Short Trips - Dark ConvoyBookmark and Share

Monday, 30 November 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Short Trips - Dark Convoy (Credit: Big Finish)

Cast: Sophie Aldred (Ace/Narrator)

Written By: Mark B Oliver

Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Producer/Script -Editor: Michael Stevens

Sound Design/Music:Toby Hrycek-Robinson

Cover Art:Mark Plastowens

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Released July 2015, Big Finish Productions


This latest stop over in the tour of time and space finds the Seventh Doctor and Ace somewhere on what appears to be the North Atlantic with the devastating  Second World War in full force. The duo soon realise they have got abroad HMS Thunder, and have to try and assist a struggling crew as best they can. Later Ace plays her part in trying to see the safe return of certain missing persons who are suffering from some form of after-shock.

The main issue however arises, as to the Web of Time. Can history be altered, and will anyone originally on board have a happy ending?


I personally never tire of this wonderful Doctor/companion team. Whilst my no means the best actors the show ever had, their unique chemistry made the pairing unforgettable and helps any spin off material have a figurative 'head start'. Ace has a large role to play here with the Sylvester McCoy Doctor mostly confined to the background. We do still wonder how much of his trademark planning and awareness of events around him are going to play out, and how he decides to act in the closing stages of the story are slightly different than perhaps most would expect. Ace on the other hand provides the emotional heart to the story, and her concern for the fates of gallant Commander Fitzgerald and down-to-earth Jimmy is likely to be matched by any listener who has even a passing interest in the terrible events that took place during the 20th century.


With Sophie Aldred as the sole vocal contributor this story hinges on her ability to convey different voices, personas and emotions. And needless to say her Ace comes to full life, almost as if she is playing the role in a proper full cast Big Finish production. Aldred will always be primarily associate with Ace, and commendably that enthusiasm for the character shines as bright as it did when Dragonfire first hit TV screens in the late 1980s.

Her Seventh Doctor voice here is charming, with the Scottish burr that was such a distinctive feature until the Capaldi Doctor became known to viewers.

The play is very concise, and this sees it have a rapid pace and a memorable hook, and also leave heavier, more character-focused work to longer plays. That direction of effort works quite well and the production seems settled within its own confines, i.e. having the small 'setting' of the boat(s) and the immediate sea area. The elegantly efficient exposition also is as good as can be hoped for.

Having a main character to present the story to us, and one we have come to know well through books, audio and comics as much as TV episodes (from 1987 to 1989) is a fine way to get us to connect with unfamiliar supporting players. The downbeat ending also works very well and does seem to fit the mood of a number of the Seventh Doctor stories from his second and third seasons.


There are some flaws though. The Doctor more or less takes a cameo role despite his solitary presence on the official cover, and also lacks many memorable lines that we normally expect. The lack of any other female characters in the story, (which is understandable given the maritime context), is a somewhat problematic allocation for the one female voice artist. Some of the more passive or nervous characters are served better by Aldred's feminine voice, whereas the tougher ones just do not feel quite authentic enough.

And were we to really ask for some Doctor Who that pushes the bounds then perhaps this is not the best exhibit. It is set quite early on in their relationship and does not have the edge of the New Adventures book line, or even the BBC books. It simply gives us insight into one of the many conflicts fought in the Atlantic and how much pressure was being felt by these brave men. The very ending though is so beautifully poetic and haunting that much of that 'traditional' leaning is forgivable.

Sound effects and music are as reliable as ever in making the play breathe properly but not so as to impede the flow of the narration. This story ultimately stands up well and will encourage both newcomers and the 'old guard' of fans to try and sample more Short Trips as well as the more epic adventures that feature Ace, her Doctor and various other regular protagonists.


Heaven SentBookmark and Share

Saturday, 28 November 2015 - Reviewed by Matt Hills
Heaven Sent: The Doctor, as played by Peter Capaldi (Credit: BBC/Simon Ridgway)
Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Rachel Talalay
Starring Peter Capaldi
Transmitted 28th November, BBC One

This review contains plot spoilers.


Confession: Although I enjoy traditional Who as much as the next fan, there’s something even more satisfying about the show taking risks, trying radical things, and breaking new creative ground. So I was looking forward to this week’s episode, and it delivered… in spades.   


Back in 1976, so the story goes, The Deadly Assassin was designed to prove to Tom Baker that he needed a companion, and that Doctor Who’s typical story structure couldn’t work without one. This week, Steven Moffat sets out in a fit of experimental zeal to prove the opposite; that the show’s infamously flexible format really is flexible enough to house a highly unusual solo adventure. Yes, there are a small number of other actors involved in Heaven Sent, but they have barely any dialogue. This truly belongs to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, and let's be clear: he is magnificent throughout.


Back in 1976, however, The Deadly Assassin annoyed a few people with its revisionist Time Lords. The then-President of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society was so agitated that he forgot the name of the society he presided over:  “WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE MAGIC OF DOCTOR WHO?” demanded his subsequent review (in capitals). And I can well imagine a few puzzled reactions to this gloriously demented and profoundly dark puzzle-box of a story which offers more than a hint of Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige mixed with subtle flavourings of Vincenzo Natali’s Cube, and an extremely bleak view of the Time Lords, who seem to have developed a taste for extreme rendition and psychological torture.


If this was a movie script without the Doctor Who name attached to it, it would instantly become hot Hollywood property. Luckily for us, though, this is filtered through the Whoniverse’s more outré possibilities: the magic of Doctor Who is alive and well, and it’s coursing through this story. Heaven Sent feels designed to be watched again and again, appropriately enough. A brief moment right at the story’s beginning proves highly significant, and as might be expected, this is extremely Moffat-esque in all its twists, turns and misdirections. The Doctor’s “store room” even feels reminiscent of Sherlock’s “mind palace”, though if you’re predominantly writing for one character then you’re going to need some way of representing their interior monologues and mental states. And the matter of who or what might be “heaven sent” also resonates in a story only featuring one main character: who can save the Doctor?


Some of the events that we’re shown are near the knuckle: the Doctor’s sacrifice doesn’t quite feel like family viewing to me, and the atmosphere of fear and dread seeping though the episode could perhaps be unsettling for some younger viewers. This is probably as dark as Doctor Who can get; forget The Two Doctors or The Three Doctors, here we pretty much get 'The Eternity Doctors'. Because even the concept of a ‘single-hander’ is subverted by Steven Moffat’s elegant storylining, as we realize that one actor, and even one character, might not mean that we're watching one person. The Doctor’s seemingly impossible triumph – and you know he’s always going to win – is as potent a distillation of the series' mission statement as you’ll ever find. Despite insurmountable odds, despite vast forces arrayed against him, the Doctor has a brilliant plan. But it’s going to take a while, unlike his typical moments of inspiration or bodged together lash-ups. Sheer determination underpins the Doctor’s demonstration that he’s a Lord of Time, and his escape is a real ‘punch the air’ moment, although after the amount of punching we’ve been shown, perhaps this isn’t quite the right phrase.


Rachel Talalay’s return as director after last season’s finale doesn’t disappoint, and much of this looks beautiful on-screen. The Veil is shot effectively to preserve its mysterious nature, and effects shots are typically well handled. For some viewers, the episode’s big cliffhanger might constitute the real meat of the story, but after the journey the Doctor’s been on – and given that Gallifrey’s involvement had been revealed pre-broadcast – it fell just a little flat, in my view. And having the Doctor address his Big Reveal to implied listeners was also slightly clunky, but an unavoidable outcome of this episode’s unusual structure. I can’t help but wonder why exactly there was a ‘Home’ option inside the Doctor’s personalised chamber of horrors: if you want your prisoner to stay imprisoned then don’t advertise a way out. On the other hand, if you want them to escape then perhaps you could make it a bit easier. The presence of such a thing felt as if it was there simply because episode 11 needed a bridge into Hell Bent's big finish, rather than entirely making sense in terms of internal story logic. And I do wonder a little about the physics of the Doctor’s plan – would such a thickness of material harder than diamond ever, ever yield in that way? But, as is so often the case with this era of Doctor Who, it’s not really about the physics and more about the fantastical poetics. Because the story’s resolution undoubtedly feels earnt, and fitting, and a testament to the Doctor’s endless desire to win. As for whether the reveal of the Hybrid will stand next week... like Clara’s apparent fate, I suspect it’ll be rewritten and revised. Isn’t the Doctor simply taunting his captors, and trying to scare them, rather than confessing the truth? (Either that, or he knows it’s time for a big cliffhanger, because this feels slightly shoehorned in too).             


Steven Moffat might have rejected the label of “showrunner” at the UK Doctor Who Festival, so much so that Matthew Sweet apparently dropped the term from subsequent ‘Meet the Writers’ events, but this still feels like an episode of Doctor Who that couldn’t have arisen from anyone else’s vision; this still feels like  a showrunner toiling at the diamond-hard coalface of storytelling. It has the feel of a timey wimey plot, and yet its loop isn’t about time, at least not in that sense. It’s much more ‘blimey wimey’, as the years roll inexorably onward. Riffing on some familiar tropes, even while it stretches at the boundaries of traditional Doctor Who, this is just as memorable, and just as emotional, as last week's events. It's not so much about the monster; it’s about the Doctor’s terrifying experience. The second half of series nine has, for me, really ignited into greatness: I hope that Hell Bent lives up to that promise.     


Yes, there’ll probably be some naysayers responding unhappily to the aberrant nature of this adventure mixed with its same-but-different Moffat-isms. But for anyone who appreciates ‘rad’ as much as ‘trad’ Doctor Who, this is pretty much heavenly stuff. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would want the programme to be like this every week – or even to be like this again any time soon, let’s face it – but as a one-off, and as a genuinely brave creative mission, this is one of Steven Moffat’s finest hours (OK, 55 minutes). Added to which, the showreel of Peter Capaldi’s acting excellence surely gained further additions heret. He carried this with seemingly effortless ease. Doctor Who is lucky to have the writer-fans and actor-fans that it does, making the programme with such heartfelt reverence that they can strive to be iconoclastic and innovative. 


Confession: I never imagined the Confession Dial would be quite as important as this. Although as a piece of Gallifreyan technology, perhaps I should have thought about its potential more carefully. Like all of Steven Moffat’s best magic tricks, it’s repeatedly been hidden in plain sight. And as a pay-off of sorts, Heaven Sent is a masterclass in TV scripting. Future screenwriting manuals will refer to this as a bravura example of how to break most of your own rules in a long-running series and yet remain recognisably on-brand and very recognisably part of a writer’s unique voice. In any sane world, this deserves to be award-winning TV.


“WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE MAGIC OF DOCTOR WHO?” Well, it’s there. And there. And right there

FILTER: - Series 9/35 - Twelfth Doctor - Television

Doctor Who Festival, Sydney AustraliaBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 24 November 2015 - Reviewed by Tim Hunter

Doctor Who Festival
RHI, Sydney, Australia
21-22 November 2015
Sydney has always been known as a warm and sunny city, but on the day before the Doctor Who Festival took over the Horden Pavilion and Royal Hall of Industries (RHI) for the weekend, it surpassed itself. Flying in from Melbourne on Friday, where it had been a cool 15 degrees Celsius, it was 41 degrees on arrival in Sydney. That’s 108 degrees Fahrenheit – which, as Sylvester McCoy said, sounds much more dramatic.

Happily though for both attendees and the team from the UK, a cool change swept through Friday evening, so the next morning, everyone was queuing under a cloudy sky and in a much more respectable 20 degrees. Which is just as well, because dealing with the queues outside the Horden Pavilion, a venue known for hosting concerts and the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras party, for 45 minutes would have been unbearable in the previous day’s heat.

Yes, in true British tradition, the day started with polite queuing. Four lines, apparently: the Dalek TARDIS ticketholders, the Dalek General Admission, the Cybermen TARDIS ticketholders and the Cybermen General Admission. Not much in the way of visible signs and directions however, so harried security personnel were constantly asked which line was which, and many people realised they were in the wrong line. Still, it gave everyone the chance to check out a healthy number of cosplayers, dressed in various versions of the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor costumes, a handful of Weeping Angels, homemade Cybermen, priestesses from ‘The Fires of Pompeii’, River Song, an occasional Captain Jack, and quite a few Osgoods.

As a rule, there wasn’t much complaining though, and I made it in – with the Cybermen stream and a Press Pass – into the main theatre for the first event, the Real SFX Show with Danny Hargreaves. He joined host Adam Spencer on stage, blowing up a Dalek casing and talking about his effects work on the show over the past ten years. He spoke about how different actors dealt with his explosions (Matt Smith squealed and jumped, Peter Capaldi apparently met one over-exuberant explosion with a steely gaze directed at Danny), and then demonstrated, with the help of a couple of volunteers, set off a charge in a rogue Cyberman’s chest. It was a fun and colourful start to the day, and the audience were enthusiastic and appreciative. It made a normally unreachable element of Doctor Who that much more real.

That would continue, as we then streamed into the RHI, where the rest of the Festival was set up:  stalls, merchandise, props, costumes, a Pub Quiz and three separate areas for further discussions with those who work behind the scenes. First up was Mark Gatiss on the Dropbox Stage, chatting informally with local comedian and host Rob Lloyd about writing for Doctor Who. He was intelligent, articulate and considered with his answers, with a large focus on his most recent episode, Sleep No More, inspired apparently by his 3am insomniac state and rubbing the sleep out of his eye. It was also his first ‘future’ story, a satire on capitalism, and he spoke about enjoying creating a whole new world in the way Robert Holmes had.

He also spoke about lesser known things, such as the Doctor Who reboot pitch he, Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman took to the BBC in 2001 or 2002, which involved an English village and a strange man in the antiques store, who would be revealed as the Doctor. And the idea he tossed around of adapting his New Adventures novel, Nightshade, for the 2013 TV season, but with Ian Chesterton as an old man imagining the Zarbi and the Voord.

Gatiss also spoke of the strong female characters and presence in the series now, how he’s really a frustrated casting director, the fact that there’s no way an Ice Warrior in full armour could actually fit in a Soviet submarine, and how much he enjoyed working in references to old stories, like DVD Easter eggs.

Joining Lloyd on the stage next was Millennium FX’s Charlie Bluett, who took us through the creation of the Sandmen from Sleep No More, which included one of said Sandmen lumbering into the audience and onto the stage to be unmasked – literally. Fun facts taken from this session: KY Jelly is used to make monsters glisten, and the old Classic monsters are the hardest ones to create.

The Science of Doctor Who was the next session on this stage, and Lloyd, with Dr Martin White, presented a lively and cheeky exploration of scientific concepts, such as relative dimensions and regeneration, with the help of a Whiteboard, complete with its own minions, at one point. Fun fact: there are more than four dimensions in the universe – it’s more like 12!

Time then for more queuing – for food and coffee, to buy merchandise, to see the costumes and props, which included a great model of the Dalek City from this year’s season opener, The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar, a Zygon, the Fisher King and a Mire, and to try and get a photo with a Dalek and Christmas tree in a fake snowstorm. This last one proved very popular, and even though I queued up more than once for this, I didn’t get the photo opportunity because I had other events to get to.

Such as the Sylvester McCoy session back in the Theatre. Hosted again by Spencer, McCoy was in great form, starting off on the stage with Spencer, talking about ferrets down his trousers, hammering nails into his nose (and how that is done without dying), playing the spoons on Kate O'Mara’s chest, which was very bouncy, apparently, but soon, with microphone in hand, he was down in the audience, answering questions and wandering around talking about all manner of things and jumping from story to story. His musings were illustrated with images quickly sourced online by the mixing desk crew and flashed on the screen as McCoy’s stories unfolded, which added an extra layer of context and visual reference.

Fun facts taken from this session: McCoy’s favourite story to work on was Survival (he attributes this to the actress who couldn’t deal with her cat costumes and stripped it off and ran into the desert wearing just a thong…); his favourite new monsters are the Weeping Angels; he got lost in Colin Baker’s costume and the Harpo Marx wig when filming his regeneration scene; and both he and Paul McGann have rubbery faces which worked well in their regeneration scene. All this made for an entertaining 45 minutes, and he was clearly a hit with the children and many others who may not have seen any of his work as the Seventh Doctor.

Then it was time for the session everyone was waiting for – Peter Capaldi, Steven Moffat and Ingrid Oliver – a last-minute addition after Billie Piper cancelled during the week. She may have been last-minute, but she was a welcome addition, and the three of them on stage together, moderated again by Spencer, had an engaging banter and rapport. Oliver spoke about her audition and getting her ‘penny-dropping moment’ look just right – which she and Capaldi then demonstrated, to rapturous applause and laughter. She also told of her first acting job, playing Shakespearean roles for American tourists at the Tower of London, and how her first scene for Doctor Who was there, so had a nice synergy for her.

Capaldi, at the end of an exhausting day, still had energy to talk about sitting at home alone watching the 50th anniversary special, having not been invited to anything, and how excited he’d been to work on The Fires of Pompeii, but said he’d loved to have played a monster covered in latex and killing David Tennant. He also spoke about having lunch with Matt Smith before starting the role, and Smith was on crutches. He and Moffat also enjoyed some dry and dour Scottish repartee, which the audience loved, and Moffat explained that writing the 50th anniversary special was the hardest thing he’s done – especially since he started out with no Doctors under contract at all, just Jenna Coleman. He also mentioned that while he may have suggested someone like John Hurt for the War Doctor, he never thought they would actually get him.

Spencer had asked the audience beforehand to think of questions beyond the obvious stuff that you could find the answer to by googling, and they did. Apart from a question about a Doctor Who/Sherlock crossover, which Moffat quickly shut down, there were some thoughtful and left-of-centre questions. Capaldi was caught out by one fan asking about his 80’s pop band, The Dream Boys, and a potential film about them. That started a whole conversation about the name sounding like The Chippendales, or a calendar – which then inspired a comment about the Women of UNIT sounding like a calendar and how Capaldi would like to see that calendar. As anyone would.

The final question was about the panel’s thoughts on the expanded Who Universe, such as novels, comics and audio plays, and Moffat took the talking stick and spoke about how he loved the fact that the past is still growing, and that it feels unstoppable. And that, he said, is the mark of a legend that can never end.

Enough time then, to head back into the RHI and a couple of final sessions in the Arena area. Hosted by comedian David Innes (who, with Rob Lloyd, form the comedy duo Innes Lloyd) was the Fan Challenge, or as Innes called it, the Game of Rassilon, where participants play in a series of physical trivia challenges to win the award. A mixture of easy, difficult and almost impossible questions from all eras of the show, it demonstrated exactly how much fans know, regardless of their age.

After that, it was time to meet the monsters. Strax performer Dan Starkey and Dalek operator and monster actor Jon Davey explained and demonstrated how to walk and speak like a Sontaran, how to make the foam rubber Mire costume stomp like a heavy metal robot, and how to get in and out of a Dalek casing. Both performers were relaxed and entertaining – especially Davey mincing around in a headless Mire costume, and seeing inside a Dalek, and it was a fun and lightweight way to finish a very intense and overloading day.

Yes, it was a long day, but for the attendees, who had travelled from all across Australia, from Perth and Brisbane and other cities, it was a unique look into the workings behind a much-loved show. Hopefully this isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime event, because despite the queuing, it was a great success, and the guests were very impressed with Australian fans’ love, devotion and dedication to Doctor Who. So, can we have more, please?

FILTER: - Event - Convention

Face the RavenBookmark and Share

Saturday, 21 November 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Ruddock
Face the Raven
Written by Sarah Dollard
Directed by Justin Molotnikov
Starring Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Joivan Wade, and Maisie Williams
Transmitted 21st November 2015, BBC One 

“She enjoyed that…….way too much” - Rigsy, Face the Raven


This year, Doctor Who’s arc has been a collection of ominous themes, sketched in throughout the series, and gathering momentum week-on-week. The Doctor’s confession dial. His mistake in reviving Ashildr. Friends within enemies. The hybrid - whatever that may be -  and all manner of other hybrids, thrown in to keep the Doctor and the viewer guessing. And, most of all, an increasing sense of dread about the fate of the increasingly fearless, reckless, thrill-seeking Clara Oswald - forecast through portentous dialogue, and the Doctor’s worried eyebrows.


This week, it all came to a head (well, most of it), in one of Doctor Who’s finest three quarters of an hour, beginning with a mystery, snowballing throughout, and ending in lump-in-throat tragedy.


Kicking off with the returning Rigsy calling the TARDIS, having woken up with a regrettable tattoo and no memory of last night, new writer Sarah Dollard plays an absolute blinder - as the Doctor and Clara are drawn quite literally into a Trap Street. The tattoo is of a number, and it’s counting down. It’s a death sentence.


The conceit of the street, literally hiding in plain sight, is a brilliantly Doctor Who idea. Everybody at some point has counted steps, then unaccountably lost their place and started again. Everyone has failed to see something right in front of them. The sense of clouds gathering is there from the start, and Dollard gives the Doctor (resplendent in purple velvet) and Clara one last moment of fun, as they search for the street from above and on foot, before finding it - in one of those rare occasions that London looks and feels like London.


This street, a haven for aliens living peacefully on Earth is a trap in more ways than one. It’s a honeypot for the Doctor, who can’t resist the mystery, and he’s only drawn in further when it turns out Rigsy is being accused of murder by the self-appointed Mayor, and every thread leads to more puzzles to solve. 


That Mayor is Ashildr, who must be nearly the Doctor’s age by now. She’s still calling herself ‘Me’, and hasn’t seen Clara in such a long time, she only knows her through conversations written down on ancient journal pages. She’s evolved from storyteller, to amoral highway(wo)man, to a glacial leader of a community, and the passive-aggressive, resentful relationship with the Doctor fizzes on screen. It’s just one layer of tension. The residents of the street are fearful and distrustful of outsiders. Ashildr allows the Doctor and Clara some time to clear Rigsy’s name, but not before showing what the quantum shade in raven form is capable of. Her rule, she claims is peaceful and just, but her ruthlessness is something to behold. Just how much of it is for show is debatable, as Maisie Williams’ quiet, still performance gives little away.


Nothing in this episode is what it seems - not the community of familiar and hostile aliens hiding behind the perception filter (also a neat way around the pretty, but stagey Trap Street sets), or the ominous caged raven that enforces Mayor Me’s law. The dead Janus woman isn’t dead, and her son is actually a psychic daughter. Rigsy is framed and lured in to entrap the Doctor. Clara secretly takes the chronolock curse from Rigsy, in a reckless, yet well-meaning double bluff. Most crucially, Ashildr’s promise of protection means nothing, and Clara pays the price.


It’s all a trap. Everything has been engineered by Ashildr in the name of handing the Doctor over to parties unknown. The only genuine things to come out of her ruse are her shocked reaction to Clara’s accidental sacrifice, and the revelation that she’s traded the Doctor for the safety of her people.


The climactic scenes between Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, and Maisie Williams are electric. The Doctor’s cold fury as he very convincingly threatens to rain hell on the street is balanced by Clara first refusing to believe she’s not indestructible, before stoically accepting her death sentence, and then ordering the Doctor not to be that guy - to be a Doctor, not a warrior, before walking outside and facing the raven. As she falls, lifeless to the ground, the pain of losing his best friend is written all over his face.


Shattered, the Doctor turns to Ashildr and, in a masterfully understated moment, issues a chilling warning about how small the universe can be when he’s angry at you. He’s terrifying, a barely tamed beast without his friend to tame him, and the woman responsible for his pain nods in cowed silence. In the face of this loss, he’s never more dangerous. And then he’s gone, teleported away to who knows what fate.


Face the Raven might be the best standalone episode of Doctor Who in a couple of years, or might be the first part of a three part finale. How it all ends remains to be seen, but it looks like the trouble is just beginning.




FILTER: - Series 9/35 - Twelfth Doctor - Television

New Adventures With The Tenth Doctor #11- Fountains Of Forever Part 1Bookmark and Share

Friday, 20 November 2015 - Reviewed by Dan Collins
Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #11 (Credit: Titan)
Writer: Nick Abadzis
Artists: Elena Casagrande
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Comicraft's Jimmy Beancourt
Colourist: Arianna Florean
Editor: Andrew James
Publisher: Titan Comics
Release Date: June 10, 2015

Last issue Gabby defeated the Shreekers but now she faces a bigger challenge:  mending things with her BFF Cindy. Is there room for a third wheel now that Gabby’s hanging around with the Doctor? As they attempt to sort things out, the Doctor tracks down some out of this world artifacts that are being auctioned off on the black market.  

Before getting into the ups and downs of this issue, there’s a big change to be noted. After finishing the Weeping Angels of Mons storyline, Robbie Morrison wrote a filler standalone issue for #10 before relinquishing the writing duties to Nick Abadzis. This is the first part of the next storyline that will take us through the end of the first year of these 10th Doctor comic book adventures.

This story gets off to a dramatic start but it’s more like Keeping Up WithThe Kardashians than Gone With The Wind. The very first page has a giant panel of Cindy’s pouty face while she is texting Gabby calling her a “bad friend.” That angst filled message is just a device to keep the main characters in New York for another adventure, but it ends up being one of the more annoying moments in this issue.  I had a lot of trouble identifying with these two characters, especially Cindy. All of their early panels together feel like bad reality TV, full of superfluous drama that does nothing for me as a reader. It’s only later when Gabby starts to understand her relationship with the Doctor that things become interesting. Those epiphanies won’t be new to the reader though, we’ve seen them before on the silver screen.  Moreover, after Cindy’s petulant start to this issue, I had already decided that I didn’t like her and nothing in the rest of the comic changed my mind. My only hope is that her character is meant to be irritating and grating and that as this story moves toward its resolution she will find herself becoming the hero much like Gabby did in the last issue.

So, one storyline feels like filler but what of the other? The Doctor gets off to a decent start, strolling through the city singing “New York, New York” and name checking Joey Ramone and the CBGB club as he tries to barge into the secret auction. As he thumbs through a catalogue of junk being sold off as alien artifacts he has a clobbering run in with a professional acquirer. Cleo has made a living stealing items of interest and selling them off to private collectors. She’s here looking for one particular device that offers its user a “fountain of youth.” The technology is too dangerous to allow in human hands, so the Doctor decides to team up Cleo to recover it. He forgets rule number one, don’t trust a mercenary, and ends up being betrayed by her multiple times.

I found this issue to be a somewhat challenging read. The entire secondary storyline with Cindy and Gabby didn’t hold my interest. Watching the Doctor on the trail of a deadly alien device should have been an enjoyable romp, but it wasn’t. I was irritated that Cleo kept making a fool of our hero and that he had ever trusted her in the first place. The artwork did its job but nothing above and beyond. The real saving grace to this story is the final two pages when the Doctor finds himself on the wrong end of the fountain of youth device. The last couple panels all but guarantee that you are going to come back for another installment. I’m hoping that things pick up in the next issue and that this is just a rough start to a new arc with a new writer.

Bonus Comic Strip: A Rose By Any Other Name by Rachael Smith

The Doctor is still depressed over losing Rose-The-Human so he immerses himself in the sitcom Chums. Rose-The-Cat tries to convince him that there are better things for him to do with his time, but instead finds herself completely enamoured with the show as well. After wallowing in self-pity for a long time the Doctor realizes that he isn’t good for anything anymore prompting his feline friend to suggest they travel back in time to when he was good at something. I thought this humour strip tucked away at the end of the main comic was enjoyable and poignant.

FILTER: - Comic - Tenth Doctor

Doctor Who Festival - London 2015Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 15 November 2015 - Reviewed by Marcus

BBC Festival (Credit: BBC Worldwide)This weekend saw thousands of Doctor Who fans descended on East London for the 2015 Doctor Who Festival held at the ExCel Centre in docklands.

The event is the second official Doctor Who event to be held in London, following the 2013 celebration of the show's 50th Anniversary. It was sold out on all three days, proving there is a large appetite for these conventions with people attending from around the globe.

Thee was plenty to see for even the most dedicated fan, with audience panels, photo sessions, sets, talks and a hall full of merchandise to browse. Unlike the 50th Anniversary Festival, this one was firmly dedicated to the Capaldi era with all the main guests reflecting the latest series of the show. For those used to the more intimate smaller conventions the big official event can seem intimidating, but the crew worked hard to make the occasion as informal as possible. 

The highlights for many included the three panel shows, hosted in the massive main arena at the venue. The meet the cast panel was the one everyone wanted to see and the crowds weren't disappointed when Peter Capaldi,  Michelle Gomez, Ingrid Oliver and Steven Moffat, also  joined by Jenna Coleman on Saturday and Sunday, took questions from moderator Toby Hadoke.

Peter CapaldiThe team were witty and entertaining and Hadoke chaired the session with style. It could have been longer as the 45 minutes flew by and with five on the panel, some were better served than others. The love for the series shone through and the packed hall was very entertained by the whole affair.

One thing that could be curtailed were the number of questions taken from the audience. While I applaud the aim is to involve the fans as much as possible, the whole process does drag  with many of the same questions coming again and again, mostly aimed at the two main stars and excluding the rest of the panel. With hosts as competent and knowledgeable as Toby Hadoke the random selection of questions is just not needed and a more balanced and informative panel could be held without it. Maybe in future audiences could send in questions in in advance and the best ones chosen to avoid the endless What's your favourite episode? query. Having said that the panel handled the audience with style and handled some of the more undiplomatic comments with just a modicum of irritation.

The other panels were just as entertaining and not to be missed. The writers talk gave an insight into the perils and pain of being a professional writer. The participants varied each day with all the Series 9 writers being represented at some point. It can't be easy as a writer, used to working alone with a keyboard, to put yourself up before an auditorium full of many opinionated fans. The team dealt with the various queries with tact and style. Matthew Sweet made a great host and showed his own love of the series.

The Millennium FX panel, which featured Mark Gatiss, took the audience through the creation of a new Doctor Who monster while showing how some of this series creations were realised. It was informative and entertaining and well worth watching and gave a sneak preview of this week's monsters The Sandmen.

Davros in the Dalek Sick Room set (Credit: Harry Ward / Doctor Who News)Away from the main stage there was much to enjoy. Several sets had been transported from Cardiff giving fans the chance to visit the Viking village of Ashildr or to wander the corridors of The Dalek city of Davros. Some areas could have done with more space, the costume and props display in particular was crammed into a small square in the centre of the arena, resulting in gridlock throughout much of the day. Those who persevered were greeted with a range of items from the current series, including the two Osgood boxes. 

Clara's flat was recreated, giving fans the opportunity for a picture lounging on her sofa. 

In The production Village the Assistant Directors who work on Doctor Who gave a presentation on just how the show is shot and how labour intensive the whole process is. In a very slick, quick fire 30 minutes they took the audience through a typical day on set, explaining what happens when, and just who is involved. If you ever wanted to know what the Gaffer does, or who types up the call sheets, then this was the show for you. The team were joined during the day by Production Designer  Michael Pickwoad and Costume designer Ray Holman who described their roles in the series.

Sarah Dollard, Peter Harness and Steven MoffatOver the other side of the hall Real SFX and Danny Hargreaves entertained the crowds with some of the many bangs and explosions from the series in a very entertaining show. Meanwhile in the Drama school there was a chance to learn how to act like a Dalek or become a Director, while Big Finish held a master-class in voice acting.

The fan involvement was encouraged and some of the cosplay on show was incredible. The USA may have come up with the concept, but modern UK fans have
taken the process to their hearts with some incredibly clever and inventive outfits on show.  

For those with money left in their pocket the shopping village contained enough merchandise to sate the appetite of the most dedicated fan, with all the main official brands represented.  A tent, erected by the Horror Channel, screened archive episodes.

All in all it was very successful event as evidenced by the satisfied comments filling the forums and the happy faces leaving the venue. Yes there queues were to long sometimes and the venue a little crowded, but the organisation was superb with the events running like clockwork.

Let us hope the success of this years event helps persuade BBC Worldwide to make the Festival an annual event. 

FILTER: - Event - Convention