Fortunes of War (BBC Audio)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 17 October 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Fortunes of War (Credit: BBC Audio)
Written by Justin Richards
Read By Colin Baker

Released by BBC Worldwide - September 2018
Available from Amazon UK

Writer Justin Richards closes out his ...of War audiobook trilogy with this Sixth Doctor entry read by Colin Baker.  The Doctor has long put off actually dealing with the World War I situation, but now that he is alone, not distracted, and out of excuses...he finally goes back to the Great War in order to fix it's jumbled timeline.

I had found it problematic at the end of Horrors of War that the Third Doctor seemed to leave the situation with major threads dangling without solving it.  At least when the First Doctor fell into the mess he was also being chased through time and space by Daleks (as his entry took place during the Daleks' Master Plan), but when he is confronted with the situation he left unfixed when he was in his Third Incarnation, it didn't really make sense for him to just say "problem for another day" and then put it off for seemingly centuries. 

There are other issues with this mangled timeline as well.  When the Third Doctor and Jo landed in World War I, the timeline was askew and Jo knew the original timeline...but how can she come from a future where this timeline is mangled yet know the original. It just hurts the whole mangled timeline story when it doesn't really ripple into the future.

I did like the melancholic tone the story had.  But I did find that the Doctor's main reason for avoiding the problem, that he didn't want anyone to see what he'd have to do, fell flat when what he had to do wasn't really that cruel, so I'm not really sure I get why he put it off for so long. 

Complaints aside, there is still something of an interesting in story in this, and Colin Baker is a great narrator and always a joy to listen to.  It isn't a bad way to spend an hour or so, but the basic mechanics of the time travel problems never truly gelled for me. There are kinks in the story that maybe could've been worked out if the story wasn't being stretched to three releases with three different Doctors.  Had it focused in on one Doctor, maybe even two, I could've gone with it...but it just stretched the premise too thin to stretch it to a third incarnation. 





The Ghost MonumentBookmark and Share

Sunday, 14 October 2018 - Reviewed by Matt Dennis
 The Ghost Monument: Yaz (Mandip Gill), The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Graham (Bradley Walsh) (Credit: BBC Studios (Coco Van Opens))

 

BBC One (United Kingdom)
Broadcast on: Sunday 14th October 2018
Running Time: 50 minutes

There are spoilers in this review - so if you haven't seen the episode yet, and want to stay in the unspoiled, please come back later.

With the major festivities of that exciting and fresh-faced first episode well and truly out of the way, it's time for Doctor Who to settle in properly and get back to business. Of course, with a new head-writer in the driving seat and a whole new production team bringing a fresh approach to the show, business, as usual, could mean pretty much anything at this point. Judging by The Ghost Monument alone, it seems to mean both entertainment and frustration.

Like with the Doctor's other recently-regenerated incarnations, this second episode crash-lands our new hero onto an alien world (in this case, literally), before setting off with the herculean task of setting a tone for the new Doctor and her companions by testing their mettle. We’ve seen it done before in episodes like The Beast Below or Smile – throw the new companions into a completely alien environment and see how they cope.

Here, the marooned time-travellers must join the surviving participants of an interstellar race to survive the hostile dead planet of Desolation. By doing so, they stand a chance of finding the Doctor's lost TARDIS. But the planet holds a secret, and enemies are lying in wait.

For the most part, the episode has its charms and isn't without incident - there are some cracking ideas here that merit further exploration. But Chris Chibnall’s script is handicapped early on by a severe lack of momentum, with the episode spending too much time merely chauffeuring the characters from point A to point B. The main monsters of the episode - the ribbon-like Remnants - only make their presence properly felt in the final few minutes, and when they do show, it's largely underwhelming.

The big reveal of the alien world being weaponised by kidnapped scientists is a solid idea, but it's only mentioned briefly towards the end and never utilised in a manner that benefits the drama. Even more jarring is how the plot suddenly hints at a connection to the Stenza, last week's human-hunting aliens, only to forget about the whole thing altogether. Clearly, this looks set to be a continuing story arc thread running through this series (which is certainly welcome), but the reference feels clumsily forced here.

Of course, whilst the main crux of the plot is merely a hodgepodge of half-baked ideas (were the random robots really necessary?), Chibnall's script does deliver in terms of sound character moments, both for the main characters and guest cast alike. Jodie Whittaker is just as watchable and captivating as she was last week – ever-evolving in her portrayal of the Doctor, here showing off a bit of the Doctor's more judgemental, authoritative tendencies, but still the delightfully mad and upbeat character we met previously.

The Ghost Monument: Epzo (Shaun Dooley), The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) (Credit: BBC Studios (Coco Van Opens))Guest stars Susan Lynch and Shaun Dooley benefit from Chibnall's script as well, each of their respective characters getting a fair portion of the drama, with some excellent insights into their pasts and their motivations for partaking in the deadly space race. Chibnall’s strength clearly lies in his ability to identify and write the relatable aspects of a character, no matter the setting/situation.

Unfortunately, the companions are not all served by the script as well as they should. Tosin Cole's Ryan continues to get the most to do, whilst Bradley Walsh again provides the episode with plenty of heart (and a few banging comedy one-liners). Better yet, the previous episode’s major tragedy isn’t forgotten, which leads to a touching scene between the two bereaved men. However, Mandip Gill’s Yasmin still remains hugely underdeveloped, and oft-times her character feels severely inconsequential to proceedings. Of course, there may be more chance for her to shine in future episodes, but at this point, there isn’t a lot here for us to go on. Three companions plus a new Doctor may be a bit too much for the show to handle. Hopefully, this concern will be proven wrong soon enough.

Of course, the big talking point of this otherwise so-so episode is the big reveal of the new TARDIS interior. We only see it for a bit, slowly teased out to us as the Doctor enters, and it’s a lot to take in when we do. A slight return to the more organic look of the Davies era set, albeit with a more crystalline aesthetic as opposed to coral, first thoughts are mainly that it looks a bit cramped around that console and the lighting doesn’t quite do its grand size justice. However, it’s interesting and visually stunning enough to warrant more screen time in the future. Yet another box ticked for this new era.

Frustrating as the main alien plot is, there's still much to admire in The Ghost Monument - the direction and cinematography are both slick and sumptuous to behold, the new Hartnell-influenced opening titles look amazing, the cast is excellent, the ideas are imaginative and Chris Chibnall clearly has a talent for creating relatable characters in extraordinary situations. But the more pedestrian pace proves the biggest detriment to an otherwise decent episode, with both the monsters and any actual incident included as if they were merely an afterthought.

Entertaining but instantly forgettable, The Ghost Monument is nowhere near terrible, but for an episode that centres around a race to the finish line, it's ironic that it chooses to crawl instead of run!





Thirteenth Doctor Issue #0 - The Many Lives of Doctor Who (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 9 October 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Thirteenth Doctor - Volume 0 - Cover A (Credit: Titan )

Written by Richard Dinnick

Artwork by Mariano Laclaustra, Giorgia Sposito, Brian Williamson, Arianna Florean, Claudia Ianniciello, Iolanda Zanfardino, Neil Edwards, Pasquale Qualano, Rachael Stott

Paperback: 64 pages
Publisher: Titan Comics

Released: 9th October 2018
 

Available from Amazon UK

We have a new series of Doctor Who, and a brand new Doctor.  With that comes a brand new series of comics as well.  Soon she will be the star of the Doctor Who Magazine strip, as the Twelfth reign comes to an end.  She is also launching as the star of her very own comic book range by Titan Comics, the current license holder of Doctor Who comics (beyond the aforementioned DWM strip).  Titan wanted to launch their new line with some build up.  Their first foray was the Road to the Thirteenth Doctor mini-series.  That was basically three one-offs that told a story of the Tenth, Eleventh, and then Twelfth Doctors, supposedly leading up the new range.  But really they were just random adventures that could fit anywhere, with the actual Thirteenth Doctor teases thrown in at the end...and those were all essentially the same. See the Doctor in the middle of a TV episode, some kind of glowing beam of light with a hand reaching out would appear...and that was it.  It didn't really leave me anticipating the Thirteenth Doctor's arrival, because it didn't really feel like it was trying to build to her. Clearly a part of her story arc is getting teased, but in the most unsubstantial way I can't claim to care.  

Well now we have what is being dubbed "Issue 0" of the Thirteenth Doctor line, and it is a definite step up from the Road To... comics. The Many Lives of Doctor Who essentially takes place during the Twelfth Doctor's regeneration into Thirteen, with the Doctor continuing to speak to his future self inside their own head, and as he does so we see a different adventure for each previous incarnation of the Doctor.  Unlike that Road mini-series, this entire issue feels like an actual build towards this new Doctor.  Legally, they can't unveil too much of the new Doctor until after her first episode airs on October 7th, they can show visual glimpses, maybe a word or two, but they can't give her a true full comic book adventure until she has had her first true on-screen launch. So they build to her.  And unlike that mini-series, this one really feels like the beginning of a new era.  

Not every small adventure is great, but they each capture some essence of each incarnation of the Doctor.  And each adventure tries to capture what makes the Doctors all so similar.  That is what it is about, the Doctor goes through many different lives, but there is a through-line.  It's packed with references and callbacks and classic lines rehashed...but it is full of love.  Sometimes when I see these classic lines regurgitated I roll my eyes.  This time it felt very much about regeneration, so revisiting all those lines from regeneration scenes feels appropriate.  

The final page is really what it is all about, it shows the Thirteenth Doctor in her full costume, from behind, looking at a beautiful sunset on some planet somewhere...as the Twelfth Doctor in her head toasts the new Doctor and her continued adventures.  It leaves me excited to continue on, to see her have some adventures like all the previous Doctors.  

This isn't a new idea, a comic book that is essentially a collection of short comics for each Doctor.  It's happened in the past a lot.  But this is one of the better books to attempt it.  I certainly enjoyed reading this far more than  The Forgotten.  And it accomplishes its goal.  It got me excited for the new Doctor and her new adventures, both on TV and on the comic pages.  





The Woman Who Fell To EarthBookmark and Share

Sunday, 7 October 2018 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
 The Woman Who Fell to Earth - The Doctor	- Jodie Whittaker (Credit: BBC Studios)
Written by Chris Chibnall
Directed by Jamie Childs

Starring: Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole, Mandip Khan,
Bradley Walsh, Sharon D Clarke

First broadcast 6.45pm, Sunday 7 October 2018 

I'm the Doctor - Sorting out fair play throughout the universe......

 

Writer Chris Chibnall, and Director Jamie Childs finally present to us The Woman Who Fell To Earth. It feels like it has been a long time coming (which it has). Now for the big question...was it worth the wait? Absolutely. 100%.

 

There are spoilers in this review - so if you haven't seen the episode yet, and want to stay in the unspoiled, please come back later.

 

Talking of spoilers, I must say that the new team have done EXCEPTIONALLY well at keeping key story points away from prying eyes, something which is an amazing feat in this day and age, and  is a factor that I'm sure will help this new series of Doctor Who become appointment television once more.

 

The Woman Who Fell To Earth is a story that has the theme of family solidly at its core. As the story unfolds we are first introduced to Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), who at nineteen years of age is learning to ride a bike. Ryan has dyspraxia, a condition which has affected his co-ordination. The dyspraxia features in the story later on, and it is great to see the writer not being afraid at bringing something like this to the fore of the story, and to make it a positive factor for Ryan, by shaping his determination.

 

Ryan's Nan, Grace (Sharon D Clarke), and her husband of three years Graham O'Brien (Bradley Walsh) are trying to encourage Ryan in his efforts, which end with a very frustrated Ryan throwing the bike off a cliff. When Ryan tries to retrieve the bike he stumbles across some strange, glowing geometric shapes, that when touched, result in a large blue...blob suddenly appearing. Ryan calls the police and as a result we meet Yasmin Kahn (Mandip Gill).

 

From here the action moves swiftly onto a train that is under siege by an alien force. Graham and Grace are both caught up in events, urging Ryan and Yasmin to rush to help them. It is here that our new Doctor literally drops from the sky and takes complete control of the situation. Jodie Whittaker's first scenes immediately reassure the viewer that the character of the Doctor is in very safe hands.

 

 The Woman Who Fell to Earth - Ryan Sinclair - Tosin Cole (Credit: BBC Studios)What follows (for the most part) is a regeneration story that (I would say) is most comparable to The Eleventh Hour. In it we have an alien warrior on a hunt, which once the hunt is completed, will ensure his succession on his home world. It of course falls to the Doctor and her new friends to stop him, and protect the hunter's  prey.

 

Along the way we learn that the TARDIS is missing and that the Doctor can build a sonic screwdriver by combining a small piece of alien technology along with some spoons. We also learn that the Doctor will stop at nothing to protect her new friends, and even strangers. 

 

Things suddenly become very serious towards the end of the story, with the surprising, and rather shocking death of Grace. The aftermath of which is very sensitively handled. So much so in fact that I did wonder how the Doctor's new friends would be written into the next story, which is resolved quite simply by the Doctor accidentally kidnapping them all.

 

Oh - and along the way the Doctor gets her new outfit from a charity shop - which I think is quite a perfect way for her to acquire new clothes.

 

 

The story positively romps along. Chibnall obviously loves the characters that he has created. The background on the companions (there I have said it! Companions!) is quite rich. Ryan gets the most development. The story opens with him saying the line "So today, I want to talk about the greatest woman I ever met." Of course at the start of the story we immediately think that he is referring to the Doctor, but by the time we reach the end, and catch up with Ryan, we realise that he is referring to his Nan, Grace. It's a clever and beautiful piece of writing.The Woman Who Fell to Earth: Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill) (Credit: BBC/BBC Worldwide (Ben Blackall))

 

Graham also get's his fair share of screen time, with his character (as probably to be expected) having many of the funnier lines. His speech, at Grace's funeral is particularly moving. I did feel though that Yasmin could have been given more to do. This is something that  I am hoping  is put right in future episodes.

 

So what of the new Doctor? well, she actually drops into a scene to the beats of the Doctor Who theme (more on that later). Here we have a massively confident debut for Jodie Whittaker. For me there were two absolutely defining moments. The first was her rather beautiful description of the regeneration process. Never has regeneration, and what it does to a body and mind been summed up so perfectly and in so much detail. The second is  the crane top speech to the alien hunter, which immediately shows that she stands firmly shoulder to shoulder with any man that has gone before her. The characterisation is re-assuringly the Doctor. She is quirky, full of energy, brave, kind and absolutely outraged in the face of injustice.

 

The feel of the show is fresh, and this isn't just because we are in Sheffield, and not Cardiff. The effects are very well realised and rather beautiful, especially in the rendering of the alien's other worldly Gathering Coils, a frenetic tangle of metallic tendrils and lights. Jamie Child's direction is urgent, but at no point does anything feel rushed. 

 

The Woman Who Fell to Earth (Credit: BBC)The biggest contribution to the shows freshness is the  writing. By killing off a seemingly major character in the shows first episode, Chibnall has created a feeling of very real threat and menace, and also a plot line that should bring two of the characters closer together. In the shows closing minutes the Doctor's new friends are literally dragged into her next adventure, which in itself should create some interesting character dynamics.

 

Ah! - The theme! There's no blast of the  new theme tune at the beginning of the story. In fact there are no credits at the start of the show all. However we do get to hear the new version over the end credits. Personally I think that new composer, Segun Akinola's closing theme is the best since David Tennant departed. Don't get me wrong, I loved Murray Gold's music, but I thought the main theme had lost i's way through Smith and Capaldi's tenure. I can't wait to hear his version played over the opening credits next week. To me, Akinola's main theme reminded me of McGann's. The incidental music throughout is also very good, and different to what has come before, but this again further freshens the feel of the show.

 

The Woman Who Fell To Earth is a confident opener to this new series, and an episode that heralds an exciting new era for Doctor Who. The story made this viewer laugh, shed a tear, and kept me gripped throughout - which for me means that the show hit all the right notes. In it we find a confident, yet down to earth Doctor, surrounded by new faces both in front of and behind the camera. Personally, I can't wait to see where they all take us next.        

 

 

 

 





The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor - The Twelfth Doctor (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 4 October 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Road to The Thirteenth Doctor -Twelfth Doctor (Credit: Titan)
"Tulpa"
Writer: James Peaty
Artist: Brian Williamson
Colorist: Dijjo Lima

"The Road To..."
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Rachel Stott
Colorist: Enrica Angiolini

Published by Titan Comics in September 2018

The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor ends here, with the Twelfth Doctor's entry.  Again, the main story of the issue seemingly has nothing to do with the Thirteenth Doctor, only a brief short comic at the end of the book actually seems to lead to the new Doctor, but at least this time the main story of the issue is fun and interesting.  

The story involves a weird alien parasite, that feeds off of a guy's dreams and imagination, and practically destroys the Earth to revive the long-dead species.  It's fun and creative and has some tremendous art by Brian Williamson, who has an art style I am always impressed with. Again, it is a story that could have easily just headlined the Twelfth Doctor's ongoing line, but that isn't a complete negative, it is really only a negative in terms of the marketing of the book.

The "Road To..." segment in this final entry takes place near the end of the Twelfth Doctor's life.  The Doctor, Nardole, and Missy are on the lift on their way to save Bill in World Enough and Time.  They see the glowing light,  the hand reaching towards them and the Doctor acknowledges that he saw it before as the Tenth Doctor (having missed it when it appeared in his Eleventh incarnation), but despite knowing it is a situation that will need to be dealt with, he must carry on to save Bill, leaving it a problem for another day. To Be Continued with the Thirteenth Doctor.  

While this overall issue was an improvement over the previous entries of the mini-series, I don't think the actual "Road To..." segments were terribly satisfying.  For one, I always find it a bit annoying when there is an adventure of a Past Doctor, and they shoehorn in another adventure in the middle of it.  While it can work (I rather liked Twice Upon a Time), it often just feels like fan service. They could have just as easily weaved the glowing vortex with the hand reaching out into the main story of the issue, which would have tied the whole concept of the mini-series together a little neater. 

On the whole, this mini-series felt a bit like a half-baked bust. None of it is awful, but it doesn't really feel like it is building towards the Thirteenth Doctor in any meaningful way.  It feels like they just took a regular issue of each Doctor's ongoing line, slapped a mini-story in the back of each issue, and then marketed as if the whole books would be about the adventures that lead to the Thirteenth Doctor, or at the very least lead to the main arc of her upcoming Ongoing Comic.  So that is a shame.  I wouldn't say don't read the books, as they are serviceable and mildly entertaining, just know going in that they definitely lack the marketed Thirteenth Doctor element.  





The Road to the Thirteenth Doctor - The Eleventh Doctor (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 2 October 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Road to the Thirteenth Doctor - Eleventh Doctor (Credit: Titan)
"The Steampunk Conundrum"
Writer: James Peaty
Artist: Pasquale Qualano
Colorist: Dijjo Lima

"The Road To..."
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Rachel Stott
Colorist: Enrica Angiolini

Published by Titan Comics in August 2018

The Titan build up to the launch of the new Thirteenth Doctor continues with this one-off adventure of the Eleventh Doctor, the second in a so-called mini-series prelude to the Thirteenth Doctor.  Much like the first entry starring the Tenth Doctor, the bulk of the issue has nothing to do with the Thirteenth Doctor and seemingly will have little story impact on her storyline in the comics.  It's a standard robot invasion story, and then after that story is told, we get another brief short story told over a few pages, which actually feels like the hint of things to come in the Thirteenth Doctor story.  

As a robot invasion story, fairly middling.  It really feels like a shame for Titan to do this big promotional thing for the upcoming Doctor.  A mini-series that leads to the new Doctor, and then they spend the bulk of the issue on a story that could easily fit into any standard issue of the respective Doctor's ongoing adventures.  

The actual "Road To..." segment takes place in the middle of a previous adventure. Much like the Tenth Doctor's segment took place in the midst of the episode The Girl in the Fireplace, the Eleventh Doctor's segment is in the middle of the episode The Power of Three.  Once again a hand reaches towards the Doctor from some glowing anomaly, only this time the Eleventh Doctor is so busy complaining about being bored while waiting on Earth, that he actually misses the whole thing.  That's at least creative.  

Mostly, this feels like another wasted opportunity from Titan.  They could have had an actual build up to a storyline. Lay some seeds in each story that would pay off in a bigger way for the Thirteenth Doctor.  Instead, the seed is just a glowing light and someone reach for the Doctor. The same seed in each volume, with much of the magazine telling a story that just feels like a random adventure. It makes the whole Road to... branding seem terribly misleading.