Book Review – Doctor Who: The Catalyst

  • Title: The Catalyst
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Nigel Fairs
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Leela, Fourth Doctor
  • Cast: Louise Jameson, Timothy Watson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/06/2020

**Spoiler Alert** The Catalyst is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles series, and it is an early one. The story features Leela of the Sevateam as she tells the story of one of her journeys with the Doctor. The wrap-around story has Leela, captured, held prisoner, and being tortured by a member of the Z’Nai, a fierce, prejudicial, and evil warrior race. The main story has the Fourth Doctor and Leela encountering the Z’Nai in Edwardian England. It works much better than the framing story.

The Doctor brings Leela to a country manor house in Edwardian England to “teach her some table manners”. After an awkward dinner, Leela and the spoiled young daughter, Jessica, explore the servants’ hall and the cellars. They discover a hidden “trophy room” belonging to Jessica’s father and the Doctor. It turns out that her father had traveled with the First Doctor for a time. But it isn’t just “certificates and cups” as Leela refers to a trophy room that the two women find. An alien is imprisoned in the room, held in a stasis and decontamination field.

Jessica finds and presses a button that wakes up the soldier, though he is still trapped and unable to move. The soldier claims he is the last of his people, that they were destroyed by the Doctor. Leela doesn’t trust the soldier and leaves to find him to find out more about the situation. Jessica refuses to leave the room with Leela, telling her she wants to learn from the soldier. It will be a fatal decision.

When Leela and the Doctor return – the soldier has been released, and Jessica is dead. Tracking the soldier – they find both of the Douglas family’s servant girls are dead, as well as the butler and Mrs. Douglas. Leela and the Doctor find the warrior, who goes on and on about the Doctor “causing” the disease that wiped out his people. But the Z’Nai that the warrior leads (he is the Emperor, not a simple soldier) are Xenophobic, prejudicial, and arrogant – they had been wiping out everyone who was not Z’Nai when the Doctor and Mr. Douglas encountered them. And even on their own planet, the Z’Nai had opened purification camps, where those who did not agree with the Emperor’s hatred of everything and everyone different from himself were killed or converted into soldiers – clones of the emperor. Clones that looked, sounded, and thought exactly like the Emperor. Almost immediately after finding the Z’nai emperor Humbrackle, he collapses, a victim of the disease that killed the clone Z’Nai. The Doctor and Leela take him into the TARDIS for medical treatment then return him to his stasis field in the house.

When the Doctor and Leela return to the Edwardian House, a Z’Nai warship arrives. It’s arrival causes the windows and door frame of the house to blow out. The Doctor is knocked unconscious by a flying piece of wood. The warriors attack and kill Mr. Douglas, the only one left alive by Humbrackle. One of the soldiers attacks Leela after she tells him she doesn’t know the date because she is a time traveler. Leela fights back and the soldier immediately becomes very sick from her touch. The other soldiers shoot down the infected warrior. There’s a massive fight between Leela and the soldiers – but when she touches them, they die. The Doctor wakes up and trying to mitigate the fight, but he is attacked as well. Leela spits at the soldier attacking the Doctor – and the soldier dies. At the end of the fight, all the soldiers are dead from the now airborne virus. The Doctor tells Leela she’s become a carrier, a catalyst. The Doctor burns down the house and all the evidence of the invasion and the Doctor and Leela leave in the TARDIS.

In the wrap-around story, an ancient Leela is still held prisoner by a Z’Nai warrior. It speaks as if generations of Z’Nai have existed, as clones, destroying everyone that is not Z’nai in their path, all the so-called “lesser” species. Leela remarks that the Z’Nai used to leave a panel open in their armor, exposing their skin. The warrior remarks they no longer follow such absurd customs, but he likes to remove his helmet and look someone in the eye before killing them.

Overall, The Catalyst is a good story, but it’s about average for the Companion Chronicles. Basically, it’s War of the Worlds fierce, genocidal, alien race is knocked out by the common cold (or some sort of virus). I also found it strange the Doctor would use “carrier” and “catalyst” as synonyms. A carrier is someone who carries a disease or genetic defect but isn’t affected by it, such as a carrier for color blindness or hemophilia or typhoid. A catalyst is a chemical substance that causes a chemical reaction – but isn’t affected by the reaction. Not really the same. And for the Doctor to explain what a carrier is to Leela by saying it’s like a catalyst probably made the idea as clear as mud to her. And yet again – Leela dies at the end of the story, but of extreme old age after being imprisoned. The central story worked, but I felt the wrap-around story did not and wasn’t even necessary. The listener gets all the information they need from the dialogue in the central story, so the wrap-around wasn’t needed. But this is an early story in the range. I still recommend it, especially if Leela is one of your favorite companions because Louise Jameson is terrific performing this.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Last Post

  • Title: The Last Post
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: James Goss
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Dr. Liz Shaw, Dr. Emily Shaw, Third Doctor, 
  • Cast: Caroline John, Rowena Cooper
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/31/2019

To be completely honest – I listened to this audio in October or early November sometime, but I did listen to it twice, still, I’ve probably already forgotten a few details. The Last Post is part of Big Finish’s The Companion Chronicles which tell stories from the companion’s point of view and fill in gaps from previous eras of the series. Set in the Third Doctor’s first season, The Last Post features Dr. Liz Shaw and her mother, Dr. Emily Shaw, as well as mentions of other members of Liz’s family. The story opens with Liz and her mum meeting for a long-overdue meal. Her mother presses Liz for details on her new hush-hush job, and when Liz is hesitant to reveal any secrets, her mother points out she’s signed the Offical Secret Act multiple times. Liz decides she can mention where she works, only to have her mother answer, “Oh, you work for UNIT!” Liz is flabbergasted to learn her mother knows about UNIT, but she responds that she is on “a lot of committees”.

The rest of the story is told mostly through exchanges of letters and phone calls. In between updating her mum on her adventures with the Doctor, Liz tells her mum that she seems to have uncovered a conspiracy or at least something strange. People are dying, strangely, but they also are being warned of precisely when their life will expire. The Doctor ignores Liz’s findings and her mother suggests the deaths are coincidences at first.

However, eventually, the Doctor joins Liz in her investigation, only to be stung by some weird metal scorpion. Liz’s mum also seems to know more than she initially stated. When she starts to feel that one of her committees is going too far, Dr. Emily Shaw tells her daughter about the precise nature of her committee’s work. Dr. Shaw tells Liz that in the wake of World War II, the government began to collect and analyze data, chiefly concerning life expectancy. The more data was collected, the more addicted to data collection the government became. Eventually, computers were used to collate and analyze the data. A computer was developed with the intent to predict life expectancy. But it instead predicted the end of the world – earning the computer the nickname, “The Apocalypse Clock”. This Clock predicted, precisely the deaths of individuals – but with their deaths, the end of the world was pushed back – granting them more time. When Dr. Emily Shaw receives a letter warning her of her death, only for her to be rescued by the Doctor, it’s the catalyst for Liz, Dr. Shaw, and UNIT to put an end to the “The Apocalypse Clock”.

The exchange of letters and phone calls is a wonderful framing device for this story and Dr. Emily Shaw is a great character. The Apocalypse Clock is spooky and would have been a better title for the story than, “The Last Post” (which refers to the elder Dr. Shaw’s “last” letter to her daughter). The story is also bittersweet since it’s the last story Caroline John recorded for Big Finish before passing away. Still, with all of that – it’s an excellent story and I recommend it.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Jigsaw War

  • Title: The Jigsaw War
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Eddie Robson
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Jaime, Second Doctor, Moran
  • Cast: Frazier Hines, Dominic Mafham
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/04/2014

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s The Companion Chronicles focuses on the companions, who tell their own stories. The Jigsaw War starts with the Doctor’s companion, Jamie, being held and questioned in a cell. Someone wants to know where the Doctor is, what his plans are, how he is helping the Unhelt, the inhabitants of the planet. But this isn’t your typical interrogation – as Jamie moves back and forth in time, even becoming the interrogator – while his interrogator is now the prisoner. a being called Side tells Jamie if he puts the scenes in order he can create a code that will open the door, a door only he can see. Jamie does put his experiences in order – but he doesn’t key in the entire sequence – realizing that if he does, he will be truly trapped.

As to Side, he is a Fifth Dimensional Being, the Unhelt’s god, who feeds on the emotional upheaval of the Unhelt and the Humans who are repressing and killing them. The Unhelt didn’t attack the complex where Jamie is being held. Everything is an elaborate game. Solving this puzzle lets Jamie and his captor escape.

The Jigsaw War is complex, but not as confusing as one might think. It’s a good story. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Many Lives of Doctor Who

  • Title: Doctor Who: The Many Lives of Doctor Who
  • Authors: Richard Dinnick
  • Artists: Mariano LaClaustra, Giorgia Sposito, Brian Williamson, Arianna Florean, Claudia Ianniciello, Iolanda Zanfardino, Neil Edwards, Pasquale Qualano, Rachael Stott, Sarah Jacobs (Letterer), John Roshell (Letterer), Fer Centurion (Inker), Color-Ice (Colorist), Carlos Cabera (Colorist), Adele Matera (Colorist), Dijjo Lima (Colorist), Enrica Eren Angiolini (Colorist)
  • Line:  All-Doctors Crossover Special
  • Characters: First Doctor, Second Doctor, Third Doctor, Fourth Doctor, Fifth Doctor, Sixth Doctor, Seventh Doctor, Eighth Doctor, War Doctor, Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, River Song, Twelfth Doctor, Ian, Barbara, Susan, Jamie, Polly, Ben, Sarah Jane Smith, Romana II, Tegan, Nyssa, Turlough, Peri, Ace, Josie Day, Jack, Rose, Alice, Bill Potts, Thirteenth Doctor
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/19/2019

**Spoiler Alert** Doctor Who The Many Lives of Doctor Who” is a series of vignettes and short stories, one per Doctor, plus a War Doctor Story, a story with River Song, and a few pages with the 13th Doctor. Each of the stories adds to the idea of the Doctor regenerating into who she will be, for example, the number 13 comes up several times, though in the Thirteenth Doctor’s pages she mentions she isn’t actually the 13th Doctor. The Fifth Doctor story as the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa, and Turlough in the cloisters on Gallifrey where they are supposed to be chasing down a renegade Time Lord. But when they find him, he talks the Doctor into helping him use some Gallifreyan tech so he can regenerate. The Doctor agrees, and the other Time Lord regenerates into a woman. We also see both the fourth Doctor, with Romana and the Seventh Doctor, with Ace, solving a problem by meeting someone earlier, which they will do after they did it. The graphic novel itself is very short, and some of the vignettes are only a few pages, while others are full, albeit, short stories. I enjoyed this graphic novel though, and it whetted my appetite for the next two graphic novels in Titan Comics 13th Doctor series. The only flaw in the book is it’s almost too short. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension Book Two

  • Title: Doctor Who The Lost Dimension Book Two
  • Authors: Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby, George Mann, Cavan Scott
  • Artists: Ivan Rodriguez, Wellington Diaz, Rachael Stott, Mariano LaClaustra, Anderson Cabral, Marcelo Salaza, Fer Centurion, Thiago Ribeiro, Mauricio Wallace, Carlos Cabrera, Rod Fernandes, Mony Castillo, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line:  All-Doctors Crossover Special
  • Characters: Fourth Doctor, Eighth Doctor, Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, Twelfth Doctor, Romana II, Rose, Gabby, Cindy, Alice, Nardol, Bill, Cameos by other Doctors and Companions
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/27/2019

Titan Comics’ The Lost Dimension Book Two is the second volume in this series, which concludes the story. This volume opens with the Fourth Doctor as played on the BBC series Doctor Who by Tom Baker and Romana II in the TARDIS, but instead of materializing the TARDIS is caught between two transmat beams. When the Doctor and Romana exit the TARDIS they are confronted with Krotons, from the Second Doctor story, “The Krotons”, but these Krotons are considerably more dangerous. The other ship is crewed by Quarks from the Second Doctor story, “The Dominators”. Soon a spaceship appears from the Ogron Confederation of Planets and tries to take over. The Doctor soon realises that all of these new invaders are from other universes, universes without the Daleks. He and Romana manage to escape in the TARDIS after convincing the new invaders to leave the universe with the Daleks in it.

Meanwhile, Dr. River Song and her graduate student discover a lost colony of Silurians who are about to be destroyed by an asteroid crashing into their planetoid. Things do not go well.

The Ninth, Tenth, and Twelfth Doctors meet up in Australia while investigating the infection that turns humans into automatons saying, “peace”. They realize the Doctors TARDISes are all linked and that several versions of the Doctor have already been lost in the white void universe. The Eighth Doctor also arrives. The Ninth, Tenth and Twelfth Doctor use Jenny’s Bowship to investigate the White Void that is taking over everything. The Eighth Doctor stays behind to try to protect the humans on Earth from the infection of the Void. The three Doctors in the bow ship find at the center of the Void, an ancient TT capsule, and the Eleventh Doctor. The time capsule is eating everything in sight, consuming whole galaxies. The three Doctors are able to talk to the Eleventh Doctor, who needs help. Together the Doctors manage to fix things for the Time Capsule (ancient TARDIS) and reverse the damage. Everyone is then safe and able to go home.

The Lost Dimension Book Two is a good conclusion to the story. Book One had introduced the Eleventh Doctor’s journey to Gallifrey, and Book Two focuses on solving that mystery and concluding the story. Book Two also has more Doctors working together, with a minimum of the various aspects of the Doctors sniping at each other. Other than the Fourth Doctor and the Eighth Doctor, though, the Classic Doctors are still only seen in cameos, although having all the Doctors working together to rescue the Eleventh Doctor and reverse the damage caused by the TT Capsule works and makes this seem like a true multi-Doctor story. I enjoyed this graphic novel, though I did find it extremely confusing at times and I had to read it multiple times to really figure out what was going on. Still, recommended.

Read my Review of Doctor Who – The Lost Dimension Book One.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension Book One

  • Title: Doctor Who The Lost Dimension Book One
  • Authors: George Mann, Cavan Scott, Nick Abadzis
  • Artists: Rachael Stott, Adriana Melo, Cris Bolson, Mariano LaClaustra, Carlos Cabrera, Leandro Casco, INJ Culbard, Rod Fernandes, Marco Lesko, Dijjo Lima, Hernan Cabrera, IHQ Studios, Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line:  All-Doctors Crossover Special
  • Characters: Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, Twelfth Doctor, Rose, Gabby, Cindy, Alice, Nardol, Bill, Cameos by other Doctors and Companions
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/24/2019

The Lost Dimension is Titan Comics attempt to do a crossover story with all the Doctors both from the Classic Series and New Who. However, even at two volumes (second volume to be reviewed separately), it doesn’t work as well as it should. The stories end up being more vignettes than a single, coherent story, and at times stories aren’t even told in order, which is confusing – even after multiple reads. Jenny’s story is particularly told backward: first, we see her trying to save Captain Jack and Tara who have arrived on a planet that is full of volcanic activity and very dangerous. But Jenny is unable to rescue them and is sucked into a white void. She’s pushed out of the void by the Fifth Doctor’s TARDIS which is sucked into the void in her place. Jenny’s ship is damaged. But the next thing we see in the book is Jenny crashing into the Terrance Dicks library on Earth – in a different ship. Later, we learn what happened to Jenny after she was freed from the Void and how she got her Time Lord Bow Ship, which subsequently crashed into the library. The story would have been stronger if it had been told in order.

There are other vignettes – the Twelfth Doctor is there with Bill when Jenny crashes her ship into the library. Kate Stewart arrives with Osgood to slap a D-notice on the incident. But some sort of radiation affects Osgood and everyone else, so they are all saying, “Peace”.

The Ninth Doctor and Rose arrive on a pirate ship, captained by Vastra and Jenny. The ship crashes into an island hidden by a perception filter. It’s home to a colony of Silurians, but unfortunately for Vastra, these Silurians have a plague that can kill her. Still, the Doctor and Rose pick-up a psychic message from Captain Jack – which the Doctor ignores.

The Tenth Doctor, Cindy, and Gabby arrive on a space station, where they are welcomed with open arms. The Doctor fixes the station’s power overload, but he can’t do a lot about an invasion of Cybermen. That the Cybermen have been affected by the White Void and are acting weird just makes the situation that much more strange.

The Eleventh Doctor and Alice end-up on ancient Gallifrey, just as the Time Lords are beginning to experiment with time and space travel. Even though the Doctor warns Alice they must be extra careful and not interfere, the Doctor, well, does. He walks in on a TARDIS training session and uses calming persuasion instead of “breaking” to get the new time-space capsule to accept an interior dimension bubble. His success convinces Rassilon that the Doctor will be perfect for his test pilot program. Alice gets a warning about this from the Second Doctor, but when she gets to the training and testing center – it’s too late, the Doctor’s time/space capsule has exploded with him inside it.

We also see brief cameos of the Third Doctor in this volume as he briefly appears in one of his successors TARDISes. The story will be continued in the next volume.

Most of the stories in this volume felt somewhat disjointed and out of sync. Just as one was getting involved in the individual story of an individual Doctor and companions, that story would end on a cliffhanger. The cliffhangers usually weren’t resolved, so it left the reader hanging. Also, The Lost Dimension promises to feature all Twelve Doctors – but the Classic Doctors only appear in cameos, and the New Who Doctors get longer stories within the main storyline. Not that the New Who stories are bad – I enjoyed them. Titan Comics has excellent writers for their various New Who series. I was frustrated by the unresolved cliffhangers though. The general storyline involves this White Void that’s taking over space. Still, recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Operation Volcano

  • Title: Operation Volcano
  • Author: Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch (creator – Countermeasures characters), Richard Dinnick
  • Artists: Christopher Jones, Marco Lesko (colors), Jessica Martin, Charlie Kirchoff (colors), Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line:  Seventh Doctor
  • Characters: Seventh Doctor, Ace, Group Capt. Gilmore, Rachel, Allison
  • Collection Date: 2019
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/02/2019

Operation Volcano is a new volume in Titan Comics occasional graphic novel series featuring “Classic Doctors” from the BBC Series Doctor Who. This volume features the Seventh Doctor as played by Sylvester McCoy on the series, Ace and the Intrusion Countermeasures Group. There is one main story in the book and two shorter stories, plus a black and white First Doctor strip featuring the original TARDIS crew. This is a new volume in Titan Comics occasional Classic Doctors series.

The main story does not start out with the Doctor and Ace just landing somewhere and getting involved in events. Rather, they are called in by the Intrusion Countermeasures Group headed by Group Captain Ian Gilmore. Gilmore actually uses a rather ingenious “dead drop” to get the Doctor’s help, and the last story in the book is Ace and the Doctor getting the message.

Professor Rachel Jensen and Dr. Allison Williams discover an aboriginal cave painting that seems to show a spaceship leaving or being ejected from a volcano, when they discover the spaceship in the Australian desert they send for the Doctor and Group Captain Gilmore. Besides the Doctor’s receiving the message being shown a little out of order (we do see him meet Group Captian Gilmore in the library) we also see flash-forwards to Gilmore being found, alive (having been in stasis) in a spaceship orbiting the Earth in 2029.

Once Gilmore, his aide, the Doctor, and Ace arrive in Australia they meet a small group of Australian soldiers, Rachel and Allison. A nuclear arms protestor shows up, with an Australian Aboriginal – they are both trying to protect sacred sites which have already been the site of a British nuclear bomb testing several years ago. Ice makers and showers are installed to beat the heat of the Outback desert. All the women are lining up to use the showers, but complain because someone’s been in the shower awhile. A man enters the building and there is an attack. The man attacks a “snake” on the back of the other man’s back and the other man drops dead. The Doctor insists that the snake isn’t a snake at all but an extra-terrestrial being, furthermore he insists it’s “one of the good guys”. The same man who destroyed the being later attacks Ace. The Doctor organizes a trip into the Outback, providing lightweight radiation suits for everyone. Ace volunteers to commune with the aliens. She discovers that they are law officers, after some criminals, and that the criminals hid their ships in volcanos on Earth then used their ability to understand any language, manipulate people, and resemble the local standard of beauty – to manipulate and influence history.

By the time everyone returns to their base, there’s been an attack. Rachel and Allison are kidnapped, the Doctor and Ace create a sand skimmer that works like a catamaran on land to escape and they organize a rescue at the other alien ship in Mexico. This succeeds but with Gilmore on the wrong side of the alien door when the ship takes off.

The Doctor and Ace are able to help the good guy aliens return to their planet, the bad guy aliens are stopped, Rachel and Allison are rescued, and the Doctor even arrives at a medical station in 2029 to pick-up Gilmore and bring him back to his office.

The second story sees Mags the werewolf return to her home planet. A dictator has taken over through unfair elections and launched a campaign against werewolves. Werewolves have to wear armbands identifying themselves, and many are just being picked up and locked away. At first, it seems Ace and the Doctor are too late to help Mags rescue her sister and boyfriend (he was Mags’ boyfriend but now her sister is dating him). However, the Doctor has plans. He embarrasses the dictator both by exposing his cruelty to werewolves and by showing him to be a coward. The people rise up against the dictator, and the Doctor promises fair elections will be held. Mags gives her sister and her former boyfriend her blessing. The Doctor offers Mags a trip in the TARDIS.

The next story is one I’ve read before, maybe in a Free Comic Day event, but it has the Doctor and Ace tricking a group of war-like aliens to leave their bunker – so they can be arrested.

And the final story is a black and white story about the First Doctor, Susan, Barbara, and Ian – though primarily about Ian, Barbara, and Susan. Ian finds something that makes him think Susan thinks he and Barbara are barbarians. But Susan tells him it’s from when they first met before they traveled together. She then gives them a tour of the TARDIS before showing them her artwork.

I liked all four stories, including the one with Susan, Barbara, and Ian. The four stories don’t fit together though. They really have nothing to do with each other. It gives the feeling that the extra stories were added to make up the page count in the book. And I could have done with the main story being longer instead.

Still, this is a great collection. Not only are Ace and the Doctor in prime form, but the Intrusion Countermeasures group, first introduced in the aired episode, “The Remembrance of the Daleks” (but without a formal name or title for the group) are also well-written and in character. I liked seeing Ace working with two women, and all three were intelligent and professional. The good guy aliens who look like red and black snakes (except when they are flying, then they look like butterflies) were really cool. And I loved how Ace and the Doctor make no assumptions about them being “evil” based on looks. Actually, it’s the other aliens who manipulate their looks to give them an air of human perfection.

The theme of looks versus actions also continues on in Mags story and it’s even, in a way the theme of Susan, Barbara, and Ian’s story. So there is that.

This is also a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous book. All the characters from the television show Doctor Who look as they should. The artwork also has a painted quality to it. And the aliens are very cool looking, and their home planet is beautiful. The Australian desert also looks particularly pretty.

In short, I really enjoyed Operation Volcano and it is highly recommended.