Book Review – Doctor Who: The Stealers from Saiph

  • Title: The Stealers from Saiph
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Nigel Robinson
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Romana I, Fourth Doctor
  • Cast: Mary Tamm
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/22/2016

Doctor Who the Stealers from Saiph is part of Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles series – so it is read/performed by Mary Tamm, and unusually it is not a two-hander, only Mary performs it. However, this isn’t a negative – she, as Romana, does a wonderful job and the story is told entirely from Romana’s point of view. Also, this story has no framing story (so it runs a bit short). But without a secondary cast member to tell the story to – it’s all Romana I – and I enjoyed that.

The story starts off as a Agatha Christie-style story with Romana and the Fourth Doctor (as played by Tom Baker), staying in a luxury hotel on the French Riveria in 1929. The other guests are wealthy holiday-goers. Soon it becomes apparent there’s a thief at work in the hotel, and some sort of mysterious goings on regarding one of the guests. And then there’s the inevitable murder.

But the second half of the story makes a sharp left and resembles an H.P. Lovecraft story. And that sharp change moves this story from being fun, light, and typical, to an interesting, unusual, and unique Doctor Who story both in tone and substance.

I enjoyed the story very much and I recommend it. Don’t let the first part put you off, though I enjoyed the 1920s historical glamour. The second half makes this a fun listen.

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

Click this link to order The Stealers from Saiph on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Empathy Games

  • Title: Empathy Games
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Nigel Fairs
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Leela, Fourth Doctor
  • Cast: Louise Jameson, David Warner
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/19/2016

I re-listened to this audiobook/play over the last week. It’s still a bit confusing, and not one of my favorite Companion Chronicles – despite the excellent cast doing their best with what they are given. But here it goes. Empathy Games features the Fourth Doctor as played by Tom Baker and his companion, Leela, as played by Louise Jameson. Jameson performs the story, along with David Warner as Co-Ordinator Angell. I was going to say, the story opens in the TARDIS, but it doesn’t – the story opens in a medical ward, where everyone but the person telling the story has died from a virulent disease, abandoning the few survivors. But one of the survivors tells a story, of a great warrior, whom she only once saw afraid. Then we open in the TARDIS, where the console room is on fire. The Doctor panics from fear and does nothing. Finally, Leela intervenes and the two make it into a TARDIS corridor, and the Doctor vents the oxygen from the console room, smothering the fire. The Doctor then lands the TARDIS and leaves it to “automatic repairs” while he and Leela go exploring. They’ve landed on Synchronis – an extremely peaceful planet and home to a lot of shopping and trading. Leela and the Doctor explore, but are attacked by an animal. Leela awakes in an hospital, and learns though she recovered from the attack – the Doctor is still in a coma or self-induced healing trance. Leela meets Co-Ordinator Angell who convinces her to fight for him in the upcoming Empathy Games. Leela keeps saying “no” to this idea, but one of the Cathartics – the blue-skinned under-class who do all the work on the planet (what little of it there is) convinces her that it is an honor to be chosen the Co-Ordinator’s champion. Between that, and Angell’s not-too-subtle hints about what will happen to the Doctor if Leela doesn’t do what he wants, Leela agrees to be champion.

Leela and the other Cathartics train for the games.

When the games start, it is in the underground tunnels beneath the city. The champions hunt “rodents” – some of which can talk. However, this isn’t an ordinary hunt. Leela and the other Cathartics become telepathically linked to their prey – and experience the emotions and memories of their prey also. Then they kill them. Leela objects to the entire set-up. When she saves another player from a rodent – she’s penalized. When, later, she refuses to kill a talking rodent simply for sport because she sees it as not honorable – she’s penalized and pulled from the games. In the fracas, the games are ended and the tunnels begin to fill with water. Leela sees her closest friend Cathartic killed, but escapes with the rodent that has her face. Above ground, Leela runs into the recovered Doctor, and a very angry Angell. The Doctor has completely destroyed the telepathic machinery that takes all negative emotions from the people of Synchronis and transfers them to the rodents. Which explains the games – the people are literally having their every bad thought, or memory, or fear, or emotion, removed in the games. The Doctor’s actions also threaten The Waters of Tranquility – a gigantic water sculpture. Angell gets even more angry – accusing the Doctor of destroying his entire civilization. But the Doctor manages to fix the water sculpture. And the Doctor says the people of Synchronis will have to learn to live with their darker selves.

The story then picks up back where it was at the beginning – and the patient is the rodent Leela.

This story just left me cold in a sense. It’s a very violent story. It has Leela as a hunter. Though the secondary race being called “cathartics” when that is precisely what they do wasn’t lost on me – but, in a sense, I felt the story was too straight-forward, yet told in a somewhat confusing way (for once I don’t think this story needs a wrap-around, at all, it doesn’t add anything and it distracts from the core tale). Louise Jameson does a fantastic job. David Warner is very good. But, overall, I just didn’t care for the story that much.

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

Click this link to order Empathy Games on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Beautiful People

  • Title: The Beautiful People
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Jonathan Morris
  • Director: Mark J. Thompson
  • Characters: Romana II, Fourth Doctor
  • Cast: Lalla Ward, Marcia Ashton
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/20/2014

I’m really beginning to love Big Finish’s The Companion Chronicles range. Even though they are not full cast audios, the stories are great and I like the emphasis on the companions and/or the companion’s point of view. In this particular one, Lalla Ward does read the story (even including the chapter numbers and titles – something none of BF’s productions actually do whether audio book or audio play). What I like about The Companion Chronicles range though is that because the stories are about any of the past Doctors, they are more like the BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures or the Virgin Publishing Missing Adventures line of original paperback Doctor Who novels. Those were often some of my favorite stories – and they are something I miss.

This particular story is great fun, and has a good point to it. The Doctor is barely in the story, and most of it has Romana, separated from the Doctor, having her own adventure. She and the Doctor land on a planet, hoping for some relaxation, and the Doctor is craving a good doughnut. However, they’ve landed on a planet-wide health spa. The diet planet, however, is hiding a dark secret – which Romana must discover and stop. The story is brilliant – fun, adventurous, but with a point to it that I appreciated and welcomed. It really felt like late 70s/early 80s Doctor Who and that was awesome too. I highly, highly recommend this story.

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

Click this link to order The Beautiful People on CD.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Roots of Evil

  • Title: The Roots of Evil
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Philip Reeve
  • Characters: Fourth Doctor, Leela
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/20/2016

**Spoiler Alert** The Roots of Evil is part of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – 12 Stories 12 Doctors set of mini-books or novellas. This is the fourth book in the series so it features the Fourth Doctor (as played by Tom Baker) and Leela (as played by Louise Jameson) from the British television series Doctor Who.

The Doctor says that Leela has been complaining about not ever seeing trees on their journeys, so the Doctor takes her to a space station that is a giant tree in space. However, no sooner than they land than the Doctor and Leela are in trouble. Leela senses something dark about this “tree”, and they soon meet Ven, which as he explains is short for: “Vengeance-Will-Be-Ours-When-the-Doctor-Dies-A-Thousand-Agonising-Deaths”. Everyone else on the space station/tree has similar names vowing revenge against the Doctor. However, when Ven falls into a digestion pool – the Doctor and Leela rescue him. This, and the Doctor’s way of getting people to trust him easily and quickly, means the young Ven becomes sympathetic to the Doctor. When the troops arrive, Ven insists the Doctor and Leela be taken to the Judicator – not the civilian/military/religious leadership. As the Doctor and Leela start to discover what’s happened, that the people of the station/tree are angry at the Doctor’s future Eleventh Incarnation and not the current one, the meeting hall is attacked. First the Chairman (civilian/military/religious leader) arrives to take the Doctor to immediate execution without trial. Then, tree spores begin to attack everyone.

This actually forces the various splinter groups together because survival becomes more important than petty disagreements. The Doctor also realizes that it was a future version of himself that caused these colonists to end-up in the tree space station in the first place; but every story has two sides. The original leader of the colony expedition was a racist and xenophobic nightmare. Having found a planet, he ignored the fact that an intelligent methane-breathing species already lived there, and began the terraforming process to replace the methane with oxygen (effectively killing the natives by smothering them.) The Eleventh Doctor stopped him – thus causing the chain of events. But even more interestingly – the original leader is still semi-alive, and is the soul of the dark tree. He is the one who wants vengeance. He’s actually so bent on destroying the Doctor that he’s sabotaged the natural ability of the tree to terraform a lifeless rock into a life-supporting planet, thus trapping the colonists in the tree/station for 900 years. The Doctor and Leela defeat the colonial leader who’s a nightmare, release the tree spores into space, and explain what’s happened to the clueless colonists – who will have a new home in a decade or so.

Despite it’s lack of science (a tree in space? Opening a window on a space station to let the spores out???) I liked this story. The society living in the tree, with their wooden tools and weapons, and pounded wood pulp fabrics is fascinating and very, very different. That the Fourth Doctor would run into something a future incarnation would do (had already done in fact) gave the story both a modern-Who twist in a Classic Who framework. The colonial leader was suitably annoying and evil. And the story showed that every battle has at least two sides. This is the first book in this series that I thought could have been much longer, because the society in the tree and the main characters could have been fleshed-out a bit more. Still, an excellent short story or novella. Recommended.

Book Review – Star Trek: The Next Generation – Doctor Who Assimilation 2 vol. 1

  • Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation² vol. 1
  • Author: Scott Tipton, David Tipton, Tony Lee
  • Artists: J.K. Woodward, the Sharp Bros., Gordon Purcell, Shawn Lee, Robbie Robbins
  • Characters: Eleventh Doctor, Amy, Rory, ST:TNG Crew, Classic Trek Crew, Fourth Doctor, the Borg, the Cybermen
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Publisher: IDW Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/25/2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation crossed over with Doctor Who? Well, why not? I enjoyed this two-part crossover event graphic novel when I originally read it, and I just re-read part 1 and really enjoyed it. the ST:TNG portion of this novel starts with an attack on Delta IV by Cybermen and Borg. Meanwhile, The Eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory are in Ancient Rome, in the midst of a chariot race. They survive that and return to the TARDIS, where the Doctor promises to take the young couple to San Francisco. However, it turns out the three are not in San Francisco, but in the Holodeck of the Enterprise. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are taken by Worf and Cmdr. Riker to Capt. Picard, and are only just starting to talk when the Enterprise receives an audio-only distress call. When the ship arrives, they are in the midst of a combined Cybermen/Borg attack. The Enterprise escapes.

The Doctor starts to have strange memory flashes, and when the Enterprise crew researches the “Cybermen” that Picard has never heard of – they find one entry from the original Enterprise, under the command of James T. Kirk. The resulting flashback features the original Star Trek crew, the Fourth Doctor, and Cybermen on a research station.

Back on Picard’s Enterprise, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory are taken to Guinan. The Doctor and Guinan seem to have some sort of relationship – even though they both know they have never met, previously. And both the Doctor and Guinan are time-sensitives who seem to know something is very wrong.

In the midst of the Doctor, Guinan, and Picard’s conversation they are again called to the bridge. Data explains they had thought the combined Borg/Cybermen fleet was heading towards Earth, but it seems they are now heading in the opposite direction, having changed their minds in the middle of assimilating a planet. Sending a away party to said planet, which includes the Doctor, Rory and Amy, they find a battlefield where the Cybermen and the Borg have turned on each other. The Borg contact the Enterprise, offering a truce against their common enemy, the Cybermen. The Doctor warns against this, and Picard agrees.

To Be Continued in volume 2

The artwork in Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who Assimilation (2) is wonderful. It has a wonderful painted look, that, though not often photo-realistic, has at times an impressionistic quality – while at other times is more realistic-looking. It’s beautiful, and engaging. In short, I loved the art style.

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: The Well-Mannered War

  • Title: The Well-Mannered War
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gareth Roberts
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Romana II, K-9
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/19/2015

The Well-Mannered War is one of the best TV tie-in novels I’ve ever read, and the best I’ve read so far in Virgin Publishing’s Missing Doctors Adventures. It isn’t often that a tie-in novel makes you think, but not only does this novel do that – it is a deeply philosophical work.

The novel begins in a typical way, The Fourth Doctor (as played by Tom Baker), Romana II (as played by Lalla Ward) and K-9 are in the TARDIS when something goes awry. The Doctor manages to materialise the TARDIS successfully, and he and Romana decide to look around where they’ve landed, even though they have hit the Temporal Boundary – past which no Time Lord should explore. It seems even Time Lords shouldn’t see their own future. However, what seems to be a typical “excuse” to start the adventure is returned to at the end of the novel – and the accident and the Doctor’s reaction to it – wasn’t as much of an accident as it seems.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Romana are on Barclow, which is meant to be a colony planet. However, for over 100 years a war has been brewing on the planet – between human soldiers from nearby Metralubit who claim the small rock as their colony, and alien Chelonians, turtle-like intelligent beings. But it an novel twist – no one has actually fired a shot at the other side for all that time. In fact, the two “armies” have actually become close enough friends to attend teas and similar gatherings – while preforming their tours of the war zone, and pointing deadly weapons at the other side.

Romana with K-9 and the Doctor are separated and each end-up visiting the other side. However, video of K-9 attempting to save the life of the Metralubit candidate for the premiership surfaces – allowing K-9 to claim the principle of “Constitutional privilege” meaning he gets to assume the place of the dead political candidate and run for office against the sitting premier. K-9’s political campaign is rife with political satire – and a lot of humor. This novel is quite funny especially in what is basically the first and second parts of the novel (there are no formal parts designations).

Romana and K-9 journey to Metralubit, where K-9 runs his campaign, and Romana begins to figure out what is going on. She, however, makes one miscalculation. And Stokes, the artist from The Romance of Crime, also takes an action with far-reaching consequences. When more is revealed – it’s a race to stop an ancient, unassuming, and very surprising enemy. To say more would spoil the fun – so I won’t reveal it.

For most Doctor Who books that would be it – and it would be enough – a fun read, lots of humor, lots of action, an intriguing plot, and a truly original enemy. But perhaps because this is chronologically the last book in the Missing Doctors Adventures series of original Doctor Who novels, Gareth Roberts goes farther – and it’s the final few chapters of this book that made me really love it, despite the bittersweet tone, and give this book the highest rating possible – something I seldom do for tie-ins and original novels based on a TV series. I don’t want to spoil anything – so I won’t go into details. But the end is truly philosophical, it’s brilliant, it’s bittersweet, and it makes you think. Highly recommended!

The Well-Mannered War is also available as a full-featured audio play adaptation from Big Finish, available on CD or as a download.