Felicity Smoak, My Heroine

And the title of my blog comes from this scene in the CW’s Arrow.  No copyright infringement intended.

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Book Review – Doctor Who: The Magician’s Oath

  • Title: The Magician’s Oath
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Scott Handcock
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Capt. Mike Yates, Third Doctor, the Brigadier, Jo Grant, UNIT
  • Cast: Richard Franklin (Mike), Michael Chance (Diamond Jack (guest))
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/13/2017

The Magician’s Oath is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line, told by Capt. Mike Yates (Richard Franklin), though it’s set fairly early in the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) era, probably his second season. The framing sequence has Capt. Yates showing up at UNIT to “make a statement”, this being his story.

During the Summer, in London, a series of strange weather events occurs. At first, these strange occurrences are amusing, but when a flash freeze hits half of Hyde Park and kills every one there, UNIT becomes involved, including Mike, Jo, the Brigadier, and the Doctor. The Doctor also detects some strange energy readings, which he thinks are more worth investigating than the weather.

Mike and Jo, despite being warned off, decide to investigate anyway. A witness comes forward, the only person to survive what happened in Hyde Park, and she gives the cryptic clue of “Diamond Jack”. following the weather reports, Jo and Mike go to Trafalgar Square where a street magician named, Diamond Jack, is performing. Jo is dragged into his act and disappears. When Mike confronts him, weird stuff happens, including Diamond Jack floating in the air.

Capt. Yates finds Diamond Jack’s house. While outside, Mike is warned off confronting Diamond Jack by the Doctor and the Brigadier, but he ignores the warnings to rescue Jo. He locates Jo inside, who can’t believe she’s only been gone a few hours – she thinks it was days. The house itself is strangely empty with no photos or personal touches. Before Jo and Mike can escape, they are confronted by Diamond Jack.

The Brigadier, the Doctor, and UNIT arrive. The Doctor had found Jack’s spaceship. At this point things get a little weird. The Doctor uses a device he found at the spaceship, a red cylinder, which seems to work in the reverse of the zap device from “Men in Black” – and restores Jack’s memories. But Jack is actually an alien prisoner – and a prisoner in three types, a “human” Jack who’s suffering from short-term memory loss until the Doctor reverses it, the person’s memories, stored in the cylinder, which the Doctor restores, and the physical body – which has only animal instincts. The Doctor, Jo, and UNIT go to the spaceship, where they manage to release the animal creature.

Meanwhile Jack manages to kidnap Jo, again, and take her to Tower Bridge. Mike and the Doctor race to rescue Jo before the human Jack and his animal counterpart meet. Mike does rescue Jo, but not before Jack attacks her mind again, causing her to be placed in a coma. UNIT manages to take down Jack and the monster.

In the end, Mike confesses it took Jo a week to recover from her coma, and she lost her memory of the incident. Mike also confesses that he truly cared for Jo, even loved her, but she had only feelings of friendship for him.

The first half of this story works pretty well – the flash freeze is an intriguing mystery. But the second half, with the mysterious three-part alien, not to mention some alien civilization deciding Earth would make a great prison planet, works considerably less well. It’s like part 1 and part 2 are almost different stories, and they don’t gel being forced together. Mike’s sudden crush on Jo also seems misplaced, though the ending interview remarks that Mike was supposed to be a love interest for Jo. (Note: Mike was on the show before Jo Grant, as he was introduced with UNIT in Pertwee’s first story, whereas Jo was the Third Doctor’s second companion.) Even the flash freeze seems a little weird as “freezing to death” doesn’t work that way (it’s usually a process that takes a lot of time, and in cases where people have fallen into freezing water, for example, and are pulled out immediately – even if they seem “dead” they recover.) The way the situation in Hyde Park is described by Mike it’s more like the entire park was flooded with liquid nitrogen. I was left wondering, “huh?” Not to mention thinking the author had never actually experienced cold weather or frostbite.

But this is a Companion Chronicles story told from the point of view of an unusual companion, Capt. Mike Yates. As far as I know it’s the only story told from his point of view in all of the tie-ins for Doctor Who. Yes, there are various UNIT stories, but they are often more team stories than the point of view of a single member of UNIT. Though as I said, I don’t remember even hints of a Mike-Jo romance, this is from Mike’s pov, and from what I remember of his character, he could quite easily have a thing for a woman who has no interest in him.

Overall, I’d give this 3.5 stars. It’s not horrible, but it’s not one of the best Companion Chronicles either.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com

Click here to order The Magician’s Oath on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Arrow Season 5 Review

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, Echo Kellum, John Barrowman, David Nykl, Paul Blackthorne, Josh Segarra
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

When I watched Season 5 of Arrow last year, for much of the season I really didn’t like what I saw. The flashbacks, guest-starring David Nykl (Stargate: Atlantis) were much more interesting than anything going on in the present-day for Oliver and company. In the present-day, the series opens with Oliver now mayor of Star City, Thea as his chief-of-staff, Felicity still working as “Overwatch” to help Oliver as the Green Arrow, and after a bit of wrangling, Quentin Lance as deputy mayor. Felicity pressures Oliver to form a new team of recruits, especially after a number of new vigilantes start showing up in Star City. Curtis, now “Mr. Terrific”, helps Felicity as tech support for the Green Arrow and has a comics-accurate, but looks somewhat silly on camera, costume that he wears in the field. Oliver initially resists Felicity’s plan to form  a new team, but eventually he agrees. Wild Dog, Evelyn (using the name, “Artemis”), and Ragman join the team.

This new team is part of the problem for Season 5 of Arrow. It does not work – at all. Wild Dog (Rene Rameriez) is a character I didn’t like from the beginning. He’s rude, arrogant, refuses to follow orders, isn’t a cool team-mate, and he’s too violent. Towards the end of the season they try to make him more sympathetic by adding a sub-plot involving his daughter, but it plays like a sympathy-ploy rather than anything organic. And in the comics, at least in Rebirth, Wild Dog is a villain – a mercenary who’s against the Green Arrow and Black Canary.

Evelyn Sharp, very quickly becomes a double agent working for the season’s Big Bad, Prometheus. However, her betrayal of the team is very unrealistic, because her reasons make no sense. Evelyn, and the rest of the team, discover that during his first year as the Hood – Oliver was killing the people named as enemies of Star City in his father’s book. Disgusted that Oliver would kill people, Evelyn throws in with Prometheus – who’s killing people. And not only is Prometheus a serial killer (initially known as the “throwing star killer”) but he kills innocent people simply because their names can spell out a message to the Green Arrow. Does this make sense? No. Although in the last few episodes of the season, Evelyn proves to be just as much of a psychopath as Prometheus.

Ragman is the only new character that, as a superhero and new member of Oliver’s team, I actually liked – and he disappears in episode 12, “Bratva”, and we never see him again. Ragman’s purpose, when all is said and done, seems to be simply to help Felicity work through her guilt for dropping a nuke on Havenrock (to spare Monument Point). But Rory was a far more interesting character than Rene, whom they kept.

The season also opens with Felicity in an intimate relationship with Billy Malone, a SCPD detective and member of the Anti-Crime Unit elite force. He’s fridged. Many commentators on comics have complained that the girlfriends/wives of superheroes only exist to be kidnapped, tortured, and even killed – and condemn the idea as making women victims. Yet, this is precisely what happens to Billy – he’s staged to look like Prometheus, by Prometheus, including a speaker that the actual Prometheus uses to taunt Oliver. So Oliver, who had vowed four years ago (at the end of season 1) to never kill, kills him – when a arrow the the leg would have been more effective. Felicity accepts this almost immediately.

At the end of the previous season, John Diggle had left the team to re-join the army. This doesn’t go well. He’s in Afghanistan (or wherever) and his general steals a WMD, kills Diggle’s squad, and blames Diggle. Diggle, still overcome with guilt at killing his brother, Andy, last season, decides to just roll with it. He’ll accept the punishment for a crime he didn’t do as retribution for a crime he did. Lyla gets Oliver and his team to break him out. It works, but John is mad. Later in the season, John is baited and captured again. This time, Oliver gets Star City’s DA, Adrian Chase, to clear John. This works, and with information that Felicity gets from the Hacker group, Helix, they have evidence to put the general away. John re-joins team Arrow.

Meanwhile, as mayor, Oliver keeps having to weather political crisises – often made worse by Susan Williams, a reporter. Oliver starts dating the reporter, convincing her to give him a chance. Thea proves to be more effective at running the mayor’s office than Oliver, though she’s willing to play dirty pool to get what her brother needs and to protect him. Oliver complains about her ruthless tactics, especially when she makes it look like Susan plagiarized her stories, which discredits the reporter, gets her fired, and means she can’t get a new job as a reporter. This, however, is rather quickly reversed.

Meanwhile, the flashbacks tell, in chronological order, the story of Oliver’s time in Russia – and how he became a captain in the Bratva (the Russian mafia). He and Anatoly Knyazev (David Nykl) become good friends. I liked the flashback story more than the present-day one for much of the season. Oliver, as a result of his promise to Katiana from last season, is determined to kill Konstantin Kovar. Since Kovar is corrupt, and would leave a power vacuum, Anatoly agrees with this – but he’s also a lot more realistic about how things work in Russia and in the Bratva. When Oliver undercovers Kovar’s plot to stage a new Russian coup, killing government officials, generals, and Bratva captains alike, Anatoly, Oliver, and Anatoly’s faction in the Bratva have to stop him. They succeed, barely, and not without losses. And Kovar proves to be, like Prometheus, a villain who is very hard to kill.

Prometheus proves to be Adrian Chase, Star City’s DA, who manages to capture Oliver and torture him. Adrian, also, by now, is a proven to be quite the psychopath. And he’s creepy, manipulative, and smart. He’s also a chess master who is not only always ten steps ahead of Oliver, but manipulates him to do exactly what he wants. Oliver and company even realize that Chase is manipulating Oliver – but that doesn’t help him to not get manipulated. Chase finally kidnaps Oliver, and tortures him, getting Oliver to admit “he likes killing people”. There’s a major, major, flaw in this. First, Oliver doesn’t like killing, even in the first season, where he does a lot of it. Second, in Season 2, Oliver vows, on Tommy’s grave to never kill again. When he does – it’s a big deal. Third, Adrian’s insistence that Oliver likes to kill seems to be a pure case of projection and no one picks up on it. Adrian, after all had killed a single mother because her name would help him spell out a message to the Green Arrow. Once he’s in protective custody of the Federal marshals, and they get the message that he’s the serial killer not an innocent victim and witness – he kills both men, violently, and grins. Adrian clearly likes killing. Yet, Adrian convinces Oliver, by use of torture, that it’s Oliver who enjoys killing. After this admission, Oliver is broken. Stockholm Syndrome, anyone?

Oliver attempts to disband his team and calls in Anatoly and the Bratva to do his dirty work and get rid of Chase. Oliver will pay Anatoly in diabetes drugs. However, Rene (Wild Dog) and Dinah (the new Black Canary) overhear a conversation between Anatoly and other Bratva members that leads them to believe that Anatoly is taking the drugs to make and sell an extremely addictive street drug. Again, this doesn’t seem to make sense, given what we’ve seen about Anatoly in the season’s worth of flashbacks. Oliver continues to tell his team to stand down and let the Bratva do their thing. Oliver’s team doesn’t listen. In the end, this breaks the deal between Oliver and Anatoly and Chase escapes.

This was disappointing to say the least, and a horrible way to end the arc of nothing but friendship between Oliver and Anatoly. For once, I wanted to see Oliver actually thinking and telling off his team, not simply for disobeying orders, which they did, but for messing up. It would have been cool if Ollie had pointed out they have diabetics in Russia too. Or, at least, that Anatoly was playing a game with other Bratva captains, and he was going to use the drugs to help his people, but he couldn’t let the captains who merely wanted money know that. Or that simply, as usual, Rene totally misunderstood what he overheard in the first place. But no, Rene even claims the drug manufacturer is “barely holding on” and “can’t afford to lose stock”. Yeah, sure. In what universe?

So with the deal with the Bratva now completely broken, Chase is in the wind. Oliver does manage to send him to prison. Thea and Felicity throw Oliver a surprise birthday party, but Rene and Dinah are missing. Oliver quickly learns that Chase has had them kidnapped. Oliver swears he won’t free Chase – then Chase shows him a picture of his son, William, also kidnapped. At that point, Oliver, as Green Arrow, helps Chase escape during the prisoner transfer. This gets Oliver absolutely nothing.

In the two-part finale, pretty much everyone is kidnapped by Chase.  Oliver realizes Chase has taken his team to Lian Yu. Malcolm Merlyn arrives because he cares deeply for his daughter, Thea, and convinces Oliver he’s there to help.  Oliver also calls in Nyssa al’Ghul because he suspects Talia is helping Chase. They arrive in Lian Yu and Oliver breaks into the Argus prison. He frees Slade Wilson (Deathstroke) and Digger Harkness (Captain Boomerang). Deathstroke proves to be an actual ally, though at one point he pretends to betray Oliver. Digger Harkness, not so much, first chance he gets he falls in with Chase.

Oliver quickly finds and frees Felicity, Curtis, Thea, Captain Lance, John, and Samantha, but is still looking for William. He has Malcolm stay with the first group to get them to a plane to escape the island. Deathstroke’s fake betrayal gets Oliver to Dinah and Rene where he gives her the sonic scream focus device (that also cancels the sonic dampeners in her cell) and she gets them free. Oliver asks her to find the others and escape.

It turns into Oliver and his team verses Chase and his girl groupies (Talia, Evelyn, Black Siren (aka Evil Laurel)) as Oliver tries to find Samantha and William. Meanwhile, Malcolm is in charge of getting everyone off the island. The plane they get to is sabotaged – so they must find another way off the island. Since the plane is gone, Malcolm leads the group to the other side of the island to escape. As they are tramping through the forest, Thea steps on a landmine. Malcolm sacrifices himself to save her. Though his death is off stage and very suspiciously so – he may have survived. Felicity and Curtis also discover another problem – the entire island has been wired with bombs – it will blow. They actually tell Oliver this – so they know the danger before he does.

Oliver follows Chase to a boat and uses a very convenient dock, that Chase pilots the boat conveniently close to, to run and jump on the boat. Also, extremely conveniently, William – the only one that Oliver hasn’t found so far, is being held on the boat. Chase holds a gun to William’s head, threatening Oliver that “it’s your son or everyone else you care about”. Oliver, finally, shows some sense – and shoots Chase in the leg with an arrow, freeing William without killing Chase. Unfortunately, Chase cares more about winning than living. He kills himself setting off the deadman switch and blowing up Lian Yu. Oliver is safe with William, on a boat, but doesn’t know if all his friends and relations have survived or died on the island.

The finale also is intercut with flashbacks to Anatoly taking Oliver to the island. He provides Ollie with a costume, including a wig of long, ash blond hair. Unfortunately, Kovar, an unkillable villain, shows up and fights Oliver before he can get into the costume and light the signal fire. Kovar shoots up Oliver with a torture drug, then locks him in a cell with a gun with one bullet. Oliver, of course, uses the gun to shoot out the lock and escape. He gets in his costume, lights the fire, is rescued by a Chinese fishing boat, and calls his mother. The intercutting between the present and the flashbacks, as the flashbacks themselves intercut between Oliver facing off against Kovar one last time and winning, and what we saw in the pilot way back in season 1 as Oliver gets rescued are brilliant! And destroying Lian Yu, now that it has been Five Years, symbolically “kills off” the flashbacks. It marks an end and a beginning. We now know, exactly, what Oliver did for his “five years in hell”.

Overall, all the way through Season 5, I just wasn’t impressed. I didn’t like the new team, other than Curtis, who was introduced last season. And characters who could have been cool – Evelyn and Rory (Ragman) left. Evelyn joined Adrian Chase – and Rory simply left. Evelyn’s betrayal makes no sense at all. She, along with the rest of the new team, discovers Oliver killed during his first year as a vigilante – so she betrays him to a serial killer? Uh huh – and how does this make sense? I mean, they could have at least given lip service to a reason – like someone she cared for was collateral damage in Oliver’s Green Arrow campaign – something. But no. Evelyn betrays Oliver to a serial killer because Oliver’s a killer. OK, then.

Second, this season includes, “Spectre of the Gun”, an episode that has the same title as one of the worst original classic Star Trek episodes (not in the top three but definitely top five worst). It’s not a good omen. The episode is about gun control/”gun rights” with Rene very vocally pro-gun. Curtis is more logically and intelligently pro gun control – not that he EVER gets to say anything. The minute Curtis ever tries to point out the facts, or quote statistics, he’s interrupted by Rene or even Felicity. And Felicity, a woman who lost the use of her legs when she was hit by a stray bullet, keeps insisting she has no opinion and doesn’t want to hear the arguments. Meanwhile, Rene comes up with right-wing sayings like “guns make you safe” – and no one challenges him. Oliver attempts to pass a sensible gun registry law in Star City, part of his campaign as mayor, and a female city official also goes on with right-wing propaganda which is presented as fact rather than incorrect and not backed by facts – such as a registry “limits gun owners rights” – no it doesn’t, or that the registry is “government interference” – no, it isn’t. In the end – instead of the gun registry, Oliver pushes through the “gun owners freedom act” (yep, that’s what they call it), which Oliver and Thea both insist is about “sensible gun control”. No doubt, yet another law that allows anyone, even criminals, even the insane, even people who have restraining orders against them or who have made credible threats the right to buy as many guns, assault rifles, and military weapons as they want. Oh, and Rene’s “reasons’ for being so pro-gun? He walked in on a confrontation between his wife and her drug dealer. Rene insists if he had his gun he could have saved his wife. If you watch what happens – that’s just not something he could have done. From the second he gets in the apartment – he tries to get to his gun in a safe, rather than try anything else (like, say, calling the cops). He even sends his daughter, Zoe, to her room, which he hasn’t even bothered to check when it’s obvious someone broke into the apartment, rather than to a neighbor’s or anywhere safe. Rene gets the gun – shoots the dealer, but when he falls he fires his gun – which kills Rene’s wife. If Rene wasn’t so dumb he’d realize his wife’s death was his own fault and that if he hadn’t shot the dealer in the first place she’d still be alive. But Rene can’t face that.  The episode is also a place holder episode – it has no flashbacks, and other than introducing Zoe who is in foster care, doesn’t add anything to the season.

Chase/Prometheus is a psychopath – he enjoys killing, he’s obsessed with destroying Oliver, who he blames for his father’s death, and even tries to destroy the reputation of Oliver and Thea’s father, Robert Queen. But for most of the season, the flashbacks are much more interesting and  much better story than the present-day story. Oliver takes on the actions of his team as being his own fault, especially when they make mistakes or disobey orders. He’s still, though trying to lead, and at times, taking responsibility as a leader, like he should, but also refusing to back people. Felicity ends up joining Helix, a hacker group, and when re-watching the season, it’s clear they will betray her. Yet, when Felicity does take a risk, Oliver doesn’t back her – and even uses the team to help Argus against Helix (it doesn’t go well). Oliver trusts Anatoly in Russia, invites him to Star City, only to not stop his team and have Anatoly believe he betrayed him. Chase manipulates Oliver throughout the entire season, and Oliver lets him. It’s a mess. Oliver also is back to not really trusting his team or working with them to meet his goals.

But, having said that – the two-part finale was really good. I’d missed it when it originally aired, due to poor weather conditions blocking Dish Network, but when I saw it – I liked it. Malcolm actually did a better job of leading Oliver’s team than Oliver does at times – though all they had to do was get off the island. Malcolm sacrificing himself to save Thea showed how much he really loves her. Even Thea was strongly affected by this. Talia and Nyssa get to fight each other – and it’s not the stereotypical cat fight. Chase, in the end, proves to be the killer that doesn’t want to be simply caught, but to die – though Oliver basically “wins” because Chase kills himself. Also, Oliver does rescue William. And I loved the symbolism of blowing-up Lian Yu.

For more on Arrow, please read:

My Arrow Season 4 Review

My Arrow Season 3 Review

Book Review – Doctor Who: Breakfast at Tyranny’s

  • Title: Breakfast at Tyranny’s
  • Author: Nick Abadzis
  • Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Valeria Favoccia, Arianna Florean, Hi-Fi, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line:  Tenth Doctor (Year 3 – “Facing Fate”, Vol. 1)
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Gabby Gonzales, Cindy Wu, Anubis (“Noobis”)
  • Collection Date: 2017
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/08/2017

I absolutely love the title of this volume of Titan Comics Doctor Who original graphic novel adventure for the Tenth Doctor (as played on the BBC series by David Tennant), Breakfast at Tyranny’s, however the title really has little to do with the actual stories. Still, it’s a great title. This is the opening volume of the Third Year of Titan’s Tenth Doctor series, yet they have changed the numbering so rather than having it officially as Volume 8 as it should be, it’s “Facing Fate vol. 1”, which, I’m guessing will be the theme for Year Three.

The story opens with the main characters back in their old lives. Gabby is working as a waitress at her family’s restaurant, where she experiences the daily abuse of being in customer service. Cindy and her “dog”, Anubis, are also back home where Cleo starts a relationship with her that revolves around a lot of shopping. And the Doctor wakes homeless and alone on the streets, with no companions and no TARDIS. It’s Cindy who discovers the mysterious “department store” is the center of this cruel illusion and wakes up. With mental encouragement from Anubis (“Noobis”) she wakes in an Axon-like spaceship and breaks free of the loop where she is being held captive and drained of her energy. She returns to the illusion to break out Cindy, Anubis, and the Doctor. Although they break free of the illusion then escape the strange, organic spaceship, when they return to Anubis’s home, they learn from the Seekers they were only gone a few moments. The organic spaceship, which looks like a Red Tardis escapes, grabbing Cindy with a Lovecraftian tentacle.

The Doctor, Gabby, and Cindy follow in the Doctor’s TARDIS, and after an accidental Time Ram they land in Ancient China. But the alien Red Jade General landed months earlier. Arriving after a devastating flood, he offers to build a wall to prevent the river from causing such destruction again. Unfortunately for the people, they do not realize the high cost of trusting this General. When the Doctor and company arrive, a dam has been built to hold back the river, the town is behind the wall but isolated from the rest of the country, meaning friends and relatives from the next town over can’t see their friends and family any more. The dam is also guarded by personifications of elemental forces.

The Doctor and his companions meet Master Wu and his son. Much of the second story is framed as a story that Master Wu Wei tells his son. Master Wu recognizes the Doctor, and before long they have organized the families of the people in the village to attack the Guardians. Anubis assists Gabby who uses her ability to create block transfer butterflies to enter the isolated town. The villagers, with the Doctor’s help, defeat the Guardians. Gabby finds a building and searches for Cindy. She finds hundreds of Cindy Clones, whom she stirs up in rebellion. Eventually she finds “the original”, “mother”, Cindy.

By this time, the Doctor also gets in after Gabby opens the door, and the Doctor and company confront the Red Jade General. It turns out that the Red Jade General is from a Nestene Conscience-type race, who can manipulate organic matter rather than plastic. Unfortunately, it used the residents of the town as raw material to create the Cindy clones. The Doctor is able to defeat the Red Jade General and destroy it’s fake TARDIS, then he and his companions leave in the TARDIS.

I really enjoyed this graphic novel volume, especially the second story set in Ancient China. The artwork for both stories was wonderful, especially the washed, scroll-like pages for the second story. I highly recommend “Breakfast at Tyranny’s”, and will look forward to future volumes.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Resistance

  • Title: Resistance
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Steve Lyons
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Polly, The Pilot, Second Doctor, Ben, Jaime
  • Cast: Anneke Wills (Polly), John Sackville (the Pilot)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/08/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Doctor Who: Resistance is a release in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line, and features Anneke Wills as Polly telling this purely historical Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) story. The TARDIS lands and Ben, Polly, Jaime, and the Doctor step outside, only to discover that the TARDIS has landed on railroad tracks and it’s night. The TARDIS crew tries to shift the TARDIS off the tracks, to no avail. When Jaime remarks that they should just get back inside and leave, the Doctor answers – “And never know where we were? That won’t do.” Soldiers attack and the crew are split up, Jaime getting shot and captured. The Doctor sends Ben to find and rescue Jaime. They are to meet in the woods.

Needless to say, that doesn’t work as Ben and Jaime don’t show up. The Doctor and Polly run off, knowing now where they are – Nazi-occupied France, and the soldiers who were after them are the French Gestapo. The Doctor and Polly end-up in a barn near a farmhouse. Luckily for them the young woman who lives on the farm with her parents, Jacqueline, is a member of the Resistance. She’s already hiding a stranded British Tommy (or “Invader”) and has made arrangements to pass him through her network of contacts to get him out of France and free.

This is exactly what they do. The Pilot, Polly, and the Doctor are passed from person to person, in a sort of French Underground Railroad to escape. Jacqueline hides them in her truck, and takes them to town, passing the free to a local tailor who is heavily involved in the Resistance. There, the Doctor wins favor by forging identity cards for everyone who needs them, so they can travel a bit more freely. Three other invaders are already waiting in the hidden room under the tailor shop. To Polly’s amazement, the Pilot that Jacqueline was hiding on her parent’s farm is Randolph Wright, Polly’s Uncle, whom she knows died in a German POW camp during the War.

The day before everyone is to leave to take a train to the Southern border of France, Jacqueline shows up again. The tailor, Claude, gives her a tongue-lashing for putting everyone in danger by showing up at the shop. But Jacqueline has terrible news – the French Gestapo were waiting at her farm and have arrested her parents. She only escaped because she was warned by a friend. Claude’s upset at the risk helping Jacqueline poses. The Doctor creates an identity card for her, which greatly reduces the risk. He takes the entire group to the train station.

There, the Doctor tells Polly they shouldn’t actually get on the train as it will take them even further away from the TARDIS, not to mention Ben and Jaime. There are a few scuffles at the station, and the Doctor is left behind (he does provide distractions so other resistors can escape) and Polly ends-up on the train. In a compartment on the train, she and the Pilot start to talk and gossip about their families. Polly realises that the Pilot isn’t her Uncle Randolph Wright as he claims – but a French Gestapo spy, responsible for their losses so far. He attacks her, she screams, Jacqueline shows up and shoots him. Thanks to a conveniently loud steam train, no one hears the shot, and the Invaders, Jacqueline, and Polly are able to hide the body. The train arrives at their stop and they leave, and meet the last link in the chain, Paul Bernard, who will show them through the mountains and over the border to freedom in Spain. However, in the mountains, they meet the Doctor again, who now has Jaime and Ben with him. Polly explains to Jacqueline she must leave with her friends, but assures Jacqueline she will be alright, since she’s almost home free so to speak. Jacqueline agrees, then tells Polly that Jacqueline is only her code name and her real name is Michelle. The Doctor, Jaime, Ben, and Polly return to the TARDIS and leave France.

The CD opens with a trailer for another Companion Chronicles story, and closes with a panel discussion about Resistance with Lisa Bowerman, Anneke Wells, and John Sackville, as well as the producer of the series.

I enjoyed this story a lot. Yes, it’s basically, go here, then here, then here, etc., like most “quest”-style stories – but it’s a fascinating time, if a bit dark. However, there could have been a sense of paranoia as no one really knows who to trust – and there is none of that. Even though Claude, especially, is concerned about spies in his midst, and he has reason to be concerned, it comes off as common sense, given the circumstances, and not unjust paranoia.

One tiny issue I had with this story was the pronunciation of Jacqueline’s name. The Pilot, and Jacqueline herself, pronounce it as “JACK-CUE-lynn”, which is correct. Polly for some completely unknown reason keeps pronouncing it as, “JACK-leen”, which is just wrong. OK, I’m not sure how it would be pronounced in French – but as it happens to be my own first name, I can tell you, “JACK-CUE-lynn” is correct. I don’t know if it was something done to indicate Polly’s background or what. (Anneke plays both Polly and Jacqueline – so she’s pronouncing the name differently depending on the character. John Sackville, as the Pilot, pronounces it correctly as, “JACK-CUE-lynn”.) I also was completely lost by Jacqueline’s important name-drop moment that her name is “Michelle”. Was that meant to mean something?

However, given the dire circumstances, there are a few light and even funny moments in the story (for example, while hiding out in a barn the Doctor starts fiddling with a tractor and hot-wires it. They are caught. They try to escape on the tractor, and Polly, narrating, remarks, “As a get away vehicle, a slow-moving tractor was, perhaps, not the wisest choice…” and given this is audio, it just brings to mind the image of the Doctor on this huge tractor, being chased by someone catching up to him without even having to run. Or Jaime’s perfectly practical suggestion at the very beginning – of why don’t they just get back in the TARDIS and leave rather than even trying to push it off the tracks.

I highly recommend Doctor Who Resistance is a brilliant, truly historical Doctor Who story.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com

Click here to order Resistance on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Doctor Who: Timewyrm: Apocalypse

  • Title: Timewyrm: Apocalypse
  • Series: Virgin Publishing New Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: Nigel Robinson
  • Characters: Seventh Doctor, Ace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/02/2017

Timewyrm: Apocalypse is the third volume of the Virgin Publishing Doctor Who New Adventures opening “Timewyrm” mini-series. The story features the Seventh Doctor and Ace. The TARDIS lands on a planet that seems to be perfect, which Ace, of course, immediately dislikes. The Doctor, however, surprisingly also dislikes the planet – finding the peace and harmony, and content people to be artificial. He and Ace decide they must figure out what’s going on after rescuing a young man who falls off a cliff, into the ocean and is quite beat-up by the rocks. Yet the next day, he’s fine without so much as a scratch or a bruise.

The main society on the planet is the Kirith, who live their days having all their needs from shelter to food taken care of by the Panjistri. The Panjistri are aliens who landed on the planet generations ago and saved the Kirith from war, destruction, and death. The Kirith can study or do whatever they like. Even leaving their city isn’t forbidden, it’s just considered a bad idea because of the dangers outside it.

The most talented of the Kirith are invited to study with the Panjistri, but instead of returning to teach in ten years, they never return. However, no one objects because as soon as a great artist, or musician, or dancer goes to the Panjistri – everyone forgets that person. This is a bit suspicious, but because of the wide-spread amnesia, it’s not something Ace and the Doctor learn about right away.

Ace convinces Raphael, the boy they had rescued, to go exploring with her outside the city. They discover in the Harbours, the embarkation point for the ships to the island of the Panjistri, a underground lab devoted to grotesque genetic experiments. They escape and meet the Unlike, the mutated survivors of the experiments. One of the Unlike reveals the food the Kirith eat every day is Soylent Green, opps, I mean, it’s made from people, specifically the left over genetic experiments and the dead of the city.

Ace, Raphael, and the Unlike return to the city. Meeting up with Miríl, a scholar, they start a revolution by cutting off the food supplies and electric power. This results in both unrest and a lot of death and destruction. But the Doctor has already left or been taken to the Harbours. The return there, and Raphael is forced to kill one of the worst genetic experiments. He’s devastated by this.

They steal a hovercraft and head to the Island to rescue the Doctor.

There they discover the Matriarch of the Panjistri is the Timewyrm. In defeating her, Raphael dies, taking over the “God Engine”, Miríl had died on the hovercraft trip to the Island. The society is broken and must discover for themselves how to survive without help, and Ace and the Doctor escape.

Timewyrm: Apocalypse is one case where everyone is actually much worse off after the Doctor and Ace interfere than they were before. Although the people of Kirith are described as a “stagnant” civilization, as they are also genetic constructs, one wonders if they are even capable of caring for themselves and creating their own civilization, now that their protectors are gone. In many ways, and not to be mean, the Kirith are like sheep or cattle – and the Doctor and Ace have just destroyed the farmers and the farm – then left, expecting the sheep (or cattle) to care for themselves. If the people of Kirith were being exploited the interference might have made sense, but these are happy, contented people. The Doctor’s argument that they need to be hungry to be alive sounds, well, like an argument made by someone’s who’s never been hungry and therefore romanticizes poverty. And there’s nothing “romantic” about being poor and starving.

The Panjistri are culling the “best of the best” to feed the Timewyrm’s GodEngine as the Doctor calls it, and the Panjistri’s genetic experiments are pretty horrible – but the novel doesn’t really portray those as being “bad”, but more of as side effects. That was disturbing.

Also, Timewyrm: Apocalypse feels very derivative, which doesn’t help.

Overall, this book was only OK. I didn’t care for it. It is one of the middle volumes of a four-book series, though, so hopefully the finale will make it worth the time spent reading it. Not really recommended, but because of it’s place in the series, it must be read, I guess.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Mahogany Murderers

  • Title: The Mahogany Murderers
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Andy Lane
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Henry Gordon Jago, Professor Henry Litefoot, Ellie the barmaid, Fourth Doctor
  • Cast: Christopher Benjamin (Jago), Trevor Baxter (Professor Litefoot), Lisa Bowerman (Ellie the barmaid)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/31/2017

Doctor Who: The Mahogany Murderers is a volume in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles and it also plays like a backdoor pilot. Professor George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago are two characters from the classic Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. However, this story takes place some time later, as the two have not only remained fast friends but solve mysteries and conundrums together.

This story begins with the two meeting up in a pub to catch each other up on their latest adventure. The two swap parts of the story with Jago constantly warning they must be careful to not put Act II before Act I as their stories overlap. Professor Litefoot, a professional pathologist who works for a local hospital and the police was finishing up his duties and cleaning the mortuary when two police officers arrive with a body in a wheelbarrow. They put the body on one of the tables then leave. But when he examines the body Litefoot finds it isn’t a dead body at all – it’s a life-sized intricate mannequin. Litefoot sends a messenger to send a telegram to Jago to ask him to investigate the area where the “body” was found.

Jago does so, describing in detail one of the worse areas of Victorian London. Jago ends-up finding a warehouse, a warehouse full of strange electric equipment.

Meanwhile at the morgue, Litefoot is continuing to investigate the “body” when a man arrives demanding he turn over the body since it belongs to him. Litefoot refuses, citing that it’s part of an on-going police investigation (which is a slight exaggeration). Later, the body itself rises from the mortuary table and walks out.

Meanwhile, Jago is investigating the warehouse, and he trips over one of the cables on the floor. He tries to plug it back in but is hit over the head. He wakes up only to be confronted by a group of wooden men. The men can speak and move – and they are all criminals. Jago is mistaken for Dr. Tulp, and recognizes one of the men as Jack Yeavil, a infamous criminal who had recently died in Newgate Prison. But as he’s learning about exactly what’s going on, the wooden man that Litefoot had examined arrives – and tells everyone this is not Dr. Tulp.

Litefoot meanwhile had followed the wooden man to the warehouse. Jago seems to be in a lot of danger – but Litefoot throws an oil lamp, starting a fire, and allowing Jago to escape. There’s a hansom cab race as Jago takes one cab to the warehouse and one of the wooden criminals takes the other. The criminal offers eternal life to him in a wooden, metal, or porcelain body. But in the end, Jago and Litefoot burn down the warehouse as well and all the wooden men are destroyed.

This was a fun story, and a bit different even for a Companion Chronicles tale. The Doctor isn’t in the story at all, though he’s mentioned at the very end. It plays like a test case or backdoor pilot and in the CD extra panel discussion the idea of starting a “Jago and Litefoot” series is batted around as an idea. That idea must have been taken seriously at Big Finish, because they have introduced a Jago and Litefoot series on audio. This is also pretty close to a full-cast audio drama. Not only does it have music and sound effects, but it has three people in the cast: Christopher Benjamin as Henry Gordon Jago, Trevor Baxter as Professor Litefoot, and Lisa Bowerman, the director, as Ellie the barmaid. So, even though much of the story is Jago and Litefoot telling each other what happened, it’s also a bit less of “telling a story” than the average Companion Chronicles story. I enjoyed it.

However, as there are a lot of Doctor Who audios available from Big Finish, and other series I’m interested in, this story wasn’t quite enough to hook me in to trying the Jago and Litefoot series. I don’t regret the purchase, it was a fun and different adventure, but I prefer the Companion Chronicles stories than feature actual Doctor Who companions and the Doctor Who ranges themselves. One can only buy so much. Still The Mahogany Murderers is recommended as something a bit different and novel.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click here to order The Mahogany Murderers on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Grantchester Season 2 Review

  • Title:  Grantchester
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Cast:  Robson Green, James Norton, Morven Christie, Tessa Peake-Jones
  • Network:  ITV
  • DVD Format:  Widescreen, Color, DVD, R1, NTSC

Grantchester is an English cozy-style mystery set in the small village of Grantchester, near Cambridge. Canon Sidney Chambers and Inspector Geordie Keating are unlikely friends and partners who work together to solve crimes and care for the people of their village, each in their own way. Season 2 opens with Geordie and his wife, Kathy, determined to help Sidney find a wife, to wit they take him on several disastrous double dates. Sidney, as a priest in the Church of England (Anglican) tradition, can marry, though it isn’t required. Sidney meets a young woman, Margaret, who works for the police, and the two start dating. However, Sidney realizes he’s still in love with Amanda.

Meanwhile, Amanda is now married to Guy, a landed aristocrat. She spends all her days in a huge mansion where she doesn’t even have housework to do, as the house is full of servants. Amanda is bored out of her mind, not satisfied with her marriage, and thinks she’s still attracted to Sidney. Sidney, for his part, knows he’s in love with her, and regrets never telling her his feelings before she married and became untouchable. By the end of the season, Amanda is pregnant as well.

The opening mystery has Sidney briefly accused of statutory rape against a 15-year-old girl. However, the only “proof” is what the girl’s father claims he read in his daughter’s diary. The diary, and the girl herself are mysteriously missing. The girl is found dead in the studio of a sleazy photographer that she was posing for to get money. The photographer is cleared of her death, however, because he’s gay and by this time it’s become obvious that the girl was also pregnant. They discover she had a male friend, Gary Bell, who knew about the pregnancy. He’s eventually accused of causing her death. He claims it was an accident, but he’s found guilty anyway and sentenced to hang. And Gary is, although technically 18, also has developmental disabilities.

This case and the fall out from it runs through the rest of the season. Geordie sees the crime of capital punishment as “justice”. Sidney sees it as a crime. Geordie thinks Gary intended to kill the girl because her death was so violent. Sidney believes Gary that it was an accident. Geordie even thinks Gary might be the father since the two were friends. Sidney believes it was someone else and that the girl went to Gary for help. And on it goes.

The next case is the only one I actually remember from Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night, there’s a mysterious death at Cambridge, and even though it’s technically outside the jurisdiction of the police and of course, Sidney, he and Geordie get involved anyway. They uncover a nest of both British and Russian spies, and ultimately have to hide the exact circumstances of the young man’s death from his foreign wife for national security reasons.

Back in Grantchester, Geordie and Sidney both testify in Gary Bell’s case, but on opposite sides. Gary is found guilty and sentenced to hang. Sidney continues to visit him at the prison, and Geordie gets increasingly frustrated with the situation. Margaret pursues Sidney, but even though he’s attracted, he’s deeply in love with Amanda. She keeps returning to Grantchester, but the two cannot be together.

Leonard meets and becomes friends with another man. This friend keeps trying to make their relationship romantic, but Leonard’s deep commitment to the Church, natural shyness, and even sense of duty to English law prevent him from accepting even a kiss. Eventually, Leonard catches his friend with another man and leaves, but is broken up about it.

By the end of the season, Mrs. McGuire is starting to date a new man – though it took her awhile to accept the idea that it was OK.

Dickens, Sidney’s black lab, is adorable and very present throughout the season.

Gary Bell is hung for his crimes, leading to a confrontation between Sidney and Geordie, but then another 15-year-old girl goes missing. And Sam, a defrocked Anglican priest was a boarder at her mother’s house. The dead girl from earlier in the season had also been close friends with Sam. The Arch Deacon offers Leonard the parish post in Grantchester if he helps oust Sidney as an embarrassment to the Church. Leonard is appalled at the suggestion. But Sidney, Leonard, and Geordie investigate – separately. Leonard discovers the Arch Deacon paid for Sam’s room and board. The Arch Deacon also new of several accusations against Sam for inappropriate actions with young girls. Leonard takes this information to the Bishop. Geordie and Sidney find the young girl, alive, and Margaret gets her talking. They find Sam, but the girl’s parents had found him first. The wife attacks Sam with a garden trowel, severely injuring him. Her husband hides him in a cellar beneath their barn. However, Geordie finds Sam while he’s still alive.

Even though Sidney is appalled by the violence of the situation, he finds he also can’t forgive Sam on a personal basis. The chase brings Geordie and Sidney back together as friends. The two repair their friendship and even hug. Geordie, who had also had some problems in his marriage, makes up with Kathy, his wife, as well.

Having read the first two Grantchester books by James Runcie, one thing I was confused about in the second season of the show was the total absence of Sidney’s German girlfriend. In the books, he’s clearly in love with her, the two write letters to each other, and Sidney eventually goes to Germany to visit her. He ends-up sneaking her out of East Berlin as the Berlin Wall goes up, and brings her back to Grantchester. And in the books, Amanda’s marriage is a fait accompli and very little is said about her. So I was confused that the television series has a completely different plot for Sidney’s love life. Also, really, there’s only three or so actual mysteries in the second season, and the rest of the six episodes revolves around thorny ethical issues that the characters end up being on opposite sides of. In part this gives the show a dramatic theme for the season. But in part, I found it to be a bit forced. Still, Grantchester is an excellent series. It’s shot beautifully. The characters are complex and well-rounded, not flat. I recommend it. There is a third season available, but I haven’t purchased it yet. The Grantchester Mysteries series of books now include six volumes and I’ve read two.

Read my Grantchester Season 1 Review.

Read my review of Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death.

Read my review of Sidney Chambers and The Perils of the Night.