Book Review – Doctor Who: The Magician’s Oath

  • Title: The Magician’s Oath
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Scott Handcock
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Capt. Mike Yates, Third Doctor, the Brigadier, Jo Grant, UNIT
  • Cast: Richard Franklin (Mike), Michael Chance (Diamond Jack (guest))
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/13/2017

The Magician’s Oath is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line, told by Capt. Mike Yates (Richard Franklin), though it’s set fairly early in the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) era, probably his second season. The framing sequence has Capt. Yates showing up at UNIT to “make a statement”, this being his story.

During the Summer, in London, a series of strange weather events occurs. At first, these strange occurrences are amusing, but when a flash freeze hits half of Hyde Park and kills every one there, UNIT becomes involved, including Mike, Jo, the Brigadier, and the Doctor. The Doctor also detects some strange energy readings, which he thinks are more worth investigating than the weather.

Mike and Jo, despite being warned off, decide to investigate anyway. A witness comes forward, the only person to survive what happened in Hyde Park, and she gives the cryptic clue of “Diamond Jack”. following the weather reports, Jo and Mike go to Trafalgar Square where a street magician named, Diamond Jack, is performing. Jo is dragged into his act and disappears. When Mike confronts him, weird stuff happens, including Diamond Jack floating in the air.

Capt. Yates finds Diamond Jack’s house. While outside, Mike is warned off confronting Diamond Jack by the Doctor and the Brigadier, but he ignores the warnings to rescue Jo. He locates Jo inside, who can’t believe she’s only been gone a few hours – she thinks it was days. The house itself is strangely empty with no photos or personal touches. Before Jo and Mike can escape, they are confronted by Diamond Jack.

The Brigadier, the Doctor, and UNIT arrive. The Doctor had found Jack’s spaceship. At this point things get a little weird. The Doctor uses a device he found at the spaceship, a red cylinder, which seems to work in the reverse of the zap device from “Men in Black” – and restores Jack’s memories. But Jack is actually an alien prisoner – and a prisoner in three types, a “human” Jack who’s suffering from short-term memory loss until the Doctor reverses it, the person’s memories, stored in the cylinder, which the Doctor restores, and the physical body – which has only animal instincts. The Doctor, Jo, and UNIT go to the spaceship, where they manage to release the animal creature.

Meanwhile Jack manages to kidnap Jo, again, and take her to Tower Bridge. Mike and the Doctor race to rescue Jo before the human Jack and his animal counterpart meet. Mike does rescue Jo, but not before Jack attacks her mind again, causing her to be placed in a coma. UNIT manages to take down Jack and the monster.

In the end, Mike confesses it took Jo a week to recover from her coma, and she lost her memory of the incident. Mike also confesses that he truly cared for Jo, even loved her, but she had only feelings of friendship for him.

The first half of this story works pretty well – the flash freeze is an intriguing mystery. But the second half, with the mysterious three-part alien, not to mention some alien civilization deciding Earth would make a great prison planet, works considerably less well. It’s like part 1 and part 2 are almost different stories, and they don’t gel being forced together. Mike’s sudden crush on Jo also seems misplaced, though the ending interview remarks that Mike was supposed to be a love interest for Jo. (Note: Mike was on the show before Jo Grant, as he was introduced with UNIT in Pertwee’s first story, whereas Jo was the Third Doctor’s second companion.) Even the flash freeze seems a little weird as “freezing to death” doesn’t work that way (it’s usually a process that takes a lot of time, and in cases where people have fallen into freezing water, for example, and are pulled out immediately – even if they seem “dead” they recover.) The way the situation in Hyde Park is described by Mike it’s more like the entire park was flooded with liquid nitrogen. I was left wondering, “huh?” Not to mention thinking the author had never actually experienced cold weather or frostbite.

But this is a Companion Chronicles story told from the point of view of an unusual companion, Capt. Mike Yates. As far as I know it’s the only story told from his point of view in all of the tie-ins for Doctor Who. Yes, there are various UNIT stories, but they are often more team stories than the point of view of a single member of UNIT. Though as I said, I don’t remember even hints of a Mike-Jo romance, this is from Mike’s pov, and from what I remember of his character, he could quite easily have a thing for a woman who has no interest in him.

Overall, I’d give this 3.5 stars. It’s not horrible, but it’s not one of the best Companion Chronicles either.

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

Click here to order The Magician’s Oath on CD or Download.

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

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Book Review – Doctor Who: Resistance

  • Title: Resistance
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Steve Lyons
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Polly, The Pilot, Second Doctor, Ben, Jaime
  • Cast: Anneke Wills (Polly), John Sackville (the Pilot)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/08/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Doctor Who: Resistance is a release in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line, and features Anneke Wills as Polly telling this purely historical Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) story. The TARDIS lands and Ben, Polly, Jaime, and the Doctor step outside, only to discover that the TARDIS has landed on railroad tracks and it’s night. The TARDIS crew tries to shift the TARDIS off the tracks, to no avail. When Jaime remarks that they should just get back inside and leave, the Doctor answers – “And never know where we were? That won’t do.” Soldiers attack and the crew are split up, Jaime getting shot and captured. The Doctor sends Ben to find and rescue Jaime. They are to meet in the woods.

Needless to say, that doesn’t work as Ben and Jaime don’t show up. The Doctor and Polly run off, knowing now where they are – Nazi-occupied France, and the soldiers who were after them are the French Gestapo. The Doctor and Polly end-up in a barn near a farmhouse. Luckily for them the young woman who lives on the farm with her parents, Jacqueline, is a member of the Resistance. She’s already hiding a stranded British Tommy (or “Invader”) and has made arrangements to pass him through her network of contacts to get him out of France and free.

This is exactly what they do. The Pilot, Polly, and the Doctor are passed from person to person, in a sort of French Underground Railroad to escape. Jacqueline hides them in her truck, and takes them to town, passing the free to a local tailor who is heavily involved in the Resistance. There, the Doctor wins favor by forging identity cards for everyone who needs them, so they can travel a bit more freely. Three other invaders are already waiting in the hidden room under the tailor shop. To Polly’s amazement, the Pilot that Jacqueline was hiding on her parent’s farm is Randolph Wright, Polly’s Uncle, whom she knows died in a German POW camp during the War.

The day before everyone is to leave to take a train to the Southern border of France, Jacqueline shows up again. The tailor, Claude, gives her a tongue-lashing for putting everyone in danger by showing up at the shop. But Jacqueline has terrible news – the French Gestapo were waiting at her farm and have arrested her parents. She only escaped because she was warned by a friend. Claude’s upset at the risk helping Jacqueline poses. The Doctor creates an identity card for her, which greatly reduces the risk. He takes the entire group to the train station.

There, the Doctor tells Polly they shouldn’t actually get on the train as it will take them even further away from the TARDIS, not to mention Ben and Jaime. There are a few scuffles at the station, and the Doctor is left behind (he does provide distractions so other resistors can escape) and Polly ends-up on the train. In a compartment on the train, she and the Pilot start to talk and gossip about their families. Polly realises that the Pilot isn’t her Uncle Randolph Wright as he claims – but a French Gestapo spy, responsible for their losses so far. He attacks her, she screams, Jacqueline shows up and shoots him. Thanks to a conveniently loud steam train, no one hears the shot, and the Invaders, Jacqueline, and Polly are able to hide the body. The train arrives at their stop and they leave, and meet the last link in the chain, Paul Bernard, who will show them through the mountains and over the border to freedom in Spain. However, in the mountains, they meet the Doctor again, who now has Jaime and Ben with him. Polly explains to Jacqueline she must leave with her friends, but assures Jacqueline she will be alright, since she’s almost home free so to speak. Jacqueline agrees, then tells Polly that Jacqueline is only her code name and her real name is Michelle. The Doctor, Jaime, Ben, and Polly return to the TARDIS and leave France.

The CD opens with a trailer for another Companion Chronicles story, and closes with a panel discussion about Resistance with Lisa Bowerman, Anneke Wells, and John Sackville, as well as the producer of the series.

I enjoyed this story a lot. Yes, it’s basically, go here, then here, then here, etc., like most “quest”-style stories – but it’s a fascinating time, if a bit dark. However, there could have been a sense of paranoia as no one really knows who to trust – and there is none of that. Even though Claude, especially, is concerned about spies in his midst, and he has reason to be concerned, it comes off as common sense, given the circumstances, and not unjust paranoia.

One tiny issue I had with this story was the pronunciation of Jacqueline’s name. The Pilot, and Jacqueline herself, pronounce it as “JACK-CUE-lynn”, which is correct. Polly for some completely unknown reason keeps pronouncing it as, “JACK-leen”, which is just wrong. OK, I’m not sure how it would be pronounced in French – but as it happens to be my own first name, I can tell you, “JACK-CUE-lynn” is correct. I don’t know if it was something done to indicate Polly’s background or what. (Anneke plays both Polly and Jacqueline – so she’s pronouncing the name differently depending on the character. John Sackville, as the Pilot, pronounces it correctly as, “JACK-CUE-lynn”.) I also was completely lost by Jacqueline’s important name-drop moment that her name is “Michelle”. Was that meant to mean something?

However, given the dire circumstances, there are a few light and even funny moments in the story (for example, while hiding out in a barn the Doctor starts fiddling with a tractor and hot-wires it. They are caught. They try to escape on the tractor, and Polly, narrating, remarks, “As a get away vehicle, a slow-moving tractor was, perhaps, not the wisest choice…” and given this is audio, it just brings to mind the image of the Doctor on this huge tractor, being chased by someone catching up to him without even having to run. Or Jaime’s perfectly practical suggestion at the very beginning – of why don’t they just get back in the TARDIS and leave rather than even trying to push it off the tracks.

I highly recommend Doctor Who Resistance is a brilliant, truly historical Doctor Who story.

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

Click here to order Resistance on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Mahogany Murderers

  • Title: The Mahogany Murderers
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Andy Lane
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Henry Gordon Jago, Professor Henry Litefoot, Ellie the barmaid, Fourth Doctor
  • Cast: Christopher Benjamin (Jago), Trevor Baxter (Professor Litefoot), Lisa Bowerman (Ellie the barmaid)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/31/2017

Doctor Who: The Mahogany Murderers is a volume in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles and it also plays like a backdoor pilot. Professor George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago are two characters from the classic Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. However, this story takes place some time later, as the two have not only remained fast friends but solve mysteries and conundrums together.

This story begins with the two meeting up in a pub to catch each other up on their latest adventure. The two swap parts of the story with Jago constantly warning they must be careful to not put Act II before Act I as their stories overlap. Professor Litefoot, a professional pathologist who works for a local hospital and the police was finishing up his duties and cleaning the mortuary when two police officers arrive with a body in a wheelbarrow. They put the body on one of the tables then leave. But when he examines the body Litefoot finds it isn’t a dead body at all – it’s a life-sized intricate mannequin. Litefoot sends a messenger to send a telegram to Jago to ask him to investigate the area where the “body” was found.

Jago does so, describing in detail one of the worse areas of Victorian London. Jago ends-up finding a warehouse, a warehouse full of strange electric equipment.

Meanwhile at the morgue, Litefoot is continuing to investigate the “body” when a man arrives demanding he turn over the body since it belongs to him. Litefoot refuses, citing that it’s part of an on-going police investigation (which is a slight exaggeration). Later, the body itself rises from the mortuary table and walks out.

Meanwhile, Jago is investigating the warehouse, and he trips over one of the cables on the floor. He tries to plug it back in but is hit over the head. He wakes up only to be confronted by a group of wooden men. The men can speak and move – and they are all criminals. Jago is mistaken for Dr. Tulp, and recognizes one of the men as Jack Yeavil, a infamous criminal who had recently died in Newgate Prison. But as he’s learning about exactly what’s going on, the wooden man that Litefoot had examined arrives – and tells everyone this is not Dr. Tulp.

Litefoot meanwhile had followed the wooden man to the warehouse. Jago seems to be in a lot of danger – but Litefoot throws an oil lamp, starting a fire, and allowing Jago to escape. There’s a hansom cab race as Jago takes one cab to the warehouse and one of the wooden criminals takes the other. The criminal offers eternal life to him in a wooden, metal, or porcelain body. But in the end, Jago and Litefoot burn down the warehouse as well and all the wooden men are destroyed.

This was a fun story, and a bit different even for a Companion Chronicles tale. The Doctor isn’t in the story at all, though he’s mentioned at the very end. It plays like a test case or backdoor pilot and in the CD extra panel discussion the idea of starting a “Jago and Litefoot” series is batted around as an idea. That idea must have been taken seriously at Big Finish, because they have introduced a Jago and Litefoot series on audio. This is also pretty close to a full-cast audio drama. Not only does it have music and sound effects, but it has three people in the cast: Christopher Benjamin as Henry Gordon Jago, Trevor Baxter as Professor Litefoot, and Lisa Bowerman, the director, as Ellie the barmaid. So, even though much of the story is Jago and Litefoot telling each other what happened, it’s also a bit less of “telling a story” than the average Companion Chronicles story. I enjoyed it.

However, as there are a lot of Doctor Who audios available from Big Finish, and other series I’m interested in, this story wasn’t quite enough to hook me in to trying the Jago and Litefoot series. I don’t regret the purchase, it was a fun and different adventure, but I prefer the Companion Chronicles stories than feature actual Doctor Who companions and the Doctor Who ranges themselves. One can only buy so much. Still The Mahogany Murderers is recommended as something a bit different and novel.

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

Click here to order The Mahogany Murderers on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Transit of Venus

  • Title: The Transit of Venus
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Jacqueline Rayner
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Ian Chesterton, Joseph Banks (guest), First Doctor
  • Cast: William Russell, Ian Hallard
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/23/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles series features stories told from the point of view of the Doctor’s companions. This series gives Big Finish the opportunity to tell stories set in previous eras of the British Television Series, Doctor Who with previous Doctors and companions. In that aspect, the Companion Chronicles are similar to the Missing Adventures and Past Doctor Adventures original novels. The Transit of Venus is performed by William Russell as Ian Chesterton, and is set in the First Doctor (William Hartnell) Era. As is the case with many of the Companion Chronicles, Russell is joined in his performance by Ian Hallard as Joseph Banks. The Transit of Venus is a pure historical story. The only science fiction elements are the TARDIS, and Ian’s references to the previous television story, “The Sensorites”.

The story opens with the Doctor, now very angry with Ian and Barbara, dropping them off someplace on Earth. He doesn’t even stay to see if they are in fact in 20th Century Earth or to check that they are alright. In turns out they are not alright, and, luckily for Barbara and Ian, Susan insists that her grandfather (the Doctor) stay and check. The Doctor and Susan see Ian and Barbara being attacked by the sailors of the 18th century sailing ship they have landed on. The Doctor and Ian end up staying on the ship and Susan, Barbara, and the TARDIS are pushed over the side. Thus, this is a First Doctor and Ian story. Never fear, though, Barbara, Susan, and the TARDIS are found and the crew reunited at the end of the story. In some aspects, this is typical of early Doctor Who – the stories often depended on the TARDIS crew being separated and reuniting later. Often such separations serve the plot by the crew separately learning important information which is later pooled for plot purposes. Other times, characters disappearing serve more practical purposes – giving the actors on the show some much-needed time off (back in the days when producing Doctor Who was closer to a three-quarters of the year repertory theatre than modern television. In the case of this audio play, having half the cast missing for all but the opening and closing scenes seems to have been done for purely practical reasons – less characters makes the story smaller and easier to tell on audio.

However, that is not purely a negative. Once it becomes apparent that this will be a Doctor and Ian story, the listener can just go with it, and it is still a very enjoyable story. Ian and the Doctor end-up on Captain Cook’s Endeavour sailing ship, navigating the Pacific Ocean on their way to charting Australia and discovering the Cook Islands. The story is educational – teaching about the famous voyage as well as the geography of the region – the groups of islands, their names, the coastal features of Australia, etc. It’s the type of story that if filmed, especially with some sort of budget, could be extremely enjoyable, sort of Doctor Who does Master and Commander. Because this is Doctor Who there is another plot to pass the time on the long ship voyage – Ian meets Joseph Banks, a famed botanist. Yet, whenever Ian is alone with Banks, weird things seem to happen. Ian sees Banks shoot an albatross that is following the ship, and Ian warns him of the superstition against killing an albatross. Then he hears Banks quote the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Later, as Ian approaches Banks’ cabin, he hears voices, which, to Ian, sound like Banks is reading aloud a diary entry containing information about the future. A few days later, Banks and Ian are on the ship’s deck, and Ian becomes fearful of Banks and even believes Banks pushed him overboard. Banks rescues Ian, and states that he became disoriented on the ship and fell. As a result of his dunking in the ocean – Ian becomes quite sick, contracting a fever, and is cabin-bound. Ian has additional strange experiences on the ship, especially when near Banks.

Finally, the Endeavoour reaches the place in Australia where Ian knows they will land. And he sees Susan and Barbara on the shore. Barbara explains briefly what happened to them, how they survived, and even tells him that since they knew they would have a long wait – she had, as a history teacher, filled Susan in on the history of Captain Cook’s voyage, even telling Susan about The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and later that she had sung “Botany Bay” to her. Susan, after her experiences on the Sensesphere in turns out still had latent telepathic abilities. It was Susan who had unwittingly transferred information to Banks that Ian picked up. Information that Banks himself was unaware of, but that because of his familiarity with Susan, Ian was able to hear as a ghostly voice. This is a bit of an science fiction element – but The Transit of Venus is not a story where Joseph Banks is secretly an alien or time traveler as Ian at first suspects. Also, Ian is actually experiencing something outside his normal experience even as, by this point in the First Doctor Era, he is a seasoned time traveler himself. Playing with Ian’s emotions could have come off as cruel, but instead it suits the story and the characters – and everything works out. After being reunited the TARDIS crew leaves in the TARDIS.

I enjoyed The Transit of Venus as a purely historical Doctor Who story for the most part. Ian’s suspicions are played more as paranoia than something really going on – which is novel for a Doctor Who story. Yes, in the Doctor Who universe if a character thinks someone is an alien and up to no good – they usually are. So for the accused to not be an alien is actually a surprise. Plus, Ian is a practical man and a man of science. Before meeting the Doctor he would have dismissed aliens, time travel, and the like. Now, dropped in to a purely normal situation (albeit in 1770), Ian leaps to the opposite conclusion – based on his last couple of years of personal experience. That is pure Ian.

I did miss having Barbara in the story. I’ve always liked the Ian-Barbara dynamic, and the two had great chemistry as a couple. It is no wonder that in fan canon they are not only a couple, but a married one. And this long-standing fan theory was even made canon in an episode of, The Sarah Jane Adventures. However, even though I would have liked to see Barbara in the story – if she had been on the ship with Ian, there would have been no conflict. The two, plus the Doctor, would have simply had a nice sea cruise. Enjoyable for them, but probably a bit boring for the audience. And Ian’s concerns and fears were played particularly well – playing off the audience’s expectations for a Doctor Whostory, without making the character look like an idiot.

Overall, this is an excellent historical Doctor Who adventure. The CD version includes a panel interview with the cast, director, and producer as well as a trailer for the next Big Finish Companion Chronicles adventure. Recommended.

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

Click here to order The Transit of Venus on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Prisoner’s Dilemma

  • Title: The Prisoner’s Dilemma
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Simon Guerrier
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Ace, Zara (guest), Seventh Doctor
  • Cast: Sophie Aldred, Laura Doddington (Zara)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/19/2017

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a Big Finish audio play in the Doctor Who Companion Chronicles series. It’s also a companion piece to the Peter Davison (Fifth Doctor) Key2Time mini-series of three audio plays. I haven’t listened to the other volumes of the Key2Time series, though I’m now thinking that I should order them. But anyway, this is meant to be a stand alone story, and I found that it did work that way. If anything it seemed to me to be a sequel to the Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor) Key to Time season.

This story is a bit confusing, and I did have to listen to it in my car twice, but at the same time I found it to be a good story, if a bit unusual. The story has two episodes, and the first episode is told by Zara and in her point of view. The second episode is told by Ace and is in her point of view, though most of it takes place earlier than Zara’s section (the two sections overlap). Zara is from outside of time, a place she refers to as “The Grace” and she is an Elemental. The Grace also has two Guardians, equal and opposite. These Guardians will be familiar to Doctor Who television audiences, with both of them turning up in the Key to Time season with the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana I (Mary Tamm). The Black Guardian was also a major player during Peter Davison’s tenure as the Doctor. So, Zara’s introduction makes perfect sense, she is working for the Guardians – along with her sister. Both are brand-new to our universe. Both have an assignment – to each find three segments to the Key to Time to bring back to the Guardians so the Key can be assembled and the off-kilter balance of the universe put right.

The story starts with Zara and Ace each stuck in a jail cell someplace. Will they trust each other? Or, will they betray each other? Zara fills us in on her story – after literally appearing from nothing, she takes her first breath of air on a planet. And she’s immediately kidnapped by Zinc, who, along with his wife Magda, is investigating a strange new cult that’s taking over the galaxy. But that is a detail we learn later. All we know now is what Zara knows, she’s picked up from this rainy planet, and she’s suddenly somewhere else with Zinc.

Zara, not knowing any better, tells Zinc everything: about the key to time, the Guardians, her job, etc. Zinc probably doesn’t believe her and tries to figure out where his teleport bracelet has brought him, because he is way off course. They go to the telescope room at the local museum. And Zinc abandons Zara. Zara, though miffed, thinks she’s learned a lesson about not trusting anyone. And she realizes the strange tickling in her nose is actually how she perceives being near a segment of the Key to Time. She follows the sensation to a huge lake on the surface of the planet Erratoon, which is a former prison planet and covered with a Geodestic Dome. She talks someone into taking her out on the lake in a boat, touches the surface of the water – and the entire lake disappears as it takes the form of a segment of the Key, which Zara puts in her satchel. Unfortunately, when the lake suddenly disappears, everyone on the lake dies. Anyone in a boat suddenly crashes down to the rock-hard surface of the lake bed, and dies from the impact. Zara is arrested for “stealing” the lake.

Ace, meanwhile finds herself in a jail cell with Zara. Zara doesn’t even tell her, her name. Ace, being Ace, decides immediately to escape. Zara warns her it’s not a good idea because if you try to escape you forfit your right to a trial and your memories are stolen. Ace gets them out of the cell anyway, and they are both captured and mind-wiped.

Ace awakes, her memories scrambled, but tells us what she remembers. She’d been with the Doctor, whom she now barely remembers, looking into a “Bonnie and Clyde” couple, Zinc and Magda, who had stolen a time ring and were now running all over space and time – pulling heists, setting up “nest eggs”, but also, at times, helping people and being heroes. She and the Doctor are investigating Zinc and Magda to see if they need to be stopped (their current investigation into the cult is trouble, a mystery that isn’t meant to be solved yet). But when Zinc goes off to grab an cultist to interview he simply disappears with no word. We, the audience, know he grabbed Zara and disappeared to Erratoon rather than back to his camp with Magda. Ace takes care of Magda, finding a shelter, making a fire, even preparing food from their supplies. Zinc returns and tells Magda that his trip wasn’t in vain – the planet he accidentally traveled to is rich in an ore needed for intergalactic travel than makes hyperspace much safer. The three end up on Erratoon and Ace is meant to fire a rocket at the geodestic dome, killing everyone on the planet and leaving it free for mining. Ace tries to find her way out of this, even telling a robot constable what will happen. But the robots only prosecute actual crimes. They don’t do any crime prevention. The rocket is set off, and the dome destroyed, but Ace finds herself in a hospital, under the care of The Doctor, but still with a rocky memory. It turns out that all the buildings on the planet were actually ships. When the dome breaks and everyone is expelled into space, they are scooped up by the buildings which are now spaceships. No one died. And now that the secret is out (all the meaningless tasks given to the prisoners weren’t so meaningless) a space dock will be built, people can come and go as they please, once the ore is found, everyone on the planet will be rich, and a new colony built. The Doctor even promises he has something called “a TARDIS” which can restore her memories.

This was an excellent story, well told and performed. I liked it, even though at times it was hard to tell what was going on because of the non-chronological nature of the telling of the story.

Recommended.

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

Click here to order The Prisoner’s Dilemma on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – The Invisible Man (Audio)

  • Title: The Invisible Man
  • Series: Big Finish Classics
  • Author: H.G. Wells (original novel)
  • Adapted by: Jonathan Barnes
  • Director: Ken Bentley
  • Characters: Griffin (the Invisible Man), Dr. Kemp, Teddy Henfrey, Mrs. Hall, Thomas Marvel
  • Cast: John Hurt, Blake Ritson, Dan Starkey, Annette Badland, Peter Noble

Spoilers

Big Finish’s audio play adaptation of HG Wells’ classic The Invisible Man is a full audio play and not simply a single person reading the book, or even a two-hander adaptation. The play has a full cast, music, and special effects. The CD version even includes audio-only tracks and interviews as extras.

The story is framed by on the first disc, Kemp interviewing Thomas Marvel to learn the story of the Invisible Man, though it soon picks-up with Griffin turning up, out of the snow, at an Inn, and paying lots of money to not be disturbed. At first the innkeeper, Mrs. Hall, is glad of the money and willing to leave the man alone as he requests. But eventually she becomes suspicious, especially the way Griffin treats her maid, waitress, and cleaning girl. When the money runs out, Griffin quickly gives her more – but Mrs. Hall remarks that the amount he gives her was the exact amount taken from a local vicarage in a recent robbery. Being suspicious already, she calls in the police. They, however, are unable to catch the Invisible Man, and he escapes.

Griffin encounters a drunken tramp on the road, and talks/bribes/threatens him to become his partner. This is Thomas Marvel, who is able to fill in Kemp on his own direct experiences. However, although he at first benefits from the partnership, eventually Marvel learns to fear Griffin (with good reason) and even turns himself over to the police for a series of robberies and thefts since he believes he will be safer in jail.

Griffin talks Marvel into returning to the Inn so he can claim his books and clothes. The book are especially important as they apparently contain the secret to permanent invisiblity but are written in code. Marvel makes off with the books, and they both fail to get Griffin’s clothes – though Griffin does escape.

Once he escapes, Griffin shows up at the house of Dr. Kemp. Kemp slips a letter to his maid, but tells her to wait three hours before delivering it by hand to Colonel Adye at the local army base. Kemp interviews Griffin, who tells his story in his own words, from his fascination with light, to his career as a student then a professor who studies light. Though Griffin doesn’t reveal his formula, he does reveal his general process and theories.

The army colonel arrives, but yet again they are unable to catch Griffin. Kemp suggests they put glass on the roads, order that all doors be locked, lock-up all food, and monitor all exits from the city by road, ship, and rail. Although the Invisible Man eludes capture for awhile, after he kills a man, the Invisible Man is eventually captured, attacked, and beaten by a mob. It is Kemp who prevents the mob from killing him. He is captured and dies in jail.

However, Kemp, who is interviewing Marvel, demands from him the Red Books that contain the Invisible Man’s secrets. Griffin had said that he and Kemp were the same, and although at first Kemp seems stable and sane and even happy with his life – in the end, Kemp also becomes obsessed with light and concealment.

I have actually read HG Wells classic The Invisible Man although it was years ago. I remember it as being more political – more about isolation and being marginalized than the mere terror of someone becoming invisible. Yet this adaptation is still excellent. Hurt plays Griffin with a whispering menace, and it quickly becomes clear why everyone fears him – he’s a scary dude, invisiblity or no. Many of the other characters in this tale are also lower class (Marvel, Teddy, Mrs. Hall, the two servant girls and even the female university student) who ultimately place survival above helping Griffin. Still, it is a good story, told in a creepy way. Recommended.

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

Click here to order The Invisible Man on Download or CD.

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

Book Review – The Many Deaths of Jo Grant

  • Title: The Many Deaths of Jo Grant
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Jo Grant, Rowe (guest), Third Doctor
  • Cast: Katy Manning, Nicholas Asbury (Rowe)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 09/27/2017

**Spoiler Alert** The Many Deaths of Jo Grant is an audio in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles series. The story opens at UNIT HQ, where the Brigadier is upset because the Doctor has left in the TARDIS and he needs him. Jo is waiting for the Doctor to return. But when the Doctor does return he brings a baby alien princess whom he’s rescued from her planet which has been invaded by fierce alien conquerors. No sooner than the Doctor arrives though than the aliens also arrive, threatening to destroy Earth to get to the baby. UNIT fights off the aliens who teleport in to HQ as well as their space ship, but the aliens have fantastic weapons. Jo, the Doctor, the child, and an UNIT soldier named Private Rowe try to leave. Jo sees the Doctor in danger and sacrifices herself to save him.

Two more vignettes follow – in one Jo dies, thrown into a pit to be eaten by a giant mouth (it sounded similar to the creature in Return of the Jedi that Jabba threatens to thrown Luke into.) In another instance, Jo again sacrifices herself – to save an alien planet, after the Doctor is unable to do it because he’s knocked out.

But each time, in each vignette, there are two re-occurring figures: Rowe, and a space-suited figure with a mirrored faceplate that only reflects Jo’s own face – not allowing her to identify the figure inside the suit. Jo also keeps experiencing deja vu.

Jo then wakes up in a space ship, exiting a strange pod, and meeting the Doctor. He explains she’s been trapped in a mindscape – a torture device that has been banned for centuries.

But they are soon confronted by Rowe, and he threatens Jo and the Doctor with a disrupter – the two fight and are seemingly both destroyed.

Jo wakes again. This time she sees that the Doctor is also in a pod. He had entered the Mindscape to rescue her and it was the Doctor in the mirrored spacesuit. Meanwhile, Rowe is an alien scientist, from the conquerors who are after the alien princess. Rowe’s people are selfish and have no empathy with others – especially the worlds they conquer. The idea of sacrificing yourself for something greater or to save someone else is so foreign to Rowe’s people they simply can’t understand it. So Rowe had put Jo into the Mindscape to study her. He had “killed” Jo in the device 412 times. But Rowe’s people are also experiencing troubles with the princess’s planet. The princess’s people, in desperation, are taking any ship they can and crashing it into Rowe’s people’s outposts, military depots, and weapon stores. This kills the pilot and any skeleton crew on board the ship but these kamikaze attacks are having an effect against Rowe’s people too because they are completely unprepared and do not understand the idea of sacrifice for a cause. Rowe was studying Jo to try and understand her feelings for the Doctor and her willingness to sacrifice herself for him.

In the end, the Doctor makes a deal with Rowe – he wins the baby princess’s freedom but promises not to take her home to her planet. He and Jo are also freed and will return to UNIT.

This was a good story, Katy Manning does an excellent job telling it, and although I felt she had Jo a bit too innocent at times (the story is set between “Carnival of Monsters” and “Frontier in Space” – and in “Frontier in Space” Jo really kicks butt – preventing the Master from hypnotising herself, rescuing the Doctor several times, she’s even instrumental in figuring out the solution to the problem) so this Jo should be more grown-up and capable, not the somewhat incompetent girl of “Terror of the Autons”. Still, seeing how much Jo cares for the Doctor and what she’s willing to do for him was well-played. It’s somewhat odd having the other actor in the story being Rowe – who’s several different characters or versions of the same character, but it does always help to have two people in a Companion Chronicles story. And like many of the stories in this range – it does have the feeling of a Missing Adventure book or a Past Doctor Adventures book which I appreciated. I hated seeing Jo die over and over – it seemed cruel, and I figure she’d have serious issues with dying 412 times – even if it didn’t “really” happen. But still, it’s a good story and worth checking out.

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

Click here to order The Many Deaths of Jo Grant on CD or Download.

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