Book Review – Doctor Who: Managra

  • Title: Managra
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Stephen Marley
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/25/2015

I hate to say this because I like to be positive in my reviews and I also like to encourage reading of the Doctor Who Missing Adventures but this novel was just awful. It was well over 300 pages, much longer than most Doctor Who novels – and about 150 pages longer than it should have been. In fact, some editing might have improved the novel.

This novel is part of the Doctor Who Missing Adventures series of original novels. This one features Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith (as played by Elisabeth Sladen on the TV series). Most of the Missing Adventures feature a chapter or two at the beginning that introduces the world that the Doctor and his companions are about to visit. This book takes a very long time to introduce the Doctor and his companions, spending considerable time introducing Europa. But even once the Doctor and Sarah arrive – the book still has chapters which feature other characters, and even switches between at least two character sets and the Doctor. The Doctor and Sarah are regulated to guest star appearances and really have nothing to do (but get captured, tortured, released, and re-captured – rinse and repeat) until the last third of the novel. Even then, once the book comes together, I just didn’t care for it.

This novel is filled with religious prejudice and hatred – and I felt it was highly inappropriate for a Doctor Who novel. Save your money and skip this particular novel.

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Book Review – Doctor Who: Evolution

  • Title: Evolution
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: John Peel
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 1/17/2015

Doctor Who Evolution is part of the Doctor Who The Missing Adventures published by Virgin Publishing, it features the Fourth Doctor as played by Tom Baker and Sarah Jane Smith as played by Elisabeth Sladen. And it’s a very fun read. The only reason it took me so long to read the book is my e-book didn’t have flowable type (at least in the first e-reader I tried) – since the print was incredibly small, and attempting to enlarge it meant I had to scan horizontally across the typeface – I found it to be physically exhausting and irritating. I finally tried reading the book in Adobe Reader and then I could get the print to a reasonable size without having to scan back and forth on each line. Some of the lines double-printed, though, with the type over-lapping, so I had to go back to other e-reader and squint to read the type then go back — that was exhausting. Publishers CHECK YOUR COPY! And don’t assume everyone can read micro-sized 6-point type! OK, rant over.

The story itself was a fun romp. Sarah is exploring the TARDIS, checking out the wardrobe, then the swimming pool, but she eventually gets bored. She goes to the Doctor who asks her if there’s someone she wants to meet – and Sarah says, yes, Rudyard Kipling.

The TARDIS then arrives in Victorian Devon – where a horrific giant hound is haunting the moor, and a fisherman’s been killed by some extra-ordinary creature, and Sarah meets Kipling – but he’s a schoolboy. She and the Doctor also meet Arthur Conan Doyle, not yet “Sir”, who’s just finished a tour as a doctor on a whaling ship – that’s also pulled into the port in Devon. Yes, this story is as fun as you might expect. The Doctor and Sarah are quickly caught into events because several local schoolboys and street children have disappeared, and Kipling and a couple of his friends are trying to find them.

The plot involves a scientist who’s lived in his older brother’s shadow his entire life and has a terrible inferiority complex who’s determined to prove he’s smarter than his brother – and a deluded industrialist, who thinks he’s on the side of progress – but actually he’s promoting slavery and lack of self-will and self-determination. The arguments of the scientist and industrialist to defend what they are doing are fascinating. Totally wrong and awful – but fascinating none the less.

I really enjoyed this book. The first half, as the Doctor and Sarah meet all the locals in the small village – the lord at the manor, his daughter, her fiancé, Conan Doyle, the local doctor (Dr. Martinson), Kipling and his friends, a local boy from the village, the local fishermen, the whaling boat captain, etc and find out about the mysterious hound on the moor is just plain fun. The second part, as it becomes clearer and clearer just what is going on is also pretty cool. It should be horrifying but it’s not really, it was just very, very neat. And I loved the end!

Highly recommended, especially to classic era Doctor Who fans!

Book Review – Doctor Who: System Shock

  • Title: System Shock
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Justin Richards
  • Characters:  Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/13/2014

System Shock is an original novel in Virgin Publishing Doctor Who Missing Adventures series and it’s an enjoyable and fast read. The novel features the fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Sarah Jane Smith. However, they meet and work with a much older Dr. Harry Sullivan, who is Assistant Chief of Staff at MI5. Sarah and Harry are both somewhat perplexed by the meeting, but since both have time travel experience, they deal with it OK.

The plot, which takes time to reveal, includes alien invasion as one may expect – but it’s a different concept in alien invasion entirely. Rather than the typical monsters or aliens – this invasion is being organized by a computer-controlled alien corporation. Yes, that’s right – alien invaders who track their progress with Gantt charts. The method of invasion is also unique, a completely intelligent artificial life-form called, Voractyll, that literally lives on a CD. The aliens plan on using Voractyll like a computer virus to take over the Earth using the new Hubway InterNet interconnected computer network (the book was published in 1995).

This Doctor Who novel is brilliantly fun. Richards’ use of corporate language and behavior is perfect, and amusing. I also found the plot, well, awesome. For a 20-year old Cyberpunk story – it still works, pretty much. Yes, some of the technology seems dreadfully out of date (I took my last two CRT monitors to the Electronic Graveyard recycling site at the beginning of the summer – in this novel, a CRT is the height of monitor technology) the plot still works, and it doesn’t seem out of date. I also liked all the characters. I’ve always liked Harry with Sarah – and in this book he’s older, wiser, more mature, and yet, still the same old Harry.

I recommend this novel, if you can find it, for not only Doctor Who fans, but for fans of the Cyberpunk sub-genre of SF.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Downtime

  • Title: Downtime
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Marc Platt
  • Characters:  Victoria, Sarah Jane Smith, The Brigadier, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 8/08/2014

Downtime is a bit unusual even for the Doctor Who Missing Adventure series. The Doctor isn’t actually in the book as a character, and he’s not even really mentioned directly. The story is a sequel to two Patrick Troughton stories, The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear and features Victoria, The Brigadier, Sarah Jane Smith, and the Brigadier’s estranged daughter – Kate Lethbridge-Stewart. It begins in the 1960s, with Victoria trying to adjust to a new century, and the Brigadier being approached with a new idea, a UN-led force to counter alien activity and invasion (UNIT). Victoria’s landlady suggests she take a vacation, and she does – to Tibet. Victoria had been having dreams about her father. In Tibet she visits a old Buddhist monastery but instead of finding her father, she’s taken over by one of the Great Intelligence control units.

Next we know it’s the 1990s and Victoria is the headmistresses of a new university, called New World University. New World teaches it’s students by computer, and the students come to be known as Chilly’s in the popular press. Sarah becomes involved because she’s hired to find out information about a number of people who were directly involved or witnessed The London Event (see The Web of Fear). Sarah, however, doubts the PR man who’s second only to Victoria in the hierarchy of the school. She also gets suspicious when the Brigadier’s name shows up on the list of people she’s to investigate.

The Brigadier, meanwhile, is still teaching at Brendon Boys Prep School, though he’s due to retire at the end of the next term. He’s also having strange symptoms and dreams as Victoria did.

Kate is living on a houseboat and being watched and harrassed by the Chilly’s. She later meets Sarah Jane and is also reunited with her father, The Brigadier.

The book, Downtime is actually a novelization of an “independent drama presentation” – a play or video (there’s a coupon to order the video in the back of the book). There’s also a series of black and white still photographs glued in the center of the book. They are quite nice. The forward briefly describes the “dramatic” presentation and cast: Deborah Watling (Victoria), Jack Watling (Prof. Travers), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart), John Leeson (K-9, & also the New World DJ), Geoffrey Beevers (Harrods), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith). The forward actually bemoans, “With, at this time, no certainty Doctor Who will reappear on our television screens…” which is ironic, as here I sit in 2014, and Doctor Who is more popular than ever – and globally so. But that was written in 1995 before the 8th Doctor FOX/BBC TV movie, before the BBC Past Doctor Adventures and Eighth Doctor Adventures original novel series, and even before Big Finish started their regular monthly Doctor Who audio productions.

I enjoyed reading this, some of the in-jokes were marvelous (at one point the Brigadier tries tells Sarah to give a message to UNIT – “Codes NN and QQ” — the story codes for The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. There were other moments that make a knowing fan smile. Overall, the story moved very fast, though parts of it was a bit confusing (I think having not seen the lost story The Abominable Snowmen caused some comprehension problems; though having recently seen The Web of Fear definitely helped. Recommended, especially for Doctor Who fans.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Ghosts of N-Space

  • Title: The Ghosts of N-Space
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Barry Letts
  • Characters:  Third Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, The Brigadier
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/03/2014

The Ghosts of N-Space is part of The Missing Adventures series of original Doctor Who stories. It is also a novelization of a radio play that aired on BBC Radio 2 in 1995, starring Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen, and Nicholas Courtney. And it was a wonderfully fun book to read.

I enjoyed this story immensely – it felt like an episode of the series, and was simply enjoyable to read.
Sarah Jane has decided to try her hand at writing a novel, but has developed a severe case of writer’s block. Her friend, Jeremy, has, meanwhile gotten tickets for a trip to Italy and suddenly has no one to take with him. He approaches Sarah, and soon the two are off.

Meanwhile, the Brigadier has discovered he’s the last surviving relative of an Italian Lord of the Manor, or in this case, castello – as well as the tiny Island it sits on.

Sarah Jane, the Brigadier, and Jeremy run into each other and begin investigating the ghosts of the Castello. The Brigadier calls in the Doctor (Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor).

And the romp is on — a haunted castle, mobsters, long-lost relatives, alternate dimensions, fiends from hell, and the possible end of the world. It’s actually all good fun and feels very much like vintage Doctor Who. And I sped through this book.

I don’t want to spoil any more of the plot. It’s just a fun read. It’s closer in feel to the BBC Past Doctor Adventures line of original novels, than most of the Missing Adventures and I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much. Recommended, especially for fans of Classic Doctor Who.

Book Review – Fourth Doctor Vol. 1 – The Gaze of the Medusa

  • Title: The Gaze of the Medusa
  • Authors: Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby
  • Artists: Brian Williamson, Hi-Fi, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line: 4th Doctor
  • Characters: Fourth Doctor
  • Collection Date: 2017
  • Collected Issues: Issues # 1-5
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 1/27/2017

**spoiler alert** Gaze of the Medusa is Titan’s first collection featuring a classic Doctor. The graphic novel features the Fourth Doctor as played by Tom Baker and Sarah Jane Smith. Even though you know where it’s going from the title, it’s still an enjoyable story and the art is excellent. Sarah and the Doctor are observing a Wild West show in Victorian England when they are attacked – Sarah is dragged off by large brutes with a single eye, and the Doctor is rescued by Professor Odysseus James and his daughter Athena. Professor James is fascinated by the study of Chrononautology. They journey to Chiswick to rescue Sarah from Lady Emily Carstairs – a veiled woman with strange servants and a gallery of rather life-like stone statues. Lady Carstairs shows Sarah a statute of herself.

Lady Carstairs possesses the Lamp of Chronos which she thinks can bring her back to her deceased family – but all she sees is a window to a prison in 5th or 6th century BC. Before the Doctor can do anything about the Lamp – Sarah and Athena’s father fall through the open gateway. The Doctor takes the Lamp and Athena to his TARDIS and also travels back. But this takes time. Sarah is Quantum-Locked by a Medusa – a creature that is related to the Weeping Angels (whom this Doctor has heard of but never met). Sarah isn’t dead, but she’s locked – and food for the Medusa. Before the Professor, Athena, and the Doctor can escape the professor is not only turned to stone, but smashed – killing him. Lady Carstairs, a servant of the Medusa, has been turned partially to stone. Promised the ability to see her deceased family again – she’s also killed.

The Doctor and Athena are teleported to Zeus, a hologram of a being from another world, who’s ship crashed a long time ago. The ships defenses realise the Medusa is about to escape – so the self-destruct is activated. The Doctor offers to bring the Medusa to a land with abundant non-sentient life for her to feed on, but she refuses. So Athena throws the Lamp of Chronos back in her prison with her – where it will eventually be dug up by Lady Carstairs’ husband, a dabbler in antiquities. Thus the very long time loop is completed. The Doctor frees Sarah and the other statutes from stone. Just before leaving Athena introduces Sarah and the Doctor to her fiancé, Naval Lieutenant Dr. Albert Sullivan.

Gaze of Medusa gives a well-known story a bit of a twist by making the Medusa an alien, but it’s still an enjoyable tale. I liked the Professor (though he’s a bit pompous and chauvinistic – that’s very time-appropriate) and his daughter, Athena, is a character I’d like to see again. Fans of the Fourth Doctor will enjoy this graphic novel a lot. The art is also gorgeous!

Book Review – Doctor Who A Device of Death

  • Title: A Device of Death
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Doctor Who Missing Adventures
  • Author: Christopher Bulis
  • Characters: Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, Dr. Harry Sullivan
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/17/2014

A Device of Death is a volume in Virgin Publishing’s Missing Adventures series of Doctor Who original novels. This story features the Fourth Doctor as played by Tom Baker, Sarah Jane Smith, and medical doctor and naval officer, Dr. Harry Sullivan. The novel opens with the Time Lords in an emergency monitoring station, monitoring a Time Quake as a result of the aired story, Genesis of the Daleks. They attempt to rescue the Doctor and his companions from the quake, but it doesn’t quite go perfectly and Harry, the Doctor, and Sarah end-up in three different locations in a solar system at war. So, right from the beginning our characters are split up. This means the novel moves very fast as the reader wants to know what’s happening to all three characters. The conflict also can only be resolved with information from all three locations. And in grand Doctor Who fashion both the Doctor and his companions get involved in local affairs, and become instrumental in figuring things out – especially, once they are re-united and can compare notes. The resulting secret they discover/figure out I found to be slightly predictable, and thus a tad disappointing. However, I still found “A Device of Death” to be quite the fun romp (despite the grim circumstances of the secondary/original characters) and the book was an enjoyable and quick read.