The Eleventh Doctor Complete Year OneBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 21 November 2017 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
DOCTOR WHO: THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR COMPLETE YEAR ONE (Credit: Titan Comics)

The Eleventh Doctor Complete Year One
Writers: Al Ewing and Rob Williams
Artists: Simon Fraser and Warren Pleece
Publisher: Titan Comics
368pp
Published: November 21, 2017

The ones we love make up our world. When time claims them, nothing makes sense. Everything around us falls to pieces. It is up to us to pick up those pieces and rebuild, move forward, create a new world to live in.

That lesson can sometimes be impossible to learn. As it was for Alice Obiefune when she met The Doctor. Her mother was gone. Her job at the library was lost. Her landlord evicted her to knock down the building. Not even the thrill of time travel, the excitement of visiting alien worlds, meeting rock legends, or seeing the face of the creator could show her that the power to live, to keep going, was in her the whole time.

One could easily see the first year of The Doctor’s adventures away from his friends, the Ponds, as a collection of loosely connected, fluffy, stand-alone adventures, and they’d be right. Although there is a slight serialized arc (including a fascinating character on whom the spine of the story rests, who happens to be named Arc), practically every issue has its own beginning, middle, and end. The stories are energetic, crazy, and occasionally hilarious, perfectly mirroring the Eleventh Doctor’s persona. However, themes are touched on repeatedly, evolving from trip to trip as opposed to resolving and resetting for the next story. The continuous look at these themes from various angles is what makes the first year of Titan’s ongoing Eleventh Doctor series feel so monumental and epic.

Sure there’s a ravenous, and adorable, rainbow-colored dog devouring all the sadness and negativity of London. Yeah, there’s a run in with a false God wielding a black hole bomb and the Tardis continues to jump backward in time every few minutes. Sure The Eternal Dogfight shows up over Earth and someone gets a parasite by eating a space donut. All of that, plus Romans and an amusement park planet controlled by an evil organization, make for some truly dazzling spectacle, but what makes it epic are the people.

The stories told by Al Ewing and Rob Williams are funny, scary, exhilarating, and devastating because The Doctor and his new Tardis crew are the focus. The dividing chasm between what they want and what they need is the real quest. Alice needs to accept that the end of her mother’s life doesn’t equal the end of hers. John Jones (a Bowie-esque glam rocker in the early days of his career) needs to be patient with his identity. Arc needs to let go of fear. The Doctor needs to forgive himself for not being able to save everyone all the time. He needs to forgive himself for Gallifrey.

All the while a sinister being known only as the Talent Scout constantly tempts them with images of what they want. He can take away the pain by giving them what they think will fix them, essentially robbing them of what makes them people, taking away their stories.

Artists and colorists Simon Fraser, Boo Cook, Gary Caldwell, Warren Pleece, and Hi-Fi depict giant battles, goofy slapstick, and heart-breaking sadness with equal splendor. There are times when The Eleventh Doctor could step right off the page, or pull you into his marvelous space/time machine. Where they really shine however is in the expressions. You know precisely what these people are thinking and feeling without a single line of dialogue or narration.

The Eleventh Doctor Year One is one of the most moving Doctor Who stories ever told. It isn’t simply about a madman with a box who flies around fighting monsters. It is about us.

We are Arks, Time Machines transporting stories. Everyone we’ve ever met, all the things we’ve done, wished we’d done, wish we’d done differently, these memories make up the story of us. Our stories inform us, define us, drive us to do better. Perhaps we don’t always get it right, but we try. Even the last surviving member of an obliterated ancient alien race with a literal time machine remembers. It keeps him going. Keeps him trying. But it never ever stops him.

 

Amazon Link





The Tenth Doctor Complete Year OneBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 21 November 2017 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
DOCTOR WHO: THE TENTH DOCTOR COMPLETE YEAR ONE (Credit: Titan Comics)

DOCTOR WHO: The Tenth Doctor Complete Year One
Writers: Nick Abadzis and Robbie Morrison
Artists: Elena Casagrande and Daniel Indro
Publisher: Titan Comics
368pp 
Published: November 21, 2017

Traveling around in time and space means the passage of time is not linear. Between The Doctor leaving your sight and his return, he could quite easily have had dozens of other adventures over a few hundred years and saved as many worlds. For the companion, nothing has changed. For the universe everything has.

This is a major contributing factor to the wealth of spin-off media taking place in the Whoniverse. The Doctor is not constrained by the same limitations of other massive franchises. His continuity is fluid. As long as the possibilities of time and space remain infinite, we will never run out of stories about The Doctor.

What happened after Doctor Ten left Donna? He battled Cybermen at Christmas, faced The Waters of Mars, and prevented The End of Time, before regenerating for (seemingly) the eleventh time, right? Well, he also met an idealistic dreamer named Gabby Gonzales, saved the world from a race of beings feeding on negative emotions, visited an art gallery of block transfer sculptures, fought the Weeping Angels on the battlefields of WWI, and stared down the son of Sukhteh. And that was just the FIRST year!

Titan Comics has collected the entire first year of their ongoing Tenth Doctor line in an omnibus called DOCTOR WHO: THE TENTH DOCTOR COMPLETE YEAR ONE. It features the writing talents of Nick Abadzis and Robbie Morrison, as well as showcasing the mastery of artists Elena Casagranda, Eleonora Carlini, and Daniel Indro. The creative teams assembled have come together to tell the kinds of stories that only comics can tell, and do so exceedingly well.

What comics offer that other mediums don’t is the ability to tell larger than life stories with a fast pace that resonate. Readers have the ability to pause on a specific panel, re-read a line of dialogue or caption, and allow it to sink in. Onomonopias may give you an idea of what a particular action sounds like, but the reader is the final arbiter of the minute details. Unlike novels, comics don’t need to stop the action cold in order to set the scene - you turn the cover and you’re there.

The artists here take full advantage of their lack of budgetary constraints to lay out mind-bending pages of alien worlds, cosmic monsters, and even a few easter eggs for a reader to take in with awe. We have scenes of The Doctor (whose likeness is at times impeccably captured, especially by Casagrande)opening Gabby’s eyes to beautiful, ethereal sea creatures in the sky, and the stuff of nightmares invading the minds and bodies of the innocent, goliath statues tearing through ancient alien castles, a tank running down a small army of Weeping Angels, the not-God Anubis looming over tiny Earth primitives on his golden pyramid spaceship, and so much more. This is the vision of the Whoniverse fully realized.

As writers, Abadzis and Morrison write a Doctor that is at once instantly recognizable and a little foreign to us. He is still hurting over the loss of his friend, Donna, dreading what he feels coming, yet still regarding the universe with joy. Despite his assurance that he can never bring another human into this life, he sees in Gabby Gonzales a need to see what he sees. Some part of him knows that he has no choice but to bring her along.

Gabby Gonzales is such a fun, likable, and capable companion that it’s hard to imagine that she never appeared in the show. We see how her life of duty to a hard-working family that has sacrificed everything to give her a future is strangling her and pray that The Doctor will take her to the stars. Once he does, her love of art, knowledge, and the impossible are infectious. What the writers have given us is a character worthy of the title companion.

The first year of The 10th Doctor’s ongoing adventures delivers everything Doctor Who stories require: danger, heart, humor, loss, and the promise of more to come, on a scale that television has yet to match.

 

Amazon Link





Doctor Who - Shot Trips - All Hands On DeckBookmark and Share

Monday, 20 November 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
All Hands on Deck (Credit: Big Finish)

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

Written By: Eddie Robson; Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Carole Ann Ford (Narrator)

All Hands On Deck is the second consecutive release to feature the Eighth Doctor and mention the Time War - what could Big Finish be building up to I wonder? The story also just happens to be my favorite Short Trip to date. It's not often that these stories move me to shed a tear, but this one did.

The story is in parts a sequel to The Dalek Invasion Of Earth where we catch up with Susan in 2213. She lives in an apartment block that is on the site of the old Coal Hill school. Everyone she has ever cared for has gone, most of them had died in the second Dalek invasion.

Susan has quite a quiet life, that is until she is called away to help with a series of planet-threatening emergencies. Firstly there is the Dalek artifact that suddenly comes to life. It oozes a yellow liquid that turns out to be custard. This is followed by the asteroid that seems certain to hit Earth but fades away at the last minute. Then we have the cyborg spiders that suddenly start to terrorise the neighborhood, but turn out to be harmless. Every day there seems to be a new threat. What can possibly be happening? Perhaps the man hiding in her cupboard might be able to explain?

Of course, the man hiding in her cupboard is the eighth Doctor. He is creating events in an effort to try to distract Susan from noticing a message that has been sent via tesseract by the Time Lords. A message requesting that Susan return to Gallifrey as soon as possible, and help fight the Time War. Will the Doctor succeed in talking Susan out of heading home?

The story romps along at a great pace. It seems that Susan hardly has time to draw breath before another Bubble' is sent to her, which whisks her away to help avert a new disaster. The story also has some rather lovely nods, not only is it sweet that Susan now lives in the old Coal Hill School, but it's also rather touching that from her window she can see an oak tree that was planted in memory of Ian and Barbara. The story also finds Susan reminiscing about her time attending Coal Hill School, times when she loved to listen to the Beatles, but always being wary when she talked about them to friends, just in case she mentioned a song that hadn't been released yet.

Carole Ann Ford is a great narrator. She steps back into somewhat world-weary shoes of Susan Campbell (nee Foreman) with ease. Between her telling and Eddie Robson's beautiful story, this tale delivers a massive emotional punch. I really am going to look up Robson's other works as he is a truly skilled author.

All Hands On Deck is an instant classic and the only entry in this series that I have listened to twice. Don't miss out on this one, I promise it could be the best £2.99 you could possibly spend.






Warlord Games - The SilenceBookmark and Share

Monday, 20 November 2017 - Reviewed by Simon Moore
Warlord Games: The Silence (cover) (Credit: Warlord Games)
Warlord Games
Released November 2016

Described by Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor, as "…the best monsters since the Weeping Angels” and “certainly some of the scariest" in the television show’s history, the Silence have surely terrified many a ten-year-old since their first appearance in Steven Moffat’s 2011 serial “The Impossible Astronaut”. Indeed, the gaunt, gangly ghoulish species who have manipulated mankind “since the Wheel and the Fire”, probably had many a petrified parent joining their nipper behind their living room sofa.

As a result, it should be no great surprise that “Warlord Games” have released a boxed pack of three 38mm scale metal models based upon the mouthless extra-terrestrials as one of their first expansions for their “Doctor Who: Exterminate!” miniatures game. Nor that they seem to have gone to quite extraordinary lengths using BBC material to precisely duplicate the “genetically engineered” confessional priests’ most memorable poses; with the Silent “absorbing electrical energy from the air” and then “discharging it from their hands” genuinely capturing all the sinister power of the alien as its about to obliterate its prey.

From a painting perspective this trio of figures really should prove a straightforward project on account of their television counter-parts being predominantly black and “Warlord Games” providing a simple palette guide for the Silence on their “Into The Time Vortex” website. In addition, the miniatures have been so well sculpted that a quick dry-brush of charcoal or dark grey should very easily highlight all their suits’ crinkles, creases and folds without any real effort whatsoever. Admittedly, I personally had a bit of a struggle to pick out each monster’s stained collar and shirt as they peek out beneath the creatures’ bulbous heads, but such difficulties are undoubtedly down to my own lack of skill with a fine-tipped paintbrush as opposed to any flaw with these models’ excellent detail.

Spookily though, there will be those who buy this product that will become a little disappointed that its delightful box doesn’t also contain the official Silence Recruitment and Adventure cards for the “Doctor Who: Exterminate!” rule-set. As with the Judoon, such rather crucial cards currently can only be found within the miniature game’s starter set, and is something which the more vocal followers of the tabletop game have repeatedly voiced their displeasure over. Impressively, “Warlord Games” have responded to this feedback by slowly publishing such essential statistical data as PDFs for their most recent products yet presently, the Silence cards “Hypnosis”, “Electrical Discharge”, “Enhanced Strength”, “Adapted Tech” and “Distraction” still aren’t available digitally.

Those wargamers wishing to use the Silence to their full potential will also need to buy a couple of extra boxes of miniatures, depending on whether they want to utilise the faction’s “Silent Reinforcements” Adventure card; which under certain conditions allows a player to bring on a further three Silents. For those happy to simply deploy a basic force however, just six models should suffice and, coupled with the ability to ‘bend/re-adjust’ the odd figure’s arm here and there with nothing more than a little gentle pressure, will allow enough pose diversity for a Silent Leader, two Silent Veterans and three Silents.





The Early Adventures: The Night Witches (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 19 November 2017 - Reviewed by Peter Nolan
The Night Witches (Credit: Big Finish)
Written By: Roland Moore
Directed By: Helen Goldwyn

Cast
Anneke Wills (Polly Wright/Narrator), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon/The Doctor), Elliot Chapman (Ben Jackson), Anjella Mackintosh(Tatiana Kregki), Wanda Opalinska (Nadia Vasney), Kristina Buikaite (Lilya Grankin).
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Cover: Tom Webster
Originally Released: September 2017

Review can be a funny business. If you’re a reviewer working across a large canvas it’s likely you’ll regularly come across things you can’t stand. A newspaper cinema critic who hates horror films still has to review them; a book reviewer may still need to struggle through three volumes of Fifty Shades Made a Lot of Money Didn’t It So Why Not Me? even though they’d rather set fire to their eyelids. But the smaller and more specific your turf the more likely you are to, well, be predisposed to like the material. If you’re working on a Science Fiction magazine it would be odd if your every review began “As someone who loathes SF on principle…” If you’re looking at something even more singular, like a particular TV show, it’s pretty likely it’s a TV show you like. And if reviews of audio plays based on that TV show are being handed out, it’s to be expected if they’re given to people who don’t hate audio as a medium.

The Early Adventures, though, exist in a niche within a niche within a niche. And it’s one, I confess, I’m not predisposed towards. When Big Finish decided to evolve their Companion Chronicles range by recasting crucial roles, I was instinctively not a fan of the concept. For me “the Second Doctor”, for instance, was not shorthand for “the Doctor sometime between the events at Snowcap Base and his being put on trial by the Time Lords” but for “the Doctor as portrayed by Patrick Troughton,” actor and performance too bound up in each to be substituted for anything else.

I wish I could say that The Night Witches caused the scales to fall from my eyes and for me to be converted into a true believer but unfortunately I have to say doubts about the soundness of the concept still linger. The format of the Early Adventures leads to an odd mish-mash of voices that take a very long time to get used to. We’ve got original Polly Anneke Wills pulling double duty as Narrator and as Polly, Frazer Hines similarly playing both Jamie and the Doctor, while there’s a new Ben in the form of Elliot Chapman. Part of the essential suspension of disbelief with many Big Finish ranges is accepting that the actors sound older than they did at the time, but that’s made harder by pairing them with a Ben who’s genuinely forty years their junior. Hines’ double duty is a particularly strange listening experience as he actually now sounds more like the Doctor than Jamie, even when playing the Scotsman. And while his Doctor is a fair approximation of Troughton’s voice and accent it really misses the sense of the great man’s performance. Troughton was an actor who could seemingly effortlessly spin a line reading on its side half way through to do something unexpected and brilliant. It’s part of the reason why, in his hands, even the clunkiest of rushed scripts could sound compelling and witty when coming out of the Doctor’s mouth. And, as much of a legend as Frazer Hines is, there’s not much sense of that in his reading of the Doctor’s lines here.

To an extent, it actually feels like a complete break with the past and a full recast – perhaps even with Hines’ Doctor opposite a ‘new’ Jamie – would work better than this halfway house. By the same token, the format feels held back by being a full cast audio, but with narration. The narration is redundant throughout and doesn’t actually add anything to proceedings. Wills’ Narrator, for example, describes our trio looking down a hillside towards some panzer tanks in the snow below, before we move to the cast’s dialogue establishing how they’re on a hillside looking down at some panzer tanks below. Hopefully future releases will cut that Narrator role as its completely unneeded and simply slows down the drama.

Added on top of all this is a doppleganger for Polly, played by a different actor most of the time but sometimes by Wills – meaning that in some scenes Wills is giving voice to three different characters at once. And also that in some scenes the same character is played by two different actors from one line to the next. It’s to the credit of everyone involved that it’s not actually as hard to follow as that makes it sound. I have to admit though that by the end of the two hours, I did get used to the various voices, except possibly for the Doctor himself.

Set into this format is a story perhaps best described as ‘Pure Historical Under Siege.’ The TARDIS lands our heroes in the days of WWII and quickly they become tied to the fate of the isolated base of the ‘Night Witches,’ as the steady advance of the Nazis towards Stalingrad draws ever closer to the base. And, typically of a Base Under Siege story, the base commander is deeply sceptical of the new arrivals before beginning to crack under the pressure and becoming as much a threat to her own people as the enemy at the gates. Indeed, we see very little of the Germans themselves in The Night Witches and the Doctor and his companions spend most of the runtime victims of commander Vasney’s attempts to expose them as German spies and, later on, use their deaths to the advantage of a mad propaganda scheme to demoralize the enemy forces.

This leaves the play a little short of incident, and much of it is pretty predictable. Each cliffhanger focuses of a dramatic revelation clearly signposted as much as an episode and a half before. Everyone’s gasps of shock and disbelief when they see Polly in the first episode, for instance, makes it no surprise when her doppleganger shows up and the theme music kicks in. And with it established early on that not only is Tatiana a dead ringer for Polly, but a talented impressionist and mimic who was about to begin a stage career before the war who is sick of the fighting and desperate to find a way out, it’s easy to see where the plot will go an hour later.

That said, first time contributor to Big Finish Roland Moore delivers a script that has all the right elements in all the right places but, like a piece of Ikea flat pack furniture, there are stress marks where the screwdriver has been applied a little too brutally in the effort to make it all fit together. The real life heroism of the Night Witches, who ran dozens of bombing missions a night in obsolete bi-planes under horrendous conditions is a great period of history to explore and fits nicely with Who’s old fashioned educational remit with lots of detail on the tactics and deployment of the Night Witches. And while there are no genuine Russians among the cast, it’s still lovely to hear some skilled voice work from the Anglo-Polish Wanda Opalinska as Vasney and Lithuanian Kristina Buikaite as Lilya, a young Night Witch smitten with Ben. It lends a nice sense of location to the performances, and of our regular TARDIS team as strangers in a strange land. And it comes wrapped in a cover that, even by Tom Webster's high standards, is a strikingly beautiful composition.

A relatively slight story buoyed by sincere and convincing performances by the guest cast and a compellingly tense corner of history, The Night Witches highlights the unique challenges The Early Adventures present to listeners. It’s not to be forgotten, however, that when it comes to recapturing the brilliance of this era of Doctor Who, The Early Adventures are the only game in town.





Doctor Who - Short Trips - A Heart On Both SidesBookmark and Share

Sunday, 19 November 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
A Heart on Both Sides (Credit: Big Finish)

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

Written By: Rob Nisbet; Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Sarah Sutton (Narrator)

In this, the latest installment in Big Finish's Short Trips series we catch up with Nyssa, who is now the controller of a hospital ship - the Traken (yes, there is even an Adric ward!). The Traken is assisting on the planet Reave, a planet close to Gallefrey, and a place where the shadow of the Time War is encroaching. The Time Lords have a bad name on Reave, and are seen as terrorists. When Nyssa's assistant, Doctor Foster is exposed as a Time Lord after being exposed to Praxis gas, things get a little heated.....

A Heart On Both Sides is a good old fashioned Who -dunnit, and at the same time quite a bit of a nostalgia-fest.The story is read by Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) who does a fantastic job - possibly the best that I have heard from this range, she really throws herself into the narration. The plot pairs her with an undercover eighth Doctor (something that is rather heart-breakingly only revealed to the audience, not to Nyssa) The Doctor here is only known to Nyssa as Doctor Foster, who originates from Gloster, an asteroid medical academy that suffers very heavy rainfall and lots of puddles (yes, I know....).

Of course, we know that Dr Foster is our Doctor a long time before the reveal. The Doctor has been following Nyssa's progress closely over the years and is obviously very fond of her. He is here because he has heard a rumour of the Traken's destruction, and wanted to try to make this less likely. Other characters of note in this story are Isherwood, a hardened Reaven with a bitter hatred of Time Lords, and the Sisters, who are logical, robot nurses. 

There is a nice twist at the end, when the Doctor works out who is really behind the attack, and yes, it does get a little predictable, and the villain a tad too moustache twirling - but it really doesn't matter as A Heart On Both Sides really is  joy to listen to, and is well worth thirty-odd minutes of your time. It probably helps this story immensely though that Nyssa hails from my favourite era.

Hugely enjoyable.