The Lost Stories: Lords of the Red PlanetBookmark and Share

Friday, 19 September 2014 - Reviewed by Martin Ruddock

The Lost Stories: Lords of the Red Planet
Written by Brian Hayles
Adapted by John Dorney
Directed by Lisa Bowerman
Released Nov 2013 by Big Finish

Big Finish has long been the hub for Doctor Who's what-ifs and might-have beens, be it filling in enticing gaps left in the TV canon, or giving the eighth Doctor a whole new lease of life on audio. In more recent years, the remit has widened to take in stories for the first three Doctors, with surviving cast members providing narration - first with Companion Chronicles, then The Lost Stories. Lords of the Red Planet takes this idea to new levels - with its expanded cast and lovingly-crafted sound design, it expertly recaptures the late Troughton era in six pacey episodes.

Lords of the Red Planet is based on another unproduced idea by Brian Hayles, and was to be the original follow-up to The Ice Warriors. It was abandoned in favour of The Seeds of Death, quite possibly because it would have used up an entire series worth of budget trying to create three distinct reptilian species and an underground city, mines, and a rocket on Mars!

As with The Queen of Time, Hayles' original storylines have been adapted into scripts for Big Finish, this time by John Dorney, and with the cast again led by Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury. It's an origin story, a sort of 'Genesis of the Ice Warriors' - which sees the Second Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe arriving on Mars in its distant past, only to be caught up in terrible events that see the fall of one race and the rise of another. Troubled scientist Quendril works around the clock genetically 'sculpting' an army for the cruel dictator Zaadur on pain of death for his people, and the arrival of the TARDIS crew in the subterranean city of Gandor only makes things worse....

The Ice Warriors have traditionally been a bit of a blank slate throughout their history, arguably they've barely been explored beyond The Curse of Peladon's twist of Izlyr and Ssorg being good guys. Some attempt to flesh them out was made more recently by Mark Gatiss in Cold War, but Lords of the Red Planet looks at the bigger picture, and with greater effect.

We meet the reptilian martian race that created the Ice Warriors; the aforementioned Quendril (played by Michael Troughton) as well as the prototype Ice Lord Aslor, and one of Quendril's 'failed' experiments, his assistant Risor - both played by Nick Briggs, also on Ice Warrior duty. Briggs does an excellent job of breathing (hissing?) life into two distinct characters, with the tragic Risor being reminiscent of Condo from The Brain of Morbius. His Ice Lord, Aslor (a dead ringer for Alan Bennion's Ice Lords of the 60s and 70s), bonds with Zoe, and fights against his warlike conditioning, showing great pathos.

Quendril, meanwhile, struggles with the consequences of his work, and is highly distressed at the pain he is forced to put his test subjects through. Michael Troughton excels here, despite the horrific nature of Quendril's work, he comes over as sympathetic, no small feat when you realise he's essentially a Davros figure.

We also get an insight into the society of a dying world dependent on daily doses of 'life drink', with the spoiled, vain, puppet Princess Veltreena, (played by Charlie Hayes, daughter of Wendy Padbury) as its figurehead. Even the villainess of the piece, Zaadur, played by Abigail Thaw, has a brief moment of sympathy, when it's revealed that she too is the product of genetic experimentation and has gone through similar agonies to Aslor and Risor. Thaw is excellent, and gives a very strong performance. Dorney's decision to change Zaadur from male to female is a masterstroke, although, as with The Queen of Time, it does remind you of the Troughton era's lack of female foes.

Hines and Padbury are great as ever, with Hines doubling up again as Jamie and the Doctor. Zoe has a meaty part, acting as Aslor's conscience, and ripping the electrodes from him as he is being agonisingly 'brain-formed' by Quendril's process. Jamie is more involved with the rough stuff, but gets a nice scene with Veltreena, who is clearly flirting with him, despite being unsure of what exactly he is. Hines is as good as ever, and sounds like he's stepped straight out of The War Games. Padbury is excellent as well, but sounds like she's struggling to get Zoe's pitch right at times.

Lastly, Hines' uncannily accurate Second Doctor is present in full effect, and is almost flawless - it's only occasional lines of over-wordy dialogue that don't ring true, but the speech patterns, tone, and attitude are all there, and it's a joy to hear. Lords of the Red Planet is a real treat, and a fine bit of world-building, classic in feel, but quite modern at the same time, with real moral dilemmas nestling alongside sonically perfect hissing Ice Warriors and rumbling tympani straight out of The Seeds of Death.

Even if Big Finish isn't your thing, Troughton fans in particular should snap this up. A triumph.

FILTER: - Big Finish - Audio - Second Doctor - 1781780978

New Adventures with The Eleventh Doctor - Issue 2 - The Friendly PlaceBookmark and Share

Friday, 19 September 2014 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
"And I'm not sulking. It just looks like I'm sulking. It's special Time Lord Meditational .. thinky stuff" - The Doctor to Alice.

No sooner have our heroes had one odd and rapid adventure does another come their way in this new offering from Titan Comics. It similarly tells a whole story in the space of one issue, with a proper resolution to the particular scenario. This time round Al Ewing is the sole author, but the core art team comprising Simon Fraser and Gary Caldwell is unchanged. This story clearly establishes that the Doctor and Alice have made their next trip immediately, following the drama that culminated in Westminster in London. The tone is again predominately light; yet with darker undercurrents. The key story is set on the world Rokhandi and revolves around a brightly coloured yet eerie theme park which has its employees seemingly all made to work under some sort of hypnosis. An unseen entity is at work in the shadows, aiming to convert new people to its philosophy that the planet is a 'friendly place for all'. This may be positive terminology but the looks that the converts have in their eyes suggests something rather more amiss. The Doctor's original intent was to arrive on this special planet somewhat earlier on in its history - in the range of ten to thirty years - but perhaps his inaccuracy will end up doing some good - if the reader knows anything about the Gallifreyan wanderer in time and space.

Having found the pilot issue for these brand new adventures with 'Eleven' and Alice to be ideal for an establishing story - and with a simple enough plot, my hopes were that this next instalment would add a bit more 'meat to the bones'. However it falls a bit short of what I anticipated. Nothing is inherently poor or boring, but the story is overly straightforward and does not have a strong enough twist. Admittedly a particular antagonist knows a lot about both the Doctor and Alice - and a mysterious third party (!) - having met them at an earlier point in his life. Of course the 'timey wimey' themes of Steven Moffat's stories - especially those featured in his work as show runner - are more than appropriate for Doctor Who in other forms of media. However this doesn't mask the neglect of good ensemble characterisation, especially compared to 'Afterlife'. Almost all the secondary characters are portrayed simplistically - admittedly many of them have been subsumed and deprived of their own individuality, but there could have still been some more intriguing hints dropped through the reactions of the Doctor and Alice. Witty dialogue is prevalent and often well-done, but also a bit predictable after a while.

Thankfully the story is still more than redeemed by consistently strong artwork and a characteristically potent speech by the Doctor concerning the desecration of Rokhandi. A once perfect and beautiful planet with amazing flora and fauna, that would be many a person's conception of paradise - it has become soulless and corporate with theme parks and mining complexes predominately occupying the surface area of the globe. However this thematic depth which dominates a handful of pages only serves to highlight how routine other story beats are - especially later on. Colours are well used again in this issue, yet ironically the particular contrast of shades that feature in the latter sections are markedly limited compared to the kaleidoscope that preceded them. This arrangement almost compromises some of the overall impact of this being an engaging comic book experience.

Nonetheless there is no doubt that this is an Eleventh Doctor and he is right at home here displaying his inquisitive nature; Matt Smith would certainly have relished reading the dialogue featured. Companion Alice Obiefune is still well drawn and continues to show much promise for future stories. Her confident and patient approach in the face of a sporadically moody and unsettled Doctor, and his affirmation that she detects accurately the unsettling happiness doctrine and unreal lack of blemish in the theme park is a very good writing decision by Ewing. Just as with Donna Noble - easily one of my favourite companions of the entire television run - Alice is someone who is relatively mature and practical but can use her empathy to cope with the bizarre nature of the alien or paranormal aspects around her. However she does not suffer fools gladly or get intimidated by secondary antagonists; and thus comes across as a real person whose flaws are the flip side of her strengths.

The actual nature of the particular threat - maybe a monster of the month, maybe something more relevant in later stories is ultimately not particularly distinguished. Although the reader looks forward to a confident solution by the Doctor it somehow falls on the side of 'too easy' which weaker episodes of Doctor Who usually manage to resign themselves to. I almost could not help thinking even a rather disappointing outing like 'The Rings of Akhaten' at least made the final moments feel like they matter. Here the Doctor is just a bit too safe and smug, and normally those adjectives apply to more generic or two-dimensional fictional heroes. Also Alice is reduced to a backseat role come the end stages after a brief bit of initiative in trying to help rescue her friend. Two issues in it is worth mentioning that open ends from issue one have been set to one side - despite a reference in the opening prose recap of the mysterious figure that seems to be from the doctor's home world. The villains that could be coming after the Doctor and Alice before long may turn out to be well portrayed and memorable. With any luck the best aspects of these opening pair of issues are utilised and amplified further.

So a qualified success as regards this issue. It moves along well, looks very nice and has its good moments of lead character development and arc building. Just don't expect a story to come back to time and again.

On this occasion there is just the one bonus strip featuring a very comedic tone: Marc Ellerby's 'Unexpected Enemy In Bagging Area'. Now I personally loathe the automatic checkouts which supermarkets and department stores favour so much, everywhere one goes. The Doctor is much of the same philosophy and even compares these soulless machines to his most dread adversaries of yesteryear. A nice clear art style and interesting range of colours in the background make this both a funny and memorable extra to the main comic.

FILTER: - Comic - Eleventh Doctor

The Lost Stories: The Queen of Time (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 16 September 2014 - Reviewed by Martin Ruddock

The Lost Stories: The Queen of Time
Written by Brian Hayles
Adapted by Catherine Harvey
Directed by Lisa Bowerman
Released Oct 2013 by Big Finish

Poor old Brian Hayles. He gave us some great bad guys in the Celestial Toymaker and the Ice Warriors in six (credited) Doctor Who stories between 1966 and 1974 - but he was often heavily rewritten as his ideas overreached what a TV show could manage, especially on a small budget.

His first effort, The Celestial Toymaker, is credited to him, but the final script was rewritten beyond recognition by first Donald Tosh then Gerry Davis. He had a little more luck from here on, but was still frequently sent back to make changes, or subject to rewrites.

A prolific writer, bursting with ideas, Hayles submitted many stories to Doctor Who over the course of around a decade, but most of his ideas were rejected on grounds of suitability or cost. According to Terrance Dicks, who had to rewrite large chunks of The Seeds of Death and The Monster of Peladon himself, Hayles was an affable man, and was very understanding of the required changes, but it must have been a frustration for him.

The Queen of Time, as presented here by Big Finish as a hybrid Lost Story/Companion Chronicle is one of Hayles' rejected efforts, adapted from a 1968 outline into a full script by Catherine Harvey. Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury take the lead here as Jamie and Zoe, with Hines again on double duty with his uncannily good impression of Patrick Troughton's second Doctor. The cast is completed by Caroline Faber as the eponymous Queen of Time, Hecuba, who gives a great performance - moving effortlessly between flirting and fury. Faber does a great job here, playing Hecuba as a charming yet vicious femme-fatale, playing cat and mouse with the Doctor whilst casually putting Jamie and Zoe through hell. It's a very strong performance, one that reminds you of the lack of strong villainesses in much of the original series. The only slight criticism I have is that there's maybe a little too much of Hecuba's maniacal laughter going on at times. Hines and Padbury are excellent as ever. They occasionally sound older, unavoidable, given the passage of time - but both recapture their characters effortlessly, and the same old chemistry is at work. Hines' take on the second Doctor continues to impress, it's so good that you could easily forget that it isn't Troughton you're listening to.

The Queen of Time begins with Hecuba's beautiful laughing face appearing on the TARDIS scanner, inviting the Doctor to dinner. Hecuba wastes no time in separating the Doctor from his companions, leaving them to complete a variety of sinister trials whilst he squirms over the revolting dinner she provides and tries to find a way out of her realm. This story is surreal, and has some elements in common with The Mind Robber. The sound design is very effective, with inventive use of gramophone records, and ticking clocks. There are also some similarities to Star Trek, with the crew faced against a godlike being capable of terrible things. The story would have been very difficult to pull off in 1968 in this form, being very visual and quite graphic in places - the food really is disgusting, and there are Alice in Wonderland rug-pulls of reality, and slavering dragon creatures. This has the result of making this tale quite narration-heavy, as there's a lot to picture here, and consequently a lot to describe.

Nevertheless, The Queen of Time is great fun, and recaptures the Season Six TARDIS team to great effect. It's also possibly the only Doctor Who story to make a plot point of a thrown brioche.

FILTER: - Big Finish - Second Doctor - Audio - 178178096X

ListenBookmark and Share

Saturday, 13 September 2014 - Reviewed by Matt Hills

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Douglas Mackinnon
Premiere, 13 September 2014, BBC One

Occasionally an episode of Doctor Who comes along that makes you think differently about the show’s parameters: what it can do, what it can be, and what it can mean. Described by Steven Moffat as a “chamber piece”, this looks like a money-saving installment, focusing predominantly on the main cast of regulars, with no guest stars to speak of and no (visible) monsters. On paper, it's an odd idea. In fact, this doesn’t sound much like Doctor Who at all (even if it has a kind of precedent going back to 1964’s ‘The Edge of Destruction’).

Yet 'Listen' is a strong candidate for the most intricately structured 50 minutes of Who ever. Near the episode's beginning we see the Doctor in Clara’s mirror, reflected three times over, and it’s an image that prefigures three journeys into characters’ pasts and futures, along with three fragments of childhood or child-like fear. 'Listen' is rammed full of Moffatisms: there are fairytale rhymes, things you can’t look at but can only sense or glimpse, child characters who are given prominent roles, and non-linear storytelling with timelines jumbling, jumping and stuttering. But 'Listen' is much more than a showrunner’s reprise: it isn’t simply this year’s ‘Blink’, for example. For one thing, it doesn’t (quite) deliver a new monster – instead it questions what monsters do, and what functions they can serve, for those who pursue them. Very often in Doctor Who, monsters represent something; they’re allegories or symbols for a range of anxieties. 'Listen' purifies that strategy, boiling Who’s monsters down to their simplest, starkest essence: an experience of fear and a desire for knowledge.

Of course, it’s tempting to see ‘Listen’ as a meditation on childhood; a piece of pop psychoanalysis where our favourite Time Lord can be understood though a very briefly sketched childhood trauma, and where the child is all too obviously the father of the man. But at its crucial moments, ‘Listen’ isn’t about childhood at all: it’s more about parenting. The Doctor shouts at Clara, ordering her to safety as he prepares to confront his own fear and his own need to know: he asserts tough patriarchal authority, positioning Clara as a child who can't evaluate own best interests. But the ‘impossible girl’ is also given a maternal if not matriarchal role, later informing the Doctor that he must do as he is told (something he recognizes and submits to). 'Listen' is, at least partly, about knowing when to heed authority and when to listen to a parent’s protective voice. It is, finally, not the Doctor who’s given an omniscient voice-over; it's Clara who watches over him, as if parentally, and Clara who ties together the episode’s themes as one culminating object is threaded through two different childhoods and a family inheritance. The same image, the same material artefact, seemingly gives rise to “Dan the soldier man” and the Doctor that we know; each becomes a distorted mirror image of the other. Scared may be "a superpower", but that superpower is both metaphorical and literal in the current Doctor Who universe, refracted in different ways through Danny Pink and the Doctor.

Fear and the unseen monster – the “figure”, as closing credits dub it – are equated; each stands as a sort of constant companion. But there are other equations that are more subtle and even more intriguing. What are the two things that this episode refuses to show us clearly? The monsters that must never be seen… and the young Doctor, reduced to a silhouette and a curl of hair. Neither the monsters nor the child-Doctor can be clearly apprehended. The monster’s power – its hold over the imagination – stems from remaining invisible; it is an empty space, a blank Rorschach test onto which anything can be projected. But the proto-Doctor is equally withheld; for all that this story seems to stretch the show’s boundaries and format, it refuses to convert the unseen Doctor into a prosaic face and figure. Resisting realism and refusing representation, the young Doctor is just as mysterious as the perfectly hidden creatures, and hence he remains just as much a space for projection, imagination and fantasy. The Doctor and the monster: both are rendered dream-like and oneiric, shimmering at the edges of perception.

Douglas Mackinnon directs this evocative material with aplomb, having recently been responsible for half of Line of Duty 2, which itself featured a stellar performance from Keeley Hawes (gracing the ‘Next Time’ trailer here). Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson both shine in their Coupling-style flashforwards/flashbackwards romance, with Anderson also convincing in the dual role of Danny/Orson Pink. But for me this episode belongs to Peter Capaldi. He’s mesmerizing when speaking out loud to himself, and looks alarmingly demented at moments, as he seeks to uncover what’s “under your bed”. This is cerebral, provocative Doctor Who at its very finest (where provocative is probably ‘scary’ for deep people). And it features one of the most unusual missions in the series’ long history: this Doctor isn't seeking to overthrow an oppressive regime or repel an alien invasion. No, he wants to engage in the interpretation of dreams, unusually allowing the TARDIS to travel via 'subconscious' means.

To worry about continuity seems to miss all the poetry of this episode. Perhaps some devotees will feel that the Doctor’s early years should have stayed firmly off-screen, or that Clara is being given too much sway over the Doctor’s identity here – she seems to symbolically create “Dan” and the Time Lord: soldiers whose power to protect is rooted in fear. Perhaps others will worry about how the TARDIS can so easily find its way to that barn, and that tearful child. But if 'Listen' plays on certain fan fears (of a Doctor that isn’t quite heroic or mysterious enough), then it does so in order to find new possibilities in the programme’s storytelling engines, and to worry away at fixed images of 'the hero'. In The Inner World of Doctor Who, Iain MacRury and Michael Rustin suggest that the Doctor can often be interpreted as a kind of “inadvertent therapist” (p.290), listening to others and helping them remake and re-order their lives. Here, though, it is the Doctor who is analysed by a script that ranks among the show’s most experimental explorations. What really lurks under the Doctor's bed? This is Doctor Who that demands to be thought about. It’s the programme’s format rewritten and yet perfectly encapsulated at one and the same time. And it leaves us with a beautiful image: the good enough hero as a kind of broken soldier.

The economical, sparse and interlocking structures of 'Listen' – treating continuity as a space for creative play – potentially make this Steven Moffat’s best Who script to date. It’s about striking images rather than spectacular effects; it’s about what it means to be scared, rather than cool and merchandisable monsters; it’s about “real, inter-human” date stuff just as much as the end of time, and it’s about the productive, transformative work that dreaming can sometimes perform. Rupert’s dream which gives rise to his new self may be implanted by the Doctor, in a sense, just as the Doctor’s own 'dream' of himself is seeded by Clara, but these science-fictional suggestions nevertheless stress the importance of our interior lives and dreamscapes. The Doctor’s interest in a seemingly universal dream (and its interpretation) ultimately gives way to dreams of a better self.

On paper, this might not sound quite like Doctor Who. Perhaps this ‘Fear & Monsters’ riff amounts to Moffat’s ‘Love & Monsters’ moment, and may be it’ll prove to be just as divisive. But watch ‘Listen’ without prejudice, and you’ll find series eight of Doctor Who humming with a darkly glittering and serious brilliance. We’re past the fiftieth anniversary, but there are still new things, as raw and energising as childhood fears, to be said and heard through the medium of Who.

There can't really be an 'instant classic': classics take time to settle into fan consensus. But if such an entity existed, and if it could be glimpsed, then 'Listen' would surely deserve the title.

FILTER: - Series 8/34 - Television - Twelfth Doctor

Robot of SherwoodBookmark and Share

Saturday, 6 September 2014 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek

Robot of Sherwood
Written by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Paul Murphy
Premiere 6 September 2014 BBC One

Back when Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves was bringing in the punters at cinema screens, Doctor Who was looking like a completely finished tv franchise. Few loyal viewers or die-hard fans could imagine it coming back stronger than ever and being confident enough to be more varied in tone and subject matter on a weekly basis than the original run generally aspired to. Time has perhaps not been kind to the blockbuster epic which featured Kevin Costner sound distinctly American, yet the film has also managed to enter the public’s consciousness on quite a deep level. Certainly many adult viewers of this latest episode will almost find it surreally familiar in that special way that Doctor Who can be. Perhaps it is a surprise that our great TV show has never directly featured the heroic outlaw and his ‘merry’ band of men.

This episode from the pen of Mark Gatiss is in some respects refreshingly linear – there is little that requires the viewer to connect the dots on their own initiative, and each scene builds on the next in a straightforward if predictable fashion. Of course there are some revelations as not all is as it appears to be, and notably the Doctor ends up not being proved totally correct, and that is in part due to his rather protective stance towards Clara. A good tribute to the river fight featured in the celebrated story sees the Doctor takes on Robin on a narrow bridge over the river. It is a nice moment that exposes some of the Doctor’s vanity and pride. However much later in the episode it is emulated in a manner that takes away the crucial drama and also feels self-indulgent.

The direction, design, music and acting is mostly solid – although the key role of Robin Hood is just a little under-cooked both in script and performance - if by no means badly done. Although Robin sounds authentic enough, there is perhaps too much obvious effort of him conveying energy and roguish charm, rather than just embodying those qualities. Right from his first appearance where he declares that he has answered the Doctor’s call with a pronounced wink the viewer will not be bored by this Robin, but perhaps will also not focus on what makes him tick either. On the plus side, anytime that Tom Riley interacts with Jenna Coleman, there is a definite sense of chemistry and Robin is more believable. For the most part though he feels like having just one persona of ‘gung ho’, ‘flippant’, ‘romantic’ or ‘agitated’ and there is little complexity that the best guest characters have had in modern Doctor Who.

Clara and Robin (Credit: BBC/Adrian Rogers)Peter Capaldi has many of the best lines from Gatiss’ script and at this point in series 8 I have now been able to adjust to his rapid fire diction (that contrasts with Matt Smith's more deliberate manner). He has so many ways to convey emotion and like all strong Doctors has the right bland of humanity and alien detachment. Notably he is somewhat less cold than the preceding week’s adventure with the Daleks but then this story is a decidedly jolly romp and has little pretentions to be something else underneath the surface. There is even some modesty in the early scenes when Clara again reaffirms her belief in the Doctor as the definitive well-meaning person to which he responds that he is just ‘passing the time’ – a nice little pun which is played straight. The Doctor’s cynicism over this forest/castle environment actually being the late 12th century and perhaps something rather more artificial is a brave move and yet just what the new season has been putting forward so far with the lead character. Clearly Steven Moffatt and Peter Capaldi have put a lot of work into making this latest incarnation stand out distinctly from Doctors 10 and 11.

Rather fittingly the gloriously wicked Sheriff of Nottingham also has feelings towards Clara and probably appreciates her more for who she is – a thoroughly capable independent woman who knows her abilities and doesn’t talk around subjects. The way that Ben Miller comes across as a despicable and yet thoroughly charismatic and engaging character is a big plus for this episode, but certainly no surprise given how strong a career this versatile performer has had thus far. The episode also has a very clever variant on the usual background to the Sheriff – his ambitions in general are revealed to be rather bigger than scale than many previous portrayals of the character in yesteryear.The only drawback is that Miller is so strong that when he eventually faces Robin in a key battle towards the end all the attention and excitement seems to centre around him. Of course many villains in film and tv steal the show, but it still feels jarringly lopsided – given how much screen time Robin has as well.

Robot (Credit: BBC/Adrian Rogers)The episode has a lot of snappy elements to enjoy. One of the really funny moments involves a contest to find the best archer in land. The Doctor's marksmanship being top-notch somehow feels right for the Twelfth Doctor, and it is good to see him with a weapon other than sonic screwdriver .. for a few moments anyway. The prize of the golden arrow is tied into plot well, making this sequence not only entertaining but also key to the story. Less positively some dialogue comes off as cod-mediaeval, reminding me of 'The King's Demons' from the early 1980s. Despite the deliberate choice to set the story in the time of King John, I feel that the writer did not mean to pay tribute to a rather mediocre Peter Davison adventure. However the finale to the main story has some sharp dialogue and sharp combat which perhaps ends in a slightly slapstick way but is shot stylishly all the same. The Doctors involvement in final resolution is well done and quite a heart-warming moment that will resonate with many viewers perhaps unused to an older looking Doctor. Following that is a clever coda which pays off the viewer looking for clues over the identity of a supporting character with fairly limited screen time.

The biggest compliment I can give the episode ultimately is that it sets out to achieve its key objectives and it firmly establishes the Doctor/ Clara dynamic as something with a lot of substance. As much as I liked Jenna Coleman’s work from day one, she has really progressed now and Moffatt and his writing team now seem to know how to maximise the character’s effectiveness; something that was not always apparent in episodes like Nightmare of Silver for instance. Also the Doctor's arrogance is skilfully measure by Gatiss and it is also good to see him clearly concerned for Clara's safety having been rather casual about her in the second episode.

Finally -all fans of classic make sure you don't miss the ship's database scene as a clever cameo by one of the early Doctors ties in neatly with the main story.

FILTER: - Television - Twelfth Doctor - Series 8/34

Revolutions of Terror (Titan Comics)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 4 September 2014 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
'New Adventures with the Tenth Doctor' -- Issue 2 - Revolutions of Terror (2)

" I just have a knack of turning up when weird things start happening. That's sort of.. what I do" - The Tenth Doctor

The second instalment of this new run of Tenth Doctor stories continues to be written by Nick Abadzis , visualised by art from Elena Casagrande and enlivened by colours from Arianna Florean . The story picks up directly from the initial 'cliff-hanger' with frenetic action as Gabby and the Doctor are quickly acquainted with each other. As with many opening stories this union ties in with the need for the Doctor to deal with a crisis; namely the threat of monsters that have created havoc with the astral plane and with solid matter in 'real world'.

Initial success is achieved as the demonic entity that threatened the Doctor and his new friend is returned back into its original human form with no lasting ill effects. Perhaps this was through nothing more than just blind chance but it would appear that mirrors are not only useful against the likes of Medusa (!). Later Gabby spies on the Doctor's TARDIS; but only the physical outer 'shell'. She quite logically assumes he is some kind of policeman but as events progress and the duo bond further more is made clear about the kind of deep knowledge the Doctor actually possesses and just how dangerous things really are. The potential crisis is not just local to New York but almost certainly the entire world itself. The Doctor is determined to help the benign Pranavores, who normally benefit the world(s) they inhabit, but whose powers are being distorted to evil designs. As the story reaches its latest agonising pause in action for another month, it becomes apparent that something crucial located back in the Laundromat might provide positive answers.

If part one was slow paced and notably focused on characterisation then this second chapter is a big step up in terms of pace and exposition. The Doctor again is not always present in every panel, but nonetheless there is no mistaking the electric, hyperactive.. and yet quiet and contemplative incarnation which David Tennant portrayed so ably. Gabby is every bit as interesting as Doctor Who fans could wish in this modern age of emotional believability.

It is just as well that Part One did such an efficient job at introducing the immediate people in Gabby's life as there is very little direct focus on them this time. The reader will be able to remember enough and share the anxiety that Gabby has over both her own future and those of her loved ones. There is a good tie-in with her fears over feeling pressured to get more out of life with the cruel abilities of the malignant Cerebravores. The new companion even has some exposition of her own to contribute that reinforces the weighty explanations that the Tenth Doctor provides for much of the middle sections. I certainly feel that the character of Gabriella Gonzalez has plenty of staying power to remain as a lead character in this series of comics, and look forward to more character development for her in forthcoming issues.

Also commendable is Gabby's reticence in actually believing in the weird world of the Doctor and that events that are right before her are even genuine. It would seem that the Doctor is quite conscious of this issue and may not even want to subject another new companion to the intense highs and lows - which was especially poignant in Donna Noble's case.

The artwork is just as good if not better than the last issue, as the story can progress and allow for more exciting emotions to be conveyed. Clearly writer Abadzis - being an artist himself on occasion - absolutely knows what he wants out of his visionary material and Casagrande is comfortable with the eventual translation of the concepts and visual motifs. The story feels well-paced but also has its quiet moments which make the difference between a decent story and a good or outstanding one in any media format and era of Doctor Who's narrative.

Also there is enough of a distinctive comic flavour to make this feel like an authentic and distinct spin on the Doctor Who formula. Dialogue can be a little more exaggerated and yet feel believable given the visuals. The only small nit pick I have with this instalment is the Doctor's explanation of some of the Cerebravores' and Pranavores' influences on one another and the world around them. These gets a little 'technobabbly' and convoluted and slow down the liveliness of this comic book format. Yet a delightful pop culture reference to Ghostbusters - perhaps put in due to the 30th anniversary year for that film - helps make such dialogue choices a minimal concern.

Bonus material for this issue comes in the form of numerous alternative covers in nail thumb sizes for issue one, a promotional offer for Alice X Zhang's collectible cover art replicas, and different cover versions for issue two. The humorous mini strips that were in both opening issues for the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor lines are absent this time but hopefully return soon.

FILTER: - Comic - Tenth Doctor