Book Review – Doctor Who: Echoes of Grey

  • Title: Echoes of Grey
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: John Dorney
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Zoë, Jaime, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Wendy Padbury, Emily Pithon
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/25/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Echoes of Grey is part of Big Finish’s excellent Companion Chronicles series. This story features the Second Doctor, Zoë, and Jamie. It is preformed by Wendy Padbury as Zoë and Emily Pithon as Ali. Zoë is simply walking down the street when she’s approached by a woman called Ali, a woman who claims to know her, who said she met her during an encounter with the Doctor at the Whitaker Institute, an encounter involving the Achromatics. Ali says she has some equipment that can help Zoë remember. Ali takes her somewhere and hooks Zoë up to an Alpha-Wave generator, and Zoë begins to remember her adventure.

The TARDIS lands in what seems to be an abandoned medical facility. The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoë discover an empty medical ward, with charts still hanging on the beds, and some strange yellow creatures. They meet a girl, Ali, who, like Zoë, was a child prodigy, who was soon surrounded by adults and seen more for her skills than as a person. They meet a man who’s just snuck into the facility to find out what happened to his grandmother, and they meet the staff. They also discover a mysterious vat of white stuff. After the mysterious murder of one of the staff members – the trio, now mistaken as members of the “Company” that is paying for the research, on a fact-finding mission, discover what it is the Whitaker Institute has manufactured – the Achromatics – beings that can absorb any sort of disease or injury. Unfortunately, the semi-senitent Achromatics don’t stop with simply absorbing the disease – once the disease is absorbed and the person cured, they move on the absorb healthy cells – until the person dies. And then they move on to the next host. The Achromatics continue their healing/killing until they are so diseased – they die. The Doctor and Zoë are appalled that living creatures would die for this cure – and that it doesn’t work since the host/patient also dies. In the end, the Doctor manages to dispose of the Achromatics in a rather clever way – and the trio leaves in the TARDIS.

When Zoë speaks to Ali again, the woman presses her for the formula for the Achromatics – a formula she saw on one of the white boards in the Institute. With her photographic memory – she should recall it. But Zoë realises something is wrong – she doesn’t remember Ali being there, even though Ali insists she was. Zoë also realises that the Achromatics Project is far too dangerous and inhumane to get out. In the end, she decides – she doesn’t remember.

This was a good story, with lots of atmosphere, well-performed by Wendy Padbury who always does a very good job in the Companion Chronicles. The only criticism I have is that it’s a bit short. I would have liked a slightly longer, more complex story. Still, it is a good story and it’s easily visualized. I recommend Echoes of Grey. Oh, and I loved the reason for the title, it’s reference, and even where the name of the “monster du jour” comes from.

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

Click this link to order Echoes of Grey 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: Fear of the Daleks

  • Title: Fear of the Daleks
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Patrick Chapman
  • Director: Mark J. Thompson
  • Characters: Zoë Heriot, Jamie, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Wendy Padbury, Nicholas Briggs
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/08/2014

Fear of the Daleks is the most “bookish” of the Doctor Who Companion Chronicles CDs I’ve listened to so far – but it is also the earliest. The story is told by Wendy Padbury (who played Zoë Heriot on the original Doctor Who television series) with Nicholas Briggs providing the voices of the Daleks. Zoë is in therapy, trying to deal with the dreams she’s been having – dreams of monsters.

The story changes scenes from Zoë telling her therapist about her dream to the story, where she, Jaime, and the Doctor arrive on an asteroid that is home to a huge, domed city. The city is to be host to a peace conference to end a war between two space-faring races in the nearby system. But before the TARDIS crew can do anything, they are arrested. They are taken to a lab where a megalomaniac plans to use a Dalek mind transfer machine to control Zoë and use her to assassinate one of the planet’s leaders – thus continuing the war. The scientist also plans to use The Doctor in a similar way.

However, although the machine works on Zoë, projecting her astral self to the spaceship hosting one of the two alien races, and controlling her movements; when the Doctor tricks the scientist to use it on him – he is able to resist the conditioning and prevents Zoë from killing the planetary leader. The Daleks are revealed to be behind everything, and the Doctor, again, tricks them into revealing their true nature – causing the scientist to reverse his plan.

Wendy Padbury has a wonderful voice and she reads well – performing what parts she can, though this particular story is more narration than some of the other Doctor Who Companion Chronicles I’ve listened to. Nicholas Briggs has played the Daleks many times, both on the television series, and in Doctor Who audios from Big Finish, though having met him at Chicago TARDIS – I couldn’t help but picture him while listening to this story. The problems with Fear of the Daleks though include it not really being a scary story, some rather silly dialog, and a plot that’s a bit simple. I’ve never been a big fan of the Daleks as a Doctor Who monster – I prefer the Cybermen, and the over-usage of every word ending in -ate imaginable starts to sound silly rather than scary. The plot also was someone flat and simple – I actually wanted to learn more about Zoë and how the Time Lords mind-wipe had affected her life. However, from looking at later discs in this range, I suspect Zoë’s story might continue, and this was only an introduction to her eidetic memory cancelling out the Time Lord’s erasure of her memories of her time with the Doctor.

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

Click this link to order Fear of the Daleks on CD.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Helicon Prime

  • Title: Helicon Prime
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Jake Elliot
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Jaime, Second Doctor, Mindy Voir
  • Cast: Frazier Hines, Suzanne Proctor
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/04/2014

Helicon Prime is the second of Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles I’ve listened to. The format is somewhat between a true audiobook and one of Big Finish’s audio plays. Frazier Hines reads the story and plays the parts of Jaime, and, surprisingly well, the Second Doctor (I didn’t realise it was Frazier at all at first). Suzanne Proctor plays the part of Mindy Voir, and then Frazier reads the descriptions. It helps that in this story, Jaime is actually telling his story to someone else. Also, the story is split into two parts – with a cliffhanger and theme music at the break.

The story is about Jaime, who suddenly remembers an adventure he had with the Doctor on Helicon Prime, a resort in the Golden Section of the galaxy, where there is no violence due to the pacifying effect of the Golden Section. However, suddenly people are getting murdered. It turns out the deaths are because a small group of people is looking for a long-lost treasure.

I enjoyed the story – I listened to Part I in December and Part II today. It’s a good tale, though at times it was a bit confusing. I was a bit nervous about this format – often I find it difficult to concentrate when listening to audio books – it starts to fade into background noise and I fail to pay attention. But this format, with two actors performing their characters, then one reading the rest of the story, works surprisingly well. I have two more of these Companion Chronicles that I’ve purchased, and if they are as good, I’ll have to look into purchasing more of them from Big Finish. Also, these stories are like having the Missing Adventures or Past Doctor Adventures book series back again, but in a much faster format (it’s a single CD, so less than an hour to listen to the entire thing). There are two trailers, an interview with Fraser Hines, and a very strange music-only track included on the CD as bonus tracks.

I highly recommend Helicon Prime. The format also worked really well. And I enjoyed listening to a new and original Patrick Troughton (Second Doctor) story.

Find out more about Big Finish at their website.

Purchase Doctor Who Helicon Prime on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Nameless City

  • Title: The Nameless City
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Michael Scott
  • Characters: Second Doctor, Jaime
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/10/2016

Doctor Who The Nameless City is the second book in the Twelve Doctors 50th Anniversary boxed set of 12 mini-books. It features the Second Doctor, as played by Patrick Troughton on the BBC television series Doctor Who and his companion Jaime, the Scottish Highlander. Polly is mentioned but not present and no mention is made of Zoë or Victoria (or even Ben), which made me wonder when the story was meant to be set in the Second Doctor Era.

In the story, a disguised Master manipulates Jaime into taking a dangerous book as a reward and giving that book to the Doctor. The Doctor, meanwhile, is attempting to fix his TARDIS but needs gold, mercury, and Zeiton-7 – three substances it’s difficult to get in Victorian London. However, when Jaime gives the Doctor the book, it turns out to be the Necronomicon. The Necronomicon, or Book of Dead Names, was written by an ancient (even more ancient than the Time Lords) and mostly dead race known as the Archons. And the Archons have a grudge against the Time Lords. The book possesses the TARDIS and brings it to the Archon homeworld, just outside the Nameless City.

There, the Doctor, the TARDIS, and Jaime are transported to the city by ape-like robots. The Archons make threats, including wanting to use the TARDIS to change history so they were never defeated. They therefore, conveniently, fix the TARDIS, with pools of gold, mercury, and Zeiton-7 – which are all plentiful on their world. Their city is also made from glass and exists in multiple dimensions.

Needless to say, after the TARDIS is fixed – the Doctor and Jaime manage to escape in a rather clever way.

I enjoyed this – whereas the first book in this series of basically short stories was filled with references to Peter Pan; this one is full of references to H.P. Lovecraft – including the Necronomicon, the dangerous book of arcane magicks. The Nameless City itself is very awesome and cool, though it also brings to mind Lovecraft’s use of strange and odd descriptions that make a place seem very off-center.

I don’t want to spoil how the Doctor and Jaime escape because it was novel – and a highlight of the story. But this was also a case where the Master, in his plot, actually helped the Doctor. If the TARDIS had remained in Victorian London, the Doctor would never have been able to get a “ton of gold” (literally). He might have been able to get the mercury – depending on how much he needed. But he would have had a very hard time getting the alien component Zeiton-7 needed to repair the TARDIS (in a process that’s also way cool so I won’t spoil it). But by sending the TARDIS to a planet where these components are as ubiquitous as salt water – the TARDIS could be repaired easily. You have to wonder if the Master ever really thinks his plots through. Anyway, this is an enjoyable mini-book. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice

  • Title: The Wheel of Ice
  • Series: Doctor Who – Unknown
  • Author: Stephen Baxter
  • Characters: Second Doctor, Jaime, Zoë
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/26/2016

The Wheel of Ice is a hard Science Fiction novel featuring the Second Doctor, as played by Patrick Troughton on the BBC television series, Doctor Who. The Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë are in the TARDIS when it unexpectedly appears in the middle of the rings of Saturn. The atmosphere of Saturn is volatile and the TARDIS is immediately hit by large chunks of ice. But they are rescued by Phee, a young girl on an in-system scooter and MMAC a computer and AI that maintains the Wheel.

The Wheel is a space habitat for the miners and administrators who are mining the moon, Mnemosyne, for Bernalium – a rare and thus extremely valuable mineral. The mining operation is run by Bootstrap Mining, and their head administrator is Florian Hart – a ruthless businesswoman. Also, the Wheel has additional departmental heads: Jo Laws, the mayor; the chief medical officer, Sinbad Omar; Luis Reyes, ambassador from the Planetary Ethics Commission of Earth; and Marshal Sonia Paley, the head police officer. Jo and her family are central to the story. Her daughter, Phee, is the first to meet The Doctor and the TARDIS crew, her son, Sam, is a teenager, forced to work in the mines and not too happy about it, and her baby daughter, Casey, actually is the first to encounter the mysterious alien hidden on Mnemosyne.

Florian Hart is ruthless, in the name of profits for Bootstrap, she has forbidden all education for the younger generation, the children born on the wheel, and uses them as laborers in the mine. Children as young as seven are sent on “familiarity courses”. Jo, with three children, isn’t thrilled about this, but sees it as the way of the world.

The Wheel is also experiencing acts of “sabotage”, which Florian Hart blames on the children and teenagers of the Wheel, despite the inherent lack of logic in her accusations (she’s basically picking on a group she doesn’t like to blame without any evidence and ignoring evidence to the contrary). When a piece of machinery is destroyed by an explosion, Hart uses it as an excuse to round-up all the teenagers who work in the mines and place them under house arrest. She even threatens to physically mutilate them as punishment. The teenagers, including Jaime – who’s gotten wrapped up in their situation – escape to the moon, Titan.

The Doctor, and Dr. Omar, investigate the explosion and discover that the machinery was destroyed by a methane explosion. They also find a dead “Blue Doll”. These aliens had been seen by the children working in the mines, but were denied by the administrators of the Wheel, especially Florian Hart. When the Doctor points out that the machinery exploded because of the methane fuel, and shows the evidence of the dead Blue Doll everyone but Hart agrees something else may be going on.

The Doctor, Zoë, Jaime, Jo Laws, Sam, and the other administrators besides Hart begin to investigate to figure out what is really happening on the Wheel and the nearby moons. The truth involves an ancient AI, Ark, and storage library from another galaxy from long ago, and the Blue Dolls, and later, Blue Soldiers it constructs.

Most of this book is told in the typical third-person fashion of the Doctor Who original tie-in novels. However, there are chapters told from the point-of-view of the two AIs: MMAC (who has a Scottish accent) and Arkive. And there’s a chapter that describes how an amulet (really a temporal lure sent by Arkive deep into Earth’s past) is passed down from woman to woman in Jo’s family to finally be worn by Phee.

I enjoyed the characterizations in this book the best – Phee, Sam, Jo, MMAC, ARKIVE, even the villainous Florian Hart all leap off the page. Jaime, Zoë, and the Doctor also are in character and given plenty to do without the obvious trope of the companions being split up simply so each can learn separate pieces of information, get rescued, and report back. Zoë and the Doctor spend most of their time together, for example. And although Jaime has his own adventures, it’s nice to see the 18th century Scot get some real action where he’s able to be useful despite his unfamiliarity with the environment. The section of the book on Titan is wonderfully written, both the descriptions, and showing how Sam and the other teens behave and think. The book also succeeds in terms of the plot. Some readers might find Florian Hart to be a bit of a cardboard villain, but she is given a credible backstory that relates to an older Second Doctor adventure on the BBC series.

Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Menagerie

  • Title: The Menagerie
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Martin Day
  • Characters:  Second Doctor, Jaime, Zoë
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/20/2013

The Menagerie is part of Virgin Publishing’s Doctor Who – The Missing Adventures paperback original novels series. This one features the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Zoë, and Jaime, which is one of my favorite Doctor and companion combinations. However, the story is just, well, to be frank, pretty awful actually.

The Doctor decides to take his companions to a low-technology world for a nice vacation. The TARDIS lands, and the three wander to the local village and enter the pub. Within minutes, the place is raided, and the three are split up. The village where they have landed is in the iron hands of the Knights of Kubris – technology-hating religious zealots who have not only banned all technology and science, but also live “only in the moment”, banning the study of the past, and forbidding any planning for the future.

OK, it may sound like Tea Party paradise, but the problem is the first half of the book is very slow going, as it feels like one grand lecture that goes on and on. The Knights position is completely untenable. to live without science and technology is pretty much impossible – and wrong. But to condemn the study of history, and make it a crime to discuss what you’re having for dinner tomorrow, much less your plans for the weekend… It’s just not a natural state of affairs.

And if you think the anti-science nature of the Tea Party is just plain wrong, Martin Day’s novel comes across as strident preaching to the converted. Science and technology are cool, and necessary, and one simply cannot pretend they don’t exist or ignore them. Besides, learning from the past then using technology to develop improved ways of doing things is the only way to prepare for the future – one certainly cannot fight it, or in real life, travel backwards to some “golden era” (especially as there is no “golden era”).

Eventually The Menagerie wanders around to explaining what had happened. The planet itself had an underground scientific/military research station. This station was exploring using genetic manipulation to create biologic weapons. They succeed in creating a new creature called a Mercim, but the creature also harbors a deadly microbe. Between the aggressive nature of the Mercim and the deadly nature of the microbe the research team is virtually wiped out. A few escape to the planet’s surface and their descendants occupy the planet at the time that the Doctor and his companions arrive.

The research station’s home planet sends a rescue/investigation party, but it is more or less too late. In a last, desperate act – the leader of the rescue party, who has contracted the disease spread by the Mercim, is turned into a Cyborg. He leaves the planet in his spaceship, immediately crashes, and this cyborg is the leader who had established the science and technology-hating Knights.

Perhaps the novel would have worked better if it had started with the research station. I can certainly picture the Second Doctor warning the military scientists against “messing with forces they shouldn’t”, then if it had jumped forward to see the cultural result of the disaster, the story might have worked better, and the first half been less boring and strident.

Overall, the novel something for only the completist to own. I read an e-book version. It’s not the worst Doctor Who novel I’ve read, but it’s far from the best.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Twilight of the Gods

  • Title: Twilight of the Gods
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Christopher Bulis
  • Characters:  Second Doctor, Jaime, Victoria
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/05/2013

Twilight of the Gods is part of the long out of print Virgin Books Publishing Missing Doctors Adventures which featured Doctors 1-6 from the British television series Doctor Who and were published alongside the New Adventures featuring the Seventh Doctor. I read an e-book version, which used the old, non-flowable .pdf format – which meant lots of re-sizing and zooming of pages, then re-setting the page size to “turn” to the next page. There also were a lot of typos. However, considering how long out of print the book is, and that the e-book was free, it’s not fair to complain too much.

This story featured the Second Doctor (as played by Patrick Troughton), Jaime McCrimmon – the Scottish Highlander, and Victoria Waterfield. The TARDIS doesn’t exactly crash, but it has a rough landing on what soon turns out to be Vortis – the Web Planet, home of the Menoptera and the Zarbi, previously visited by the First Doctor (in the aired story, “The Web Planet”). It’s hundred years since the Doctor’s last visit, but the Menoptera need the Doctor’s help again.

The Rhumon Empire is in the midst of a Civil War between Royalists and Republicans – and both sides have landed on Vortis, given the planet their own name, and declared it claimed for their own side in the war. Both sides fight each other, fight the elements of the planet itself, and fight any Menoptera who get in the way. The Royalists take Menoptera as slaves – but the Republicans kidnap them as well.

Lord Kai Shallvar leads the Royalists, he’s served by his loyal servant, Cansonn, and annoyed by the High Priest Li Modeenus. Besides absolute loyalty to their King and the aristocracy – the Royalists are also expected to be blindly loyal to the religion of the One True God – the Sun God. Though Shallvar rules his men and women, Modeenus has power to manipulate Shallvar, because he represents the State Religion, and on the Royalist side of the War – no other beliefs are tolerated other than the State Religion. Modeenus even has a computer-like device to test one’s belief.

The Republicans believe that for all to be Equal, all must be the same. They have no religion – and punish any belief in the supernatural or superstition severely. On the planet, they are led by Captain-Commander Draga-three, who must obey the rules set by her political officer, Nevon-two. The Republicans do not even use family names, only numbers. They’re basically a thinly-veiled analogy of Communists.

The Doctor, Victoria, and Jaime, quickly get involved – being split up, reunited, and split-up again – thus allowing them and the readers to learn about and become involved with the three groups in conflict on the planet. However, just as the Doctor attempts to organize some sort of rapprochement between the groups – a new problem arises, an Old One – left over from the Animus that the First Doctor and his companions defeated. Before long, The Doctor, his companions, the Menoptrea, the Royalists and the Republicans are fighting together to defeat something that looks like it escaped from a HP Lovecraft novel. And they are losing.

The Doctor comes up with a final desperate plan – to take one of the missiles (bombs) offered by the Republicans and dematerialize with it abroad the TARDIS, rematerialize within the Old One’s shields, drop the bomb out the TARDIS door, then dematerialize again.

I won’t spoil the ending – but it’s a fine romp.

I really did enjoy this novel – lots of political intrigue, the Doctor and Victoria and Jaime all teaching the Republicans and Royalists not merely that they are wrong, but that they should just leave the Menoptera alone, to run their planet as they see fit (a hint of anti-Colonialism there). By the end, everyone is working together in the short term, though the Royalist and Republicans agree to leave the planet alone. The Xeno-biology of the Menoptera is fascinating (yes, these are good aliens – as are the Rhumons, at heart). The title of the novel does, eventually, make sense – and is a whole third storyline that’s too involved to discuss here (as well as spoiling the end.)

The original characters were extremely well-drawn, and I liked the detail and background given to Jaime and Victoria.

Recommended to Doctor Who fans, and general SF fans alike.