Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre

  • Title: Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Author: Peter Anghelides
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie Redfern, Wendy Jennings, Miss Winters
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Louise Faulkner, Patricia Maynard
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/20/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith audio play, Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre picks up from where the previous audio, Ghost Town left off. Sarah is now on some islands off the coast of India, trying to interview local fisherman about a disastrous biological warfare experiment that went wrong in the 1940s. Her interview with the local fisherman is not going well when she’s approached by another former Planet 3 reporter, Wendy Jennings. No sooner than they start to talk when Wendy tells Sarah she’s being watched, and leaves her, leaving her a card with a time and place for a second meeting written on it. Sarah meets Wendy at the restaurant and they start to chat, only to have Wendy again insist they are being watched. Next, they meet on the beach – and are nearly run over by a Jeep.

Bit by bit, Wendy and Sarah do get to “compare notes”, as not only are they investigating the same story from the 1940s, which will be released to the public in a week’s time anyway as the result of the Official Secrets Act Statue of Limitations (basically) running out, but Sarah and Wendy suspect that a British biological research company with offices in the UK and India is intent on reviving the project. Wendy takes Sarah to meet the scientist from the original project, but a police officer shows up and kills the scientist.

This is part one, essentially, of the story – although this audio play is not officially broken-up into episodes, like many Big Finish Productions, and it is a single disc story. Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre is framed with voicemail messages at Planet 3. Sarah, also a little paranoid (but with good reason), is using the Planet 3 voicemail system to keep in touch with Natalie and Josh. Natalie has apparently recovered from her sense of betrayal as a result of the events of Test of Nerve. Back home in the UK, while Natalie researches Scarla, the British bio-weapons firm, and checks on Wendy Jennings’ background, Josh is unpacking and setting-up Sarah’s household in yet another new flat, this one Claudia’s old apartment.

Back in India, after the scientist is murdered, Sarah is much more sympathetic to Wendy’s stories. The two head to Scarla’s Indian headquarters. There, Wendy claims she’s used her Planet 3 credentials to get an interview with the CEO – really she is on a fact-finding mission and a distraction, while Sarah looks for proof. Sarah investigates in the records room and discovers that Scarla plans to use a much more virulent and deadly version of the 1940s virus to poison the Parambikulam-Aliyar project – a huge project of interconnected dams, tunnels, and viaducts, that will bring clean water for drinking, agriculture, and power to most of India by damming and connecting seven rivers. But Sarah is captured.

Taken to the CEO office, Sarah is confronted by Miss Winters and Mr. Harris. Harris had been after her throughout the entire series, since Comeback, and Sarah discovers it was Winters who set her up for the fall at Planet 3. Not only that but Wendy Jennings is actually Wendy Jellicoe, the daughter of Professor Jellicoe. Everything Sarah’s been through, being set up for publishing a “fake” story, losing her career, being constantly pursued, the loss of her reputation, even the death of her friend, Claudia, is all due to Winters, Harris, and Wendy wanting revenge on Sarah. This leads back to events in the aired story, Robot, and Think Tank and the Scientific Reform Society. Furthermore, the three plan on poisoning the Parambikulam-Aliyar project, which will result in the deaths of millions and the destruction of hundreds of acres of land. Sarah ends-up rescuing Wendy, whom Winters and Harris plan on sacrificing in a car crash, with help from Josh. Josh had gone to India to speak with Sarah personally since she wasn’t really answering the frantic voicemails he and Natalie had left – and when she did phone them she seemed off. Meanwhile, Natalie had called in a tip to the Indian authorities claiming Tamil rebels were going to attack the Parambikulam-Aliyar project. Sarah returns to the UK with Josh and meets up with Natalie, knowing now, just who set her up and why.

I enjoyed this audio play. As with all the Sarah Jane Smith audios, it moves very fast. So fast, in fact, that on the first listen I was really confused when Sarah and Wendy arrive at the Indian headquarters of Scarla, and everything changes. I liked Wendy, and I thought another reporter made a good companion for Sarah. However, tying everything that’s happened so far into an aired episode of Doctor Who was clever – as was casting the same actress to play an older Miss Winters. And Sarah saved Wendy from drowning so she may turn out to be an ally. Winters and Harris’ plot was also significantly horrifying (and realistic) and gave the audio much relevance. I have been very pleased with all the Sarah Jane audios I’ve heard so far, and highly recommend this audio and the series.

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

To order Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre on CD or Download 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: 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!

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 – The First Men in the Moon (Audio)

  • Title: The First Men in the Moon
  • Series: Big Finish Classics
  • Author: HG Wells (original novel); Jonathan Barnes (adapted screenplay)
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Cast: Nigel Planer (Professor Cavor), Gethin Anthony (Bedford), Chloe Pirrie (Maria Bell), Alan Cox (Shapps/Bartoli/Selinites), David Horovitch (The Grand Lunar)

This is the third adaptation of HG Wells’ classic novels by Big Finish that I have listened to. It’s an excellent adaption, but I’m beginning to find Wells extremely depressing. This novel begins with Bedford in Italy where he runs into a woman who introduces herself as the younger sister of a friend. They get along well – having coffee and then dinner together. But she also seems to be pumping him for information.

Bedford tells Maria that he was an accomplished and successful businessman but one of his investments had failed, so he had gone to a small village to relax, escape his creditors, and “write a play in ten days” to recoup his losses. In this small village, he meets a professor, with whom he strikes up an unusual friendship. The professor, Cavor, is obsessed with the question of overcoming gravity. But not with thrust, but rather by “repelling” gravity. Just as oil repels water, or two magnets repel each other, Cavor hopes to discover or create a substance that repels gravity.

Bedford sees immediately that a great deal of money could be made from such a substance, so he supports Cavor – both encouraging him, and helping him financially. Cavor is able to manufacture such a substance and he builds a sphere out of the stuff and announces his plan to go to the moon on a mission of exploration. Bedford, at first, intends to go with him – but suffers an anxiety attack in the sphere. He leaves but runs into one of his creditors in the local pub. Bedford sets the locals on his creditor and runs back to the sphere where he and Cavor set off.

The sphere rises into the air, and soon they land on the moon – and simply walk onto the surface of the moon, without spacesuits or even diving suits. At first, Bedford complains about the lifeless and boring surface of the moon, but as the sun rises above the surface – plant life erupts quickly, enveloping the surface. Cavor and Bedford run off. They also see what’s described as “moon cows”, which Cavor stares at in amazement. Bedford first considers them as a point for making money – by rigging big game hunting of the animals or even killing them for meat to sell on Earth.

They are then set upon by the moon natives. The insect-like natives, whom Cavor calls “Selinites”, after the goddess of the moon, take Cavor and Bedford underground. The insects communicate in a chittering voice which the two Englishmen cannot understand. Slowly Bedford becomes more and more panicked. He calls the Selinites, “monsters”, and when they are led through what appears to be a slaughterhouse for the moon cows, he grabs a stalagmite and starts swinging. Much to his surprise, the merest hit on a Selinites cause them to explode. Bedford kills the lot and he and Cavor escape. Once back on the lunar surface, Cavor says he should look at the stalagmite in his hand. Bedford does and discovers it’s gold. He and Cavor decide to split up and find the sphere. Bedford finds it, returns to the spot where he left Cavor, and finds evidence of foul play but no body. Bedford returns to the sphere and to Earth, where he uses the gold to pay off his debts and pay for his Italian vacation.

Meanwhile, he and Maria are getting along famously, and she encourages everything he says. This constant agreement, however, makes Bedford suspicious, so he questions Maria. He finds out she’s a British spy, sent to find him and get information about the professor. She takes him to Bedlam to meet a man who, due to an accident that saw him fitted with an iron plate in his head, is picking up messages from the moon. It’s Cavor – warning of an invasion.

Although there is a definite adventure story in, The First Men in the Moon, the story really feels like a debate. And it’s a debate between Business (Bedford) and Science (Cavor). Professor Cavor, is kind, optimistic, sees the best in people (and other beings), and wishes to use his intellect to help others and for the betterment of all humankind. Bedford is greedy, harsh, selfish, and mean. He wants to make money and doesn’t care who or what he has to exploit to do it. Upon landing on the moon, his first reaction is that it’s ugly, desolate, and boring. Cavor nails it when he points out, “You mean there’s nothing you can sell.” Bedford is also deeply suspicious (when Cavor, who is very much alive, not dead like Bedford thought, works out a method of communication with the Selinites, and ends up talking to their leader, the Grand Lunar, Bedford insists to Maria that Cavor, “doesn’t realise he’s being interrogated”.) Bedford also is claustrophobic – he panics in the sphere and no doubt being far below the surface of the moon adds to his reaction against the Selinites as much his own prejudice against a species he finds ugly.

Bedford and Maria are very suspicious, they worry the Selinites will attack. Unfortunately, Cavor had emphasized British military advances and conquests, especially of indigenous species in his discussions with the Grand Lunar. This does not go well and appears to lead to the invasion that Bedford warns of and Maria is preparing for.

However, if you look at it from the Selinite point of view – Bedford and Cavor appear from nowhere, doing considerable damage to their crops. Taken captive, the native “agricultural caste” cannot understand these strange, dangerous creatures. The farmers were probably bringing them to some sort of authority, though we never find out for sure – because Bedford goes on a killing spree. Once Cavor works out a communication method, and Selinites learn English, the leader interviews Cavor and finds to his horror he’s dealing with an extremely war-like species who exploit or even kill every other native group they come across. The first strike seems almost justified. – Just from a devil’s advocate point of view.

So, the story, itself is a bit depressing – Bedford, as the lead character, has his own point of view, which is presented as the “right way” even though it is flawed. For example, Cavor brings the Complete Works of William Shakespeare along on the trip for reading material. Bedford dismisses it as “worthless junk” with nothing to apply to modern times. Bedford, likewise, also thought he could whip-up a play in ten days and make tons of money – ignoring how much work writing is, or how unlikely it is that a first play would be a bestseller (so to speak). Cavor may be a bit naive at times, but he isn’t entirely at fault for the conflict, considering it was Bedford who attacked and killed a bunch of Selinites, to begin with. We also only see Cavor through Bedford’s eyes, and to a certain extent, Maria’s, as she reads off the messages they are receiving from the man with a plate in his head.

Also, as Victorian/Edwardian SF – The First Men in the Moon, has a few issues just from the modern viewpoint and knowledge of the moon. The one that threw me the most was Cavor and Bedford stepping out of the sphere – without spacesuits, or even diving suits or a diving bell. It reminded me of the bit in Galaxy Quest, “Is there air out there? Do you know?” We know there isn’t air on the moon, and the pressure is very great. If they’d only used a Victorian diving suit I would have been OK with it, but being completely unprotected, on the moon, threw me out of the story for a few minutes. The rest of the fantasy elements: the quickly blooming plants, the moon cows, the underground city, and the Selinites should have been just as impossibly fantastic, but the presentation was so good I found I could enjoy it anyway. Basically, if it had been a different planet with an atmosphere I would have found the whole story acceptable. I don’t need a lot of science in my SF or Science Fantasy after all – but people breathing somewhere without atmosphere is tough to swallow.

Still, it’s a good story, overall, which I can recommend. It’s a bit depressing at times, but the cast is brilliant. This is a full-cast audio play with music, special effects, acting, and performances – not a reading of the original novel (as in an audiobook). Recommended.

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

Click this link to order HG Wells’ The First Men in the Moon on CD or Download.

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.

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