according to plan, and her "squid-sized vacuum corridor" expanding to human-sized proportions with almost fatal consequences. All of this allowed 'Resolution' to re-articulate Chris Chibnall's mission statement for Who -- that the Doctor's "fam" should be just as important as the Doctor herself. And so it is Aaron and Ryan who, acting together through forgiveness and love, finally overcome the Dalek's tenacity. In one strange moment, it even feels as though the script is reaching towards a parallel between family and monstrosity -- just as family is more than DNA and a name, as Graham tells Aaron, then so too is the Dalek more than a DNA identification and a matter of naming. Both Dalekhood and fatherhood hinge on behaviour, meaning that just as Aaron has to prove his status to Ryan then the Dalek is equally required to prove its nature to new viewers and new fans. This it duly does, the episode being jam-packed with gloriously retro extermination effects and Dalek ruthlessness. And though monstrosity and family are eventually opposed, with the "extended fam" predictably defeating the monster of the year, it is striking, in an episode where the Dalek's identity is initially a matter of DNA testing and naming, that the familial and the monstrous should ghost across one another.  

This is a story firing on all machine-tooled cylinders. The direction from Wayne Yip is brilliantly kinetic and well-judged throughout, and the acting performances are uniformly first-rate. I'd especially single out Charlotte Ritchie, who does a lot of great work as Lin to really sell the Dalek 'pilot' concept, switching through various gradations of embodied Dalekness. In addition, Nick Briggs is on superb form, relishing the chance to do things such as providing maniacally extended and chilling Dalek laughter.

I still miss the pre-credits sequence, though. The response to Graham's much-trailed question, "does it have a name?", would have been intensified by immediately then crashing into the titles. OK, cutting the title sequence buys a little more story time, but a few judicious trims here and there could easily have made room for the titles, and for a more dramatic punctuation of the Doctor's reveal of the Daleks. I hope that pre-credits scenes are restored across series 12. And on this showing, the return of the Daleks -- plural and non-DIY this time -- would also be most welcome in 2020.

Regardless of how series 11 is packaged on DVD/blu-ray, it's difficult not to view this as anything other than the true finale to Jodie Whittaker's first season. The DNA of Chris Chibnall's vision for the show is coded right through it: fantasy plus grounded social/political resonance plus emotional realism, all added to an ethic of teamwork and elective family rather than Time Lord (super-)heroics standing front-and-centre. Yes, at times this Doctor seems more reactive or passive than in the past, as well as less torn by internal demons, and less shadowed by back-story mysteries. It makes the Doctor far less of a focal point, freeing up narrative space and time for at least some of the "fam", and reconfiguring Who in a more inclusive and mentoring mode than arguably ever before. Chibnall's work hasn't just been about bringing in new writers' voices, featuring new locales, and emphasising a renewed sense of Doctor Who's capacities to speak back to power. He has also resolved to give the Doctor a radical new stripe of narrative agency too, one less omnipotent, less certain, and more energisingly hopeful. And that, for me, is a resolution worth championing.