Book Review – Doctor Who: The Memory Cheats

  • Title: The Memory Cheats
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Simon Guerrier
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Zoë, Jen, Jaime, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Wendy Padbury, Charlie Hayes (as Jen, guest)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/05/2017

**Spoiler Alert** The Memory Cheats is the second volume in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles “Zoë Trilogy”, with the first volume being, Echoes of Grey. Since it’s been awhile since I listened to Echoes of Grey, I re-listened to it prior to listening to The Memory Cheats. This also isn’t the first time I’ve listened to The Memory Cheats, either, I’ve listened to it a couple of times but never had the time to review it.

The story starts with Zoë being held by The Company, and she’s being interviewed by “Jen” who at first seems to be an attorney or advocate. Jen, though, slips Zoë a drug in her tea to stimulate her memory. Jen discusses the Achromatics from the previous story, but Zoë insists she doesn’t remember the formula. Jen switches tracks and asks her about her previous travels with the Doctor – specifically a trip to Uzbeckistan (Russia) in 1919.

The TARDIS arrives and the Second Doctor (as portrayed on Doctor Who by Patrick Troughton), Jamie, and Zoë, leave it and head to the local village. Although the people in the village are welcoming and generous, all are sad and upset. And as Zoë puts it, it’s more than the recent war, the sickness, or the change in leadership that is upsetting them. The Doctor impersonates a Russian official, and soon discovers that several of the village children are missing. The TARDIS crew joins with the Lansings – a couple who run the local school and are trying to help the impoverished village. The Doctor discovers that every child that was taken disappeared from a room with a door or window that faces West. They form a group to investigate the mountains to the West. The group discovers a spaceship, and an alien, with the children held captive, but being fed medicines and food through tubes. Although the Lansings die in an initial mistake with the alien (which Zoë blames herself for – going so far as to say “she killed them” because it was her error), the alien is relatively harmless. It has crashed during the war, and while trying to repair its spaceship, had become concerned about the children. Zoë insists to her interviewer from The Company, that the alien would take the children to a planet, where they would have an up-bringing like her own, devoted to logic and free from prejudice and want. The bargain for letting the captured children go to this other planet is that no more children will be taken from the village, and that the group that had gone in search of the children would be allowed to leave.

The name of the planet, however, is that of something that doesn’t exist. And Zoë then insists to Jen that it’s a file – the file that describes the Elite program in detail. How Zoë, and others like her were taken from their parents and put in the training and education program. How they were devoted to logic at the expense of emotion and personal ties. Zoë insists the Elite program, which The Company sponsors must be stopped. Jen tries to return to finding out more about Zoë being a time traveller – and that she wants her to explain the secrets of time travel, but Zoë insists that she made everything up. That she read Jen’s files, repeated back what Jen wanted to hear, and that if she got stuck, Jen herself supplied more details. Then Zoë insists again that there is no such thing as time travel, she made everything up, and she remembers nothing.

Overall, I found this story a bit weak. The story within a story is very short, and Zoë insists that it was a parable anyway – a fable she uses to try to get Jen to stop the Elite program. Meanwhile, the company still wants to learn secrets from Zoë – secrets she won’t or perhaps can’t remember. Having “Total Recall” but also having been mind-wiped by the Time Lords, she literally can remember that she can’t remember. This makes both Zoë and Jen unreliable narrators – one because she doesn’t know what she does or does not know, and the other because she has unrevealed motivations. Like “Ali” in the previous story, the listeners don’t know what The Company is up to, but it’s definitely no good. Perhaps the third story in the trilogy will make more sense out of the whole group, but overall, this one was a bit flat.

Go here to read my Review of Echoes of Grey.

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

Click here to order The Memory Cheats 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 – Chopping Spree

  • Title: Chopping Spree
  • Author: Diane Mott Davidson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/28/2017

Goldy Schultz owns “Goldilock’s Catering: Where Everything is Just Right!” and she is now quite successful, making several thousand dollars a month from her catering company. She’s so successful that she is starting to burn out – not on catering, but the constant work is leading to exhaustion and insomnia. Her best friend, Marla, is concerned about her – and her son is acting out. This is the background to about half the novel.

Goldy is contacted by an old college buddy who now works as a manager at the local high class shopping mall. He hires Goldy to cater an event at the mall for the Elite Shoppers Club – people who spend $1000 or more per week at the mall. The friend, Barry, keeps telling Goldy he has to talk to her, especially on the day of the event. However, with one thing and another – they never talk. After the event, as Goldy goes to pick-up her son’s birthday gift (paid for but stored at the store where she bought it) and then to get the final check from Barry for the catering – Barry is murdered. Since Goldy is found knocked unconscious by his body – the police at first accuse her of killing him. They then accuse and arrest one of her catering assistants because he found Barry’s body and tried to take the knife used to kill him out.

Goldy is quickly cleared – but not so much her assistant, who happens to be a close, personal friend of her family (especially her son), and he’s kept in jail. Goldy, between trying to take care of herself, trying to repair her relationship with her teen-aged son, her getting ready for additional catering events by preparing food, tries to get her friend out of jail, and despite numerous warnings, investigates the case.

Goldy ends up inheriting Barry’s dog, who had initially been taken in by Barry’s neighbor. The dog proves to be crucial to the case, and Goldy ends-up at Barry’s house, investigating – and discovering evidence. She’s attacked by the murderer, but manages to knock him out, then calls her police officer husband, who had been barred from the case since it involves family. The case is wrapped up.

Background to the book includes Goldy running her catering company, actual recipes in the midst of the book (which I found annoying, actually. I would prefer if all the recipes were at the end of the book), and a “shopping addiction” group. That many of the suspects were spending way, way beyond their means for one reason or another, and therefore might have a reason to dispose of Barry both gives the book flavor and forms the Red Herrings of the book. For example, the husband of one addictive shopper who constantly competes with her wealthy gold-digger sister, claims that Barry was blackmailing him – he also owes the mall thousands in back rent, that he never paid, due to his wife’s shopping habit. The AA-style meeting Goldy attends is brilliantly written.

The final discovering of evidence scenes as well as the confrontation with the actual murderer were also well done. It’s a surprise, but the clues were all there – and certainly something did seem suspicious about what was going on – that led to the murder.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a quick read. The catering background was interesting and a bit different. All the characters, many of whom are probably regulars, were well-drawn enough in this book that it was interesting to read about them. I didn’t feel at all that the supporting cast was flat – a danger in any cozy-style mystery. Goldy’s first husband was also extremely abusive – both physically and mentally; when she witnesses a couple going at each other at the event at the mall – it brings up bad memories (and leads to one of the more plausible red herrings). That Goldy’s second husband is a cop with the local sheriff’s department makes sense – he probably rescued her from her ex-husband. Goldy’s issues with her son (from her first marriage) seem to be mostly typical teenaged stuff and her son probably feeling a little abandoned by her sudden focus on her business. The background material at the mall and with the AA-style group for compulsive shoppers also was surprisingly sensitive and well-written. The casual racism towards the Hispanic construction workers at the mall not so much though.

Still, this is a fun, light mystery with plenty of inside details on how a catering business works including some delicious-sounding recipes. Recommended.

Doctor Who: The Scorchies Review

  • Title: The Scorchies
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: James Goss
  • Director: Ken Bentley
  • Characters: Jo Grant, Third Doctor, UNIT, The Scorchies (Guest)
  • Cast: Katy Manning (Jo), Melvin Hayes (The Scorchies)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/26/2017

The Scorchies want to take over the world. The want to kill the Doctor. And they want to perform some outstanding showtunes. Though not necessarily in that order…

Doctor Who The Scorchies is a Big Finish Companion Chronicles story performed by Katy Manning and Melvin Hayes. The Scorchies are a very nasty bunch of aliens, who just happen to look like cute, adorable, puppets. They come to Earth and take over a children’s TV show, using it to take over the minds of the adults who watch the program. Apparently, it’s the television equivalent of comfort food – something not really good for you, but that adults can’t ignore. Throw in some form of mind control and you have the basic plot.

The story, however, starts with Jo already captured at the television studio – by the Scorchies. The Doctor and UNIT are outside the studio, attempting to lay siege to it so they can defeat the “alien menace” so to speak. The plot, including the background of where the Scorchies come from, and the horrifying meaning of their name (they leave behind nothing but completely scorched planets – utter devastation). But because they look like puppets, and it’s a “children’s television show” this is accompanied by some truly awful songs and fairly terrible singing.

What surprised me about this particular story was that I expected it to be very, very funny. Instead, it’s horrifying. The moral – “don’t watch so much television” feels out of place in a television tie-in universe. Katy Manning, as always, is wonderful though, and the Scorchies (voiced by Melvin Hayes and by Katy herself) are voiced well, and at times, are very chilling. However, overall, since the actual story wasn’t really what I expected, I didn’t enjoy the story like I expected that I would. Still, even though it wasn’t the wild and humorous story I expected, it’s performed well, and it’s also much more like a full audio play, rather than what’s normal for the Companion Chronicles line where someone is telling someone else a story (not that I mind that, the story-telling part is a big part of what I like about the Big Finish Companion Chronicles.) Recommended with reservations – this is not what it says on the tin, rather, it’s a fairly horrifying story.

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

Click here to order The Scorchies on CD or Download.

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

iZombie Season 2 Review (Spoilers)

  • Series Title: iZombie
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 19
  • Discs: 4 (Blu-Ray)
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: Rose McIver, Rahul Kohli, Malcolm Goodwin, Robert Buckley, David Anders, Aly Michalka, Steven Weber, Leanne Lapp, Greg Finley
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, Blu-Ray, NTSC

Many spoilers below for the second season of iZombie.

iZombie Season 2 opens with a couple episodes designed to remind the audience of the plot. Additionally, the first two brains that Liv consumes are of “asshole victims” – so the audience has no sympathy for them. Liv Moore is a Zombie, having been scratched by a Zombie at the world’s worst boat party. She now works in the morgue, for access to brains, with Ravi – the only person at the start of the season who knows she’s a zombie. Liv also works with Clive Babineaux, a Seattle PD detective who thinks her insights to his cases come from psychic visions. Since eating brains allows Liv to absorb the personality of the brain she’s just consumed and to experience visions of what the person experienced, Clive is somewhat correct about the visions part. The first few episodes of the season fall in to a regular pattern – Clive is called to a homicide, Liv and Ravi respond as well, the body’s taken to the morgue, there’s a curiously yummy montage of Liv preparing the brain to eat (these are surprisingly yummy – substitute beef, chicken, or tofu for the brains and Liv’s recipes would probably be *good*) and Liv uses her visions and personality changes to help Clive solve the murder. But about episode 9 or 10 the series focuses more and more on the continuing storyline and how each character fits in and changes.

About episode 9 or 10 – Payton returns. Payton is Liv’s old roommate who found out at the end of the first season that Liv was a Zombie – she freaked out and left Seattle. Back in town, Payton is now a District Attorney, who is trying to make a case against Mr. Boss – the kingpin of Seattle’s mafia. Very quickly Blaine becomes her star witness and the two also become involved. Payton lives with Ravi and Major for awhile, briefly gets her own apartment, then moves back in with Liv.

Blaine, last year’s “Big Bad” is now running Shady Plots funeral home – mostly as a front to get brains to sell to Seattle’s zombies, and as a front for selling Utopium. That is, until Mr. Boss gets wind of his trying to muscle in on the lucrative Utopium trade. Blaine has two lackies, a mute, giant zombie, called “Chief”, – and Don E – a ambitious low-level drug dealer who eventually is turned into a zombie (by his own choice). Blaine also has a very difficult relationship with his abusive father. Blaine walks in to Payton’s office one day and offers to give her all the inside information she could ever want to make a case against Mr. Boss. Blaine’s mostly doing this to get rid of the competition. Blaine’s life (he’s also now cured of his zombie-ism) is going fine – his cover as a “businessman” running Shady Plots is working. Payton’s office will give him immunity for any old crimes, mostly related to drugs, in return for his information and testimony, and Blaine is making money from selling Utopium and brains. However, Ravi discovers the zombie cure is temporary – eventually it will wear off, and be followed by death. Ravi makes a second cure, but, again, is unable to fully test it before giving a syringe of it to Blaine. Later, after first reverting to zombie-form, Blaine becomes convinced he’s dying. He takes the cure and becomes a total amnesiac.

Major Lilywhite also is human again, thanks to Liv giving him the cure. He’s in the same position as Blaine, though, he will eventually become a zombie again. He gets some work as a personal trainer, but is also hired by Max Rager – there, he is blackmailed into tracking down zombies and killing them. Vaughn, the head of the Max Rager company has a list of 322 suspected zombies. He blackmails Major into killing the zombies, or Liv will die. At first, Major kills the people he finds out were actual zombies (he can now literally sense a nearby zombie). However, Major’s conscious kicks in, so he starts telling Vaughn that the suspects aren’t zombies. When that doesn’t work – Major knocks out the zombies with drugs, then drops them in a freezer. Later, Major also reverts to being a zombie.

Clive, besides working on the weekly murders, gets a new partner, a female FBI agent who is looking in to the “Chaos Killer” serial murders. Major’s crimes have not gone unnoticed, and as the case is thought to involve kidnappings – the FBI starts to investigate. Clive also very gradually starts to fall for the FBI agent.

At the beginning of the season Liv and Major get back together romantically, but as they cannot have sex without Major becoming a zombie – Liv eventually sets him free. Liv also has a roommate briefly, before Payton returns – but Rita is actually a Max Rager executive who is keeping tabs on her. Rita also has a brief affair with Major who later dumps her. And Rita turns out to be Vaughn’s daughter.

Much of the season has Ravi trying to find a cure – first he needs a sample of the tainted Utopium that caused zombism in the first place. He briefly gets a sample from Blaine – but it’s destroyed. Once he gets a new sample – it causes severe issues. Given to a zombie it kills them, turning the zombie to dust. Batch two causes the newly-human former zombie to be a complete amnesiac. Also, Ravi and Liz seem to think it was only the tainted Utopium that caused people to become zombies, forgetting about the Max Rager energy drink being part of the equation (or it’s never really mentioned).

After giving up Major, Liv starts dating Drake, one of Blaine’s lackies – but he’s also working for Mr. Boss – but he’s also an undercover vice cop. Unfortunately, Liv had dumped him when she found out he worked for Mr. Boss, before discovering he was a cop from the Drake’s mother. Major, meanwhile, sees his name on the list, and knocks him out and freezes him.

The conclusion of the season is, wow – but very violent. In a season where more and more and more people find out that Liv is a zombie, and more people in general find out that zombies exist in Seattle, it seems for awhile that Det. Clive Babineaux is the only one who doesn’t know what is going on. He finds out in the penultimate episode. Major is arrested for the the “chaos killer” murders – creating a extremely dangerous situation because he’s trapped in jail without proper food so to speak. Clive, after discovering Liv is a zombie, scuttles the case against Major, getting him released (and destroying his relationship with the FBI agent). Liv, Major, and Clive resolve to break in to the secret lab at Max Rager to release Liv’s zombie boyfriend, Drake, and all the others that have been taken from Major’s storage facility. It does not go well.

The final episode is utter, bloody chaos. Zombies escape the lab, attacking the Max Rager employees locked in to a prison-themed “Super Max” party. Meanwhile, Vaughn has sold his company, including the secret lab and all the zombie research within to a private military contractor. Vaughn’s daughter, Rita, is also turned into a zombie – and Vaughn imprisons her in the basement, which makes her very angry indeed. Although Drake dies – many of the intelligent zombies are released, while the more violent “romeros” are killed off (it’s a bloody episode). Major ends up trapped in a room of recovering intelligent zombies who remember him as the guy who knocked them out and froze them. Liv discovers the woman running the military contracting company is a zombie who plans to make Seattle the capital of Zombie Nation.

The second season of iZombie is as good if not better than the first. The first few episodes remind viewers very effectively of the plot and actually even create a good starting point if the viewer hadn’t seen season 1. Although the first few episodes seem to be heading in a formulaic direction, about episode 9 or 10 the series focuses more on the continuing storyline and less on weekly murder-of-the-week procedural stories. This draws in the viewer. Each of the characters experiences a great deal of change. And Clive finally is told the truth. I like this series a lot and I highly recommend it.

Plead read my iZombie Season 1 Review as well.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Mother Russia

  • Title: Mother Russia
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Marc Platt
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Steven, First Doctor, Dodo, The Interrogator (Guest)
  • Cast: Peter Purves (Steven), Tony Millan (The Interrogator)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/22/2017

Doctor Who: Mother Russia is a story in the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line. Peter Purves (Steven) tells the story which also features Dodo and the First Doctor. The TARDIS lands in Czarist Russia and the TARDIS crew settles in. The Doctor gets a job as a tutor for the local landed aristocrat’s children, Dodo also gets hired as a music tutor, and Steven spends his days, wandering around, fishing and meeting and befriending the locals. During one of his fishing trips, Steven hooks a fish that is so strong he is pulled in the river. It’s Summer, so it’s no disaster, and the forester, Simeon, laughs at him. Steven and the forester becomes friends, so much so, that the forester invites Steven to be best man at his wedding.

At a dinner with the aristocrat’s family, the TARDIS crew learn it is 1812, both Dodo and the Doctor knows what this means. Steven has no idea – so the audience doesn’t know for sure what’s happening. The Doctor also starts to press for travelling to Moscow.

The time of the wedding grows closer, and rumors start flying that Napoleon will invade Russia.
Finally, the first night of the three-day wedding ceremony arrives – and it is interrupted by a spaceship crash-landing in the forest. Simeon and Steven go to check it out. From that point on things get a little weird – Steven encounters a bear that he swears talked to him, Simeon breaks off his engagement, the Doctor becomes more insistent on traveling to Moscow, though at one point he leaves in the TARDIS without Steven and Dodo – and when he lands again he insists they pilot the time-space machine.

Eventually, they do all travel to Moscow, have an encounter with Napoleon, watch the city burn, see the Russians rout the French, and the alien, a shapeshifter, is found out.

Overall, this story was OK. That the mysterious bear, and various people not acting like themselves were actually a shapeshifting alien was painfully obvious – so much so that it seemed weird that Steven and Dodo couldn’t figure it out faster. The story is also broken up a bit to Steven telling his story to The Interrogator, who is the shapeshifter. And the Russian accents are horrendous, almost to the point of being offensive – like comedy accents. But the story, especially the early part of Steven, Dodo, and even the Doctor assimilating into an alien time was pretty good, and I liked that.

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

Click here to order Mother Russia on CD or Download. Note the Download is currently specially priced at $2.99.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Timewyrm: Revelation

  • Title: Timewyrm: Revelation
  • Series: Virgin Publishing New Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Characters: Seventh Doctor, Ace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/20/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Timewyrm: Revelation is the fourth and final volume in the opening “Timewyrm” series to Virgin Publishing’s Doctor Who New Adventures. Unfortunately, the story spends most of it’s time in a strange dreamscape where both anything can happen and there are no consequences. So the story doesn’t really work – it’s unrelatable, and there’s no sense of jeopardy – if nothing is real in the characters world, it doesn’t matter. This is sad, as this is the final volume of the series, and it’s written by one of my more favorite Doctor Who authors.

The story opens in 1922, in the small village of Cheldon Bonniface, a village the Doctor has visited many times and in many of his regenerations. The local church is inhabited by Saul, a friendly spirit. And yes, Saul really is a friendly spirit. Older than the church itself, Saul’s presence means the area has been sacred to everyone, going back to the ancient Celts and beyond. The Doctor and Ace arrive, only for things to immediately get weird. It should be Christmas Eve, but the people in the village pub are constructs created by the Timewyrm. The local village church blasts off to the moon, and the explosion destroys the entire village and quite a lot of the surrounding area. Once arriving on the moon, a young couple, the vicar, and Saul are charged with protecting the barely alive, comatose bodies of Ace and the Doctor. At one point the Doctor arrives, thrusts a female baby into the young woman’s hands, then leaves with no explanation. Saul and in-universe magic keep a bubble of breathable air inside the church (not to mention normal gravity).

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Ace have been drawn into a dreamscape similar to the Time Lords’ Matrix as seen in the aired episodes, “The Deadly Assassin” and “Trial of a Time Lord”. Also present is a bully from Ace’s past, who, in an alternate reality made possible by the Timewyrm, killed Ace with a brick, and the British Nazi soldier from the alternate future in Timewyrm: Exodus. The Doctor and Ace literally must confront their demons in the dream world.

Unfortunately, in a very similar manner to previous aired episodes featuring the Time Lord Matrix, the vast majority of the book is spent in the dreamspace. Some chapters or sections of chapters flash back to the church, which is on the moon – and those chapters are more interesting taking place in the “real” world. Though at the same time, there’s two issues – first, it doesn’t make a whole lot of logical sense that a church would be successfully transplanted to the moon and the people inside survive, and second, everyone is literally stuck inside a relatively small building. There isn’t much they can do but talk. Saul and company, however, are, eventually instrumental in helping the Doctor and Ace to escape their dream prison.

In the dreamscape, the Doctor and Ace, separately, and together literally confront their demons. Ace shows just how much she has grown-up, especially by the end of the book. The Doctor doesn’t fair so well, especially when confronting his guilt over the deaths of his previous companions. But in the end, one of the people in the church, the young woman, has some latent psychic ability, between that and a medallion hidden by the Doctor in a previous incarnation, she and her mathematician husband, are able to enter the dreamscape to pull the Doctor and Ace out. At first, they seem successful in rescuing the Doctor at least – but without Ace, the Timewyrm, now possessing the Doctor, will win. The Doctor re-enters the dreamscape. Ace finds the Fifth Doctor, tied to the Doctor’s Knowledge Tree, where he has been since the Time War – when he objected to fighting at all. Freeing the Fifth Doctor allows the Seventh Doctor to confront and overcome the Timewyrm, who it turns out, is a natural part of the universe. The Timewyrm is more-or-less, as best as I could figure out, the goddess of cosmic karma, encircling the universe, eating her tail, and responsible for beginnings and endings. The Doctor takes her out of his head where she was hiding and moved her into the body of a clone baby (with no mind of it’s own) to be raised by the childless couple in the church who had desperately wanted a child in the first place.

The church is returned to where it came from. The destruction of the village is reversed. The Timewyrm’s time travel to urge the bully to kill Ace is also undone. The guy from the alternate future does not exist because Ace and the Doctor reversed it previously. In other words, pretty much everything is returned to status quo.

Overall, the first two books in the Timewyrm series were better than I remembered. Well, okay, technically, I think I only read one of them before when the series was published, not sure which one, but still – at the time I hated it. I disliked the third book, intensely. The last book seems to be obviously checking off items on an outline that “must be handled” as this is an on-going series of tie-in novels. So the author was probably constrained in what he could do (I’ve read a lot of other stuff by Cornell – he’s usually much better than this), but at the same time, having the vast majority of the book taking place in the Doctor’s head (literally) but in a dreamspace controlled by the Timewyrm, the enemy and “Big Bad” of the four books didn’t really work – I like having the Doctor in charge.

In terms of recommendations, if you’re going to read any of the Timewyrm series, read all four books, but overall, it’s a bit disappointing.

Read My Review of Doctor Who Timewyrm Genesys.

Read My Review of Doctor Who Timewyrm Exodus.

Read My Review of Doctor Who Timewyrm Apocalypse.

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.

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