Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Ghost Town

  • Title: Ghost Town
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Author: Rupert Laight
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Yolande Benstead, Jack McElroy
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Ingrid Adams, Robert Jezek
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/19/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith audio play, Ghost Town is a ghost story. Sarah and Josh, after the events of the last story in this series, decide to have a holiday and visit Sarah’s friend, retired journalist Yolande Benstead. Yolanda now lives in a small village in Romania that is hosting an international peace conference. Josh and Sarah arrive, catch-up with Yolande and meet her butler, Dmitri. Dmitri had simply turned-up at her doorstep one rainy night, in quite a state and with no memory, not even of his own name. Yolande took him in as a kindness.

The first night she is there, Sarah is attacked by something horrible in her room. She doesn’t believe in ghosts but doesn’t know how to explain the feelings of fear and dread she experienced. The next day, Sarah and Josh learn that similar cases of hauntings have been happening all over the village. And two of the delegates to the conference also had similar experiences.

The next night, Yolande invites a visiting American couple to dinner. Paul is with the conference, and his wife, Candy, is accompanying him. But that night, the horror strikes again – and Candy is frightened to death.

Dmitri also confronts someone at Yolande’s house – but because Sarah is attacked again at the same time, no one realises what’s happened. The intruder shoots Dmitri dead. However, Dmitri leaves a clue. Sarah investigates at a nearby library and then at the university. She discovers Dmitri is really a research scientist and lecturer in sonics, who had disappeared recently. Sarah and Josh inform the department chairperson that his scientist is dead. Returning to the village, Sarah checks out the recording equipment from the previous night – there is nothing there.

She goes to the pub and confronts Christian, an ex-pat living in the village who had tried to talk her into having dinner with him. She obtains evidence against him, confirming her theory, and manages with help from Josh to stop him from harming herself. Christian Ian Abbotly is the “CIA” Dmitri warned them about. It seems Dmitri was a scientist, lured away from his university to work on sonic weapons. He developed a weapon that, using radio waves, projects feelings of horror and dread – feelings of fear so strong they can even cause death. Each of the victims had a radio in his or her room that picked up the deadly signals.

Ghost Town runs a bit short, but it is a very atmospheric and spooky story. Romania is the perfect setting for an entire village suddenly besieged by ghosts. Sarah’s friend, Yolande, is an excellent addition to the story. I hope she returns, though I doubt she will. She’s also a bit of a warning to Sarah. Yolande had been a cutting-edge journalist in the 60s but eventually, she was pushed out of the profession because no one wanted to back her anymore.

Recommended.

The CD version includes several trailers for other Big Finish productions.

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

To order Ghost Town on Download only follow the link.

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

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Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Test of Nerve

  • Title: Test of Nerve
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Author: David Bishop
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie Redfern, Ellie Martin
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Juliet Warner
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/07/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith Test of Nerve is my favorite so far of the Sarah Jane audios I’ve listened to. It’s fast-moving, has a real sense of danger, and adds to the continuing plot of the series. I lost my first attempt for this review due to an unexpected computer shut-down so hopefully, the second will be OK.

Test of Nerve opens with a radio broadcast of three news stories: a junior minister being “jostled” by protestors and the arrest of one of the same, “New Age Travellers” being forcefully evicted from an old tube station, and a break-in at a bioweapons/testing lab in which the lab officials insist “nothing” was taken. All three of these stories prove to be interwoven skillfully into the plot.

Josh and Natalie, Sarah’s friends, are waiting for her at her house for a meeting that Sarah called. Sarah arrives, late, toting a large gift she found outside her apartment addressed to her. She opens it and finds a living rat in a cage. When she, with Josh’s help, removes the note stuck to the cage, the cage seals and a pellet releases gas – which quickly kills the rat. The note is also a threat – if Sarah doesn’t do something to stop it, all of London will suffer the same fate as the rat. Sarah and her friends have a subject for investigation. Natalie will remain at the flat to investigate on-line; Josh goes off to investigate the bio lab (Bioguard), and Sarah takes the very dead rat to her friend, Claudia, at C19, to find out what happened.

When Sarah calls Claudia she’s busy with someone in her office – but she manages to make an appointment with Sarah for a late lunch. Josh, pretending to be a reporter for Metropolitan magazine, interviews Mr. Harris at Bioguard. It turns out that Ellie Martin was one of the “travelers” kicked out of the tube station. She discusses it with Josh, saying that she and the others weren’t even allowed to take their gear, and they were well away from the platform so it was safe.

When Sarah returns to her apartment, James Carver arrives. He’s a former British soldier, trying to get compensation for soldiers who were subjected to experiments with anti-nerve gas agents without their permission. He had organized the protest mentioned on the news radio program but was released without charge. When he gets to Sarah’s he seems unstable and threatening. Natalie calls the police, but Sarah gets angry – Carver leaves and Sarah tells the police it was a mistake.

When Sarah goes to meet Claudia to find out about her rat, she nearly runs into a man running from the apartment. The door is open and Sarah finds Claudia on the floor, dying. The police arrive and arrest Sarah on suspicion of murder. Josh meets up with Ellie to get her stuff from the tube station and finds her stuck in a glass box. Before long, he is knocked out and they are both stuck in a glass box. Harris threatens to kill them, placing a nerve gas pellet on the top of the box and telling them if they try to escape the pellet will be released – killing them. Why am I now thinking of Schrödinger’s cat? But anyway…

It takes seven hours for the police to release Sarah, and they still do not believe her warnings of an imminent nerve gas attack on London. While she’s being interrogated, and Josh and Ellie are being stuffed in a glass box – Natalie is at Sarah’s when Harris shows up. He threatens her, pushes her out of her wheelchair, and then takes it. He also tells her there’s a bomb in the building and gives her 30 minutes to escape.

When Sarah leaves the building Harris calls and threatens all she holds dear – telling Sarah she can save her friend Natalie from a bomb – or prevent Carver from releasing nerve gas in the tube tunnels (i.e. the subway).

Sarah, surprisingly, shows up at the tube station, where she finds that Carver has just released Ellie and Josh from their trap, Ellie has run off both to escape and to possibly get additional help, and Carver is threatening to throw himself under the train – which will crush and release the vest of nerve gas pellets strapped to him. One thing that Claudia was able to tell Sarah before she died was that C19 suspects that Bioguard lied when they claimed nothing was stolen during the recent break-in, and that in reality a tray of nerve gs pellets went missing and it’s suspected to be an inside job.

Sarah, with help from Josh, manages to get Carver to remove the nerve gas – but he still throws himself under the train. A news report ties into the opening of the story and fills in a few details.

Later, we learn that Natalie dragged herself free of the flat and managed to escape, barely. But when Sarah meets up with her, Natalie tells her: that’s it, she’s had enough. She can’t get over Sarah leaving her to die – even though Sarah had an impossible choice. When Sarah says that even five years ago she would have saved a friend first, but now she has to see the bigger picture and save the world – Natalie cannot accept it and leaves. Sarah accuses Josh of wanting to do the same thing and leave – but he vows to stay with her and help her.

I really enjoyed Test of Nerve from the punny title to the action and suspense. The intercutting between Natalie swearing she “won’t be a victim” as she pulls herself through Sarah’s flat and Sarah rushing, at first we know not where, and later trying to talk down Carver is masterfully and suspensefully done – especially for audio.

There are some plotholes. Sarah calls Natalie’s cell but can’t reach her because it’s in her car – but she apparently doesn’t think to call a neighbor to check on the situation. And Josh, Ellie, and Sarah could have saved everyone a lot of trouble if they’d simply forced Carver into the convenient box that Josh and Ellie had been stuck in. Presumably, it could be sealed. But even so, this was the best Sarah Jane Smith audio so far. I hope the range continues to improve. Highly recommended.

This is a full-cast audio play with the cast performing their roles.

Read my review of the first story in the Sarah Jane Smith audio play series, Comeback.

Read my review of the second story in the Sarah Jane Smith audio play series, The Tao Connection.

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

To order Test of Nerve on Download only, click the link.

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

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: The Tao Connection

  • Title: The Tao Connection
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Author: Barry Letts
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie Redfern, Ellie Martin
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Juliet Warner, Maggie Stables
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/07/2018

Sarah Jane Smith The Tao Connection picks up from where the previous volume, Comeback left off. Two police officers fish a dead body from a river, but as Natalie tells Sarah, there’s a problem when the old man has the same fingerprints as 18-year-old Toby. Since Toby is both missing and a friend of Josh and Ellie, Sarah decides to investigate. But there is something much more sinister than an issue with fingerprint analysis going on.

Sarah decides to investigate the Huang Ti Clinic, and Holtooth Hall, now owned by the recluse, billionaire, Will Butley. The Clinic reports to be just another expensive health spa, but its customers seem oddly younger when they leave. Meanwhile, what is behind the disappearances of dozens of homeless teenaged boys?

Sarah and Josh try to get into Holtooth Hall to speak to Butley but are turned away by his security officer. They get the name of the other person in the house though, Mr. Ronald Sharp.

Sarah does interview a master of Taoism, who explains something of the philosophy to her. Sarah sees it as a search for eternal life, though the master explains it is the life of the spirit, not the flesh.

She, with help from Josh, also investigates the clinic. There is a lab in the clinic, where bodies are having their life forces drained away. And when one of the clinic’s new clients arrives, they are told to drink a mysterious draft of “concentrated Chi”. Yes, that doesn’t make sense.

When Sarah finally is able to contact Butley, she finds out Mr. Sharp has cut off his supply of this mysterious draft until he learns the secret to the Dark Sorcery incantations. But there is no secret.

Unfortunately, Butley kills Sharp but then succumbs to extremely advanced old age because Sarah declines to give him more of the draft. This mysterious essence is made by draining the lifeblood of young teenaged boys, who do not survive the procedure.

I first purchased the first few CDs in the Sarah Jane Smith from Big Finish a few years ago and I listened to The Tao Connection and Comeback; however, though I collected the entire series, I didn’t listen to them right away for several reasons. Now I’m re-listening to the few I listened to before and I intend to listen to the rest of the series. A long commute helps. Anyway, the hit-or-miss nature of The Tao Connection is probably one major reason I stopped when I did. The performances in this story are very strong, but it also has things like a fist-fight, which doesn’t work on audio (even after the fight it’s hard to figure out what happened), but the major negative is the way the audio treats oriental religion/spirituality. I’m pretty sure the essence of Taoism is not a search for immortality. I understand it to be more about balance and “going with the flow” instead of fighting nature. But I’m no expert. Still, as this is part of an on-going series, it’s worth at least a single listen. Not one of the best Big Finish audio plays though.

Oh, and yes, this is a full-cast audio play – all the actors perform their roles (often to the hilt, with relish), and the audio includes music and sound effects.

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

To order The Tao Connection on download only click the link.

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

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Comeback

  • Title: Comeback
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Author: Terrance Dicks
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie Redfern, Ellie Martin
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Juliet Warner, Nicholas Briggs, David Jackson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/05/2018

Spoiler Alert

Comeback is a full-cast audio play in Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith original audio adventures line. It is a single disc full play with music, sound effects, a full cast performing all the parts, and it is a play. It is not an audiobook, with someone reading the story, nor is it one of Big Finish’s limited cast presentations. I quite enjoyed listening to a full-cast audio again, as it has been a while (I’ve been listening to and enjoying the limited-cast Companion Chronicles for a while now.)

Comeback opens at the funeral of Sarah Jane’s Aunt Lavinia. After the funeral and celebration (Aunt Lavinia would never call it a wake) the story picks up with Sarah working as a cashier at a bank. She’s trying to convince an older customer that she needs to see his ID to cash a check when the bank is robbed. The robbery is foiled, though a young man who foiled the crime is almost arrested because he is holding a gun (which he took off the robbers) when the police arrive. The young man is Josh, and Sarah takes him under her wing. It turns out that Sarah is in a bit of a jam. She was working for Planet 3 doing an investigative news series, but when the last piece in the series aired – Sarah was accused of making it up. Evidence is produced that proves her research “false”, the people she interviewed disappear, Sarah loses her job, and her television network is sued by the corporation she “attacked”. To make matters worse – Sarah becomes a target of identity not so much theft as identity assignation – her reputation is smeared and ruined, her bank account disappears, her passport is canceled. Sarah is persona non grata – she has nothing. With only a few friends to help, she’s trying to pull her life back together. Sarah had gotten the job at the bank to try and find out what happened to her bank account. But with the robbery, she’s put out of a job again and needs to find a new house.

Josh joins Sarah, and after contact with her friend, Natalie, they decide to investigate the quaint village of Cloots Coombe. Natalie had said their mutual friend, Ellie Martin was there to organize a “protest” against some new company that was behaving suspiciously. When Sarah and Josh arrive they find out from Ellie that she’s suspicious because the “new company” is producing no waste, at all. While Natalie investigates using her computer and contacts in London, Sarah and Josh investigate on the ground in the village. Ellie also mentioned that two people from her advance guard, Jenny, and a young man had left for the village and never returned.

Sarah and Josh go to the village – they run into the vicar, who refuses to answer questions. Sarah notices something odd about the village but Josh doesn’t realise what’s off. Natalie discovers that the village’s promise to never have any “MOD land” (or land used by the Ministry of Defence) is a result of an experiment that went wrong some time ago. Sarah ends up getting the details – the Ministry had opened an experimental lab researching chemical warfare outside the village in the woods. Unfortunately, the chemicals leaked from the lab, into a tunnel, and from the tunnel to the local Wiccan Well (now a shrine named after a saint). The water from the well was used by the church and the entire village for ceremonial uses. However, even with limited exposure – the poisoned well caused everyone in the village to become sterile.

Meanwhile, a new squire has brought a new company to the village. The squire is promising the villagers something but we don’t know what. When Sarah finds out about the village being sterile she also finds out what the company is researching: human cloning. Unfortunately, they haven’t had much success – only breeding a monster in the tunnel that absorbs anything that gets too close. It was this monster that killed Jenny. The story ends in a bit of a stalemate – the company agrees to stop its experiments and destroy its monster – but Sarah can’t go public with her compromised reputation. This makes the story feel more like a pilot – promising much more, later, than a completed story.

I did enjoy Comeback very much though. It was good to listen to a full-cast audio again, and I like the shorter (1-disc) format because it’s easier to listen to in the car on my commute. I also found this to be an intriguing start. The story itself moves swiftly from Sarah’s Aunt’s funeral, to the bank, to the iconic mysterious English village with a secret. It’s a good story and an excellent first volume.

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

For further details about Comeback click the link. Unfortunately, this story from 2002 is currently out of stock on the Big Finish website.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Anchronauts

  • Title: The Anachronauts
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Simon Guerrier
  • Director: Ken Bentley
  • Characters: Sara Kingdom, Steven Taylor, First Doctor
  • Cast: Jean Marsh, Peter Purves
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/25/2018

**Spoiler Alert** The Anachronauts is a two-disc story in the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line. It features the characters of the First Doctor, Steven, and Sara Kingdom and takes place during “The Daleks Master Plan” aired episode. The Doctor, Sara and Steven are in the TARDIS when there is a collision with another vehicle. The TARDIS crash lands on a desert island and meets the crew of the other ship – which has been completely destroyed in the crash. This other ship was an experimental time ship. The TARDIS is nowhere to be seen. The new crew and the Doctor’s crew join together, although the time pilots don’t entirely trust the Doctor and company. They trek through the jungle, in the rain, find a cave, and locate the TARDIS food machine – sitting by itself in the jungle. Sara and Steven are convinced the TARDIS broke apart in the crash. The two groups stay in the cave overnight.

During their stay, however, they are attacked by what can only be described as a Banshee – a wailing figure with long, white hair. The Doctor calls this figure a “Time Sprite” but says it’s a myth, a fairy tale, something that does not exist.

The next morning the Doctor and Steven head out to find the TARDIS. Sara stays behind. The Doctor leads Steven straight to the time pilot’s ship, which he wants to investigate – where they run into the “Time Sprite” again. They return to the cave, only to find Sara missing. Steven confronts the time pilots and gets shot.

Meanwhile, Sara and the female leader of the Time Pilots climb a cliff to get a better view. The Time Pilots leader takes readings to try to determine where they are, then sets a homing beacon. Sara gets hurt climbing back down and Steven gets shot confronting the Time Pilots.

In part 2, after a bit of a review, Sara and the leader of the Time Pilots return to their ship for medical supplies for Steven. When they get back – Steven is fine, it’s as if he was never shot. Sara falls asleep and wakes feeling better than ever, her broken arm healed.

The Doctor tells everyone the Island was an illusion, a dream – and they all wake on the floor of the TARDIS. But the leader of the Time Pilots attacks – trying to pilot the TARDIS and eventually firing a gun – at Steven.

Sara and Steven wake up in the dark and fog in a city devastated by war – and on the run, pursued by armed police, they quickly find shelter. They are in East Berlin in 1966. They hide, and run, but are eventually picked up by the police for having no papers. They are interrogated but can’t say anything – Germans and Russians in 1966 aren’t going to believe they are time travelers. They are jailed but escape. They are captured again. Sara tells Steven they will betray each other, betray the Doctor, just to get the torture to stop. So Steven decides to get ahead of the game and tell the Stasi he and Sara wish to defect. To back up his claim, he hands over a piece of paper with basic scientific information from his own (future) time period.

Sara and Steven are taken by car to a house in the suburbs and told to wait. Sara, meanwhile, every time she and Steven are jailed, is freaked out by hearing a creature and claims to see it outside the house. Steven tells her she’s imagining it. When the Stasi come around, asking questions and offering the two a house and a weekly allowance – Steven suddenly becomes belligerent. He refuses to answer questions. Sara is perplexed.

The two are separated, and when Steven return to Sara, he apologizes and tells her it’s not real – this whole scenario is fake, like the one on the island. And, he tells her – she’s also not real, part of the illusion. Sara screams but fades away. The Doctor, what Sara had seen as a mysterious creature, pulls Steven out of the illusion. They rescue Sara from her dream, which was quite the happy one.

In the TARDIS console room, the Doctor explains they were in cells in the TARDIS – continuing to heal from the collision, and that the time pilots are still in cells. He pilots the TARDIS to the Cobalt Moon, long after all the cobalt is mined, and drops the time pilots off. There is a beautiful pink sea and sky, and a nearby city – the pilots will be fine. The Doctor, Sara, and Steven return to confront the Daleks.

Peter Purves (Steven) and Jean Marsh (Sara) take turns narrating each of the four parts of this adventure, but also play their own characters during the sections that the other is narrating. And Peter also plays the First Doctor. So, this story – with music and sound effects as well, is closer to a full-cast audio drama than the typical, performed, audiobook style of the Companion Chronicles. This is also a good story – plenty of twists and turns, with excellent performances by Peter Purves and Jean Marsh.

Recommended.

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

Click this link to order The Anachronauts on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Here There Be Monsters

  • Title: Here There Be Monsters
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Andy Lane
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Susan, First Doctor, Barbara, Ian, First Mate
  • Cast: Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Stephen Hancock (The First Mate)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/15/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Here There Be Monsters is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line of stories. The companion chronicles feature stories told from the companion’s point of view. This one is told by Carole Ann Ford as Susan. Susan’s never been one of my favorite companions (I preferred Barbara in the very first Team TARDIS). However, Carole Ann Ford does a really good job here, and she plays Susan in a slightly more mature fashion. This story seems to be set just before “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” – when Susan leaves.

The TARDIS is hit by some strange energy in space and has to materialize immediately. Upon landing the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara leave the TARDIS and find themselves on a spaceship occupied by a plant. The plant’s leaves follow them as they move through the ship, and they even find a secondary control room where the plant is operating the controls with vines and branches.

The TARDIS crew follows the plant’s branches and vines until they find the main control room. There they find the captain of the vessel, a “vegetable life form” named Captain Rostrum. The ship is a Benchmarking Vessel, named Nevermore – which is punching holes through the galaxy, creating artificial black holes as an aid to navigation. The Doctor is appalled. Not only are black holes dangerous – but by punching holes through the fabric of space and time – Rostrum could destroy the galaxy. Rostrum steadfastly insists the process is safe and he must complete his mission. The Doctor insists he’s wrong and messing about with dangerous forces he doesn’t understand. Susan gets bored and wanders off.

Susan wanders off and meets a character we will later learn is called, “The First Mate”. The area this man is working in is dead – and the leaves are brown and falling away. Ian, Barbara, Susan and the Doctor had found similar dead areas in the ship while exploring. Susan and the stranger talk and he encourages her to spread her own wings, to live her own life, and to stop always accepting her grandfather’s word. While talking, Susan starts to feel weak. The First Mate then tells her the engines where he is working, emit radiation that’s dangerous to her – and she should leave. Reluctantly she does, and she returns to the control room.

When Susan arrives at the control room, she finds that everyone is staring out the viewport at a spaceship. The spaceship is attacking. As a scientific vessel, the Nevermore has no weapons, no defenses, not even shields. A group of missiles is heading towards the ship. However, just as it seems everyone is heading for certain death, a rip in space appears. This tear drags the missiles and the spaceship into it. Everyone on the Nevermore hears the message from the captain of the formerly attacking vessel. The benchmarking vessel’s artificial black holes had really messed up the ship’s home galactic system’s trade routes. This was viewed as an unprovoked attack. The Doctor uses this to try to convince Rostrum he’s right about the dangers of the benchmarking process but Rostrum doesn’t believe him. He is a stubborn vegetable.

Susan wanders off again, and this time she again ignores the First Mate’s warnings for her to leave when she feels ill from being near him. She ends up collapsing. Barbara finds her and gets her back to the control room.

However, the Doctor and Ian are now wondering about the dead areas in the ship, and they ask for a map of the dead areas so they can explore. Susan had told them all about the First Mate, but Rostrum insists no one else is on the ship – and that if there was, they must be part of the Doctor’s party. Soon, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan are searching for the First Mate.

They find him – and find he’s from the other universe, the one on the other side of the rip that’s appeared in space. The benchmarking process is devastating to his universe and he’s been sent to stop it. And because he’s from another universe, he drains energy from people in this universe, including Rostrum. So it’s the First Mate who’s caused the dead areas on the ship.

When the Doctor tells Rostrum this, he isn’t believed – after all, Rostrum can’t see the First Mate.
But Susan talks to the First Mate and with the rest of the TARDIS crew, they decide they must end the Benchmarking process. The First Mate can shift back to his “natural” state – which will destroy everything within a light-year. The TARDIS crew runs for the TARDIS and barely makes it. The TARDIS protects them from the explosion. The benchmarking ship is destroyed, and the rip sealed. Just before he is also destroyed, the First Mate sends out a message – praising the courage of the people he met on the other side of the universe, stating they are not monsters. However, he suggests that people from his own side of the universe not travel to the universe due to the basic incompatibility of their species (e.g. the energy-draining thing).

I liked this story. It runs a bit shorter than some Companion Chronicles but the comparison between early navigators trying to discover how to determine longitude when sailing, and the benchmarking process were really interesting. I also loved the idea of a plant crewing a vessel in space. Stephen Hancock brings the First Mate to life particularly well, even if at first I thought it was David Warner (he sounds just like him). Carole Ann Ford did a particularly good job as Susan too. Finally, this story harkens back to the Age of Discovery with its title, Here There Be Monsters – the old way of marking off the unexplored areas of maps. The Doctor, as he talks about the dangers of benchmarking, talks about the universe as fabric, with weak spots. And beneath the fabric is an unseen place – where monsters come from. The Doctor’s worry is the universe could be destroyed, at the very least – rips could allow the monsters through. The First Mate also states that in his universe it was assumed that the “other universe” was occupied by monsters. As both the Doctor and the First Mate learn – the Other is not a monster. All you need is to talk to someone in a non-threatening environment to learn that people are people no matter what. The audio also plays the captain of the other ship’s message, which assumes the benchmarking vessel is aggressive and attacking without reason, to the First Mate’s message that states that the damage was an accident, and the people of the other universe aren’t monsters but courageous – and helpful in ending the damaging program, against each other. The two messages are polar opposites. And it’s the First Mate’s message, the message from a being from another universe, that correctly describes the Doctor and his TARDIS crew, as trying to help. This was a good story and I recommend it.

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

Click this link to order Here There Be Monsters on CD or Download.

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

Free Comic Book Day 2018

Free Comic Book Day is an annual event to promote independent comic book shops and the art and stories of comic books for all ages. I’ve been attending Free Comic Book Day for three or four years now, and I usually really, really enjoy it. This year, unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it as much – but that’s nothing on the site of the event or anything – I ended up getting sick, and that made it really hard to have a good time.

I met up with a friend of mine – at 8:30am. The plan was to go to his favorite coffee shop and then to the event at our local comic shop, Vault of Midnight. Well, we got to the shop before it even opened, so of course, there was a very long line. I’d been expecting this. And it was very warm and sunny, which I figured would be an improvement on the cold of last year. Sigh. Well… First, my friend started to complain of not feeling well, not that we could do much about it since we were in line. Then I started to not feel well myself. So by the time we were at the front of the line, which wasn’t really that long, considering, both of us ending up going through the store as fast as possible to pick up our free books, and I picked up my pull. I also bought Bombshells, which I ended up loving! After leaving the store we ended-up at a nearby restaurant to use the facilities and I sat at the bar and drank three glasses of water and an iced tea in about 20 minutes. The verdict was: dehydrated and too much sun. And because I still didn’t feel great – I went straight home. But with all of that, the event was still great. I love Free Comic Book Day – and, all things considered, I had a good time, I just really wish I hadn’t been so sick. The staff at the comic book store were great – couldn’t have been better.

FCBD 2018 – Doctor Who from Titan Comics

I always pick-up the Titan Comics Doctor Who offering and this year was no exception. The book this year offers three stories, which stand alone but also wet the appetite for the next year in Titan’s many Doctor Who series of books and graphic novels. The first story is, “Catch a Falling Star”, Gabby is falling through space, reflecting on her life and her imminent death. It’s a good character piece, even though I found myself lost a bit as I’m currently way behind on my Doctor Who graphic novels. The end is wonderful, and I won’t spoil it, though I will say that I hope it means what I think it means.

The second story, “The Armageddon Gambit”, has the Seventh Doctor and Ace running into a war-like species, whom the Doctor defeats with cleverness and skill. The Doctor then gets a message from Captain Gilmore and his Counter-Measures team. The story ends with a “to be continued in Operation Volcano!” information box. I hope this means that sometime next year, Titan will issue a Classic Doctors graphic novel featuring the Seventh Doctor and Ace – one of my favorite Doctor-Companion combinations.

The final story, “Midnight Feast” features the Eleventh Doctor and Alice. It’s a fun story of the Doctor in search of the perfect Midnight Snack – only to discover a plain tuna sandwich made by his companion is exactly what he’s looking for.

The final page of the book is a splash page introduction of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor – answering the question of whether Titan would be doing a 13th Doctor series (yes!) and the inside back cover announces the new book’s creative team: Jody Houser (writer) and Rachael Stott (art). I’m looking forward to the new book, but as usual, for Doctor Who comics from Titan, I will probably wait for the graphic novel. Although the three stories were short, and all meant as introductions to future volumes of Titan’s various series, I enjoyed the book.

Riverdale – Archie Comics

Next, Riverdale, from Archie Comics, based on the CW television series. I’m behind on Riverdale as well, but this story is outside current continuity – so there were no spoilers. In “Chock’Lit Shoppe of Horrors”, on a dark and stormy night, no less, Betty goes to Pop’s to interview Pop about the history of his restaurant and Riverdale. Pop obliges her with a series of stories: famous celebrities who have stopped by Pop’s, the story of Sweetie the hidden monster of the Sweetwater River, and finally a mysterious stranger who gave him some advice which saved Pop’s – but at a cost. It’s a wonderful story, and completely self-contained. I enjoyed it very much. The final pages of the book include informative advertisements for other books from Archie Comics both classic all-ages books and modern books for older (teen) readers.

The Mall – Scout Comics

The Mall I picked up solely because of the cover. With the grey, black, white, and hot pink – it screamed 80s Noir, and it caught my eye. I ended up really enjoying it. I hope this book comes out in a collected volume. The Mall is about a typical 80s shopping mall, a hang-out spot of typical suburban teenagers. Well, except for the fact that the “typical” nerd is the illegitimate son of a mobster, and already working for the mob, picking up money, delivering cash, and running odd jobs. He’s fallen for the cheerleader, and when he hears her complaining how her date ignores her to play a kung-fu arcade video game, our hero jumps in, telling the cheerleader he can beat her boyfriend. The bet is arranged, and Diego wins – not only humiliating Chauncy (the boyfriend) but winning a date – dinner and a dance with the cheerleader. Diego also has a sideline with the Cubans, so his dinner date is a bit complicated with business – but it all works out. I enjoyed this story. It’s self-contained but would also work as the first chapter of a larger story. The book also contains short previews for several other books from Scout Comics, many of which sounded very interesting.

DC Nation #0 – DC Comics

DC Nation # 0 is the first preview issue of a new DC Comics news and feature magazine. The cover cost of the first preview issue was only 25 cents, and per the information in the book, new issues will be free. I hope so – because this was an enjoyable read! This issue contains three stories, all of which are previews of upcoming events or new books in the DC universe.

The first story is Batman in “Your Big Day”, The Joker has taken a random guy hostage in his house and states he is waiting for an invitation in the mail to Batman’s upcoming wedding. There’s a great deal of tension between Joker and this random guy, who goes from insisting he has a daughter so the Joker shouldn’t kill him, to asking the Joker to kill him to get the tension over with. Finally, the mail arrives, and the Joker claims he received his invite. But it isn’t an invitation at all – it’s a letter from the daughter’s school. Not that random guy knows that – because the Joker kills him.

The next story features Superman in “Office Space”. Clark returns to the Daily Planet in time for Perry White’s declaration that he’s done printing suspicion, innuendo, rumor, and fear-mongering about Superman. He insists on facts and good reporting. He also gives Lois’s office to Clark, since she’s quit the Daily Planet. Clark insists he doesn’t want the office but doesn’t explain. Perry also introduces Robinson Goode, formerly of the Star City Sentinel, the new city beat reporter. We later see Robinson in a bar, talking to someone, and it seems she’s up to no good, pardon the pun. This is a preview of the new Man of Steel series.

Finally in the “No Justice” prelude, the Justice League, or rather, Leagues, led by Batman are up against an intergalactic threat. This short story introduces the four teams who will fight the Omega Titans, “giant beings who absorbs galaxies for energy”. The teams are: Justice League: Team Entropy (Lobo, Deathstroke, Lex Luthor, and Beast Boy); JL: Team Mystery (Martian Manhunter, Superman, Starro, Starfire, Sinestro); JL: Team Wonder (Wonder Woman, Raven, Doctor Fate, Etrigan the Demon, and Zatanna); and finally JL: Team Wisdom (Cyborg, Atom, Robin (Damian Wayne), The Flash, and Harley Quinn). It’s an introduction – but it sounds like an awesome, complex, galaxy-spanning story.

Overall, I enjoyed the books I choose at Free Comic Book Day. The event was enjoyable, though I would have enjoyed it more if I’d been feeling better. Still, that most certainly wasn’t the fault of the store or the event organizers. I cannot wait for next year! Recommended – if there’s an FCBD event near you next year, make it a point to go. You’ll not be disappointed!