Book Review – Doctor Who: The Darkening Eye

  • Title: The Darkening Eye
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Stewart Sheargold
  • Director: Ken Bentley
  • Characters: Nyssa, Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Adric
  • Cast: Sarah Sutton, Derek Carlyle
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/28/2016

**Spoiler Alert** The Darkening Eye is from the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line and features Sarah Sutton performing the story as the Fifth Doctor’s companion Nyssa. The story features as well, the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, and Adric. However, the wrap-around story features an older Nyssa who is speaking to a patient with a usually fatal disease. The patient is terrified because the only known treatment for his unnamed disease is so harsh it often kills the patient. Nyssa tells him she had his disease and survived, then she explains her tale.

The Fifth Doctor (as played on the BBC series Doctor Who by Peter Davison) lands the TARDIS on an empty freighter in space. But no sooner than they land than everyone, even the Doctor, wants to leave. The freighter was hit during a space battle and is open to space. There shouldn’t even be any atmosphere but there is – the first mystery. And the Doctor detects time distortion or an anomaly. Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric want to leave anyway, and the Doctor agrees, but they meet the species providing the atmosphere – Dar Traders there to claim salvage of the dead. Tegan is appalled. Adric immediately assumes their culture is their culture and not something they should judge. Nyssa is simply trying to understand when the ship is hit. The hulk is broken in half with the companions left with the Dar Traders and the Doctor on the other side with the TARDIS. The Doctor mimes heading back to the TARDIS – and Tegan, Nyssa, and Adric are left with the Dar Traders. Using a magical mirror – the Companions travel to the Dar Traders ship. As this story is told from Nyssa’s point of view, we don’t see the Doctor for a while. On the Dar Traders ship, the traders want to determine if Nyssa is “alive” – they throw her into a cabinet and torture her. She survives this, and learns about the Dar Traders – they are obsessed with death, and will cure deadly diseases or injuries for a chance to see the “threshold” then coming back from death.

On the Dar Traders’ ship, they also encounter an assassin who has a Dwarf Star Alloy cabinet that keeps him alive.

The group heads down to the nearby planet so Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric can find the Doctor and the TARDIS. First, Adric is stabbed by the assassin, but recovers. Nyssa is also attacked as they make their way through the war-torn planet to find the Doctor. The Dar Traders bring Nyssa back. The group finds the Doctor and the assassin tries to steal the Doctor’s life force to power his cabinet. Unfortunately, Dwarf Star Alloy and Time Lord physiology don’t mix. Nyssa tries to prevent the disaster and nearly pays with her life, again. But the Dar Traders gift helps her to come back from near death and recover. Everyone piles into the TARDIS.

Nyssa, having explained to the patient she can help, offers – “Shall we trade?”

The Darkening Eye was a bit confusing, even on a second listen – though I must admit I did listen to this CD audiobook while driving in my car. And my commute is a short 22 minutes in good weather so it took a couple of trips to listen to the whole thing. Still, Sarah Sutton does an excellent job and it really is Nyssa’s story – the Doctor is barely there and the other companions are nearly minor characters. It’s just not as good a story as some of the Companion Chronicles.

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

Click this link to order The Darkening Eye 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: Tip of the Tongue

  • Title: Tip of the Tongue
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Patrick Ness
  • Characters: Fifth Doctor, Nyssa
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/23/2016

**Spoiler Alert** Tip of the Tongue is book five in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary – 12 Stories 12 Doctors collection of short books or novellas. It features the Fifth Doctor (as played by Peter Davison) and Nyssa, who journey to a small town in the US in the 1940s. Most of the story revolves around the people living in the town, especially a young German Jewish boy and a biracial girl. They’ve become outcasts as both are poor, living with single mothers, and, well, are not accepted by the WASPs of the town for unfair but obvious reasons.

This story gets the tone of the time period just right – and I could picture these characters perfectly. It also gets it’s vocabulary correct – the school Johnny and Nettie attend has a principal, not a headmaster etc. For once a Doctor Who story set in the US that doesn’t make basic mistakes of vocabulary, law, or common practices (like how to turn right on red – e.g. only after a full stop – where legal and not posted as otherwise), and the tone and the characters were so rich.

Unfortunately, that means the Doctor and Nyssa get short shift. Nyssa is in the story so little I had to flip through to see which Davison companion was in this story, when writing this review. And the Doctor has very little to do until the very end – when he strolls in like a police officer and “solves” the case and arrests the aliens responsible as well as releasing another group of alien slaves. But I get ahead of myself.

The story, taking place in a small town in the 1940s, involves a Jewish boy and a Biracial girl who become friends because they are both different and experience similar hardships. The boy, though, thinks he wants to be with a girl named Marisa – one of the popular ones at the school. So he takes $2.00, a fortune at the time, to buy a Truth Teller from his friend Nettie. The Truth Tellers are weird devices that are worn on the chin and will say a truthful, but ultimately hurtful thing about the person one is looking at. The Truth Tellers are brought into the town by Annabelle the daughter of the richest man in town, owner of the local shop, and the local factory. Annabelle is also the most popular girl in school – and a bit of a bully towards her friends. Marissa is, of course, one of her friends. The town finds the Truth Tellers to be annoying, but think they are fad that will go away on it’s own.

But then the Doctor and Nyssa show up, right after the mansion built by the richest couple in town blows up. The Doctor explains the couple and their daughter “Annabelle” are not humans at all, but aliens. And the Truth Tellers aren’t a cute gadget but aliens enslaved by the first group (who look like upward-standing human-sized sheep when not disguised. I loved that description. Only Doctor Who would have human-sized sheep as evil aliens.) The Doctor takes care of everything, and Marissa steals Annabelle’s fur-collared coat. Johnny realizes he doesn’t care for Marissa at all, and smiles at his real friend, Nettie.

The story of Jonny and Nettie, oddly enough, reminded me of the classic children’s book, A Bridge to Terabithia but I think that was more the tone of the book than the plot. I was a child when I read A Bridge to Terabithia and although I know I loved it – I don’t remember much about it now. However, as a Doctor Who title, the lack of the Doctor and Nyssa was a bit of an issue in this short story or novella. Still, it’s part of a set, so enjoy.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Sands of Time

  • Title: The Sands of Time
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Justin Richards
  • Characters:  Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 8/13/2015

I started this book as an e-book and finished by reading the paperback reprint that is part of the BBC Books Doctor Who Books Monster Collection. Sands of Time was originally published by Virgin Publishing as part of their Doctor Who Missing Adventures. Additionally, it’s a sequel to the aired episode, “Pyramids of Mars” featuring the Fourth Doctor as portrayed by Tom Baker. The novel features the Fifth Doctor, as played by Peter Davison and his companions Tegan and Nyssa. However, from a strictly linear sense the story takes place before “Pyramids of Mars”. Timey-Whimy indeed.

I enjoyed this story very much. It is very much a historical story, with the only SF elements being the TARDIS and the idea that the gods of Egypt are aliens called Osirans. All the “guest” characters are strong and memorable. I particularly liked Atkins, the Victorian butler who ends-up being a short-term companion of sorts.

The story begins with the TARDIS being drawn off course, and landing in the British museum. There, the Doctor, in trying to figure out precisely where he is prior to returning to the TARDIS, walks out of the museum and meets Atkins, who knows him well. The Doctor, though, has no idea who Atkins is. The Doctor and Tegan follow their path, Nyssa having been kidnapped, both trying to rescue her and trying to figure out what’s going on – only to discover they are caught up in events that seem to already have happened. They go to the Savoy, for example, to get some hotel rooms – and discover they are already registered. Tegan finds a green Victorian dress waiting for her in her room. At breakfast, the waiter offers the Doctor and Tegan the table they had the previous night.

It’s a wonderful twisty-turny plot that comes together beautifully. And interspersed between the main chapters are very short chapters that fill-out the story perfectly. These short bits are some of my favorites in the novel, because they give the story depth or fill-in background information that’s interesting but not part of the main plot (such as when a mummy is scanned by a CAT scanner).

I highly recommend Sands of Time especially as it is now available again in a reprint edition.

One important different between the e-book and the reprint. The e-book includes extensive author’s notes, which are instructive to an aspiring writer. And it also includes the author’s alternative ending. I must say – I prefer the original ending (the one in the reprint and the one used in the original final version of the first published version) rather than the alternative ending. But the author’s notes on why he wrote a second ending are fascinating – in short it’s a classic case of second-guessing yourself. I’m glad his editor said, “No, keep the first one – it’s better.” Because I liked it better as well.

Update: As mentioned at the start of this review, this novel is now available as a reprinted edition as part of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. This time I actually read the reprint!

Book Review – Doctor Who: Goth Opera

  • Title: Goth Opera
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Characters:  Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 8/02/2015

When I decided to read all the Doctor Who Missing Adventures published by Virgin Publishing, I also decided to read them in Doctor and Doctor-Companion order. That is, chronological according to when they would take place in the series, not the original publication order. So, after just finishing the last book in the series, The Well-Mannered War, I’m now reading the first book in the series, Goth Opera, which includes a nice introduction by Peter Darvill-Evans, the book series editor. Goth Opera is also a sequel to the New Adventures book Blood Harvest, despite the fact that Blood Harvest features the Seventh Doctor and Goth Opera features the Fifth Doctor, as played by Peter Davison, as well as featuring Tegan, and Nyssa. I thought about skipping the book until I’d read Blood Harvest but decided to read it anyway – and re-read it when I read Blood Harvest.

Goth Opera opens in Tasmania at a cricket match. The Doctor’s taken Tegan there in order to give her a holiday after her second encounter with the Mara. But Tegan is not enjoying her vacation. Soon, the Doctor and his companions are involved in a plot by vampires to take over the world and turn all humans into vampires. Aiding the vampires in this is Ruath, a Time Lady that the Doctor has encountered before – or that he will encounter again in his Seventh form. Nyssa is kidnapped and turned into a vampire. And Ruath even turns the Doctor into a vampire, though the process takes longer to affect him. Eventually, the Doctor is able to turn the tables on the vampires, eliminate many of them, and even turn other new vampires back into humans, or in Nyssa’s case, back to being a native of Traken.

The story was good, with several interesting characters. However, I’m not a big fan of vampire stories. Still, I enjoyed this novel.