Book Review – Naomi Season 1

  • Title: Naomi Season 1
  • Author: Brian Michael Bendis, David f. Walker
  • Artists: Jamal Campbell, Josh Reed, Carlos M. Mangual
  • Line: Wonder Comics
  • Characters: Naomi
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/11/2020

**Spoiler Alert** Naomi is one of four titles in DC Comics’ new young adult Wonder Comics imprint. Naomi is a young girl, who was adopted as a baby. She has good parents who love her, friends, a therapist, and she’s a fan of Superman – the way one might be a fan of a sports star, musician, or actor. One day, her dream comes true as Superman fights Mongul in the heart of her small northwestern town. The fight only lasts 17 seconds, does a lot of damage – and Naomi misses it. Even when she researches what happened online – she can find nothing. In the grand scheme of things, the biggest thing to happen to Oswego in years isn’t even a blip on the national news cycle.

However, this event sends Naomi on a new journey. Superman returns the next day to clean up the mess from the fight – but again Naomi misses it, and again Superman doesn’t stay long. When someone tells Naomi this “isn’t the first time, you know” meaning a super being or something unusual had happened in Oswego before, Naomi starts looking into it. Most people ignore her or claim nothing ever happens in their small town. But the town mechanic tells her the date of the last happening – the date of her adoption. Naomi starts asking questions – who is the mechanic? How does he know the date of her adoption?

In the middle of the night, Naomi decides to get her answers and goes to interview the mechanic. She assumes he is her father, and when she sees him with a photograph of another woman of color, she assumes that is her mother. Dee, the mechanic, denies it, denies everything. But he explains that he was a soldier, and not simply in a foreign army, but in an alien army – he is a member of the elite fighting corps of Thanagar. He and his partner were tasked with surgical strikes, assassinations, spying, et cetera. But the more time they spent undercover on different worlds the more he and his female partner began to question their orders and the war. And they fell in love. After a mission goes sideways, they end up together on Gemworld. But they cannot hide there very long. They find out about a portal – Dee is able to get to the portal and to Earth, but his love and partner doesn’t make it and is presumably either still on Gemworld or she was caught by Thanagarian solders.

Reeling from this information, Dee and Naomi are interrupted by her mother – her extremely angry mother. She takes Naomi home, they pick up her father, and head to the hills and a cave there. In the cave, her father shows her a spaceship. Naomi asks if it’s the ship she came in, and her father says – nope, it’s his ship. He was a soldier too, from Rann, and also in an elite squad. He was sent on a mission to Earth to track down a missing elite Thanagrian soldier. Once on Earth though, he met Naomi’s mother and fell in love. He decided to abandon his mission. And once he found Dee, finding him to be no current threat, he, Dee, and Naomi’s mother basically decided to stay out of each other’s way and to keep their secrets, secret.

Naomi’s parents were happy but her mother desperately wanted a child and they couldn’t have one. Traditional adoption would be difficult since her father had no history from before he suddenly arrived. One night something happens. Dee and Naomi’s father rush to where their communication equipment points them – and find a small battle. And a baby that all the warriors are trying to kill. The battle ends quickly, everyone else leaves, and the baby, Naomi, is left behind. Dee admits he cannot care for a child, so Naomi’s father takes her in. The only information they have is a blanket wrapped around the baby and a device with it.

In the cave, Naomi gets into the spaceship belonging to her father. She touches the device and suddenly glows with power. Next, she is telling her best friend, Annabelle, everything that has happened. When she touched the device, she felt a rush of power – but also received a message. The message was from her biological mother, an alien from a planet that experienced something called The Crisis. After an environmental disaster, and the destruction of the Ozone layer, the planet is bathed in radiation. But instead of killing everyone outright – 29 people receive superpowers. In short, they are turned into gods. One of these gods is a serial killer and criminal, who makes himself dictator of the world. The others band against him, but there’s some sort of infighting as well. Several of these new superheroes/gods die, others leave. Only a few are left, and the dictator, Zumbado, rules the planet, destroying everything with constant war. Naomi’s parents, both newly created superhero-gods, fall in love and have Naomi, but Zumbado wants this child. They give her to a friend, Akira, to bring to Earth. Akira succeeds. Zumbado kills Naomi’s birth parents. Naomi is able to use her power to escape and return to Earth. When Zumbado follows her, she uses her power to banish him. But although she is extremely powerful, she also has no idea how to really use her powers or what they are. But she is back with her family.

Naomi is a beautiful graphic novel. The artwork is incredible, it really is. The story, well, it’s an origin story, and is mostly exposition, with the promise of more to come. But that’s not really a criticism, as this is a very fresh and exciting story – it’s just only at the beginning. I hope to read more soon. Naomi does join another title in the Wonder Comics line, Young Justice plus notes on the graphic novel collection make me think her title will continue. I hope so. This book is highly recommended. Read it – you will not be disappointed.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Catalyst

  • Title: The Catalyst
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Nigel Fairs
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Leela, Fourth Doctor
  • Cast: Louise Jameson, Timothy Watson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/06/2020

**Spoiler Alert** The Catalyst is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles series, and it is an early one. The story features Leela of the Sevateam as she tells the story of one of her journeys with the Doctor. The wrap-around story has Leela, captured, held prisoner, and being tortured by a member of the Z’Nai, a fierce, prejudicial, and evil warrior race. The main story has the Fourth Doctor and Leela encountering the Z’Nai in Edwardian England. It works much better than the framing story.

The Doctor brings Leela to a country manor house in Edwardian England to “teach her some table manners”. After an awkward dinner, Leela and the spoiled young daughter, Jessica, explore the servants’ hall and the cellars. They discover a hidden “trophy room” belonging to Jessica’s father and the Doctor. It turns out that her father had traveled with the First Doctor for a time. But it isn’t just “certificates and cups” as Leela refers to a trophy room that the two women find. An alien is imprisoned in the room, held in a stasis and decontamination field.

Jessica finds and presses a button that wakes up the soldier, though he is still trapped and unable to move. The soldier claims he is the last of his people, that they were destroyed by the Doctor. Leela doesn’t trust the soldier and leaves to find him to find out more about the situation. Jessica refuses to leave the room with Leela, telling her she wants to learn from the soldier. It will be a fatal decision.

When Leela and the Doctor return – the soldier has been released, and Jessica is dead. Tracking the soldier – they find both of the Douglas family’s servant girls are dead, as well as the butler and Mrs. Douglas. Leela and the Doctor find the warrior, who goes on and on about the Doctor “causing” the disease that wiped out his people. But the Z’Nai that the warrior leads (he is the Emperor, not a simple soldier) are Xenophobic, prejudicial, and arrogant – they had been wiping out everyone who was not Z’Nai when the Doctor and Mr. Douglas encountered them. And even on their own planet, the Z’Nai had opened purification camps, where those who did not agree with the Emperor’s hatred of everything and everyone different from himself were killed or converted into soldiers – clones of the emperor. Clones that looked, sounded, and thought exactly like the Emperor. Almost immediately after finding the Z’nai emperor Humbrackle, he collapses, a victim of the disease that killed the clone Z’Nai. The Doctor and Leela take him into the TARDIS for medical treatment then return him to his stasis field in the house.

When the Doctor and Leela return to the Edwardian House, a Z’Nai warship arrives. It’s arrival causes the windows and door frame of the house to blow out. The Doctor is knocked unconscious by a flying piece of wood. The warriors attack and kill Mr. Douglas, the only one left alive by Humbrackle. One of the soldiers attacks Leela after she tells him she doesn’t know the date because she is a time traveler. Leela fights back and the soldier immediately becomes very sick from her touch. The other soldiers shoot down the infected warrior. There’s a massive fight between Leela and the soldiers – but when she touches them, they die. The Doctor wakes up and trying to mitigate the fight, but he is attacked as well. Leela spits at the soldier attacking the Doctor – and the soldier dies. At the end of the fight, all the soldiers are dead from the now airborne virus. The Doctor tells Leela she’s become a carrier, a catalyst. The Doctor burns down the house and all the evidence of the invasion and the Doctor and Leela leave in the TARDIS.

In the wrap-around story, an ancient Leela is still held prisoner by a Z’Nai warrior. It speaks as if generations of Z’Nai have existed, as clones, destroying everyone that is not Z’nai in their path, all the so-called “lesser” species. Leela remarks that the Z’Nai used to leave a panel open in their armor, exposing their skin. The warrior remarks they no longer follow such absurd customs, but he likes to remove his helmet and look someone in the eye before killing them.

Overall, The Catalyst is a good story, but it’s about average for the Companion Chronicles. Basically, it’s War of the Worlds fierce, genocidal, alien race is knocked out by the common cold (or some sort of virus). I also found it strange the Doctor would use “carrier” and “catalyst” as synonyms. A carrier is someone who carries a disease or genetic defect but isn’t affected by it, such as a carrier for color blindness or hemophilia or typhoid. A catalyst is a chemical substance that causes a chemical reaction – but isn’t affected by the reaction. Not really the same. And for the Doctor to explain what a carrier is to Leela by saying it’s like a catalyst probably made the idea as clear as mud to her. And yet again – Leela dies at the end of the story, but of extreme old age after being imprisoned. The central story worked, but I felt the wrap-around story did not and wasn’t even necessary. The listener gets all the information they need from the dialogue in the central story, so the wrap-around wasn’t needed. But this is an early story in the range. I still recommend it, especially if Leela is one of your favorite companions because Louise Jameson is terrific performing this.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Good Doctor

  • Title: The Good Doctor
  • Series: BBC Books New Series Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: Juno Dawson
  • Characters: Thirteenth Doctor, Yaz, Ryan, Graham
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/30/2020

I found The Good Doctor to be disappointing – it’s basically a chance for the author to bash organized religion and even make lots of anti-Catholic attacks at the end of the book. And that type of bigotry is something that doesn’t belong in Doctor Who, especially the more recent years which have tried to be more accepting of diversity.

The story opens at the end of another story as the Doctor, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz are on Lobos, a planet with two races: human colonists and intelligent dogs. The two races are in a civil war, so the Doctor with help from Ryan, Yaz, and Graham, brokers a peace agreement. There’s even an interracial couple that’s a symbol of the new way, with the Humans and Lobos sharing the planet. Having “fixed things” the Doctor and company leave.

But Ryan realizes he’s lost his phone on Lobos so they return. And it’s 600 years later and someone has started a new religion – worshipping “The Good Doctor”. This religion has become the state religion of the humans and sees the Lobos enslaved. Women are also second-class citizens, forced to worship separately, not allowed out by themselves after nightfall, and basically denied their civil rights. Women are blamed for “The Fall” and a “plague” that nearly wiped out everyone on Lobos – the Lobos are also blamed for the plague, and it’s revealed they were hunted and killed. And this new religion thinks Graham is “The Good Doctor”.

The abuse and enslavement of the Lobos and lower status of women have led to a resistance movement. Unfortunately, the rebel leader has been pushed so far, especially after the death of his wife in a raid, that he wants to destroy the ruling humans completely. The entire city, especially the TARDIS-like temple rests on a network of caves and tunnels from previous mining. And the rebel leader has been expanding the tunnels, causing earthquakes. But his big plan is to literally topple the temple by tunneling under it.

Although the story moves along quickly, it’s marred by the author’s attacks on religion, which weaken the story as well. It would have been more interesting if Ryan’s lost phone had had some sort of effect on the culture of Lobos, but as it is, the phone is barely mentioned and never recovered.

The Doctor confronts the leadership of this new religion, while Yaz talks down the rebel leader from his winner-takes-all position and Ryan works with one of the Lobos. It works out, but it’s hinted that now the Thirteenth Doctor is the subject of adoration and worship. The book is OK but not great. I’m very glad that this was the last of the three Thirteenth Doctor BBC novels I read, though it may have been published first. I’d recommend only purchasing it to have a complete set.

Doom Patrol Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: Doom Patrol
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 15
  • Discs: 3 (Blu-ray)
  • Network: DC Universe (Warner Brothers)
  • Cast: Alan Tudyk, Diane Guerrero, April Bowlby, Matt Bomer, Timothy Dalton, Brendan Fraser, Joivan Wade, Phil Morris
  • DVD: Widescreen Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

This review contains spoilers for the first season of Doom Patrol.

Doom Patrol is weird, wonderful, strange, and extremely good – and it’s not your same old-same old superhero show. It’s a deeply psychological show that aims to really show what mental illness is like for the people that have it, which is a vastly different approach to a superhero show. Nevermind being screw-ups, the Doom Patrol is doomed to never be successful.

The pilot and first episode of Doom Patrol are narrated by Mr. Nobody, whom it turns out is the villain. His narration pops-up occasionally throughout the series, especially in the Penultimate Patrol and the finale. Each episode of the series also is the “blank Patrol” or the “something Patrol”. Also, the Chief, played by Timothy Dalton, is kidnapped by Mr. Nobody in those first few episodes, so the Doom Patrol are trying to find and rescue their chief, who we do see occasionally in the series – including a flashback episode that somewhat explains why Niles Calder is interested in the unusual in the first place.

The characters are:

“Crazy Jane” – she has 64 multiple personalities, each with their own special abilities. The personalities exist in the “underground” a place we visit once. Jane is the primary. Everyone calls Jane by her name of Jane, though her birth name is possibly “Kay Challis” we learn later. Other personalities include: Hammerhead – a foul-mouthed, angry, extremely strong woman (in the underground she is bald and a punk); Baby Doll – with pigtails, and a giggly manner she’s both sweet and annoying in equal manner; Penny Farthing – a young British Cockney girl who’s purpose is to run; Silver Tongue – when she speaks her words appear in copper letters which she can then use as a weapon; and The Secretary – who we only see in the Underground, a stern woman, with severe dress and hair, but she seems to be in charge of keeping Jane’s head together – organizing the personalities and preventing further harm from coming to Jane.

Cliff Steele (Robotman) – a race car driver, who is in a horrible accident. The Chief transplants his brain into a robot body. At first we, the audience, like Cliff think he was in an accident on the race track. But he avoids that, then is a normal traffic accident late at night. The accident kills his wife, and he thinks his daughter too, but later he discovers she survived. Cliff had been raised in an abusive home, and he and his wife fought constantly and both had constant affairs.

Rita Farr (Elasti-girl) – A movie actress in the 1950s, she complains about a “disfigured” cameraman then falls through a wooden pier into an African river, where some strange substance enters her. Now her skin and form aren’t solid and she has little to no control of the situation. We usually see Rita losing control of her form by her face drooping or her legs turning into a goopy mess.

Larry Trainer (Negative Man) – A test pilot in the late 50s/early 60s – Larry is testing a new plane when an extra-terrestrial creature enters the plane. He crashes – and is rushed to a secret government facility. He is extremely radioactive and has to wear special bandages to prevent harm to others (he discovers this when he accidentally kills all the doctors and nurses at the first hospital he’s taken to). The creature inside him can leave, but when the Energy Spirit leaves, Larry is knocked out cold. Larry is also gay but hides it from nearly everyone.

Vic Stone (Cyborg) – He’s been Cyborg for an unspecified amount of time, but ends-up joining the Doom Patrol due to complications. He’s a friend of the Chief but has a complicated relationship with his father, Dr. Silas Stone, whom he doesn’t quite trust.

All of these characters face serious mental issues. Jane is the most obvious – her multiple personality disorder was caused by abuse – and the meta abilities were caused by the same agency that got their kidnapped Larry, giving her some sort of injection. At times Jane is the most normal of the group.

Rita’s ability is a visualization of body dysmorphia. As an actress, especially from the 1950s, her looks were her livelihood – and we often see Rita checking her makeup in a compact, or sitting in front of a makeup mirror. As we learn more about her, we find out she was also a victim of the “casting couch” – forced to provide “favors” to get roles. Rita Farr isn’t even her real name, but her stage name – further complicating how she sees herself.

Larry cannot accept he is gay. He has a wife and children, a job in the military as a test pilot, and pretty much has faked his entire life to create an appearance of “being normal”. He’ll have the occasional affair or fling with a man but cannot commit or even admit who he really is. Through the season, we see Larry slowly grow to accept who he really is.

Cliff is the son of an abusive father, who becomes abusive and a womanizer as an adult. But he also, despite the bravado, is close to accepting his faults and becoming a better person.

Even Mr. Nobody has only one talent – to manipulate people (and he manipulates all of the Doom Patrol, even the Chief, throughout the season). He has ideas about weapons and such that he thinks will gain him membership in the Brotherhood of Evil, but his lack of follow-through gets him fired instead, and his wife leaves him.

Vic Stone is still coming to terms with being Cyborg and is deeply distrustful of his father. He’s trying to find his own place in the world.

Besides Mr. Nobody, the villain of the piece is The Bureau of Normalcy – a “secret government agency” that both Larry and Niles (the Chief) had worked for at one time. The Bureau seeks to lock-up, study, turn into weapons, or just out and out destroy anything that isn’t “normal”.

Doom Patrol is visually stunning, weird, wonderful, and a must-see. Highly recommended.

Young Justice Season 3 Review

  • Series Title: Young Justice – Outsiders
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 26
  • Discs: 4
  • Network: DC Universe (Warner Brothers)
  • Cast: Jesse McCartney, Danica McKellar, Nolan North, Khary Payton, Stephanie Lemelin, Zehra Fazal, Troy Baker, Jason Marsden, Greg Cipes, Alyson Stoner, Mae Whitman, Zeno Robinson, Tara Strong, Bryton James, Jason Spisak
  • DVD: Widescreen Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

Young Justice is an excellent series about the younger superheroes and protegees of the major heroes in the DC Universe – don’t call them sidekicks. The show had two popular and critically acclaimed seasons on Cartoon Network before being abruptly canceled because rumor said the show didn’t “sell enough toys”. Fans set out to bring the show back, and it finally arrived on DC Comics’ new streaming service DC Universe.

The new season is just as good as the previous ones – and gets back to the feel of the first season, with references to The Light, Vandal Savage, Darkseid, and even War World (which is now under the control of Savage). But many of the episodes concentrate on the characters – and what it means to be a teenager, especially a teen with superpowers. Starting in Markovia, where Nightwing hopes to break up a meta-trafficking ring including a lab to “activate” the metagene, the operation doesn’t go to plan. The King and Queen of Markovia who have opened the border to refugees from the rogue state of Qurac and announced an anti-trafficking initiative are murdered. Their second son agrees to have his metagene activated so he can protect Markovia. Their oldest son takes over but is under the control of his general – a conservative Xenophobe who wishes to exile the protected refugees and not only turns a blind eye to meta-human trafficking but was behind the lab in the first place (in collusion with Lex Luthor and the Light). The older brother exiles his younger brother. Also, their younger sister, Tara has been kidnapped and is still missing. She also is a meta. Brion, the younger brother, now a Meta, eventually using the code name Geo-Force, joins the team.

Next, the team of young heroes is contacted by Orion of the New Gods because something is happening on his home planet of New Genesis. The team discovers that someone is impersonating Orion and other New Gods and intimidating the “bugs” who live on the surface of New Genesis. Forager, one of these bugs helps the Young Justice team and joins them, in part because he can’t stay on New Genesis – it’s too dangerous.

Also, joining the team, a young girl, named Violet, whom one of the team sees dropped in a pit with other dead teenagers but she isn’t dead. It isn’t quite evident immediately what Violet’s powers are. She has a Halo around herself (thus her superhero name of “Halo”), can make shields and defensive weapons. She also cannot die, as her healing powers bring her back. Eventually, it’s discovered she is fused with a Motherbox from New Genesis and she can make Boom Tubes.

The season alters between episodes about the various characters – checking in on characters from previous seasons, and also developing the new characters. Violet’s character takes several episodes to develop – we know some things about her immediately, but not everything. Fred Bugg/Forager is a marvelous character and a bit more complicated than he seems at times. Prince Brion/Geo-Force spends a lot of time insisting the team find his missing sister, Tara, but when they do – it becomes very complicated since she’s under the abusive thumb of Slade Wilson. Brion is also exiled from his own country. This season also introduces Victor Stone – Cyborg, who is having a very hard time adjusting to his new identity. The season also opens with Batman withdrawing from the Justice League in protest to Lex Luthor’s restrictions on the League placed through his role as president of the United Nations. Batman takes several people with him to form “Batman Inc.” Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning, retires at the same time after thinking he killed a teenager who had been turned into a Meta. Nightwing takes Black Lightning under his wing, no pun intended, and he joins the Team unofficially.

Batman Inc. isn’t really seen, but it’s clear they are manipulating events, behind the scenes to give the Young Justice team good publicity (which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t) and to battle The Light and G Gordon Godfrey – a tabloid television journalist who’s a real pain.

Halfway through the season, once Tara is rescued and reunited with her brother, and Cyborg joins the team but is still learning how to control his powers that come from a Fatherbox, Beast Boy proposes a new direction for the Young Justice team. Calling themselves “Outsiders” – they are to generate good publicity for all metas, including young meta teens who have been rescued from meta trafficking and are being housed in the Justice League’s Teen Center. Beast Boy’s day job is playing “Commander Tork” on “Space Trek 3016” produced by GW Goode Studios run by Gretchen “Granny” Goode. Early in the season, the Young Justice team discovers the Virtual Reality goggles her company is producing are being used to tempt young potential meta children and teens away to be kidnapped by traffickers. Later, they discover “Gretchen” is none other than Granny Goodness from  Apokolips. Beast Boy is in charge of the positive image campaign and social media for the Outsiders.

At this point, there are multiple teams: the traditional Young Justice covert ops team, the Outsiders public PR team, and Batman’s Batman Inc. undercover team. It’s not clearly spelled out who is on what team, and there is overlap – but the show now has much more intrigue and covert operations feel to it, much like the first season. This doesn’t overshadow the character relationships though, which are really what makes Young Justice special. The series also has an extremely large cast, with pretty much any and all DC characters appearing at least once. The core for season three though is: Nightwing, Superboy, Tigress (Artemis Crock), Violet, Brion, and Forager, Beast Boy (Garfield Logan), Will Harper, Cyborg, M’Gann, El Dorado, Impulse (Bart Allen), Static, Wonder Girl, and Terra (Princess Tara).

I highly recommend Young Justice as a whole and Season 3 in particular. It is a series that is complex and multi-layered and you do need to watch each season in order to really catch everything that is happening and all the connections and characters. Seasons 1 and 2 are on my re-watch list at which point I will need to see this a second time. Highly recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Molten Heart

  • Title: Molten Heart
  • Series: BBC Books New Series Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: Una McCormack
  • Characters: Thirteenth Doctor, Yaz, Ryan, Graham
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/30/2019

**Spoiler alert**

Molten Heart is an achingly beautiful book. The planet where the Doctor and her companions happen to land is beautiful, and home to a unique society of living rocks. The story opens with the Doctor and her companions, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz landing the TARDIS – they are in a bubble inside the crust of a planet. There are gemstones and semi-precious stones in abundance, but something seems off. Ryan and Graham are nearly killed by a sudden super-heated geyser of water and steam and the group meets Ash – a living rock, and one of the people who live in Diamond City, though she is more of an explorer than the very much stay at home types of her home city. It turns out her father, Basalt was a scientist – and a scientist who is very concerned about their home. He did studies and experiments in his library and workshop but the leadership of Diamond City ignored him. Finally, in desperation, he set out on a mission to find out more about the sudden cracks in the sky, the geysers, why the Ocean dried up, etc.

After learning about this from Ash and a friend of Basalt’s named Quartz, the group hides as much of Basalt’s research as possible, then sets off to follow him. Fairly early on in the trip, there’s another surprise geyser and the group is separated into two groups – the Doctor, Ryan, and Ash continue to follow Basalt’s trail whereas Quartz, Yaz and Graham return in secret to Diamond City. The Doctor manages to warn Yaz not to trust Quartz.

In Diamond City, Yaz and Graham meet a group of Basalt’s “friends” but many of them don’t quite trust the travelers and see them as proof of Basalt’s “heresy” instead, so they are turned over to the Greenwatch – the secret police directly controlled by Emerald, the leader of Diamond City. Yaz tried to explain to Emerald she was from another planet but that the Doctor was there to help, but Emerald refuses to listen and locks her up. Fortunately, one of the people at the initial meeting, Onyx, does believe Yaz and helps her and Graham get out of jail.

Meanwhile, The Doctor, Ryan, and Ash follow her father’s trail – it’s beautiful, exciting and weird, the type of fantasy-science adventure we don’t often see in Doctor Who more similar to Jules Verne or JRR Tolkein than the show, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. You have canoeing on a lava river, giant mushroom forests, all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff. Eventually, they find Basalt and the remains of an extraterrestrial mining colony – which is stressing the crust of the planet and threatening the entire civilization. Basalt and his small company of companions are trying to stop the crack, because if it continues the entire world will flood, but they aren’t having much luck against such a huge problem. The Doctor goes to the surface of the planet only to discover the entire operation is automatic, and even the machines were built automatically by nanomachines. She turns off the drilling equipment but triggers a series of defense satellites, which start firing at the planet. Then she contacts the people responsible – only to discover an inexperienced staffer on his second day who has no idea what to do. The Doctor talks him through making some good decisions. Ryan also gets to play an almost video game of shooting the unarmed satellites out of the sky. Needless to say, Ryan loves it.

The Doctor also uses to alien telecom equipment first to reach Yaz and Graham, but later to address Emerald – and when she discovers Emerald had declared Basalt a heretic who’s “science” was causing the disasters (by this time an entire “colony” or suburb had been destroyed when a crack in the sky let in deadly seawater), the Doctor address all the people in Diamond City, showing them the truth about their Bubble World, the aliens who had started mining operations, and how even with shutting everything down – Basalt would need help fixing the existing damage. Emerald has a hard time admitting her mistakes – but she does, and the Doctor uses the TARDIS to transport more rock people to the crack to help fix it. Ryan also suggests reversing the nanobots to take apart machinery and fill in the miner’s tunnels, which they do.

With everything on its way to being fixed, and Basalt being rescued – as well as seeing the surface of his own planet for the first time, briefly, the Doctor and her fam leave.

Molten Heart is a beautiful story – the rock people and their city is gorgeous, their society makes sense (it’s small and insular and in general no one wants to explore – very much the small English village or even small, American town), and even though the message about how the climate is changing and it threatens everyone and everything if something isn’t done – well the message is there but I didn’t feel it was too overbearing. Emerald isn’t evil, just a bit misguided in how she approaches a challenge. Her fear of “panic” if people know the danger is overblown of course, once the Doctor tells everyone the truth and asks for help for Basalt – she gets even more help than she needs and everyone pitches in to help shore up the cracked ceiling and prevent seawater getting in and killing the rock people and destroying their city. (The salt water acts like acid and dissolves the rock people instantly.) Even the aliens who set up the mining are more lazy and inefficient than outright evil – the planet seemed uninhabited. (The guy the Doctor contacts is almost laughable and adorable at the same time – it’s his *second day* and he has no idea how to handle a crisis, much less the Doctor!) I highly recommend this novel, it’s one of the best Doctor Who stories I’ve read in a long time!

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Last Post

  • Title: The Last Post
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: James Goss
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Dr. Liz Shaw, Dr. Emily Shaw, Third Doctor, 
  • Cast: Caroline John, Rowena Cooper
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/31/2019

To be completely honest – I listened to this audio in October or early November sometime, but I did listen to it twice, still, I’ve probably already forgotten a few details. The Last Post is part of Big Finish’s The Companion Chronicles which tell stories from the companion’s point of view and fill in gaps from previous eras of the series. Set in the Third Doctor’s first season, The Last Post features Dr. Liz Shaw and her mother, Dr. Emily Shaw, as well as mentions of other members of Liz’s family. The story opens with Liz and her mum meeting for a long-overdue meal. Her mother presses Liz for details on her new hush-hush job, and when Liz is hesitant to reveal any secrets, her mother points out she’s signed the Offical Secret Act multiple times. Liz decides she can mention where she works, only to have her mother answer, “Oh, you work for UNIT!” Liz is flabbergasted to learn her mother knows about UNIT, but she responds that she is on “a lot of committees”.

The rest of the story is told mostly through exchanges of letters and phone calls. In between updating her mum on her adventures with the Doctor, Liz tells her mum that she seems to have uncovered a conspiracy or at least something strange. People are dying, strangely, but they also are being warned of precisely when their life will expire. The Doctor ignores Liz’s findings and her mother suggests the deaths are coincidences at first.

However, eventually, the Doctor joins Liz in her investigation, only to be stung by some weird metal scorpion. Liz’s mum also seems to know more than she initially stated. When she starts to feel that one of her committees is going too far, Dr. Emily Shaw tells her daughter about the precise nature of her committee’s work. Dr. Shaw tells Liz that in the wake of World War II, the government began to collect and analyze data, chiefly concerning life expectancy. The more data was collected, the more addicted to data collection the government became. Eventually, computers were used to collate and analyze the data. A computer was developed with the intent to predict life expectancy. But it instead predicted the end of the world – earning the computer the nickname, “The Apocalypse Clock”. This Clock predicted, precisely the deaths of individuals – but with their deaths, the end of the world was pushed back – granting them more time. When Dr. Emily Shaw receives a letter warning her of her death, only for her to be rescued by the Doctor, it’s the catalyst for Liz, Dr. Shaw, and UNIT to put an end to the “The Apocalypse Clock”.

The exchange of letters and phone calls is a wonderful framing device for this story and Dr. Emily Shaw is a great character. The Apocalypse Clock is spooky and would have been a better title for the story than, “The Last Post” (which refers to the elder Dr. Shaw’s “last” letter to her daughter). The story is also bittersweet since it’s the last story Caroline John recorded for Big Finish before passing away. Still, with all of that – it’s an excellent story and I recommend it.