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!

Advertisements

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.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Old Soldiers

  • Title: Old Soldiers
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: James Swallow
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, Third Doctor
  • Cast: Nicholas Courtney, Toby Longworth
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/04/2014

The Big Finish Companion Chronicles is fast becoming one of my favorite lines published by Big Finish. They are not full audio plays like most Big Finish Productions, but rather narrated stories by the Doctor’s companions, in this case, Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, with Toby Longworth performing the part of Konrad Schrader. Having two actors almost turns this into a two-handed play, but much of the story is narrated rather than performed. There are some effects, but not as many as in a full audio play. However, the Companion Chronicles format allows for stories featuring previous Doctors. This is a story of the Third Doctor (played on Doctor Who by Jon Pertwee) and his companion, the Brigadier. It takes place shortly after The Silurians.

The story involves an old friend of the Brigadier’s, who’s now a commander at a UNIT base in Germany. He sends a desperate message for help to the Brigadier. When the Brigadier arrives, he find his friend extremely ill, a commandant in charge who’s a bit of an idiot, and an honest-to-goodness haunted German castle. And the ghosts – are armed.

It’s a good story. The only thing that prevents me from giving this a perfect 5 stars is that I found the very end a bit depressing. It made sense but it was still a tad depressing.

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

Click this link to order Old Soldiers on download or CD.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Blue Tooth

  • Title: The Blue Tooth
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Nigel Fairs
  • Director: Mark J. Thompson
  • Characters:  Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Shaw, Third Doctor, Capt. Mike Yates, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart
  • Cast: Caroline John, Nicholas Briggs
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/02/2014

Caroline John reads this audiobook by Big Finish, The Blue Tooth, part of the Companion Chronicles line. I thought the storyline would have something to do with alien control of Bluetooth™ technology, however, it doesn’t – though the Cybermen are involved eventually. Dr. Liz Shaw looks back on her time at UNIT, and considers when she decided to quit. She had gone to Cambridge to visit one of her university friends, only to find her friend missing and the friend’s cat brutally slain.

Before long, the Brigadier and Captain Mike Yates arrive, investigating not only Jean’s disappearance, but the disappearance of several scientists and even support personnel from Cambridge. The investigation leads to a mysterious blue living metal, a really bad dentist, Cybermats, and a crashed Cyberman scout ship. It’s an intriguing story.

My only qualm about this one was that I found it a bit gross. I know it seems weird to describe a story in audio format as gross – but it is. This story is a bloodbath, in more ways than one. I also found the title a tad too literal.

Anyway, This is still my favorite Doctor Who range, and this story is enjoyable. Recommended, but it’s not for younger listeners.

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

Click the link to order The Blue Tooth on CD.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Business Unusual

  • Title: Business Unusual
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gary Russell
  • Characters:  Sixth Doctor, Mel
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/15/2017

Business Unusual is from the BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures paperback series. I finished the series a few years ago, and started in on the Virgin Publishing Missing Doctors series, but Business Unusual was one of the ones that was out of print. I received an e-book copy, so this is a review of the e-book. Business Unusual features the Sixth Doctor as played by Colin Baker. For the Doctor it’s just after his trial at the hands of the Time Lords, so he’s determined to prevent that from happening at all. As a result, he’s travelling alone, though the book opens with the Doctor on Earth helping a police captain defeat the Master. He’s wrapping that up, and is to meet an human computer programmer who will finish off the virus to destroy the Master’s planned computer take-over. Meeting Mel by accident, the Doctor is determined to not have her become his companion.

Taking place in Brighton, the main story involves Sené-Net, a computer gaming entertainment company, with it’s fingers in prosthetics, human enhancements, and a number of other fields, including a fast-food burger chain. Mel is working at one of their subsidaries as an intern, and she’s the programmer the police have called in to finish cleaning-up the Master’s mess. The Doctor also witnesses a psychic attack on a young man, who turns out to be Mel’s family’s house guest. Also, the Brigadier, though retired, had been called in by UNIT and Department C-19 to investigate a missing operative. He’s promptly captured by Sené-Net.

So, despite his best intentions to stay out of things – the Doctor is drawn in, and meets Mel anyway. Mel and the Doctor investigate Sené-Net, and find that it’s CEO is more computer and cybernetics than human – plus he’s working with the Nestene Consciousness. Or to be precise, the Nestene are using him to launch a beachhead against Earth. From different angles, the Doctor, Mel, Mel’s family and friends, and the Brigadier uncover the plot – and stop it, but not without cost.

Business Unusual is a fun story that manages to combine the Jon Pertwee-Era feel of an alien invasion on Earth story, with really good characterization of the Doctor and Mel. The Doctor’s pain, anxiety, and worry underlies everything in the story. He really does not want to become the Valeyard. Meanwhile, Mel is shown to be an intelligent, professional, computer professional. Yes, she is health conscious, and even a bit pushy about it with her co-workers, but she’s not the whiny, overly cheerful, screamer she was in the series. She’s even a bit of a pragmatist. The scenes between the Doctor and the Brigadier are not to be missed. And the supporting cast is fun.

Overall, I’d give this book four stars. It’s a fun, quick read and recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Downtime

  • Title: Downtime
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Marc Platt
  • Characters:  Victoria, Sarah Jane Smith, The Brigadier, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 8/08/2014

Downtime is a bit unusual even for the Doctor Who Missing Adventure series. The Doctor isn’t actually in the book as a character, and he’s not even really mentioned directly. The story is a sequel to two Patrick Troughton stories, The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear and features Victoria, The Brigadier, Sarah Jane Smith, and the Brigadier’s estranged daughter – Kate Lethbridge-Stewart. It begins in the 1960s, with Victoria trying to adjust to a new century, and the Brigadier being approached with a new idea, a UN-led force to counter alien activity and invasion (UNIT). Victoria’s landlady suggests she take a vacation, and she does – to Tibet. Victoria had been having dreams about her father. In Tibet she visits a old Buddhist monastery but instead of finding her father, she’s taken over by one of the Great Intelligence control units.

Next we know it’s the 1990s and Victoria is the headmistresses of a new university, called New World University. New World teaches it’s students by computer, and the students come to be known as Chilly’s in the popular press. Sarah becomes involved because she’s hired to find out information about a number of people who were directly involved or witnessed The London Event (see The Web of Fear). Sarah, however, doubts the PR man who’s second only to Victoria in the hierarchy of the school. She also gets suspicious when the Brigadier’s name shows up on the list of people she’s to investigate.

The Brigadier, meanwhile, is still teaching at Brendon Boys Prep School, though he’s due to retire at the end of the next term. He’s also having strange symptoms and dreams as Victoria did.

Kate is living on a houseboat and being watched and harrassed by the Chilly’s. She later meets Sarah Jane and is also reunited with her father, The Brigadier.

The book, Downtime is actually a novelization of an “independent drama presentation” – a play or video (there’s a coupon to order the video in the back of the book). There’s also a series of black and white still photographs glued in the center of the book. They are quite nice. The forward briefly describes the “dramatic” presentation and cast: Deborah Watling (Victoria), Jack Watling (Prof. Travers), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart), John Leeson (K-9, & also the New World DJ), Geoffrey Beevers (Harrods), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith). The forward actually bemoans, “With, at this time, no certainty Doctor Who will reappear on our television screens…” which is ironic, as here I sit in 2014, and Doctor Who is more popular than ever – and globally so. But that was written in 1995 before the 8th Doctor FOX/BBC TV movie, before the BBC Past Doctor Adventures and Eighth Doctor Adventures original novel series, and even before Big Finish started their regular monthly Doctor Who audio productions.

I enjoyed reading this, some of the in-jokes were marvelous (at one point the Brigadier tries tells Sarah to give a message to UNIT – “Codes NN and QQ” — the story codes for The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. There were other moments that make a knowing fan smile. Overall, the story moved very fast, though parts of it was a bit confusing (I think having not seen the lost story The Abominable Snowmen caused some comprehension problems; though having recently seen The Web of Fear definitely helped. Recommended, especially for Doctor Who fans.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Ghosts of N-Space

  • Title: The Ghosts of N-Space
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Barry Letts
  • Characters:  Third Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, The Brigadier
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/03/2014

The Ghosts of N-Space is part of The Missing Adventures series of original Doctor Who stories. It is also a novelization of a radio play that aired on BBC Radio 2 in 1995, starring Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen, and Nicholas Courtney. And it was a wonderfully fun book to read.

I enjoyed this story immensely – it felt like an episode of the series, and was simply enjoyable to read.
Sarah Jane has decided to try her hand at writing a novel, but has developed a severe case of writer’s block. Her friend, Jeremy, has, meanwhile gotten tickets for a trip to Italy and suddenly has no one to take with him. He approaches Sarah, and soon the two are off.

Meanwhile, the Brigadier has discovered he’s the last surviving relative of an Italian Lord of the Manor, or in this case, castello – as well as the tiny Island it sits on.

Sarah Jane, the Brigadier, and Jeremy run into each other and begin investigating the ghosts of the Castello. The Brigadier calls in the Doctor (Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor).

And the romp is on — a haunted castle, mobsters, long-lost relatives, alternate dimensions, fiends from hell, and the possible end of the world. It’s actually all good fun and feels very much like vintage Doctor Who. And I sped through this book.

I don’t want to spoil any more of the plot. It’s just a fun read. It’s closer in feel to the BBC Past Doctor Adventures line of original novels, than most of the Missing Adventures and I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much. Recommended, especially for fans of Classic Doctor Who.