Get Smart Season 1 Review

  • Series: Get Smart
  • Season: 1 (1965 – 1966)
  • Episodes: 30
  • Discs: 4, plus Special Features Disc (5 total)
  • Cast: Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, Edward Platt
  • Network: NBC
  • DVD Format: Color (Technicolor), Standard

In the 1960s the Spy Genre suddenly became very popular. US television had The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Mission: Impossible, and The Wild Wild West to name a few. British television had Secret Agent Man (aka Danger Man), The Avengers, and The Prisoner. Movies had James Bond and plenty of James Bond imitators. Get Smart was a comedy created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry that both joined and parodied the Spy Genre. But like all of the best comedies, for Max, 99, and the Chief – they don’t know they are in a comedy, and the humor comes from the characters and the situations. Get Smart has physical comedy (in the first season poor Max gets knocked into swimming pools, fully clothed in a suit more than once), and witty, clever dialogue. There are also a lot of catchphrases, which for a while became part of the national lexicon.

Maxwell Smart (Don Adams), is Secret Agent 86 of Control, a super-secret organization that fights the international organization of evil – Kaos. 99 is his female partner. And the Chief sends them on their missions. For the first half of season 1, Max is often joined by Fang, agent K-13, a fluffy brown dog. Max is actually quite intelligent and extremely earnest as an agent. He also loves his job. When the Chief tells him that he will be on a dangerous mission, Max’s response is: “And Loving It”, which beyond becoming a catchphrase, is his attitude – he loves his job. But Max, also, doesn’t always think things through, which provides a lot of the humor for the show. Max, with help from 99, always manages to complete his missions – successfully.

99 (Barbara Feldon) is the more competent one in the partnership between her and Max. She is a full-blown agent, not an “assistant” or junior agent, which makes her a role model. Like Max, she often goes undercover, or simply works with Max on his missions. They meet for the first time in the pilot (the only episode shot in black and white), and 99 immediately develops a crush on Max. Their relationship will develop throughout the run of the show. But in season 1, Max is completely oblivious to how 99 cares about him romantically. Although there is this romantic thread between 99 and Maxwell Smart, it never overshadows 99’s abilities as a competent secret service agent – well, competent for Control that is.

The Chief is the head of Control, and he usually sends Max and 99 on their missions. Occasionally, Max or even 99 will discover something on his or her own that starts the case – such as an informer offering information or asking for help. Missions vary from well-constructed short mysteries to spy/adventure stories in season 1. Later on, direct parodies of other spy shows or general movies join the mix. Still, Season 1 starts out with everything in place – we are introduced to Max, 99 and the Chief in the pilot and from then on, it’s Get Smart. This is not a “slow burn” series that takes time to develop – everything is there from the start.

Other semi-regular characters that appear in season 1 are Agent 44, who is usually stuck in a letterbox, porthole, base violin case, etc.; Larabee, a regular Control agent, who in Season 1 doesn’t even get any lines; Hymie – the Control robot is introduced in one episode; Fang Agent K-13 as I mentioned above, also early in the season the Chief has a male secretary/assistant, and we see various scientists who develop and demonstrate special equipment in the Control labs.

Get Smart is a gadget-filled show, and every episode has special equipment, including a wide variety of special hidden phones and radios. Max’s shoe phone is well-known, but there are several others. Oddly enough, in this era of smartphones, that Max and 99 always have some sort of communication device at the ready doesn’t even seem odd. Both also have a number of special guns – including a gun that’s also a phone used in the two-part episode, “Ship of Spies”.

The other notable thing about Get Smart, at least to me when I watched it, was the clothes. Oh, my, god, the clothes are gorgeous – both for Max and 99. Although early episodes have Max in black or charcoal grey suits, later ones have him in burgundy, blue, light grey, worsted wool (which must have been fun in California in a studio) – his clothes are gorgeous. Also, at least in season 1, Max wears very thin ties (probably a little more than an inch wide), which I always think are more attractive. The ties aren’t wild, but they have color and pattern and always perfectly compliment whatever suit Max is wearing. 99 gets beautiful clothes too – dresses, pantsuits, a black jumpsuit that’s identical to Max’s jumpsuit except for her number for undercover breaking into places. The hemlines on 99’s dresses aren’t too short, and she usually has sleeves – these aren’t the sleeveless sheath dresses that pop-up in other television and movies from, or especially, set in the 1960s. I haven’t had this much clothing envy watching television since Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

Notable episodes in season 1 include: “Double Agent” – one of my favorite episodes, ever, of the series – Max goes “bad” to infiltrate a ring of Kaos spies – the finale is one of the best things ever and I won’t spoil it; Our Man in Toyland – Kaos is running a ring of spies in a department store, the final battle between Max and 99 and the Kaos agents has them successfully using various toys against Kaos agents armed with guns (also the head Kaos agent is Herr Bunny); Aboard the Orient Express, The Dead Spy Scrawls, The Amazing Harry Hoo, the two-part Ship of Spies, and Shipment to Beirut (which actually takes the same plot used in a favorite The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode – smuggling information in high fashion clothing – and treats it more seriously than UNCLE did).

The only negative about Get Smart is that it is a series from the 1960s, so there is some institutional racism in the program. It’s never overt, but at times it is there. This isn’t an every episode thing (other than the incredible lack of people of color), and although there’s one or two cringe-worthy moments – they are moments, it is not a regular thing. I’ve seen worse in other shows from the era. And the show is to be commended for making 99 the competent one and 86 the if not quite incompetent one – the one who gets the laughs because his earnest nature just causes all sorts of problems.

I have the complete series in a Collector’s set which is quite nice – see picture below.

I quite enjoyed re-watching Get Smart. I recommend this show! And if you’ve never seen it, you might want to give it a try. Get Smart is fun, witty, intelligent and enjoyable.

Book Review – Black Canary Ignite

  • Title: Black Canary
  • Author: Meg Cabot
  • Artists: Cara McGee, Caitlin Quirk, Clayton Cowles
  • Line: DC Zoom
  • Characters: Black Canary (Dinah Lance)
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/25/2020

**Spoiler Alert** Black Canary Ignite is the only graphic novel I’ve read in the DC Comics Zoom line for children and middle schoolers. I actually ordered it from my comics shop by mistake, thinking it was in the DC Ink Young Adult line. For children’s fiction, it’s probably good to great – it’s hard for me to tell. And it’s the only time I’ve seen actual “chapters” in a graphic novel. I just found the book a little simplistic and quite short. But, as I said, it is a children’s book.

Dinah Lance is a typical middle school student, she and her friends Vee and Kat are practicing with their band so they can compete in the Battle of the Bands that’s the end to Careers Week, and Dinah also wants to join the Young Police Academy. Her father is a police detective and her mother owns a florist shop. But strange things keep happening around Dinah – a school trophy case shatters behind her, bleachers collapse near the sports field, etc. The principal seems to have it out for her too – blaming her for everything from the case shattering to her favorite mug breaking. After the second or third incident, the principal calls in Dinah’s parents and tries to convince them that Dinah is a meta with telekinetic powers. Dinah’s parents insist this is nonsense, tell off the principal, and threaten to sue the school if they try to expel Dinah.

But later that night, Dinah’s mother shows her the costume that she put away. She was once a superhero known as the Black Canary, and she had a supersonic voice. She tells Dinah that she inherited that power. Ted Grant, now a coach at Dinah’s school, begins training her in self-defense, and Miss Bonner the school’s voice coach helps her train her voice. But Dinah’s mother insists she not tell anyone about her powers, including her friends. This causes friction.

Someone also seems to be after Dinah and her Mom. A package with an injured bird is left at the house and Dinah nurses it back to health. Later, a hooded and cloaked figure attacks Dinah at the florist shop and sets the place on fire. Finally, Dinah’s mother is kidnapped. Dinah heads to the school to find rescue her Mom – and compete in the Battle of the Bands.

It turns out the principal is Bonfire, an old enemy of Dinah’s Mom, who was seeking revenge. Dinah is able to make up with her friends, and they compete with the band title of Black Canary. So it all works out. Again, this is a good story, but it lacks depth and it’s very short. Still, for young girls getting into comics, it’s probably something they would enjoy. Recommended for younger readers.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Return of the Rocket Men

  • Title: Return of the Rocket Men
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Matt Fitton
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Dodo, Steven, First Doctor
  • Cast: Peter Purves (Steven), Time Treloar (Van Cleef)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/19/2020

**Spoiler Alert** The Return of the Rocket Men is a volume in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line and a sequel to The Rocket Men. However, really it’s just another appearance of the villainous Rocket Men who are space pirates, so if you haven’t listened to the first one, you can still follow this story. And this story is really about Steven – it fills in his history and lets us know who Steven really is. The story opens with Steven basically acting as a space trucker. He’s piloting a ship that hauls containers of supplies for a new colony world. Steven is shot down and his cargo stolen by the Rocket Men. The leader, Van Cleef, even tortures Steven by shooting him in the legs. But then Steven, much to his surprise is rescued by another Rocket Men. Steven cannot see the face of this benevolent Rocket Man because of his visor, helmet, and leather uniform. But as this mysterious man rescues Steven, Steven looks on in shock, the man turns and is shot in the chest by Van Cleef.

On the TARDIS, the Doctor is experimenting with a new device that can use the positions of the stars to tell the exact date, minus the year. Steven notes, in surprise, that it is his birthday. Dodo is excited by this news and rushes off inside the TARDIS to find him a present, then presents him with a diary for 1967. Steven thinks to himself that it’s a useless gift but thanks Dodo anyway. Soon the TARDIS lands on a frontier colony world, which looks abandoned. But they meet the colony leader, Carson, and his daughter, Carla, who urge the Doctor, Dodo, and Steven to take shelter. In a cave, they meet the colonists, men, women, and teenagers, there to prepare the first steps of the colony before the main ship arrives with a hundred people. But they are being attacked by a faceless enemy. Supplies are being stolen by raiders, pirates, even before they reach orbit. As the group discusses this, Dodo and Carla return to say a delivery is arriving. They rush to the cafe mouth as the ship ducks, weaves, and maneuvers it’s way before successfully landing. The ship successfully lands, and the colonists begin to unload supplies. Much to Steven’s surprise he recognizes the pilot, his name is Ford and he flew with him in the space trucking business. Steven now knows exactly what year it is – and he has cause to worry.

As the colonists unload supplies, the Rocket Men arrive by ship and a troop descends by their backpack rockets. Steven encourages the colonists to make a stand, especially as the last container of supplies includes devices they can easily use as weapons. The colonists are successful and capture about twenty Rocketmen. But then more appear on the ridges surrounding the plain. They hold the women and children from the caves captive. The leader, Van Cleef releases his men, kills one named Rameriz for “disobeying orders” and kills Ford. Then they take the women and children, including Dodo hostage and disappear.

Steven puts on Rameriz’s uniform and takes the flyer. He knows what he must do – he knows because it’s already happened. Steven is at peace with knowing he is doomed, but he will save his younger self. As he approaches the Rocketman’s base on one of the moons of the system, he receives a radio call from the Doctor – Carson has told him several of the women are competent pilots. Steven knows that if he can free the hostages and get them to a ship, someone will be able to fly them back to the colony.

Steven finds the hostages and sneaks in, telling Dodo she needs to wait for half an hour as well as the locking code for the container they are in. He also tells them where they might find a ship to return to the colony when it’s safe. Things play out as they did before. Steven hears two gunshots while talking to Dodo and knows it’s his legs getting shot out from him. Steven hides behind the ship, noting some of the protective tiles have fallen off it. He rushes out, challenges Van Cleef, who is startled by the ghost challenging him. He applies sealant medical foam to his younger self’s legs and gets him into the cockpit of his ship, turning on the emergency air supply and beacon. Steven then fights Van Cleef, turning the controls of his rocket pack to full – so he flies off into space. He’s shot by Van Cleef.

But Steven returns to Dodo and the others. Dodo is anxious and confused – so Steven shows her the diary – which now has a bullet hole in it. The crushed bullet falls out. Steven also puls out one of the ship’s tiles from the back cover – his insurance. But even though he is now alright and he and Dodo return to the Doctor and the colonists return to their colony, Steven is now considering leaving the Doctor and doing something else with his life. He’d discussed turning points in his life, how getting shot by the Rocketmen and spending three months in a field hospital had convinced him to join the service and fight in the war. Now he’s ready to move on to a new challenge.

Overall, this is a good story – it returns to the premise of the Companion Chronicles telling stories from the Companion’s point of view so we can learn more about them. Even though Steven’s always been one of the more boring companions to me – this story is good, it lets the listener learn who Steven is. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Upstairs

  • Title: Upstairs
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Mat Coward
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Vicki, Steven, First Doctor
  • Cast: Maureen O’Brien (Vicki), Peter Purves (Steven)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/12/2020

**Spoiler Alert** Doctor Who Upstairs is a volume in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles series. It features the First Doctor, Vicki, and Stephen with performances by Mauren O’Brien and Peter Purves. The TARDIS lands in an old, dusty attic in 1900, and the Doctor, Vicki, and Stephen step out to explore. But, before long, Vicki is bored and when the Doctor can’t even find the way down to the rest of the residence, even he must admit there’s really no point to this particular stop and they may as well leave. But the TARDIS crew can’t find their way back to the TARDIS. They discover the attic seems to go on an on. When they discover a 1950s-Era television console set, it’s Vicki who realizes the different rooms are in different eras – which will make it even more difficult to find the TARDIS and escape. The only other clue to the situation is that some rooms in the attic seem to be infected with fungus, some weird sort of mushroom.

But within a few minutes, they hear singing and follow it to where a maid is washing herself in a small tub. The Doctor, Stephen, and Vicki question the maid. The maid is also suspicious of the strangely-dressed group. They soon also meet a valet. The valet explains that the servants who live in the attics have discovered two things – the giant mushroom, whom they call, Mr. Prime Minister and that the attics have been expanding for years, as the mushroom has grown. The servants decided to guide the feeding of the mushroom, in the hopes of creating the ideal leader to keep the British Empire from folding like all other empires before it.

The Doctor finds this to be preposterous, pointing out that they cannot turn a mushroom into a man, even if that mushroom is spread, through the Mycelial Network, through both time and space, making it nearly impossible to eradicate. Vicki prevents two maids from eliminating the TARDIS crew outright by referring to the Doctor as “His Grace”, Steven as “His Lordship”, and herself as “Her Ladyship”. They then get the crew to lead them back to the TARDIS. Once outside the TARDIS, the Doctor, with help from Vicki pulls a fast one, gets the three TARDIS crew members inside the TARDIS, and has Vicki introduce a new mushroom species to the attic which will push out the dangerous mushroom from its ecological niche. The servants and mushroom are kept out of the TARDIS and the Doctor and the TARDIS crew leave.

The good thing about Upstairs is that it does have a Sapphire and Steel or Twilight Zone feel about it, especially the first fifteen or twenty minutes as the TARDIS crew explore an ever-expanding, confusing attic and can’t find their way back to the TARDIS. But with no one to talk to other than themselves and no obvious threat, it’s also a bit boring. Once the TARDIS crew meet the various servants and the plot becomes clear, it also seems more and more ridiculous. Giant mushrooms, feeding on prime ministers and chancellors of the exchequer? It just seems so… silly. Also, with both Purves and O’Brien in the cast, and no one else to talk to in most of part 1, we could have gotten some great characterization, and that opportunity is completely missed. We learn a bit more about Vicki, but that’s about it. Plus, with nowhere to go, then getting hopelessly lost, the entire goal of the story is for the TARDIS crew to return to the TARDIS. Sometimes that can work, but more often than not the “why didn’t they just leave” story can fall very flat, especially when the goal becomes – “let’s just leave”. Overall, though the performances are good, I felt this was a very average story.

Arrow Season 7 Review

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 7
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Echo Kellum, Rick Gonzalez, Katherine McNamara, Ben Lewis, Colton Haynes
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

This review contains spoilers for Season 7 of Arrow.

Last season when I watched Season 7 of Arrow on the CW, I didn’t like it and I found the flash-forwards very confusing. Having seen most of Season 8 and having re-watched Season 7 on DVD, I liked it a bit better but I still think there are issues with the writing and characterization of the show. Season 7 of Arrow is also very, very dark, making the season much less enjoyable to watch. The season opens with Oliver Queen in jail for his “crimes” as a vigilante. Ricardo Diaz, the previous “big bad”, is still free and running a criminal empire. He even attacks Felicity and William in their apartment where they are living under assumed identities. This leads Felicity to send William away to boarding school for his own protection. Felicity decides she must get Oliver out of jail and kill Diaz. She turns to Laurel (Black Siren) for help. Laurel has become the district attorney, and surprisingly for someone who was not a lawyer on Earth-2, she’s doing fairly well. In jail, Oliver goes from “keeping his head down” to trying to solve a mystery in the prison. He also initially trusts the wrong people. Meanwhile, Rene is secretly continuing his vigilante ways as Wild Dog – despite Mayor Pollard’s law that makes vigilantes illegal. Rene is also helping the New Green Arrow who has suddenly arrived in Star City.

After about 6-7 episodes, Laurel finally gets Oliver out of prison and she also prevents Felicity from murdering Diaz. Later when Laurel is accused of murder, Felicity is the only one who believes she was framed. Luckily for Laurel, Felicity gets Dinah to help her anyway and they clear Laurel’s name and capture a dangerous jewel thief in the process. Laurel also assembles a case against Diaz and he is sent to jail – finally. Diaz is almost immediately murdered in prison.

Meanwhile, everyone is wondering who the New Green Arrow is and if they have good motivations or not. Rene is convinced she is trying to help. The New Green Arrow turns out to be Emiko, Oliver’s half-sister. It turns out that Robert Queen had a secret second family whom he abandoned. Emiko is, she tells Rene and Oliver, on the trail of her mother’s killer. This leads to a terrorist financier named Dante, someone John Diggle and Lyla at ARGUS are also after. Dante, they think, leads an organization called the Ninth Circle which seems to be dedicated to regime change and causing chaos. Much of the season consists of Lyla and Diggle slowly putting together the pieces in their chase of Dante and the Ninth Circle.

Meanwhile, in the flash-forwards, we meet William, Roy Harper, Mia, and Zoë, who are all now young adults, living in a dystopian Star City, where the Glades are protected by a wall but also a police state where the corporation Galaxy One rules with an iron fist. Outside the wall, there’s no police, no law, no order, nothing – people scrounge to survive any way they can. At first, William and the others are looking for Felicity (They briefly think she was murdered after planning to blow up Star City but figure out she’s being held captive by Galaxy One who plan on destroying Star City.) Rene is the mayor of the Glades and deeply involved with Galaxy One, building the wall, outlawing vigilantes (and blaming them for Star City’s problems) and ultimately the plan to destroy Star City. When the Galaxy One CEO tells him they plan on evacuating Star City prior to destroying it so it can be rebuilt, Rene believes it. He’s shocked to find out that there was no plan for an evacuation order. William and Mia rescue Felicity and together with Zoë, Dinah, and the Canary Network they prevent the bombing.

Back in the present day, Oliver is determined to find out who Dante is, stop the Ninth Circle, and forge a relationship with his new sister, Emiko. These goals prove to be someone incompatible with each other.

Season 7 with it’s flipping back and forth between the present and the future is extremely confusing. I had a hard time figuring out what was going on in the Flash-forwards and who everyone was. On a second watch, it helped a lot knowing who various people were, so I could focus on the characters’ goals. But I still found Mia to be very unlikeable until the very end of the season (she improves in Season 8). The adult William on the other hand, I liked immediately – much more so than his younger self, who seemed to be a spoiled brat. Zoë in the future is much different than she is in the present, so much so that I had a hard time reconciling the two as being different versions of the same character. Roy, though, is Roy – and it’s great to see him again and with a lengthy storyline.

Also, Season 7, focuses on Rene Ramirez, Wild Dog, and I still don’t like his character at all, and I find him to be really dumb. In a very real sense, he causes all of Oliver’s problems in the present and all of Felicity, William, and Mia’s problems in the future. In the present, Rene immediately trusts the New Green Arrow, defends her/him to everyone, including the police, helps him/her (no one knows NGA is a woman for several episodes) and convinces the police and what’s left of Team Arrow to trust and help her. When Oliver discovers Emiko is his sister, it’s Rene who pushes Oliver to forge a relationship with her. But Emiko is actually part of the Ninth Circle, deeply involved with Dante, and she isn’t to be trusted. But that’s not Rene’s only mistake – he’s the mayor of the Glades, approved building a large physical wall that’s actually a supercomputer in charge of a Big Brother type security system around the Glades. He bans vigilantes (the same guy who argued constantly against Mayor Pollard’s anti-vigilante law) and then lets Galaxy One talk him into policing the Glades with Zeta Soldiers – super-powered, technically-enhanced soldiers who can plug into the Archer Network and use DNA to find anybody, anywhere, any time. Rene basically created the nightmare that is Star City in the 2040s. Rene also believes the Galaxy One CEO when he says Star City will be “evacuated” before it is bombed. He’s not suspicious at all. His naivete is unbelievable.

Felicity however also is out of character. After Diaz gets into her apartment, she becomes obsessed with home security, developing a DNA-based home security system. Much of the season has Felicity in the background working on this system – having both successes and setbacks. She invites Alena (from Helix) to be her CTO of Smoak Technologies. Felicity also briefly works with Curtis too. Her system, Archer, is ultimately stolen, and although Felicity destroys it, Alena had copied the base code. Archer is the “big bad” for the flash-forwards. Felicity had always been the conscious of Team Arrow – the one who would stop Oliver from going too far, and get everyone to slow down before doing anything drastic. That she would suddenly become obsessed with first, killing Diaz and then developing this security system just doesn’t seem like her.

Even Lyla and John – who are lying to everyone for much of the season, as they prioritize catching Dante above all (even bringing back Task Force X, eg The Ghost Initiative) and freeing Diaz to use him to get to Virgil, a money man for Dante.

It just doesn’t make sense. No one is behaving the way they should. The storyline hops around from present to future to present. The storyline also keeps changing its mind about who the villain is – and not in a good way, but more of a “we couldn’t decide” way. Watching Season 8 actually helps Season 7 make a little more sense, and be a bit more tolerable, but that’s not a way to write a show. Still, it is definitely worth having season 7 (if only for Elseworlds which is brilliant) and as a lead into Season 8 and Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Read my Review of Arrow Season 3.
Read my Review of Arrow Season 4.
Read my Review of Arrow Season 5.
Read my Review of Arrow Season 6.

Book Review – Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure

  • Title: Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure
  • Series: The Summersbys
  • Author: Sophie Barnes
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/5/2020

**Spoiler Alert** Alex Summersby, the titular Lady Alexandra, is a bit of a tomboy – she can outride, outshoot, and outfence her brothers, which allowed her to join the British Foreign Office, where her brother Ryan also is an agent. When Lord Percy, head of the Foreign Office receives a letter from France from another agent, accusing Alex and Ryan’s older brother of treason, none of the three really believes it. But Percy has to do something with the information. So he sends his agent, Michael, Earl of Trenton, Ryan and Alex to France to find William and bring him back to England. Alex, disguised as a man joins the mission.

Soon Ryan, Michael, and Alex are off to France during the Napoleonic wars. Alex keeps up her deception of being a man on the journey to France, leading to some very frank discussions with Michael. But even when Alex is disguised as a man, there is an attraction between Alex and Michael. Once they reach France, Alex reveals herself to be a woman. Michael is appalled, both that a woman would be allowed on a Foreign Office mission and that Alex had deceived him so easily.

But the tension continues to rise between Alex and Michael, as they attempt to find William and discover what is going on. Alex and Michael end up in a compromising position, so William proposes. But due to Alex’s fear of commitment and determination not to marry, they end up fighting a duel – the stakes? Letting Alex lead in the investigation into William, versus marriage. Though Alex is an excellent fencer, it is Michael who draws first blood and thus Alex must accept his proposal. Though Alex is attracted to Michael and even falling for him, a tragedy in her past has made her extremely distrustful of marriage. Alex fears the pain that comes from ultimately losing the person one loves.

The three agree to go to a party at the French palace to find William. Alex dresses up in a ball gown and soon has slimy French officers falling all over her. She plays her part and even manages to find out that a British “spy” is being held in the basement of the palace, awaiting transfer to another holding prison. Alex decides they must help this spy escape. Ryan and Michael locate William and discover he’s been in deep cover to get Napoleon’s battle plans against the British.

Alex leads Ryan in a successful mission to free the spy, but the escape from the palace is considerably less successful. The spy, the same who had sent the letter accusing William is shot and gets left behind. Ryan, William, Michael, and Alex barely escape and make their way to a French safe house. There, William explains he’s discovered Napoleon’s plans and he must get the information to Wellington. Also, the “spy” was a double agent who was selling information to the French and the British. Still, with a few mishaps along the way, they get to Wellington, give him the information, then return to England. Once back in England, Michael releases Alex from her promise, telling her he won’t force her to marry him.

However, once back in England, Alexandra realizes she has fallen deeply in love with Michael. She discusses the tragedy in her past with her father and he convinces her that love is the most important thing in life, even if it comes with risk. Alex fears she’s hurt Michael too much, but her father thinks he will forgive her. Alex is to meet Michael again at a ball given by his parents and properly impress him.

Alex goes to her aunt’s in London to have a dress made and prepare herself for the ball. Events happen at the ball, as well, but eventually, she meets up with Michael, their issues are worked out, and Michael proposes again. They decide to marry quickly. In the epilog, Michael still works for the Foreign Office, and Alexandra cares for their four children. But as a couple, they are very happy.

I found Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure a little more slow-moving and formulaic than the previous book I read by Barnes, but it’s still an enjoyable read. I could have done with more historical detail, especially about the Napoleonic Wars and Wellington’s camp, but I’m more used to historic novels than historical romance. Alex and Michael, though are an excellent couple, and this is the first book in the Summersby series – a series I’m now curious about. Recommended, especially to fans of the Romance genre.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Sleeping City

  • Title: The Sleeping City
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Ian Potter
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Vicki, First Doctor, Barbara, Ian Chesterton, Gerrard
  • Cast: Ian (William Russell), Gerrard (John Banks)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/5/2020

**Spoiler Alert** The Sleeping City is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles series which tells new stories from the companions’ point of view. This time it’s Ian who is being interviewed by Gerrard who is implied to be a member of one of the British security services or the police. Ian and Barbara have returned home to England on Earth, but it’s the middle of the Cold War and their long absence has aroused suspicion. Gerrard wants Ian to tell him where he’s been, what he was doing, and more than everything to tell him about The Doctor.

After reviewing, briefly, how he and Barbara met the Doctor and Susan, and then how Susan left and they met Vicki, Ian tells Gerrard of their arrival on Hisk. The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki are exploring a market, but when Ian and the Doctor protest to a market seller that they are only browsing and they have no local money a constable is called over. The constable asks why they don’t have local currency, then explains they should have received their commerce cards when they entered Hisk through the spaceport. Every visitor to Hisk is entitled to a 700 unit commerce card. The constable leaves then hands out the cards to each of them. Shortly after that, market trading is halted for the day because it’s time for Limbus – the shared sleeping, rest, and dreaming time. During the dream, everyone’s experiences and dreams are shared. They head to the Limbus Hall, and Vicki remarks that the machines are like the teaching machines of her own time and that she slept-learned all her ancient history. Vicki tries out the experience and enjoys it, remarking she had a castle and there were dragons, nice ones (she painted the nails of one of the dragons) and et cetera. She and one of the constables’ talks Ian and Barbara into trying it. The Doctor insists that he won’t try Limbus, that it would clash with his body chemistry. But this time, something goes wrong – they meet the market seller who was selling pastries, only to find him again in the market – but this time he is selling cakes. Only one of those cakes suddenly grows into a monster and attacks the cake seller. Everyone rudely awakens. The cake seller insists “It might not be a Harbinger”, but no one quite believes him. The constable informs Ian, Barbara, and Vicki that everyone who sees a Harbinger dies within a few days – by suicide. The TARDIS team is shocked, they decide to protect the market seller. They go with him to his stall, and Barbara eventually decides to help him make a cake – she sends Ian, the Doctor, and Vicki to other parts of the market to get ingredients. But when they return the seller is gone though he left behind his address. They have difficulty finding the apartment, but when they do it’s too late, the man is dead. The Doctor though insists he heard and even saw someone else fleeing the scene. the local constables don’t believe him.

At the next Limbus session, it’s Vicki who is attacked by a Harbinger. The Doctor insists something is wrong, and it makes no sense that Vicki would be attacked. He knows something is wrong. The Doctor launches an investigation. The Doctor, Ian and Barbara interview various people who had skipped the Limbus session and investigate years of mysterious deaths that were classified as suicides despite mysterious circumstances. Later that day, Vicki is attacked. The scene is told from Ian’s point of view and at first, he thinks the Doctor is attacking Vicki. Then he sees a figure between the Doctor and Vicki who is actually the one attacking her. They save Vicki. The Doctor realizes that the Harbingers come from Limbus, and are ordinary people of Hisk that are programmed to rid the community of any people deemed unworthy.

The Doctor comes up with a plan to create his own Limbus, having Ian and Barbara build the dream world using their memories of Earth. This will replace the faults in the Hisk dream world. And it will stop the dream programming that turns people into monsters, monsters that everyone is programmed to ignore. It turns out Ian isn’t back on Earth at all – he’s still on Hisk, and his interrogator is the last remains of the fault in the Hisk programming. Ian and the Doctor convince the Hisk interrogator, really a representation of a program, that he must update and improve the Hisk world. And not ever destroy people because he thinks they are unworthy or lost. It seems to work.

The Sleeping City was an average story. At first, Hisk seems at an ideal place – everything is shared within the city and they make their money from trading with other cities. The constable who explains this points out, if they bought and sold items within the city, they’d only be taking from themselves. The entire planet is built into trading zones, and the Limbus sessions in each zone are staggered, so someone is always in Limbus. Within a zone, Limbus strengthens the community, and this is shared with the other zones. But the dark side is the AI that keeps Limbus going has gone a bit wonky and decided to kill off the members of the society that don’t fit in. It’s a dark concept and doesn’t quite make much sense. The story also is mostly about Vicki and Ian and Barbara is almost a ghost. She’s mentioned, here and there, but I kept wondering where she was. Still, William Russell does a brilliant job as Ian and John Banks is very good as Gerrard.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Wanderer

  • Title: The Wanderer
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Richard Dinnick
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Ian Chesterton, First Doctor, Barbara, Susan
  • Cast: William Russell, Tim Chipping (as Grigory)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/26/2020

**Spoiler Alert** I don’t give out 5 Star reviews lightly. My reviews usually top-out at four stars, and to earn five, something has to be extraordinary. The Wanderer, a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles audiobook/play lines is extraordinary. I loved every minute of it. My second listen wasn’t to catch any details I’d missed (I listen to audios while commuting) but because I just really wanted to listen to the story again. Immediately. It was that good.

The story begins with Ian reflecting on how the phrase, “Nomadic Lifestyle” conjures up romantic ideas of Arabian Nights, riding across the desert on camelback, but the reality is quite different, then he mentions one true wanderer he and Barbara met on their travels. Then his wonderful telling of the story transitions into the story itself. The TARDIS lands, we quickly find out, in Siberia in 1900. It’s extremely cold, though the local carters who give the Docter, Susan, Ian, and Barbara a lift to the nearest village remark that it is Springtime.

As they arrive in the village, they meet another wanderer, dress in robes, gathered in at the waist by a rope. He is called Grigory, and the people call him Staritz, meaning Elder, leader, healer of his people. Everyone is just getting to know one another when a man rushes up, asking for aid. He’s a local lumberjack and his sons have taken ill. The Doctor offers his services and they wander off, making the trek to the logging camp. But when the Doctor opens the door to the simple log cabin, he is taken very ill and collapses. Ian reflects that it reminds him of the Doctor getting radiation poisoning on Skaro. Barbara and Susan stay with the Doctor and the other two sick men while Grigory and Ian return to the village for medicines and aid.

At the village, they find the healing woman and obtain basic herbal remedies, they also obtain more lanterns then head back. But when they reach the cabin they find it’s been ripped apart, Susan and Barbara are gone, the two loggers have died, and the Doctor is still ill. But he recovers enough to tell Ian that he’s being affected by chronon radiation. There’s a device in the nearby boathouse that’s alien – and leaking radiation.

Barbara arrives and fills in some details. The Doctor starts to recover a bit. Susan was poisoned by the radiation, it affected her mind, she ripped up the room, then took off. Barbara ran after her then returned. The Doctor’s notebook contains information about the alien device. He’s recovered enough to tell Ian a little bit about it – it’s supposed to be a recon device, gathering information – but it’s malfunctioned. The interaction of the chronon radiation and the device’s original purpose means it’s recording Earth’s future at a rate of 1000 years per day. And anyone who touches the device is overwhelmed, either by the radiation itself or by a sonic blast of literally too much information. The two men who died touched the outer surface of the device and were poisoned. Susan touched the inside, became stuck to it by some force, and Barbara had to pry her off, but she still wasn’t stable and ran off. Grigory hears all this and touches the device. He’s knocked out but recovers. The Doctor manages to free the device’s homing beacon and reverse it. He gives it to Ian and asks him, Barbara, and Grigory to find the alien spaceship. As Ian and Grigory walk through the woods, it becomes clear Grigory wasn’t unaffected by his encounter with the alien device. He’s now seen the next thousand years of Earth’s future but not his own fate. The description really reminded me of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”.

“I can see: Alexander, Kaiser Wilhelm, Bolsheviks, a Great War
Revolution, Armistice, Stalin, Nazis, Hitler, a Second World War
Television, Computers, Space Flight, Gagarin, Berlin Wall, Cuban Missiles
A Tenth Planet, Aliens, Invasions, Lunar Bases, Men on Mars, The Doctor!”
– Grigory Rasputin

And a little later, Rasputin continues to describe to Ian how he sees the Doctor through time.

“The Doctor is woven through the Tapestry of Time, keeping it safe against all manner of enemy: Others of his kind, denizens of Hell and other planes,
Soldiers from distant worlds and home-spun foes,
Plastic people, Men of Metal, Creatures of Carbon, Silicon, and Calcium,
Egyptian Gods, werewolves, ghosts, and vampires,
So many nonsensical things with unpronounceable names, like scrambled Roman numerals.
If they are as ungodly as I suspect, then The Doctor must truly be a Staritz.” – Grigory Rasputin

After a short walk, Ian and Grigory come across a small, squat, frog-like spaceship. Hearing a scream, Ian hides behind the ship then sneaks around it. He sees three aliens, short and stocky, but powerful, like their ship, with four arms, and a tail that curves up over their heads from the back and ends in a nasty stinger. Essentially, they seem like intelligent, walking scorpions. One of the aliens is holding Mikhail prisoner (the father of the two loggers who found the device earlier). Ian makes himself known and Grigory runs off. The aliens demand Ian tell them the location of their Ranger. They kill Mikhail and bring the unconscious Susan out of the spaceship, threatening her. Ian demands them produce and set free Barbara, but the aliens ignore the demand (because they actually haven’t seen her). The aliens threaten Ian, but he points out that if they kill him, they will never find their Ranger. He also tells them the device was damaged in landing and it’s making the humans here sick. But he’s scanned, the aliens find the homing beacon on him, then he and Susan are returned to the ship and tied up. then the aliens (four of them now), leave. Susan opens her eyes. She’s awake, uninjured, and no longer affected by the poisonous radiation from the Ranger device. Just as she and Ian try to figure out how to get themselves free, the door opens. It’s Rasputin, who lets them out. He’d run off so he wouldn’t be captured and he could let them free.

Everyone ends up back at the boathouse, where the Doctor and Barbara are waiting, including the four aliens. The Doctor tricks the aliens into handling their device, but because it is malfunctioning, it turns the aliens into petroleum puddles. Grigory is suddenly overwhelmed by the info-dump of a thousand years of future history, screams in agony and collapses. The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan gather the villagers and they haul the alien spacecraft by horse to a nearby river and drop it in to hide it. The Doctor takes the alien device (what’s left of it) and Grigory into the TARDIS. Grigory is cured of the radiation poisoning by exposure to the time vortex, and the Doctor wires the device into the TARDIS console. He returns Grigory to the garden outside the palace in St. Petersburg, after assuring Ian that Grigory will not remember any of the events he experienced. But when the Doctor tries to program the TARDIS to return Ian and Barbara to 1963, the alien Ranger finally gives up the ghost and goes “poof”. Barbara is upset at first but then accepts it. Ian is depressed that he and Barbara will still be doomed to wander, but he realizes that as long as he’s with her, she is his home, so it’s all right.

I loved this story! Loved it – every though a short summary makes it sounds somewhat grim, it’s actually a very enjoyable and fun story, with lots of laugh-out-loud moments. Ian’s somewhat sardonic narration is absolutely perfect. And you gotta’ love that Ian meets a man, dressed as a monk, named Gregori, in Russia, in Siberia, in 1900 – and it NEVER crosses his mind this guy might possibly be Rasputin until Rasputin mentions his last name. That bit was hilarious – and it’s so Ian, he can be quite clueless sometimes, but it a totally loveable way. Also, Ian being a bit depressed at the end of the story because of the possibility of finally going home is dangled in front of him and then it’s snatched away until he realizes that wherever Barbara is is his home is perfectly priceless. The entire story is just filled with little gems here and there, bits of dialogue, situations, that just really work. They suit the characters, break the tension, get you to laugh, but never make fun of or demean any of the characters. I also enjoyed the beginning where Grigory is a very rational man, but also a man of faith who believes he has a destiny. This isn’t presented as ego, but as a common thing – that everyone, no matter who they are, wants to be remembered. The Wanderer is a truly enjoyable story and I highly recommend it.