Book Review – Doctor Who: The Anchronauts

  • Title: The Anachronauts
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 2 CDs
  • Author: Simon Guerrier
  • Director: Ken Bentley
  • Characters: Sara Kingdom, Steven Taylor, First Doctor
  • Cast: Jean Marsh, Peter Purves
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/25/2018

**Spoiler Alert** The Anachronauts is a two-disc story in the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line. It features the characters of the First Doctor, Steven, and Sara Kingdom and takes place during “The Daleks Master Plan” aired episode. The Doctor, Sara and Steven are in the TARDIS when there is a collision with another vehicle. The TARDIS crash lands on a desert island and meets the crew of the other ship – which has been completely destroyed in the crash. This other ship was an experimental time ship. The TARDIS is nowhere to be seen. The new crew and the Doctor’s crew join together, although the time pilots don’t entirely trust the Doctor and company. They trek through the jungle, in the rain, find a cave, and locate the TARDIS food machine – sitting by itself in the jungle. Sara and Steven are convinced the TARDIS broke apart in the crash. The two groups stay in the cave overnight.

During their stay, however, they are attacked by what can only be described as a Banshee – a wailing figure with long, white hair. The Doctor calls this figure a “Time Sprite” but says it’s a myth, a fairy tale, something that does not exist.

The next morning the Doctor and Steven head out to find the TARDIS. Sara stays behind. The Doctor leads Steven straight to the time pilot’s ship, which he wants to investigate – where they run into the “Time Sprite” again. They return to the cave, only to find Sara missing. Steven confronts the time pilots and gets shot.

Meanwhile, Sara and the female leader of the Time Pilots climb a cliff to get a better view. The Time Pilots leader takes readings to try to determine where they are, then sets a homing beacon. Sara gets hurt climbing back down and Steven gets shot confronting the Time Pilots.

In part 2, after a bit of a review, Sara and the leader of the Time Pilots return to their ship for medical supplies for Steven. When they get back – Steven is fine, it’s as if he was never shot. Sara falls asleep and wakes feeling better than ever, her broken arm healed.

The Doctor tells everyone the Island was an illusion, a dream – and they all wake on the floor of the TARDIS. But the leader of the Time Pilots attacks – trying to pilot the TARDIS and eventually firing a gun – at Steven.

Sara and Steven wake up in the dark and fog in a city devastated by war – and on the run, pursued by armed police, they quickly find shelter. They are in East Berlin in 1966. They hide, and run, but are eventually picked up by the police for having no papers. They are interrogated but can’t say anything – Germans and Russians in 1966 aren’t going to believe they are time travelers. They are jailed but escape. They are captured again. Sara tells Steven they will betray each other, betray the Doctor, just to get the torture to stop. So Steven decides to get ahead of the game and tell the Stasi he and Sara wish to defect. To back up his claim, he hands over a piece of paper with basic scientific information from his own (future) time period.

Sara and Steven are taken by car to a house in the suburbs and told to wait. Sara, meanwhile, every time she and Steven are jailed, is freaked out by hearing a creature and claims to see it outside the house. Steven tells her she’s imagining it. When the Stasi come around, asking questions and offering the two a house and a weekly allowance – Steven suddenly becomes belligerent. He refuses to answer questions. Sara is perplexed.

The two are separated, and when Steven return to Sara, he apologizes and tells her it’s not real – this whole scenario is fake, like the one on the island. And, he tells her – she’s also not real, part of the illusion. Sara screams but fades away. The Doctor, what Sara had seen as a mysterious creature, pulls Steven out of the illusion. They rescue Sara from her dream, which was quite the happy one.

In the TARDIS console room, the Doctor explains they were in cells in the TARDIS – continuing to heal from the collision, and that the time pilots are still in cells. He pilots the TARDIS to the Cobalt Moon, long after all the cobalt is mined, and drops the time pilots off. There is a beautiful pink sea and sky, and a nearby city – the pilots will be fine. The Doctor, Sara, and Steven return to confront the Daleks.

Peter Purves (Steven) and Jean Marsh (Sara) take turns narrating each of the four parts of this adventure, but also play their own characters during the sections that the other is narrating. And Peter also plays the First Doctor. So, this story – with music and sound effects as well, is closer to a full-cast audio drama than the typical, performed, audiobook style of the Companion Chronicles. This is also a good story – plenty of twists and turns, with excellent performances by Peter Purves and Jean Marsh.

Recommended.

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

Click this link to order The Anachronauts on CD or Download.

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

Advertisements

Book Review – Doctor Who: Here There Be Monsters

  • Title: Here There Be Monsters
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Andy Lane
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Susan, First Doctor, Barbara, Ian, First Mate
  • Cast: Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Stephen Hancock (The First Mate)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/15/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Here There Be Monsters is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line of stories. The companion chronicles feature stories told from the companion’s point of view. This one is told by Carole Ann Ford as Susan. Susan’s never been one of my favorite companions (I preferred Barbara in the very first Team TARDIS). However, Carole Ann Ford does a really good job here, and she plays Susan in a slightly more mature fashion. This story seems to be set just before “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” – when Susan leaves.

The TARDIS is hit by some strange energy in space and has to materialize immediately. Upon landing the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara leave the TARDIS and find themselves on a spaceship occupied by a plant. The plant’s leaves follow them as they move through the ship, and they even find a secondary control room where the plant is operating the controls with vines and branches.

The TARDIS crew follows the plant’s branches and vines until they find the main control room. There they find the captain of the vessel, a “vegetable life form” named Captain Rostrum. The ship is a Benchmarking Vessel, named Nevermore – which is punching holes through the galaxy, creating artificial black holes as an aid to navigation. The Doctor is appalled. Not only are black holes dangerous – but by punching holes through the fabric of space and time – Rostrum could destroy the galaxy. Rostrum steadfastly insists the process is safe and he must complete his mission. The Doctor insists he’s wrong and messing about with dangerous forces he doesn’t understand. Susan gets bored and wanders off.

Susan wanders off and meets a character we will later learn is called, “The First Mate”. The area this man is working in is dead – and the leaves are brown and falling away. Ian, Barbara, Susan and the Doctor had found similar dead areas in the ship while exploring. Susan and the stranger talk and he encourages her to spread her own wings, to live her own life, and to stop always accepting her grandfather’s word. While talking, Susan starts to feel weak. The First Mate then tells her the engines where he is working, emit radiation that’s dangerous to her – and she should leave. Reluctantly she does, and she returns to the control room.

When Susan arrives at the control room, she finds that everyone is staring out the viewport at a spaceship. The spaceship is attacking. As a scientific vessel, the Nevermore has no weapons, no defenses, not even shields. A group of missiles is heading towards the ship. However, just as it seems everyone is heading for certain death, a rip in space appears. This tear drags the missiles and the spaceship into it. Everyone on the Nevermore hears the message from the captain of the formerly attacking vessel. The benchmarking vessel’s artificial black holes had really messed up the ship’s home galactic system’s trade routes. This was viewed as an unprovoked attack. The Doctor uses this to try to convince Rostrum he’s right about the dangers of the benchmarking process but Rostrum doesn’t believe him. He is a stubborn vegetable.

Susan wanders off again, and this time she again ignores the First Mate’s warnings for her to leave when she feels ill from being near him. She ends up collapsing. Barbara finds her and gets her back to the control room.

However, the Doctor and Ian are now wondering about the dead areas in the ship, and they ask for a map of the dead areas so they can explore. Susan had told them all about the First Mate, but Rostrum insists no one else is on the ship – and that if there was, they must be part of the Doctor’s party. Soon, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan are searching for the First Mate.

They find him – and find he’s from the other universe, the one on the other side of the rip that’s appeared in space. The benchmarking process is devastating to his universe and he’s been sent to stop it. And because he’s from another universe, he drains energy from people in this universe, including Rostrum. So it’s the First Mate who’s caused the dead areas on the ship.

When the Doctor tells Rostrum this, he isn’t believed – after all, Rostrum can’t see the First Mate.
But Susan talks to the First Mate and with the rest of the TARDIS crew, they decide they must end the Benchmarking process. The First Mate can shift back to his “natural” state – which will destroy everything within a light-year. The TARDIS crew runs for the TARDIS and barely makes it. The TARDIS protects them from the explosion. The benchmarking ship is destroyed, and the rip sealed. Just before he is also destroyed, the First Mate sends out a message – praising the courage of the people he met on the other side of the universe, stating they are not monsters. However, he suggests that people from his own side of the universe not travel to the universe due to the basic incompatibility of their species (e.g. the energy-draining thing).

I liked this story. It runs a bit shorter than some Companion Chronicles but the comparison between early navigators trying to discover how to determine longitude when sailing, and the benchmarking process were really interesting. I also loved the idea of a plant crewing a vessel in space. Stephen Hancock brings the First Mate to life particularly well, even if at first I thought it was David Warner (he sounds just like him). Carole Ann Ford did a particularly good job as Susan too. Finally, this story harkens back to the Age of Discovery with its title, Here There Be Monsters – the old way of marking off the unexplored areas of maps. The Doctor, as he talks about the dangers of benchmarking, talks about the universe as fabric, with weak spots. And beneath the fabric is an unseen place – where monsters come from. The Doctor’s worry is the universe could be destroyed, at the very least – rips could allow the monsters through. The First Mate also states that in his universe it was assumed that the “other universe” was occupied by monsters. As both the Doctor and the First Mate learn – the Other is not a monster. All you need is to talk to someone in a non-threatening environment to learn that people are people no matter what. The audio also plays the captain of the other ship’s message, which assumes the benchmarking vessel is aggressive and attacking without reason, to the First Mate’s message that states that the damage was an accident, and the people of the other universe aren’t monsters but courageous – and helpful in ending the damaging program, against each other. The two messages are polar opposites. And it’s the First Mate’s message, the message from a being from another universe, that correctly describes the Doctor and his TARDIS crew, as trying to help. This was a good story and I recommend it.

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

Click this link to order Here There Be Monsters on CD or Download.

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

Doctor Who – Lost in Time Collection

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Season: Multiple
  • Episodes: Multiple
  • Discs: 3
  • Network: BBC
  • Cast: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

The Lost in Time Collection also known as The Missing Years Collection is one thing from Doctor Who that I actually avoided collecting for a long time, and even once I bought the collection on DVD, it was a while before I sat down to watch it. This is a collection of incomplete Doctor Who stories, so I thought it would be hard to watch, or at least confusing. It’s definitely weird to watch partial stories, but it’s also amazing how well the individual episodes stand up.

Disc 1 is the William Hartnell Years and includes:

  • The Crusade Parts 1, 3 (with the audio only for parts 2 and 4)
  • The Daleks Master Plan (parts 2, 3, 11)
  • The Celestial Toymaker (part 4)

Special Features include:

  • Surviving Clips (usually censor clips)
  • 8mm off-screen footage
  • 8mm location footage
  • Who’s Who

Disc 2 and 3 is the Patrick Troughton Years and includes:

Disc 1 (Troughton)

  • The Moonbase (Episode 1, 3 audio only), Episodes 2 and 4
  • The Underwater Menace – ep. 3
  • The Faceless Ones Eps. 1, 3
  • Evil of the Daleks ep. 2

Special Features

  • Surviving Footage
  • 8mm films
  • Off-Screen Footage
  • Power of the Daleks trailer
  • Who’s Who

Disc 2 (Troughton)

  • The Abominable Snowmen (ep. 2)
  • The Enemy of the World (ep. 3)
  • The Web of Fear (ep. 1)
  • The Wheel in Space (ep. 3, 6)
  • The Space Pirates (ep. 2)

Special Features

  • Surviving Clips
  • 8mm Film – color (The Space Pirates, Fury from the Deep)
  • The Missing Years Documentary
  • Who’s Who
  • Location Film
  • Raw film trims
  • Commentary Tracks

The good news is that some of these stories have subsequently been released. “The Moonbase” is now available on DVD with animation filling in for the missing episodes (with the original audio). “Power of the Daleks” came out on DVD last year – animated in both black and white and color versions. “The Underwater Menace” is available on DVD, but with telesnap re-creations (with original audio) of the missing episodes rather than animation. “Enemy of the World” and “Web of Fear” were found and released on DVD, though “Web of Fear” is still missing one part – and the DVD includes original audio and telesnap recreations rather than full animation. Still it is good news that between this collection being released and now more stories have been found or re-creations were made using animation and the existing audio. Personally, I’d love to see all the Doctor Who stories re-created with animation.

I thought “The Daleks Masterplan” would be very slow, but each of the three episodes is in a completely different location. On the other hand, there is a lot of “McGuffin, McGuffin who’s got my McGuffin” going on. Well, the Doctor has it (the core of the Time Destructor) but everyone wants it back. But it’s still interesting – and I never knew The Meddling Monk was in “The Dalek Masterplan”. Also, one of the surviving episodes does feature Nicholas Courtney as Bret Vonn; and another features Jean Marsh as Sara Kingdom.

I also enjoyed “The Crusade” more than I thought I would. I’ve never been a fan of the time period of the Crusades – launching a genocidal war against people because of religion just seems so dumb. However, “The Crusade” works because Julian Glover plays King Richard, and Jean Marsh plays his sister, Joanna. The scenes between the two of them especially are full of fire. Marsh’s Joanna is feisty and knows her own mind. When Richard, the King, proposes marrying her off to the Saracen to avoid more bloodshed – she’s having none of it, and even threatens to take her case to the Pope. This feels a bit off – as a medieval woman and a noble, Joanna should be used to the idea of arranged marriages, even if she objects to her proposed husband. Since the last part is missing we don’t know what happened, though history tells us the Crusades weren’t successful and bankrupted England.

For Troughton the collection starts with “The Moonbase” which we now have and clips from “The Underwater Menace” – which was released but with only telesnap re-creations of the missing episodes, not full animation (I want a special edition that’s animated.) I did get to see two parts of “The Faceless Ones” and I’d love to see it finished with animation. That episode features Wanda Ventham as an airport officer, and. Pauline Collins as a girl who’s brother disappears. Ventham was in “UFO” and is better known now as Benedict Cumberbatch’s mother. Collins played Sarah the housemaid in “Upstairs Downstairs” and the spinoff “Thomas and Sarah”.

“The Abominable Snowmen”, very confusing; and two parts of “Wheel in Space” a very “futuristic” episode featuring cybermats (they are adorable! The Adipose of the Classic Era) and the Cybermen, also something about meterorites hitting a space station unless they shoot them out of the sky with lasers. ??? But it was great to see Zoe’s first story! “The Space Pirates” was a bit confusing, because it’s a middle episode that survives – but it’s also exactly what it says on the tin: Pirates…in…space! “Evil of the Daleks” also looked really, really interesting, and as it’s Victoria’s first story, I’d like to see more of that and “The Abominable Snowmen”.

What’s good about this collection though is several stories on it as “lost” have subsequently been released, either with animation, with telesnap reconstructions, or newly discovered. Whooot! I know it may not be economically feasible but the collector in me would love to see most of the Missing Classic Who episodes released as animated stories (incorporating any surviving episodes).

Overall as a collection, Lost in Time, is more an oddity and something for collectors and completists (yes, I am both). But, it’s interesting how well the individual episodes stand up even when all we have left are a few episodes here and there and not complete stories.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Mother Russia

  • Title: Mother Russia
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Marc Platt
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Steven, First Doctor, Dodo, The Interrogator (Guest)
  • Cast: Peter Purves (Steven), Tony Millan (The Interrogator)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/22/2017

Doctor Who: Mother Russia is a story in the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line. Peter Purves (Steven) tells the story which also features Dodo and the First Doctor. The TARDIS lands in Czarist Russia and the TARDIS crew settles in. The Doctor gets a job as a tutor for the local landed aristocrat’s children, Dodo also gets hired as a music tutor, and Steven spends his days, wandering around, fishing and meeting and befriending the locals. During one of his fishing trips, Steven hooks a fish that is so strong he is pulled in the river. It’s Summer, so it’s no disaster, and the forester, Simeon, laughs at him. Steven and the forester becomes friends, so much so, that the forester invites Steven to be best man at his wedding.

At a dinner with the aristocrat’s family, the TARDIS crew learn it is 1812, both Dodo and the Doctor knows what this means. Steven has no idea – so the audience doesn’t know for sure what’s happening. The Doctor also starts to press for travelling to Moscow.

The time of the wedding grows closer, and rumors start flying that Napoleon will invade Russia.
Finally, the first night of the three-day wedding ceremony arrives – and it is interrupted by a spaceship crash-landing in the forest. Simeon and Steven go to check it out. From that point on things get a little weird – Steven encounters a bear that he swears talked to him, Simeon breaks off his engagement, the Doctor becomes more insistent on traveling to Moscow, though at one point he leaves in the TARDIS without Steven and Dodo – and when he lands again he insists they pilot the time-space machine.

Eventually, they do all travel to Moscow, have an encounter with Napoleon, watch the city burn, see the Russians rout the French, and the alien, a shapeshifter, is found out.

Overall, this story was OK. That the mysterious bear, and various people not acting like themselves were actually a shapeshifting alien was painfully obvious – so much so that it seemed weird that Steven and Dodo couldn’t figure it out faster. The story is also broken up a bit to Steven telling his story to The Interrogator, who is the shapeshifter. And the Russian accents are horrendous, almost to the point of being offensive – like comedy accents. But the story, especially the early part of Steven, Dodo, and even the Doctor assimilating into an alien time was pretty good, and I liked that.

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

Click here to order Mother Russia on CD or Download. Note the Download is currently specially priced at $2.99.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Transit of Venus

  • Title: The Transit of Venus
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Jacqueline Rayner
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Ian Chesterton, Joseph Banks (guest), First Doctor
  • Cast: William Russell, Ian Hallard
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/23/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles series features stories told from the point of view of the Doctor’s companions. This series gives Big Finish the opportunity to tell stories set in previous eras of the British Television Series, Doctor Who with previous Doctors and companions. In that aspect, the Companion Chronicles are similar to the Missing Adventures and Past Doctor Adventures original novels. The Transit of Venus is performed by William Russell as Ian Chesterton, and is set in the First Doctor (William Hartnell) Era. As is the case with many of the Companion Chronicles, Russell is joined in his performance by Ian Hallard as Joseph Banks. The Transit of Venus is a pure historical story. The only science fiction elements are the TARDIS, and Ian’s references to the previous television story, “The Sensorites”.

The story opens with the Doctor, now very angry with Ian and Barbara, dropping them off someplace on Earth. He doesn’t even stay to see if they are in fact in 20th Century Earth or to check that they are alright. In turns out they are not alright, and, luckily for Barbara and Ian, Susan insists that her grandfather (the Doctor) stay and check. The Doctor and Susan see Ian and Barbara being attacked by the sailors of the 18th-century sailing ship they have landed on. The Doctor and Ian end up staying on the ship and Susan, Barbara, and the TARDIS are pushed over the side. Thus, this is a First Doctor and Ian story. Never fear, though, Barbara, Susan, and the TARDIS are found and the crew reunited at the end of the story. In some aspects, this is typical of early Doctor Who – the stories often depended on the TARDIS crew being separated and reuniting later. Often such separations serve the plot by the crew separately learning important information which is later pooled for plot purposes. Other times, characters disappearing serve more practical purposes – giving the actors on the show some much-needed time off (back in the days when producing Doctor Who was closer to three-quarters of the year repertory theatre than modern television. In the case of this audio play, having half the cast missing for all but the opening and closing scenes seems to have been done for purely practical reasons – fewer characters make the story smaller and easier to tell on audio.

However, this is not purely a negative. Once it becomes apparent that this will be a Doctor and Ian story, the listener can just go with it, and it is still a very enjoyable story. Ian and the Doctor end-up on Captain Cook’s Endeavour sailing ship, navigating the Pacific Ocean on their way to charting Australia and discovering the Cook Islands. The story is educational – teaching about the famous voyage as well as the geography of the region – the groups of islands, their names, the coastal features of Australia, etc. It’s the type of story that if filmed, especially with some sort of budget, could be extremely enjoyable, sort of Doctor Who does Master and Commander. Because this is Doctor Who there is another plot to pass the time on the long ship voyage – Ian meets Joseph Banks, a famed botanist. Yet, whenever Ian is alone with Banks, weird things seem to happen. Ian sees Banks shoot an albatross that is following the ship, and Ian warns him of the superstition against killing an albatross. Then he hears Banks quote the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Later, as Ian approaches Banks’ cabin, he hears voices, which, to Ian, sound like Banks is reading aloud a diary entry containing information about the future. A few days later, Banks and Ian are on the ship’s deck, and Ian becomes fearful of Banks and even believes Banks pushed him overboard. Banks rescues Ian and states that he became disoriented on the ship and fell. As a result of his dunking in the ocean – Ian becomes quite sick, contracting a fever, and is cabin-bound. Ian has additional strange experiences on the ship, especially when near Banks.

Finally, the Endeavoour reaches the place in Australia where Ian knows they will land. And he sees Susan and Barbara on the shore. Barbara explains briefly what happened to them, how they survived, and even tells him that since they knew they would have a long wait – she had, as a history teacher, filled Susan in on the history of Captain Cook’s voyage, even telling Susan about The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and later that she had sung “Botany Bay” to her. Susan, after her experiences on the Sensesphere, it turns out, still had latent telepathic abilities. It was Susan who had unwittingly transferred information to Banks that Ian picked up. Information that Banks himself was unaware of, but that because of his familiarity with Susan, Ian was able to hear as a ghostly voice. This is a bit of a science fiction element – but The Transit of Venus is not a story where Joseph Banks is secretly an alien or time traveler as Ian at first suspects. Also, Ian is actually experiencing something outside his normal experience even as, by this point in the First Doctor Era, he is a seasoned time traveler himself. Playing with Ian’s emotions could have come off as cruel, but instead, it suits the story and the characters – and everything works out. After being reunited the TARDIS crew leaves in the TARDIS.

I enjoyed The Transit of Venus as a purely historical Doctor Who story for the most part. Ian’s suspicions are played more as paranoia than something really going on – which is novel for a Doctor Who story. Yes, in the Doctor Who universe if a character thinks someone is an alien and up to no good – they usually are. So for the accused to not be an alien is actually a surprise. Plus, Ian is a practical man and a man of science. Before meeting the Doctor he would have dismissed aliens, time travel, and the like. Now, dropped into a purely normal situation (albeit in 1770), Ian leaps to the opposite conclusion – based on his last couple of years of personal experience. That is pure Ian.

I did miss having Barbara in the story. I’ve always liked the Ian-Barbara dynamic, and the two had great chemistry as a couple. It is no wonder that in fan canon they are not only a couple but a married one. And this long-standing fan theory was even made canon in an episode of, The Sarah Jane Adventures. However, even though I would have liked to see Barbara in the story – if she had been on the ship with Ian, there would have been no conflict. The two, plus the Doctor, would have simply had a nice sea cruise. Enjoyable for them, but probably a bit boring for the audience. And Ian’s concerns and fears were played particularly well – playing off the audience’s expectations for a Doctor Who story, without making the character look like an idiot.

Overall, this is an excellent historical Doctor Who adventure. The CD version includes a panel interview with the cast, director, and producer as well as a trailer for the next Big Finish Companion Chronicles adventure. Recommended.

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

Click here to order The Transit of Venus on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: FrostFire

  • Title: FrostFire
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Marc Platt
  • Director: Mark J. Thompson
  • Characters: Vicki, Cinder (guest), First Doctor, Steven, Jane Austen (guest)
  • Cast: Maureen O’Brien, Keith Drinkel
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 09/23/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Frostfire is the very first title in the Big Finish Doctor Who Companion Chronicles, and it does show a little bit in technical details – more about that at the end of the review. This story features the First Doctor (as played on the television show Doctor Who by William Hartnell) and his companions Vicki and Steven. The story is narrated by Maureen O’Brien (Vicki) who is literally telling a story to an unseen monster whom the CD jewel case identifies as “Cinder”, however, he is never identified in the story itself.

The story begins with the Doctor landing in London, where he, Steven and Vicki attend the 1814 Frost Fair. They meet Jane Austen at the fair, and among the novelty acts and food, they are harassed by a strange Italian and rescued by a British gentleman, Sir Joseph Mallard, and his wife, Lady Georgiana. The Doctor, Steven, Vicki, the couple, and Ms. Austen are drawn in to see a Cabinet of Curiosities show, only to discover amidst the kitsch and fakery, a genuine Phoenix egg. The Phoenix, however, is not a creature of fire – but of ice. It entraps Georgiana and also captures Vicki’s attention. The Phoenix goes on a rampage, killing with ice. Jane Austen takes everyone to her brother’s house, offering an escape from the creature and lodgings for the TARDIS crew since she’s discovered they have no lodgings or plans in London yet.

Once at Jane Austen’s brother’s house, Georgiana takes ill – and the harassing Italian returns to bother her. The party is going well, until the Phoenix shows up in the fireplace, sucking the heat out of the room (literally). A chimney sweep boy falls out of the fireplace, unharmed, but Georgiana is entranced by the Phoenix and gets captured. Vicki is freaked out because she thought the creature wanted her as well.

The Doctor, Steven, and Georgiana’s husband, Joseph, head to a men’s club to look for news. Jane Austen, Vicki, and the chimney sweep boy investigate on their own – discovering many people and animals of London have been frozen solid by the creature. They end up at a church and find the egg and Lady Georgiana. When the Doctor and Steven arrive – Georgiana takes Joseph away, and the Doctor and company track them to the Royal Mint. The creature had planned to use the furnace that is normally used to melt metals for coins, to be born. This plan is ultimately thwarted, and Georgiana and her husband rescued. During the fracas to stop the Phoenix and snuff out the fire of the furnace, Vicki is hit in the eye by a cinder.

The story pulls back, as it has a few times throughout the telling, and we meet the mysterious guest in Vicki’s basement – a cinder of the Phoenix. Vicki, now living in Cartridge with Troilus, as Lady Cressida, knows eventually the Phoenix egg will be found in Tunis and taken to the Frost Fair where the entire cycle will begin again.

Maureen O’Brien does an excellent job performing Frostfire and having Keith Drinkel as Cinder helps because it gives her someone to react to, and Companion Chronicles always work best as two-handers. However, the entire CD is only four tracks, so some are extremely long, like over 22 minutes long. This was very inconvenient when listening while commuting in the car (I’ve had to start at the beginning of a track and re-listen to a lot before reaching any new material.) Also, this is this the only CD in the series I’ve listened to with no extras, such as interviews.

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

Click this link to order FrostFire on CD.

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

Non-Fiction Book Review – Twitter Who vol. 1: The First Doctor

  • Title: Twitter Who vol. 1: The First Doctor
  • Author: Hannah J. Rothman
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/02/2014

Another “Why didn’t I think of that?” Doctor Who book, but in this case I absolutely loved it. This is not a “summarize every story in only 140 characters” book. Rather, each story is reacted to in a series of 140-character posts that together form a single blog post. So, in effect, it’s like reading a transcript of a live-tweeting event. The book is fun, witty, and full of squeee – but that’s a good thing. Occasionally, I had trouble deciphering some of the slang and abbreviations – but I still really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it.

The author, Hannah J. Rothman, was both after the original series left our screens in 1989, liked New Who, and then started watching Classic Who and loved it. As a Classic Who fan – I just think that’s so cool! And it flies in the face of conventional “wisdom” that New Who fans can’t watch the original series, or that they won’t enjoy it. Hah! Hannah’s reviews are enthusiastic, bright, funny, and darn it but I now really want to re-watch all of my William Hartnell (the First Doctor) DVDs.

I had just a couple of quick comments: a dictionary in the back of slang and Twitter terms would have helped. It took me a while to get used to the author’s use of “One” to refer to The First Doctor – but considering this book was originally a Twitter account feed it makes sense – 3 characters verses 16 is quite a savings. And, yes, I did note the dates of the original blog posts, so I realise that the DVDs with animated reconstructions probably weren’t available in 2010, but it bothered me some that rather than reviewing the DVDs for episodes such as “The Reign of Terror” and “The Tenth Planet” which were released with the missing episode(s) reconstructed completely with animation and the original soundtrack, the author relied on telesnap reconstructions instead. On the other hand, though I’ve read several different summaries and reviews of missing stories – it was fun to read such a fresh, amusing, and at times deep, reaction to stories that I haven’t seen because they don’t exist and aren’t on DVD. I mean, the comments in Twitter Who just really give an idea of what the episodes were like, even the ones that aren’t available on DVD.