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: 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!

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Roots of Evil

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

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

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

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

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