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A Mess

What:Silver Nemesis (Target novelisations)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Thursday 8 April 2021
Rating:   2

Interestingly, "Silver Nemesis" has a plot similar to the one in "Remembrance of the Daleks" from earlier in this season. The Doctor has gone back to Earth to make sure that he properly deals with a superweapon he left behind, only now one of his oldest enemies is out to get it. But, whereas "Remembrance" has some tight parallel plotting, a central theme to keep the story on track, and background that makes most of it make sense, "Nemesis" is all strands and loose ends. How does De Flores know about Nemesis? How do the Cybermen know about Lady Peinforte? How does Lady Peinforte know how to make a magic potion that will transport her in time? How can such a concoction be so precise? In "Remembrance," every scene advances the story in some way. There are bits in "Nemesis" that are just silly. For instance, the mention that gold dust affects Cybermen's chest units in "Revenge of the Cybermen" now becomes the idea that by merely coming into contact with gold in any form will instantly kill Cybermen. The gold dust idea makes at least a bit of sense, but lodging a gold coin in a Cyberman's chest unit? In "Nemesis," there are too many throw-away scenes, such as the encounter with the skinheads and the ride in the rich American's car. In his novelization of his own TV script, Kevin Clarke does little to correct any of these errors. "Silver Nemesis" was a very weak story in broadcast, and it remains a weak story in novelization.



Back to China, Way Back

What:The Emperor of Eternity (The Companion Chronicles audiobooks)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Tuesday 6 April 2021
Rating:   7

This time around, it's a historical for Doctor 2, Victoria, and Jamie. They travel to the time of the first Emperor of China. It's a time of state brutality and court intrigue. Nigel Robinson has kept his story pitched at the level of Doctor Who 1966, with a fairly straightforward moral sensibility of clear good guys and clear bad guys. The simplicity of the perspective drags it down a bit for me.



Anti-Genesis Of The Daleks

What:The War Master: Anti-Genesis (The War Master audios)
By:Ian Cotterill, Chipping Norton, United Kingdom
Date:Saturday 3 April 2021
Rating:   8

WARNING! THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.

I recently finished listening to 'The War Master: Anti-Genesis' and I have to say, I thought it was a really good story, brilliantly twisting the events of 'Genesis Of The Daleks', as the Master murders Davros and usurps his position as the Daleks' creator. Derek Jacobi really shines as the Master here, as does Mark Gatiss' 'Unbound' incarnation, who gets recruited by the Dalek Time Strategist to put the timelines back on track. There are also some great guest characters, such as Franchi Webb who plays the tragic Time Lord soldier, Lamarius, and Seán Carlsen makes a great return as CIA coordinator Narvin.

If I have one slight criticism, I'm not sure the events on depicted on Skaro quite tallies with the chain of events established in the 2006 series 'I, Davros'. But then, since the whole premise of this story is history being distorted, I think I can live with any continuity inconsistencies.I also thought the 'Unbound' Master's escape at the end felt a bit rushed and confused, but I do like that the possibility of his returning in future audios has been left open.

All in all, this is probably my favourite 'Time War' story done by Big Finish, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who has yet to listen to it.



Time Lords Splendiferous in Covid Crisis

What:Time Lord Victorious: All Flesh is Grass (Miscellaneous original novels)
By:Earle DL Foster, Invercargill, New Zealand
Date:Monday 29 March 2021
Rating:   10

I've finally managed to thoroughly read a published sample of the concept created during the dreaded Covid invasion, when the new series was unfortunately placed in undetermined temporary hiatus. And Mr Ball (to paraphrase one of the primary side characters in the story) wholeheartedly agrees with me on the assumption that Ms. McCormack has delivered a top-notch Multi-Doctor versus the Daleks encounter during the fan-created legendary era of the Dark Times -- and sometimes each other.



Brilliant

What:The Well-Mannered War (Missing Adventures novels)
By:John Bullock, Hoylake, United Kingdom
Date:Wednesday 17 March 2021
Rating:   10

The Well-mannered War (SPOILERS)

The TARDIS thrown of course into the very distance future arrives on the planetoid of Barclow. Here two opposing armies are engaged in a war. The humans from the nearby colony of Metralubit are at 'war' with the Chelonians who also claim the planetoid. However the armies on friendly terms never engage in combat as they await the publication of a report to resolve the conflict. Meanwhile a mysterious darkness is determined to turn this 'well-mannered' war into something much more discourteous.

It's with much sadness that I reach the 33rd and final book in the Missing Adventures. There has been highs and lows, thankfully far more highs. Well-mannered war certainly finishes the series on a high. Gareth Roberts is a master at writing season 17 style stories, this being his 3rd new adventure featuring this TARDIS team. He perfectly recreates all the TARDIS crew and captures the humour of the era perfectly. Lovely little touches like the Tea Lady. I love the Chelonians and it's great to have them back for a final story in the virgin range.

When the book starts off and you assume it's going to be about keeping the war going for political gain and the politics are probably more relevant today than 24 years ago when the book was written, a couple of examples:

'A predicted election result after a vigorous and costly programme of disinformation, scandal mongering and general besmirching of theOpposition.' She smiled again. 'A totally negative campaign.'

'He saw Rabley's entire career compressed
into a few seconds. Rallies, extremist meetings, his youth as a long- haired dissenter, his membership of the Rebel Labourers' Party. All of this was set
to a threatening, rumbling piece of music. And then six words appeared, one after the other, outlined in throbbing red, each one accompanied by a thunderclap. DO YOU TRUST THIS EVIL MAN?
Excellent, Liris,' said Harmock, rubbing his hands together. 'It says absolutely nothing about me or my policies. You've done very well. Have it
released immediately'

The book quickly moves away from politics and introduces a new enemy. The flies make for a grotesque villian, possessing dead rotting bodies and animating a truly horrifying talking decapitated head. The flies really worked as a monster and totally play on my own fears of being caught in a swarm. The story twists and turns and you kept guessing as to who the real enemy is. The final reveal of who is behind everything I certainty wasn't expecting and makes for a marvelous final twist (that I won't reveal here).

Well-Mannered War is Gareth Roberts at his best, proving him to be a fantastic writer of Doctor Who. This is a definite must read in the MAs. Copies are quite hard to come by (and expensive) so If you can't get a physical copy pdfs are available. What a way to to finish a series, leave them on a cliffhanger wanting more. Fantastic stuff 10 /10.



Decent Historical

What:Resistance (The Companion Chronicles audiobooks)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Monday 8 March 2021
Rating:   7

This addition to the Companion Chronicles is a bit different in that the companion is not telling the story to anyone in particular, but simply telling the story. Actually, telling a little more than half, since another character tells parts of his side of the story. The story is set in Vichy France as the tide of the war is turning against the Nazis. Doctor 2, Polly, Ben, and Jamie get separated, and Polly and the Doctor get caught up in the resistance, while trying to reunite with the lost companions. Steve Lyons does his usual excellent job of portraying characters with conflicted loyalties. It's an entertaining story. I think a full dramatization would have better served it.



Strange Mix

What:The Happiness Patrol (Target novelisations)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Monday 8 March 2021
Rating:   4

The Happiness Patrol is a bit of a misfire. I think the writer, Graeme Curry, never quite decided what he wanted it to be. Was it to be a satire of Thatcherite politics? There's a bit of that. Is it to be a gloomy dystopia? There's a bit of that. Is it to be a version of The Avengers in outer space? There's a bit of that. The mix just does not blend well. I got the feeling when watching the original on TV that much of the script was cut to make it a three-part story. Curry's novelization of his script reinforces that suspicion, with several additional scenes that make sense of how characters get from here to there. Also, I understand that the TV version of the Kandy Man was not fully in keeping with Curry's vision of the character, which he keeps in this novel and is far better than the one that ended up on the TV. Still, the major flaws of the story remain intact in this novelization.



Excellent follow-up to Web of Fear

What:Fear of Light: (Miscellaneous original novels)
By:Alex Pass, Hastings, United Kingdom
Date:Monday 15 February 2021
Rating:   9

This has a slightly adult tone more akin to the 1990s New Adventures novels but I personally felt that this worked really well, especially given the Lovecraftian nature of the "formless, shapeless" adversary that is the Great Intelligence. This slotted in nicely following a recent rewatch of the original Web of Fear TV story and the returning characters from that serial were captured perfectly on the page.



One of the Better Novelizations

What:Remembrance of the Daleks (Target novelisations)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Sunday 14 February 2021
Rating:   7

Ben Aaronovitch took the time to make his adaptation of his first Doctor Who script into a real novel. It has descriptions, interior monologue, additional information, all of which makes this one a very enjoyable read. Aaronovitch took the WWII connections that Terry Nation worked up with the Daleks, and went better than Nation by getting to the heart of the issue rather than staying on superficial similarities. Aaronovitch takes on racism, the concept of racial purity, the resentments of working class men that leads them to embrace racism, and weaves them together quite well. Thus, while we have parallel stories - the Dalek race war and the Mike Smith and Ratcliffe work for the "Association" to bring fascism back to British politics and Ace's memories of her Pakistani friend whose house is burnt down by racists - the stories are parallel in theme rather than parallel in plot. To enhance the theme, he very firmly establishes Rachel Jensen as Jewish and explores a bit of her and Ian Gilmore's memories of World War II. This is also the story that introduces us to Doctor VIII the schemer, the one with complicated plans in motion and personal secrets. While the novel has many strengths, there are few little problem areas. It is hard to keep track of the two Dalek factions. I was never convinced by the idea of a girl who can shoot blue lightning from her hands. There are even larger hints that The Doctor was around at the time of Rassilon and Omega than there were in the TV episode. It is an idea I do not like. The Doctor is clearly established as from a much later time. Ultimately, though, this is a novelization well worth reading.



One of the Better Novelizations

What:Remembrance of the Daleks (50th Anniversary Collection novel reprints)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Sunday 14 February 2021
Rating:   7

Ben Aaronovitch took the time to make his adaptation of his first Doctor Who script into a real novel. It has descriptions, interior monologue, additional information, all of which makes this one a very enjoyable read. Aaronovitch took the WWII connections that Terry Nation worked up with the Daleks, and went better than Nation by getting to the heart of the issue rather than staying on superficial similarities. Aaronovitch takes on racism, the concept of racial purity, the resentments of working class men that leads them to embrace racism, and weaves them together quite well. Thus, while we have parallel stories - the Dalek race war and the Mike Smith and Ratcliffe work for the "Association" to bring fascism back to British politics and Ace's memories of her Pakistani friend whose house is burnt down by racists - the stories are parallel in theme rather than parallel in plot. To enhance the theme, he very firmly establishes Rachel Jensen as Jewish and explores a bit of her and Ian Gilmore's memories of World War II. This is also the story that introduces us to Doctor VIII the schemer, the one with complicated plans in motion and personal secrets. While the novel has many strengths, there are few little problem areas. It is hard to keep track of the two Dalek factions. I was never convinced by the idea of a girl who can shoot blue lightning from her hands. There are even larger hints that The Doctor was around at the time of Rassilon and Omega than there were in the TV episode. It is an idea I do not like. The Doctor is clearly established as from a much later time. Ultimately, though, this is a novelization well worth reading.



A Surprisingly Active Ghost

What:The Drowned World (The Companion Chronicles audiobooks)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Monday 8 February 2021
Rating:   7

Sara Kingdom is a ghost in a house on a planet in her own far future. She must justify her existence by telling stories to a representative of this planet who will put the case to the Elders for her continued existence. She tells him the story of when she "died" but was returned alive on a watery asteroid occupied by distraught miners. This is a sequel to "Home Truths." Sara is established as a "ghost" of a kind, but a fully interactive and very chatty one. Jean Marsh and Niall MacGregor trade roles as narrator, and this one is more like a conversation than other Companion Chronicles, which come across primarily as monologues.



A funny fing 'appened at Dafodda's Do

What:Professor Howe and the Dad Dilemma (Professor Howe books)
By:Simon Bucher-Jones, Shanklin, United Kingdom
Date:Thursday 4 February 2021
Rating:   8

A cracking catalyst of cackling, in which missing marbles, various spinners, buses (well a bus, well actually you'll see) that won't quit combine to form a problematic puzzle for the perpetual poser that is the 9th Professor Howe (of the Northern vowels) and Pertunia (of the Bow, bowels).
An excellent addition to the Professor Howe range and a funny and alliterative. Can the day and the wedding be saved and Petunia's Pa saved from forthcoming fatalitiness. (Spoiler, yes!) Will the oddities added by other hands in the pressured production of The Dad Dilemna, sink the splendid spelling (and wording) of Lisa Hamlin Good (Spoiler, no!).



Entertaining But Full of Holes

What:Dragonfire (Target novelisations)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Sunday 31 January 2021
Rating:   6

The concluding story of Season 24 was probably, in retrospect, the best of the four, mostly because it is the least silly or camp. It still has significant flaws. The story, such as it is, involves The Doctor taking Mel to Iceworld, a trading center for different types from across the Twelve Galaxies. There, they meet Sabalom Glitz again, who has gotten into some trouble with the boss of Iceworld, the mysterious cold, hard Kane. It turns out that Kane has ambitions that run far beyond just managing an unusual space mall, and has tricked Glitz into getting Kane what he wants to spread terror across the galaxy. There are other wrinkles in the plot that one need not go into here. The main additional consideration is the meeting of the soon to be new companion - Ace. The story is far more complicated than the meager space of three episodes or 120 pages could provide. Too much background is left out; thus, the plot holes. Just as a for instance, what in the Twelve Galaxies is a criminal mastermind who has waited around for three thousand years doing running a space mall? How did he get to be in charge of a space mall? Why, if he wanted to leave, did he not just hop on the nearest freighter with his cold storage equipment? If the dragon is Kane's jailer, how come it is locked up in the lower levels, and why has it taken Kane three thousand years to come up with even the one half-baked plan he uses in this story to get to it? On and on it goes. Ian Briggs, writer of both screenplay and novel, has introduced some structuring touches so the story does not totally fly apart. The best of these is the use of three females at different stages of life - Belasz, Ace, and Stellar - and the way Kane manipulates their imaginative lives. In writing the novel, Briggs has added many novelistic touches using narrative description to give flesh out minor characters. It is a pleasant and quick read as long as one does not think too hard about it.



Worst of Season 24

What:Delta and the Bannermen (Target novelisations)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Monday 25 January 2021
Rating:   1

With John Nathan-Turner's directive to Andrew Cartmel to find writers who had no connection to Eric Saward, there was a scramble to find anyone who could theoretically write for Doctor Who. All three of McCoy's seasons used writers new to Who, but while things settled down a bit in the latter two seasons, season 24 was pretty much a disaster, and none were more disastrous than Malcolm Kohll's only script for Doctor Who, "Delta and the Bannermen." Kohll's novelization of his script is highly faithful to the script as shot, with just some additional coda material. To go through all the plot holes, preposterous coincidences, and misfired silliness of this story would take more space and time than it deserves. Really, not much more can be said about it than that.



Interesting Concepts

What:Caerdroia (Big Finish: The Monthly Adventures)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Sunday 24 January 2021
Rating:   7

Caerdroia is the first step of bringing The Doctor in the Divergent Universe to a close. We get The Doctor's first direct confrontation with the Kro'ka, and return to some of the themes and plot points from earlier episodes. The Doctor manages to trick the Kro'ka into allowing him access to Caerdroia, a castle-maze that is supposedly home base of The Divergents. The Doctor gets split into three personalities and they, plus companions, try to track down the presence of Time in this world and The Divergents themselves. This is another puzzle box story that the Gary Russell - Alan Barnes Big Finish were so fond of, so has the old tricks of things out of place, illusions, aimlessly going round and round, images pulled from characters' minds made real, and so on. Fortunately, it is only half the length of Zagreus; otherwise, this endlessly getting nowhere would become quite a drag. It is interesting and entertaining in parts, but never quite comes together.



Good Setup, Mediocre Ending

What:Paradise Towers (Target novelisations)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Thursday 14 January 2021
Rating:   6

Stephen Wyatt's two "Doctor Who" adventures both have the same problem. The premise is quite intriguing and the mystery behind what is happening keeps the story going. The answer to the mystery, though, is rather silly, and the ending slapdash. This in a nutshell is "Paradise Towers." The Doctor and Mel are trying to find a nice, relaxing pool, so go to the architectural marvel called Paradise Towers. When they arrive, however, the Towers are dirty and half-abandoned, occupied by gangs of teenage girls, old women "residents," some of whom practice cannibalism, and inept, rule-bound Caretakers. Something is killing people one by one, and that something might just be the dark secret kept in the basement. Wyatt's novelization keeps most of the original dialogue and follows the original plot precisely. Wyatt's novelistic touches make it a pleasant read, giving the novel the feeling of a story rather than just a cleaned-up version of the script.



Decent Historical

What:The Transit of Venus (The Companion Chronicles audiobooks)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Monday 11 January 2021
Rating:   7

This story would have fit well into Doctor Who 1964. It is a historical, taking place during Cook's voyage through the South Pacific. William Russell does very well telling the tale, and his impression of Hartnell's Doctor is spot on. The story won't knock your socks off, but it will give you that little nostalgic tingle.



Would Have Been Better If Longer

What:Prisoner of the Sun (Eighth Doctor Audio Adventures)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Sunday 3 January 2021
Rating:   7

"Prisoner of the Sun" is an interesting exercise of The Doctor being The Doctor. In this story, The Doctor is a willing prisoner of a kind, so he can do what is necessary to protect a planetary system. Meanwhile, political forces behind the scenes are cooking up other ideas. It is good enough as it goes, but because of the 2-part limitation, much of the backstory is given in exposition dialogue. It would have been better to have this all work and unfold through dramatic action.



Typically Childish

What:Time and the Rani (Target novelisations)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Friday 1 January 2021
Rating:   3

Pip and Jane Baker clearly saw "Doctor Who" as a show for children, young children especially. "Time and the Rani," happily their last script for the show, amply proves this point. The novelization is in the Terrance Dicks mold of novelizations, basically the script with almost all the dialogue as aired on TV plus a few bits of narrative commentary to make it read like a story. The plot is rather lame. The Rani hijacks The Doctor's TARDIS from a distance (how did she know he was there?) to use The Doctor to fix her equipment so she can complete her grand scheme of biologically reprogramming the universe. It all plays out on the simplest good vs. evil level. The Bakers never miss an opportunity to praise their evil Time Lord creation and manage to take a swipe at The Master one more time (see their prior Rani + Master story "The Mark of the Rani" for multiple examples of "The Rani is brilliant, The Master is an idiot" remarks), just to say again, "See, our evil Time Lord is better." This novelization fixes none of the major defects of the original script.



Return of a Classic Villain?

What:Wave of Destruction (Fourth Doctor Audio Adventures)
By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Monday 14 December 2020
Rating:   7

"Wave of Destruction" surprisingly does not make many waves. It is by-the-numbers Doctor Who. Doctor 4, Romana 2, and K-9 (I guess that's 15-love for the good guys) thwart another invasion of Earth, this time in the mid 1960s. There are some funny bits with pirate radio. The villains for this are a race that made one appearance in a less than beloved Doctor 4 serial from TV. In the "making of" bonus tracks, author Justin Richards mentions an original idea he had for the story that, frankly, probably would have been more interesting than what we ended up with.



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