Book Review – Doctor Who: The Stones of Venice

  • Title: The Stones of Venice
  • Series: Doctor Who Main Range (Eighth Doctor Mini-Series 1)
  • Author: Paul Magrs
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Eighth Doctor, Charley
  • Cast: Paul McGann, India Fisher, Michael Sheard, Mark Gatiss
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/19/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Charley and the Doctor decide to take a nice relaxing vacation to get away from all the running down corridors and people trying to kill them, so the Doctor takes the TARDIS to Venice. However, this is a Venice about to sink under the sea. It’s a Venice under the control of a pompous, uncaring Duke, that is under a curse that would see the entire city destroyed due to an unhappy marriage, and the “death” of the Duchess – throw in a mysterious cult, amphibian gondoliers, and a curator of the royal museum and it’s not the vacation the Doctor and Charlie seek but more of a Busman’s Holiday.

The Doctor and Charlie arrive and discover the city is about to be destroyed and sink in to the sea. However, revelers are partying instead of trying to leave. The Doctor meets the Curator, who shows him part of the Royal Collection of art. The Doctor recognizes works of art that shouldn’t be in Venice, as they aren’t even from Earth. Meanwhile, Charlie meets a gondolier with webbed hands. She attempts to learn about the Gondoliers who are the underclass of Venice. However, she ends up in the clutches of a cult that worships the dead Lady Estella, wife to the Duke, whom they believe will rise from the dead to reverse the curse she set upon the city.

As the death of Venice approaches these elements come together. The Doctor and Charley meet up with first Charley impersonating the risen Estella, and then introducing the Doctor both to the plight of the Gondoliers and the Cult. The Doctor, meanwhile, starts to realize something more than a curse is going on.

He’s proven correct when Mrs. Lavish turns out to be Estella, and an alien, and in possession (well, once her jewels are returned) of very powerful objects that she used to cast the curse. The Duke, finally doing something heroic and for his people, takes the jewels and reverses the curse, though it costs himself and Estella their lives. Venice is saved and even the damage the city has already suffered is reversed.

Overall, this was a somewhat average Eighth Doctor story. It features Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and India Fisher as Charley. It is a full-cast audio, with music, sound effects, and the cast performing their roles. Even though it’s a bit average, I enjoyed it. Recommended.

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

Click this link to order The Stones of Venice on Download only, for the current special price of $2.99.

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

Book Review – Gotham Academy vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy

  • Title: Welcome to Gotham Academy
  • Author: Becky Cloonan
  • Artist: Karl Kerschl, Brenden Fletcher
  • Characters: Olive Silverlock, Maps
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/05/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Gotham Academy Vol. 1 – Welcome to Gotham Academy is set in an exclusive prep school in Gotham City, one that is sponsored by Bruce Wayne, and was established by his parents. Olive Silverlock is a scholarship student with a secret – her mother was caught by Batman and is incarcerated in Arkham Asylum – this is a secret we find out at the end of the book. While reading the book we know Olive has a mortal fear of bats, something happened to her over the summer, and there is also something in her past that has something to do with her mother. At school, Olive is assigned to nanny a new student, Maps, who is her ex-boyfriend’s younger sister. Despite that, Olive and Maps become friends, and with a few other friends they decide to investigate the closed-off North Hall. One of the bullying girls is also interested in the hall, leading a small cult of girls who are trying to raise the spirit of one of Gotham’s illusterous former citizens, Millie Jane Cobblepot. Olive, having read Millie Jane’s diary, is also fascinated with her – and strongly identifies with her.

Olive, Maps, and their friends continue to investigate – they find Killer Croc, now somewhat domesticated, hiding in the school walls behind the girl’s dorm. There is no ghost – one of the guys at the school had set it up to get the bully to stop obsessing. Olive discovers the mysterious guy who’s interested in her is affected by the Kurt Langstrom bat virus. But Olive and Maps also become good friends. Olive also becomes “just friends” with her ex-boyfriend without as much trouble as she anticipated.

This is a good start to what will probably be a fun series. It reminded me a lot of the old, classic, Scooby Doo television series – and I mean that in the best possible way. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Storm Warning

  • Title: Storm Warning
  • Series: Doctor Who Main Range (Eighth Doctor Mini-Series 1)
  • Author: Alan Barnes
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Eighth Doctor, Charley
  • Cast: Paul McGann, India Fisher, Gareth Thomas, Nicholas Pegg, Mark Gatiss
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/02/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Storm Warning is the first Big Finish audio play featuring the Eighth Doctor, as played by Paul McGann and his companion Charlotte Pollard (Charley) as played by India Fisher. The Big Finish audios are full audio plays with music, sound effects, and actors playing their roles – not audio books with a single person reading the story. This is also one of the first audios from Big Finish that I ever listened to, way back in 2001. I just listened to it again for this review, and it’s still a very good story.

The story opens with the Doctor in the TARDIS, going through books in his library as the TARDIS moves through the Vortex. He sees another timeship that is stranded – doomed to die over and over. The ship is then attacked by Vortexsaurs, bird-bat-dinosaur things that live in the vortex. The Doctor uses his TARDIS to attack the Vortexsaurs and free the other ship. After the encounter the TARDIS is knocked free and must materialize.

The TARDIS materializes and the Doctor must find out where he is. Unfortunately, the TARDIS has landed in a ballast tank of an airship. And not just any airship, but the doomed R101. The Doctor gets very involved with activities on the ship. He finds Charley – a stowaway out for adventure. He discovers that rather than a normal shake down cruise to India, the ship is on a special mission. It’s returning a crashed alien (from outer space) survivor to a rendezvous with it’s alien ship. But all sides have secrets. The former military commander from India wants nothing more than to retire. He’s tired of war, but thinks alien technology will help enforce the peace in the Empire. The aliens are a fascinating race called the Triskenee. Like Freud’s theory of Id, Ego, and SuperEgo, the Triskenee had been a warring people – bent on destroying each other. To save their race – they split themselves into two sub-races: the war-like, angry, violent “Uncreators” (those who make death and destruction) and the intelligent, scientific, logical builders known as the “Engineers”, ruling the two races is the Law-giver. And while there are many Engineers who have built-up the race for centuries, and many “Uncreators” who are chained by the bonds of the Law-giver, there is only one Law-giver who rules both sides of this race. However, after centuries, the law-giver is dying. The Triskenee have come to Earth to find a new Law-giver. This is why, during the rendezvous, they invite only three to their ship, rather than the large group of dignitaries on the R101.

Things don’t go as planned though. The Doctor, brought on as a potential Law-giver isn’t human. The military commander, brought on as “Uncreator” is sick of war and death after The Great War.

Another member on the crew breaks in to the ship, thinking he can steal it for the glory of the British Empire. Yeah, he’s a bit arrogant – and stupid. He actually threatens the Law-Giver, trying to get him to surrender. Charley, and several troops and miscellaneous people follow this person into the ship.

There is a fracas. There are laser beam attacks. And in the mess – the Law-giver is mostly accidentally killed. This frees the Uncreator Prime. This Uncreator wants to do what they do, become leader of the Triskenee and wage war. But the Commander, with help from the Doctor, and even Charley tries to stop everything. In the end, the guy who attacked the aliens is knocked-out, the Doctor realizes the Uncreators are way out of practice – and scares them into retreat by having everyone roar at them. The Commander becomes the new Law-giver. Everyone escapes back to the R101. But Charley, the Doctor, and a German spy end-up amongst the hydrogen-filled gas bags of the airship. As the ship is being buffeted by the storm outside, the spy reveals he picked-up the Trikenee laser weapon. The Doctor tries to convince him to throw the device overboard. There’s an altercation. The Vortexsaur shows up and attacks. (It had shown up before at the beginning of the story having followed the Doctor and his TARDIS.) The R101 begins to crash as history says it will. The Doctor and Charley escape by riding the Vortexsaur that Charley has tamed somewhat. They land safely in France. At first the Vortexsaur, now called Ramsey, is afraid of Charley – and the Doctor realizes she was supposed to die on the R101. But then, Ramsey becomes more relaxed and happy. The Doctor agrees to let Charley accompany him in the TARDIS. The TARDIS having been ejected with the airship ballast, is somewhere in France, so he and Charley will need to find it.

This is an excellent story, well performed, and it introduces Charley, who is one of my favorite Doctor Who companions, and an excellent partner for McGann’s Doctor. Highly recommended.

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

Click this link to order Storm Warning on Download only, for the current special price of $2.99.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Arena of Fear

  • Title: Arena of Fear
  • Author: Nick Abadzis
  • Artists: Elena Casagrande, Eleonora Carlini
  • Line:  Tenth Doctor, 
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Gabby, Cindy Wu, Capt. Jack Harkness
  • Collection Date: 2016
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 8/08/2017

This is the third time I’ve tried to post a review of this graphic novel. First time I read the book, my Internet went out for a week and I couldn’t review it. Second time, I got the entire review posted, only to have it completely disappear when I hit save. Rest assured, I will copy this review to Word before hitting send this time. Just background as this is definitely not a “first impressions” review.

Titan Comics Arena of Fear features the Tenth Doctor as played by David Tennant on the BBC series, Doctor Who. This volume picks-up directly after the first volume, and the first story is told from the point-of-view of Cindy Wu. She has lost her memory, as have her companions, Capt. Jack, Cleo, Erik, and Muthmunno a Neanderthal healer. No one has their memories – and the environment is hostile, with the people being forced to constantly fight each other. They join an alien “River Goddess” and find the Doctor. They locate the Doctor, deep in meditation, who helps everyone to regain their memories. Gabby shows up and goes on the attack. But the Doctor realizes she shouldn’t have the power she has. Gabby is being controlled by Ebonite. The Doctor uses the Song of the Santee to bring Gabby out of it. Breaking Ebonite’s control also means that the Doctor and Gabby are able to free the group entirely – who are being held in a miniscope. The Doctor will help everyone to get home, and invites Gabby and Cindy to travel in his TARDIS. Muthmunno decides to gather the Neanderthals who are held captive in the miniscope and seek “new hunting grounds” – a planet where they can live without being driven to extinction.

The next story really feels like filler – Cindy complains that the TARDIS is haunted. The Doctor tells her it’s not possible. Gabby explains she may have seen the impressions of the Doctor’s past lives, and shows her portraits of the previous Doctors. However, they are attacked in the library. The Doctor rescues the two then, explaining he was re-configuring the TARDIS rooms to get more power.

Finally, Gabby asks the Doctor to take them on vacation. They land in Dewbury, the most haunted village in the UK, just in time for the Paranormal Literary Festival. Gabby, Cindy, and the Doctor discover the village has a high incidence of OCD – often apparently caused by encounters with the Witch of the Wishing Well. The Doctor meets an old man who was affected, who senses the Doctor is a mage, and takes him to the cave that is home to the witch. The Doctor senses time traces with his sonic screwdriver and finds a window to the Time Vortex. The witch is a being, held captive by the Vortex. The old man, Randall, states the Witch has seven faces, and to the Doctor it mentions Regeneration. The Doctor sees a connection to the Untempered Schism. He’s able to use the TARDIS to free the “witch” – which cures the affected in Dewbury, including Randall. But the TARDIS is deeply affected and even starts to break apart.

Finally, references to Anubis and also Sutekh are sprinkled throughout the book, and it ends with Dorothy Bell convincing “dogface” Anubis, he isn’t Sutekh. Still, these references will no doubt have consequences in the next volume or two.

Arena of Fear has some excellent art, but at other times Gabby and Cindy are drawn in such a similar fashion it’s hard to tell them apart. Much of this novel also feels like it’s a transistion between last volume’s adventures with Neanderthal kind and something to happen with Anubis, Sutekh, and the Osirans. The Doctor even uncovers a device to hold an Osiran captive, while heading for New Orleans in the TARDIS. Still, a good story, and no doubt an important part of the on-going series.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Prisoner of Peladon

  • Title: The Prisoner of Peladon
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
  • Director: Nicola Bryant
  • Characters: King Peladon, Third Doctor, Ice Warriors
  • Cast: David Troughton, Nicholas Briggs
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/08/2017

The Prisoner of Peladon is part of Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line. David Troughton returns as King Peladon telling a bed-time story to his child. The story is of Peladon, during the time of a crisis on New Mars. With Mars being taken over by a brutal dictatorship, thousands of refugees have fled to whatever safe haven they can find. As a new member of the Galactic Federation, King Peladon offers Peladon as that safe haven, despite threats of reprisals from the new dictator of Mars. Peladon separatists also aren’t really happy about the King’s decision and would rather continue their isolation.

The Doctor arrives, and King Peladon is happy to see his old friend. However, soon there is a murder in the court, as a visiting Ice Lord is killed. Another Ice Warrior, of a military bent, both accuses King Peladon of the murder and blames him for a death and series of kidnappings of young Martian girls in the makeshift refugee camps.

Meanwhile, the Doctor mentions seeing a light in a mysterious tower in the King’s citadel. Peladon claims to both know nothing of the tower, and states it is abandoned. Later, the King goes to investigate on his own – and runs in to the Doctor. King Peladon also decides the tour the refugee camps, where he and the Doctor pick-up a few clues.

However, it becomes really obvious what is going on, who is being held in the tower, and even the murderer isn’t that much of a surprise. David Troughton does a fantastic job performing this story, but as a mystery it’s painfully obvious. I give this story a 3.5. Still, it’s recommended as a fun sequel to The Curse of Peladon, and fills in the gap between that story and The Monster of Peladon.

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

Click this link to order The Prisoner of Peladon on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Man in the Velvet Mask

  • Title: The Man in the Velvet Mask
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Daniel O’Mahony
  • Characters: First Doctor, Dodo
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/27/2017

The Man in the Velvet Mask is part of the Virgin Publishing Doctor Who Missing Adventures series. It features the First Doctor (as played on the classic television series by William Hartnell) and Dodo, an under-used companion. The Doctor and Dodo land in the TARDIS in what appears to be Post-Revolutionary France. Yet almost immediately something seems very off. Historical characters who are known to be dead are alive. People who should be alive – are dead. And everything is just off. Yet, for two-thirds of the book, though the reader is aware that something is off, it’s not explained what’s going on – making this book a frustrating read.

Almost immediately after alighting the TARDIS, the Doctor and Dodo are separated. Dodo takes up with a troop of actors, eventually falling in love, or at least having a physical fling. She grows up and becomes an adult woman. The Doctor gets to meet a number of people, gathering clues as to what is going on. And, he eventually ends up a prisoner in the New Bastille.

Meanwhile, hidden in the Bastille is another prisoner, Prisoner Number 6, the man in the velvet mask of the title. Number 6 has his face hidden so no one will ever know who he is. Also, he’s held in the cell of the condemned – those to be guillotined the next day. Yet, the warden of the prison doesn’t ever plan to send Number 6 to his death, instead every day she simply changes the name on the records, so the cell holds a “new” condemned man. This has been going on for years, even decades. And yes, that a Prisoner is known only as Number 6 is no coincidence.

Minisk, the dictator in charge of this weird world is involved in weird, grotesque experiments, and keeps cruel law, with an early curfew. It’s breaking curfew that got the Doctor taken to the Bastille in the first place. After interviewing the Doctor, Minisk decides that he will be placed in the should-be-empty cell of the condemned man. When he forces the Warden to take them there, he discovers the warden’s deception and that Number 6 is alive. He orders Six’s death. This forces the Warden, as soon as Minisk leaves to actually aid Number 6 and the Doctor in escape, though she only lets them out of the cell and says she can’t let them out of the prison. But the prison is a warren of levels, rooms, cells, corridors, etc. It’s a labyrinth – and actually a good place to hide. By talking to Number 6, and observation, plus – eventually some information from Dodo and her actors, the Doctor figures things out.

The conclusion of the story is an conclusion, and a hitting of the reset button, but with a bit of a spook factor.

I read this book as an e-book, and I almost wonder if it was condensed or re-edited. It’s a short book, and it’s very, very confusing. At times this book is difficult to follow, though eventually the plot more or less falls into place. This is also very much a horror story, with some really disgusting descriptions – such as the head that continues to speak after it’s been separated from it’s body. One of the main historical characters of the story is the Marquis de Sade, so you can guess how that turns out. The story is creepy, often gross, but also difficult at times to follow. This is one of the few times I wish more time had been spent in a set-up chapter before the TARDIS arrives explaining what’s going on.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Heralds of Destruction

  • Title: The Heralds of Destruction
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Artists: Christopher Jones, Hi-Fi
  • Line: 3rd Doctor
  • Characters: Third Doctor, Jo Grant, UNIT
  • Collection Date: 2017
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/06/2017

The Third Doctor story Heralds of Destruction is a fun read that feels like a Third Doctor Era story. Taking place just after “The Three Doctors”, the story features Jo Grant and the full UNIT crew as well as the Master, and a surprise guest villain responsible for the ubiquitous “alien” invasion. The story opens with Jo and Capt. Mike Yates on a date, only to be interrupted by an emergency. The Doctor, similarly, is playing chess when he is called in. The Doctor meets Jo, the Brigadier, Mike, Sgt. Benton, and various UNIT men in the small English village of Fairford to combat robot machines. The Doctor tries to talk to these “aliens” with no luck at first. It soon turns out the machines are composed of micro-machines (nanotech) that can rebuild itself from local materials. The Doctor blocks in the machines with a force field, then takes a sample to his lab to study.

At the lab, the Doctor encounters himself, or rather, the Second Doctor (or does he? Double identities and people pretending to be someone they are not is a strong theme in this graphic novel). As the Brigadier keeps an eye on the situation in Fairford, he encounters the Master and fights off his hypnotism. Meanwhile, at the lab, Jo is attacked by the micromachines, which take over her body. The Doctor hypnotizes her and goes into her subconscious. The lettering for this inner journey is fantastic, though Jo’s subconscious is just as forthright, honest, and happy as Jo herself.

The Doctor is able to have a conversations with the micromachines and not only rescue Jo but keep this part of the hive mind on his side, rather than on the side of the real villain – who is not the Master.

The Master, despite his impersonations of various people throughout the book, actually ends-up working with the Doctor, even pointing out that a certain character isn’t who he says he is (to say more would spoil one of the biggest surprises of the novel, which I won’t do).

The villain is actually out to steal Time Lord technology – something the Master doesn’t want to happen either, thus his partnership with the Doctor. As they, and UNIT, go to capture the villain, the villain succeeds in transporting his lab building back in time.

In 1868, the Doctor, the Master, and the bad guy all try to convince the all-male British Parliament to follow different paths – from accepting the bad guy as dictator, to preserving history.

The Doctor though is able to use his previous alliance with the small group of micromachines that attacked Jo, to influence the other – thus, taking away the villain’s main weapon. The Master fails to gain control of the micromachines, but escapes custody. The villain is captured and jailed. The Doctor returns the lab and UNIT to the proper time. He also discusses with Jo, that in a sense the Master and even the villain were right – he’s been sitting in one place, doing one thing, too long. When Jo intuits that he’s planning to leave in the TARDIS, now that he can, he agrees – and invites her along. We also see clear indications that Capt. Mike Yates isn’t satisfied with his life and longs for a Golden Age that is less complex and cleaner and prettier (for lack of a better term). This sets-up his otherwise inexplicable behavior in, “Invasion of the Dinosaurs”, something that otherwise does come from nowhere.

I enjoyed this book very much. It really felt like a Third Doctor adventure. Everyone was in character. It featured all the UNIT crew, including Corporal Bell – a female UNIT officer, and Osgood a tech (whom the author points out is a nod to the Osgood in the new series). The art in this book is very good – everyone looks as they should, and the colors are fantastic. I also loved the chapter lettering for the trips to Jo’s subconscious. The relationship between the Doctor and Jo is also very well-written and I really enjoyed it. Highly recommended.