Torchwood: The Culling #3Bookmark and Share

Friday, 22 December 2017 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
Torchwood #3 - Cover A (Credit: Titan )
Writers: John Barrowman, Carole Barrowman 
Artist: Neil Edwards
Publisher: Titan Comics 
FC - 32pp
On sale: December 20, 2017 

In this third issue of the Culling miniseries, Jack, Gwen, Shelley, and the Pilot, crashland in a cabin surrounded by dying Earth - courtesy of Sladen, who happens to kill whatever she touches. Unable to go outside without being instantly aged, the Torchwood team divides their time between formulating a plan and observing the possible benefits of having sex to keep warm. The banter is of the dull and obvious variety Torchwood, the television series, was always best at. If there were a cheeky charm to characters within Doctor Who having blunt discussions about sex, it wore off a long time ago.

 The centerpiece of the issue is Captain Jack testing his regenerative abilities by stepping into the dying path left behind by Sladen. He is instantly aged while simultaneously being connected with the Vervoids tool of destruction somehow.

This alerts Sladen not only to Torchwood’s survival of the crash but also her relation to Captain Jack. In a classic Torchwood scene of unwarranted emotion erupting from a character we hardly know, Sladen vows to kill Jack and Docilis. This promises an epic, but empty, confrontation to come.

The Culling is a big story with a small scope stretched across too many issues. Instead of taking advantage of the format to burrow into these characters, finding out how all of this is affecting them, what failure would mean to them personally, why they will push so hard to succeed, the focus is on humor that doesn’t land and spectacle that fails to propel the story forward.

Torchwood #3 knows its audience. The television series had a specific if uneven, voice that never wavered. That voice has carried over to the limited comic book series seamlessly. For a fan, it must feel like diving right back into this unique corner of the Doctor Who universe. To non-fans, it most likely feels like more of the same.


The War Master: Only the Good (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 22 December 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The War Master (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Nicholas Briggs, Janine H Jones, James Goss, Guy Adams
Directed By: Scott Handcock

Starring Derek Jacobi (The Master), Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks), Jacqueline King (Nius), Deirdre Mullins (Osen), Mark Elstob (Glortz), Rachel Atkins (Major Desra), Hannah Barker (Phila), Jonny Green (Cole Jarnish), Jacob Dudman (Arcking 12 Computer), Emily Barber (Elidh), Robert Daws (Anvar), Nerys Hughes (Mrs Wilson), Jonathan Bailey (Marigold Lane Computer)

Released December 14, 2017

Derek Jacobi only made one appearance as the Master on television (ignoring his earlier non-canonical appearance as a Robot Master in the Scream of the Shalka cartoon), and for the most part, is true persona was hidden away. We really only got a brief glimpse of Jacobi as the actual Master, but it sure was a memorable 5 minutes!  So memorable that I still remember that moment when I first saw him declare himself the Master vividly, a whole decade on.  And while I loved Simm's fresh modern interpretation that followed, it was hard not to wish for just a bit more from Jacobi as the mad Time Lord. And hey...that is just where Big Finish is meant to come in. They don't disappoint.  I will warn, I don't delve to deep into anything, but there may be some SPOILERS ahead. Reader beware!

The set opens with Beneath the Viscoid, with the Master being hidden away from the Last Great Time War in a capsule under the viscous water of an ocean world. The Daleks are pursuing the Master and his TARDIS, but his TARDIS is leaking temporal energy. The Master poses as The Doctor, using the Doctor's reputation to gain the confidence of the team that finds him, but can he play both the humans and the Daleks for fools and find a new escape from the War?  Right off the bat Jacobi is excellent, though honestly who would doubt an actor of his calibre delievering anything less. You get the impression that he wanted to take a bigger bite out of the role than he was allowed time for in Utopia.

The second story in this collection, The Good Master, has the Master settled into the role of a medical doctor on a planet that is somehow protected from the effects of the Time War. He is posing in this do-gooder role for the exactly the reason you'd expect from somehow control whatever power is keeping this one planet safe, the consequences of tampering with that be damned. Jacobi is again excellent, showcasing his range within this role, often playing his Master as a kinder gentlemen, before relishing in the moments where he goes full-on evil. 

The Sky Man is the third entry on the boxset, and it may very well be the best episode of the whole venture, which is somewhat odd considering that the Master's part is f not very promnient. But it is what the Master is up to behind the scenes that makes this such a great Master story. Taking Cole Jarnish, a young man from the previous story, along with him, the Master allows him the choice to save a single world that will soon be lost in the Time War.  They land on a quaint planet of farmers, all of whom stopped using technology fearing it would bring about their end (as they can see stars going out in the sky). Cole wants to save these people.  He goes abut fixing up worn out techology around the place, and falling in love with a girl.  But when everyone begins to get sick from some kind of fallout from the War...Cole attempts to save them all, including the woman he loves, by encasing them in Suits of Armour. He essentially makes a kind of Cybermen-type race by mistake. And he regrets his decision immediately.  

The events of The Sky Man lead directly into the final story The Heavenly Paradigm. The Master has a scheme to end the war, using a major Time Lord weapon which has been hidden away on Earth, in hopes that the Daleks will not find it.  The device will essentially take away all choice in the universe, making sure that only the right choices would be made by every individual.  Take the concept of Turn Left, which saw Donna seeing what her life had been if one day she turned right instead of left.  The choice she made had major repurcussions, she had to turn right for certain events to unfold...and this story bacisally has a device that says "let's make sure everyone Turns Left."  That is the kind of high concept weirdness I want in Doctor Who, particualy in the Time War storyline.  tTo power the machine, the Master needs a battery, and the only battery that will do is a paradox, say someone who was never meant to live and then went onto to save another race that was never meant to live and accidentally created monsters. Of course, The Master's latest scheme to use the Time War to his advantage and find a way to rule the Universe doesn't really pan out, and it leads him to hide away as Yana as we saw in Utopia

One of the things that I've rather enjoyed about Big Finish digging into the Time War, is that the story ideas can go in weird directions, play with Time, and have this weird ethereal element to it. They aren't just having battle scenes between Daleks and Tiem Lords, but they are telling stories that show what happens on the outskirts of this war, and the weirder effects of Time changing around characters and messing up the universe. The War Master: Only the Good is an excellent set of stories.  Jacobi is fantastic in the role, and it is lovely to hear him get a real full performance in the role. The stories in the set are fantastic, and for anyone who always wanted a little bit more of Jacobi in the role, here is your chance! This particular boxset can't be recommended enough.  

The Tides of Time (Panini Graphic Novel)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 22 December 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Tides of Time (Credit: Panini)
Written by Steve Parkhouse, Dez Skinn
Artwork by Dave Gibbons, Mick Austin, Steve Dillon, & Paul Neary
Paperback: 228 pages
Publisher: Panini UK LTD

The Fifth Doctor’s entire run of Doctor Who Magazine not only fits nicely into this one volume (titled The Tides of Time), but it also genuinely feels closer to a graphic novel. It features some great stories, from the tremendous opening number that is the titular "The Tides of Time" through the Stockbridge stories and into the adventures with Gus that close out the book. Steve Parkhouse had taken over the writing duties of the strip in the latter days of the Fourth Doctor's run, and he ended up being the sole writer during the Fifth Doctor's era and continued on through the first half of the Sixth Doctor's time on the strip. Having that singular voice for the strip certainly gave it something, and it did a lot to build up the internal continuity of the strip itself.

The stories collected in this volume introduced some recurring characters like Maxwell Edison, Shayde, and Josiah W. Dogbolter, and really found a way to mix big sweeping epic storylines (like the opening story) and smaller stuff with a bit of heart to them (like "Stars Fell on Stockbridge" which is possibly my favorite story of the volume). It's a good mix of Doctor Who stories, the kind that feel like they could genuinely take place in the universe the series takes place in, even if the Fifth Doctor seemed like he never had a moment to be away from his TV companions...I am willing to go with it and say, sure he managed to have a period away from Tegan or Nyssa or Turlough or Peri, and had a whole set of adventures before returning to pick them up and carry on with his TV adventuring.

Overall, I really enjoy this volume. Parkhouse had a vision for what the strip should be, and that vision took off once the Fifth Doctor took over, and he would reach the peak and end of his tenure during the Sixth Doctor's run. As per usual Panini did a fine job remastering these old black and white comics, and this collection is well worth a look from any fan of the comic strip, as I personally think it is one of the best.


The Twelfth Doctor: Year Three Issue 10Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 21 December 2017 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
Twelfth Doctor Year Three #10 - Cover A (Credit: Titan )
Writer: Richard Dinnick
Artist: Francesco Manna
Publisher: Titan Comics 
FC - 32pp
On sale: December 6, 2017

One of the joys found in series ten of Doctor Who was the interplay between the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole. We were finally given a diverse trio of travelers with their own personalities who were able to play off each other masterfully. Instead of some mystery surrounding Bill, she’s just a delightful, spunky, intelligent woman who tests the Doctor by asking the right questions. Sometimes her youth, and Nardole’s insistence the Doctor stick to his vow make Doctor 12 prickly, but it’s a fun sort of prickliness.

    With the anticipation of Jodie Whittaker making her debut this Christmas, there is a bit of melancholy in the fact that this terrific Tardis motley crew will not be returning for series eleven. Luckily, Titan Comics has provided us with more adventures to help season ten fans cope with the loss.

    The Twelfth Doctor Adventures: Year Three, issue ten sets readers right where they want to be - The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole creeping around a drifting spaceship trying to figure out what’s gone wrong. Why would a ship adrift in space not call for help? Although the Doctor should be getting back to Missy and the vault (and Nardole’s protests, he can’t let such a mystery let go uninvestigated.

    The writers with Titan comics continue to impress with their uncanny ability to reproduce character’s voices. Again, Bill sounds like Bill, as does Nardole and the Doctor. This is particularly astonishing given the limited number of episodes writer Richard Dinnick had as source material. From the moment we see everyone in a panel speaking, it feels as though we’ve been dropped into a brand new episode of the series.

    Also very impressive is the artwork of Francesco Manna and the colors of Hi-Fi. The dying ship resembles the set designs of many modern Who ships, primarily the space station from Oxygen. In one fantastic panel in which the Doctor runs through a corridor (naturally) and the red light washing over him temporarily changes the color of his clothes to somewhat resemble Doctor Three’s classic ensemble. Intentional, or not, the effect reminds us that this is the same character.

    The surviving crew of the ship doesn’t get an awful lot to do, but we’re endeared to them immediately. Given their situation (almost everyone is dead, several operational systems are busted, and they will certainly die) and their commitment to helping each other to stay alive, you can’t help but root for them.

Side characters are important in Doctor Who. Unfortunately, they can sometimes be underwritten, or sidelined entirely in favor of overly convoluted plotting, resulting in many of them serving as nothing more than fallen bodies to be counted by the end of the story. Thankfully this is not the case here. Each side character is clearly defined and unique, with a livelihood all their own. All of which, one can assume, will be explored in future issues.

As the final page reveals the dangerous cargo being carried through space, the promise is made of a massive conflict to come.

    The Twelfth Doctor Adventures: Year Three, issue ten offers genuine humor, mystery, and tension, which would have been right at home in series ten.


Doctor Who - The Tenth Doctor: Facing Fate Volume 2: Vortex ButterfliesBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 20 December 2017 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
The Tenth Doctor: Facing Fate Volume 2: Vortex Butterflies (Credit: Titan)
Writer: Nick Abadzis
Artist: Giorgia Sposito
Publisher: Titan Comics
On sale: December 19

Before sacrificing herself to save everyone, Dorothy (the hand of Sutekh) tells The Doctor to give Cindy and Gabby some room. “Stop making them chase through the universe after you all the time and let them understand where they are,” she says. She then advises he not abuse their trust in him. So The Doctor decides to provide them with a little perspective from the best source possible - Sarah Jane Smith.

    VORTEX BUTTERFLIES allows The Doctor’s friends to take a breath, reflect, do some soul-searching. The story serves as a much-needed repose for readers as well. After so much intensity, it’s nice to just sit with these characters a while and go through these issues alongside them.

Everyone has their own method of working through grief. Gabby is taking art classes, desperately trying to cope with the sight of her dead best friend, a hard thing to do even if it was only a clone. Cindy is embracing life in London, developing a bond with Sarah Jane, and attempting to understand why Gabby is so distant. Adorable Anubis is discovering love on Aramuko. The Doctor is off, as usual, doing his own thing and trying to cure the Tardis of a mysterious illness.

    Thanks to the magic of time travel in comic books, we’re able to revisit The Doctor’s most enduring companion. Including the wisdom of Sarah Jane Smith was a stroke of genius. Who better to to teach these girls how to embrace the moment than a woman who had seen so many wonders of the universe and had to build her own life afterward? Georgia Sposito’s likeness of the character is perfectly spot on, and Rick Abadzis so captures Sarah Jane’s voice that one could easily imagine the late Elisabeth Sladen speaking his words.

    Legacy is important in Doctor Who. Having the latest incarnation face-off against classic foes like Daleks and Cybermen gives the franchise a sense of unparalleled continuity. Seeing an old friend takes things to the next level. It reminds the audience, even if they understand this on an intellectual level, that the person in the long brown coat is the same as the one in the frilly shirts or extensive scarf. The Doctor is one individual with many faces, and all of the Whoniverse is one place.

    If WAR OF GODS is about choices and consequences, VORTEX BUTTERFLIES is about acceptance. Gabby and Cindy have to accept that their magical lives with The Doctor is dangerous and exciting, but it won’t last, and it’s important to not let their personal lives pass them by. The Doctor must accept that not looking back isn’t always an option. Sometimes you get so busy running away from something that if you don’t take a quick glance behind you, someone you love might be lost.


Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Volume 7 - War Of GodsBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 20 December 2017 - Reviewed by Dustin Pinney
Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Volume 7 - War Of Gods (Credit: Titan)

Writer: Nick Abadzis
Artist: Georgia Sposito
Publisher: Titan Comics
 On sale: December 12

There is no shortage of false gods in Doctor Who. Whether it’s the Osirans or Akhaten, cultures are often caught in the snare of an alien being powerful enough to manipulate them into believing in their divinity. Luckily one person is always there to break the spell, reveal the truth, and banish the alien overlords for all time. This person is centuries old and travels all of space and time with a myriad of friends picked up along the way. This person may be the ultimate false god of the entire Doctor Who canon.

    At first, it seems odd to epilogue a volume titled WAR OF GODS with a small story about The Doctor and Gabby getting stuck in London. They’ve just prevented the end of everything (again) by stepping in between a soon-to-be-resurrected Sutekh and Anubis. Why not end the collection there? Clearly, the war in question is between father and son - not to mention the splinter versions of Sutekh mucking up The Doctor’s plans at every turn. Once the war is over, wouldn’t it make sense to close out the collection with everything back to normal?

    Well, not really. Nothing in The Doctor’s life is normal. Not only due to his alien biology, time/space travel machine that’s bigger on the inside, and ability to rewrite every cell in a Time Lord’s body. All those elements factor into the lack of normality in The Doctor’s life, but what really complicates things is the fact that The Doctor is the smartest, quite often oldest, dangerous, and kind person in any given situation. Companions come and go, they help in a multitude of ways, but in the end, decisions have to be made and The Doctor is the only one capable of making those decisions.

    Usually, those decisions are correct and reality is saved. There is always a cost, however, and The Doctor’s long life requires the debt of endless decisions be paid with great pain over an exhaustive period of time. The Doctor may have saved countless lives, but the few lost in battle still walk with him across the centuries.

    A God could, perhaps, hold themselves above grief - see the bigger picture, comprehend that their course of action was the only worthy one worth taking and if the ends justify the means? Well…

    The Doctor, however, is not a God. One might think so at first glance. Look at all the incredible things The Doctor can do! Witness the bravery! Take in the wisdom! The Doctor is the smartest, most powerful person in the room, but The Doctor is just a person. People feel pain. People can’t take in the big picture. The only thing that matters to a person are the people they hold close. When the ones they love perish because of their own actions, it hurts, breaks the heart. The Doctor has two hearts, which means twice the capacity for love and agony.

    Nick Abadzis’ huge WAR OF GODS story opens with incredible art by artist Georgia Sposito, that transports the reader to impossible places. It is epic storytelling on the grandest of scales, leading to a bittersweet climax about self-sacrifice. The Doctor limps from this adventure physically intact and emotionally battered. It’s as if he’s wondering why does this always happen? Why can’t I do better? Why am I not perfect?

That is the true war being fought in this volume seven of Titan’s Tenth Doctor line. Sutekh and Anubis are not Gods. Their conflict is immensely spectacular, but it is hardly a war. Wars are never so neatly resolved. Wars have casualties. The Doctor’s struggle to keep moving in the face of all his personal tragedies, the companion casualties sacrificed by his heroism, rages constantly, and that is what this volume is really about.

Through that prism, it is easy to see why it is crucial that the final story, REVOLVING DOORS, is included here. By bringing him back to London, the Tardis has put him at ground zero, forcing him to face the loss of his friends in order to rise above the pain and do what only he can, save someone and keep moving forward.