Book Review – Doctor Who: The Darkening Eye

  • Title: The Darkening Eye
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Stewart Sheargold
  • Director: Ken Bentley
  • Characters: Nyssa, Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Adric
  • Cast: Sarah Sutton, Derek Carlyle
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/28/2016

**Spoiler Alert** The Darkening Eye is from the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line and features Sarah Sutton performing the story as the Fifth Doctor’s companion Nyssa. The story features as well, the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, and Adric. However, the wrap-around story features an older Nyssa who is speaking to a patient with a usually fatal disease. The patient is terrified because the only known treatment for his unnamed disease is so harsh it often kills the patient. Nyssa tells him she had his disease and survived, then she explains her tale.

The Fifth Doctor (as played on the BBC series Doctor Who by Peter Davison) lands the TARDIS on an empty freighter in space. But no sooner than they land than everyone, even the Doctor, wants to leave. The freighter was hit during a space battle and is open to space. There shouldn’t even be any atmosphere but there is – the first mystery. And the Doctor detects time distortion or an anomaly. Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric want to leave anyway, and the Doctor agrees, but they meet the species providing the atmosphere – Dar Traders there to claim salvage of the dead. Tegan is appalled. Adric immediately assumes their culture is their culture and not something they should judge. Nyssa is simply trying to understand when the ship is hit. The hulk is broken in half with the companions left with the Dar Traders and the Doctor on the other side with the TARDIS. The Doctor mimes heading back to the TARDIS – and Tegan, Nyssa, and Adric are left with the Dar Traders. Using a magical mirror – the Companions travel to the Dar Traders ship. As this story is told from Nyssa’s point of view, we don’t see the Doctor for awhile. On the Dar Traders ship, the traders want to determine if Nyssa is “alive” – they throw her into a cabinet and torture her. She survives this, and learns about the Dar Traders – they are obsessed with death, and will cure deadly diseases or injuries for a chance to see the “threshold” then coming back from death.

On the Dar Traders ship they also encounter an assassin who has a Dwarf Star Alloy cabinet that keeps him alive.

The group heads down to the nearby planet so Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric can find the Doctor and the TARDIS. First, Adric is stabbed by the assassin, but recovers. Nyssa is also attacked as they make their way through the war-torn planet to find the Doctor. The Dar Traders bring Nyssa back. The group finds the Doctor and the assassin tries to steal the Doctor’s life force to power his cabinet. Unfortunately, Dwarf Star Alloy and Time Lord physiology don’t mix. Nyssa tries to prevent the disaster and nearly pays with her life, again. But the Dar Traders gift helps her to come back from near death and recover. Everyone piles in to the TARDIS.

Nyssa, having explained to the patient she can help, offers – “Shall we trade?”

The Darkening Eye was a bit confusing, even on a second listen – though I must admit I did listen to this CD audiobook while driving in my car. And my commute is a short 22 minutes in good weather so it took a couple of trips to listen to the whole thing. Still, Sarah Sutton does an excellent job and it really is Nyssa’s story – the Doctor is barely there and the other companions are nearly minor characters. It’s just not as good a story as some of the Companion Chronicles.

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

Click this link to order The Darkening Eye on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Peri and the Piscon Paradox

  • Title: Peri and the Piscon Paradox
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Nev Fountain
  • Director: John Ainsworth
  • Characters: Peri, Fifth Doctor, Sixth Doctor
  • Cast: Nicola Bryant, Colin Baker
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/28/2016

I’ve enjoyed Big Finish’s Doctor Who and other audios for years. I enjoy the Companion Chronicles very much. But this story marks a milestone for me as it is the first time I have listened to an entire story in my car while driving back and forth to work and while doing my errands. I’ve had friends tell me I should try listening to audios in the car, but I always figured it would be too distracting while I’m driving – or that I’d miss too much of the story. Actually, I found that I could pay attention to the story and drive – so this will definitely be an experience I’ll repeat soon.

This double-CD story (which took me four days to listen to – the only time I’ve regretted having a short 25-minute commute) is told first from the point of view of younger Peri, and the Fifth Doctor, who land in L.A. in 2009, and the second CD is told from the point of view of an older Peri, with assistance from the Sixth Doctor. You also could listen to them in reverse order. It’s not recommended, but possible – and it some ways, if you know what’s coming from the older Peri’s point of view, some of what’s going on in the first disc makes more sense.

Disc 1 plays very much like a normal Doctor Who Adventure, told by younger Peri – the Doctor and Peri land in L.A. and discover an alien fish, whom the Doctor knows as a Piscon, is planning on stealing the Earth’s water, or something. But when Peri spots a curiously familiar woman – things get strange.

Disc 2 has the older Peri as the host of a relationship advice cable show, a very successful one. Dr. Peri Brown runs into the Sixth Doctor who shows up in the audience of her show. But she doesn’t remember him, or rather, she remembers their first adventure, and that’s it. The older Peri also meets her younger self. Soon, it’s Peri who spins a tale, an, um, fish tale, to tell Peri and the younger Doctor – because the Sixth Doctor accidentally causes the death of the Piscon Zarl before his younger self can defeat him. This, of course, creates a paradox, as the Doctor explains to Peri, who suggests using time travel to fix the mistake:

“What? Are you mad? I can’t go back in time to stop myself interfering with my own past, because that would mean I’d be interfering with my own past to stop myself interfering with my own past! Then where would we be?” ~ The Doctor

So the Sixth Doctor goes along with Peri’s plan: They will hide the dead Piscon in the trunk of her car, and the Doctor will disguise himself in the Piscon’s spacesuit. Peri will spin her story to her younger self, and the Doctor’s previous incarnation, and they will push the Fifth Doctor into defeating Zarl, thus returning history to what the Sixth Doctor remembers.

Well, that’s the plan, which, when listening you don’t know – all you know is some evil Fish are running around L.A., the fish police (Piscon police) are after Zarl, and older Peri is pretending to be working for an secret government “Men in Black”/X-files organization that deals with alien insurgents. As things shake out, younger Peri becomes very angry at and disillusioned with her older self. But older Peri is hiding quite a lot. And it’s in the last few chapters, or tracks of disc 2 that delivers quite the kick in the teeth. The truth of Peri’s past and long and winding road that led to her career as a relationship counselor. The story also explains Peri’s contradicting “ends” from the canon/aired episodes of Doctor Who. It’s a satisfactory, bittersweet, and sad ending, which I’m not going to spoil.

I recommend Peri and the Piscon Paradox but it’s not entirely the light-hearted adventure one might expect.

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

Click this link to order Peri and the Piscon Paradox on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Church and the Crown

  • Title: The Church and the Crown (#38)
  • Series: Big Finish Monthly Doctor Who Audios
  • Authors: Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison), Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant), Erimem (Caroline Morris)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/17/2013

Big Finish does an excellent job with their audio plays. Make no mistake… they are NOT audio-books, with a well-known actor reading the material – the Big Finish audio plays are full-fledged plays complete with music, sound effects, and honest-to-goodness acting. The quality of the individual stories varies, but it’s usually in the three to five out of five range.

The Church and the Crown was a surprise – because I loved it! I got it as part of my subscription package (back when I could afford a monthly subscription package) but when I listened I was floored. Big Finish have created a farce, a complete farce, and I mean that in the best possible way. This story was laugh out loud funny. Peri, it seems, is a dead ringer for Queen Anne of 17th Century France. So, yes, the story involves all the escapades of a French farce – doubles, secret identities, horse-drawn carriage chases (which work surprisingly well in the audio format). Nicola Bryant and Peter Davison are brilliantly deft at the comedy, and it makes you wonder what might have been if Peter had done one more season of Doctor Who at the BBC. This audio also features Caroline Morris as (ancient) Egyptian Princess, Erimem, a companion created specifically for the audios. I always quite liked Erimem.

I highly, highly recommend this audio. If you haven’t listened to any of the Big Finish Audios, and you like Doctor Who it’s an excellent place to start. If you’re a fan of audio books and plays and you haven’t tried the Big Finish lines (they have several) I highly recommend their work.

For more on Big Finish go to their website: www.bigfinish.com

Follow this link to download The Church and the Crown

Book Review – Doctor Who: Tip of the Tongue

  • Title: Tip of the Tongue
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Patrick Ness
  • Characters: Fifth Doctor, Nyssa
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/23/2016

**Spoiler Alert** Tip of the Tongue is book five in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – 12 Stories 12 Doctors collection of short books or novellas. It features the Fifth Doctor (as played by Peter Davison) and Nyssa, who journey to a small town in the US in the 1940s. Most of the story revolves around the people living in the town, especially a young German Jewish boy and a biracial girl. They’ve become outcasts as both are poor, living with single mothers, and, well, are not accepted by the WASPs of the town for unfair but obvious reasons.

This story gets the tone of the time period just right – and I could picture these characters perfectly. It also gets it’s vocabulary correct – the school Johnny and Nettie attend has a principal, not a headmaster etc. For once a Doctor Who story set in the US that doesn’t make basic mistakes of vocabulary, law, or common practices (like how to turn right on red – e.g. only after a full stop – where legal and not posted as otherwise), and the tone and the characters were so rich.

Unfortunately, that means the Doctor and Nyssa get short shift. Nyssa is in the story so little I had to flip through to see which Davison companion was in this story, when writing this review. And the Doctor has very little to do until the very end – when he strolls in like a police officer and “solves” the case and arrests the aliens responsible as well as releasing another group of alien slaves. But I get ahead of myself.

The story, taking place in a small town in the 1940s, involves a Jewish boy and a Biracial girl who become friends because they are both different and experience similar hardships. The boy, though, thinks he wants to be with a girl named Marisa – one of the popular ones at the school. So he takes $2.00, a fortune at the time, to buy a Truth Teller from his friend Nettie. The Truth Tellers are weird devices that are worn on the chin and will say a truthful, but ultimately hurtful thing about the person one is looking at. The Truth Tellers are brought into the town by Annabelle the daughter of the richest man in town, owner of the local shop, and the local factory. Annabelle is also the most popular girl in school – and a bit of a bully towards her friends. Marissa is, of course, one of her friends. The town finds the Truth Tellers to be annoying, but think they are fad that will go away on it’s own.

But then the Doctor and Nyssa show up, right after the mansion built by the richest couple in town blows up. The Doctor explains the couple and their daughter “Annabelle” are not humans at all, but aliens. And the Truth Tellers aren’t a cute gadget but aliens enslaved by the first group (who look like upward-standing human-sized sheep when not disguised. I loved that description. Only Doctor Who would have human-sized sheep as evil aliens.) The Doctor takes care of everything, and Marissa steals Annabelle’s fur-collared coat. Johnny realizes he doesn’t care for Marissa at all, and smiles at his real friend, Nettie.

The story of Jonny and Nettie, oddly enough, reminded me of the classic children’s book, A Bridge to Terabithia but I think that was more the tone of the book than the plot. I was a child when I read A Bridge to Terabithia and although I know I loved it – I don’t remember much about it now. However, as a Doctor Who title, the lack of the Doctor and Nyssa was a bit of an issue in this short story or novella. Still, it’s part of a set, so enjoy.

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 – Doctor Who: Lords of the Storm

  • Title: Lords of the Storm
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: David A. McIntee
  • Characters:  Fifth Doctor, Turlough
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/12/2015

The Lords of the Storm is a original novel in the Doctor Who the Missing Adventures series, featuring the unusual combination of the Fifth Doctor as played by Peter Davison on the BBC television series, and his companion, Turlough. I enjoyed seeing Turlough and just Turlough as the Doctor’s companion in this book – it’s an unusual combination (one I’ve only seen in one Big Finish audio adventure and no other novels), it also means there’s less of the “the companions and the Doctor get separated and spend half the story looking for each other” running around. Not that I don’t enjoy that too!

This story is set on a pair of Indian colony moons (Indian as in the country of India) that circle a gas giant planet in the far future. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of the moons, their star system is about to be caught in the crossfire of the long-running Sontaran/Rutan War.

The Doctor and Turlough arrive, almost by mistake, and quickly become involved in events – but coming at them sideways, not head on, which made for an interesting story.

This book also gives a lot of information about the Sontarans and the Rutan, with whole chapters written from Sontaran or Rutan point of view. I enjoyed learning more about the Rutan, their collective mind, and their interesting method of reproduction (they spontaneously divide into exact copies), and their space ships were fascinating. The Sontarans, being a clone race, had considerably less individuality than the humans and were in a sense less interesting. I did find it interesting though that lower-level Sontaran combat troops, basically the cannon fodder, had their brains literally bred out of them. They were bred to follow orders blindly, without question, and even without regard for their own lives. The officers were slightly more intelligent, but not much. And the Sontarans totally felt that their society was better than that of humans with their individuality. The Rutan, as literally a single group organism that was split into many parts didn’t even seem to understand human individuality.

All of this is set against a pair of terraformed moons (well one terraformed and the other partially terraformed) settled by India and still using the Caste system. I actually learned something about India and Indian culture reading this book, which was interesting to note. And I really liked the main guest character, Nur, a pilot who’s father was randomly appointed the governor of the terraformed moon, which means he’s in charge and since Nur is female, she’s expected to be a good-will ambassador (touring hospitals, etc.). Nur who is fiercely independent despite her background, despises the fluffy work she has to do – and points out she’s not good at it. However, the hospital tour she takes at the beginning of the story does provide information that’s important later.

The Sontarans basically have a plot to trap the Rutan Host, but it’s not a very good one – and besides causing a lot of death, it’s success would destroy the gas giant, not to mention the moons orbiting it. The Doctor, Turlough, Nur, and Shama Nur’s fiance (arranged) have to figure out and then stop the Sontarans’ plan.

Although the book was slow in places, I liked the setting, I liked the featured guest characters, it was fun to learn more about the Rutan (a frequently mentioned but seldom seen Doctor Who monster), and I enjoyed learning a bit about the culture of India. The glossary in the back of the book was very useful. But I did find it harder to get through the chapters about the Sontarans.

Chronologically, this Missing Adventure novel precedes the New Adventure Shakedown.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Crystal Bucephalus

  • Title: The Crystal Bucephalus
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Craig Hinton
  • Characters:  Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Turlough, Kamelion
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 9/17/2015

The Crystal Bucephalus is one of several books in Virgin Publishing’s Doctor Who the Missing Adventures series. It’s actually the first book in the series I read many years ago about the time it was published. All I remember from the first time I read it was that it was a bit confusing. Re-reading the book now, I was able to understand the novel, but I still thought the end was rushed.

The Crystal Bucephalus features the Fifth Doctor (as played by Peter Davison), Tegan, Turlough, and eventually, Kamelion. For once, the novel doesn’t start with the TARDIS landing someplace and the Doctor and company getting involved in local affairs. The Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough are enjoying a fine meal in France when they are literally picked up, only to appear in The Crystal Bucephalus, an extremely exclusive tenth millennium time-traveling restaurant, where the movers and shakers of the galaxy make their deals to form the galaxy.

The Crystal Bucephalus is a unique restaurant, it consists of a series of cubicles which can be projected back in time to any restaurant or other exclusive recreational area. There, the customers of the restaurant can eat, drink, and be merry without affecting history because their “reality quotient” is .5 – and when they return to the restaurant’s present, even their image is forgotten by those in in the time period they visited (time re-sets itself as if the time travellers were never there).

But one of the patrons has been murdered, and in the emergency retrieval of that patron, Arrestis, and his mistress – the Doctor and his companions are brought to the Bucephalus too.

There, the Doctor and Turlough are taken to the Maitre’D, while Tegan “escapes” with Arrestis’s “girl” – actually an agent of the Intent (but more about that later).

The Doctor reveals to the Maitre’D, that he is the Benefactor – the person who endowed the money to build the restaurant. The Doctor also asks to see Alex Lassiter, the time scientist responsible for making the Bucephalus work.

Politically, the Galaxy in the Tenth Millennium is split between three groups – the Enclave, a group of mobsters who run all crime in the Galaxy, The Lazarus Intent – a religious group with considerable Political Power, several small Empires of Reptilian Races (Draconians, Earth Reptiles, Martians, etc.) who have been steadily losing power, influence and territory, and the remainder of the Earth Federation/Empire. But the real power players are the Lazarus Intent and the Enclave. And, as Arrestis was the leader of the Enclave, and his mistress an agent for the Intent – it could be a charged murder mystery right there.

However, the Doctor soon discovers Arrestis is a clone – in a time where all cloning technology and research had been banned so long most people don’t even know what it is. (Tegan at one point explains what cloning is to someone.) The Lazarus Intent strictly forbids cloning and all research into cloning technology.

The Doctor also is intrigued by the technology of the Bucephalus because it’s very close to a working, TARDIS-like, time machine. Soon, though, other murders take place (it becomes confusing because most of the “murders” end-up with no one actually dead – just temporarily misplaced in time – such are the hazards of a time machine that’s breaking down). The Bucephalus uses Legions to pilot it’s time bubbles in the Time Vortex, but one is attacked and barely saved by the Doctor, then another is killed (really).

However, the plot does still get confusing – people “dying” but who are alive and trapped in another time. Or on the time machine operated by Matisse, Lassiter’s ex-wife and previous co-developer on the Bucephalus, now agent of the Enclave. Even the Doctor at one point is time-scooped by Matisse and dropped on a frozen planet of intelligent dog-like creatures, where, once rescued – the Doctor spends five years opening then building up the reputation of a restaurant so it will be included in the Carte d’Locales of the Bucephalus so he can find his way back.

The plot does eventually settle down into it’s two many points: the tangled love life of Monroe, Matisse and Lassiter (Monroe and Matisse are both his ex-wives), and the plan of the head of the Enclave to also take over the Lazarus Intent. And a few truly bizarre time travel hijinks – that work, but are a bit strange.

Overall, though at times it was a bit confusing, there was an almost philosophical bent to The Crystal Bucephalus which was interesting and different. The characters were well-written and written like their television counterparts. Turlough, especially was well-written (he shows up in very few Past Doctor Adventures which focused on Davison’s early TARDIS crew or Peri). It was also neat to see Kamelion, I really think this is the only novel I’ve read that features him.