Book Review – Doctor Who: Nightshade

  • Title: Doctor Who: Nightshade
  • Series: Doctor Who The New Adventures
  • Author: Mark Gatiss
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/23/2020

**Spoiler Alert** Doctor Who: Nightshade is a novel in the Doctor Who The New Adventures line from Virgin Books. The New Adventures feature the Seventh Doctor and Ace, and take place after the Classic Series episode, “Survival” (1989). In the novel, Nightshade, in the 1960s, strange things are happening in the small town of Crook Marsham: a retired actor who played Professor Nightshade on television is attacked by one of the creatures he fought on his television show in his retirement home; a woman is haunted by the spirit of her brother who died in World War I; and other strange occurrences happen. And even though people can enter the village – no one can leave.

The Doctor and Ace arrive, but the Doctor is ready to just settle down and retire instead of getting involved. While Ace explores the village and meets a young man named Robin, the Doctor heads to a nearby monastery for some well-deserved rest.

There is also a large radio telescope on the moor. The small staff there is studying the constellation of Orion, specifically looking for novas to study. Yet their instruments keep getting overwhelmed by some sort of strange signal. Also, Holly and Vijay, two members of the staff are having an affair, much to the dismay of their racist co-worker, Hawthorne. Fortunately, the director of the work at the radio telescope, Dr. Cooper is much more reasonable.

As the situation becomes more desperate and people start dying, the Doctor and Ace get involved and the Doctor tries to help. But this creature that remains unseen, attacks people through their memories – feeding on regret, sadness, guilt, and anger. And the Doctor has plenty of regrets. When the mysterious creature uses Susan against the Doctor he barely escapes. The situation becomes desperate, a nursing home aid accompanies a busload of seniors out of the village but their driver becomes overcome by sickness and crashes the bus. The driver dies but the seniors and Jill are alright. A visiting BBC reporter entering the village sees the accident and helps get everyone to the monastery. The Doctor reads up on the history of the village in the monastery and tries to discover what might be plaguing the village. Ace helps but also becomes friends with Robin. But the arrival of several seniors ultimately leads to a horrific creature attack when someone makes the mistake of starting a sentimental singalong.

As more people die in the village itself, the Doctor has everyone gather in the church, which has the effect of putting all the food in one place. He also spends time at the radio telescope, examining the signals that Dr. Cooper and her team found. But it’s at the monastery that he encounters the creature, which has taken over one of the local young men the Doctor tries to talk to it. He discovers the creature is old, nearly as old as the Earth itself, which formed around it. And the history of haunted castles and such in the village is due to the creature.

Later, however, as the situation gets desperate, the Doctor, Holly, Vijay, and the actor, Trevithick, go to try to communicate with the creature. It’s a disaster as Holly dies, and Trevithick sacrifices himself so the Doctor and Vijay can escape back to the radio telescope. But the Doctor finds out how to get the creature to leave. He tells the creature he can get all the energy he wants from the exploding star, a nova. The creature uses the radio telescope and leaves, heading to outer space and back in time as it follows the explosion that occurred nearly 300 years ago. Ace and the Doctor head back in the TARDIS and see the creature arrive in the 1600s where it causes a fire at a castle. The creature then heads into space to the nova – and eats up all the energy of the star. It follows another energy trace to a supernova and eats that up too. But eventually it gets trapped by the gravity of a black hole.

I enjoyed Nightshade. The Doctor is in a bit of a mood, due to previous events in the series, but the events in the village and Ace help bring him out of it. He’s much more fallible in this story, which fits with the Seventh Doctor – for example, he never should have brought Holly, Vijay, and Trevithick with him when he tries to communicate with the creature. Having the village gather in the church is less of a disaster – because, although the creature attacks it, no one dies. But having a radio telescope as a major set piece also reminds the Doctor of how his Fourth incarnation died, so that hangs over the novel, effectively.

Nightshade has a spooky quality to it – Holly, though she’s fallen in love with Vijay, cannot forget her previous fiancé who died. Trevithick remembers the most successful time in his life, playing the lead on a spooky BBC television children’s SF show (sound familiar?). Various characters remember past friends, relatives, situations, that they regret or that make them sad – which makes them vulnerable to the creature. Even the Doctor isn’t immune. Ace actually uses her complicated feelings about her mother to her advantage to fight off the creature. And the story takes place in an isolated village, on a moor, which adds to the spooky factor. Nightshade is an atmospheric novel, well-written, with great guest stars, and I also liked seeing a more vulnerable Doctor who can make mistakes. But the story is also clear and understandable, something that can be hard to find in the Doctor Who New Adventures line from Virgin Books. I recommend Nightshade.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Women Who Lived

  • Title: Doctor Who: The Women Who Lived
  • Author: Christel Dee & Simon Guerrier
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/30/2020

Doctor Who The Women Who Lived is a large coffee-table book with gorgeous full-color art for each character described in the book. But not only does it include all of the Doctor’s awesome female companions – it also includes friends, acquaintances, and one-time “companions” from the various specials or single stories of Doctor Who. But unlike the title says – these are not simply the women who lived, because companions famous for dying such as Sara Kingdom and Katarina are included. The book also includes villains and enemies of the Doctor.

Doctor Who The Women Who Lived lists each woman it discusses alphabetically and starts the description of each person with “there was a girl who” and then something positive that defines that character. Even the enemies of the Doctor, such as Mercy (from “The Next Doctor”) and Missy are given a positive spin, though their negative aspects are discussed eventually. Not only are careers discussed, but what made each person special and memorable to the Doctor and each person’s special abilities and personality are discussed too.

Doctor Who The Women Who Lived is an excellent reference book about the Doctor’s female companions – who they are, where they came from, their careers, and most importantly who they were as people that made them special and in the cases of most of these women – how they came to travel with the Doctor. However, it’s a little unusual to read a discussion of Barbara without also discussing Ian or Zoë without discussing Jamie. The other unusual thing about the book is that in some cases the book reveals a character’s entire fate it a way that may spoil a story if one hasn’t seen it. The entry for Samantha Briggs (“The Faceless Ones”) is especially bad this way. And it’s a hefty coffee-table book with beautiful art. This book is a must-have for any Doctor Who fan and makes for an excellent gift for young women. Highly recommended.

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 – 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.