Eleventh Doctor Year 2: # 5 - The Judas GoateeBookmark and Share

Sunday, 10 April 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek










Having had strong indications that his life-long nemesis the Master has framed him for evil deeds during the Time War, the Doctor resolves to explore another obscure planet yet again, in order to obtain hard-and-fast evidence.

Before long, the danger of hordes of militaristic Sontarans having a brutal civil war rears its head. A breakaway group have decided to grow beards that pay tribute to one of the most notorious renegades the Time Lord race ever produced. The Doctor persists in staying just a little longer, much to the chagrin of his fellow travellers.

Yet eventually even the twin-hearted 'madman in a box' realises the need for escaping this colourful world: the main faction of Sontaran are prepared to sacrifice themselves with a bomb that would destroy the 'stray' cohort, all indigenous life on this remote world, and indeed the very planet itself.

And beyond this stress-inducing stopover lies hope in the ongoing quest to quash the Doctor's 'guilt' in the eyes of The Overcast. Perhaps finally, the Doctor's bad reputation can be literally a thing of the past.


The title of this story is on the unusual side, and overall this is a real curiosity from start to finish. Titan have done many experimental stories with the different doctors they have been granted rights to, but this really pushes the envelope. The Eleventh Doctor uses a wacky turn of phrase quite often in any given edition, but this escapade really sees everything but the kitchen sink when it comes to synonyms and idioms. Rob Williams is normally a consist and strong writer, but this is a sign of creative juices being just a touch over-flowing.

The art continue in much the same vein as before. It tells the story well and offers fine facial expression. However I still cannot place Warren Pleece's efforts higher up on the ladder of creative quality than his fellow contributors Simon Fraser and Boo Cook.

There are many ambitious concepts in play, but for my sensibilities at least Pleece does sometimes miss that vital 'X-factor' when portraying large set pieces. He does however do justice to the excellent character work that the Eleventh Doctor line is by now renowned for.

However the crux of this instalment (of what is a cleverly done ongoing arc) does advance the mystery and speculations to great effect. We are drip-fed some information on just what the nefarious Master has been able to do during the Time War, and only now is this particular version of the Doctor in a position to piece together why The Overcast have been desperate to hold him to trial. The Doctor somewhat weakly admits how he may be a hypocrite of sorts, but simultaneously emphasises that his ends do justify the means, and there are far worse 'monsters' out there who do not stop to consider accountability. In essence, the Doctor's self awareness places him in the black column, and those he has had to defeat that had similar potential/talents that could have helped many beings are in the red column.

Just the one panel of the War Doctor surfaces amongst dozens of frames that populate this comic. Yet it does re-emphasise firmly the pressure being placed mentally on Alice, as she has already obtained a clutch of unwanted mental processes courtesy of being in close contact to the TARDIS. This particular aspect of the ongoing arc of Year Two is being done in assured and wholehearted fashion and it is difficult to see the resolution being any less than brilliant, given the pedigree of writing readers have come to expect.

Abslom Daak continues to be well written and feel an organic part of proceedings, rather than one of many examples in Doctor Who's history where nostalgia and homage to the past were a millstone around the neck of real and vital creativity. He manages to ooze charisma, although there is no doubt he is rakish, thuggish and lacking much capacity when it comes to empathy or patience.

It is The Squire who perhaps gets the short straw. Whilst remaining likeable, and indeed noteworthy in being considerably older in her physical appearance to most companions of the Doctor, she really does not have much bearing on the story. This has been a problem for a few issues now. True, she gets to unleash some weaponry that allows the Doctor to meet a vital figure in his life, and someone that can help him in his ongoing quest to clear his name. Yet it still feels like Daak could have done much the same thing, and probably been much more entertaining into the bargain. This problem almost brings to mind the issues with K9 when he was a regular character in the Tom Baker era: a useful plot-device, but lacking an actual path of character growth.

The Sontarans do have a marauding presence here, but never directly interact with the heroic TARDIS travellers. Eventually the Doctor attempts to use their genocidal practice as a means of eradicating Then and the Now being, but has little luck in that tactic. I do generally enjoy the Sontarans as adversaries, and hopefully they are used in a more traditional way in the future. The Sontaran Stratagem certainly did well in that regard, and especially as far as TV stories featuring the 'potato-heads' go. Hopefully that model is followed some time soon in one of the comics. 

This early 2016 entry into the adventures of the Eleventh Doctor is certainly not anywhere close to being perfect, and does somewhat lack the normal intangibles that the franchise thrives on. Yet it still offers plenty of memorable visuals and visceral thrills. Hopefully next time, there can be a little more even-handedness with the scripting and the art finishing.


BONUS HUMOUR STRIP - Time Spill On Aisle Five

A pretty solid effort, if not Marc Ellerby's best script. It again shows commendable planning in having thematic links to the main story. Given my mild reservations over the artwork of Pleece above, for once the bonus story actually outshines the main attraction. This is surprising given the focus on light entertainment, but it does (albeit in its short length) offer cohesive quality visuals.


Doctor Who - All-Consuming FireBookmark and Share

Thursday, 7 April 2016 - Reviewed by Damian Christie
Doctor Who - All-Consuming Fire
Adapted by Guy Adams,
from the original novel by Andy Lane
Directed by Scott Handcock
Produced by Cavan Scott
Big Finish Productions, 2015

Stars: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Lisa Bowerman (Bernice Summerfield), Nicholas Briggs (Sherlock Holmes), Richard Earl (Doctor John Watson),
Hugh Fraser (Sherringford Holmes), Anthony May (Baron Maupertuis), Aaron Neil (Tir Ram), Samantha Béart (Mrs Prendersly/Azazoth), Michael Griffiths (Ambrose), Guy Adams (K'Tcar'ch)

Holmes and Watson were brain and heart, one cold and logical, the other warm and emotional. Between them, they made a whole human being!

Bernice Summerfield

Last November, during the Australian leg of the Doctor Who Festival, a fan asked (the now departing) executive producer Steven Moffat if we might ever see a crossover between modern Doctor Who, with Peter Capaldi’s rendition of the Time Lord, and Sherlock, Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s modern day interpretation of Sherlock Holmes starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Moffat was unequivocal in his answer – “Definitely no” – and did not elaborate, much to the disappointment of the adoring masses.

A few weeks later, Gatiss emphatically told Entertainment Weekly that a Doctor Who/Sherlock crossover would happen “over his dead body”. Gatiss revealed more behind his reasoning but given this is the same man who once vowed never to do an episode of Sherlock set in the Victorian era – at least until The Abominable Bride – the likelihood is the fans of both franchises will continue to live in hope that Gatiss changes his mind.

Whatever the truth of the matter, with Moffat about to embark on his final series of Doctor Who and the fourth series of Sherlock as well, it is more likely than not that the prospect of a crossover (if indeed there ever was one) has well and truly receded. Moffat and Gatiss will be too busy on both to give the idea a second thought.

Fans of both franchises (almost one and the same thing, as it’s likely many fans of Sherlock were also Doctor Who fans to start with!) will therefore have to accept the recent Big Finish Doctor Who audio adventure All-Consuming Fire as a consolation prize. This is an audio adaptation of the 1994 Virgin Publishing New Adventures novel by Andy Lane which paired the Time Lord’s seventh incarnation (as played on TV by Sylvester McCoy) with the consulting detective from 221B Baker Street. In the original novel, the Seventh Doctor, along with companions Bernice Summerfield and Ace, joined forces with Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson to repel an extra-terrestrial and extra-dimensional threat from the dawn of time (which back in the mid-nineties was a recurring, and unfortunately tedious, feature of the NA novel line after the success of the 1989 Doctor Who TV serial The Curse of Fenric).

For this audio adaptation, Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred reprise their signature roles as the Seventh Doctor and Ace from the TV series while long-time BF afficionado Lisa Bowerman again portrays wise-cracking archaeologist Professor Bernice Summerfield. They’re joined by prolific BF alumni Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl who reprise their parts as Holmes and Watson from Big Finish’s corresponding range of Sherlock Holmes audio serials.

Just as the novel sought to capture the first person prose of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legacy stories by installing Watson as narrator, ably assisted by Professor Summerfield’s diary entries, so Guy Adams’ audio adaptation has Earl’s Watson, with support from Bowerman’s amusing Bernice and Briggs’ laconic Sherlock at various stages, recount the plot in the first person. This means the serial is an eccentric mesh of spoken word narration and cast dramatisation (not unlike BF’s Doctor Who Companion Chronicles serials) but this does not in any way detract from the story’s tempo or mystery.

Guy Adams delivers a faithful adaptation of Andy Lane’s original book, with only a few noticeable omissions (at least for eagle-eyed fans who have read the novel). For example, the opening chapters chronicling the meeting between Holmes, Watson and Pope Leo XIII are discarded for the sake of pace (the meeting is prefaced in the audio serial’s pre-titles sequence but occurs “off-screen”), the cameo of Holmes’s nemesis Professor James Moriarty is omitted altogether and the conclusion of the story is less confronting and violent than the original (for the sake of spoilers, it is best not to divulge why). For some reason, from my one and only reading of the original novel more than two decades ago, I recalled this tale being more complex than it actually is (certainly the Virgin New Adventures used to pride themselves on being “too deep and too broad for the small screen”!). However, Adams has managed to distill All-Consuming Fire for audio almost effortlessly and considering the story was supposed to eschew the traditional Doctor Who four-part format in its hey-day, this audio adaptation fits that structure quite tidily.

Once again, the combination of BF’s high production values and its performers do not let listeners down. Although the Seventh Doctor’s prominence in the literary and audio versions of All-Consuming Fire is limited by the reliance on Watson and Bernice’s first person accounts, the character is a darker, manipulative and more brooding presence in the novel than Sylvester McCoy’s more humorous, mischievous portrayal in the audio (you can tell from McCoy’s humorous snort in the scene before the pre-titles sequence that he has a whale of a time with the script – especially when the Doctor informs the chief librarian Ambrose in the Library of St John the Beheaded that he filed a dead mouse under “M” on the rationale it was supposed to be there!). McCoy’s performance is more reminiscent of his turn as the Doctor in Season 24 (albeit more restrained) but it does distinguish the Time Lord from the earnest, no-nonsense Holmes.

Nicholas Briggs – who continues the superhuman feat of managing a family life with overwhelming professional commitments that include voicing Daleks for Doctor Who on audio and TV, acting on stage and television, all whilst being engaged extensively in a range of other behind the scenes roles across BF’s audio output – effortlessly steps back into the shoes of the iconic detective. While he delivers a less abrasive, less agitated characterisation than Maestro Cumberbatch on TV, Briggs’ Sherlock is nevertheless sharp-minded, quick-witted, impatient and supremely confident. He’s also not without his own moments of humour. When Watson in one scene queries who would frequent a drinking establishment at ten in the morning, Sherlock responds: “Burglars mainly. They keep anti-social hours.” He also has a great exchange with Ace in the last quarter of the serial when he takes offence at being nicknamed “Sherley!”

Fans hoping for much anticipated fireworks between the Doctor and Holmes (especially in the vein of a Capaldi/Cumberbatch match-up) will be disappointed. This is not the fault of McCoy and Briggs. Thanks to the structuring of the original novel, the Doctor and Holmes have very little “screentime” together and while there is competitiveness between the two (especially in their initial meeting when Holmes is flummoxed by extraterrestrial soil on the Doctor’s gaiter), there is actually a fanboyish adoration of Holmes on the Doctor’s part that Holmes simply finds irritating. “You are quite, quite brilliant!” the Doctor tells Holmes in the dying moments of the play. “I know!” is Holmes’ rather cheeky riposte as he turns his back on the Time Lord!

Earl and Bowerman also deliver great performances as the Doctor and Sherlock’s associates. Earl’s Watson is the quintessential upper class Victorian gentleman, truer to the authorial voice of Conan Doyle’s legacy stories than to the more modern interpretations by Martin Freeman and Jude Law in Moffat/Gatiss’s and Guy Ritchie’s interpretations of Holmes. Lane in the original novel and Adams in this adaptation, however, send up his Victorian sensibilities by pairing him with modern women like Bernice and Ace, eg when Bernice asks Watson out to dinner –  “You ’re terribly forward!” “Letting you buy me dinner isn’t being forward! I’ll get to the forward bit depending on how nice the dinner is!” – and when he is confronted with Ace’s one-piece bodysuit which he admits to finding more “pleasing” and practical than obscene.

With McCoy and Aldred’s roles in the story rather limited, and with her own role consigned to the second half of the tale, Bowerman literally steals the show as Bernice – herself the female equivalent of Watson with her upper class English disposition. Although much of Bernice’s character works because of strong writing and characterisation, Bowerman still manages to infuse Bernice with plenty of humour and mischief, eg “Before [the Doctor] crouched, but still brushing the ceiling, was a terrifying looking creature – and I say that as a woman who’s woken up next to a few!”Just as Watson has to contend with phenomena over the course of the serial that defies scientific explanation – spontaneous human combustion, fire-breathing manservants, winged extraterrestrial creatures – so Bernice is also confronted with sights in 19th century India that are in many respects more “alien” than the worlds she has visited over the course of her career. “Have you got any idea how they treat women in this period?” she berates the Doctor upon first meeting him in India.

The other performers in the serial are also impressive, in spite of their characters being one-dimensional and underused. Hugh Fraser, who greatly impressed as the villainous Federation President in BF’s Blake’s 7 audio series, appears as Sherlock’s elder brother Sherringford Holmes and oozes charm and authority, while Aaron Neil and Anthony May play antagonists Tir Ram and Baron Maupertuis respectively. A special mention also goes to Samantha Béart, another promising up and coming actor in the BF acting stable. She took this writer completely by surprise with her portrayal of hapless cat lady Mrs Prendersly. Béart delivers such a regal and Victorian performance in this play that she is unrecognisable from some of her previous roles across BF’s audio output.

The audio adaptation of All-Consuming Fire is a fun, entertaining diversion from the rest of Big Finish’s recent Doctor Who output. Although the original novel was quite dark in parts and the plot isn’t the most original in Doctor Who fiction, the humour underpinning the Doctor and Bernice’s performances, coupled with Watson’s wonder at the incredible things he witnesses over the course of his narration, means the audio adaptation is not full of the angst or earnestness that underlies some of BF’s more recent Doctor Who releases (particularly The War Doctor and Doom Coalition boxsets).

Of course, if you’re a devout Sherlock and Doctor Who fan, the pairing of McCoy’s Seventh Doctor with Briggs’s Victorian Holmes may never assuage your thirst for an on-screen meeting between Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor and Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. If so, then you need to approach All-Consuming Fire with a more open mind – that is, leave your trenchcoat or sonic screwdriver at the door, don a deerstalker cap or grab a question mark umbrella and let the story unfold. You may be pleasantly surprised at how well the premise works and how much you enjoy it!


Death To The Daleks (Audio Book)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 4 April 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Death to the Daleks (Credit: BBC Audio)

Written By Terrance Dicks (based on a TV story by Terry Nation)

Performed By: Jon Culshaw

Dalek Voices By: Nicholas Briggs

Duration - 2 hours 30 minutes approx.

Released: 3rd March 2016


The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith are marooned on the harsh planet of Exxilon when the TARDIS loses all its core power. This is thanks to an ancient living city that acts as a remorseless energy parasite, and also has reduced a once fully-fledged society to one that heads backwards into sheer barbarism.

Before long, Sarah is captured by the main faction of native Exxilons and faces a deadly and brutal sacrifice. Meanwhile, the Doctor allies himself with a team of humans who are trying to recover invaluable parrinium from this desolate world, so as to cure a deadly space plague that threatens all human life across the cosmos.

Interrupting any attempts to save Sarah are the Doctor's oldest enemy from the planet Skaro. They too are officially charged with recovering resource, so as to save their own forces. But despite attempting to wipe out their mortal enemy, and the humans he has just befriended, the energy drain has managed to render the Daleks quite literally harmless. But not for long.

The Doctor eventually allies himself with the kind-hearted Bellal, who is one of the few Exxilons to retain awareness of how his species has been laid low by the City. Together they must conquer the different logic, willpower and physical challenges that the uniquely sentient 'wonder of the Universe' tries to throw at them. If they succeed, then they can destroy the corrupted entity once and for all. Meanwhile Sarah and the surviving humans must try and play a cat-and-mouse game of placating the now in-charge Daleks, but also securing enough parrinium covertly to have any hope of preventing the extinction of all humanity.


Once again, I can emphasise what a pleasure it was to experience a confident audio book reading of a long-established TARGET novelisation. But whereas the previous The Massacre was a radical reworking of the actual TV show, so as to be in favour of what the original writer intended, this 1974 Jon Pertwee story has been far more closely adhered to. This is no surprise, as Terrance Dicks had much of a final say in the outcome of stories that he script-edited during this period of the show's history. Dicks is well-known for being gregarious and witty, but the man is also savvy enough to realise when the production of a story he oversaw at the script stage had its problems in the final edit.

Despite being released comparatively early on, when Doctor Who was becoming a home video attraction in the 1980s, Death to The Daleks attracted a considerable share of criticism from various parties. It sat in the middle of what was generally regarded as Pertwee's weakest season. Despite efforts from (then-equivalent-to showrunners) Barry Letts and Dicks it has a host of rehashed Terry Nation clichés, some of which can be found in the previous year's Planet of the Daleks.

Director Michael Briant was one of the show's more unpredictable director, being capable of greatness with The Robots of Death, or banality with Revenge of the Cyberman (which also had a Carey Blyton score of rather uneven quality). This actual story perhaps exuded a run-of-the-mill tick-box-exercise from Briant's camera work and actor direction, and so reinforced how watered-down the Daleks came across in the Seventies, despite the program being made in colour. At least that was so, until a certain gem from both Nation's and Robert Holmes' creative skill sets that completely reinvigorated the story of these psychotic warmongers.

Finally, when one really stops to think about the plot, there is much to ponder over why it is just the Daleks' lethal weaponry that is immobilised, and not also the overall shell that they rely upon.

When writing his novelisation in 1978, Dicks made a good effort to embellish on what did work well in the original teleplay, and to minimise the weaknesses. Some well-done exposition on why and how Exxilon became a lifeless rock makes the overall proceedings convey more depth. The Daleks are played straight, and have none of the cosy musical cues or self-destructive silliness in prose form. Some good back-story and characterisation for both Dan Galloway, and the unfortunate crewman killed in the opening of the story fits in so silkily that one would almost have thought this was part of the original work done by Nation at the early stage of the writing process.

Due to this being an audio release that relies principally on one skilful performer, there is none of the acting consistency that marred Death on-screen. Some of the better performances came from the Dalek voice artists, and indeed from Arnold Yarrow as Bellal; one of many successful one-off 'companions' over the course of Doctor Who's considerable lifespan. There also was a very heartfelt performance from gifted character actor John Abineri, but his character met a gratuitously thankless end, barely a third of the way into the second episode. Thus, apart from the series regulars, the only half-decent humanoid performance over the course of the entire story came from Duncan Lamont as the shifty, self-serving Galloway. The less said about the remaining human performers, and the savage Exxilons that dominate early proceedings, the better.

This see-saw in acting quality is quashed thanks to the hiring of Jon Culshaw. He manages to make the listener care for virtually every participant in the story, and also conveys just how much enjoyment he is getting from lending his vocal expertise. Previously he had been involved in Death Comes to Time, as well as several Big Finish stories. Having virtually full responsibility for a three CD product, this well-respected comedian and impressionist acquits himself handsomely well. The production really springs to life, and so makes the most of the original Terrance Dicks text.

Nicholas Briggs provides (what are by now to many familiar) voices for the various Daleks, and they perhaps are marginally better than the originals, depending on the listener's inclination. The soundtrack semi-evokes recent Twelfth Doctor TV stories, and so this production feels somewhat more contemporary than one would expect, given the source material being from the mid 1970s. There are some very good sound effects, such as the deadly Exxilon arrows that thud into the bodies of those unfortunate enough to be standing in the wrong place.

This story is ultimately a much more assured and effective entity in this newly worked version, and the listener's auditory experience is one where the clock ticks away almost unnoticed. Ideal either for a couple of days' listening, or one full-length session, barely any effort is needed in experiencing a rare Third Doctor story that is set entirely away from the planet Earth. Whatever generation of fandom one belongs to, and thus may have negative presumptions on this story's worthiness, this is nonetheless one release to track down and enjoy whole-heartedly.


Tenth Doctor Adventures #2.2 - The Singer Not The Song - Part 2Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 3 April 2016 - Reviewed by Dan Collins
Tenth Doctor Adventures Year Two # 2 (Credit: Titan Comics)

Writer:Nick Abadzis

Artist: Eleonora Carlini

Colorist: Claudia SG Ianniciello With Azzurra Florean

Letterer: Richard Starkings and Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

Release Date: Oct 21, 2015

An auditory virus is affecting the musical Shan’Tee, turning them into nightmarish Nocturnes. The Doctor has been forced to leave Gabby to fend for herself as he attempts to trace the path of the contagion and put a stop to it. His companion has her hands full as hordes of Bovodrines, normally gentle “air cows”, are being stampeded toward the building where she’s taking shelter. The virus has also gotten inside and is beginning to turn some of her friends.

Last issue was the beginning of what they are calling the second season in these Tenth Doctor adventures. It’s a fresh storyline but with all the same familiar faces from the first year. Writer Nick Abadzis starts the arc off with just a two part story, this issue being the conclusion. I find it a little strange that they kept it tightened down to just a two parter. While the storyline is actually incredibly thin, a little more development might have made it into a more traditional three issue arc. Or alternately, if they had removed some of the padding this could easily have made it into one jam packed comic and been a dynamite standalone story.

I have to confess to being underwhelmed by the conclusion. The previous issue was pretty enjoyable. The Shan’tee were neat creatures and their infection and transformation into the malicious Nocturnes was well played. The mystery behind it was intriguing. All of that seemed to unravel for me. Maybe it was just they seemed to be going for a false sense of urgency. We started the story with the end, Gabby standing in a building under attack from the Nocturnes while everything around her is being destroyed by the Bovodrines. Will the Doctor save her? Yes. Of course he does. After all, how many times has the Doctor failed a companion and had them die? It has happened of course, but not too many times. Starting at the end was a neat creative choice, but I don’t think anyone was really worried about Gabby. The tension they were trying to create just wasn’t there for me. On top of that, the way the Doctor managed to reverse and remove the virus barely made sense. It was very anticlimactic and had none of the flair that usually comes with one of his rescues.  The last page was a nice surprise though. With this adventure done, the pair return to the TARDIS and are confronted by Anubis again. He appears to remind the Doctor that they have unfinished business from the precious story arc. It was a nice touch.

Despite my criticisms of the length and the ending, I did actually enjoy the main portion of this story. It was entertaining. It just fell a little flat at the end.

Bonus Strip- A Rose By Any Other Name by Rachael Smith

I almost forgot about the strip this month as they tuck it way at the back of the digital bundle, behind pages of alternate covers and the synopsis for the next issue.  I was rewarded for searching it out though. I tend to criticize these strips as being very hit or miss, some I like but many do nothing for me. Well this one is another hit. The Doctor and Rose (the human, not Rose-The-Cat) are finally reunited.