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!

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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: Spore

  • Title: Spore
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Alex Scarrow
  • Characters: Eighth Doctor
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/03/2016

Doctor Who – Spore is the eighth book in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 12 Books 12 Doctors collection and features the Eighth Doctor as played by Paul McGann. The Doctor has no companion in this story. The Doctor lands in Nevada in the dessert and immediately runs into a military investigative team. They are all in protective gear, but Major Platt jumps to the conclusion that The Doctor is from the CDC in Atlanta, this bit of mistaken identity doesn’t actually last long though and the Doctor ends up introducing himself as being from UNIT – which gives him the run of the operation.

The Doctor goes to the nearby town of Ft. Casey, where everyone is dead and only a black goo remains – of all organic matter (plants, people, even animals). The Doctor recognizes the signs – it’s an ancient spore which once terrified Gallifrey, killing thousands of Gallifreyans. In the town, the Doctor meets Cap’t. Evelyn Chan, the soul survivor of Major Platt’s original team. The Doctor explains what the Spore is – but far from a simple organic virus or biological entity, it’s designed. Whether it was a weapon or a form of terraforming is unknown. However, the surprising thing is that after the first stage of gathering organic material, and the second stage of making organic constructs for defense, it begins the third stage – constructing a brain – this brain will ask The Question. If the Question is answered correctly, the entity will self-destruct, leaving the intelligent species alone. But if the species answers incorrectly – the entire planet will succumb to biological destruction. The Doctor enters into conversation with the entity and gambles.

This was a good short story. The idea of an intelligent virus or entity was unusual. And the story, though at first sounding like The Andromeda Strain actually ends in a much better way and is more intelligent.

Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The 12 Doctors of Christmas

  • Title: The Twelve Doctors of Christmas
  • Series: BBC Books – Special Themed Short Story Collection
  • Author: Various
  • Note: Includes paintings for each story
  • Characters: One story per Doctor, with companions
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/22/2016

The Twelve Doctors of Christmas is a wonderful, wonderful book. Everything about this book is just awesome and it would make for a great Christmas gift for Doctor Who fans young and old. The presentation of this book is impressive – it’s a cloth-bound hard cover with incredible full-color art paintings – one per story. There is one short story per Doctor and one painting per story. The paintings are bound in groups, though, rather than as front pieces for each story, so you read four stories then get four pages of gorgeous art. Still, the full-color paintings are beautiful and aptly illustrate each story.

There are twelve short stories in the collection – one per Doctor, and the stories also feature many of the Doctor’s well-known companions. Each story also has a theme of Christmas – but it’s interpreted by the various authors in a broad way, so we get stories that range from Barbara and Ian “going home for the holidays” to the Seventh Doctor and Ace trying to rescue a crashed alien from Macy’s at Christmas (after hours) and trying to also save the few workers in the store. All the stories are inventive and approach the Holiday differently. It’s a wonderful collection.

This was an uplifting and fun read – and I could see myself re-reading it every year. It’s a beautiful presentation as a book, a great gift, and an enjoyable read. I simply loved it – and it was good to read at this time of year.

Stories, Doctor, Companion(s), Authors

  • All I Want for Christmas (First Doctor, Barbara, Ian) – Jacqueline Rayner
  • A Comedy of Terrors (Second Doctor, Jamie, Zoë) – Colin Brake
  • The Christmas Inversion (Third Doctor, Jo Grant, UNIT) – Jacqueline Rayner
  • Three Wise Men (Fourth Doctor) – Richard Dungworth
  • Sontar’s Little Helpers (Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Turlough) – Mike Tucker
  • Fairy Tale of New New York (Sixth Doctor, Mel) – Gary Russell
  • The Grotto (Seventh Doctor, Ace) – Mike Tucker
  • Ghost of Christmas Past (Eighth Doctor) – Scott Handcock
  • The Red Bicycle (Ninth Doctor, Rose) – Gary Russell
  • Loose Wire (Tenth Doctor) – Richard Dungworth
  • The Gift (Eleventh Doctor) – Scott Handcock
  • The Persistence of Memory (Twelfth Doctor) – Colin Brake

Book Review – Eighth Doctor Vol. 1 – A Matter of Life and Death

  • Title: A Matter of Life and Death
  • Author: George Mann
  • Artists: Emma Vieceli, Hi-Fi, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line: 8th Doctor
  • Characters: Eighth Doctor, Josephine “Josie” Day
  • Collection Date: 2016
  • Collected Issues: Issues # 1-5
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/22/2016

**spoiler alert** A Matter of Life and Death introduces a new collection of Doctor Who adventures to Titan Comics line of Doctor Who graphic novels, this time featuring the Eighth Doctor as played by Paul McGann in the TV Movie, the audio adventures by Big Finish, the BBC Eighth Doctor original novel series, and the televised short, “The Night of the Doctor”. This novel consists of related short stories.

The Doctor arrives at his “house” in Wales to retrieve a book. But he finds the house is occupied by an artist, Josephine “Josie” Day. He and Josie find the book he was looking for, along with a slip of paper in the handwriting of one of the Doctor’s other incarnations with a list of times and places. However, before he can do much about it, Josie’s paintings start to come to life and the figures – which resemble some of the Doctor’s foes – attack the local village. The Doctor and Josie stop the attack, with Josie using her art to create a painting of the Doctor and to rescue the village.

Next it’s off to outer space where the TARDIS brings the Doctor and Josie to a planetoid occupied by cat people – who are under attack by sentient crystals. Not only is the crystal bombardment causing damage and killing the cat people outright, but even a slight wound turns deadly as a cat person is turned into a crystal Spherion and Josie is wounded by a crystal almost immediately. The Doctor, however, brokers a peace between the two intelligent species – discovering that the Spherions didn’t realize that the Cat People were intelligent. The Spherions had also been attacked by a different species and their breeding planet destroyed – and they found the Cat People and their planet (and the series of escape planets the Cat People colonize) as perfect hosts for their seedlings. The Doctor gets the Spherions to realize what they are doing, then finds both species their own planets.

Next, it’s off to Victorian England in 1866, and a creepy Victorian magic show. There, the magician, Silversmith, astounds audiences by entering a mirror on one side of the stage, and emerging from it on the other. He also has audience members do the same thing. The Doctor and Josie notice there’s something strange about this, and the audience members do not seem the same after their experience. Silversmith is literally a mirror image and he sends partial images out to attack. The Doctor, with help from Josie, frees the originals and traps the mirror images back inside the mirror.

In 1932, the Doctor and Josie arrive at a Manor House for a party – but the party is attacked by branches and trees, and even the TARDIS is attacked by small imp-like beings called Nix. Josie and the Doctor guard the family’s young son – who tells him a family legend. The Doctor uses the legend to discover what is really going on and again nearly everyone is rescued.

In the last story, the Doctor and Josie head to a futuristic spa where the ultra-rich not only relax and rejuvenate – but acquire new, synthetic bodies. But when the bodies rise up, claiming their right to freedom – it looks like trouble. Again, the Doctor is able to avert disaster. Josie’s origins are explained, and although they return to the Doctor’s cottage in a Welsh village where he found Josie, the Doctor decides he will travel with Josie for awhile.

I enjoyed A Matter of Life and Death very much. It’s a happy, enjoyable story. The Doctor is able to rescue pretty much everyone. Josie is a fun companion – I love her bright blue hair, it’s striking on the page. I do think it’s odd that Titan is using the name “Josephine” as that’s been used for a companion before on Doctor Who (the Third Doctor’s companion, Josephine “Jo” Grant) but at least her nickname’s different. But the effect of the Doctor’s successes make the book very happy. It’s a light-hearted adventure story which makes a change from the darker-themed other books (that is, the 10th, 11th, and 12th Doctor series of graphic novels). I hope this line continues, as McGann’s Doctor is one of my favorites, and he’s perfectly suited to alternative media than TV. McGann’s Eighth Doctor has been successful in audio plays (voiced by McGann) for Big Finish and in books for BBC Books.

The art in this graphic novel is gorgeous, simply gorgeous. Again, I love Josie’s bright blue hair. The art has a very real look to it. There are also several full-page cover spreads in the issue that are simply gorgeous. I loved the art, it’s some of the best so far from Titan Comics in the Doctor Who line. There is also a miniature cover gallery at the end.