Non-Fiction Book Review – Doctor Who: The Programme Guide

  • Title: Doctor Who: The Programme Guide
  • First Edition: Target Books (1989)
  • Fourth Edition: Mystery Writers of America Presents iUniverse Inc.; Originally Published by W.H. Allen & Co. PLC and Virgin Publishing Ltd. (2003)
  • Author: Jean-Marc Lofficier (4th edition – Jean-Marc Lofficier & Randy Lofficier)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/15/2012

I couldn’t find my edition (published in 1989 with a foreward by John Nathan-Turner) of this book here on GoodReads but this (Fourth ed.) appears to be the closest I can get.

This is the best Doctor Who episode guide or program guide out there. Unfortunately it is out of date, and long out of print, but I’d like to see it brought back in an updated form.

Reasons that this book is superior to similar ones.

1. Full descriptions of all episodes from the very first episode, “An Unearthly Child” to “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”; episode titles and cast lists for all episodes including the last season of the Classic Series (up to “Survival”).

2. Full cast lists for all episodes that are covered.

3. True pocket size, it’s a normal paperback size.

4. Easy look-up format.

5. Includes production codes and number of episodes per story.

6. Very little to no opinion on the episodes. This really is a “just the facts” episode guide.

By the way, I have enjoyed many of the essay collections, especially recent ones, that are out there for Doctor Who but this one stays on my desk even though it’s out of date, because sometimes you just want to look something up.

Highly recommended, and one I’d like to see updated to include the New Who series.

Addendum: Fourth Edition – I now also have the Fourth Edition, which is a trade paperback size, so a bit less handy than the original paperback. Both copies stay on my desk. The fourth edition includes plot descriptions of Sylvester McCoy’s final season as the Doctor, full cast information (both actors and the characters they play), the production code, and the number of episodes and air dates – information included for every story of the original series. The book also lists the target novelization of every story, and in some cases the available video tape of the story (yes, OK, the book’s a date out of date for video editions, but it’s very worth it as an episode/program guide with factual not opinionated information about Doctor Who. If you are interested in factual information about Doctor Who on DVD you can’t go wrong with The Classic Doctor Who Video Compendium by Paul Smith.) In addition, the Fourth Edition of The Doctor Who Programme Guide includes the full cast and summary information for the Eighth Doctor TV Movie starring Paul McGann. The Fourth Edition also includes summaries and production information for Doctor Who The Missing Bits – various plays, unproduced scripts available as novelizations, and official BBC radio plays. The book does not include the Big Finish audios (a guide to those would be a book in an of itself, and probably one of several volumes). It also does not include the recent BBC Radio audio books (actors from the series reading books from the BBC Books New Who book series, such as The Stone Rose, or audio plays produced by the BBC. However, like the rest of the book, the Missing Bits section includes summaries, production information, cast information (for plays and audio adventures), novelization information, and the like – just like the rest of the book. The Fourth Edition is a fine updating of the original, but it doesn’t replace the original for me. Still both editions are highly recommended, and the Fourth Edition is probably easier to find.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Chimes of Midnight

  • Title: The Chimes of Midnight
  • Series: Doctor Who Main Range (Eighth Doctor Mini-Series 2)
  • Author: Robert Shearman
  • Director: Barnaby Edwards
  • Characters: Eighth Doctor, Charley
  • Cast: Paul McGann, India Fisher
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/27/2016

I originally listened to this Big Finish Eighth Doctor Audio Play when it came out in 2002. I decided to re-listen to it over Christmas, and I’m glad I did – it is a very good story to listen to around Christmas.

The Chimes of Midnight features Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and India Fisher as his companion, Charlotte (Charley) Pollard. The play feels like Upstairs, Downstairs (the original from the 1970s featuring Jean Marsh as the Lady’s Maid, Rose) crossed with Sapphire and Steel with a dash of a 1920s British Murder Mystery thrown in. The story takes place on Christmas Eve as well. It’s one of the best conceived and realised audio plays that Big Finish have done. It’s also full-cast audio drama, not an audiobook.

The Doctor and Charley land at what appears to be an abandoned Edwardian House. But soon they are pulled into the House in an earlier period: 1906. In 1906, the staff below stairs are busily getting ready for Christmas. The scullery maid, Edith, is murdered and the staff quickly assume that The Doctor, as a guest of his Lordship, is from Scotland Yard. Or maybe he’s a famous amateur sleuth. And the servants think Edith’s death was suicide – when it was clearly murder.

As the story develops – a death occurs every hour as the Grandfather Clock chimes; but at midnight the entire story loops around and resets. Edith is always the first victim, but other servants are murdered as the loop goes around and around again. The murders also always represent the particular servant’s job and become more and more bizarre as the loop goes around and around.

But the top of the loop is always different, allowing the Doctor and Charley to gain more information about just what is going on – and to learn from it. The Doctor even gets so frightened by the paradox and time loop that he tries to leave – only to be caught in the trap again.

I won’t reveal exactly what’s happening, because I don’t want to spoil it – but it’s an excellent story, with a wonderful conclusion, and I recommend it. Also, the atmosphere really works. It’s helpful to have listened to Charley’s first story, Storm Warning prior to listening to Chimes of Midnight. Still, very highly recommended.

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

Click this link to order The Chimes of Midnight on on Download, for the current special price of $2.99.

Note: For this release only, a Limited (collector’s) edition on vinyl is also available, The Chimes of Midnight Special Edition.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Invaders from Mars

  • Title: Invaders from Mars
  • Series: Doctor Who Main Range (Eighth Doctor Mini-Series 2)
  • Author: Mark Gatiss
  • Director: Mark Gatiss
  • Characters: Eighth Doctor, Charley
  • Cast: Paul McGann, India Fisher, Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Katy Manning
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/26/2017

Big Finish’s audio CD, Invaders from Mars is one of my favorites of the Eighth Doctor range CDs that I’ve listened to. It features Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and India Fisher as Charley, with guest appearances by Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson. This is a full-cast audio play; with music, sound effects, and the actors performing their roles – it is not a audio book read by a celebrity.

Although Charley has an appointment to make in Singapore 1930, the TARDIS lands her and the Doctor in New York in 1938. They almost immediately stumble upon a dead body of a private detective, and are caught-up in a plot involving mobsters. The Doctor quickly takes on the role of the dead detective, only to discover the woman who hires him to find her uncle isn’t his niece after all, but rather, a Russian assassin out to kill or return to Russia a defecting scientist and expert in atomic power.

Meanwhile, Orson Welles and his Mercury Players are preparing to present HG Wells “War of the Worlds” as a radio play. Yes, that infamous broadcast. And just to keep things interesting, a couple of aliens have invaded Brooklyn, but only to threaten Earth with an intergalactic protection racket that isn’t that far off from how the local mobsters work.

The guest characters in this play speak with harsh New York/New Jersey accents and use slang straight out of pulp novels and really bad films from the 1930s. It would be annoying if it wasn’t for the fact that the entire play is just so much fun. Somehow, when the entire thing is a parody anyway – little errors can be noticed but it’s not as upsetting. The major error is “the CIA” plays a major factor in this story, which is set in the US in 1938. However, and I checked this to make sure, the CIA wasn’t founded until 1947 (I knew it grew out of the World War II spies). Second, the CIA is the foreign intelligence service, not the domestic one, that’s the FBI. The CIA isn’t supposed to even operate on US soil. The FBI did exist in the 1930s (think of the Untouchables) and was mostly involved in tracking down bootleggers and chasing mobsters. If the story had simply substituted FBI for CIA, the plot would have made a lot more sense. Also, at one point a female character tells a male character, “Why don’t you stand for Congress?” You don’t “stand for” Congress, you run for Congress. (You stand for MP, apparently, but the US doesn’t have MPs.) It caught my ear as a basic mistake. So, yeah, there are some grammatical and usage terms that just aren’t correct – and it makes no sense for an agency that didn’t even exist until nearly ten years after the story is set to play such a big part in the story.

However, that can be forgiven considering just how much fun this audio is. I will go with it and say, yeah, OK, so this is like one of those bad historical Hollywood films that gets everything wrong – because its fun. So still highly recommended.

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

Click this link to order Invaders from Mars 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: 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 – 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: 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.