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Better Novel Than TV Serial

What:The King's Demons (Target novelisation)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 19 June 2018
Rating:   6

Originally a two-parter on TV, "The King's Demons" gets a bit of fleshing out in Terence Dudley's novelization of his script. The novelization sticks pretty closely to the script in the details and most of the dialogue. Dudley has added some dialogue and altered a few lines. Mostly, he has added novelistic touches such as interior monologue and a few narrative intrusions for explanation. The story itself involves The Master's attempt to alter history by having King John deposed before he signs the document that will become Magna Carta. It is difficult to say what The Master hopes to gain from this plan other than some chaos with Earth history. It's a mid-level adventure.

Great series for 2013

What:The Complete Seventh Series (BBC new series DVD/Blu-ray)
By:Shawn Diehl, El Paso, United States
Date:Thursday 24 May 2018
Rating:   10

This series was amazing. The great episodes and specials are really worth watching.

Almost Great Series

What:The Complete Sixth Series (BBC new series DVD/Blu-ray)
By:Shawn Diehl, El Paso, United States
Date:Thursday 17 May 2018
Rating:   9

I found this extremely great but found The Girl Who Waited silly and avoidable. Otherwise, the finale was a BBC America co-production but not too American. I know because I'm American, I didn't even know anything wrong or it was a BBC America co-production until the credits were it said: "BBC America / BBC Cymru Wales Co-Production) Otherwise, Great Series

A superb start to a superb series

What:UNIT: Extinction (Miscellaneous audio)
By:Matthew David Rabjohns, Bridgend, United Kingdom
Date:Sunday 13 May 2018
Rating:   10

I am a huge fan of Jemma Redgrave. She's a fantastic actress and I love several of her TV roles she's performed in over the years. I am also a huge huge Ingrid Oliver fan now too. Love her fun streak and zestiness and the way she wears the clothes the Doc used to wear It honestly is a brilliant idea making this UNIT spin off series. Big Finish don't half make awesome series I can tell you. And its also a stroke of genius to have UNIT face off against the Autons in the first series.

Here the autons are full on nasties. And they still use all the same scary effects such as their arm guns and dropping wrists! The whoosh of the guns scared the hell out of me when I was younger!

UNIT is a superb and very entertaining drama indeed. Its a shame the UNIT team aren't presented like this more often on the new era of Doctor Who, as it feels like its only Kate and Osgood that keep UNIT these days from being totally faceless and forgettable. But here the characters in UNIT are all very well rounded and each have a good character. Extinction is quick to get off the mark and never lets up with the great action and great set pieces. Its great hearing the autons rampaging too. Such a brilliant foe.

The characters all develop too, and the chemistry between the actors is gripping and believable. You are thrown head first into an awesome set of four stories that never pause for breath. And the final episode is suitably climactic indeed. The Nestenes had two awesome stories in the seventies, and its great at last they now have another after the sad lamentable episode that was Rose on TV. Here the nestenes are back to their devious and cunning ways. And not all the UNIT members will get out without being seriously changed by events!

This is a terrific start to the UNIT series from Big Finish. Jemma is simply amazing as the Brig's daughter and Ingrid Oliver is so intensely lovable and dependably cool as well. Makes me wanna get the rest of the series as soon as possible. It is literally that superb. PLASTIC FANTASTIC....

Great Series

What:The Complete Fifth Series (BBC new series DVD/Blu-ray)
By:Shawn Diehl, El Paso, United States
Date:Friday 11 May 2018
Rating:   10

Quite a more different season than Series 4 but it stands out and achieves the goal. I quite liked how they handled the finale of the series too.

Exxtremely effective drama indeed

What:Doom Coalition 1 (Miscellaneous audio)
By:Matthew David Rabjohns, Bridgend, United Kingdom
Date:Thursday 10 May 2018
Rating:   10

The Eleven introduces the Time Lord of the same name. Mark Bonnar is simply sublime as the Time Lord whose previous regeneration voices all jostle around in his head. It makes him a very unique villain and devilishly scray as heck. He has the right voice for the fear factor.

Nicola Walker as Liv Chenka is a stonecold classic companion if ever there was one. She is just like strawberries and cream when paired with Paul McGann. I really love her caring nature and her ever present defiance of any jerk off who comes up against her and the Doctor.

And then in the Red Lady we get the introduction of another stirling performer. This time in the shape of Hattie Morahan as the equally loveable and enjoyable Helen Sinclair. She is instantly extremely appealing as a character and already a scene stealer that bodes well for her next adventures with the Doctor and Liv.

The Red Lady also boasts a superb script from John Dorney. Its a genuinely unsettling and effectively chilling episode. What I love about stories of this kind is the villain is left unnamed and unknown. Just it has a very powerful and menacing presence through the episode. Its a brilliant debut for Helen and very creepy indeed.

The Galileo Trap then displays oodles of what it is that to makes Marc Platt one of Big Finish's most gifted contributors. he always makes you instantly care for his characters within the play. And its awesome once again to hear John Woodvine in a Doctor Who story again. And after his superb portrayal of the Marshall of Atrios with Tom Baker's Doctor, his warm characterisation of Galileo is welcome and great to listen to. The aliens in this story too are revoltingly sadistic and unpleasant. And also the bond between the Doctor, Liv and Helen is already going from strength to strength.

The Satanic Mill brings the first Doom Coalition to a an energy charged conclusion. The Eleven rears his evil and unsettling head and the stakes are pretty monumentally high in a great and easy flowing and accessible script by Edward Collier. The stories in this set are all superbly paced and never feels rushed at all. Paul McGann is on superb form and cements further clear evidence that he is indeed a ruddy amazing Doctor. And the cameo from
Sylvester McCoy in the opening story is nicely unexpected too!

Altogether Doom Coalition One whets the appetite rather a lot and leaves one waiting and eager for more. And the team of the Doctor, Liv and Helen is one of Big Finish's stellar successes indeed.

So-So Ending

What:Dark Eyes 4 (Miscellaneous audio)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Friday 4 May 2018
Rating:   7

"Dark Eyes 4" has the problems that plague productions of this kind: ending a story of epic sweep with a small cast. Matt Fitton and John Dorney, by now stalwart writers for Big Finish, were tasked with closing the story of Eminence, the Dalek Time Controller, and the corrupted time lines. In the end, we learn that the whole of "Dark Eyes" has more or less been Molly O'Sullivan's story all along. It begins with the best of the four stories, "A Life in the Day." This is a Doctor Who take on Ground Hog Day that would fit well in Steven Moffat's Doctor Who. It's function in the whole set is to reintroduce the Daleks to the story and to set the main rationale for the rest of the series - find the TARDIS. This moves us from 1920s London to 1920s Paris in "The Monster of Montmartre." Here, we get the Doctor Who take on "Moulin Rouge," with starving artists, disreputable customers, a bit of rearranged Debussy for soundtrack music, and a shady hostess at the place that has replaced the Moulin Rouge, The Red Pagoda. Next, the Doctor has to nip off forty years into the future to confront the Dalek Time Controller and The Master. Alex Macqueen has settled nicely into his bon vivant version of The Master, with both the actor and the character simply loving being The Master. Since "Master of the Daleks" is primarily a linking story, it has much action that does not add up to much. Also, it strangely leaves things behind. For instance, what was the device that Rastel so thought would free him from the Daleks? Molly hides it, and it is never mentioned again. Why make a big deal over something that is not used? Similarly, the Sontarans in general are underused, being there mostly to supply the Daleks with someone to fight whenever the plot needs it. The last story is "Eye of Darkness," which tries to tie up all the loose ends of the whole series. Unfortunately, just about the only thing that gets proper attention is the origin of the Eminence, and even with this it is handled with too much "it just is" logic. And, I'll say it again, the Eminence is a supremely boring foe. The real problem is the corrupted time line problem. At the end, all we are told, through a suitably worked up Dalek Supreme, is that the time lines are "shifting" again. I suppose we have to take it on trust that they are shifting to their proper place. As usual with Big Finish of the 2010s, the cast is superb. Sorcha Cusack makes a superb older Molly. Nicola Walker is uncannily convincing as Liv Chenka (and why hasn't the Doctor Who television series found a role for her, because wow is she good). To conclude, "Dark Eyes 4" feels like a bit of a rush job. It may not have been, but there was not quite the attention to detail that made earlier "Dark Eyes" series work as well as they did.

Misses the Possibilities

What:The Defectors (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Wednesday 25 April 2018
Rating:   7

The premise of the story is to get Doctor 7 into a Doctor 3 adventure. Somehow, Doctor 7 is inserted into Doctor 3's timeline, where he must team up with a doubtful Jo Grant to stop some blue humans in makeup from doing something, though we are not quite sure what until near the end. This story definitely has the feel of 1973, enhanced by soundtrack music imitating Dudley Simpson's with deadly accuracy and a slightly less high-tech soundscape overall. Unfortunately, it is marred by a "they all forget" ending. I hate these because they make the whole journey of the story pointless.

For Those Who Love Emotional Ace

What:Love and War (Miscellaneous audio)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Wednesday 18 April 2018
Rating:   7

This is an adaptation of Paul Cornell's novel "Love and War," which introduced the character of Bernice Summerfield. The story is written in a way that would make it fit with Doctor Who 1989. The relationship between The Doctor and Ace is getting a little more prickly as The Doctor becomes more manipulative in his methods of outsmarting opponents. All his attempts to keep Ace out of it backfire and eventually lead to a confrontation in which Ace goes ballistic. The story itself is fairly typical Paul Cornell, involving an ancient evil that can easily control people's minds and that spends aeons collecting corpses so that it can raise an army of the undead and take over the universe. Parts of the story don't quite hang together, mostly those involving the virtual-reality setup called 'puter space in this story. One might view this as the "big" production (nearly as long as a six-parter) that never got made in 1989.

Very Graham Williams

What:The Well-Mannered War (Miscellaneous audio)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Wednesday 18 April 2018
Rating:   7

The audio adaptation of Gareth Roberts' novel "The Well-Mannered War" is made with no detail overlooked for getting that 1978 sensation. Apparently, this is Roberts' favorite period of Doctor Who, and his story certainly fits with the lightly satirical approach common of the period. The music soundtrack is also an exercise in nostalgia, sounding so much like Dudley Simpson that a listener might believe it was indeed extracted from 1978. One's response to this story is probably going to rest largely upon how one views the Graham Williams era. I am not as enamored of it as Gareth Roberts is, and so this story contains much that I found a little irritating in stories of the period. It goes a little too far at times in the joking at the expense of the story, it has an almost entirely humorous side plot involving K-9 running for public office, and it has a character in Menlove Stokes whose entire presence is mostly to be stupid and annoying. Granted, Roberts does well in getting these elements to tie to the main plot. The cast work well together and the story moves at a lively pace.

Superb, the best set yet!

What:The Third Doctor Adventures: Volume Four (Miscellaneous audio)
By:Matthew David Rabjohns, Bridgend, United Kingdom
Date:Saturday 14 April 2018
Rating:   10

The Rise of the New Humans was my first taste of hearing how brilliant Rufus Hound is as the Meddling Monk. I was always of the notion that whilst new actors may be good, they wouldn't capture Peter Butterworth's comical aspect of the character that made him such a success in the role. But I am right to admit that indeed Rufus does deliver. His Monk is incredibly enjoyable as the Monk. He brings to his incarnation a brilliant sense of fun and brilliance that is a fine tribute to Peter. He is superb and I cant wait to hear more from him as the Monk!

Tim Treloar again is superbly impressive as the Third Doctor. Here I think he has done his finest Jon impersonating yet, really one does feel like he could be the dashing third Doctor back with us again! And hes terrifically aided by the stalwart brilliant Katy Manning as Jo. Perhaps maybe an only small sadness is that none of these brilliant Big Finish sets will be able to have the Brigadier or the Roger Delgado Master in them. Its a great shame but the story of the Rise of the New Humans at least mentions them both and that's an awesome respectful note to such great and well loved characters. And The Rise of the New Humans is very fast paced actually, and has some great action and with the Monk, some great great humour indeed.

But it is the Tyrants of Logic that I have to confess is the one story I was really looking forward to hearing! Marc Platt previously brilliantly penned the cyber epics The Silver Turk and Spare Parts, and both are rightfully acclaimed by many, and me also! And yet again for the first time we are treated to a complete third Doctor story with the Mondasians! Even just the cover art of this story is ruddy amazing! And the story itself is even better! It is a brilliant, emotional and very very enjoyable story indeed. I love the fact that it has the return of the head gunned cybermen, loved that idea back in the 70s and love it still now. I love also how Marc really as always makes you truly feel for the characters in his plays. He really gives them an incredible depth of character that not many modern writers can attest to achieving. And he also uses the Cybermen well. And we have a new Cyber Leveller to add to the pantheon of cyber menaces the Doctor has had to square off against!

But the best thing I love about this story is its truly huge ending. It all culminates in frankly one of the best Doctor Who climaxes ever. And its great to see how much Jo Grant's character is used way more intensely than she ever could have been in the classic series. This is perhaps Jo's finest moment as the companion of the Third Doctor. Tim does Jon proud, really impressing as the Third Doctor and giving us fans what we've wanted for a long long time. Id like to think Jon would be proud of Tim's efforts. The Cybermen have long been my favourite villain. And Marc does splendidly at taking us to the heart of all that makes the beasts so monstrous. The Tyrants of Logic is yet another superb Big Finish resounding success indeed. These Third Doctor sets just get better and better with every release. But The Tyrants of Logic will be immensely hard to surpass in my opinion. A classy box set that is heartily recommended indeed!

Pity accompanying website no longer exis

What:Who Goes There (Miscellaneous book)
By:David Kinne, Lutwyche, Australia
Date:Saturday 14 April 2018
Rating:   6

I have an epub edition purchased from Kobo.

I have been a Doctor Who fan for about 50 years, so when I saw this book and its promise of being able to visit vicariously Doctor Who locations, or more precisely filming locations, I jumped at it, especially as the blurb promised a link to a website where all the author's photos and other special features could be viewed.

Alas, while the author's style is refreshingly self-depreciating and humorous, the supplied link does not work so the reader has to go solely on his narrative descriptions of each location.

The choice of locations tallies pretty closely with my own - or any fan's I would suspect - top "wanna sees", but without the photos/images I can only give a rating of six out of ten to the book. With images, I suspect it would be ten out of ten.

95% Egyptian history, 5% Pyramid of Mars

What:The Black Archive #12: Pyramids of Mars (Black Archive book)
By:David Ervin, Alsip, United States
Date:Friday 13 April 2018
Rating:   2

Expected a critical exposition on the episode Pyramids of Mars, came away with a diatribe about Egyptian history. Vaguely disappointed.


What:The Darkness of Glass (Fourth Doctor Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 10 April 2018
Rating:   7

Pretty much what one can say about this episode is that it fits the Gothic Doctor Who of the mid 1970s perfectly. It is very much Horror of Fang Rock meets Image of the Fendahl. We get a small cast of characters isolated in a Gothic castle on the coast in the late 19th century. There's a Magic Lantern show that has been rigged to conjure a "demon" from some other dimension. It all has to do with light and glass. All the actors definitely had a good time making this one. The story is a decent pastiche of a style.

Good showcase for Peter Davison

What:The King's Demons (BBC classic series DVD)
By:Don Klees, Silver Spring, United States
Date:Saturday 7 April 2018
Rating:   7

When I started watching Doctor Who over 30 years ago, Tom Baker was The Doctor. When I say that, I don't just mean that he was the fourth actor to play the Doctor or the current star of the series. He was The Doctor, plain and simple. Baker's persona was so forceful that I couldn't imagine that anyone had been The Doctor before him, let alone that anyone would be - or even could be - after him.

As a side effect of this, when I finally saw his successor, the much lower key Peter Davison, I found him a bit underwhelming. By the time I got to watch more than a few of Davison's episodes, I'd already seen Colin Baker in the role and decided that the next Doctor was more to my liking and that initial impression solidified into a firm judgment - Davison had been in some great stories but was not himself a great Doctor.

It would be many years and DVD purchases (not to mention several audio stories for Big Finish) later until I took the time to revisit that view. Interestingly, it was some of the less respected stories from Davison's tenure that made me appreciate him the most. In a story like Caves of Androzani, where nearly every element of the production is top-notch, even a strong performance like Davison's doesn't necessarily stand out. In contrast, the more lightweight stories sometimes allow a viewer to appreciate what he brings to the part. A case in point is 1983's The King's Demons, which is often ranked with Timeflight as one of the show's worst stories. Though not a classic piece of TV by any stretch, it's still a fun way to spend an hour. In fact, compared to some stories of Davison's tenure, it's aged rather well.

Thanks to the historical setting, there are few if any of the fashion victims that sometimes make futuristic episodes hard to enjoy. Plus, even though the golden-age of BBC costume drama was a few years in the past by this point, they still had the ability to create convincing period settings that looked far more impressive than you'd expect with the kind of tight budget a two-part Doctor Who story would have had in the early 80s. This combination allows one to focus on the story and performances on their own terms.

The King's Demons' narrative faults are fairly easy targets. As the Doctor himself points out, the Master's plot is "small-time villainy", some of the historical background is a bit shaky, and the resolution is somewhat lacking in drama. That said, the process of getting to that resolution is actually quite enjoyable, especially the build up of a historical mystery that takes place over the course of the first episode. Some of that sense of intrigue inevitably falls by the wayside once the Master's involvement is revealed, but even then there are enough questions posed to keep things lively. Ultimately, you get the sense that the story's bad reputation is less about the weaknesses of the story itself but rather because it wasn't especially ambitious.

If so, that's a shame because there's a actually lot to appreciate, particularly with the acting. Both the series regulars and guest stars like Gerald Flood give strong performances. Even Anthony Ainley - perhaps benefitting from a plot that doesn't involve universal Armageddon, is in good form. The key to the story, though, is Davison. In this story, you can truly appreciate the quiet conviction Davison brings to his performance as The Doctor, holding the viewers' attention without drawing attention to himself. When you see him in action - never overwhelmed and quietly putting the pieces together in a way Tom Baker seldom had the patience for - there's no question about who's driving the story.

In that respect, The King's Demons calls to mind some of the historical stories from William Hartnell's tenure as the Doctor, where both time and budgets were even tighter and much of the audience wanted nothing more than non-stop Daleks. Like Hartnell, even when his Doctor is in the thick of history, Davison makes it clear that this is his show. I've realized - better late than never - that this a very good thing.

Good fun for a good cause

What:Professor Howe and the Toothless Tribe (Miscellaneous book)
By:Don Klees, Silver Spring, United States
Date:Saturday 7 April 2018
Rating:   8


Two main qualities tend to distinguish good parodies from the bad. Good ones are generally made by people with an appreciation of the work being spoofed and often serve as good examples of the subject even as they’re poking fun. Good Doctor Who parodies rely on a further dimension - a focus on the narrative conventions rather than budgetary ones.

In television terms, it's the reason Curse of the Fatal Death was magnificent while the sequence with David Tennant and Ricky Gervais in Extras was woefully unfunny, but the principle also applies to other mediums. Professor Howe and the Toothless Tribe - a parody of the very first Doctor Who adventure - aligns itself far more with the former category. Written by Christopher Samuel Stone, the book is the first in a series of novels raising money for the UK's Children in Need charity, which makes it good fun for a great cause.

The starting point of the Professor Howe books are the numerous novelizations of the original television stories published for many years by Target Books. Written mainly in the 70s and 80s at a time when the majority of televised stories were largely unavailable, for at least one generation of fans the novelizations were as much Doctor Who as what had actually been broadcast. In some respects they were superior. The tension between budget and imagination throughout its history, the program was particularly suited to "theater of the mind".

Professor Howe and The Toothless Tribe deploys some nice jokes related to this aspect, the nature of the Professor's craft chief among them. It also finds plenty of humor in the current political climate, which for better or worse lends itself to the caveman setting. It's the nature of any parody that some jokes come off better than others. In the end, though, this book is good fun for a good cause and worth a look if you're a fan who can both love and laugh at Doctor Who.

Bowled Over!!

What:Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen (Miscellaneous book)
By:Earle DL Foster, Invercargill, New Zealand
Date:Wednesday 4 April 2018
Rating:   9

This undiscovered manuscript (now featuring the second version of Romana and K9, and seemingly closely tied to the “entropy” storyline) clearly resonates with the combined influences of the Hitchhiker’s Guide, and the Fourth Doctor era.

It would be interesting to witness modern day producers adapt this epic, mind-blowingly spectacular adventure for the recently rebooted television series, because the dedication and ingenuity encompassed within is of an extremely high standard somewhat unexpected and sometimes undetected. The interesting aspect would be whether they could pay sufficient homage to the breath-taking mind of Douglas Adams, because James Goss has certainly crafted a more than satisfactory novelisation.

Great Set, Track it down!!!

What:The Lost TV Episodes: Collection Three (BBC classic series audio)
By:Shawn Diehl, El Paso, United States
Date:Saturday 31 March 2018
Rating:   10

This is a holy grail of CDs, do get the others though.
Weak Story of this Collection: The Smugglers, the rest are excellent

A jolly romp

What:Professor Howe and the Toothless Tribe (Miscellaneous book)
By:Helen Stirling, Poole, United Kingdom
Date:Wednesday 28 March 2018
Rating:   9

Sit back and enjoy the ride. Full of giggles and very entertaining

Another It Didn't Really Happen Ending

What:Voyage to the New World (Jago and Litefoot audio)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Friday 23 March 2018
Rating:   7

While Voyage to the New World starts as a historical, it moves into becoming a quasi-supernatural story of the disappearance of the Roanoke colony in the 1590s. The scope of the story is a bit larger than the 1 hour time limit, so there is much skipping across days and weeks in the early part of the story. Big Finish does well here in accomplishing a lot with a little. Nevertheless, part of what does not quite work for me in this is the general air of depressed inevitability running through it. The characters don't exactly just give up, but they don't exactly strive hard for overcoming the problem either. And then we get another timey-wimey it didn't really happen ending. This seems to me too convenient a way for a writer to get out of a sticky problem.

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