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.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Jigsaw War

  • Title: The Jigsaw War
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Eddie Robson
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Jaime, Second Doctor, Moran
  • Cast: Frazier Hines, Dominic Mafham
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/04/2014

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s The Companion Chronicles focuses on the companions, who tell their own stories. The Jigsaw War starts with the Doctor’s companion, Jamie, being held and questioned in a cell. Someone wants to know where the Doctor is, what his plans are, how he is helping the Unhelt, the inhabitants of the planet. But this isn’t your typical interrogation – as Jamie moves back and forth in time, even becoming the interrogator – while his interrogator is now the prisoner. a being called Side tells Jamie if he puts the scenes in order he can create a code that will open the door, a door only he can see. Jamie does put his experiences in order – but he doesn’t key in the entire sequence – realizing that if he does, he will be truly trapped.

As to Side, he is a Fifth Dimensional Being, the Unhelt’s god, who feeds on the emotional upheaval of the Unhelt and the Humans who are repressing and killing them. The Unhelt didn’t attack the complex where Jamie is being held. Everything is an elaborate game. Solving this puzzle lets Jamie and his captor escape.

The Jigsaw War is complex, but not as confusing as one might think. It’s a good story. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor – Hidden Human History

  • Title: Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor – Hidden Human History
  • Authors: Jody Houser
  • Artists: Roberta Ingranata (Artist), Rachael Stott (Artist),  Enrica Eren Angiolini (Colorist), Viviana Spinelli (Assistant Colorist), Sarah Jacobs (Letterer), John Roshell (Letterer)
  • Line:  13th Doctor
  • Characters: Thirteenth Doctor, Graham O’Brien, Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin (“Yaz”) Khan
  • Collection Date: 2019
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 09/14/2019

**Spoiler Alert** The TARDIS lands in Europe in the 1500s, during the Guelder Wars, only for Yaz, Ryan, and Graham to be the ones explaining the time period instead of the Doctor. The Doctor wonders how they know so much about a rather obscure area of history, only for Ryan, Yaz, and Graham to explain they learned about it from a podcast called “Hidden Human History” or H3. According to the companions, “everyone” is listening to it. Team TARDIS runs into Magda who is running away from war and “monsters”. The Doctor and her companions discover the monsters are Stilean Flesh Eaters, an alien race that subsists on fresh blood. The Doctor remarks they were once carrion-eaters but they grew to prefer fresh blood instead. They also aren’t evil, just dangerous. In many ways, the Stileans are implied to be no worse than humans who eat meat. The Doctor finds these aliens and one bites her, although the Doctor isn’t hurt. The aliens chase the Doctor to the middle of the local village and the TARDIS Team is surrounded. But then alarm bells go off, rung by Magda. The Stileans leave.

The Doctor and her companions leave the 1500s and arrive in North Carolina in 1711 during Cary’s Rebellion – the subject of another episode of Hidden Human History. The Doctor and her team run into Schultz and Perkins who are now and have been for ten years agents of the Time Agency. Once again, the Stileans, who look closer to humans than they did in the 1500s – and somewhat owl-like are on the loose, taking advantage of the small war to find fresh blood and carrion. The Doctor tries to have a discussion with one of the Stileans, the one who bit her before, but their conversation is interrupted by the Time Agency agents. Still, Team TARDIS finds that a diet of human blood is altering the Stileans and making them more human-looking. The Doctor theorizes that one day they will be able to pass among humans.

Although the Time Agency agents suggest that the Doctor go to The Battle of Ridgeway, they find themselves instead at the funeral of William the Brave, then they travel to contemporary times to track down the woman behind Hidden Human History.

Team TARDIS tracks down Bethany Brunwine, podcaster, and meets her London flat. They enjoy tea and biscuits with the woman, who, yes, is the Stilean who bit the Doctor all those years ago. She was struck by something the Doctor said – history records names, facts, and dates but often ignores the stories of normal every day people who live through those times. Hidden Human History aims to bring the lives of normal people to, well, to life, as people whom contemporary people can emphasize with and understand. The Stilean has lived a very long life but will die soon. H3 is her way of giving back.

I enjoyed this volume of the Thirteenth Doctor by Titan Comics. It’s a fun, light adventure. and it’s a refreshing change to have a “monster” who is no more monstrous than the average carnivore. Also, one of the Stileans is inspired by the Doctor to not only “fit in” to Earth society but to teach humans about what they have missed in history, and to bring to life the stories of normal people. This is a light and enjoyable volume and I recommend it.

Book Review – Doctor Who 12th Doctor: A Confusion of Angels

  • Title: Time Trials vol. 3: A Confusion of Angels
  • Author: Richard Dinnick
  • Artists: Francesco Manna, Pasquale Qualano, Hi-Fi (Colorist), Richard Starkings (Letterer), Jimmy Betancourt (Letterer)
  • Line: 12th Doctor
  • Characters: Twelfth Doctor, Bill Potts, Nardole
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Collected Issues: Year 3 (#10 – 13)
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/12/2019

**Spoiler Alert** The third and final volume of Titan Comics Doctor Who Twelfth Doctor Year 3 series, A Confusion of Angels actually picks up where volume 2 left off. Having picked up some spare parts they needed at the Ubermart, Bill, the Doctor (as played by Peter Capaldi on the BBC television series), and Nardole are in the TARDIS when they come across a container ship that is drifting in space. The TARDIS Team steps out into the ship and the first thing they hear is a scream – and thus starts an exciting, tense, homage to Alien. The TARDIS team encounters a very suspicious engineer and slightly less suspicious medical doctor who accuse them of being murderers and pirates. The Doctor sends Bill back to the TARDIS to enact emergency protocol 13-9 while the Doctor and Nardole convince the people they’ve encountered to take them to the bridge. Emergency protocol 13-9 gives Missy temporary control of the TARDIS and Bill is left behind on the endangered ship. Bill meets Chief Engineer Berthold who is accompanied by Gabriel, a host android she constructed from two broken Host androids. The Chief Engineer also shows Bill the ships’ company hold is filled with Host androids that are currently deactivated. As they head to the bridge, they meet the suspicious engineer who accuses Bill of piracy and murder. Bill barely manages to convince him to take her to the bridge and the Doctor rather than the brig.

Once they reach the bridge, however, they discover the Doctor has fixed the telecommunications system, sent an SOS call, restored lighting to the bridge, and started on a more permanent fix to the lighting, which is being drained by something in the hold. The Judoon arrive to “rescue” the ship, under the command of Margaret Ag-Kris-Therur-Ford-Jingatheen, essentially the Slitheen we know from the first season of New Who who, having been fostered from an egg by a good family, is now on the side of law and order and a Shadow Proclamation detective. The Doctor discovers that Weeping Angels are on the ship, the ship’s crew activate the Host to use as internal “eyes and ears” which backfires as “whatever holds the image of an Angel becomes an Angel”. The Doctor also realizes the missing crew members haven’t been murdered but are missing. Then, unfortunately, he is captured and sent back in time by an Angel.

Meanwhile, the Judoon ship, as well as the container ship, have no engines and are falling into a nearby sun. The crew, Bill, Nardole, and the Judoon, led by Margaret also have no idea how to stop the Weeping Angels and the Host that have transformed into Angels. They discover the container that is taking power from the container ship contains Cyborg refugees and their families who are fleeing an aggressively anti-Cyborg regime on Sto. One of the people hidden in the container wears a clown mask. He turns out to be the Doctor having gotten there by the long way around. He was sent back in time by the Weeping Angel to Sto, where he became involved in Cyborg rights and fighting the repressive regime. He eventually decided to work from within, getting a job at Max Capricorn Industries, giving suggestions for naming ships, and eventually creating an Underground Railroad to help Cyborgs escape from Sto to more tolerant planets. The people in the container were refugees he was helping. The Doctor also comes up with a plan to get all the people, including the refugees, the Container ship crew, and the Judoon on the Judoon ship and then use the Host Androids to both send the empty container ship and it’s Weeping Angels into the sun, and provide energy for the Judoon ship to escape.

A Confusion of Angels is a fun space adventure. The Weeping Angels come across as effectively scary again. It was also fun to see the Easter eggs: Max Capricorn, the Doctor’s reference to a mummy, the Host, the Judoon, and Margaret – Slitheen no longer (I loved that she was finally a good person). I did find this graphic novel to be a bit confusing at times, however. Still, it was a great adventure story. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who 12th Doctor: The Wolves of Winter

  • Title: Time Trials vol. 2: The Wolves of Winter
  • Author: Richard Dinnick
  • Artists: Brian Williamson, Pasquale Qualano with Edu Menna & Marcelo Salaza, Hi-Fi (Colorist), Richard Starkings (Letterer), Jimmy Betancourt (Letterer)
  • Line: 12th Doctor
  • Characters: Twelfth Doctor, Bill Potts, Nardole
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Collected Issues: Year 3 (# 5 – 7 and 9)
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/10/2019

**Spoiler Alert** Vikings and Ice Warriors and Fenric, oh my! The second volume of Titan Comics third year of Doctor Who Twelfth Doctor stories brings in Bill Potts – finally. It’s good to have a permanent companion for the Doctor again. The TARDIS lands on a volcanic island in the 9th Century CE, where the Doctor and Bill meet some friendly Vikings. The Vikings assume the Doctor is a messenger of the gods, especially after they see inside the Doctor’s TARDIS. The Vikings tell the Doctor about seeing two lights in the sky – one which appeared to burn up but the other disappeared. Thinking it was a ship that landed, the Vikings, The Doctor and Bill investigate. They find a group of Ice Warriors. The Ice Warriors are pursuing one Warrior who was infected by the Flood and escaped Mars in a stolen vehicle. Knowing that if the Flood infects Earth it will destroy the planet, the Ice Warriors want to destroy it first. The Doctor quickly talks the Ice Warriors and Vikings into forming an alliance. They even agree to kill anyone on either side infected by the Flood and possessed.

The Doctor formulates a plan – the Vikings will go inside the warm volcanic mountain, where the heat threatens the Ice Warriors, and the Ice Warriors will guard the exits. All are armed with sonic weapons. But the Doctor also feels he has to give the Flood a chance, so he dresses in a spacesuit and enters the volcano to speak to the Flood. He discovers a Haemovore, Viking runes, a cursed treasure, chess pieces, and other clues that link to Fenric. The names of the Vikings are also familiar. The Doctor tells Bill a little of his Seventh incarnation’s encounter with Fenric.

However, The Doctor is able with the help of the Vikings and Ice Warriors to defeat Fenric (for now) and prevent his poisoning of the Earth with the Flood. The Ice Warriors leave in their spaceship and the Vikings head off in their longboat by “the South way” with their cursed treasure hidden away. As they leave, the Doctor and Bill see a polar bear with her cub – the purpose of their journey originally.

In the second, much shorter story, the vault where the Doctor is holding Missy, needs to have a part replaced so the Doctor, Bill and Nardole head to the Ubermart. There the Doctor and Bill are soon separated. Bill meets a young girl who has also gotten lost. Bill and the girl are pursued by Owl-like creatures and both Bill and the Doctor and Nardole are harassed by the store’s security bots. Eventually, they all meet up again. The young girl turns out to be a Pathicol – symbiotic beings that feed on empathy. The owl-like beings are the Pathicols in their natural, undisguised, state, and quite friendly. The child is returned to her family and the Doctor, Bill, and Nordole return to the TARDIS.

I enjoyed this story very much. It ties into the New Who Tenth Doctor story, “The Waters of Mars” and the Seventh Doctor story, “The Curse of Fenric” – which is one of my favorites. The Ice Warriors in this story are Classic Ice Warriors and also an intelligent proud warrior species, who end-up as good friends with the Viking Warriors. The story also has several awesome references to Norse Mythology that makes a lot of sense. The artwork in the story is also beautiful. And it was great to finally see Bill Potts in the comics! The second story is short and cute, and a good way to round off this collection. The Pathicol in their native state though did remind me of the Court of Owls from Batman. Anyway, this collection is highly recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who 12th Doctor: The Terror Beneath

  • Title: Time Trials vol. 1: The Terror Beneath
  • Authors: George Mann and James Peaty
  • Artists: Mariano Laclaustra, Warren Pleece, Fer Centurion, Carlos Cabrera (Colorist), Hernán Cabrera (Colorist), Hi-Fi (Colorist), Richard Starkings (Letterer), Jimmy Betancourt (Letterer)
  • Line: 12th Doctor
  • Characters: Twelfth Doctor, Hattie, Penny
  • Collection Date: 2017
  • Collected Issues: Year 3 (# 1 – 4)
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/29/2019

**Spoiler Alert** The Terror Beneath is the first volume in Year Three of Titan Comics Twelfth Doctor (as played by Peter Capaldi on the BBC series Doctor Who) series. This volume consists of two complete stories. The Doctor is traveling alone but after a short trip to an aquatic world where he finds Quarks (from the aired story “The Dominators”) buried in an ancient undersea temple, he picks up Hattie on the Twist space station. The two travel to a seaside village for a relaxing break. The weather is colder, wetter, and less pleasant than Hattie would like for a seaside vacation. When they arrive the Doctor and Hattie read a newspaper report of strange creatures walking into the sea. They take accommodation at a nearby hotel and Hattie says she needs to lie down for a bit. Hattie awakes, having horrible, physically painful nightmares. Shambling seaweed creatures attack the hotel. The first wave is pushed back but the Doctor is found unconscious in the hotel’s kitchen. The hotel medical doctor brings The Doctor to one of the hotel’s room that has been turned into an overflow hospital unit. It seems lots of people in the little town are collapsing into comas and no one understands it. The Doctor soon recovers and he and Hattie investigate under the ocean (Hattie in a wetsuit and the Doctor using a rebreather). They discover a spaceship under the ground has been suddenly revealed by the erosion of a nearby cliff. The species is waking up but is still trapped. The Doctor helps get the ship free and the ship and it’s companion ships escape and leave Earth. the people in the town recover with no ill effects.

The Doctor drops off Hattie at the Twist, and then the TARDIS lands in a small town where the local people act like attacking Zombies. The Doctor meets a waitress, Penny, and for a short time ends up in the sheriff’s office. The sheriff is less than helpful though. Penny tells the Doctor the people in the town changed after a comet seemed to land near a local farm and the giant smiling mouth appeared in the sky. The Doctor knows immediately it’s psychic energy but needs to get to the source. Penny tells him there’s a service hatch he can use to get beyond the town’s borders and then gives him directions to the farm. The Doctor finds a horribly manipulated house and it’s three residents who have been taken over. He uses the sonic, frees the family, and the mouth and negative feelings taking over the family and town disappear. The family’s young son has a creature on his chest but with Penny’s help, the Doctor also helps the son to recover. The Doctor says no one will remember what happened besides Penny and the boy and asks her to look out for him.

I enjoyed reading this graphic novel but I found it really short, and I was surprised it wasn’t part of a continuing story for the year. Still, Titan does an excellent job with their Doctor Who graphic novels and this one has particularly beautiful art. Recommended.