Doctor Who – Spearhead from Space Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: Spearhead from Space
  • Story #: 51
  • Episodes: 4 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 01/03/1970 – 01/24/1970
  • Cast: Jon Pertwee, Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney
  • Format: Standard, Color, DVD, NTSC

“What are you a doctor of, by the way?” – Dr. Liz Shaw
“Practically everything, my dear.” – The Doctor

Spearhead from Space is known for its firsts and is almost what would now be termed a soft reboot of the series. It’s the first story filmed in color, and unusually for the series – the entire episode was shot on film and on location. At the end of the previous story, The War Games, the actor portraying the Doctor, Patrick Troughton left, as did his companions Zoë (Wendy Padbury) and Jamie (Frazer Hines), so as well as introducing a new Doctor, Spearhead from Space introduces a new companion, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist from Cambridge, and the Brigadier returns, still in charge of UNIT. Doctor Who will now be focused on Earth-bound invasion stories, set in the “near future” (something later forgot by the production team who seemed to assume the stories were contemporary to when they were made).

This story has the Doctor’s TARDIS arriving in a wood, the Doctor stumbling out, and collapsing. He’s brought to a nearby cottage hospital and is unconscious for much of episode one, and erratic for much for episode two. It isn’t until he takes a shower in the hospital and borrows some clothes that the Doctor seems to wake up – eventually working with Liz and the Brigadier to discover just what the mysterious landfall of meteorites and strange goings-on at Auton Plastics factory mean. The story develops somewhat slowly but fits together well, as bit by bit, UNIT, the Doctor, Liz, and other characters in the story, learn what is going on. UNIT’s radar station reports on the meteorites and the Brigadier tells Dr. Shaw a larger group landed earlier. Liz scoffs at the Brigadier using the word, “landed”.

Meanwhile, a poacher in the woods finds one of the “thunderballs” and buries it to hide it. UNIT is looking for the meteorites and finds the Doctor’s TARDIS. The Doctor is unconscious at the local cottage hospital. In episode 2, a salesman returns to his factory only to discover it mysteriously changed, his boss unreceptive to his hard work opening a new market in the US, and a letter of dismissal at his home. He later sneaks back into the factory and discovers an Auton who fires at him. Terrified out of his wits he runs out to the woods and into UNIT’s hands. One of the Brigadier’s men takes his statement. He later convinces the Brigadier something is wrong at the factory. Meanwhile, the poacher digs up his “thunderball” and transfers it to a metal box in his shed.

The alien in this story is the Nestene Consciousness, which has no form to speak of, only a hive mind stored in the hollow plastic-like balls that landed during the meteor shower. The Consciousness can animate plastic and co-opts the manager of a plastics factory. This story features story dummies breaking out of window displays, and plastic duplicates of General Scobie and other civil servants and military leaders. The salesman is instrumental in giving information to the Brigadier and UNIT that something is wrong at the factory – but he’s also killed by an Auton dummy. Eventually, his boss, the factory manager, who was under Channing’s control is also killed by the Autons. And when the Doctor and Liz construct a device to disrupt the signals animating the Auton mannequins and break up the Nestene Consciousness – Channing is revealed to be another Auton dummy. During the final attack, the device works fine on the basic Autons but doesn’t work on the Consciousness itself. The Doctor is attacked by tentacles coming out of a tank, and it’s Liz who, on her own must adjust the device until it works, which saves the Doctor and defeats the alien menace, so to speak.

They return to UNIT, and the Doctor bargains with the Brigadier, getting a job as scientific advisor to UNIT, with access to equipment and tools, plus essentials like clothing (since he borrowed his current outfit from the hospital) and a car (since he must return the borrowed red roadster he used in the episode). The Doctor gives the name of “Dr. John Smith” for his paperwork that will make him official on Earth.

Spearhead from Space starts off a new era for Doctor Who. It introduces Dr. Liz Shaw and changes the direction of the show. The cost savings of staying on Earth with contemporary settings, like offices, and 1970s London, were put into car chases, effects, large-scale practical attacks, and a grander scale for the stories. Spearhead from Space is almost like a pilot in introducing these ideas: there’s a chase scene with the Doctor in a wheelchair, UNIT makes an assault on the Auton Factory, the setting is meant to be slightly futuristic but since people still use corded phones (and pay phones at that) and in one scene all the reporters are male – there’s an old-fashioned quality to it too. But it definitely starts to establish the new rules and new patterns for the next three years. Pertwee would play the part for five years, but only regain the time and space traveling abilities of his TARDIS after the tenth-anniversary special, The Three Doctors. The story itself is a bit slow in spots, but the four-episode length helps it from being extremely slow. I liked that Liz actually saved the Doctor herself without any assistance, but I didn’t like that she gets no credit for this, not even a thank you from the Doctor. Still, this is a great place to start with when watching the Third Doctor, or even for starting to watch Classic Doctor Who.

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Book Review – Doctor Who: Second Chances

  • Title: Second Chances
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: John Dorney
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Zoë, Jaime, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Wendy Padbury, Emily Pithon
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/22/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles audio Doctor Who Second Chances is the final volume in the Zoë series, which is now four titles total. The audio picks-up where the previous one left off, with Zoë in the clutches of The Company who want information from her – information on the Doctor, on Time Travel, and even on the Achromatics from Echoes of Grey. But whereas before Zoë had been reluctant to say anything, her interrogator, Kym, gets her talking pretty quickly this time.

Zoë tells Kym that the TARDIS landed on a space station. She the Doctor, and Jaime learned quickly that the station was one of a pair, and the sister-station, Apollo, had just broken up. But before the break-up, Artemis Station received a coded message. Zoë offers to decode the message. As she works, she realizes the full horror of the message – it’s a computer virus that can jump species and infect humans as well, through sync operators that plug physically into computers. She tries to block and contain the virus but is knocked out.

Back at the company’s stronghold, Kym returns and tells Zoë that the Apollo Station has been destroyed, but since she said Artemis Station was destroyed two days later, they can reach the station and stop the destruction. Zoë agrees. But when she gets to the station, she slowly realizes the truth. It was Kym who knocked her out in the station – allowing the virus to get loose. And it was the older Zoë herself who gave the injured younger Zoë a breather, stating it’s “standard issue”. It’s even Kym and Zoë who are locked in the shuttle that refuses to let anyone from the station on board – and then rips the station apart when leaving. But Zoë is able to send the virus to The Company’s computers – to utterly destroy the company, and then burn itself out before it does any more damage. Younger Zoë is rescued in space by the Doctor. Older Zoë is rescued by Jen, a former Company employee and the pilot of Kym’s shuttle, who tells Zoë she will use leftover Company technology to help her remember – no strings attached.

I enjoyed this story. It was good to have the Zoë Trilogy (Quadology?) finally wrapped up and with a satisfactory conclusion. I did find the story to be a bit predictable though. Still, the performances are excellent, and I liked the story. It is highly recommended. Do listen to the first three volumes first, however.

Read my review of volume one: Echoes of Grey.

Read my review of volume two: The Memory Cheats.

Read my review of volume three: The Uncertainty Principle.

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

Click to order Second Chances on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Dying Light

  • Title: The Dying Light
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Nick Wallace
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Second Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon, Zoë Heriot, Quadrigger Stoyn
  • Frazer Hines (Jamie, The Doctor), Wendy Padbury (Zoë), Terry Molloy (Stoyn)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/15/2018

The Companion Chronicles series by Big Finish usually has one or two performers only and is like a two-hander play. The Dying Light, however, has three performers, which makes this more like a traditional full-cast play, although Zoë gets very little to do. This is also the third audio play in the 50th Anniversary “Stoyn” Trilogy. The first audio play is The Beginning and the third is Luna Romana. I didn’t realize it was a trilogy when I purchased them separately, so I actually listened to Luna Romana first and then The Beginning and finally this one, but it still works without being too confusing.

The TARDIS with the Second Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë lands in a cave, and when they exit they find they are in a desert that looks like a sea from the heat shimmer, the sun is also a dying sun. However, the planet is not deserted and the TARDIS team soon find a large city called Sanctuary. The first person they meet is a scientist who is researching the local rock formations. The rock looks like granite but it’s very light, porous, and even buoyant. The Doctor gives the scientist a scanner. The scientist who doesn’t seem surprised at all at the TARDIS team’s sudden arrival, tells them where new arrivals should go. Following directions, they meet Catherine who explains more about Sanctuary. The Planet Provides is their motto, and she explains they have two types of storms here – sandstorms, which are dangerous because the sand can literally cut or blind you, so it’s best to stay under shelter until it passes, and the other kind of storm – that bring the ships. Sometimes small craft and other times other larger ships – but all are welcome at the Sanctuary. This explains why no one is surprised that the Doctor and his young companions have arrived. Catherine tells the Doctor that all faiths are welcome, and points to the flags of the different faiths. She brings him to a cave where food is grown and shows him a plant laden with pods that are filled with potable water. Then a storm comes and they see a ship crashing above – it passes the city and crashes into the sea. Catherine asks Jaime to join her and they rush to the rescue boats to rescue the passengers and crew of the ship. After the dramatic rescue, they find out that there’s been an accident – the scientist they met earlier has died, apparently falling off the cliffs where he was working. The Doctor is also brought to Stoyn who’s become a religious leader on Sanctuary. He has his priests bring the Doctor before him.

In part two, the Doctor and Stoyn square off against each other. First Stoyn insists the Doctor give him the TARDIS key. The Doctor does, but it doesn’t work for Stoyn because the Doctor’s set the TARDIS to never let Stoyn in. Stoyn decides to just take the TARDIS’s power so he can somehow return to Gallifrey. He tells Jaime that the Doctor was a god amongst gods but he left. As Stoyn’s attempts to steal power and power a beacon get started, the threatening sand storm grows worse and worse. The Doctor realizes, through some encounters that Jaime and Zoë have with alien creatures that seem to made of the same stone as the Sanctuary, that Sanctuary is a living entity – and it provides everything that those living in the Sanctuary need. Because the World Provides – they don’t need technology, and tech is actually an anathema to the world, which is treated as an infection. Even the crashing ships are there because Stoyn needs them to escape and the others need new people to survive – not to the point that Sanctuary is a Bermuda Triangle in Space of traffic hazards, but some of the people on Sanctuary need company. As Stoyn ignores the Doctor’s warnings and explanations – and tries to operate his newly constructed and powered beacon, the sandstorm worsens. Zoë points out the symbols on tapestries and similar ones on the tunnels in the temple. Jaime remembers that the scientist they meet earlier thought the city looked like the ship. The Doctor has the people Catherine’s brought to the temple for shelter moving the tapestries and the city becomes a ship under full sail. The Doctor also tells Stoyn he must destroy his power converters and beacon. Stoyn doesn’t listen but it blows-up, and Stoyn disappears. The Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë quietly leave in the TARDIS. The Doctor tells Jaime that the city and the planet have hundreds of years before the sun goes out.

I liked this story better than its predecessor, The Beginning, but Stoyn is still an annoying character. He’s angry, homesick, and a bit stupid – but he also blames the Doctor for everything and doesn’t really seem to understand anything that’s going on. He also doesn’t listen to the Doctor – when Jaime, and then Zoë mention the rock creatures that attacked them – Stoyn insists they are lying. When the Doctor explains something about the power Stoyn needs and cannot get from the TARDIS, which seems like common sense – again, Stoyn insists the Doctor is lying. And Stoyn blames the Doctor for being carried away from Gallifrey.

Zoë is criminally underused in this story, which is a pity – Sanctuary seems like the type of place she’d really like.

Frazer Hines does a brilliant job as Jaime as well as playing the Doctor.

Overall, a good story and I recommend it.

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

Click to order The Dying Light on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Beginning

  • Title: The Beginning
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Marc Platt
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Susan, First Doctor, Quadrigger Stoyn
  • Cast: Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Terry Molloy (Stoyn)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/08/2018

I listened to The Beginning at the beginning of this week, but it was a good and enjoyable story in the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line, even if the details are a bit fuzzy now. The Beginning starts with the Doctor and Susan on the run on Gallifrey, they find a TARDIS in a repair/junk shop and leave. The Doctor and Susan are refugees, fleeing their home, because “their home is no longer their home”. Unfortunately, they aren’t the only ones on board their TARDIS – Quadrigger Stoyn, who is meant to be dismantling the TARDIS engines is also on board when the ship takes off. They discover this when the TARDIS makes a rather ungraceful landing. Stoyn is not the nicest person, and he clearly buys the Gallifreyan party line – whatever it is. The audio doesn’t make things crystal clear, but we can assume a few things: Gallifrey is now supporting isolationism, Stoyn and others have a negative, ethnocentric attitude towards “outsiders” and “aliens”, and although it isn’t stated outright – the Time Lords may even be racist in their attitudes towards others.

The TARDIS half materializes and half crashes on the Earth, but not the Earth we know – and aliens call Archayons are seeding Earth to make it a garden but with the precision of a formal English garden rather than the wildness of a forest. They are doing this from the moon apparently. At first, the Doctor hopes to obtain help from Stoyn (after all he should know how to fix their TARDIS), and a power source from the Archayons. But as it turns out, the Archayons are much darker than they appear, and Stoyn’s price is higher than the Doctor is willing to pay.

The second part begins with Susan waking in a lunar ambulance that is heading to Giant Leap base. She watches the First Contact video shown to her by her nurse, and wonders where her Grandfather is. She can hear his warnings in her head, but she doesn’t know where he is. The ambulance is attacked, the nurse and medical doctor are killed, but Susan finds her grandfather unharmed. They manage to warn Giant Leap base that the ambulance is infested with deadly parasites, but then they see Giant Leap base being attacked. The Blue Lightning clearly is an Archayon weapon. Somehow the Doctor and Susan get to the TARDIS and return to the Archayon base, which is now attacking Earth and the moonbase. Apparently, the Archayons are upset that their order has been upset by untamed life in the millions of years that they were frozen. Still, the Doctor and Susan manage to warn the Earth, which is well-prepared to attack back and even destroy the Archayons weapons and base. Stoyn, who has sided with the Archayons, is left behind and the Doctor and Susan leave in the TARDIS, which has a new power cell and is sort of working. They visit another planet.

This is a new and different take on how the Doctor and Susan left Gallifrey. I liked the idea of the two being refugees. The Archayons are unusual creatures – looking like glass peanuts, with the ability to flow together to form structures or do work, then flow apart as individual beings. However, in part two they become almost cardboard villains – so determined to not only seed life but orderly life they can’t see the forest for the trees. Stoyn, whom I also encountered in Luna Romana is a weird character – played by Terry “Davros” Molloy – he flips between government functionary to nearly radical “anti-alien” activist in a sense. He’s probably meant to suggest the type of people the Doctor and Susan are fleeing, but it feels off. When Classic Who visited Gallifrey, it was often shown to be a rather boring and stuffy place. But Gallifrey also seems to have an awful lot of corruption and political intrigue too. So in some aspects, the character of Quadrigger Stoyn doesn’t quite fit in with that. But then, The Beginning clearly indicates that something’s happened on Gallifrey – something serious enough that the Doctor and Susan are literally fleeing for their lives.

Recommended.

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

Click the link to order The Beginning on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Good Companion

  • Title: The Good Companion
  • Author: Nick Abadzis
  • Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Adele Matera, Arianna Florean, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line:  Tenth Doctor (Year 3 – “Facing Fate”, Vol. 3)
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Gabby Gonzales, Cindy Wu, Anubis (“Noobis”), Cleo
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/07/2018

**Spoiler Alert** I loved the conclusion to Titan Comics Tenth Doctor Year Three series. It wrapped up everything and even tied into the Free Comic Book Day Event for 2018. The Good Companion starts with Cleo chasing a hidden alien. She catches him, but when his Shimmer shield evaporates he is attacked and destroyed. Cleo, however, finds an alien device that he was hiding. When she looks at the data on the device, she’s shocked and immediately calls the Doctor.

Meanwhile, the Doctor, Cindy, and Gabby are on Ouloumos, Zhe’s private moon. Gabby is learning to control her Block Transfer Computations powers, while the Doctor and Cindy are there for moral support. But Cindy is getting bored. The Doctor is trying to be supportive and not feel too confined by staying in the same place. To keep himself busy, the Doctor is trying to repair Marcie, whom he describes to Cindy as a highly advanced robot. When the Doctor casually remarks that he needs the right parts to repair Marcie, Cindy urges him to take a quick trip in the TARDIS and that they won’t be missed. Sigh. “The trouble with time travel is never having enough time.”

The Doctor and Cindy head to Mechma Onzlo III space station where Onzlo is happy to see him – because his wife is not his wife. Before the Doctor can investigate, Marteek confirms this and heads off in a flying saucer that makes a TARDIS-like sound as it takes off. The Doctor and Cindy start to follow in the TARDIS to track Marteek. Meanwhile, Noobis is still at the library on Aramuko with his girlfriend, Siffhoni, who needles him – he decides to call the Doctor to pick him up to prove the Doctor exists. Not to be outdone – Gabby realizes the Doctor is gone and gets angry, but she is able to control her vortex butterflies and Block Transfer powers. And the Doctor gets an emergency message in the TARDIS.

Leaving Marteek’s trail, for now, the Doctor goes to Earth to see Cleo who shows him the alien artifact, which says the Earth will cease to exist within a few days. The information and device seem to be legitimate – but Cindy points out that it can’t be since they’ve been to Earth’s future.

Gabby is kidnapped by the Time Sentinels. When Zhe tries to contact the Doctor about this – he literally is too busy to answer her call, what with the Earth about to be destroyed and the cloister bell ringing because Noobis wants the Doctor to come and pick him up.

Gabby’s experiences with the Time Sentinels are exceedingly well-told. First, everything is black and then red and she’s confronted by an Ood that has a mysterious message for her. When she wakes up, she’s being held by the Time Sentinels. Aspect Red has gone way beyond his programming and wants to destroy the Doctor whom he sees as a threat to the Web of Time. The Time Sentinels want to convince Gabby to be a weapon against the Doctor. Hint: it won’t work.

The Doctor, meanwhile, realises the box Cleo has is a trap, as he tells Cindy: “Earth’s supposed destruction is a piece of cheese. We’re the mouse. Question is: Who’s the Cat that set the trap?” The Doctor and Cindy go to pick up Noobis. When Noobis sees Cleo it starts a cascade of his memories.

Gabby is hounded and harassed by the Time Sentinels, but she also finds an ally (of sorts) in Aspect Blue who realises that Aspect Red is going beyond his programming. Gabby is knocked out and wakes in a cell with the real Marteek.

On Zhe’s moon, as Cleo and Cindy catch-up over a meal and become closer, the Time Sentinels plans start to come together – and it’s not good for the Doctor.

The Doctor and Siffhoni have a heart to heart and she warms up to the Doctor. A giant red maw appears above Zhe’s moon. The Doctor challenges the Time Sentinels. Gabby attacks the Red Sentinel and has a chat with the Lock-Keeper. Aspect Red sees creativity as chaos and has become convinced the Doctor can no longer exist because he inspires the creativity and the strength of his companions. Aspect Red is knocked out – and Blue becomes Commander. (His level-headed approach is short-lived.) The Doctor gets Marcie working and introduces Cleo and Cindy to Marcie. The Doctor asks Marcie to find the temporal track of “Marteek’s” ship. In her cell, Gabby meets the real Marteek. As the Doctor makes contact, he hears part of Gabby’s warnings that, “It’s a trap”, and the Doctor threatens the time Sentinels.

Commander Blue is taken out, Aspect Red resumes control. But in the TARDIS, the Doctor realises something is off about Siffhoni – it turns out she is another aspect of Sentinel Aspect Blue. This really angers Noobis, because he sees his relationship with his “girlfriend” was fake. But Blue does get to explain a bit.

The Doctor with Marcie’s help puts together a Time Cone Inverter, but he will need a second time capsule to get it to work.

Meanwhile, the Time Sentinels and the Lock-Keeper fight among themselves, and the Red TARDIS shows up which infected Aspect Red. However, the Red TARDIS provides an escape for Gabby and Marteek. Not the best escape, mind you, but any port in a storm.

Marcie stops the Red TARDIS from ramming the Doctor’s TARDIS, and Gabby and Marteek are temporarily safe in the TARDIS. However, Gabby talks the Doctor into letting her go to the Red TARDIS again so the Time Cone Inverter maneuver will work. Aspect Blue goes to help. Gabby has picked up some advanced Gallifreyan time mechanics and math, which the Doctor doesn’t understand. Even with her Block Transfer Computation powers, she shouldn’t understand Gallifreyan engineering. However, there is little time to argue about it and Blue and Gabby go into the Red TARDIS to anchor it. Marcie starts the Time Cone Invertor and Noobis assures the Maw and the pocket universe collapse together – trapping all the traps in their own trap, ending the danger of the Time Sentinels, and assuring that the Gallifreyian Time Lock remains locked and safe. Gabby reaches out for the Tenth Doctor but falls away – and is caught in the TARDIS by the Twelfth Doctor.

I loved The Good Companion it’s a complex story but it’s not confusing to read. I liked the characterization and I was glad Gabby didn’t die in the end. The story also really, really, really moved fast – with so much going on at once that even the Doctor was having trouble keeping track of everything. (Marteek not being Marteek, Cleo’s message, Noobis calling for a ride home, and Zhe trying to reach the Doctor to tell him Gabby’s been kidnapped – all pretty much happen at the same time. Even a Time Lord can’t be four places at once!) I also liked the way the Time Sentinels and their Aspects were written. They are an awful enemy – and I mean that in the best possible way, the Time Sentinels are scary. I also liked how the scenes in Gabby’s point-of-view were written, and the mysterious messenger turns out to be someone very unexpected indeed.

I highly, highly recommend The Good Companion but it is absolutely necessary to read all three volumes at once and in order.

Read my review of Year 3: Facing Fate Vol. 1: Breakfast at Tyranny’s.

Read my review of Year 3: facing Fate Vol. 2: Vortex Butterflies.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Vortex Butterflies

  • Title: Vortex Butterflies
  • Author: Nick Abadzis
  • Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Iolanda Zanfardino, Arianna Florean, Nicola Right, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line:  Tenth Doctor (Year 3 – “Facing Fate”, Vol. 2)
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Gabby Gonzales, Cindy Wu, Anubis (“Noobis”)
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/04/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Vortex Butterflies is the second volume in the third year of Titan Comics Tenth Doctor Series. It opens in ancient China, where Cindy Wu gives each of her 500 clone daughters a name. Gabby Gonzales, meanwhile, is dealing with the aftermath of seeing her best friend die – even if it was “only” one of her clones. But the TARDIS is also acting weird, so the TARDIS Team leave in a hurry and travel through the universe again – a time summarised by Gabby’s art in her notebook. Noobis decides to stay at the Xenopsychology Library of Aramuko – someplace the Doctor recommends for healing. The Doctor then drops Gabby and Cindy off at an apartment in London, where they have everything they need, while he follows some strange signals in the TARDIS and tries to discover what’s wrong with it.

Cindy and Gabby meet Sarah Jane Smith, which is awesome. Gabby enrolls in short-term art classes, and Cindy is feeling a bit left out, though she gets along well with Sarah. Gabby also has a few incidents of uncontrolled Vortex Energy and Block Transfer butterfly production – which confuses her, but she recovers quickly.

Meanwhile, the Doctor lands his TARDIS on Mechma Onzlo III Station and picks up a Xerobian gadget which he names Marcie. Marcie is half technology, half sounding-board, and adorable! As Cindy and Gabby settle in with Sarah Jane in London, Noobis relaxes at his library and meets a new friend, the Doctor and Marcie set out in the TARDIS to follow the mysterious signals that are interfering with the TARDIS’s ability to travel in the time/space vortex. The Doctor takes the TARDIS to an extremely empty area of space and Marcie finds the signal but has trouble creating a recognizable form for the Doctor, such as an illustration. The Doctor looks outside the TARDIS and sees a new system with an accretion disk. He lands the TARDIS on the orbiting asteroid. There he is confronted by a being who claims to be a future version of Gabby – a version the Doctor abandoned there. This being starts to attack Gabby in London, but Sarah temporarily isolates Gabby’s time signature which allows her to fight back. And the Doctor, although Marcie is destroyed (whimper!) leaves in the TARDIS.

However, the last page features the round-headed people in a cave from volume one, Breakfast at Tyranny’s, who are out to establish a case against the Doctor.

Vortex Butterflies has some wonderful art – the Vortex Creature at first appears to look like the Third Doctor Doctor Who television series credits. The Tenth Doctor also meets up with the Twelfth Doctor, an unexpected cameo that I really enjoyed. I also really loved seeing Sarah Jane, and she’s perfectly in character (and mentions her work from the series The Sarah Jane Adventures). Gabby, Cindy, and even Noobis are more in character and actually have more to do than they have for a while (even when Cindy and Gabby are essentially on vacation in London). It’s just a fun, enjoyable read. Vortex Butterflies is a great graphic novel and highly recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Sin Eaters

  • Title: Sin Eaters
  • Author: Cavan Scott
  • Artists: Adriana Melo, Cris Bolson, Marco Lesko, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line: 9th Doctor
  • Characters: Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler, Captain Jack Harkness
  • Collection Date: 2017
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/21/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Sin Eaters is the fourth volume in Titan Comics Ninth Doctor series. The novel opens with the head of The Hesguard Institute in the 53rd Century learning that an Earth Examiner is on the way. The examiner is Rose, who is there to check on patient 280, otherwise known as the Doctor. The Doctor is being given a new experimental treatment to remove his negative impulses and transfer them into an “inert” Sin Eater automaton. However, when the transfer occurs, the Sin Eater goes berserk and starts killing the staff and patients at the Institute. The Doctor, it seems, is undercover. He knows that the process used by the Hesguard Institute doesn’t cure patients, it just makes them worse and more violent. Furthermore, he cites as examples, incidents from the future. Also, because he is a telepath, having his emotions and feelings transferred to one of the Sin Eaters makes it alive but only a creature devoted to anger. The Doctor, Rose, and Tara escape and the Institute is destroyed.

The second story is about Capt. Jack Harkness and his experiences as a Time Agent. Jack liked his job until he was sent to assassinate Zlov Volh, someone he discovers isn’t the dictator and murderer he thinks but actually an inventor who would invent “free time travel” for all. That still seems dangerous, but Jack starts to question his life. He tries to stop himself from shooting Volh but then he is hit by an eradicator – a device that moves someone out of time entirely. However, the Doctor and Rose, using a memsphere, find out Jack wasn’t removed from time – he was kidnapped by transmat.

The Doctor explains to Rose and Tara that the latest 53rd century “social media” outlet is memgram, where users can share memories using a memsphere. They begin to experience Jack’s memories and realise that someone is selling them as “premium content”. The person behind the plot is Addison Delamar, the owner of Memgram Inc. Yet behind her scam to reel in Jack and con him is a worse plot: to sell the Doctor’s memories of the Time War to the highest bidder. Several bidders are involved, including the Cybermen, who take over and attack. One of the Doctor’s memories is of the Time Lords releasing the Great Vampires whom they think will be an ally against the Daleks. The Cybermen infect Delamar with a Cybermat, turning her into a partial Cyberperson. This starts a war on the planet between the space fleets and the Cybermen. Jack, Rose, and Tara use the memspheres to turn the tables and get the various space fleets to attack each other instead of the planet. The Doctor’s memories, of grief and suffering, are released through the memsphere and everyone backs off. Finally, Jack gives Delamar a memsphere of his own memories letting her think it’s the Doctor’s and she leaves. Tara decides to stay behind on the suffering war-torn planet where her skills as a nurse can be used to help others.

This novel also didn’t quite hit the Ninth Doctor Era – too many social media in-jokes. I also found Rose and Jack a little out of character. Still, the artwork is beautiful, and even though the story is confusing it is a good story. Recommended.

Please also read my reviews of previous volumes of Ninth Doctor graphic novels from Titan Comics.

My review of Doctor Who: Weapons of Past Destruction (Ninth Doctor Vol. 1).

My Review of Doctor Who: Doctormania (Ninth Doctor Vol. 2).

My Review of Doctor Who: Official Secrets (Ninth Doctor Vol. 3).