Book Review – Doctor Who: House of Cards

  • Title: House of Cards
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Steve Lyons
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Jamie, Polly, Second Doctor, Ben
  • Cast: Frazer Hines (Jamie), Anneke Wills (Polly)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/12/2018

House of Cards is another story in Big Finish’s Doctor Who – The Companion Chronicles line, which features stories from the point of view of the Doctor’s companions, often with two actors performing the parts as if it was a two-hander play. This story is mostly from Polly’s point of view, but also includes parts performed by Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon. The story features the Second Doctor (as played on television in Doctor Who by Patrick Troughton), Ben, Jamie, and Polly.

The story opens with the foursome already split up, and the Doctor is absent for much of the story, the TARDIS crew has landed in an intergalactic casino. The enforcers in the casino are snake-like beings called the Sidewinders, and the casino is owned by Miss Fortune. Polly is appalled by the Sidewinders. No sooner than she complains to Ben about them being split up than the casino’s slot machines go haywire and start spitting out chips. Patrons rush the machine for free chips, even with the Sidewinders urging them to turn in the casino’s money.

Ben picks up enough chips to start playing one of the games – badly. Jamie watches Ben play while striking up a conversation with a red-haired girl named Hope. Across the table from Ben, Jamie and Hope, a mysterious woman in a red cloak and china mask is the only person at the table who seems to win. Jamie tells Ben to copy her, and he does, winning back some of his losses.

Polly, meanwhile, tries to find the Doctor – passing a pit where robot dogs are viciously fighting each other, and meeting a gambler down on his luck named “Lucky Bill”. She catches up with the Doctor and ends up with a time bangle, which someone had slipped in his pocket. Time travel is absolutely forbidden in the casino. Taken to meet Miss Fortune, Polly is informed of the rules against time travel and finds out Ben has lost his stake and the money he borrowed from the casino. He and Lucky Bill must now play the Game of Life – Miss Fortune tells Polly she must press one of two buttons – which will either allow Ben to go free but kill Lucky Bill or the reverse. Miss Fortune coldly tells Polly that because the buttons are randomized even she doesn’t know which button will kill Ben and which will save him. But when the time comes Polly doesn’t push that button – she grabs the time bangle and activates it.

Polly arrives a bit earlier and meets Hope – the redhead from Ben’s gambling table. Hope is a time traveler and the woman in the China mask too. Polly tries to explain it was her and her companions who set off the time travel alarm but it doesn’t go well. She tries to save Ben by getting him some money so he doesn’t have to borrow money and to find the Doctor for help. Plus, Polly wants to help Hope too – knowing she’s stuck in a bad situation.

Ben avoids the Game of Life – but the Doctor gets stuck in a game of life of his own – playing a winner takes all card game against Miss Fortune for Polly’s life and their freedom. The Doctor chooses the game and produces “Happy Family” cards. He wins by laying down all his cards at once. Miss Fortune disappears in a red mist. The Sidewinders take over the casino and the Game of Life is shut down. Having won his amnesty – Lucky Bill starts over, trying to win again. The time travelers leave the casino.

This story seems to take place immediately after The Selachian Gambit since that story is mentioned. It’s a fun story, somewhat basic (most of the little stories going on are similar to what you’d find in any story about a casino) and the setting is very confined. I did like the fighting robot dogs – they reminded me of K-9. And the robot croupiers who look like playing cards were very cool. But there’s not much meat to the story itself. It starts with the Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Jamie already in the casino. They meet people, do stuff, then leave. I liked that Polly got to do a lot in this story – but Jamie seemed under-used, especially as Frazer is narrating. So it’s like the reverse of Selachian Gambit which had a lot of Jamie and less of Polly. Still, it’s fun, it’s light, it’s enjoyable and it’s a good adventure – so if you’re looking for an enjoyable Second Doctor story, this is a good place to start. Recommended.

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

Click to order House of Cards on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Selachian Gambit

  • Title: The Selachian Gambit
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Steve Lyons
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Jamie, Polly, Second Doctor, Ben
  • Cast: Frazer Hines (Jamie), Anneke Wills (Polly)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/05/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Space sharks robbing an intergalactic bank vault? The Second Doctor (as played by Patrick Troughton on the long-running British SF series Doctor Who) and his companions Ben, Polly, and Jamie get caught up in a bank robbery. The Selachian Gambit is an audio play in Big Finish’s Doctor Who The Companion Chronicles series, with Frazer Hines as Jamie, the Doctor, the Selachians, and other voices, and Anneke Wills as Polly.

The Doctor, Jamie, Ben, and Polly return to the TARDIS, only to find it clamped and covered by a force-field with a notice saying 10 credits is due for parking fees. As they are outside a bank, Ben, Polly, and Jamie convince the Doctor to go inside to get the money. But the Doctor is unable to fill in the form to open an account – refusing to provide a name or address because “he can’t”. However, there isn’t much time for anyone to argue about this as three sharks in space suits enter the bank to rob the vault.

The sharks wave around guns, Ben manages to hide before anyone sees him, and Polly is sent to make tea for twenty in the kitchen. The Doctor tries to defuse the situation. When Polly heads off to the kitchen, she runs into Ben who has been crawling around in the bank’s ductwork, trying to find a way to help. The two discover some glue that hardens quickly until it’s rock-hard. They make three “glue bombs” to attack the robbers. Polly is able to pass one to Jamie, but when she tries to tell him the details of the plan she’s made with Ben – they get caught and she has to shush.

The sharks demand the bank manager open the vault, but he says he doesn’t have the combination. The sharks then open the vault with a combination they have – but instead of a bank vault, all they see is a blank void. The vault is dimensionally transcendental (“Like the TARDIS!”, Jamie points out) and without the proper combination, it remains hidden in a pocket dimension. Next, the sharks try to blow the vault door – this doesn’t work.

Seeing that the sharks may be violent but not particularly smart, the Doctor offers to “help” them if they stop killing hostages (they kill one woman when they first enter the bank). Very soon Tartarus Security contacts the bank – and the Doctor becomes the negotiator. He manages to get six hostages released including Polly, despite the sharks’ complaints. But they also threaten Jamie. A bomb is discovered, but Jamie uses his glue bomb to gum up the works.

The Doctor is able to convince the sharks that the only way into the vault is the hoppers used to deposit and remove valuables. Polly reaches the Tartarus Security ship with the other hostages and soon discovers the captain intends to storm or even blow-up the bank, hostages included, to stop the Selachians.

Things come to a head, and Polly thinks the bank including the Doctor, Ben, Jamie, and all the hostages have been destroyed by Tartarus. But the Doctor managed to get everyone inside the dimensionally transcendental bank vault. He then opens a bridge, so the door can be opened on the Tartarus ship. The Doctor also discovers that Galatibank had made a series of bad investments, losing their investors’ money and valuables, and lied about it. The bank had hired the Selachians and Tartarus to ensure that the bank itself was destroyed. As a result, the embezzlement would remain hidden and the bank’s investors would be paid off by insurance companies. The bank’s manager is so disgusted he decides to offer bonuses to everyone affected by the robbery with higher rewards to the Doctor, Jamie, Ben and Polly for rescuing everyone from certain death. Ben is surprised the Doctor takes the money but finds out from Jamie that he asked for his reward to be given to charity, except 10 Credits – which the Doctor uses to pay the parking fee on the TARDIS which the Tartarus captain found floating in space and claimed as salvage.

Moral of the story? Always pay your parking fees!

The Selachian Gambit is an action-packed story, very much in the flavor of Classic Doctor Who though it feels a bit more like a Third or Fourth Doctor story than a Second Doctor story, even though it features the early Second Doctor cast of Ben, Polly, and Jamie. Frazer Hines is brilliant – handling a number of different voices, including the monsters (which I didn’t realize was Frazer – I thought it was an uncredited Nicholas Briggs. I learned it was Frazer when it was mentioned in the after the story interviews/commentary). I liked Polly in this too. She’s often an under-used companion, but even though she’s sent “to make the tea” it’s clear that both the Doctor and Polly know that’s code for, “See if you can find anything to get us out of this mess”. This is a recommended and fun story.

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

Click to order The Selachian Gambit on CD or Download.

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

Doctor Who – The Moonbase Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Moonbase
  • Story #: 33
  • Episodes: 4 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 2/11/1967 – 3/4/1967
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Anneke Wills, Michael Craze
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“No, Ben, we can’t go yet!” – The Doctor
“But why not? They don’t want us here!” – Ben
“Because there is something evil here and we must stay.” – the Doctor
“Evil? Don’t be daft.” – Scientist
“Evil is what I meant. There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things which stand against everything we believe in. They must be fought!” – The Doctor

“Resistance is useless!” – Cyberman

Episodes 1 and 3 of “The Moonbase” are black and white animation with the original audio. Episodes 2 and 4 are the original film/video. I like this approach for stories where some episodes are lost, rather than telesnap reconstructions. “The Moonbase” also picks up directly from where “The Underwater Menace” left off – with the TARDIS having a bumpy flight. When the camera pulls back a bit, we can see that Polly is still in her seaweed dress from the previous story and Ben’s still in his wetsuit. the TARDIS lands and the Doctor has his companions change in to more appropriate clothing. They also put on bubble-headed spacesuits to head outside. Once outside they realise they aren’t on Mars as the Doctor promised but on the Moon. Jamie finds this hard to believe. Once walking on the moon, Ben, Polly, and Jamie all discover they can do “super jumps” due to the low gravity. Unfortunately, Jaime gets a bit too enthusiastic and knocks himself out. A pair of scientists from the moonbase bring him inside and Jamie, Ben, and Polly join them.

The moonbase is an international station, with an international crew of men. Its purpose is to monitor and control the gravitron which in turn controls the Earth’s weather. It is of note that while there are scientists from many countries working side-by-side on the moonbase – there aren’t any women. Polly is the only woman in the entire story! A number of the men have suddenly taken sick, with black lines on their faces and hands. Jamie is taken to the medical unit where he is feverish and keeps muttering that the “Phantom Piper” is going to take him. Polly, acting as nurse, explains to the Doctor it’s a legend of his clan – the Piper appears to those soon to die. Polly continues to act as a nurse.

The Doctor finds out what is going on – and offers his services as a scientist and doctor. But, as he admits to Polly, even after examining everything he is stumped – he can’t find anything. But when one of the people from the base enters he asks Polly to look busy, and rushes about, blustering that he needs more time. Jamie sees the Piper – a Cyberman. Polly also sees the Cyberman and to her credit remembers it (having met them in the last Hartnell story, “The Tenth Planet”). The scientists’ poo-poo Polly, saying there once were Cybermen, but it was eons ago. Even the Doctor isn’t quite convinced.

Meanwhile, the base is getting signals from Earth, since the not-quite-controlled gravitron is allowing a hurricane to build that is threatening Hawaii. Later it will turn out these signals are being faked by the Cybermen in both directions. A relief rocket is sent to find out what’s going on – because as far as Earth knows the base has been radio silent for days. The commander’s reports of a mysterious illness are simply never received. The commander also briefly suspects the Doctor, but fortunately, that doesn’t last. The Cybermen reveal themselves and even let the commander know how they got in – a hole through the bottom of the store room. This explains the sudden but momentary lost of pressure the base is experiencing.

Meanwhile, the Polly is helping Ben in between playing nurse to Jamie and the others and making the coffee. She asks Ben what the Cybermen are made of, he says metal, she asks about the chest unit, and he tells her it’s some kind of plastic. Polly realises that they can melt the plastic with nail varnish remover (aka nail polish remover). She does have to ask Ben what nail varnish remover is chemically, and he tells her acetone. Polly then does an experiment and melts some plastic in a petri dish using acetone. Ben figures that if one chemical is good – several will be better, and they mix up a cocktail of acetone, benzene, etc. Jamie, now awake and wanting to be helpful, offers to help Ben go after the Cybermen. Ben tells Polly it’s “men’s work” and leaves her in the lab. Polly though doesn’t stay behind, she grabs one of the spray bottles and heads to the control center. Ben, Jamie, and Polly successfully attack and destroy several Cybermen with Polly’s “nail varnish” cocktail.

The Cybermen have become more bold, however, and threaten the control center – taking control of some of the men with units attached to their heads, shooting a hole in the outside wall (letting out the air), threatening to turn off the air entirely, etc. The Commander keeps refusing the Cybermen – even after they reflect the relief rocket into the sun. One of the controlled men gets into the Control center and messes-up the gravitron – but the Doctor notices and stops him.

Eventually, the Doctor realises they can use the gravitron itself to reflect the Cybermen off the moon’s surface, just as the Cybermen used it to reflect the rocket. They turn the gravitron manually towards the surface of the moon, and the Cybermen and their ships float off into space, including the reinforcements. The Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Jamie leave.

“The Moonbase” deserves its reputation as a classic. It moves at a fast pace, and the Cybermen are a bit more finished looking than in “The Tenth Planet”, yet still have the really spooky, grating, mechanical-sounding voice. Polly finds a way to defeat the Cybermen using nail varnish (polish) remover (acetone) and she’s also the one who figures out that the poison the Cybermen are using against the men on the base is in the sugar. I guess all that pouring of coffee was worth it! But it’s frustrating that in such an advanced, international station – there isn’t a single woman to be found. Polly is literally the only woman in the entire story. Most of the Doctor Who stories, even in the 1960s had female guest stars, so this one really stands out for its total male cast. (“The Underwater Menace” had Ara the handmaiden who helps Polly, an old woman in the market who also helps, several unnamed handmaidens in the market, and all the Fish People are women. “Power of the Daleks” has the scientist/rebel Janey, and a few unnamed background characters for example.) One really wonders what they were thinking to not have any women working on the moonbase.

There is also one on-screen blooper. The cyber-controlled man goes into the gravitron control center, knocks out the operator (during the ruckus with the laser shot that puts a hole in the window) and takes the operator’s place, including putting on his helmet – backward. The poor guy makes quite a show of trying to force the helmet on his head too – when the reason it doesn’t fit is it’s on backward.

But even with the sexism of such an important Earth institution not including women and the little oops with the helmet, it’s a good story. I liked seeing Polly being so prominent in the story, though poor Jamie spends two episodes knocked out in the med center. Recommended.

Doctor Who – The Underwater Menace Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Underwater Menace
  • Story #: 32
  • Episodes: 4 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 1/14/1967 – 2/4/1967
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Anneke Wills, Michael Craze
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Just one small question, Why do you want to blow-up the world?” – The Doctor to Professor Zaroff

“Nothing in the world can stop me now!” – Zaroff

Part 1 and 4 of  “The Underwater Menace” are presented as telesnaps with the original audio. Parts 2 and 3 are the original black and white film/video episodes. Telesnaps are what they sound like – pictures taken off a television screen. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work nearly as well as actually re-creating the episodes with animation. Part 1 is especially confusing – Jamie is a new companion in the TARDIS, and they land on an ocean shore. Even Polly remarks that they’ve landed “in Cornwall”. It’s actually Dorset according to the making of featurette included on the DVD, but it’s a sign of things to come in this somewhat off-center Doctor Who story. The Doctor (Troughton), Ben, Polly, and Jamie explore and Polly wanders off – she finds some artifacts and is taken hostage or something. The TARDIS crew find themselves in Atlantis.

In Atlantis, the Doctor and Ben are nearly sacrificed to the god, Amdo, while Polly is taken to Professor Zaroff to be turned into a Fish Person. Polly screams and proclaims she’ll “not be turned into a fish!” But the Doctor knows of Zaroff, a famous researcher in getting food from the sea. The Doctor, Ben, and Jamie are treated to a meal that the Doctor claims is delicious, ambrosia. Then the Doctor is taken to Zaroff, while Ben and Jamie are sent to work in the mines. The Doctor does some minor sabotage to the lighting so Polly can escape. Meanwhile, Ben and Jamie meet two miners, Jacko and Sean, who are determined to escape the mines. They all become partners. The Doctor meets up with Zaroff and realizes he’s completely mad. Moreover, his plan to raise Atlantis by lowering the level of water in the Ocean (by allowing it to drain through a drilled hole into the center of the planet) will destroy the Earth.

Polly makes friends with a handmaiden in Atlantis who helps her out – aiding her escape from the scientists trying to turn her into a Fish Person, getting her clothes and a place to hide in the temple, passing messages along. Jacko, Sean, Ben, and Jamie soon get the chance to escape the mines and follow a tunnel that leads to the temple, so they are reunited with Polly quickly. The Doctor, learning that Polly is hidden in the temple, goes to meet with the priest, Ramo. Despite a rocky start (Ramo had tried to sacrifice the Doctor after all) the Doctor ends-up allied with Ramo, as both want to over-throw Zaroff. Ramo gets the Doctor a disguise and brings him to the head of state, Thous, to try to get him to stop Zaroff. Thous only wants to raise Atlantis from the sea, though, so he orders the Doctor to be sacrificed again. Ben stops this by pretending to be Amdo and directing all the religious observers to avert their eyes – while the Doctor and Ramo escape behind the altar.

The Doctor, Ramo, and the TARDIS crew, with help from Jacko and Sean, then work to stop Zaroff. Sean baits the Fish People into going on strike – which stops the food supply for Atlantis. The food that the Fish People raise for the city may be delicious – but it spoils quickly and cannot be stored. This food shortage causes the miners to stop working, and Ben, Jamie, and Jacko help them escape through the tunnels to the higher levels of the city. The Doctor, with help from Polly, breaks the sea wall, flooding Atlantis, including Zaroff’s lab. The Doctor does try to rescue Zaroff, but his own arrogance dooms the insane scientist.

Some of the people of Atlantis are drowned, but the rest survive, including Ramo and Thous. When Ramo suggests building a shrine to the Doctor and company, Thous insists they will have no more shrines and no more slaves (the Fish People) they will re-build Atlantis together. The Doctor meets up with Polly, Jamie, and Ben at the TARDIS and they leave – but the TARDIS seems to encounter a problem in flight.

Overall, “The Underwater Menace” is a bit, odd, as a Classic Doctor Who episode. It’s a very fantasy-oriented episode – with Fish People, ancient gods, Atlantis, and the classic battle between scientists, politicians, and religion. But, surprisingly, here – it’s the religious priest who is actually the calmest, most logical, and most sane man of the three. Even when he tries to sacrifice the Doctor it’s more of because he’s been ordered to do so by his king, rather than because he wants to. And Zaroff is just simply insane. When the Doctor asks him why he wants to blow-up the world, his answer is basically “because it’s there” and as a demonstration of ultimate power. Although with every living thing dead on the planet one wonders who he thinks will observe this demonstration? The Doctor also cleverly manipulates Thous, asking him if he’s ever observed Zaroff’s eyes. This causes Thous to realise himself that Zaroff is mad (though Zaroff then shoots him, but not fatally). Unfortunately, with parts 1 and 4 missing – it’s very hard to figure out what is going on, especially in part 1. I’d really like to see a special edition release of this story with the missing episodes re-created with animation. I don’t understand why BBC Worldwide choose to use telesnaps for the missing stories rather than animation as they have for other stories where individual parts of the whole story are missing. Overall, this is one of the more “campy” episodes of Classic Who (especially Zaroff – he’s way over the top in every scene he’s in). But it has some good points as well: the inverse of the science vs. religion debate, some great costumes, and sets, etc. Yes, I thought the Fish People costumes, and the sea-shell and seaweed dresses were inventive and impressive.

Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5, and I’d pay money for a fully restored/animated Special Edition, even though I seldom re-buy something I already own.

Doctor Who The Power of the Daleks Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Power of the Daleks
  • Story #: 30
  • Episodes: 6 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 11/5/1966 – 12/10/1966
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Anneke Wills, Michael Craze
  • Format: Widescreen, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Life depends on change and renewal.” – The Doctor (Patrick Troughton)

“Why do human beings kill human beings?” – Dalek

The Power of the Daleks is one of several early Doctor Who stories that were lost or destroyed in an effort by the BBC to make more room in the archives. In the UK, the BBC did not repeat or syndicate old programs, and while Doctor Who was sold to other countries, a number of stories were simply lost and haven’t been seen since they originally aired in the 1960s. This DVD set recreates the story of “The Power of the Daleks” with animation and the original audio, using photo references, telesnaps, the original camera scripts, and other information to recreate the original story. I am reviewing the US release which includes one disc containing the story using black and white animation (to recreate the black and white filming) and one disc using color animation (a more modern look). The UK PAL release, which I also have, only has the black and white version. Having seen the PAL black and white version, the US color version, and the US black and white version – I actually prefer the black and white version. Monochrome animation successfully recreates the original experience. I was surprised when I realised that it is in widescreen proportions though, as the original series was in 3:4 (standard), though technically PAL which has more lines of resolution than NTSC from the same (pre-high definition) period.

The story opens with the Doctor regenerating in the TARDIS. The previous Doctor’s coat slips off his new and smaller frame, and the previous Doctor’s signet ring falls off his finger. The Doctor checks his reflection in a mirror held by Ben and first sees his old self (Hartnell’s Doctor) and then his new self (Troughton). For the first episode, the Doctor refers to himself in the third person as, “The Doctor”. Polly (Anneke Wills) accepts he is the Doctor, while Ben (Michael Craze) is more doubtful. The TARDIS lands and the three head outside to explore. The Doctor finds the body of an Examiner from Earth who has been murdered and takes his identification, and is then knocked out. Meanwhile, Ben and Polly are checking out some pools of mercury. Even though Ben warns Polly to be careful, she is overcome by fumes. The three are picked up and taken to the colony.

It appears the TARDIS crew are on the planet Vulcan, an Earth colony. We’re told there is some minor problems on the colony, a group of rebels. The Doctor uses his Examiner’s badge to gain every access to the colony and to ask questions. Also, a scientist, Lesterson, has uncovered a spaceship capsule in the mercury swamp that has been there for hundreds of years. He claims he can’t get inside it. The Doctor and others in the colony quickly figure out how to get through the first door using a laser. Later that night, however, the Doctor discovers that Lesterson has already gone inside and discovered three unactivated Daleks. The Doctor precedes to warn everyone in the colony against the Daleks. But of course, no one takes him seriously – and no one appears to know anything about the Daleks at all.

Lesterson starts to experiment with the Daleks – using electric power from the colony to reactivate one. The newly activated Dalek fires it’s weapon on another colony scientist – the scientist collapses and Janley, a scientist in league with the rebels, reports the scientist is only stunned. Later, it is revealed the scientist is dead. The rebels will try to hold the death over Lesterson to bribe him to help their rebellion. But in the meantime, Lesterson and Janley remove the gun from the Dalek. Lesterson is convinced the Daleks will make great servants and help the colony.

The Doctor, after the first episode or two, acts much like himself – using his position as Examiner to ask questions, and trying to stop Lesterson from activating the Daleks. At first it appears there were only three Daleks in the capsule. But one of the Daleks, now castrated (it’s gun removed), convinces Lesterson to provide them with materials. As we find out later, the Daleks also get Valmar, one of the rebels, to lead a power cable into the capsule. In a chilling scene, the Doctor, Ben, and Polly witness a Dalek assembly line with Dalek creatures being taken and put into Dalek machines. The sucker arm and gun are attached and the top put on, one by one the Daleks become active as they roll off the assembly line. The Doctor becomes more determined to stop the Daleks and save the colony.

In the second half (last three episodes), the Governor of the colony is off checking on the perimeter stations, so the rebels take their chance. The assistant governor takes over, Janley re-arms three Daleks, Lesterson finally realises that the Daleks are dangerous and that there are many of them. He briefly agrees to help the Doctor, then gives up and offers to serve the Daleks – he’s killed for his trouble. The now armed Daleks kill everyone – rebels, guards, and colonists alike. They even kill the assistant governor who was using the rebellion to take over (he also personally kills the governor). The Daleks use an electrical cable loop to generate static electricity, which they use as a power source. This is how the Doctor defeats them, overloading the static power loop and blowing up the Daleks. This harms the colony’s power system. Although many are now dead, some colonists survive. Some of the survivors aren’t too happy about the damage to the colony’s power plant and systems. However, they will rebuild and improve the colony. The Doctor, Ben, and Polly make their way through the mercury swamp and leave in the TARDIS.

“The Power of the Daleks” is a good story. Surprisingly, it’s about exactly what the title says: how to power the Daleks. First, Lesterson uses the colony’s power to re-animate the three Daleks. Then the Daleks plot to get power (and supplies) to their ship to power their assembly-line and to bring to life the Dalek creatures in the vat. Finally, as the Daleks use static electricity for power, they plot out how to lay cable to generate the static electricity they need. The assembly line scene is very chilling and perfectly done in the animation.

Overall, the animation for “The Power of the Daleks” is very good. There is one scene where Polly and others are leaving a scene to unseen stage left and instead of turning and walking off stage, they face front and sort of hop and disappear to the side – like puppets, but that was one odd scene. The facial expressions and detail is very well realized and I just enjoyed it a lot. I would love to see more of the Doctor Who missing stories re-created with animation. Unlike “Power of the Daleks”, many of the stories have some of the half-hour original episodes left on film/video so the entire story would not need to be animated. That is, a story might have two out of four parts remaining as actual original black and white film/video so only two parts would need to be animated. Furthermore, several of the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton stories have already been released in this hybrid fashion – as many of the original film/video episodes as possible and the missing episode filled in with animation and the original audio. This seems like the only way to bring these original early stories back so Doctor Who fans can see them.

Again, “The Power of the Daleks” is an excellent Doctor Who story. I really enjoyed it, animation and all. I’d love to see more missing stories released this way. Highly recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Resistance

  • Title: Resistance
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Steve Lyons
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Polly, The Pilot, Second Doctor, Ben, Jaime
  • Cast: Anneke Wills (Polly), John Sackville (the Pilot)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/08/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Doctor Who: Resistance is a release in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line, and features Anneke Wills as Polly telling this purely historical Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) story. The TARDIS lands and Ben, Polly, Jaime, and the Doctor step outside, only to discover that the TARDIS has landed on railroad tracks and it’s night. The TARDIS crew tries to shift the TARDIS off the tracks, to no avail. When Jaime remarks that they should just get back inside and leave, the Doctor answers – “And never know where we were? That won’t do.” Soldiers attack and the crew are split up, Jaime getting shot and captured. The Doctor sends Ben to find and rescue Jaime. They are to meet in the woods.

Needless to say, that doesn’t work as Ben and Jaime don’t show up. The Doctor and Polly run off, knowing now where they are – Nazi-occupied France, and the soldiers who were after them are the French Gestapo. The Doctor and Polly end-up in a barn near a farmhouse. Luckily for them the young woman who lives on the farm with her parents, Jacqueline, is a member of the Resistance. She’s already hiding a stranded British Tommy (or “Invader”) and has made arrangements to pass him through her network of contacts to get him out of France and free.

This is exactly what they do. The Pilot, Polly, and the Doctor are passed from person to person, in a sort of French Underground Railroad to escape. Jacqueline hides them in her truck, and takes them to town, passing the free to a local tailor who is heavily involved in the Resistance. There, the Doctor wins favor by forging identity cards for everyone who needs them, so they can travel a bit more freely. Three other invaders are already waiting in the hidden room under the tailor shop. To Polly’s amazement, the Pilot that Jacqueline was hiding on her parent’s farm is Randolph Wright, Polly’s Uncle, whom she knows died in a German POW camp during the War.

The day before everyone is to leave to take a train to the Southern border of France, Jacqueline shows up again. The tailor, Claude, gives her a tongue-lashing for putting everyone in danger by showing up at the shop. But Jacqueline has terrible news – the French Gestapo were waiting at her farm and have arrested her parents. She only escaped because she was warned by a friend. Claude’s upset at the risk helping Jacqueline poses. The Doctor creates an identity card for her, which greatly reduces the risk. He takes the entire group to the train station.

There, the Doctor tells Polly they shouldn’t actually get on the train as it will take them even further away from the TARDIS, not to mention Ben and Jaime. There are a few scuffles at the station, and the Doctor is left behind (he does provide distractions so other resistors can escape) and Polly ends-up on the train. In a compartment on the train, she and the Pilot start to talk and gossip about their families. Polly realises that the Pilot isn’t her Uncle Randolph Wright as he claims – but a French Gestapo spy, responsible for their losses so far. He attacks her, she screams, Jacqueline shows up and shoots him. Thanks to a conveniently loud steam train, no one hears the shot, and the Invaders, Jacqueline, and Polly are able to hide the body. The train arrives at their stop and they leave, and meet the last link in the chain, Paul Bernard, who will show them through the mountains and over the border to freedom in Spain. However, in the mountains, they meet the Doctor again, who now has Jaime and Ben with him. Polly explains to Jacqueline she must leave with her friends, but assures Jacqueline she will be alright, since she’s almost home free so to speak. Jacqueline agrees, then tells Polly that Jacqueline is only her code name and her real name is Michelle. The Doctor, Jaime, Ben, and Polly return to the TARDIS and leave France.

The CD opens with a trailer for another Companion Chronicles story, and closes with a panel discussion about Resistance with Lisa Bowerman, Anneke Wells, and John Sackville, as well as the producer of the series.

I enjoyed this story a lot. Yes, it’s basically, go here, then here, then here, etc., like most “quest”-style stories – but it’s a fascinating time, if a bit dark. However, there could have been a sense of paranoia as no one really knows who to trust – and there is none of that. Even though Claude, especially, is concerned about spies in his midst, and he has reason to be concerned, it comes off as common sense, given the circumstances, and not unjust paranoia.

One tiny issue I had with this story was the pronunciation of Jacqueline’s name. The Pilot, and Jacqueline herself, pronounce it as “JACK-CUE-lynn”, which is correct. Polly for some completely unknown reason keeps pronouncing it as, “JACK-leen”, which is just wrong. OK, I’m not sure how it would be pronounced in French – but as it happens to be my own first name, I can tell you, “JACK-CUE-lynn” is correct. I don’t know if it was something done to indicate Polly’s background or what. (Anneke plays both Polly and Jacqueline – so she’s pronouncing the name differently depending on the character. John Sackville, as the Pilot, pronounces it correctly as, “JACK-CUE-lynn”.) I also was completely lost by Jacqueline’s important name-drop moment that her name is “Michelle”. Was that meant to mean something?

However, given the dire circumstances, there are a few light and even funny moments in the story (for example, while hiding out in a barn the Doctor starts fiddling with a tractor and hot-wires it. They are caught. They try to escape on the tractor, and Polly, narrating, remarks, “As a get away vehicle, a slow-moving tractor was, perhaps, not the wisest choice…” and given this is audio, it just brings to mind the image of the Doctor on this huge tractor, being chased by someone catching up to him without even having to run. Or Jaime’s perfectly practical suggestion at the very beginning – of why don’t they just get back in the TARDIS and leave rather than even trying to push it off the tracks.

I highly recommend Doctor Who Resistance is a brilliant, truly historical Doctor Who story.

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

Click here to order Resistance on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Invasion of the Cat People

  • Title: Invasion of the Cat People
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gary Russell
  • Characters:  Second Doctor, Ben, Polly
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/22/2013

Invasion of the Cat People is part of Virgin Publishing’s Doctor Who the Missing Adventures series. The Missing Adventures series features Doctors 1-6. This novel has the unusual Doctor and companion combination of the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) with Ben and Polly. Ben and Polly were the First Doctor’s final companions, who carried over. Troughton is more famous for having as his companions the Scottish Highlander, Jaime McCrimmon, with either Victoria or Zoë. But it was interesting to read a story that features Ben and Polly with the Second Doctor.

Overall, this story of dual invasion. Four aliens landed in pre-Colonial Australia and not only taught but learned from the Aboriginal people there. Several thousand years later, a race of, well, Cat-People, arrives, meaning to destroy the Earth to use it as a power source.

Overall, I’d give this particular Doctor Who novel a 3.5 rating. It was interesting to see Ben and Polly, and I liked the way the author wrote their confusion and “out-of-sync-ness” at being just a few years in their own future. But I felt the plot would have been better not split between the two groups of invaders. I tended to pick-up and put-down the book a lot, and that’s not a good sign.