Book Review – Doctor Who: The Rocket Men

  • Title: The Rocket Men
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: John Dorney
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Ian Chesterton, First Doctor, Barbara, Vicki
  • Cast: William Russell, Gus Brown (as Ashman)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/27/2018

**Spoiler Alert** John Dorney’s The Rocket Men very cleverly starts in the middle of the story and then uses flashbacks to fill in what’s going on. But unlike the normal “start with an exciting bit and flashback to explain it” technique, The Rocket Men flashes back and forth between the near “past” and the present, using a word, phrase or action to move from one time to the other and back again. It’s a very effective technique and the story flows extremely well – without being overly confusing.

The Rocket Men is a volume in Big Finish’s Doctor Who the Companion Chronicles series, and features William Russell as the First Doctor’s companion, Ian and Gus Brown, as the Leader of the Rocket Men, Ashman. The First Doctor (as played by William Hartnell on the long-running BBC television series, Doctor Who), Barbara, and Vicki are also featured in the story. The Companion Chronicles feature a story told from one of the Doctor’s companions’ point of views and are often more wordy, framed as a two-hander play.

The TARDIS lands on Jobis, an idyllic gas giant and tourist destination, with cities built on platforms in the air, floating luxury hotels, and even beautiful creatures to watch – such as giant flying Manta Rays in the skies, and insects that sparkle like diamonds. After a few days, the Doctor goes off to another platform to visit and share ideas with some local scientists. Ian books a tourist trip on a glass-bottomed boat. Barbara isn’t feeling well and decides to stay at the hotel. Ian checks to make sure he doesn’t need to look after her, but Barbara decides she’s okay and Vicki really wants to try the boat ride, so the three split up. On the boat ride, the tourists, including Ian and Vicki, are attacked. Ashman leads his fierce Rocket Men, a group of pirates who want to steal the “diamonds” from the sky. The Rocket Men wear brown leather and rocket packs on their backs – and they attack the barge. Once the attack is winding down, Ian is able to attack one of the guards, knock him out and steal his uniform and pack.

Later, and the first scene in the story as one listens to it, the Rocket Men have attacked the hotel and gathered up the people they haven’t killed. They demand that the companions of “The Doctor” turn themselves over. When Ashman starts to threaten innocent tourists – Vicki and Barbara turn themselves over. Ian struggles to not admit who he is and seems to be waiting for his chance for something. When Barbara is thrown out an airlock, he rushes the door and follows, then uses the jetpack he’s wearing to control his descent and direction. He rescues the terrified Barbara and takes her to a nearby platform. She cries. They hug.

But Ian and Barbara aren’t completely safe. Ashton attacks and he and Ian start to fight each other in midair. Ian gains advantage, but then Ashton deactivates his rocket pack and Ian starts falling. He’s rescued by a Manta Ray. Meanwhile, the Doctor’s been working with the local scientists. They manage to break through the Rocket Men’s jamming signals and get out a call for help. The local authorities wrap things up and defeat the Rocket Men.

This an awesome story – it’s full of adventure and fun, but the core of the story is Ian’s feelings for Barbara and her feelings for him. It’s a very romantic story – both in the traditional sense in terms of the adventure and the scope – with men with rockets strapped to their backs running around, gas giant planets, giant manta rays, and a floating hotel. It’s awesome. But it’s also romantic in it shows a relationship between Ian and Barbara. That’s extremely fun.

Highly recommended, especially if you’re a fan of the Ian-Barbara relationship from early Doctor Who.

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

Click to order The Rocket Men on CD or download.

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

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Wonder Woman Season 3 Review

  • Title:  Wonder Woman
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 24
  • Discs: 4 (Double-sided)
  • Original Network:  ABC
  • Distribution Network:  Warner Brothers
  • Cast:  Lynda Carter, Lyle Waggoner
  • Format: Standard, Color, DVD, NTSC

The third season of Wonder Woman starts with several very weak episodes. It’s almost as if the creative team didn’t expect the show to get picked up and they had to use whatever they had available to produce as scripts – including ones rejected from the previous season. The series starts to pick-up with “Skateboard Whiz”, which, despite the awful title is actually a pretty good episode. Diana goes on vacation in California to visit a former IDAC agent and her teenaged daughter. The daughter is into skateboarding, thus the title. Anyway, Diana is really there on vacation, not an investigation, but a shady casino owner is trying to buy up the town and using nefarious means to do so. When an old friend of Diana’s, a police officer who is now working security for the casino owner, spots Diana, he meets with her to find out why she’s there. Diana tells this former police officer that she thinks is her friend she’s “on vacation”. No one believes her. For once Diana really is on vacation, but the bad guys assume she must be undercover – so they go after her. They even kidnap the teenager at the skateboarding championship she’s entered. Diana as Wonder Woman spins into a skateboard outfit (basically her swimsuit but with elbow pads and a helmet) to rescue the girl. It’s better than it sounds.

As with “Skateboard Whiz” there are several average to good action-oriented episodes in the third season. There’s an episode with an SF convention as the backdrop, which, although it uses some of the negative tropes about SF fans isn’t wholly offensive. Diana accidentally meets up with an old friend while on assignment and he has a moon rocks exhibit at the convention that is interesting (though his idea of bright flashing lights and a tilting floor to simulate being in space makes most people nauseous). “The Starships are Coming” seems to be inspired by Orsen Welles 1938 “War of the Worlds” broadcast as a small town in Pennslyvania experiences a rash of UFO sightings followed by a series of faked broadcasts of an “alien attack”. However, the entire thing is arranged by a Conservative politician who uses the attack to convince an Air Force General who worked on Project Blue Book to launch a nuclear warhead at China. Fortunately, Wonder Woman stops the Air Force general and reveals the entire thing to be fake.

There are two two-parter episodes in the set, including the final story. Both are pretty good, simply because with more time they can breathe a bit more and the stories are more fleshed out. Oddly enough, the first one, “The Boy Who Knew Her Secret” concerns an actual alien invasion. In a very Doctor Who-like story, 99 pyramid-shaped rocks land near a small California town. When someone finds one of the rocks and picks it up they are taken over by an alien force. But it turns out the aliens are interstellar police looking for an escaped convict – a shapeshifter responsible for thousands of deaths. Once this becomes clear, Wonder Woman has to help find this shapeshifter, which isn’t easy, and then deal with the teenaged boy Diana’s befriended accidentally finding out who she really is.

The final story is a two-parter set at an amusement park. A nefarious property developer wants to buy the park, but the owner won’t sell. It turns out the owner has a secret, his twin brother who was horribly scarred by napalm burns in Vietnam is hiding, with his permission, in the tunnels beneath the park. Diana, and an orphaned teenager help the burned man come out into society and foil the attempts of the property developer to cause accidents at the park that would shut it down. Yes, it’s better than it sounds – the story just plays out in a very sweet, well-done, respectful way.

Overall, Season 3 of Wonder Woman is OK but not great. It starts off very weak, but it does get better through the season, with a few stumbles here and there. I’d say pick it up if you want the complete Lynda Carter series, as it is not terrible.

Read my Review of Wonder Woman Season 1.

Read my Review of Wonder Woman Season 2.

The Flash Book One (by Geoff Johns) Review

  • Title: The Flash Book One
  • Author: Geoff Johns
  • Artists: Angel Unzueta, Scott Kolins, Ethan Van Sciver, Doug Hazlewood, Prentis Rollins, Tom McCraw, James Sinclair, Gasper Saladino, John Costanza
  • Line: Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths and Pre-Final Crisis
  • Collection Info: Collects The Flash 164-176 and The Flash: Iron Heights (2000-2001) 
  • Characters: Wally West, Linda Park (West), Rogues
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/10/2018

**Spoiler Alert** The Flash Book One collects a year of The Flash comic book (and a special) from 2000-2001, so it contains several multi-issue stories. The first story starts with a bang with Wally West’s Flash arriving in what he eventually figures out is a mirror universe, where there was no Flash – no Jay Garrick Golden Age Flash, no Barry Allen Silver Age Flash, and no Wally West Modern Age Flash. As a result, there are no other heroes – the members of the Justice Society and Justice League of America having been killed or forced into retirement. Keystone City has a zero-tolerance policy against all masks both Rogues and Heroes. West finds himself in jail, drugged by a “counselor” and then rescued by Captian Cold. Wally, Cold, and Mirror Master end-up having to work together to get out of the Mirror Universe before it collapses in on itself. They eventually succeed, only to find Keystone City missing when they return.

Mirror Master helps Wally and Capt. Cold to figure out what’s happened to Keystone City. While they were captured inside Linda’s wedding ring, Keystone was shifted into another dimension. Mirror Master gets them there and they end up in a fairy-tale like alternate universe. Wally had been there once before as Kid Flash with Barry Allen as the Flash. Wally discovers the current king of this fairyland holds quite a grudge. It seems when he and Barry last visited, he told the young, artistic prince he could “do whatever he wanted” rather than be king. So after the kingdom rose up and defeated the tyrant king, the young prince made his younger brother king, only to have his brother become a worse tyrant than the old king. This new king also launched wars that killed off much of the population of the kingdom. Wally tries to explain that the prince, who is now king, missed the point, but the king decides to execute him anyway to get even. Cold and Mirror Master try to leave but they discover they are now trapped. Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash arrives – first he’s bounced from Grimm, but then he returns. The Flash (Wally) is able to borrow some of Jay’s speed and give it to Cold and Mirror Master. They work together to break the spells and return to Keystone City to where it belongs, with everyone back to normal rather than believing they are their alternate selves.

The next story starts with some background information on Keystone City, an industrial blue-collar city that works hard and plays harder. An old girlfriend of Wally’s shows up but before he can talk to her about their break-up, she’s murdered. Magenta, another old girlfriend of Wally’s, who happens to be an unstable Meta, also returns. However, she seems to have calmed down a lot. Meanwhile, the Keystone City police are dealing with a serial killer. It takes a while to figure out the pattern, but it turns out that everyone who died was at one point in their lives saved by the Flash. The killer is Cicada, and he leads a cult of people saved by the Flash who are now some sort of religious cult. Cicada convinces his followers to offer themselves as a sacrifice and he wants to gather enough energy to bring his wife back from the dead. Oh, and due to a lightning strike, Cicada is immortal. The Flash is able to finally send Cicada to Iron Heights. But it turns out that Julie, the cop who once dated Wally had a baby.

There’s a one-issue story of the Flash verses Tarpit in which Wally quickly defeats the new foe.

As Wally deals with the death of Julie, and the possibility of being the father of her baby, Weather Wizard goes on the attack in Keystone – and he says the child is his. But Weather Wizard only wants to control the child because he thinks the child can control the weather without a weather wand. The Flash defeats Weather Wizard and he and Linda decide they need to figure out what to do with Julie’s baby.

At Iron Heights, Warden Wolfe is not simply tough – he’s corrupt, and he’s torturing Metas, but when a mutated virus makes it way through the prison, killing prisoners and guards alike – he needs to reach out to the police for help. Wally, Pied Piper (who has reformed), and Jay Garrick rush to the prison. Jay will work on an antidote in the lab, while Wally investigates and tries to find the original contagion in the prison. Wally finds evidence of corruption and torture in the prison and he’s exposed himself. He does discover the source of the virus though and gets it to Jay in time for an antidote to be made. He also informs the police of Wolfe’s abuses. The prisoners and guards that didn’t die in the initial attack are saved with a vaccine. But a few of the Flash’s Rogues escape and form a group called, “The New Rogues”.

I enjoyed The Flash Book One there’s a variety of story types, and the writing is solid. Wally is a fun character, but here, having taken over the mantle of the Flash from his Uncle Barry who died in the line of duty – he’s a bit more serious. Even though this is an older book, I still recommend it, it is a great introduction to the Wally West Modern Age Flash.