Book Review – Doctor Who: The Invasion of E-Space

  • Title: The Invasion of E-Space
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Andrew Smith
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Romana II, Fourth Doctor, Adric, Marni Tellis
  • Cast: Lalla Ward (Romana II), Suanne Braun (Marni Tellis)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/9/2018

The Invasion of E-Space is a volume in the Big Finish Doctor Who Companion Chronicles line, featuring the Second Romana, the Fourth Doctor, and Adric. Romana, having left the Doctor at the Gateway [in the aired episode, “Warrior’s Gate”] ten or more years ago, and, having freed the enslaved Thralls, is about to go into battle. She records a message of another battle as a testament and a warning.

The Fourth Doctor, Romana, and Adric are in E-Space, looking for a CVE to use to travel back to their universe. Suddenly, a huge CVE opens up. But there are a lot of military and other spaceships facing the CVE. As we learn from the second narrator, Marni Tellis, a law enforcement officer, when the CVE appeared it devastated the planet, causing earthquakes, Tsunamis, and other natural disasters. Marni is a logical and practical person, so she’s surprised when she is summoned to give testimony about her recent case, a case of serial murders where the victims were killed by energy weapons and bladed weapons. Since similar murders were discovered on the inhabited moon, she is sent by shuttle there to investigate and report back.

The TARDIS is hit by the energy wave from the CVE and Romana and Adric are shaken up a bit, but the Doctor is injured. Romana has Adric help her take him to the zero room to recover. The TARDIS lands on Ballustra’s moon in one of the habitats and Romana and Adric are taken into custody. Marni interviews them, asking about the anomaly, which Romana explains is a CVE, and about the murders. Romana denies all knowledge of the murders but explains the CVE and its dangers. The interview is interrupted by something coming through the CVE – a lot of something, in fact, a Ferrian Raider fleet of teleport discs to transport in raiders to conquer Ballustra. Romana gives a warning, but she’s too late and the warriors appear. They kill a large number of people, but Marni escapes, briefly. Romana and Adric, we learn later, are taken captive by teleport to the Ferrian leader’s battle cruiser.

Marni calms herself, pulls herself together, and attempts to call other survivors. She’s attacked by Ferrian rocket fire. Fortunately, the Doctor rescues her. He takes her through the CVE on a recce. They discover a small Dwarf Planet with a noxious atmosphere that is home to thousands of Ferrian troopers. Marni thinks there is nothing they can do but go back and report what they saw. The Doctor has other ideas and sabotages the CVE generator.

Back in E-Space, Romana learns the Ferrian attacked Ballustra to obtain Gelintin (sp?) a rare mineral and power source. Extremely rare in N-space, it’s abundant on Ballustra. However, with the Doctor’s destruction of the CVE-generator, the doorway between universes is collapsing. Romana convinces the lead Ferrian that they must leave or they will be trapped with no supplies or backup and no way back. The Ferrian general agrees and orders a retreat. Romana and Adric escape in a lifeboat – but the Ferrians attack it. The Doctor rescues Romana and Adric and brings Marni home. Marni reports the entire incident united the if not exactly warring, but distrustful nations of Ballustra.

I enjoyed this story – it gave a hint of what else the Doctor and Romana ended-up doing in E-Space. It was also a rip-roaring SF adventure and a lot of fun. The story is performed in the normal Companion Chronicles two-hander style by Lalla Ward as Romana and Suanne Braun as Marni Tellis.

Highly recommended.

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

Click this link to order The Invasion of E-Space on CD or Download.

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

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Book Review – Doctor Who: Luna Romana

  • Title: Luna Romana
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Matt Fitton
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Romana I, Romana II, Future Romana, Fourth Doctor, Stoyn
  • Cast: Lalla Ward (Romana II), Juliet Landau (Romana I, Future Romana), Terry Molloy (Quadrigger Stoyn)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 4/27/2018

Luna Romana is a two-disc Big Finish Companion Chronicles story. It features Lalla Ward as the Second Romana and Juliet Landau as a future Romana and as the first Romana, a role originated by Mary Tamm. Tom Baker does not actively play the part of the Doctor (his voice is not present on the audio) but this story is firmly set in the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who, and Terry Molloy plays the villain. Each of the four episodes in Luna Romana is set in a different time and place, so I did have to listen to this audio twice to figure it out, and even then I found it a little confusing.

Part 1, after a short intro in which future Romana reflects on her early days with the Doctor, has the first Romana and the Fourth Doctor landing in ancient Rome to track down the Sixth Segment of the Key to Time. The Doctor takes in some local theater, but Romana is quickly bored by the coarseness of the play, so she decides to explore the nearby temple dedicated to the moon goddess. She finds a hidden room, and a very precise instrument to track the position of the moon and the calendar. She also finds a strange man, well, six of them, all with the same face. This man threatens her.

In part 2, the Second Romana and the Fourth Doctor land in what Romana takes to be ancient Rome again, but they quickly discover to be an amusement park on the moon: Luna Romana. The only person left in the park beside automatons is an insane Time Lord, named Stoyn. Stoyn’s been trapped on the moon for 2000 years. His only company is a time-space visualizer, which constantly shows the Doctor’s adventures. Stoyn has developed quite the hatred for the Doctor whom he blames for his predicament. Once the Doctor and Romana arrive, he takes the Doctor hostage. Romana quickly rescues him. However, during the resulting fight after Stoyn realizes that Romana disabled the robotic guards with her sonic screwdriver, Stoyn falls through the Time-Space Visualizer, which shatters around him, and into a time tunnel. Then Romana arrives. Realizing that she remembers seeing herself, this other Romana urges the Second Romana to jump through the time tunnel – which she does.

Back in ancient Rome, Romana lands on the temple roof, and nearly falls off, before being rescued. She and the Doctor discover the Key to Time, but it’s the Fifth Segment which they already have. Earlier Romana had let the “injured” Time Lord in the TARDIS to use the Zero Room to pull himself together (literally – the six identical men were splinters of Stoyn who was splintered by the journey through the broken Visualizer). But the TARDIS is stolen. Fortunately, the Future Romana sent the TARDIS back from the moon.

There is another confrontation on the moon, and this time the Doctor and Romana succeed in defeating Stoyn for good. Both return to ancient Rome, where the Doctor encourages an ancient playwright. The Doctor, who had been nervous about completing his mission for the White Guardian, realizes he can’t avoid it any longer. And Romana, in her future version, is more confident in herself and assured of her past lives and adventures.

I did listen to this audio adventure over a week ago (thus the April posting date on GoodReads). It was a good story, but a bit confusing in places. Lalla Ward does an excellent job telling the story, however, as does Juliet Landau. Terry Molloy is suitably angry and crazy as Stoyn (Molloy is known for his portrayal of Davros in “Genesis of the Daleks”.) Recommended. I still, though, prefer the single-disc Companion Chronicles but I do like the entire premise of the series as “missing adventures” and stories told from the point of view of the companion.

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

Click this link to order Luna Romana on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Pyralis Effect

  • Title: The Pyralis Effect
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: George Mann
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Romana II, Fourth Doctor
  • Cast: Lalla Ward, Jess Robinson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/23/2017

**Spoiler Alert** I usually really enjoy listening to Big Finish’s audio plays and the Companion Chronicles is one of my favorite lines, especially as the stories are told from the companion’s point-of-view, and they are often like Missing Adventures that would be impossible to do otherwise. However, The Pyralis Effect is very flat. Lalla Ward pretty much just reads the story, which seems to often have her cowering in a corner, ready to scream at a monster.

The plot has the TARDIS land on a huge spaceship. The Doctor and Romana II immediately go out exploring. The ship seems deserted. They find a control room with a growth chamber – and get separated as the Doctor wanders off. Romana of course gets herself lost, but hears a whimpering from a locked room. She opens the door and releases CAIN – an insane AI with a malfunctioning fungal brain. This catches the attention of the few people aboard the colony ship. Romana finds out that the ship is the Myriad, a colony ship, that left it’s home planet after a series of environmental disasters destroyed it. The planet’s people are held in a DNA bank, and the ship contains cloning equipment – once they find a new home, or return to their original one when it’s habitable, the colonists will be grown and start life anew. But for now, the ship has a very small crew and they seek The Doctor, a legendary and even mythic figure who helped their planet once before.

Romana and the Doctor are soon on the bridge, as the captain has sent three crew members to a nearby moon to investigate a strange obelisk they think might actually belong to the Doctor.

As Romana watches, she suddenly realizes that she recognizes the obelisk. It’s the gate to a dimensionally transcedental gateway – a prison, created by the Time Lords, to hold the Pyralis – fierce, conquering, beings of light, parasites that once threatened the entire galaxy, before being defeated by the Time Lords in a war. Romana rushes to stop Suri, the captain, but she is too late. The gate is opened, the entire moon implodes, a rift is born in space, and the Pyralis released. On the ship, one by one the crew is killed. At first, suspicion falls on the Doctor and Romana. When the second murder occurs while the two are locked up – suspicion falls on CAIN, the AI, whom Romana had accidentally released. Eventually, Romana figures out who the real murderer is – but not before nearly the entire crew is dead.

To finally defeat the Pyralis, the rift must be closed again. One of Suri’s few remaining crew sacrifices himself to close the rift (he was dying anyway). He’s successful. Before leaving, the Doctor gives Captain Suri the co-ordinates of a new planet where she can take the Myriad, and start her civilization anew. But he denies being The Doctor of their stories, and tells Suri she should forget about myth.

This story is pretty flat. Lalla Ward reads the story, rather than performing it. The story itself could have been an atmospheric English Manor House Mystery in Space (similar to the aired story, “Robots of Death”) but it misses the mark. The interesting concept of the Doctor dealing with the fallout of his actions to save a civilization – centuries later, and how that civilization now sees him is completely wasted, as the Doctor simply denies that he was the Doctor who saved Suri’s people before – calling such stories, “myth and poppycock”. Even though this is Romana’s story, she’s often portrayed not as strong and clever but screaming in corners, and simply pushed along by the plot.

Overall, the story is OK, but only a 3 out of 5, and a bit disappointing. There are much better stories in this range of Big Finish audios.

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

Click this link to order The Pyralis Effect on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Beautiful People

  • Title: The Beautiful People
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Jonathan Morris
  • Director: Mark J. Thompson
  • Characters: Romana II, Fourth Doctor
  • Cast: Lalla Ward, Marcia Ashton
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/20/2014

I’m really beginning to love Big Finish’s The Companion Chronicles range. Even though they are not full cast audios, the stories are great and I like the emphasis on the companions and/or the companion’s point of view. In this particular one, Lalla Ward does read the story (even including the chapter numbers and titles – something none of BF’s productions actually do whether audio book or audio play). What I like about The Companion Chronicles range though is that because the stories are about any of the past Doctors, they are more like the BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures or the Virgin Publishing Missing Adventures line of original paperback Doctor Who novels. Those were often some of my favorite stories – and they are something I miss.

This particular story is great fun, and has a good point to it. The Doctor is barely in the story, and most of it has Romana, separated from the Doctor, having her own adventure. She and the Doctor land on a planet, hoping for some relaxation, and the Doctor is craving a good doughnut. However, they’ve landed on a planet-wide health spa. The diet planet, however, is hiding a dark secret – which Romana must discover and stop. The story is brilliant – fun, adventurous, but with a point to it that I appreciated and welcomed. It really felt like late 70s/early 80s Doctor Who and that was awesome too. I highly, highly recommend this story.

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

Click this link to order The Beautiful People on CD.

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