Book Review – Doctor Who: The Beast of Babylon

  • Title: The Beast of Babylon
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Charlie Higson
  • Characters: Ninth Doctor
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/05/2016

**Spoiler Alert** Doctor Who – The Beast of Babylon is part of the 50th Anniversary 12 Books – 12 Doctors collection of mini-books. This book features the Ninth Doctor, as played by Christopher Eccelston and takes place between Rose deciding not to travel with the Doctor in “Rose” and the Doctor coming back and asking her a second time, also in “Rose”. It’s a unique idea that the Doctor could have an entire adventure in that brief span we see as seconds in the first episode of the new series.

The novel starts with Ali having a picnic with her family, when the Doctor shows up. The Doctor, well, does Doctorish things, which seem a bit confusing because the story is from Ali’s point of view. Then Ali sits and thinks about how much she wants to travel and have adventures as she watches the moons over a lake at night. So we know Ali and her family are on an alien planet. The Doctor arrives and says that Ali has something he needs back, a silver orb. Ali does have it, but she wants to travel with the Doctor. The Doctor agrees.

As the Doctor takes the TARDIS to ancient Babylon on Earth, he explains he is after a Starman – a being created during the collapse of stars into black holes and white dwarfs and such. The silver orb can be used to send the Starman back where it came from before it can eat a planet. And it was the silver orb that the Doctor used to defeat the Starman on Ali’s planet. The Doctor also talks about the girl, Rose, he met on Earth.

When the Doctor arrives on Earth, he tells Ali to stay in the TARDIS. Ali listens, but full of curiosity, figures out how to use the TARDIS scanner. So she sees the Doctor getting in trouble. When the guards, who have hauled the Doctor off, attack the TARDIS – Ali strikes back, using her antenodes and even killing a man. Ali then wanders around, following the Doctor, trying to help, and causing havoc in a way. It’s at this point we realize she isn’t human.

The ancient Babylonians think Ali is a monster and the Doctor a sorcerer. However, when the Starman attacks it prevents the Doctor’s execution, and the Doctor and Ali work to defeat the Starman. The Doctor then rushes Ali in to the TARDIS. Ali is, it turns out, an ant-like being, but, obviously, intelligent. The women are the deadliest of her species. And she convinces the Doctor to give Rose another chance. Ali is returned to her home planet, glad to be home, and appreciative of her home.

This is a good story, especially the way Higson gradually reveals that Ali isn’t human, but that she is still a “person” so to speak. And I really liked seeing the Doctor with a non-human companion for a story. The Starman wasn’t a great villain – basically a monster to defeat that, despite being a strong threat, is rather easily defeated. Ancient Babylon and King Hammurabi make for a different setting for a Doctor Who story.

Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Heroes and Monsters Collection

  • Title: Heroes and Monsters Collection
  • Series: BBC Books – Special Themed Short Story Collection
  • Author: Various
  • Characters: War Doctor, Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, Twelfth Doctor, with companions
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/07/2017

Doctor Who Heroes and Monsters is a collection of short stories featuring the Doctors from New Who. There’s a single War Doctor story, several stories each with the Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, and Twelfth Doctor. There’s a pair of stories taking place at the same time and place – one of which is from Amy’s point of view on her solitary adventure and one from Rory’s on his only solitary adventure.

The problem is that though some of the stories are good – many are only so-so; and, nearly all of them read like they were written for children – not even young adults, but children. And it’s the type of children’s literature that, unfortunately, looks down on the child’s abilities to read, comprehend, and follow a good story – so the stories are overly simplistic instead.

The Amy-Rory pair of stories is one of the better sets. The Doctor lands the TARDIS on a giant shopping mall planet. Amy goes off on her own, and through kindness to a young boy, stops an invasion. However, the young boy is in his position due to a strange man, whom we suspect to be Rory. The next story in the collection shows us events from Rory’s point of view. I enjoyed that device for the pair of stories, however, it is a fairly simple story nonetheless.

The last story in the collection is a solo Twelfth Doctor story, which, while fun, and a bit less child-oriented, still has a predictable bent to it.

Overall, I was disappointed. Yes, it’s a quick read, but I’d rather have a bit more depth to my Doctor Who tie-in stories.

 

Book Review – Doctor Who: The 12 Doctors of Christmas

  • Title: The Twelve Doctors of Christmas
  • Series: BBC Books – Special Themed Short Story Collection
  • Author: Various
  • Note: Includes paintings for each story
  • Characters: One story per Doctor, with companions
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/22/2016

The Twelve Doctors of Christmas is a wonderful, wonderful book. Everything about this book is just awesome and it would make for a great Christmas gift for Doctor Who fans young and old. The presentation of this book is impressive – it’s a cloth-bound hard cover with incredible full-color art paintings – one per story. There is one short story per Doctor and one painting per story. The paintings are bound in groups, though, rather than as front pieces for each story, so you read four stories then get four pages of gorgeous art. Still, the full-color paintings are beautiful and aptly illustrate each story.

There are twelve short stories in the collection – one per Doctor, and the stories also feature many of the Doctor’s well-known companions. Each story also has a theme of Christmas – but it’s interpreted by the various authors in a broad way, so we get stories that range from Barbara and Ian “going home for the holidays” to the Seventh Doctor and Ace trying to rescue a crashed alien from Macy’s at Christmas (after hours) and trying to also save the few workers in the store. All the stories are inventive and approach the Holiday differently. It’s a wonderful collection.

This was an uplifting and fun read – and I could see myself re-reading it every year. It’s a beautiful presentation as a book, a great gift, and an enjoyable read. I simply loved it – and it was good to read at this time of year.

Stories, Doctor, Companion(s), Authors

  • All I Want for Christmas (First Doctor, Barbara, Ian) – Jacqueline Rayner
  • A Comedy of Terrors (Second Doctor, Jamie, Zoë) – Colin Brake
  • The Christmas Inversion (Third Doctor, Jo Grant, UNIT) – Jacqueline Rayner
  • Three Wise Men (Fourth Doctor) – Richard Dungworth
  • Sontar’s Little Helpers (Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Turlough) – Mike Tucker
  • Fairy Tale of New New York (Sixth Doctor, Mel) – Gary Russell
  • The Grotto (Seventh Doctor, Ace) – Mike Tucker
  • Ghost of Christmas Past (Eighth Doctor) – Scott Handcock
  • The Red Bicycle (Ninth Doctor, Rose) – Gary Russell
  • Loose Wire (Tenth Doctor) – Richard Dungworth
  • The Gift (Eleventh Doctor) – Scott Handcock
  • The Persistence of Memory (Twelfth Doctor) – Colin Brake

Free Comic Book Day 2017

Free Comic Book Day 2017 was Saturday May 6th, 2017. I went with a friend of mine and we arrived probably around 11:00 am. So there was a long line that wrapped around the corner. However, it was still an excellent event. There were cosplayers, and Vault of Midnight, my local comics shop, had their side walk activity area with vendors, artists, and kids activities. This year there was even a food truck! Once inside the store was less packed solid than last year – making it even easier to get to the free comics on the back wall as well as to look around the store for other items to purchase. This year we were allowed to choose four free promo books. I also picked-up my weekly pull list comics and inquired about a Doctor Who graphic novel that was missing from my collection. It is to the credit of the excellent staff at Vault of Midnight that even as busy as they were, they were still willing to check on a special order for me.

On to the comics, this year I picked-up four free comics, all tie-ins by chance. I picked up: Titan’s Four Doctors FCBD event issue; IDW’s Star Trek the Next Generation Mirror Broken; Archie Comics Betty and Veronica (a tie-in to Riverdale, somewhat), and DC’s Wonder Woman.

I’m going to start by discussing Wonder Woman. I picked this free promo comic up thinking it would be a tie-in to this Summer’s Wonder Woman movie. However, I was a bit disappointed because it’s actually a re-print of Wonder Woman Rebirth #1, which I have already read. In fact, Wonder Woman has been on my pull list since Rebirth started. Also, with two volumes of Wonder Woman Rebirth available in graphic novel format – it’s probably something that a lot of people have read since it’s included in the first Wonder Woman Rebirth Graphic Novel. That’s the negative. The positive is – I re-read the comic anyway and I really enjoyed it. As much as I enjoy Rebirth, and I do, Wonder Woman and Green Arrow have been the hardest lines for me to “get in to” so to speak. I finally dropped Green Arrow (I applaud the extremely brave social commentary of Green Arrow – but I found I couldn’t connect to Oliver and it always ended-up at the bottom of the stack when I was reading my books.) Wonder Woman is also teetering on the edge of being dropped from my pull – though I’d probably get the graphic novels instead. With two completely different storylines, Wonder Woman is really hard to follow month to month, especially if one isn’t that familiar with her storyline and background in the comics. But having said all that, I re-read this, the first issue of Wonder Woman Rebirth, and I found I really enjoyed it. Having read the bi-weekly book for about a year, I had a slightly better idea what was going on. If you haven’t read the new Wonder Woman, I do recommend it, I just feel the graphic novels are an easier format for enjoying the stories.

Betty and Veronica I picked up as a tie-in to Riverdale, the new series on the CW that’s based on Archie Comics. This story was fun, and full of surprises. It’s narrated by J. Farnsworth Wigglebottom III (a.k.a Hot Dog) Jughead’s dog. The dog speaks directly to the audience and is amusing and fun as he both narrates and comments on the action. Wigglebottom even “eats” two pages of the comic and then has Betty and Veronica giving exposition instead – in swimsuits. There’s a fair amount of humor in the book too. The story involves a national coffee chain buying out and closing down Pop’s the diner where the kids hang out. Betty is angered by this and rallies everyone to save Pop’s. When she discovers that Veronica’s father owns the coffee company, and the bank that holds Pop’s mortgage, Betty explodes at Veronica – and the issue ends there. The back of the book includes informative advertisements for Archie Comics, including the “new Archie”, and a Riverdale tie-in. There are also character portraits from Riverdale. Overall, I enjoyed this. The story is somewhat basic, one of the characters even comments that threats of Pop’s closing seem to happen a lot. But the breaking of the fourth wall, and the humor, make this an enjoyable read. Betty and Veronica and the other newer Archie comic books make for an excellent comic for teens and children, filled with Americana and a slightly old-fashioned bent.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Mirror Broken is a return trip to the Next Gen Mirror Universe. This story follows Lt. Barclay’s Mirror Universe double. I have always like Lt. Barclay and his Mirror Universe counterpart is tough, capable, and definitely shaped by the circumstances of his universe. In the Mirror universe, the Empire is breaking down, having suffered catastrophic wars with the Klingons and the Cardassians – Spock’s era of reform is over, resulting in an even more ruthless attitude within the Terran Empire – or what’s left of it. Assassination is still the only means of advancement, something we forget as we see Barclay contemplating getting out of engineering and into a “better” life. I liked the focus on a single character with basically a concluded story in this promo book. It’s also a good intro to the ST:TNG Mirror Universe comic, and the write-up for that series promises to be very character-focused, introducing a character per issue before any major plot. That’s the type of writing I like in comics – focus on character, and character interaction as well as world-building. The plots should always add to this. But when mere “action” takes over, without character being explored – the stories can fall flat. This issue of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Mirror Universe comic emphasizes character, and a relatively minor one at that (Barclay) and I enjoyed it. The last pages of the book explain three other available series from IDW, with three sample pages of each one. They are Star Trek – Boldly Go, which follows on from the reboot Star Trek films, taking place just after Star Trek Beyond. The second is Star Trek / Green Lantern. And the third is, Star Trek – Waypoint. Star Trek – Waypoint is an anthology series featuring all the various versions of Trek, though the sample issue seems to be set in a future version of Trek (Data has been uploaded to the Enterprise and is now the ship’s computer, though he projects holograms of himself to various duty stations.) all three of these series looked pretty good, and I actually plan on looking for a graphic novel version of the ST/GL crossover series. The art in this book (and the sample pages) is also very good, with a lovely painted look that’s has a dark undertone that’s appropriate for the Mirror universe. The color palettes for the sample pages fit the various versions of Trek they represent. If you are a Star Trek fan, check out IDW’s comic series – you won’t be disappointed, I think.

Doctor Who – The Promise (Four Doctors, FCBD 2017) begins, appropriately enough with teh Twelfth Doctor and Bill running on an alien planet. They find an ancient temple and enter, using YMCA as the visual key lock. The Doctor locates a fob watch, but it’s broken. He and Bill tell the local aliens a story and prevent a civil war. In the TARDIS, Bill asks the Doctor to tell her the real story and he tells her about his friend, Plex. The story flashes back to when the Ninth Doctor has to break the bad news to the hermit, Plex, that his entire planet has been destroyed. Plex then reveals to the Doctor he’s producing clones from his own stem cells and siphoned Time Lord Arton energy. The Tenth Doctor visits Plex when he dies, where he sees a hologram from his friend, who sends him to the planet of the clones. The Tenth Doctor has t “fixing” the overly deferential nature of the race of alien clones. The Eleventh Doctor awakens Plex, who becomes the leader of his re-united planet. Though as the Twelfth Doctor tells Bill, he’s afraid the society will break down again. This is a pretty good story, though it’s a bit hard to follow at times, since the different Doctors visit Plex at different times in his life – and nothing occurs in linear order. The back of the promo book includes a very handy catalog of Titan’s various Doctor Who graphic novels and specials. The art is excellent, and colorful in this book.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Supremacy of the Cybermen

  • Title: The Supremacy of the Cybermen
  • Authors: Cavan Scott and George Mann
  • Artists: Ivan Rodriguez, Walter Geovanni, Alessandro Vitti, Tazio Bettin, Nicola Righi, Enrica Eren Angiolini, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line: Multi-Doctor Specials (Doctor Who Comics Event)
  • Characters: Twelfth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Ninth Doctor, Gabby Gonzalez, Cindy Wu, Alice Obiefune, Rose Tyler, Captain Jack Harkness, Jackie Tyler
  • Collection Date: 2017
  • Collected Issues: Issues # 1-5
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/25/2017

Supremacy of the Cybermen is the collection of the 2016 Doctor Who Comics event. It features the four modern Doctors and their companions in the main stories, plus cameos from every Doctor ever from Hartnell to John Hurt (the “War Doctor”). The story features Cybermen who have gotten a hold of time travel technology and are changing history. The Doctors, in various time periods know something is wrong but don’t know how to fight it. And, scarily enough, they are losing. From Cyber-Silurians in the Dinosaur Age, to Ace as a Cyber-person attacking the Seventh Doctor – this book is richly illustrated and quite depressing – until the very end.

It is the Twelfth Doctor who discovers that the Cybermen aren’t bent on attacking Gallifrey, but that Rassilon has forged an alliance with the Cybermen – giving them control of space/time and the Eye of Harmony (Gallifrey’s black hole that powers time travel) itself. The Doctor is justifiably angry at Rassilon and realises he is being duped by the Cybermen.

Rassilon is absorbed as pure regenerative energy, then the Doctor is also connected to the Eye of Harmony. Inside, the Doctor meets Rassilon and they must work together to overcome the Cybermen’s plot. But the Twelfth Doctor still remembers the disasters of the past – even after they are reversed.

I enjoyed this story very much, especially the cameos of the past Doctors. The artwork was particularly beautiful. And the story was very complex. Doctor Who Supremacy of the Cybermen is a story not to be missed by any Doctor Who fan. Highly recommended.

Book Review – Ninth Doctor Vol. 1 – Weapons of Past Destruction

  • Title: Weapons of Past Destruction
  • Author: Cavan Scott
  • Artists: Blair Shedd, Rachael Stott, Anang Setyawan, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line: 9th Doctor
  • Characters: Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler, Captain Jack Harkness
  • Collection Date: 2016
  • Collected Issues: Issues # 1-5
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 1/02/2016

Titan Comics started their excellent series of Doctor Who graphic novels with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, and quickly added the Twelfth Doctor. Now they have gone back in time so to speak and started a Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) series. Weapons of Past Destruction is the first volume in that series. The novel is set between “The Doctor Dances” and “Boom Town” and also features the Doctor’s companions, Rose Tyler and Captain Jack Harkness.
The Doctor brings Rose and Captain Jack to a planet dedicated to art and science for vacation, but when the TARDIS arrives the planet has been completely destroyed. Captain Harkness takes the three to an illegal weapons bazaar, which upsets the Doctor. When the Doctor finds a dealer selling Gallifreyan weapons he freaks out a bit. Soon, the Doctor and his companions are caught up in a galactic conflict between the Unon and the Lect. As is the case with such things, Rose, Jack, and the Doctor are separated, reunited, separated again, in various combinations. But the story does draw to a successful conclusion. It also has a story that gives one time for thought.
The artwork is truly, truly gorgeous – and the characters’ voices are true to the Ninth Doctor Era of Doctor Who.
I enjoyed this graphic novel and I hope Titan Comics continues the series. Recommended, along with the other Doctor Who graphic novels.