Book Review – Doctor Who: Tip of the Tongue

  • Title: Tip of the Tongue
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Patrick Ness
  • Characters: Fifth Doctor, Nyssa
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/23/2016

**Spoiler Alert** Tip of the Tongue is book five in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – 12 Stories 12 Doctors collection of short books or novellas. It features the Fifth Doctor (as played by Peter Davison) and Nyssa, who journey to a small town in the US in the 1940s. Most of the story revolves around the people living in the town, especially a young German Jewish boy and a biracial girl. They’ve become outcasts as both are poor, living with single mothers, and, well, are not accepted by the WASPs of the town for unfair but obvious reasons.

This story gets the tone of the time period just right – and I could picture these characters perfectly. It also gets it’s vocabulary correct – the school Johnny and Nettie attend has a principal, not a headmaster etc. For once a Doctor Who story set in the US that doesn’t make basic mistakes of vocabulary, law, or common practices (like how to turn right on red – e.g. only after a full stop – where legal and not posted as otherwise), and the tone and the characters were so rich.

Unfortunately, that means the Doctor and Nyssa get short shift. Nyssa is in the story so little I had to flip through to see which Davison companion was in this story, when writing this review. And the Doctor has very little to do until the very end – when he strolls in like a police officer and “solves” the case and arrests the aliens responsible as well as releasing another group of alien slaves. But I get ahead of myself.

The story, taking place in a small town in the 1940s, involves a Jewish boy and a Biracial girl who become friends because they are both different and experience similar hardships. The boy, though, thinks he wants to be with a girl named Marisa – one of the popular ones at the school. So he takes $2.00, a fortune at the time, to buy a Truth Teller from his friend Nettie. The Truth Tellers are weird devices that are worn on the chin and will say a truthful, but ultimately hurtful thing about the person one is looking at. The Truth Tellers are brought into the town by Annabelle the daughter of the richest man in town, owner of the local shop, and the local factory. Annabelle is also the most popular girl in school – and a bit of a bully towards her friends. Marissa is, of course, one of her friends. The town finds the Truth Tellers to be annoying, but think they are fad that will go away on it’s own.

But then the Doctor and Nyssa show up, right after the mansion built by the richest couple in town blows up. The Doctor explains the couple and their daughter “Annabelle” are not humans at all, but aliens. And the Truth Tellers aren’t a cute gadget but aliens enslaved by the first group (who look like upward-standing human-sized sheep when not disguised. I loved that description. Only Doctor Who would have human-sized sheep as evil aliens.) The Doctor takes care of everything, and Marissa steals Annabelle’s fur-collared coat. Johnny realizes he doesn’t care for Marissa at all, and smiles at his real friend, Nettie.

The story of Jonny and Nettie, oddly enough, reminded me of the classic children’s book, A Bridge to Terabithia but I think that was more the tone of the book than the plot. I was a child when I read A Bridge to Terabithia and although I know I loved it – I don’t remember much about it now. However, as a Doctor Who title, the lack of the Doctor and Nyssa was a bit of an issue in this short story or novella. Still, it’s part of a set, so enjoy.

Book Review – Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880

  • Title: Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880
  • Author: Tony Lee
  • Artists: Ardian Syaf, Aneke
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Publisher: Dynamite Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/03/2016

This is a wonderfully fun graphic novel. Based on the late 1970s/early 1980s version of the television series Battlestar Galactica but given an awesome Steampunk twist – it’s a joy from start to finish. The only negative is the book is too short.

The characters from Battlestar Galactica are slightly changed to fit with the Victorian/Steampunk design – Adama is an Archduke, Apollo is the crown prince. Athena really kicks ass – going practically on her own to find and rescue her brother (Apollo) when he disappears in battle and is presumed dead.

Starbuck, back to being a guy as he was in the original series, has been banished – and is a free trader, aided by his half-daggit (half-human) partner, Muffit. He’s in trouble with two pirate queens – Cassiopeia and Sheba. Athena approaches him to help rescue Apollo.

Meanwhile, Baltar has destroyed Caprica with his Cyclonic automatons, then launches an attack on Gemini. Adama takes the Aethership Galactica to protect the remnants of Caprica’s population, and joins Commander Cain of the Aethership Pegasus to defend Gemini – only to discover it’s a trap, the Pegasus has been destroyed, as has Gemini.

However, Starbuck, and Athena discover Apollo, on a prison planet as well as Jolly and Boomer, now cybernetic after Baltar’s surgeries to save their lives. They also discover Iblis – who with Athena and Baltar created the Babbage Machine Lui-c-fer that controls the Cyclonics. Since Jolly and Boomer can plug in and control the giant automaton Cyclonics, and Ibilis and Athena designed the Babbage machine – they decide to take the fight to Baltar.

Meanwhile, on the Galactica, Adama is thrilled to learn his son is alive, and even welcomes Starbuck, Jolly, and Boomer back (after they were exiled by the Quorum of Twelve). Adama agrees with the plan to take the fight to Baltar.

The battle actually goes well, even though Ibilis betrays them by uploading himself to Lu-c-fer. Athena – who had designed the Babbage machine – hacks it to melt down the machine and destroy Ibilis, the Cyclonics and Baltar. She also approaches the Oviod, an insectoid species and the Colonials former enemy, and forms an alliance with them to take out the Cyclonics.

This is a highly enjoyable graphic novel, suitable pretty much for all ages. The Steampunk aesthetic and costumes are great. Tony Lee’s take on the classic characters is more in fitting with those characters than Ron Moore’s recent television remake.

The art is good, but at times very, very busy – with panels that almost seem crowded. But, on the other hand, the ship designs and the costumes are really, really good. I’d love to see another volume of this story, or to see it made into an animated film. Highly recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Roots of Evil

  • Title: The Roots of Evil
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Philip Reeve
  • Characters: Fourth Doctor, Leela
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/20/2016

**Spoiler Alert** The Roots of Evil is part of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – 12 Stories 12 Doctors set of mini-books or novellas. This is the fourth book in the series so it features the Fourth Doctor (as played by Tom Baker) and Leela (as played by Louise Jameson) from the British television series Doctor Who.

The Doctor says that Leela has been complaining about not ever seeing trees on their journeys, so the Doctor takes her to a space station that is a giant tree in space. However, no sooner than they land than the Doctor and Leela are in trouble. Leela senses something dark about this “tree”, and they soon meet Ven, which as he explains is short for: “Vengeance-Will-Be-Ours-When-the-Doctor-Dies-A-Thousand-Agonising-Deaths”. Everyone else on the space station/tree has similar names vowing revenge against the Doctor. However, when Ven falls into a digestion pool – the Doctor and Leela rescue him. This, and the Doctor’s way of getting people to trust him easily and quickly, means the young Ven becomes sympathetic to the Doctor. When the troops arrive, Ven insists the Doctor and Leela be taken to the Judicator – not the civilian/military/religious leadership. As the Doctor and Leela start to discover what’s happened, that the people of the station/tree are angry at the Doctor’s future Eleventh Incarnation and not the current one, the meeting hall is attacked. First the Chairman (civilian/military/religious leader) arrives to take the Doctor to immediate execution without trial. Then, tree spores begin to attack everyone.

This actually forces the various splinter groups together because survival becomes more important than petty disagreements. The Doctor also realizes that it was a future version of himself that caused these colonists to end-up in the tree space station in the first place; but every story has two sides. The original leader of the colony expedition was a racist and xenophobic nightmare. Having found a planet, he ignored the fact that an intelligent methane-breathing species already lived there, and began the terraforming process to replace the methane with oxygen (effectively killing the natives by smothering them.) The Eleventh Doctor stopped him – thus causing the chain of events. But even more interestingly – the original leader is still semi-alive, and is the soul of the dark tree. He is the one who wants vengeance. He’s actually so bent on destroying the Doctor that he’s sabotaged the natural ability of the tree to terraform a lifeless rock into a life-supporting planet, thus trapping the colonists in the tree/station for 900 years. The Doctor and Leela defeat the colonial leader who’s a nightmare, release the tree spores into space, and explain what’s happened to the clueless colonists – who will have a new home in a decade or so.

Despite it’s lack of science (a tree in space? Opening a window on a space station to let the spores out???) I liked this story. The society living in the tree, with their wooden tools and weapons, and pounded wood pulp fabrics is fascinating and very, very different. That the Fourth Doctor would run into something a future incarnation would do (had already done in fact) gave the story both a modern-Who twist in a Classic Who framework. The colonial leader was suitably annoying and evil. And the story showed that every battle has at least two sides. This is the first book in this series that I thought could have been much longer, because the society in the tree and the main characters could have been fleshed-out a bit more. Still, an excellent short story or novella. Recommended.

Book Review – Star Trek The Next Generation – Doctor Who Assimilation 2 vol. 2

  • Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation² vol. 2
  • Author: Scott Tipton, David Tipton
  • Artists: J.K. Woodward, Gordon Purcell, Shawn Lee, Tom B. Long
  • Characters: Eleventh Doctor, Amy, Rory, ST:TNG Crew, the Borg, the Cybermen
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Publisher: IDW Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/25/2017

**spoiler alert** Star Trek: the Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation² vol. 2 picks up where the previous volume left off, with the Borg asking Picard to help them against the Cybermen. Picard’s answer is “no, absolutely not,” The Doctor and even Amy try to change Picard’s mind, to no avail. Finally, the Doctor takes Picard in the TARDIS to a tour of his (and the galaxy’s) future if he doesn’t stop the Cybermen. After this encounter, Picard agrees to try it his way. Picard and company, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory beam down to a planet to meet the Borg. They are introduced to The Conduit, a Borg incapable of assimilating other species, who becomes an ambassador. The Conduit explains how the Borg were approached by the Cybermen, their alliance, and how the alliance broke down. He explains that the Cybermen have destroyed the Borg’s executive library, thus most Borg are now inert.

The Doctor lets Picard know that gold (especially gold dust) is deadly to Cybermen. Picard goes to get gold from the mining planet that’s home to fish people as seen at the beginning of the first volume (the Doctor does tag along on the trip and shows off his negotiating skills with the natives). Then the Doctor, Amy, and Rory return in the TARDIS to the battle of Wolf 359 – they materialize the TARDIS on a Borg ship and manage to acquire a copy of the executive library, then return to the Enterprise.

The Doctor then leads Worf, an Enterprise Security Strike Team, Amy, Rory, Picard, Data, and the Conduit on a mission to install the Executive Library back in to the Borg aboard a Cyber Armada ship. Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Geordie works to increase the Enterprise speed, and as we find out later, to develop a gold-based weapon that will work in space. Despite difficulties and an encounter with the Cyber Controller – the Doctor’s mission to restore the Borg is successful. However, they return to the TARDIS to discover the Conduit has merged with the alien intelligence of the TARDIS herself and is attempting to control it. Data stops this by briefly merging with the TARDIS and the Conduit is thrown out the TARDIS doors and into outer space. Data recovers. The TARDIS returns the Enterprise crew to their ship. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory leave the Enterprise.

I enjoyed this graphic novel. The art is beautiful, and has a painted quality. Everyone is in character, though with so many characters, some of them only get one good scene. I thought Rory was underused in this novel for example, though I liked the scene between him and Dr. Crusher where they discuss Rory being a nurse. One good point about this novel is that, although their are a lot of action scenes, they aren’t solved by fisticuffs. The security strike team does shoot at the Cybermen with specially adapted phasers, but cleverness is more highly valued throughout the story than mere violence. For example, Data helps Picard and company escape at one point by forcing open a door and holding it while everyone goes through then jumping through himself – it’s a fit of strength that reminds one of Data’s abilities. But everyone – Amy, Rory, the Doctor, Worf, Geordie, Dr. Crusher, Deanna Troi, Commander Riker, and especially Picard all get to use their talents in service to the story. Some only briefly, but they are there – which is important in a crossover.

Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Spear of Destiny

  • Title: The Spear of Destiny
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Marcus Sedgwick
  • Characters: Third Doctor, Jo Grant
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/17/2016

Doctor Who – The Spear of Destiny is another book in the 50th Anniversary collection of mini-books, one for each Doctor. This one features the Third Doctor, as played by Jon Pertwee, and his companion Jo Grant, as played by Katy Manning. The story opens with The Doctor taking Jo to a museum. But it turns out he is basically “casing the joint” so to speak. As he explains to Jo, he needs to steal a spear on display because it is a Physical Temporal Nexus (PTN), a very dangerous and rare artifact that the Time Lords want for safe-keeping.

That night the Doctor and Jo take the TARDIS to the museum, but land on the roof instead of inside the exhibit. When they go to take the Spear, the Doctor trips an alarm and they are chased out by men with machine guns from the Moxon Collection (the entity that lent the collection to the museum). The Doctor finds this to be highly unusual.

However, he knows one other time and place where the spear will be – so he takes Jo to ancient Norway, explaining the Spear is the Spear of Destiny – Odin’s spear that never missed it’s target. He explains that Odin was the King of Sweden and not a mysterious god. He also theorizes to Jo that the Spear was also known as the Spear of Destiny – the same spear a Roman soldier thrust into Christ’s side at the crucifixion.

In ancient Norway, the Doctor and Jo discover The Master is behind everything. Yet the Doctor still manages to be successful.

This story was a bit disappointing compared to the other two I’ve read so far. It wasn’t bad – just somewhat predictable without enough twists and turns in the plot. There was some very atmospheric writing for the section that takes place in Winter in Ancient Norway, which I liked.

And again, not awful, but not as good as the previous two. I like the Third Doctor and really like Jo, but I also like the boys from UNIT, including the Brigadier (who makes a brief appearance) and this could have used have Benton or Yates appear as well. Still, it’s worth reading the entire set.

Book Review – Star Trek: The Next Generation – Doctor Who Assimilation 2 vol. 1

  • Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation² vol. 1
  • Author: Scott Tipton, David Tipton, Tony Lee
  • Artists: J.K. Woodward, the Sharp Bros., Gordon Purcell, Shawn Lee, Robbie Robbins
  • Characters: Eleventh Doctor, Amy, Rory, ST:TNG Crew, Classic Trek Crew, Fourth Doctor, the Borg, the Cybermen
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Publisher: IDW Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/25/2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation crossed over with Doctor Who? Well, why not? I enjoyed this two-part crossover event graphic novel when I originally read it, and I just re-read part 1 and really enjoyed it. the ST:TNG portion of this novel starts with an attack on Delta IV by Cybermen and Borg. Meanwhile, The Eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory are in Ancient Rome, in the midst of a chariot race. They survive that and return to the TARDIS, where the Doctor promises to take the young couple to San Francisco. However, it turns out the three are not in San Francisco, but in the Holodeck of the Enterprise. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are taken by Worf and Cmdr. Riker to Capt. Picard, and are only just starting to talk when the Enterprise receives an audio-only distress call. When the ship arrives, they are in the midst of a combined Cybermen/Borg attack. The Enterprise escapes.

The Doctor starts to have strange memory flashes, and when the Enterprise crew researches the “Cybermen” that Picard has never heard of – they find one entry from the original Enterprise, under the command of James T. Kirk. The resulting flashback features the original Star Trek crew, the Fourth Doctor, and Cybermen on a research station.

Back on Picard’s Enterprise, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory are taken to Guinan. The Doctor and Guinan seem to have some sort of relationship – even though they both know they have never met, previously. And both the Doctor and Guinan are time-sensitives who seem to know something is very wrong.

In the midst of the Doctor, Guinan, and Picard’s conversation they are again called to the bridge. Data explains they had thought the combined Borg/Cybermen fleet was heading towards Earth, but it seems they are now heading in the opposite direction, having changed their minds in the middle of assimilating a planet. Sending a away party to said planet, which includes the Doctor, Rory and Amy, they find a battlefield where the Cybermen and the Borg have turned on each other. The Borg contact the Enterprise, offering a truce against their common enemy, the Cybermen. The Doctor warns against this, and Picard agrees.

To Be Continued in volume 2

The artwork in Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who Assimilation (2) is wonderful. It has a wonderful painted look, that, though not often photo-realistic, has at times an impressionistic quality – while at other times is more realistic-looking. It’s beautiful, and engaging. In short, I loved the art style.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Nameless City

  • Title: The Nameless City
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Michael Scott
  • Characters: Second Doctor, Jaime
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/10/2016

Doctor Who The Nameless City is the second book in the Twelve Doctors 50th Anniversary boxed set of 12 mini-books. It features the Second Doctor, as played by Patrick Troughton on the BBC television series Doctor Who and his companion Jaime, the Scottish Highlander. Polly is mentioned but not present and no mention is made of Zoë or Victoria (or even Ben), which made me wonder when the story was meant to be set in the Second Doctor Era.

In the story, a disguised Master manipulates Jaime into taking a dangerous book as a reward and giving that book to the Doctor. The Doctor, meanwhile, is attempting to fix his TARDIS but needs gold, mercury, and Zeiton-7 – three substances it’s difficult to get in Victorian London. However, when Jaime gives the Doctor the book, it turns out to be the Necronomicon. The Necronomicon, or Book of Dead Names, was written by an ancient (even more ancient than the Time Lords) and mostly dead race known as the Archons. And the Archons have a grudge against the Time Lords. The book possesses the TARDIS and brings it to the Archon homeworld, just outside the Nameless City.

There, the Doctor, the TARDIS, and Jaime are transported to the city by ape-like robots. The Archons make threats, including wanting to use the TARDIS to change history so they were never defeated. They therefore, conveniently, fix the TARDIS, with pools of gold, mercury, and Zeiton-7 – which are all plentiful on their world. Their city is also made from glass and exists in multiple dimensions.

Needless to say, after the TARDIS is fixed – the Doctor and Jaime manage to escape in a rather clever way.

I enjoyed this – whereas the first book in this series of basically short stories was filled with references to Peter Pan; this one is full of references to H.P. Lovecraft – including the Necronomicon, the dangerous book of arcane magicks. The Nameless City itself is very awesome and cool, though it also brings to mind Lovecraft’s use of strange and odd descriptions that make a place seem very off-center.

I don’t want to spoil how the Doctor and Jaime escape because it was novel – and a highlight of the story. But this was also a case where the Master, in his plot, actually helped the Doctor. If the TARDIS had remained in Victorian London, the Doctor would never have been able to get a “ton of gold” (literally). He might have been able to get the mercury – depending on how much he needed. But he would have had a very hard time getting the alien component Zeiton-7 needed to repair the TARDIS (in a process that’s also way cool so I won’t spoil it). But by sending the TARDIS to a planet where these components are as ubiquitous as salt water – the TARDIS could be repaired easily. You have to wonder if the Master ever really thinks his plots through. Anyway, this is an enjoyable mini-book. Recommended.