Book Review – Doctor Who: The Invasion of E-Space

  • Title: The Invasion of E-Space
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Andrew Smith
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Romana II, Fourth Doctor, Adric, Marni Tellis
  • Cast: Lalla Ward (Romana II), Suanne Braun (Marni Tellis)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/9/2018

The Invasion of E-Space is a volume in the Big Finish Doctor Who Companion Chronicles line, featuring the Second Romana, the Fourth Doctor, and Adric. Romana, having left the Doctor at the Gateway [in the aired episode, “Warrior’s Gate”] ten or more years ago, and, having freed the enslaved Thralls, is about to go into battle. She records a message of another battle as a testament and a warning.

The Fourth Doctor, Romana, and Adric are in E-Space, looking for a CVE to use to travel back to their universe. Suddenly, a huge CVE opens up. But there are a lot of military and other spaceships facing the CVE. As we learn from the second narrator, Marni Tellis, a law enforcement officer, when the CVE appeared it devastated the planet, causing earthquakes, Tsunamis, and other natural disasters. Marni is a logical and practical person, so she’s surprised when she is summoned to give testimony about her recent case, a case of serial murders where the victims were killed by energy weapons and bladed weapons. Since similar murders were discovered on the inhabited moon, she is sent by shuttle there to investigate and report back.

The TARDIS is hit by the energy wave from the CVE and Romana and Adric are shaken up a bit, but the Doctor is injured. Romana has Adric help her take him to the zero room to recover. The TARDIS lands on Ballustra’s moon in one of the habitats and Romana and Adric are taken into custody. Marni interviews them, asking about the anomaly, which Romana explains is a CVE, and about the murders. Romana denies all knowledge of the murders but explains the CVE and its dangers. The interview is interrupted by something coming through the CVE – a lot of something, in fact, a Ferrian Raider fleet of teleport discs to transport in raiders to conquer Ballustra. Romana gives a warning, but she’s too late and the warriors appear. They kill a large number of people, but Marni escapes, briefly. Romana and Adric, we learn later, are taken captive by teleport to the Ferrian leader’s battle cruiser.

Marni calms herself, pulls herself together, and attempts to call other survivors. She’s attacked by Ferrian rocket fire. Fortunately, the Doctor rescues her. He takes her through the CVE on a recce. They discover a small Dwarf Planet with a noxious atmosphere that is home to thousands of Ferrian troopers. Marni thinks there is nothing they can do but go back and report what they saw. The Doctor has other ideas and sabotages the CVE generator.

Back in E-Space, Romana learns the Ferrian attacked Ballustra to obtain Gelintin (sp?) a rare mineral and power source. Extremely rare in N-space, it’s abundant on Ballustra. However, with the Doctor’s destruction of the CVE-generator, the doorway between universes is collapsing. Romana convinces the lead Ferrian that they must leave or they will be trapped with no supplies or backup and no way back. The Ferrian general agrees and orders a retreat. Romana and Adric escape in a lifeboat – but the Ferrians attack it. The Doctor rescues Romana and Adric and brings Marni home. Marni reports the entire incident united the if not exactly warring, but distrustful nations of Ballustra.

I enjoyed this story – it gave a hint of what else the Doctor and Romana ended-up doing in E-Space. It was also a rip-roaring SF adventure and a lot of fun. The story is performed in the normal Companion Chronicles two-hander style by Lalla Ward as Romana and Suanne Braun as Marni Tellis.

Highly recommended.

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

Click this link to order The Invasion of E-Space on CD or Download.

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

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Book Review – Doctor Who: Luna Romana

  • Title: Luna Romana
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 2 CDs
  • Author: Matt Fitton
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Romana I, Romana II, Future Romana, Fourth Doctor, Stoyn
  • Cast: Lalla Ward (Romana II), Juliet Landau (Romana I, Future Romana), Terry Molloy (Quadrigger Stoyn)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 4/27/2018

Luna Romana is a two-disc Big Finish Companion Chronicles story. It features Lalla Ward as the Second Romana and Juliet Landau as a future Romana and as the first Romana, a role originated by Mary Tamm. Tom Baker does not actively play the part of the Doctor (his voice is not present on the audio) but this story is firmly set in the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who, and Terry Molloy plays the villain. Each of the four episodes in Luna Romana is set in a different time and place, so I did have to listen to this audio twice to figure it out, and even then I found it a little confusing.

Part 1, after a short intro in which future Romana reflects on her early days with the Doctor, has the first Romana and the Fourth Doctor landing in ancient Rome to track down the Sixth Segment of the Key to Time. The Doctor takes in some local theater, but Romana is quickly bored by the coarseness of the play, so she decides to explore the nearby temple dedicated to the moon goddess. She finds a hidden room, and a very precise instrument to track the position of the moon and the calendar. She also finds a strange man, well, six of them, all with the same face. This man threatens her.

In part 2, the Second Romana and the Fourth Doctor land in what Romana takes to be ancient Rome again, but they quickly discover to be an amusement park on the moon: Luna Romana. The only person left in the park beside automatons is an insane Time Lord, named Stoyn. Stoyn’s been trapped on the moon for 2000 years. His only company is a time-space visualizer, which constantly shows the Doctor’s adventures. Stoyn has developed quite the hatred for the Doctor whom he blames for his predicament. Once the Doctor and Romana arrive, he takes the Doctor hostage. Romana quickly rescues him. However, during the resulting fight after Stoyn realizes that Romana disabled the robotic guards with her sonic screwdriver, Stoyn falls through the Time-Space Visualizer, which shatters around him, and into a time tunnel. Then Romana arrives. Realizing that she remembers seeing herself, this other Romana urges the Second Romana to jump through the time tunnel – which she does.

Back in ancient Rome, Romana lands on the temple roof, and nearly falls off, before being rescued. She and the Doctor discover the Key to Time, but it’s the Fifth Segment which they already have. Earlier Romana had let the “injured” Time Lord in the TARDIS to use the Zero Room to pull himself together (literally – the six identical men were splinters of Stoyn who was splintered by the journey through the broken Visualizer). But the TARDIS is stolen. Fortunately, the Future Romana sent the TARDIS back from the moon.

There is another confrontation on the moon, and this time the Doctor and Romana succeed in defeating Stoyn for good. Both return to ancient Rome, where the Doctor encourages an ancient playwright. The Doctor, who had been nervous about completing his mission for the White Guardian, realizes he can’t avoid it any longer. And Romana, in her future version, is more confident in herself and assured of her past lives and adventures.

I did listen to this audio adventure over a week ago (thus the April posting date on GoodReads). It was a good story, but a bit confusing in places. Lalla Ward does an excellent job telling the story, however, as does Juliet Landau. Terry Molloy is suitably angry and crazy as Stoyn (Molloy is known for his portrayal of Davros in “Genesis of the Daleks”.) Recommended. I still, though, prefer the single-disc Companion Chronicles but I do like the entire premise of the series as “missing adventures” and stories told from the point of view of the companion.

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

Click this link to order Luna Romana on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Ferril’s Folly

  • Title: Ferril’s Folly
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Peter Anghelides
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Romana I, Fourth Doctor, Lady Millicent Ferril
  • Cast: Mary Tamm, Madeleine Potter
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 04/05/2018

Ferril’s Folly is a volume in Big Finish’s The Companion Chronicles series. The story is told as a two-hander by Romana, as played by Mary Tamm on Doctor Who during Tom Baker’s era as the Doctor, and the villain, “Metal Millie” played by Madeleine Potter. The Doctor and Romana land on the outer deck of a Folly, a British architectural feature – normally a purely decorative tower or object built on a lawn as a conversation piece. This folly, though is an observatory which features an advanced telescope. As soon as Romana joins the Doctor outside of the TARDIS, the TARDIS loses its precarious balance on the edge and falls to the lawn below. The Doctor and Romana meet a scientist inside the Folly’s observatory and his boss, Millicent Ferril – a former astronaut who was in a crash between her shuttle and a meteoroid. Everyone else died in the crash, and Millie required extensive reconstructive surgery, resulting in metal hands and other metal replacement joints. After losing her career, she traveled the world, then met and married Lord Ferril in England.

The Doctor and Romana soon discover Millie is under the influence of the Cronquist – an alien species that can control metal, especially iron. Controlled by the Cronquist, who controlled the meteoroid, Millie decides to help them invade Earth. Romana and the Doctor stop her. In the end, they disperse the Fourth Segment of the Key to Time (the meteoroid), to find it again later (in the aired story, “The Androids of Tara”). Millie, who had already killed her pet scientist, is killed in a fire that destroys the Folly.

“Ferril’s Folly” is a deceptively simple story. It’s basically an action piece without much depth. But it is nevertheless a fun listen. It isn’t often that the two-handers feature two women: a heroine and a villain. Also, the story at times overlaps – showing the same event from Millie’s point-of-view and from Romana’s. It’s a good story and worth a listen. The CD includes a trailer and an interview.

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

Click this link to order Ferril’s Folly on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Mahogany Murderers

  • Title: The Mahogany Murderers
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Andy Lane
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Henry Gordon Jago, Professor Henry Litefoot, Ellie the barmaid, Fourth Doctor
  • Cast: Christopher Benjamin (Jago), Trevor Baxter (Professor Litefoot), Lisa Bowerman (Ellie the barmaid)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/31/2017

Doctor Who: The Mahogany Murderers is a volume in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles and it also plays like a backdoor pilot. Professor George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago are two characters from the classic Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. However, this story takes place some time later, as the two have not only remained fast friends but solve mysteries and conundrums together.

This story begins with the two meeting up in a pub to catch each other up on their latest adventure. The two swap parts of the story with Jago constantly warning they must be careful to not put Act II before Act I as their stories overlap. Professor Litefoot, a professional pathologist who works for a local hospital and the police was finishing up his duties and cleaning the mortuary when two police officers arrive with a body in a wheelbarrow. They put the body on one of the tables then leave. But when he examines the body Litefoot finds it isn’t a dead body at all – it’s a life-sized intricate mannequin. Litefoot sends a messenger to send a telegram to Jago to ask him to investigate the area where the “body” was found.

Jago does so, describing in detail one of the worse areas of Victorian London. Jago ends-up finding a warehouse, a warehouse full of strange electric equipment.

Meanwhile at the morgue, Litefoot is continuing to investigate the “body” when a man arrives demanding he turn over the body since it belongs to him. Litefoot refuses, citing that it’s part of an on-going police investigation (which is a slight exaggeration). Later, the body itself rises from the mortuary table and walks out.

Meanwhile, Jago is investigating the warehouse, and he trips over one of the cables on the floor. He tries to plug it back in but is hit over the head. He wakes up only to be confronted by a group of wooden men. The men can speak and move – and they are all criminals. Jago is mistaken for Dr. Tulp, and recognizes one of the men as Jack Yeavil, a infamous criminal who had recently died in Newgate Prison. But as he’s learning about exactly what’s going on, the wooden man that Litefoot had examined arrives – and tells everyone this is not Dr. Tulp.

Litefoot meanwhile had followed the wooden man to the warehouse. Jago seems to be in a lot of danger – but Litefoot throws an oil lamp, starting a fire, and allowing Jago to escape. There’s a hansom cab race as Jago takes one cab to the warehouse and one of the wooden criminals takes the other. The criminal offers eternal life to him in a wooden, metal, or porcelain body. But in the end, Jago and Litefoot burn down the warehouse as well and all the wooden men are destroyed.

This was a fun story, and a bit different even for a Companion Chronicles tale. The Doctor isn’t in the story at all, though he’s mentioned at the very end. It plays like a test case or backdoor pilot and in the CD extra panel discussion the idea of starting a “Jago and Litefoot” series is batted around as an idea. That idea must have been taken seriously at Big Finish, because they have introduced a Jago and Litefoot series on audio. This is also pretty close to a full-cast audio drama. Not only does it have music and sound effects, but it has three people in the cast: Christopher Benjamin as Henry Gordon Jago, Trevor Baxter as Professor Litefoot, and Lisa Bowerman, the director, as Ellie the barmaid. So, even though much of the story is Jago and Litefoot telling each other what happened, it’s also a bit less of “telling a story” than the average Companion Chronicles story. I enjoyed it.

However, as there are a lot of Doctor Who audios available from Big Finish, and other series I’m interested in, this story wasn’t quite enough to hook me in to trying the Jago and Litefoot series. I don’t regret the purchase, it was a fun and different adventure, but I prefer the Companion Chronicles stories than feature actual Doctor Who companions and the Doctor Who ranges themselves. One can only buy so much. Still The Mahogany Murderers is recommended as something a bit different and novel.

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

Click here to order The Mahogany Murderers on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Pyralis Effect

  • Title: The Pyralis Effect
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: George Mann
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Romana II, Fourth Doctor
  • Cast: Lalla Ward, Jess Robinson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/23/2017

**Spoiler Alert** I usually really enjoy listening to Big Finish’s audio plays and the Companion Chronicles is one of my favorite lines, especially as the stories are told from the companion’s point-of-view, and they are often like Missing Adventures that would be impossible to do otherwise. However, The Pyralis Effect is very flat. Lalla Ward pretty much just reads the story, which seems to often have her cowering in a corner, ready to scream at a monster.

The plot has the TARDIS land on a huge spaceship. The Doctor and Romana II immediately go out exploring. The ship seems deserted. They find a control room with a growth chamber – and get separated as the Doctor wanders off. Romana, of course, gets herself lost, but hears a whimpering from a locked room. She opens the door and releases CAIN – an insane AI with a malfunctioning fungal brain. This catches the attention of the few people aboard the colony ship. Romana finds out that the ship is the Myriad, a colony ship, that left it’s home planet after a series of environmental disasters destroyed it. The planet’s people are held in a DNA bank, and the ship contains cloning equipment – once they find a new home, or return to their original one when it’s habitable, the colonists will be grown and start life anew. But for now, the ship has a very small crew and they seek The Doctor, a legendary and even mythic figure who helped their planet once before.

Romana and the Doctor are soon on the bridge, as the captain has sent three crew members to a nearby moon to investigate a strange obelisk they think might actually belong to the Doctor.

As Romana watches, she suddenly realizes that she recognizes the obelisk. It’s the gate to a dimensionally transcendental gateway – a prison, created by the Time Lords, to hold the Pyralis – fierce, conquering, beings of light, parasites that once threatened the entire galaxy, before being defeated by the Time Lords in a war. Romana rushes to stop Suri, the captain, but she is too late. The gate is opened, the entire moon implodes, a rift is born in space, and the Pyralis released. On the ship, one by one the crew is killed. At first, suspicion falls on the Doctor and Romana. When the second murder occurs while the two are locked up – suspicion falls on CAIN, the AI, whom Romana had accidentally released. Eventually, Romana figures out who the real murderer is – but not before nearly the entire crew is dead.

To finally defeat the Pyralis, the rift must be closed again. One of Suri’s few remaining crew sacrifices himself to close the rift (he was dying anyway). He’s successful. Before leaving, the Doctor gives Captain Suri the co-ordinates of a new planet where she can take the Myriad, and start her civilization anew. But he denies being The Doctor of their stories, and tells Suri she should forget about myth.

This story is pretty flat. Lalla Ward reads the story, rather than performing it. The story itself could have been an atmospheric English Manor House Mystery in Space (similar to the aired story, “Robots of Death”) but it misses the mark. The interesting concept of the Doctor dealing with the fallout of his actions to save a civilization – centuries later, and how that civilization now sees him is completely wasted, as the Doctor simply denies that he was the Doctor who saved Suri’s people before – calling such stories, “myth and poppycock”. Even though this is Romana’s story, she’s often portrayed not as strong and clever but screaming in corners, and simply pushed along by the plot.

Overall, the story is OK, but only a 3 out of 5, and a bit disappointing. There are much better stories in this range of Big Finish audios.

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

Click this link to order The Pyralis Effect on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Stealers from Saiph

  • Title: The Stealers from Saiph
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • 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 an 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 takes 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
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • 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 angrier – 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!