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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.



Gothic

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

Toothless

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.



Absolutely wonderful!

What:Professor Howe and the Toothless Tribe (Miscellaneous book)
By:ross hamilton, basingstoke, United Kingdom
Date:Wednesday 14 March 2018
Rating:   10

I loved everything about this book. A parody of An unearthly child/The tribe of gum and it is fantastic! Read it in one sitting as extremely easy to read and a constant joy that had me laughing nearly every page. Buy it now while there's still time as it's also for a great charity. Looking forward to the sequels!



Overdone Climax Syndrome

What:Legend of the Cybermen (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 13 March 2018
Rating:   6

"Legend of the Cybermen" has an interesting premise. What would the overly logical Cybermen do in the Land of Fiction? The trouble with the story is that it suffers in two ways: 1) Big Finish felt the need for a huge, sweeping ending, which is always hard to do with just a few actors and is never quite as thrilling as it sounds, and 2) The setting is a place where anything is possible, so without the constraints on narrative logic, the writer gets lazy about how the plot works. The second trouble is apparent in the explanation of how Zoe arrived in the Land of Fiction with the Cybermen. She just thought her way there? It seems so easy if one is plugged into a Cyber computer just to punch a hole in reality. The first trouble is apparent in that much of the dialogue is spent on describing the action: "Look, there's a something, and it has those, and looks like this, and I never thought I'd live to see a that thing with that other thing attached, and see the hordes of Xs coming our way, they have...." The story does have some clever jokes, such as when Jamie almost writes himself out of existence by becoming metafiction. There's a great scene in which Jamie confronts the Doctor on why he never returned to look in on Jamie and Zoe. So, a real mixed bag this time.



It Happened/Didn't Happen Again

What:Blue Forgotten Planet (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Wednesday 7 March 2018
Rating:   7

This ends the Doctor 6/Charley combo. Writer Nick Briggs has tried to go out with a big, bombastic finish, full of zombie-like hordes, maniacs with guns, ruthless aliens, and the Earth in peril. It's another one of those somebody is messing with the time line sort of story. Herein lies one of the problems. Clearly if this is Earth and nothing corresponds to any known history of Earth, then The Doctor should be a little more perturbed about it than just "it doesn't feel right." Also, the plot that runs in constant crisis mode means that there is no way to go bigger once the engines are revved, at about 10 minutes into part 1. Still, the story follows the logic of its setup. The Viyrans turn out to be one of the more interesting Big Finish creations in their own way, because their ethical code works well as a foil for The Doctor's ethical code.



Both Intriguing and Cliched

What:Paper Cuts (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 6 March 2018
Rating:   7

Paper Cuts provides us with a kind of respite in Doctor 6 & Charley trilogy 2, with little in it that relates directly to the long story arc. That in itself is a little strange since central to the story is a "space plague" during The Doctor's earlier visit to Draconia. The story itself is fairly typical of Marc Platt's playing with reality kind of plotting. The Doctor now paired with Mila pretending to be Charley responds to a summons by the Red Emperor of Draconia. He comes to find out that it is for the Emperor's funeral. However, things are not quite right with the whole setup. There are plenty of very interesting aspects to the story. Platt draws out many of the strong connections between the Draconians and Medieval Japan. The idea of a kind of Valley of the Kings in space is also quite intriguing. The characters, however, draw down the quality of the story. They are just too much to one type each. The High Priest/Queen Mother is just too scheming and not much else, the Prince too ambitious and not much else, Gamori too whimpering peasanty and not much else. The production is beautifully visual, especially for an audio-only production. There are great sequences in which character thoughts become "painted" on walls of psychic paper, the painting done with excellent sound effects. This would have been a true visual treat if done on TV.



Dalek Base Under Siege

What:Patient Zero (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 6 March 2018
Rating:   7

Big Finish begins its resolution of the Doctor 6 & Charley plot with the first of a tightly connected trilogy of stories. The location is a base at the far end of the Universe (early history) that stores thousands of biologically engineered viruses used in an interplanetary war. Charley has become unstuck in time, and the Doctor has been tracking down the origin of the virus causing this to said station. However, things are not all that simple. It turns out that The Daleks are also interested in these viruses, but are more interested in a "patient zero" who escaped their biological experiments. Meanwhile, on board the TARDIS, a ghostly presence calling herself Mila is haunting Charley and claiming that she has been on the TARDIS since the days of "The Chase" just looking for her opportunity to become real and join The Doctor on his adventures. All these side matters play in and out of what becomes mostly a standard Dalek story of their putting a base under siege. Enter new Dalek baddie: The Dalek Time Controller. Finally, we get introduced to a new alien "threat" of sorts, the mysterious Viyrans, whose purpose is solely the eradication of deadly bio-engineered viruses. The story is hampered a bit by the requirement to set up all the elements that will play out through the remaining two stories.



Gripping Story

What:The Butcher of Brisbane (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Saturday 24 February 2018
Rating:   9

Though many listeners will probably liken this story most to "Enemy of the World," its icy grimness kept reminding me of "Spare Parts." The TARDIS gets zapped by one of the Zigma experiments of the 51st century, which ends up splitting Nyssa and Turlough from The Doctor and Tegan not by distance but by years, three of them to be precise. While waiting for The Doctor to turn up, Nyssa and Turlough become spies for the Earth coalition opposing the infamous Minister of Justice, Magnus Greel. This cloak and dagger story offsets the story of The Doctor, who knows what will happen historically and is doing his very best to keep as many people safe as possible while neither interfering with time nor giving away just how much he knows. The ties to "Talons of Weng-Chiang," to which this becomes the prequel, are tastefully and unobtrusively handled. Special attention goes to Angus Wright, who is superb as Magnus Greel, making him both horrifying and pitiable at the same time. The only drawback to the story for me was that The Doctor remains cagey about what knows long after there is any real need to hide the knowledge. Other than that, this is truly an excellent production.



Very 1987

What:A Life of Crime (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Saturday 24 February 2018
Rating:   7

This story is the first to reunite Mel and Ace, and is designed mostly to get Mel back into the TARDIS crew. With Tony Selby not available, apparently, there is no Sabalom Glitz in person, but his presence is everywhere in the story. This story itself takes place on a "Costa del Crime" type planet with corrupt officials looking the other way while wealthy criminals live high off their ill-gotten gains. There is some kind of scheme going on with an old buddy of Glitz's, one Lefty Lonergan. Glitz has sent Mel in his stead. Meanwhile, the TARDIS takes The Doctor and Ace to the same planet, where they get caught up in the scam. The story has the cheeky exuberance of the 1987 series, which may leave some listeners unhappy. For those who liked that series, this will feel like home.



Middle of the Road Doctor Who

What:Quicksilver (New Audio Adventure)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Sunday 11 February 2018
Rating:   6

Another trick Big Finish is using to keep the brand interesting is to create unlikely pairings of companions - Ace and Mel, for instance. Here we get Constance and Flip. The story of this is rather old hat for Big Finish. A race of alien warriors has arrived on Earth to chase down a fugitive who brings with him advanced alien technology. The warriors then bring their war to Earth as well. The Doctor must straighten this out. The story also resolves where the Doctor/Constance story is going. She insists on going home, but the Doctor takes her there a little later (only by a few months) than expected. They say their goodbyes, then alien intrusion kicks in and back together they are, only this time Constance now believes her husband to be dead. Of course, we know that is not the case. There is a strange contrivance by which the aliens snatch Flip from her wedding in 2012 and whisk her off to Vienna, 1949. The plot has some gaping holes. For instance, just how does Kinvar know who the Doctor is and what a TARDIS is? This is never explained. More than anything else, the weak plotting drags down this story.



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