As we approach the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who, revisit the story of Doctor Who, the occasional series written for the 50th Anniversary, explaining the origins of the programme.

Episode 3 - An Unearthly Series - The Origins of a TV Legend: First published 14 May 2012

Twelfth Doctor #4 - The Swords Of Kali (Part Two)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 6 February 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
The Twelfth Doctor #4 - The Swords Of Kali (Part Two) (Credit: Titan)
Writer: Robbie Morrison
Artists: Dave Taylor + Mariano Laclaustra
Colorist: Luis Guerrero, with Studio 641
Letterer: Richard Starkings + Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editor: Kirsten Murray
Designer: Rob Farmer
"They made me an offer I couldn't refuse -- unlimited funding to pursue and recover one of history's greatest antiquities...the Swords of Kali, the ancient Hindu goddess of death and destruction."
- Tiger Maratha speaking to the Doctor in a holo-recording .

More beautiful imagery, elegant plotting and effervescent dialogue is on hand to delight all comic book fans in the second instalment of this continuing adventure for the Doctor and Clara. As the action opens the TARDIS crew are in the same location on planet Earth but not the same time zone. And both have much to deal with - not least danger, conspiracy and some mythical artefacts.

As in Part One, there is plenty of good character work achieved for two very different but equally fascinating female guest characters. Rani the warrior had shown her considerable fighting prowess and stealth in issue three, but now the reader has a chance to see what makes her tick on a more personal and emotional level. Her pairing with the Doctor - who has time-travelled by means other than TARDIS - is very well done and affords a look once again at how Capaldi's incarnation is able to show many different attributes depending on the inter-personal dynamc presented to him.

Priyanka Maratha has only just lost her father Tiger, and is by no means used to such hi- adrenaline exploits. An onslaught of six-limbed monstrosities without pity is almost too much to bear, but with help from Clara she is able to escape. However a terrible price is paid which affects all ensuing events. Later on Priyanka is privy to the holo-recording intended for the Doctor, as she discovers her father's true motives for his high-risk explorations all across the Earth. The wish to know the real inspiration behind the Thugee Cult is one of those driving forces.

The artwork continues to be of the highest calibre and leave impressions of themes and emotions as well as locations host to many incredible treasures, murals and sculptures. The addition of Mariano Laclaustra (who provides inks) only enhances what was already strong work from Dave Taylor in earlier editions. Characters are well-drawn, with distinct mannerisms and energy levels, and the colouring too is very impressive at times. Thus remarkably thorough detail is conveyed.

The likeness of Peter Capaldi never slips, which is boosted further by wonderful Doctor dialogue featured in most of his panels. This mimicry element is rather more of an issue with Morrison's other Titan Comics story featuring the Tenth Doctor. I do however think that Jenna Coleman's appearance is not the easiest to translate to the 2-d format, and at times it feels like a female relative of the Coal Hill School teacher is having a turn at substituting for her.

The story is also paced expertly and while there was potential to wrap things up with a 'rabbit out of the hat' move by the Doctor come the latter pages, instead there is a further development that throws the scenario into a whole new stratosphere. Most cliff-hangers to comic books are well-designed - if understandably concerned with bringing repeat business - but this particular hook is truly a subversion of expectation given the previous action and yet is comfortably familiar in putting a hero into peril.

This is a Doctor Who story up there with the best of the franchise in making clear its inspiration, with a certain Indiana Jones being present at least in spirit if not in actuality. And as much as the threat facing humanity from the powerful 'Indian dynasty' in times future and past conveys the suitable gravitas, there is a strong sense of fun and optimism that also pervades. How the Doctor deals with the malignant Scindia will certainly provide for riveting reading in the near future.

Bonus Humour Strips: AJ this time employs a single panel to tell his "Ebbing Tide" story. Meaningful exploration of the TARDIS crew's latest destination is rather limited, and provokes a session of bickering (as we have become accustomed to with them!) The Doctor's fob watch is proudly on display, although Clara is quick to point out the watery threat it faces.

The Inversion Of Time” written by Colin Bell and drawn by Neil Slorance is another fine effort focusing on time distortion. It brings to mind the full-length Eleventh Doctor story from a couple of months back but is rather more easy to grasp given that it takes place in the TARDIS console room only and features just the main characters.

FILTER: - Comic - Twelfth Doctor

UNIT Counter Measures - Series 3Bookmark and Share

Friday, 6 February 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
UNIT Counter Measures - Series 3 (Credit: Big Finish)
UNIT Counter Measures - Series 3
Starring Simon Williams, Pamela Salem, Karen Gledhill, Hugh Ross, Philip Pope
Also Starring: Michael Troughton, Rupert Evans, Timothy Bentinck, George Layton
Written By: Matt Fitton, Justin Richards, Ken Bentley, John Dorney
Director: Ken Bentley
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery an Nicholas Briggs
Released July 2014

This most recent release in the ongoing series by and large continues the good work of beforehand, if at times showing the odd weakness or two. Before discussing the four stories I must criticise the reworking of the main theme tune. The original was quite serviceable for me, if not really up there with a true classic tune (such as BBC Radio's 'The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy' or 'The Lord of the Rings'). All the less pleasing element of the piece seem to have been emphasised and the pitch change just wasn't for me.

Nonetheless the series opens with an absolute belter of a paranormal yarn. 'Changing Of The Guard' allows the London setting of the mid 1960s to really be used well. A bunch of low-life criminals are managing to use some rather disturbing methods that are not of 20th century Earth to outwit the authorities, and the team of Group Captain Gilmore, Ms Jensen and Ms Williams are once again having to use all their experience to cope. Drama is also firmly centred in a trial - during which Sir Toby is put under a most unforgiving microscope and has to use all his mental skill to secure a positive verdict on his conduct. Sound effects are done splendidly throughout and the plot kept me guessing without ever getting too clever for its own good. I really welcomed how the main threat to the public was resolved and the increased focus on Allison, which turns out not to be a one-off in this box-set.

The writing is decent in 'The Concrete Cage' but something is just slightly missing for this to be called a success. The setting is not a bad one in-of- itself. Just as 'Quatermass' has inspired the earliest stories in this spin-off series, once again a Nigel Kneale work ('The Stone Tapes') gives rise to a story. Something has gone awry in a tower block and people seemingly suffer even after their natural demise. Rachel is given the most meaningful involvement of the core cast, but this does not mean that anyone is left out for long. The problem for me lies in the tepid use of the guest participants. They are certainly not helped by some hoary old dialogue that just really grated when I was trying to connect to their individual stories. Justin Richards is a very experienced writer, but some examples of his work speaks to me more than others.

Also whilst I have enjoyed seeing Michael Troughton in some television roles over the years, he really isn't given the most appealing character to play - even if this is the actual intent. The final scenes are also presented in a somewhat blasé manner and consequently the impetus of the story just never quite materialises. The inferior theme tune is sadly not alone in this outing either, as inharmonious electronic stings diminish the listening experience. However I am sure that this story has something to offer for those fans that like claustrophobic tales full of psychological horror. And it certainly outperforms the troubled Seventh Doctor story 'Paradise Towers'.

'The Forgotten Village' is perhaps the strangest story of the run in both structure and what it chooses to do with the cast. It still impresses through brave decisions as well as dialogue that feels very true to the heart of the main participants. The village setting sees much back story and revisiting of past loved ones, as well as the expected dosage of very odd goings on that need the best expertise Britain has to offer. Alison's father (celebrated 'The Archers' star Tim Bentinck) is given a lot of focus as he suffers poor health, but worse is to come. Alison is front and centre as the place where she spent her youth is succumbing to a bizarrely dangerous turn of events. Appropriately enough, Rupert Evans (of BBC prime time TV drama 'The Village') features in this effort, and is equally as strong a presence in this audio format.

Just as this box set begins on a positive note, it ends even stronger, as 'Unto The Breach' moves various pieces on the Cold War chessboard and then throws a game changer or two for good measure. East Berlin sees the bulk of the meaningful action, as the team must try and see if an alien really has been at work - and for the benefit of the Iron Curtain regime. Shades of grey have never been more indistinct as characters that seem benign are something else entirely. Picking up what it needs to from story three, the listener is entranced into discovering just who will be affected and to what extent. I was happy to note that the multi-talented George Layton featured in a good guest role as Lehne, and indeed there is not a false note struck by anyone who contributes to this thriller.

Looking at the overall sequence, Sir Toby doesn't get quite the same character growth of the last series, but is still utterly charismatic and engaging. Instead this is the time for Allison to truly come into her own as she takes more initiative and shows the ability to make strong decisions without being cynical and world weary. Karen Gledhill is a very likeable personality both in character and in real life, and it was high time she was given some more prominence.
However there is enough decent material for both Gilmore and Rachel, and also a continuation of their growing bond with each other, whilst still throwing in some obstacles. The team certainly know how to prevent this arc stumbling into a predictable state. Sir Toby is not always the focus for anger that he once was by those in his team, as Templeton now begins to really display his manipulative traits to quite overt effect. But more importantly, come the last two stories, two regulars are put in dire straits with little chance of a reprieve.

So when all is said and done, this is a solid quartet, with two of the best stories so far, a brave effort that works well enough, and a rather more average entry that still at least feels relevant to the series overall.

The bonus documentary once again merits full attention, and manages to be at least as entertaining as the actual stories. There is plenty of teasing banter, camaraderie and thoughtful reflection - including from the guest stars, some of whom are called upon to perform multiple characters. The decision to let certain cast members go into comprehensive detail over their character profile and the logistics of making the show (e.g. how audio recording differed from tv work in flexibility and attendance demands) leads to some sections being more substantial and meaningful than others. I must assume the interviews were done so as to develop as organically as possible, and then editing choices were made to fit the obligatory time limit. In any case, the regulars themselves again all provide good insights into their approaches to their role which both confirm what listeners are taking away from the stories, but also allow some interesting insights that may not have been obvious at first. And finally, the rationale behind how the creative team choose to end this series with more questions than ever before ensures that the wait for this July and Series 4 is a rather fraught one.

FILTER: - Big Finish - Audio - 1781783225

New Adventures With The Eleventh Doctor #7 - The Eternal DogfightBookmark and Share

Thursday, 5 February 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
New Adventures With The Eleventh Doctor #7 - The Eternal Dogfight (Credit: Titan)
Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Warren Pleece
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Richard Starkins and Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editor: Kirsten Murray
Designer: Rob Farmer
New problems face the TARDIS quartet as they stumble upon a considerable threat to Earth. The war between the Amstrons and the J’arrodic is leaving a deadly impact on the Doctor's favourite planet. Airlines are unable to get off the ground and a toxic smog is suffocating the atmosphere. UNIT also appear to have their resources rendered null. Can the Eleventh Doctor avert disaster without too much fallout along the way?

One of the more epic stories offered up so far by the series' creative team(s) ensures that there is plenty of spectacle. A horde of futuristic ships are positioning themselves in proximity to Earth. Whilst televised Doctor Who did sometimes meet this level of ambition, it is always a surefire idea in a well-constructed comic book. Also enticing is the visualization of the Doctor and his team having to somehow travel with makeshift jet packs in order to reach their objective
Continuity both from the parent TV shows and from earlier issues is markedly strong here. In this encounter the Doctor follows up his brave head-attire of fez and Stetson with an aviator hat and goggles. We also get the well-remembered catch phrase of "Geronimooo.." prompting a variation from Arc when the protagonists have to make a thrilling leap. And for the second story in a row, Jones suffers a major threat to his survival; yet the real shock is left for the cliffhanger ending that brings part one of this two-issue tale to a close.

To get more background on Alice through her returning home proper is something which feels strong and organic, given the previous work done on her character arc. And in some ways the adventures she has had far away in different time zones have been less demanding than the stone cold realities of her home life struggles. With her being left to cope on her own, as her friends have their latest mad-cap hi-jinks, a major game-changer catches her completely unawares. It may well be the work of the mysterious being that appears to be another survivor of the Time Lord race, but there is no confirmation forthcoming still.
Yet somewhat disappointingly, and given the strong foundations laid for Alice in issue one, she is soon shunted off-page ..until the final story beat. I enjoyed the Doctor's various action scenes but they could have been compressed without losing the crucial element of joie de vivre that make Doctor Who such a personal favourite of so many.

But overall the actual plot is quite engaging and allows the usually forward-looking Eleventh Doctor to show his regret over the catastrophic Time War. Matt Smith was always capable of shruging off the clownish exterior to display vulnerability and cold rage, and it is good to have some reminder of just why the whole franchise is so enduring. We care about the Doctor, and his struggles to keep going on, when so many of his friends cannot join his 'walk through eternity'.
The nominal 'villains' in this story are also well-done. In contrast to the endless battles that pitted Sontaran against Rutan or the Kaleds against the Thals, this particular conflict needs a resolution of a very different kind. Due to its endless length, the actual beginning of the conflict and its context are long-forgotten. All that remains is the underlying desire to avenge the countless lost in combat.

Just as with 'The Weeping Angels of Mons' we have a returning writer - Williams - joined by another new artist. For the tone of the story concerned, Warren Pleece’s work is a strong effort. He is able to supply both believable facial expressions and explosive action moments aplenty. I did find Jones just a touch too different in build to the versions presented beforehand, but otherwise the TARDIS crew gets a very good showcase of their individual personas and mannerisms. And the colouring work that Hi-Fi continues to provide for these stories ensures that both new and returning readers are unlikely to lose interest easily.

Bonus Humour Stories: Once again AJ supplies readers with the opening sketch. This very much does as it says on the tin, as a 'Rebranding Exercise' manages to wrongfoot the Doctor by replacing one enemy with seemingly another in the blink of an eye.
Marc Allerby hits the bullseye yet again with 'An Adventure in Brine and Plaice' Although the Doctor is in every panel, this is very much River Song's story, and comes to a head with her facing another 'impossible' trap to overcome. Furthermore the return of a Second Doctor-era monster is a nice bonus for Classic Series fans and reminds us of Matt Smith's original 'homework' when he went about creating his own version of the Time Lord.

FILTER: - Comic - Eleventh Doctor