Official BBC Christmas JumperBookmark and Share

Friday, 14 December 2018 - Reviewed by Chuck Foster
Lovarzi Christmas Jumper 2018 (Credit: Chuck Foster)
Official BBC Christmas Jumper
Manufactured by Lovarzi
Available from Amazon UK
I'm not a big jumper fan, to be honest, as I tend to prefer the freedom of a fleece, but this time of year lends itself to such attire, and today is of course Save The Children Christmas Jumper Day, so it does a good a time as ever to don the garment and what better than a Doctor Who jumper?!!

Taking a look on Amazon et al there are a lot of unofficial jumpers about, but I must admit I found the pattern design on many of them rather overwhelming. The official ones can be a bit garish at times, too, but this year's official jumper is quite a simple design that I don't feel embarassed to wear out in public, let alone in the office - considering what some of my colleagues wore today I felt very comfortable being seen in this one!

Speaking of comfort, this jumper was perfectly fine to wear, no sense of itchiness that I've quite often found with jumpers I've had in the past. I wasn't too sure what I would be like seeing it described as 100% acrylic, but actually it fitted okay, was snug but not restrictive (always fun when you have to put your arms up in the air!), and once the 'novelty' of wearing a jumper wore off I quite often forget I did have it on, which considering how fussy I am about clothing enclosing me was a definite plus (don't get me started on ties!).

As I mentioned earlier, the design is quite simple, with repeating police boxes and Daleks making their way around the torso (i.e. it is 360 degrees, unlike many that only have a front pattern). The only oddity I spotted that initialy make me think it was a flaw were some weird dark patches on the shoulder [which you can see on my right shoulder in the photo] - I eventually realised it was the outline of a Christmas tree - doh! I think it's the lack of decoration compared to the rest of the jumper that made it stand out to me.

All-in-all, it is a nice jumper to wear, not too garish but has its recognisable icons which quite a few colleagues commented on positively*, so as far as I'm concerned it was worth putting on and a worthwhie addition to my collection. Out of my various Who-related jumpers over the years I think it's probably my favourite too - unlike my bright blue Cyberman one of a few years' back this one doesn't leap out at passers-by (grin). [As my wife puts it, "you do like your stealth-wear"!]

 

* my boss: "I  love your Star Wars theme" ... ah well, can't win every time!





The Quantum Possibility EngineBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 12 December 2018 - Reviewed by Callum McKelvie
Writer: Guy Adams
Director: Jamie Anderson
 

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

First Released: October 2018

Running Time: 2 hourss

The ‘Seventh Doctor Takeover’ continues with The Quantum Possibility Engine, bringing to a close much of Mel’s continuing storyline, as well as this main range trilogy. Not only that but it also features the return of Josiah W. Dogbolter, a character who made his debut in Doctor Who Magazine in the comic strip The Moderator in 1984, as one of the primary villains of the piece. In a sense that’s important to state as, The Quantum Possibility Engine, feels very much like a mid-80’s Doctor Who Magazine strip. There are bizarre characters and off the wall ideas, mixed with some less than subtle (in a good way) digs at reality and an oddly Meta sense of humour. Some things don’t make a lot of sense, but who cares? The rides worth it.

Our story opens with our hero’s (Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred and of course Bonnie Langford) onboard a space station owned by the new president of the solar system; Dogbolter. Dogbolter wants the Tardis for a very specific reason, meanwhile, Mel tries to settle the score and the Doctor and Ace Find themselves locked inside the titular ‘Quantum Possibility Engine’. Oh and Narvin’s here.

The Quantum Possibility Engine is actually a pretty hard story to talk about. Part of the enjoyment of it comes from not knowing what’s coming next and to that end it’s almost impossible to discuss without spoiling anything. The ride that Guy Adams takes us on is so bizarre and outlandish that it would be unfair of me to discuss any of its elements here.  What it is fair to say is that this is one hell of an adventure and one that’s a lot of fun, certainly working more as a comedy than anything else. The return of Dogbolter is one which I’m very pleased with, he may seem like an odd choice to some but this parody of Sydney Greenstreet is one of the reasons I’m such a fan of The Maltease Penguin. Toby Longworth returns to the role and captures that Greenstreet-esque voice perfectly, apart from a few wonderful moments when he seems to be evoking Churchill instead. Wonderfully, Adams has chosen to give him a Robot assistant that sounds an awful lot like Peter Lorre (played with perfect sniveling menace by Wayne Forester), a logical thing to do given the Greenstreet connection.

Even away from Dogbolter, however, there’s still much fun to be had here. McCoy, Aldred and Sean Carlsen all get wonderful moments in the second half of the story. Carlsen especially is not someone I’m overly familiar with, never having listened to any of the Gallifrey stories (though I know Narvin has something of a fan base). Here he was extremely enjoyable and although played primarily for laughs (after all this is a comedy) I can see how his character could be more dramatic and sinister if required. The star of the show in terms of regulars (because sorry but Longworth really steals the limelight from everyone) however is Bonnie Langford. She gets some great comic moments with Wayne Forester and also some of the few seriously dramatic sequences in the entire story. Langford really has done wonders with Mel on Big Finish and I hope she gets more time to shine in successive years!

The Quantum Possibility Engine really is a hell of a blast. It may not be particularly dark or dramatic and so may not be for those who like their Doctor Who serious and straight, but for those who like I bit of fun I cannot recommend it enough.






Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor - Issue #2 (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Thirteenth Doctor #3 - Cover A (Credit: Titan )

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

38 Pages

Published by Titan Comics 21 November 2018

Titan Comic's second issue of the Thirteenth Doctor picks up where the first had ended, and sees the Doctor trying to stabilize the time trapped man, while a group of alien soldiers are closing in on them for arrest.  The Doctor quickly stabilizes the time trapped man while Yaz and Ryan distract the soldiers, but they are all soon arrested.  

 

****READER BEWARE - THERE MAY BE SPOILERS AHEAD****

 

While in a cell, the Doctor gets more info out of the guy from the time vortex, and he claims that it was an experiment that went wrong their first time using it.  But we get some flashbacks into how this guy ended up as some kind of a thief for an alien overlord at the same time. Soon the Doctor helps everyone escape the cell...and they find a room that gives hints of the army's world...there is a being called the judge and they are fighting some kind of a war, but they have little time for that now.  

As the soldiers close in on them, the Doctor uses the Sonic to call the TARDIS towards them and they escape...but our man lost in time (whose name is Perkins by the way), pulls a gun on them and plans to steal the TARDIS.  Cliffhanger!

It is very much the middle entry of a story.  It isn't introducing elements, and it isn't resolving them...but it doesn't plod along with padding or anything, and is a fairly enjoyable read with very good artwork.  I'm sure the quick notes about the alien race's culture, possible beliefs, and their war will come into play down the road, and we will see where Perkins time travel antics and thievery will unfold as the issues go on...but right now we clearly aren't that far into this story, and have no real ending. 

If you've been enjoying the latest series, as I honestly have, then it's a solid issue.  This line feels like a perfect companion piece to the latest series.  It is well paced and the artwork is terrific. Those fans that hold disdain for the latest series and the current incarnation of the Doctor, for whatever the reason, need not apply.  For others...this new comic series is shaping up nicely.  

 
 




The Battle of Ranskoor Av KolosBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 - Reviewed by Matt Hills
The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos (Credit: BBC Studios)
Writer: Chris Chibnall
Director: Jamie Childs
Executive Producers: Chris Chibnall and Matt Strevens

Starring: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Phyllis Logan, Mark Addy, Percelle Ascott, Samuel Oatley, Jan Le

BBC One (UK)
First broadcast Sunday 9th December 2018

The title for series 11's finale might be something of a tongue twister, but it's of a piece with Chris Chibnall's world-building, where despite TARDIS translation, human and alien cultures find one another's worlds and identities difficult to say. Yaz's exchange with Paltraki about his home world is similar to related dialogue in 'The Ghost Monument', for instance, while 'Tim Shaw' is itself a mangling of the Stenza's actual name: Chibnall consistently stresses the alien-ness of humanity to other races, and vice versa. Ranskoor Av Kolos isn't just sci-fi gobbledygook, then,  it's a reminder of the constant possibility of misunderstanding and failed empathy ("Ranskoor Av - what?") whilst time-travelling. Perhaps the real battle in this episode is between genuine understanding and communication breakdown, whether psychotropically driven or not.

And for a phase of Doctor Who that's so patently invested in the ensemble of 'Doctor plus three' -- arguably a way of managing any anxieties about the reception of Jodie Whittaker by casting audience identification across a range of options, an older male figure included -- it's striking that this finale also offers up an ensemble of aliens to combat, in the form of a Stenza-Ux team-up. At first, it seems as though Paltraki's unit might be a distorted mirror for team TARDIS (commander-plus-three), but this possibility isn't really developed. Instead, it's the lone Stenza 'god' and Ux duo species that represents a malformed version of our time-travelling "fam". The Ux are being dangerously misled, whilst we're shown from the outset that their culture and faith depend on "experience" rather than "understanding" -- it's not that their religiosity is undermined, or that they're somehow idiotically stupid, but rather that their priorities are in need of realignment. Sure enough, by the episode's end they set off in pursuit of newfound "understanding" over and above pure experience, something that Graham, Yaz and Ryan have already grasped thanks to their time with the Doctor.

Jodie Whittaker again turns in a strong performance, with her Doctor being less of a melodramatic 'Legend' than some previous incarnations, and more of a softly-spoken mentor. She's firm with Graham, warning him of the consequences if he gives in to a desire for revenge. But there's not so much sense of an 'Oncoming Storm' here, a magically powerful if not near-omnipotent walking myth; instead, the thirteenth Doctor wants to synthesise "the best elements of everyone", as she puts it. We are given a facilitator in place of a pseudo-Godlike Time Lord, as the 'bad' ensemble of Stenza and Ux is fractured and converted into a new Ux-TARDIS "supergroup" or force for good. It's surprising that Whittaker's portrayal has sometimes been criticised for a lack of distinctive characterisation, when in terms of scripting and performance there's a strong through-line of mentoring which this episode again brings to the fore.

The 'Battle' of the title might capture an aspect of Chris Chibnall's vision for series 11, but it's also more than a little misleading, promising epic scale and SF spectacle yet remaining off-screen and (perhaps) outside budgetary constraints. As a finale, this also represents a second level of fan denial. Mystery and build-up are expertly wrangled as the mists of Ranskoor Av Kolos atmospherically swirl, raising one's hopes of a big reveal (will it be Davros? The Daleks?). In addition, this episode wasn't made available in advance to TV critics, also building anticipation of a major twist. But narrative mechanics and spoilerphobic brand management rebound a bit here, given that the reveal is, eventually, of a single character encountered once before at the start of the series. This story is structured, actually very effectively, as if it's leading up to something Properly Massive, an epic and unexpected showdown, only to deliver exactly what Chris Chibnall has promised all along -- the 'jump onboard' accessibility of no truly old monsters, and the emotional development of character arcs rather than 'mythology' story arcs. Consequently, 'Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos' feels like it's teasing and tantalising a moment of unpredicted fan service, the option of which is then rejected and batted away. Like the unseen spectacular battle, fans are again denied -- but this time, it's the emotional resonance that can be represented by a returning villain/monster that's rejected. 'Classic' monsters can embody a kind of emotional time-travel for dedicated audiences, taking them back through memories, past enjoyments or scares, and knowledgeable appreciation; perhaps the term 'classic' really stands in, partly, for all this Proustian fan sentiment. For a series so focused on the emotions of character arcs, at least for Graham and Ryan, long-term fans' emotional remembrances of past Who are not significantly summoned up. Yes, 'The Pirate Planet' lingers behind some plotting, in a way, and I wondered whether the mineral design of the segments was also meant to remind long-term viewers (or DVD collectors) of the segments of 'The Key To Time', but this was seemingly just a design echo. 

After the gloriously bonkers 'It Takes You Away', 11.10 was 'It Brings You Right Back... To The Widely Predicted', making it somewhat less satisfying than I'd hoped for. Having said that, there were a number of notable strengths on display here, chief among them the blend of production and effects design, Jamie Childs' direction, and the always impressive use of locations. Those faceted, mineral-like stasis chambers in sickly yellow looked amazing, as did the Doctor's initial confrontation with Phyllis Logan's Andinio, whilst the approach to the 'Edifice' was another visually compelling sequence, demonstrating what a high standard Childs' direction has consistently achieved this year.

In the episode's dying moments, a shock cliffhanger into 'Resolution' would have been welcome. But as things stand, the New Year's Day story looks very promising indeed. Perhaps it will act as the real culmination of this run of episodes, as its title implies on one reading, complete with a major reveal and a 'classic' monster at last ("does it have a name?"). If so, 'Battle' may come to be seen as a deliberately faux finale, in the final analysis.

And if -- *if* -- we bridge from here into a powerful 'Dalek-meets-Quatermass-and-the-Pit' vibe, then I suspect Chris Chibnall's brave decision to hold off on the show's icons for 2018 will ultimately be thoroughly vindicated. Under those circumstances, it will have the effect of making a 'Special' feel genuinely special, lending significance to the pepperpots of old on January 1st 2019. Fingers crossed for another 'R... of the Daleks' in the weeks to come, and hence for a re-evaluation of the role and place of 'The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos'.





Doctor Who - Short Trips 8.11 - The Mistpuddle MurdersBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Mistpuddle Murders (Credit: Big Finish)
Director: Lisa Bowerman
 
Featuring: Sarah Sutton

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

First Released: November 2018

Running Time: 35 minutes

Welcome to Mistpuddle.
 
"I’m sure you’re all wondering why I’ve gathered you here. I’m sure you’re all wondering why the village is home to woodland creatures with a taste for tea, cakes and secrets. And I’m sure you’re all wondering where the Doctor has vanished to. The truth is not as quaint as the pretty cottages and mostly cute residents would have you believe.
 
Murder has come to Mistpuddle. And no-one is leaving until we uncover whodunnit."
 
So..... The Mistpuddle Murders is essentially Doctor Who, Beatrix Potter, Enid Blyton, Wind in the Willows and Miss Marple, all popped in a blender, shaken for a bit, and then left to set.
 
And sadly it wasn't my cup of tea.
 
Mistpuddle Murders (as well as featuring the characters Nyssa, Tegan and somewhat briefly the fifth Doctor), also features biologically engineered, human-sized woodland animals, who have dialogue gifted straight from Beatrix Potter. Now I'm not saying that this concept is any weirder than "little green blobs in bonded polycarbite armour"......but, for me......it just wasn't an exciting enough concept to hold my attention. In fact, I have to be honest - if I weren't reviewing the story for this very website, I probably would have bailed ten minutes in.
 
Sarah Sutton is on narration duties and also voicing Nyssa, she does so very well - taking the source material in her stride. She also does a very passable impression of Tegan, but sadly it wasn't enough to raise the story (for me anyway) above mediocre.
 
The writer, Simon A Forward's previous story for Short Trips was Mel-Evolent, which I also struggled with. At the time I thought it was because the story featured my least favourite companion (Mel), but perhaps I just don't get on with Mr Forward's style of storytelling.
 
The Mistpuddle Murders is available HERE to download from Big Finish for £2.99.





The Phantom Piper (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 10 December 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Phantom Piper (Credit: Panini)
Written by Scott Gray

Artwork by Martin Geraghty, Staz Johnson, Mike Collins, Scott Gray, James Offredi

Paperback: 148 Pages

Publisher: Panini UK LTD 

The latest Graphic Novel from Panini collects together some of the final Comic Strip Adventures for the Twelfth Doctor, who ended his run as the star of Doctor Who Magazine’s monthly strip in October, just prior to the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut on TV. We'll get into a bit deeper, but it seems this will not be the final Graphic Novel the Twelfth Doctor will get from Panini.  Joining the Twelfth Doctor is Bill Potts, who launched on the strip not long after her TV debut, and stuck with him until the end of his tenure on the strip (just as on TV).

The book begins with the Doctor and Bill exploring Jupiter's moon Titan, but they soon get whisked into an adventure with Rudy Zoom, the conceited millionaire adventurer we first met in the Twelfth Doctor's first comic strip story.  Zoom has chartered an exploration of Titan because a woman was being called there by something.  The something turns out to be plant monsters that feed off of people's dreams and want to escape their prison on Titan.  It's a solid beginning for this Twelve/Bill era for the comic strip...it's fun, colorful, humorous, with drama and action. It is a solid start.  However, the book then takes us to the American Old West, and where they face an alien threat using a Native American Woman to exact her revenge on the White man.  This has flawed execution...while I like the idea of exploring a woman who faced adversity and great tragedy on the Trail of Tears, I think they made her too much of a revenge seeking generic villain in the end.  I think they tried to counteract this by making the Sheriff who teams up with the Doctor a black man. I guess they didn't make the Native characters have classic "Savage Indian" tropes...but I still felt like they started somewhere interesting with the character, and it kind of loses that thread, and the interesting backstory doesn't really play too much into her story.

At the end of that story, the TARDIS was marked with some kind of mysterious symbol.  To investigate, the Doctor takes Bill to Cornucopia (the alien world created and often visited during the Eleventh Doctor's comic run), and visits the vast library there for answers on what the symbol could mean.  The story is then about something evil having some kind of control over the librarian herself. It is honestly not that memorable, and really only serves as a one off filler strip.  In the end the Doctor realizes that the symbol is actually a code that needs cracking, so he then whisks Bill off to World War II, to find Alan Turing and get his help on cracking the code. This leads us directly into the final story in the set, the titular "The Phantom Piper" which closes out the set.  This is by far the best story in the collection, it has a big sweeping idea, a fun villain, and leans into Doctor Who Magazine's comic continuity in fun ways. Usually, I'd rather that media not lean too heavily into it's own storied continuity, as it can end up alienating the audience or dragging a story through the mud of references without any real deeper meaning.  This story is about something, and the continuity serves the story. 

I did think it felt like it had maybe a bit too much build-up and a solution that seemed to quick...but maybe that is because I was enjoying reading this story so much I breezed through all five parts fairly quickly.  It should be noted that for this story the page count for each installment shifted from 12 pages back to 8, which was the usual page count for the strip for a number of years. I think it wasn't until the Tenth Doctor that they beefed up the installment length.  At any rate, it did feel like the plot wrapped up rather quickly, and the set up what was the final story for the Twelfth Doctor on the strip, "The Clockwise War."  I think the ending may not have felt so quick and easy if I didn't have to now wait for an entirely new volume to come out in order to get the resolution to the book's cliffhanger.  If that final story was included, the epic scale would've probably just grown and been more satisfying.  

I'm not sure why they made the decision to leave out the final Twelfth Doctor story in this volume. Perhaps it was a decision that came down to deadlines not really coming together.  The final story for the Twelfth Doctor wrapped up only just before the Thirteenth Doctor premiered on TV. I would've honestly preferred them push back this volume to include that final story, and instead of sticking to their usual release schedule of Modern collection followed by a collection of older stuff, they could've held off and given us a bigger book that included the entire Twelve/Bill run in one volume...and in the meantime release an equally anticipated volume of classic comics, which will probably collect together the final batch of stories in the awkward years, and featured the final Seventh Doctor story ("Ground Zero") that came out before the long running Eighth Doctor era. Now it seems that there will be one more volume of Twelfth Doctor Comics to come from Panini.  This time it will be one story (about 60 pages worth of story). Maybe they will put more stuff into it.  Time will tell.

It is a shame that Bill Potts didn’t get more time in the TARDIS. In some ways, I wish her character could’ve joined the Twelfth Doctor at the beginning of Series 9 as opposed to Series 10. Bill was a solid character, well performed, and sadly will only ever have a short run on TV and a short run in the comic strip, and a short run in Titan’s line as well. Maybe someday when he’s ready, Capaldi and Pearl Mackie can revive this duo on Big Finish. Until then, we have this volume...and I guess we can await another yet to come, one story or not.

This collection is hit and miss. It starts and ends strong, but I didn't particularly care for the stories in the middle..and the fact that it ends in a cliffhanger that leads directly into the only Twelfth Doctor story left from the Magazine not included here leaves me a tad disappointed.  Ultimately, if you are a fan of the Strip, it is another well put together volume (missing the finale or not). I still think the best Twelfth Doctor volume remains Doorway to Hell, but I also enjoy Bill...so I'm happy to have more of her in any format.