Book Review – Doctor Who: The Time Vampire

  • Title: The Time Vampire
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Nigel Fairs
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Leela, Fourth Doctor
  • Cast: Louise Jameson, John Leeson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/19/2020

**Spoiler Alert** The Time Vampire is a dramatic audio presentation in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line. It is also a sequel to The Catalyst. However, although the wrap-around story continues the wrap-around from the previous volume, with Leela prisoner of the Z’Nai, held in painful suspended animation half-living and half not, the majority of the story takes place much earlier.

The story opens with the Doctor and Leela in the console room. The Doctor is working on K-9, building Mark II because he states that K-9 has been unstable lately. But Leela is adamant that if the Doctor takes K-9 apart he will be killing him. The Doctor says he is improving K-9 and once he transfers over K-9s memory wafers he will be the same but improved. Leela wanders off but finds K-9 in the old wooden console room in the TARDIS. Then things get a bit weird. She hears someone in pain, but K-9 says no one is there. Leela asks K-9 questions, but he keeps saying he has to assimilate instructions, his memory is overloaded, and he must reboot. Leela is completely confused by this. But then the TARDIS lands.

Leela leaves the TARDIS and finds herself on a planet, in an opulent building, where all the people are wearing gold cloaks. From this point the story moves back and forth in time as the building, indeed the entire island is moving back and forth in its time stream due to a time paradox. This does make for a frustrating listen, especially when listening during one’s commute. I don’t want my Doctor Who stories to be too simple, but the back and forth nature of this story was extremely confusing and required several listens before it truly made sense. Anyway, the Island, or Leela and the Doctor are moving back and forth within the timeline of this island.

The Island is on a planet, a planet the Doctor has been to before, a planet the Doctor knows is doomed to be destroyed by the Z’nai, whom he and Leela met in The Catalyst. Leela meets a tourist guide who is showing people around an old sea fort – the most haunted place on the planet. The tourists are annoying and the tourist guide, well, he’s a tourist guide. He does show off a ghost at one point, which lets the Doctor realize who he is and what he did. The guide is the son of a chef who was on Interplanetary One, a spaceship that encountered the Z’Nai under Humbrackle’s father. The senior Humbrackle was a good man and a good emperor – he was fascinated with art, poetry, architecture, etc. The senior Humbrackle also embraced diversity and forging alliances with other species in the galaxy. But his son is a Xenophobic hater, essentially – he is so insistent that everyone be exactly like him, not only does he wish to wipe out entire species, but he has the few survivors of his armies’ attacks converted into clones of himself. The Doctor warns this Humbrackle to change his ways, but the younger Humbrackle doesn’t listen – this leads to the events in The Catalyst. But in The Time Vampire, the people on the planet where Leela and K-9 are are waiting for the Z’Nai to arrive, as the Doctor puts it, “They think the Z’Nai are coming to sign a trade agreement that was proposed under the Senior Humbrackle. But the Junior Humbrackle will destroy them. The entire planet will burn. It’s one of the great disasters of the galaxy.” When Leela mentions changing something that hasn’t happened yet, the Doctor insists it can’t be changed because it’s fixed. The Doctor also realizes to his horror that he is also on the planet, with Lord Douglas, and he “really doesn’t want to meet himself”, especially if the fabric of time is weak. There is the typical running around and gathering of information of most Doctor Who stories, although it occurs out of order.

It turns out that the “ghost” the tourist guide shows off is a trapped Time Vampire, a creature created by a time paradox, and a creature that can destroy with a touch by aging people to death. One of the people in the tourist group saw her family die when she was four years old after an encounter with a time vampire – so she now hunts them, destroying as many as she can. When she attempts to destroy this one though, K-9 kills her. The tourist guide himself was the son of a chef on Interplanetary One, but he snuck into the previous Doctor’s TARDIS, stole his cloak and stole something else – which he uses to capture the Time Vampire and force her to appear at his will to amuse the tourists – like a caged bear. The true identity of the time vampire makes sense, links to the wrap-around story, and isn’t really a surprise, even on first listen.

Overall, I thought The Time Vampire was too confusing. And the central question of the audio play, Who or What is this Time Vampire? isn’t really as much of a surprise as it should be. I also felt really bad for the planetary leader who strikes out into the galaxy, meets the Z’Nai under the Senior Humbrackle, starts arrangements for a trade agreement that should help her people, and then is burned in the worst possible way both literally and figuratively. Why should her entire planet be destroyed because Junior Humbrackle hates everyone who is different than him? That’s terribly unfair. And it’s not like she was warned that the Z’Nai had suddenly become Xenophobic maniacs out to destroy the galaxy – no one told her anything. Leela does scream at her that the Z’Nai are her enemy, but she does so after the Doctor is accused of trying to assassinate the leader with his sonic screwdriver. Needless to say, it’s a bit of a misunderstanding, but who’s going to believe the companion of an assassin? So although it is worth listening to this audio adventure a few times, overall it’s not one of my favorites. However, Louise Jameson and John Leeson are excellent performing the audio adventure.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Catalyst

  • Title: The Catalyst
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Nigel Fairs
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Leela, Fourth Doctor
  • Cast: Louise Jameson, Timothy Watson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/06/2020

**Spoiler Alert** The Catalyst is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles series, and it is an early one. The story features Leela of the Sevateam as she tells the story of one of her journeys with the Doctor. The wrap-around story has Leela, captured, held prisoner, and being tortured by a member of the Z’Nai, a fierce, prejudicial, and evil warrior race. The main story has the Fourth Doctor and Leela encountering the Z’Nai in Edwardian England. It works much better than the framing story.

The Doctor brings Leela to a country manor house in Edwardian England to “teach her some table manners”. After an awkward dinner, Leela and the spoiled young daughter, Jessica, explore the servants’ hall and the cellars. They discover a hidden “trophy room” belonging to Jessica’s father and the Doctor. It turns out that her father had traveled with the First Doctor for a time. But it isn’t just “certificates and cups” as Leela refers to a trophy room that the two women find. An alien is imprisoned in the room, held in a stasis and decontamination field.

Jessica finds and presses a button that wakes up the soldier, though he is still trapped and unable to move. The soldier claims he is the last of his people, that they were destroyed by the Doctor. Leela doesn’t trust the soldier and leaves to find him to find out more about the situation. Jessica refuses to leave the room with Leela, telling her she wants to learn from the soldier. It will be a fatal decision.

When Leela and the Doctor return – the soldier has been released, and Jessica is dead. Tracking the soldier – they find both of the Douglas family’s servant girls are dead, as well as the butler and Mrs. Douglas. Leela and the Doctor find the warrior, who goes on and on about the Doctor “causing” the disease that wiped out his people. But the Z’Nai that the warrior leads (he is the Emperor, not a simple soldier) are Xenophobic, prejudicial, and arrogant – they had been wiping out everyone who was not Z’Nai when the Doctor and Mr. Douglas encountered them. And even on their own planet, the Z’Nai had opened purification camps, where those who did not agree with the Emperor’s hatred of everything and everyone different from himself were killed or converted into soldiers – clones of the emperor. Clones that looked, sounded, and thought exactly like the Emperor. Almost immediately after finding the Z’nai emperor Humbrackle, he collapses, a victim of the disease that killed the clone Z’Nai. The Doctor and Leela take him into the TARDIS for medical treatment then return him to his stasis field in the house.

When the Doctor and Leela return to the Edwardian House, a Z’Nai warship arrives. It’s arrival causes the windows and door frame of the house to blow out. The Doctor is knocked unconscious by a flying piece of wood. The warriors attack and kill Mr. Douglas, the only one left alive by Humbrackle. One of the soldiers attacks Leela after she tells him she doesn’t know the date because she is a time traveler. Leela fights back and the soldier immediately becomes very sick from her touch. The other soldiers shoot down the infected warrior. There’s a massive fight between Leela and the soldiers – but when she touches them, they die. The Doctor wakes up and trying to mitigate the fight, but he is attacked as well. Leela spits at the soldier attacking the Doctor – and the soldier dies. At the end of the fight, all the soldiers are dead from the now airborne virus. The Doctor tells Leela she’s become a carrier, a catalyst. The Doctor burns down the house and all the evidence of the invasion and the Doctor and Leela leave in the TARDIS.

In the wrap-around story, an ancient Leela is still held prisoner by a Z’Nai warrior. It speaks as if generations of Z’Nai have existed, as clones, destroying everyone that is not Z’nai in their path, all the so-called “lesser” species. Leela remarks that the Z’Nai used to leave a panel open in their armor, exposing their skin. The warrior remarks they no longer follow such absurd customs, but he likes to remove his helmet and look someone in the eye before killing them.

Overall, The Catalyst is a good story, but it’s about average for the Companion Chronicles. Basically, it’s War of the Worlds fierce, genocidal, alien race is knocked out by the common cold (or some sort of virus). I also found it strange the Doctor would use “carrier” and “catalyst” as synonyms. A carrier is someone who carries a disease or genetic defect but isn’t affected by it, such as a carrier for color blindness or hemophilia or typhoid. A catalyst is a chemical substance that causes a chemical reaction – but isn’t affected by the reaction. Not really the same. And for the Doctor to explain what a carrier is to Leela by saying it’s like a catalyst probably made the idea as clear as mud to her. And yet again – Leela dies at the end of the story, but of extreme old age after being imprisoned. The central story worked, but I felt the wrap-around story did not and wasn’t even necessary. The listener gets all the information they need from the dialogue in the central story, so the wrap-around wasn’t needed. But this is an early story in the range. I still recommend it, especially if Leela is one of your favorite companions because Louise Jameson is terrific performing this.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Many Lives of Doctor Who

  • Title: Doctor Who: The Many Lives of Doctor Who
  • Authors: Richard Dinnick
  • Artists: Mariano LaClaustra, Giorgia Sposito, Brian Williamson, Arianna Florean, Claudia Ianniciello, Iolanda Zanfardino, Neil Edwards, Pasquale Qualano, Rachael Stott, Sarah Jacobs (Letterer), John Roshell (Letterer), Fer Centurion (Inker), Color-Ice (Colorist), Carlos Cabera (Colorist), Adele Matera (Colorist), Dijjo Lima (Colorist), Enrica Eren Angiolini (Colorist)
  • Line:  All-Doctors Crossover Special
  • Characters: First Doctor, Second Doctor, Third Doctor, Fourth Doctor, Fifth Doctor, Sixth Doctor, Seventh Doctor, Eighth Doctor, War Doctor, Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, River Song, Twelfth Doctor, Ian, Barbara, Susan, Jamie, Polly, Ben, Sarah Jane Smith, Romana II, Tegan, Nyssa, Turlough, Peri, Ace, Josie Day, Jack, Rose, Alice, Bill Potts, Thirteenth Doctor
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/19/2019

**Spoiler Alert** Doctor Who The Many Lives of Doctor Who” is a series of vignettes and short stories, one per Doctor, plus a War Doctor Story, a story with River Song, and a few pages with the 13th Doctor. Each of the stories adds to the idea of the Doctor regenerating into who she will be, for example, the number 13 comes up several times, though in the Thirteenth Doctor’s pages she mentions she isn’t actually the 13th Doctor. The Fifth Doctor story as the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa, and Turlough in the cloisters on Gallifrey where they are supposed to be chasing down a renegade Time Lord. But when they find him, he talks the Doctor into helping him use some Gallifreyan tech so he can regenerate. The Doctor agrees, and the other Time Lord regenerates into a woman. We also see both the fourth Doctor, with Romana and the Seventh Doctor, with Ace, solving a problem by meeting someone earlier, which they will do after they did it. The graphic novel itself is very short, and some of the vignettes are only a few pages, while others are full, albeit, short stories. I enjoyed this graphic novel though, and it whetted my appetite for the next two graphic novels in Titan Comics 13th Doctor series. The only flaw in the book is it’s almost too short. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension Book Two

  • Title: Doctor Who The Lost Dimension Book Two
  • Authors: Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby, George Mann, Cavan Scott
  • Artists: Ivan Rodriguez, Wellington Diaz, Rachael Stott, Mariano LaClaustra, Anderson Cabral, Marcelo Salaza, Fer Centurion, Thiago Ribeiro, Mauricio Wallace, Carlos Cabrera, Rod Fernandes, Mony Castillo, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line:  All-Doctors Crossover Special
  • Characters: Fourth Doctor, Eighth Doctor, Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, Twelfth Doctor, Romana II, Rose, Gabby, Cindy, Alice, Nardol, Bill, Cameos by other Doctors and Companions
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/27/2019

Titan Comics’ The Lost Dimension Book Two is the second volume in this series, which concludes the story. This volume opens with the Fourth Doctor as played on the BBC series Doctor Who by Tom Baker and Romana II in the TARDIS, but instead of materializing the TARDIS is caught between two transmat beams. When the Doctor and Romana exit the TARDIS they are confronted with Krotons, from the Second Doctor story, “The Krotons”, but these Krotons are considerably more dangerous. The other ship is crewed by Quarks from the Second Doctor story, “The Dominators”. Soon a spaceship appears from the Ogron Confederation of Planets and tries to take over. The Doctor soon realises that all of these new invaders are from other universes, universes without the Daleks. He and Romana manage to escape in the TARDIS after convincing the new invaders to leave the universe with the Daleks in it.

Meanwhile, Dr. River Song and her graduate student discover a lost colony of Silurians who are about to be destroyed by an asteroid crashing into their planetoid. Things do not go well.

The Ninth, Tenth, and Twelfth Doctors meet up in Australia while investigating the infection that turns humans into automatons saying, “peace”. They realize the Doctors TARDISes are all linked and that several versions of the Doctor have already been lost in the white void universe. The Eighth Doctor also arrives. The Ninth, Tenth and Twelfth Doctor use Jenny’s Bowship to investigate the White Void that is taking over everything. The Eighth Doctor stays behind to try to protect the humans on Earth from the infection of the Void. The three Doctors in the bow ship find at the center of the Void, an ancient TT capsule, and the Eleventh Doctor. The time capsule is eating everything in sight, consuming whole galaxies. The three Doctors are able to talk to the Eleventh Doctor, who needs help. Together the Doctors manage to fix things for the Time Capsule (ancient TARDIS) and reverse the damage. Everyone is then safe and able to go home.

The Lost Dimension Book Two is a good conclusion to the story. Book One had introduced the Eleventh Doctor’s journey to Gallifrey, and Book Two focuses on solving that mystery and concluding the story. Book Two also has more Doctors working together, with a minimum of the various aspects of the Doctors sniping at each other. Other than the Fourth Doctor and the Eighth Doctor, though, the Classic Doctors are still only seen in cameos, although having all the Doctors working together to rescue the Eleventh Doctor and reverse the damage caused by the TT Capsule works and makes this seem like a true multi-Doctor story. I enjoyed this graphic novel, though I did find it extremely confusing at times and I had to read it multiple times to really figure out what was going on. Still, recommended.

Read my Review of Doctor Who – The Lost Dimension Book One.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Day She Saved The Doctor

  • Title: Doctor Who: The Day She Saved The Doctor
  • Authors: Jacqueline Rayner, Jenny T. Colgan, Susan Calman, Dorothy Koomson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/26/2018

**Spoiler Alert** The Day She Saved the Doctor is a collection of four short stories, well, novelettes. Each story features a female companion and a popular Doctor, and the theme for the four stories is that the companion must “save” or rescue the Doctor. Mind you, in the show the female companions, and even some of the male companions rescued the Doctor all the time. All four stories are also written by female writers and the book designer is also a woman (and from Milwaukee!).

Sarah Jane and the Temple of Eyes
Jacqueline Rayner

The first story, “Sarah Jane and the Temple of Eyes” has the Fourth Doctor (as played on the television series by Tom Baker) and Sarah Jane arriving in Ancient Rome. They no sooner start exploring an ancient marketplace than a woman runs out into the street – her eyes are white and she’s been blinded. But the woman wasn’t always blind and she had been missing a few days. Sarah asks her what happened but she has no idea. Sarah and the Doctor escort her home and discover that four other merchants wives had recently been blinded, under similar circumstances. Sarah smells a story, but she also is convinced that whatever is going on it’s not normal for Imperial Rome.

Sarah and the Doctor split up to interview the other victims, and even the wives of other merchants who are in the same social circle and might know something. But Sarah meets a woman who is the person behind it all and the Doctor gets a warning about the woman but is too late to rescue Sarah. Sarah is taken by Marcia to the temple home of a female-only cult that worships a goddess. There she meets a priestess who is using an alien machine to harvest information from other women. Unfortunately, the machine has the side effect of leaving people blind and Marcia is actually harvesting information to help her husband, also a merchant, in his business dealings.

The Doctor goes to the temple but the guards won’t let him in because he’s a man. He sneaks in but the priestesses get very upset that a man has invaded his temple. They threaten to kill the Doctor by a poisonous snakebite and use the alien machine on Sarah. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to fix the machine and then has Sarah try it. The machine doesn’t blind her and after the priestess experiences Sarah’s memories of the Doctor, the priestess agrees she can’t kill the Doctor because he is a good man. She also sees that Marcia was taking advantage of her. The Doctor and Sarah leave, as they depart in the TARDIS, Sarah wonders if they might have changed history, but the Doctor reminds her that no one really knows anything about that particular female-led Roman religion.

Rose and the Snow Window
by Jenny T. Colgan

The second short story in The Day She Saved the Doctor is Jenny T. Colgan’s “Rose and the Snow Window”. The story starts with the Ninth Doctor and Rose arriving in Toronto in 2005, the Doctor is looking for a time puncture. He sets up a telescope in an apartment in a high rise apartment building. Rose looks through the telescope and sees a candle-lit room opposite. The Doctor and Rose investigate and soon find a connection between Toronto and Russia in 1812.

They travel back to Russia in 1812 where Rose meets the Russian count she had seen in the window in 2005 Toronto. The young man is bereft because he is being forced into a marriage of convenience to save his family. He soon falls for Rose because she is unlike anyone he has ever met. She also falls for the handsome Count. Do to an attack of some sort of robot or alien that recognizes Rose as an “anomaly” Count Nikolai pulls on the red ribbon she wears and the two snap back to 2005 Toronto. Rose introduces the Count to modern conveniences like hot showers, electric lights, and fluffy towels warmed on a radiator. The Count is delighted by each new discovery he makes, and Rose enjoys this immensely.

They return to Russia again with the Doctor, and gradually the Doctor and Rose figure out that the woman Nikolai is supposed to marry is actually an alien who feeds on psychic energy. She essentially bribes Nikolai – offering him money, security for his family, and no children so the timeline will be preserved. Nikolai decides to reluctantly go through with it. Rose interrupts the wedding. The anomalies get worse with a troop of confused Mounties appearing in 19th century Russia. (Mind you, this isn’t wholly accurate. The Mounties have ceremonial duties, which is the only time they wear red serge. Otherwise, in the Western provinces and territories, the Mounties have duties similar to the FBI or State Police in the US.) The Doctor ends up binding with the alien so it can go home. Later, Rose and the Doctor check on Nikolai’s history – knowing that without a rich purse, the only thing for him to do was join the Russian military in 1812.

“Rose and the Snow Window” had a great sense of atmosphere, and the story centers more on Rose than the Doctor but the Doctor is still a strong presence and it’s a good partnership story about the two of them. I quite enjoyed it. It’s also the longest story in the book.

Clara and the Maze of Cui Palta
by Susan Culman

Clara is basically having a bad day at the start of her story in this collection. It’s not terrible, but she’s bored, frustrated, and really needs a vacation. She convinces the Doctor to take her on a “relaxing spa vacation”. I did have some trouble figuring out if Clara was with the Eleventh Doctor or the Twelfth Doctor in this story, but by the end, I’m pretty sure it was the Eleventh Doctor (as played by Matt Smith on the BBC television series). The two arrive on Cui Palta, one of the great resort planets. They explore, as the Doctor raves about all the relaxing things they can do, but gradually Clara becomes uneasy. Clara’s unease and discomfort grow, and she points out the problem – there are no people. The Doctor pooh-poohs this observation. There are also yellow flowers everywhere and the Doctor encourages Clara “to stop and smell the flowers.”

The two continue walking, then see an entrance to a garden maze. Clara again has misgivings, but the Doctor says it will be fun to solve the maze. They enter but get hopelessly lost, going around and around in circles. Clara confronts the Doctor with this but again he pooh-poohs and ignores her. This continues and the traps in the maze get more and more dangerous. When they find dead skeletons, the Doctor acknowledges that something is wrong. They continue trying to solve the maze – which now includes moving walls and mirrored corridors. Finally, they reach a courtyard with three doors – only to find that when they open and walk through a door – they return to the courtyard.

It’s in this three-choices section that Clara and the Doctor are separated but they can still communicate by yelling to each other. Clara trips and being close to the ground and sneezing (as she’s been doing throughout the story) she used a hankie the Doctor gave her to cover her nose and mouth. Then she sees things clearly – it’s all an illusion and the Doctor is literally running in circles. She calls out to the Doctor to get low and cover his nose and mouth. He does and the illusion breaks. The two leave the maze and city for the TARDIS and leave the planet. But it begs the question as to how the psychoactive flowers got there in the first place and did they really poison all the people on the planet.

Like the Sarah Jane story, Clara and the Maze of Cui Palta plays up Clara’s personal fears – this time her fear of getting lost. But this is also probably the strongest story in terms of the theme of the Companion saving the Doctor – because in this story it seems like the Doctor never would have figured it out. But he also discounts Clara’s concerns frequently – and she comes off a bit spoiled and a bit of a know-it-all. So although it handles the theme in a direct way, I liked other stories in the collection better.

Bill and the Three Jackets
by Dorothy Koomson

Bill and the Doctor are in the TARDIS, and Bill is trying to convince the Doctor to let her go shopping. The Twelfth Doctor (as played by Peter Capaldi on the British series Doctor Who) tries to convince Bill she can certainly find something to wear for her date in the TARDIS’s wardrobe rooms, he even tells her he probably has an entire room of jackets, but Bill is unconvinced and succeeds in getting him to let her go shopping.

Bill goes into town and finds a shop she never really noticed before. Inside are racks and racks of jackets. The shop clerk, who has a name tag that reads, Ziggy, seems friendly enough and before long Bill’s picked out three jackets to try on. She slips on the first one, an amethyst jacket, and is about to take a selfie when the Ziggy objects, the jackets are exclusive designs and the shop doesn’t allow selfies. Bill thinks this is weird but she puts her phone away. The Ziggy then offers to take pictures with her Polaroid camera. The picture seems to be taking an extraordinary amount of time to develop so the clerk puts it on the counter. Bill tries on a green jacket and a gold leather one with buckles. But she also starts to feel ill and weak. Ziggy had taken pictures of her in each jacket. Ziggy urges Bill to get something to eat and then come back and make her decision.

Bill leaves and walks to a nearby coffee shop. But her coffee and sandwich don’t taste good to her and her stomach ache gets worse. Later the owner of the coffee shop comes out and asks Bill where the girl went, the one who ordered a coffee, chips, and sandwich and didn’t pay. Bill’s confused – that’s her order, but she definitely paid. Yet the coffee shop owner insists she’s someone else and the other girl didn’t pay.

Bill goes to the TARDIS and the Doctor doesn’t recognize her either. Moreover, there’s another Bill in the TARDIS. Bill now knows something is very wrong. She tries to figure out how she can get some help and realizes that there’s a girl she knew at university, someone to whom she always gave extra chips. Bill approaches the girl who’s reading a science fiction novel in the cafeteria. Bill explains her story and then tells her about the extra chips. The girl, being an SF fan, actually believes Bill. The two set off for the shop. They get the photographs and then confront the Doctor and the fake Bill again.

Bill tears up the photos and she starts to appear to be herself, while the fake Bill is obviously an alien shapeshifter. The camera was loaded with psychic paper, and the shapeshifter used it to stabilize her form. But when the Doctor and Bill ask why she did it, they find out she was fleeing a repressive regime on her home planet. Now she just wants to go home. The Doctor explains he must take the shapeshifter to a different time as well as place – if he took her to the planet now it would just be empty space. But he agrees. Bill’s compassion for the shapeshifter is instrumental in the Doctor’s decision to help. Bill also gains respect for the girl she’d flirted with but never really spoken to before.

There are no bad guys in this story. The alien is simply homesick and using its natural abilities and a little psychic paper to get what it wants. Bill’s own insecurities made her a mark in the first place, not that that’s completely fair (everyone is insecure sometimes). Bill learns a lot about herself about a friend and about the alien and the Doctor. And the Doctor is passive in this story – he’s as vulnerable to the alien’s illusion as anyone else who doesn’t know Bill. It’s a good story, with an important point about being comfortable in your own skin rather than trying to be someone else’s idea of perfect.

This was a fun collection and I enjoyed it. Highly recommended.

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!

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!