Book Review – Doctor Who: The Day She Saved The Doctor

  • Title: Doctor Who: The Day She Saved The Doctor
  • Authors: Jacqueline Rayner, Jenny T. Colgan, Susan Calman, Dorothy Koomson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/26/2018

**Spoiler Alert** The Day She Saved the Doctor is a collection of four short stories, well, novelettes. Each story features a female companion and a popular Doctor, and the theme for the four stories is that the companion must “save” or rescue the Doctor. Mind you, in the show the female companions, and even some of the male companions rescued the Doctor all the time. All four stories are also written by female writers and the book designer is also a woman (and from Milwaukee!).

Sarah Jane and the Temple of Eyes
Jacqueline Rayner

The first story, “Sarah Jane and the Temple of Eyes” has the Fourth Doctor (as played on the television series by Tom Baker) and Sarah Jane arriving in Ancient Rome. They no sooner start exploring an ancient marketplace than a woman runs out into the street – her eyes are white and she’s been blinded. But the woman wasn’t always blind and she had been missing a few days. Sarah asks her what happened but she has no idea. Sarah and the Doctor escort her home and discover that four other merchants wives had recently been blinded, under similar circumstances. Sarah smells a story, but she also is convinced that whatever is going on it’s not normal for Imperial Rome.

Sarah and the Doctor split up to interview the other victims, and even the wives of other merchants who are in the same social circle and might know something. But Sarah meets a woman who is the person behind it all and the Doctor gets a warning about the woman but is too late to rescue Sarah. Sarah is taken by Marcia to the temple home of a female-only cult that worships a goddess. There she meets a priestess who is using an alien machine to harvest information from other women. Unfortunately, the machine has the side effect of leaving people blind and Marcia is actually harvesting information to help her husband, also a merchant, in his business dealings.

The Doctor goes to the temple but the guards won’t let him in because he’s a man. He sneaks in but the priestesses get very upset that a man has invaded his temple. They threaten to kill the Doctor by a poisonous snakebite and use the alien machine on Sarah. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to fix the machine and then has Sarah try it. The machine doesn’t blind her and after the priestess experiences Sarah’s memories of the Doctor, the priestess agrees she can’t kill the Doctor because he is a good man. She also sees that Marcia was taking advantage of her. The Doctor and Sarah leave, as they depart in the TARDIS, Sarah wonders if they might have changed history, but the Doctor reminds her that no one really knows anything about that particular female-led Roman religion.

Rose and the Snow Window
by Jenny T. Colgan

The second short story in The Day She Saved the Doctor is Jenny T. Colgan’s “Rose and the Snow Window”. The story starts with the Ninth Doctor and Rose arriving in Toronto in 2005, the Doctor is looking for a time puncture. He sets up a telescope in an apartment in a high rise apartment building. Rose looks through the telescope and sees a candle-lit room opposite. The Doctor and Rose investigate and soon find a connection between Toronto and Russia in 1812.

They travel back to Russia in 1812 where Rose meets the Russian count she had seen in the window in 2005 Toronto. The young man is bereft because he is being forced into a marriage of convenience to save his family. He soon falls for Rose because she is unlike anyone he has ever met. She also falls for the handsome Count. Do to an attack of some sort of robot or alien that recognizes Rose as an “anomaly” Count Nikolai pulls on the red ribbon she wears and the two snap back to 2005 Toronto. Rose introduces the Count to modern conveniences like hot showers, electric lights, and fluffy towels warmed on a radiator. The Count is delighted by each new discovery he makes, and Rose enjoys this immensely.

They return to Russia again with the Doctor, and gradually the Doctor and Rose figure out that the woman Nikolai is supposed to marry is actually an alien who feeds on psychic energy. She essentially bribes Nikolai – offering him money, security for his family, and no children so the timeline will be preserved. Nikolai decides to reluctantly go through with it. Rose interrupts the wedding. The anomalies get worse with a troop of confused Mounties appearing in 19th century Russia. (Mind you, this isn’t wholly accurate. The Mounties have ceremonial duties, which is the only time they wear red serge. Otherwise, in the Western provinces and territories, the Mounties have duties similar to the FBI or State Police in the US.) The Doctor ends up binding with the alien so it can go home. Later, Rose and the Doctor check on Nikolai’s history – knowing that without a rich purse, the only thing for him to do was join the Russian military in 1812.

“Rose and the Snow Window” had a great sense of atmosphere, and the story centers more on Rose than the Doctor but the Doctor is still a strong presence and it’s a good partnership story about the two of them. I quite enjoyed it. It’s also the longest story in the book.

Clara and the Maze of Cui Palta
by Susan Culman

Clara is basically having a bad day at the start of her story in this collection. It’s not terrible, but she’s bored, frustrated, and really needs a vacation. She convinces the Doctor to take her on a “relaxing spa vacation”. I did have some trouble figuring out if Clara was with the Eleventh Doctor or the Twelfth Doctor in this story, but by the end, I’m pretty sure it was the Eleventh Doctor (as played by Matt Smith on the BBC television series). The two arrive on Cui Palta, one of the great resort planets. They explore, as the Doctor raves about all the relaxing things they can do, but gradually Clara becomes uneasy. Clara’s unease and discomfort grow, and she points out the problem – there are no people. The Doctor pooh-poohs this observation. There are also yellow flowers everywhere and the Doctor encourages Clara “to stop and smell the flowers.”

The two continue walking, then see an entrance to a garden maze. Clara again has misgivings, but the Doctor says it will be fun to solve the maze. They enter but get hopelessly lost, going around and around in circles. Clara confronts the Doctor with this but again he pooh-poohs and ignores her. This continues and the traps in the maze get more and more dangerous. When they find dead skeletons, the Doctor acknowledges that something is wrong. They continue trying to solve the maze – which now includes moving walls and mirrored corridors. Finally, they reach a courtyard with three doors – only to find that when they open and walk through a door – they return to the courtyard.

It’s in this three-choices section that Clara and the Doctor are separated but they can still communicate by yelling to each other. Clara trips and being close to the ground and sneezing (as she’s been doing throughout the story) she used a hankie the Doctor gave her to cover her nose and mouth. Then she sees things clearly – it’s all an illusion and the Doctor is literally running in circles. She calls out to the Doctor to get low and cover his nose and mouth. He does and the illusion breaks. The two leave the maze and city for the TARDIS and leave the planet. But it begs the question as to how the psychoactive flowers got there in the first place and did they really poison all the people on the planet.

Like the Sarah Jane story, Clara and the Maze of Cui Palta plays up Clara’s personal fears – this time her fear of getting lost. But this is also probably the strongest story in terms of the theme of the Companion saving the Doctor – because in this story it seems like the Doctor never would have figured it out. But he also discounts Clara’s concerns frequently – and she comes off a bit spoiled and a bit of a know-it-all. So although it handles the theme in a direct way, I liked other stories in the collection better.

Bill and the Three Jackets
by Dorothy Koomson

Bill and the Doctor are in the TARDIS, and Bill is trying to convince the Doctor to let her go shopping. The Twelfth Doctor (as played by Peter Capaldi on the British series Doctor Who) tries to convince Bill she can certainly find something to wear for her date in the TARDIS’s wardrobe rooms, he even tells her he probably has an entire room of jackets, but Bill is unconvinced and succeeds in getting him to let her go shopping.

Bill goes into town and finds a shop she never really noticed before. Inside are racks and racks of jackets. The shop clerk, who has a name tag that reads, Ziggy, seems friendly enough and before long Bill’s picked out three jackets to try on. She slips on the first one, an amethyst jacket, and is about to take a selfie when the Ziggy objects, the jackets are exclusive designs and the shop doesn’t allow selfies. Bill thinks this is weird but she puts her phone away. The Ziggy then offers to take pictures with her Polaroid camera. The picture seems to be taking an extraordinary amount of time to develop so the clerk puts it on the counter. Bill tries on a green jacket and a gold leather one with buckles. But she also starts to feel ill and weak. Ziggy had taken pictures of her in each jacket. Ziggy urges Bill to get something to eat and then come back and make her decision.

Bill leaves and walks to a nearby coffee shop. But her coffee and sandwich don’t taste good to her and her stomach ache gets worse. Later the owner of the coffee shop comes out and asks Bill where the girl went, the one who ordered a coffee, chips, and sandwich and didn’t pay. Bill’s confused – that’s her order, but she definitely paid. Yet the coffee shop owner insists she’s someone else and the other girl didn’t pay.

Bill goes to the TARDIS and the Doctor doesn’t recognize her either. Moreover, there’s another Bill in the TARDIS. Bill now knows something is very wrong. She tries to figure out how she can get some help and realizes that there’s a girl she knew at university, someone to whom she always gave extra chips. Bill approaches the girl who’s reading a science fiction novel in the cafeteria. Bill explains her story and then tells her about the extra chips. The girl, being an SF fan, actually believes Bill. The two set off for the shop. They get the photographs and then confront the Doctor and the fake Bill again.

Bill tears up the photos and she starts to appear to be herself, while the fake Bill is obviously an alien shapeshifter. The camera was loaded with psychic paper, and the shapeshifter used it to stabilize her form. But when the Doctor and Bill ask why she did it, they find out she was fleeing a repressive regime on her home planet. Now she just wants to go home. The Doctor explains he must take the shapeshifter to a different time as well as place – if he took her to the planet now it would just be empty space. But he agrees. Bill’s compassion for the shapeshifter is instrumental in the Doctor’s decision to help. Bill also gains respect for the girl she’d flirted with but never really spoken to before.

There are no bad guys in this story. The alien is simply homesick and using its natural abilities and a little psychic paper to get what it wants. Bill’s own insecurities made her a mark in the first place, not that that’s completely fair (everyone is insecure sometimes). Bill learns a lot about herself about a friend and about the alien and the Doctor. And the Doctor is passive in this story – he’s as vulnerable to the alien’s illusion as anyone else who doesn’t know Bill. It’s a good story, with an important point about being comfortable in your own skin rather than trying to be someone else’s idea of perfect.

This was a fun collection and I enjoyed it. Highly recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Vortex Butterflies

  • Title: Vortex Butterflies
  • Author: Nick Abadzis
  • Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Iolanda Zanfardino, Arianna Florean, Nicola Right, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line:  Tenth Doctor (Year 3 – “Facing Fate”, Vol. 2)
  • Characters: Tenth Doctor, Gabby Gonzales, Cindy Wu, Anubis (“Noobis”)
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/04/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Vortex Butterflies is the second volume in the third year of Titan Comics Tenth Doctor Series. It opens in ancient China, where Cindy Wu gives each of her 500 clone daughters a name. Gabby Gonzales, meanwhile, is dealing with the aftermath of seeing her best friend die – even if it was “only” one of her clones. But the TARDIS is also acting weird, so the TARDIS Team leave in a hurry and travel through the universe again – a time summarised by Gabby’s art in her notebook. Noobis decides to stay at the Xenopsychology Library of Aramuko – someplace the Doctor recommends for healing. The Doctor then drops Gabby and Cindy off at an apartment in London, where they have everything they need, while he follows some strange signals in the TARDIS and tries to discover what’s wrong with it.

Cindy and Gabby meet Sarah Jane Smith, which is awesome. Gabby enrolls in short-term art classes, and Cindy is feeling a bit left out, though she gets along well with Sarah. Gabby also has a few incidents of uncontrolled Vortex Energy and Block Transfer butterfly production – which confuses her, but she recovers quickly.

Meanwhile, the Doctor lands his TARDIS on Mechma Onzlo III Station and picks up a Xerobian gadget which he names Marcie. Marcie is half technology, half sounding-board, and adorable! As Cindy and Gabby settle in with Sarah Jane in London, Noobis relaxes at his library and meets a new friend, the Doctor and Marcie set out in the TARDIS to follow the mysterious signals that are interfering with the TARDIS’s ability to travel in the time/space vortex. The Doctor takes the TARDIS to an extremely empty area of space and Marcie finds the signal but has trouble creating a recognizable form for the Doctor, such as an illustration. The Doctor looks outside the TARDIS and sees a new system with an accretion disk. He lands the TARDIS on the orbiting asteroid. There he is confronted by a being who claims to be a future version of Gabby – a version the Doctor abandoned there. This being starts to attack Gabby in London, but Sarah temporarily isolates Gabby’s time signature which allows her to fight back. And the Doctor, although Marcie is destroyed (whimper!) leaves in the TARDIS.

However, the last page features the round-headed people in a cave from volume one, Breakfast at Tyranny’s, who are out to establish a case against the Doctor.

Vortex Butterflies has some wonderful art – the Vortex Creature at first appears to look like the Third Doctor Doctor Who television series credits. The Tenth Doctor also meets up with the Twelfth Doctor, an unexpected cameo that I really enjoyed. I also really loved seeing Sarah Jane, and she’s perfectly in character (and mentions her work from the series The Sarah Jane Adventures). Gabby, Cindy, and even Noobis are more in character and actually have more to do than they have for a while (even when Cindy and Gabby are essentially on vacation in London). It’s just a fun, enjoyable read. Vortex Butterflies is a great graphic novel and highly recommended.

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Dreamland

  • Title: Dreamland
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: David Bishop
  • Director: John Ainsworth
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie, Sir Donald
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Stephen Greif
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/09/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s last Sarah Jane Smith audio play, Dreamland, begins by wrapping up the cliffhangers from the last story, Fatal Consequences. Josh rescues Sarah from the Keeper of the Crimson Chapter – not only does he stop the Keeper from killing Sarah, Josh kills the Keeper and administers the cure for the Marlborough Virus to Sarah. Josh also killed Will Sullivan – claiming it was self-defense. It should be obvious that Josh is a member of the White Chapter of the Orbis Postermo. Josh also reveals to Natalie that he killed her boyfriend, who was a Crimson Chapter member. Natalie accompanies Sarah to Will’s funeral. Sir Donald tries to convince Sarah to go to Nevada to see the first “space tourism” flight of the Dauntless. Sarah is hesitant and unconvinced until she sees Sir Donald and Josh together and realizes Josh is Sir Donald’s son. Sarah and Natalie head to Nevada, to the Dreamland Air Force Base.

Once in Nevada, Sir Donald’s poor health and eventual death mean it will be Josh, not his father on the flight, and Sarah fulfills Sir Donald’s dying wish by agreeing to go on the flight. Natalie will be on a headset in mission control.

The flight seems to be going well until the pilot fails to turn off the ship’s booster rocket after 90 seconds. As the ship continues to go up towards space Sarah and Josh realize something is wrong. Josh tries to force the pilot, Ben Kimmel, to cut the rocket thrusters but Ben is a secret member of the Crimson chapter. Josh pulls a gun, despite having earlier promised Sarah no more guns or killing. Not to mention the utter stupidity of bringing a gun on a spaceship, which Sarah points out. Josh and Ben struggle. The result is Ben is killed, Josh is shot and apparently dies later from his wound, the instrument panels are smashed, and a fire breaks out in the cockpit. And since the rocket thrusters are still firing the ship is hiding out much farther than it was either designed for or is safe. Natalie and Sarah are able to talk over their radio headsets briefly and Sarah tries to reassure her friend. Sarah then tells Natalie she sees a bright light and hears a terrible noise in her head.

The play ends with a news update that something has gone terribly wrong with the world’s first space tourism flight, and the fate of the three people on board the ship is unknown. So the play ends with a cliffhanger.

I’m going to assume that the light and sound were the Mandragora Helix since it’s been teased throughout the entire second season of audio plays. But I do wish Big Finish had recorded one more audio to wrap up the Mandragora plot. This audio play was recorded in 2005, and Elisabeth Sladen’s television series, The Sarah Jane Adventures didn’t even start until 2007. Still, even with the cliffhanger ending this series of Sarah Jane Smith audios has been excellent. The acting, sound effects, and music are all very good. I highly recommend the series and Dreamland in particular.

Please see my review of Sarah Jane Smith Buried Secrets.

Please see my review of Sarah Jane Smith Snow Blind.

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

To Order Dreamland on Download only click the link.

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

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Fatal Consequences

  • Title: Fatal Consequences
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: David Bishop
  • Director: John Ainsworth
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Will, The Keeper, Sir Donald
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Tom Chadbon, Jacqueline Pearce, Stephen Grief
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/02/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s second season of Sarah Jane Smith has used news radio broadcasts as a framing device in each story. Two of the stories that have been consistently developed over the course of three stories have been: Sir Donald Westbury’s planned trip on the first space tourism trip on a ship called the Dauntless, and Sarah’s friend Maude holding a protest at a research lab that they claim is participating in unethical and even illegal animal experimentation. Fatal Consequences rewards longtime listeners by explaining why all that information is actually significant and not mere atmosphere.

Sarah is at her house with her friends, Will and Josh waiting for Dr. Dexter to appear. Dexter claims to have proof that Mandrake, the owner of his lab, which happens to be the one where Maude has organized her six-month protest, is involved in something shady. Mandrake is the new name of the corporation that was involved in illegal human cloning experiments in Cloots Coombe. Dexter arrives and tries to talk Sarah into investigating his lab. But when it comes to explaining exactly what’s going on or providing proof – Dr. Dexter is rather hesitating and less forthcoming. Sarah decides to try to find out more. She has Josh check the Internet for information and asks Will to go undercover at the lab, using his medical background to check it out.

Then the story really rushes forward. Will is a member of the Crimson Chapter of the Orbus Postermo, but we found out he joined in medical school – thinking it was a silly secret society. Will insists he won’t kill anyone, especially Sarah. We also discover that Josh is a member of the White Chapter, assigned as guardian to protect Sarah. And the billionaire Sir Donald who is so fascinated with spaceflight? He’s the Keeper of the White Chapter.

When Josh arrives at the lab – he discovers six of the protestors, including Maude’s daughter, Emily, have disappeared. It’s suspected they are in the lab. Will is able to get inside, where Dexter orders him to give a “cure” to the protestors. Will can’t really say no since Dexter is also a member of the Scarlet Chapter. Once the six are released, Will discovers it wasn’t actually a cure. Will ends up shooting Dexter. He goes back outside with a few doses of a real cure (he thinks – unfortunately, it only works for 24 hours). Will administers the cure, but is confronted by Josh. Josh admits who he is – and Josh and Will end-up in a struggle.

The Keeper of the Scarlet Chapter gets her hands on Sarah when she enters the lab and offers her a terrible choice. Sarah’s discovered that the lab has developed a new super-virulent variant of a hemorrhagic fever. The Scarlet Chapter plans to release this disease worldwide to see that their doomsday predictions come to pass. The Keeper also tells Sarah that the Book of Tomorrows was written by Duke Giuliano. The Keeper also recognizes that Sarah knows that name. Sarah blames herself, saying everything is her fault. Sarah also realizes that she is getting really ill. The Keeper offers her a quick death by being shot rather than the painful death of the Fever. Sarah asks the Keeper to shoot her. There are a scuffle and gunshots… and… cliffhanger.

Fatal Consequences wraps up a lot of things that have run through the entire series so far and even brings back a character from the first season of this audio play series. As a stand-alone it might not make a lot of sense but as the penultimate story of a series it’s immensely satisfying to see Sarah finally figure out Will is with the Scarlet Chapter, to find out just how Will got involved in such a group (and that he isn’t willing to kill Sarah even when ordered to by his Keeper), and to discover that Josh, as I suspected, is part of the White Chapter.

The entire second series has also served as a sequel to the aired story, “The Masque of Mandragora”. However, I just re-watched that story last night – and Sarah never tells the Duke anything about the future. In contrast, at one point Giuliano mansplains to her that the Earth is a sphere not flat. The two spend a fair amount of time together, so her “predictions” could have happened off-screen, but it’s not something we see in the actual aired story. However, it’s interesting that Sarah’s carelessness led to the Duke writing down everything he remembered her saying. And the group that evolved from reading his journal more or less took it from there, creating their own Doomsday Cult. The Scarlet Chapter even decided that since the promised Doomsday didn’t happen at the turn of the Millennium they would force the issue instead. Scary stuff! I do recommend this story and the entire series. The next volume is Dreamland.

Please see my review of Sarah Jane Smith Buried Secrets.

Please see my review of Sarah Jane Smith Snow Blind.

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

To Order Fatal Consequences on Download only, click the link.

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

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Snow Blind

  • Title: Snow Blind
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: David Bishop
  • Director: John Ainsworth
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Will
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Tom Chadbon
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/28/2018

Picking up two months after the events in “Buried Secrets” with Sarah fully recovered from being shot, Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith audio play Snow Blind has Sarah and Josh taking their promised trip to Antarctica. The play opens with Sarah and Josh getting ready to take a cab to the airport, and has Sarah refusing to answer the phone as she leaves her house. Unfortunately, that missed call was rather important – it’s Will warning her not to come.

Sarah and Josh take a prop plane to Nikita Base, and the plane is piloted by an Australian bush pilot name Jack. During the flight, Jack calls for weather info from the base and finds that it should be fine for landing, but a storm is due in soon. The three arrive without issues, but Jack says something is wrong with the plane, and later says they won’t be able to take off again until he’s able to fix the plane, after the blizzard hits.

At the base, Sarah and Josh meet Dr. Monro and Morgane, and they are reunited with Will. Morgane is a French scientist and drilling specialist. Dr. Monro is the scientist in charge of the project, which is supposed to be on the effects of global warming. Will and Morgane take Josh out to the drilling site, while Sarah stays behind to interview Dr. Monro – not as a reporter, as she’s now retired, but as an investor who wants to know how her aunt’s money is being spent. Monro sounds paranoid and suspicious of everyone.

Meanwhile, at the drilling site, Morgane seems faint and unwell. Will says it’s over-exposure to radiation – meaning the strong and damaging sunlight at the South Pole. She heads back to the base on her snowcat – and Will take Josh to see the local penguins – the first thing to excite Josh since he arrived at Nikita Base. But when they arrive, the penguins are gone. Will looks around, realizes the mountains are also gone and that means the blizzard is past them and moving in fast. They race for their snowcat and return to the base.

Sarah, meanwhile, receives a note to meet someone in the main storage hut. To her credit, she calls Josh and Will to tell them where she’s going, but she ignores their warnings about the coming storm. Sarah gets to the storage hut OK, but she’s attacked by someone wearing a mask.

Will and Josh successfully make it back to the base, but the blizzard is in full swing. The guide line between the main living quarters and the storage hut has snapped in the high winds, or possibly it was cut. However, they are able to raise Sarah on the intercom. Sarah is cold and wet. Will advises her to change into dry clothes and a hat and then to crawl into a sleeping bag to get warm and raise her core temperature. He also tells her they can’t reach her until the blizzard passes over, but she will be safe.

The next morning, everyone goes to find Sarah and she still cannot see anything. Will realizes she’s snow blind – as Josh puts it “a sort of sunburn of the eyeballs”. The condition is brought on by exposure to strong light and UV radiation but is probably not permanent.

Before they can get Sarah to the main building – everything turns to total chaos. The main building bursts into flames. Will and Josh head off to try to do something about the fire and to make sure Morgane and the others are safe. Monro shows up and tells Sarah he suspects Morgane and Jack. Jack arrives, kills Monro, and takes Sarah hostage – after having killed Morgane. It turns out Morgane found ultra-pure uranium under the ice, and she and Jack had partnered to get it out of Antarctica to sell to the highest bidder. But not only are these two willing to sell uranium to terrorists or whoever will buy it – Morgane is working for one of the chapters of the Acolytes of Tomorrow, and the uranium sale is meant to fund their End Days activities. Jack was in it for the money – and decided to cut her out and take all the profits for himself. Jack reveals this to Sarah when she’s his hostage – but she manages to activate the fuel dump for his plane and get out of the plane before it crashes. Plus the crash attracts the authorities.

Will, flabbergasted by everything asks Sarah and Josh if it’s always like this: unveiling a plot to smuggle uranium out of Antarctica, the base burned to the ground, and two of the members of the expedition dead. Sarah and Josh seem to look at each other like, What? As in, well, actually, yes.

Another cute bit is when Sarah is talking to Morgane and later Monro about what was discovered under the ice. Her first thought is “a seed pod” and she asks if it’s hatched yet. When it becomes obvious they each have no idea what she’s talking about, and Sarah asks what was found, they tell her about the uranium. But for the audience, “seed pod” is a reference to the Classic Who adventure, “Seeds of Doom”. Only in Sarah Jane/Doctor Who can smuggled uranium be the less obvious answer to the mystery.

This is a fun adventure. Antarctica is an interesting location for Sarah and Josh, and the entire cast does an excellent job performing the story. The story ends with dialogue between the same unknown characters as in Buried Secrets – a Keeper and her Acolytes who have something to do with the scarlet chapter of the Orphans of Tomorrow. The Keeper decides that sleeper agent Will must kill Sarah Jane Smith. This leads straight into the next story, Fatal Consequences.

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Buried Secrets

  • Title: Buried Secrets
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: David Bishop
  • Director: John Ainsworth
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie Redfern, Will
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Tom Chadbon
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/26/2018

Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith audio play Buried Secrets starts off the second year of this excellent audio series. The story is framed by news reports that catch up the listener on what’s going on. Hilda Winters, Sarah’s adversary in the first series, has died in custody after Harris was “shot while trying to escape” earlier – sparing Sarah Jane the need to testify in court. Sarah has retired from journalism and is apparently living off her Aunt Lavinia’s inheritance – though she is also investing money in good causes. Josh is with her in London, while Nat is off in Florance Italy, assisting a group of forensic archaeologists who are investigating the tomb of the Medici Family in San Lorenzo. The project’s first archaeologist has disappeared, and a replacement has just journeyed to Florence.

Sarah says goodbye to Josh who is supposed to be house-sitting for her and rushes off to an evening appointment at a restaurant. Hoping to meet Harry Sullivan, even though he’s been missing for years, Sarah is surprised to meet Will Sullivan, a man who introduces himself as Harry’s half-brother. Sarah and Will get on well, especially when it turns out that one of Sarah’s causes, a scientific research study in Antarctica, is the very same research study that Will is slated to be on for the next thirteen months starting the next day. It’s a surprising coincidence.

Josh shows up at the restaurant, using the excuse of delivering a letter that came by special courier for Sarah. Sarah knows he’s being over-protective and gets annoyed.

However, when the two get back to her house they find the place has been tossed. Sarah puts it down to the rash of burglaries in the area. Sarah reads the letter – it’s from Hilda Winters, a letter from beyond the grave. The letter talks of the secret society, the Acolytes of the Future Orphans and the Book of Tomorrow. The Book was written by an Italian Duke from San Lorenzo and contains very precise prophecies of the future and the End of Days. Hilda warns Sarah she’s being watched and she’s more important than she knows.

Sarah and Josh then contact Nat, to see how she’s doing and find out she’s been held for questioning in the murder of Dr. Beretti – the missing archaeologist – who was found in one of the coffins exhumed from the crypt. Sarah and Josh head to Florence to provide moral support.

In Florence, they meet up with Nat, briefly meet her new boyfriend, Luca, and have dinner. They return to the tombs and crypt, hoping to explore it once the police have gone.

Josh and Sarah head down the ladder and into the tombs, while Natalie, who is in a wheelchair, stays up top. The lights go out while they explore, and Natalie suddenly stops answering Josh’s calls to her. He goes up to check. Meanwhile, with the lights out, Sarah spots light coming from a hidden chamber. She goes inside and finds the room is papered with strange papers – papers similar to those of the legendary Book of Tomorrow but written in English. Sarah is caught by Luca, who insists she is the Herald of the End of Days. The cult, split into two chapters – the white and crimson chapters, had long known that the final Herald had the initials SJS – but the hidden pages reveal that the woman’s name is, “Sarah”. Sarah insists it’s a coincidence – Luca insists she’s the Herald and it is his duty to kill her. Sarah shuts out the lights, hoping she will be able to escape. Shots ring out.

The next scene is the news update, and then Sarah catching up with Josh in hospital. Luca and the second archaeologist, whom Luca had identified as part of the White Chapter of the Future Orphans, while he was a member of the Crimson Chapter, are both dead. Luca had killed the archaeologist earlier, and Josh shot Luca to save Sarah. Sarah was shot, but they were able to save her in the hospital. Natalie, although glad that Sarah is OK, is again upset that her life has been upset because of one of Sarah’s adventures – after all Luca was her boyfriend, and she’s probably lost her job as well.

The play ends with an answering machine message for Sarah. It’s Will, inviting her and Josh to join him in Antarctica at the scientific research station.

This play includes references to two of Elisabeth Sladen’s adventures with the Doctor, “Seeds of Doom”, which starts with her and the Doctor at an Antarctica research station (Sarah, upon learning that Will is a scientist who does research in Antarctica tells him she spent a few days there.) And, “Masque of Mandragora”, set in 15th century San Lorenzo, where Sarah meets Giuliano (soon to be Duke) and makes quite an impression – since he is the Duke who wrote the “Book of Tomorrows” as his journal, unintentionally starting a doomsday cult in the process.

I quite enjoyed this story. It runs a bit short, but that also made for a great listen in the car. As the first story in a new season, it’s a pretty clean break. Buried Secrets uses news radio or TV broadcasts almost like a narrator to catch the reader up on the story so far, so if you haven’t listened to the first season (or first five plays in the series) this is a good place to start. The play also ends with a tease and even a trailer for the next play in the series, Snow Blind.

Recommended.

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

To order Buried Secrets on Download only follow the link.

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

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre

  • Title: Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Peter Anghelides
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie Redfern, Wendy Jennings, Miss Winters
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Louise Faulkner, Patricia Maynard
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/20/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith audio play, Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre picks up from where the previous audio, Ghost Town left off. Sarah is now on some islands off the coast of India, trying to interview local fisherman about a disastrous biological warfare experiment that went wrong in the 1940s. Her interview with the local fisherman is not going well when she’s approached by another former Planet 3 reporter, Wendy Jennings. No sooner than they start to talk when Wendy tells Sarah she’s being watched, and leaves her, leaving her a card with a time and place for a second meeting written on it. Sarah meets Wendy at the restaurant and they start to chat, only to have Wendy again insist they are being watched. Next, they meet on the beach – and are nearly run over by a Jeep.

Bit by bit, Wendy and Sarah do get to “compare notes”, as not only are they investigating the same story from the 1940s, which will be released to the public in a week’s time anyway as the result of the Official Secrets Act Statue of Limitations (basically) running out, but Sarah and Wendy suspect that a British biological research company with offices in the UK and India is intent on reviving the project. Wendy takes Sarah to meet the scientist from the original project, but a police officer shows up and kills the scientist.

This is part one, essentially, of the story – although this audio play is not officially broken-up into episodes, like many Big Finish Productions, and it is a single disc story. Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre is framed with voicemail messages at Planet 3. Sarah, also a little paranoid (but with good reason), is using the Planet 3 voicemail system to keep in touch with Natalie and Josh. Natalie has apparently recovered from her sense of betrayal as a result of the events of Test of Nerve. Back home in the UK, while Natalie researches Scarla, the British bio-weapons firm, and checks on Wendy Jennings’ background, Josh is unpacking and setting-up Sarah’s household in yet another new flat, this one Claudia’s old apartment.

Back in India, after the scientist is murdered, Sarah is much more sympathetic to Wendy’s stories. The two head to Scarla’s Indian headquarters. There, Wendy claims she’s used her Planet 3 credentials to get an interview with the CEO – really she is on a fact-finding mission and a distraction, while Sarah looks for proof. Sarah investigates in the records room and discovers that Scarla plans to use a much more virulent and deadly version of the 1940s virus to poison the Parambikulam-Aliyar project – a huge project of interconnected dams, tunnels, and viaducts, that will bring clean water for drinking, agriculture, and power to most of India by damming and connecting seven rivers. But Sarah is captured.

Taken to the CEO office, Sarah is confronted by Miss Winters and Mr. Harris. Harris had been after her throughout the entire series, since Comeback, and Sarah discovers it was Winters who set her up for the fall at Planet 3. Not only that but Wendy Jennings is actually Wendy Jellicoe, the daughter of Professor Jellicoe. Everything Sarah’s been through, being set up for publishing a “fake” story, losing her career, being constantly pursued, the loss of her reputation, even the death of her friend, Claudia, is all due to Winters, Harris, and Wendy wanting revenge on Sarah. This leads back to events in the aired story, Robot, and Think Tank and the Scientific Reform Society. Furthermore, the three plan on poisoning the Parambikulam-Aliyar project, which will result in the deaths of millions and the destruction of hundreds of acres of land. Sarah ends-up rescuing Wendy, whom Winters and Harris plan on sacrificing in a car crash, with help from Josh. Josh had gone to India to speak with Sarah personally since she wasn’t really answering the frantic voicemails he and Natalie had left – and when she did phone them she seemed off. Meanwhile, Natalie had called in a tip to the Indian authorities claiming Tamil rebels were going to attack the Parambikulam-Aliyar project. Sarah returns to the UK with Josh and meets up with Natalie, knowing now, just who set her up and why.

I enjoyed this audio play. As with all the Sarah Jane Smith audios, it moves very fast. So fast, in fact, that on the first listen I was really confused when Sarah and Wendy arrive at the Indian headquarters of Scarla, and everything changes. I liked Wendy, and I thought another reporter made a good companion for Sarah. However, tying everything that’s happened so far into an aired episode of Doctor Who was clever – as was casting the same actress to play an older Miss Winters. And Sarah saved Wendy from drowning so she may turn out to be an ally. Winters and Harris’ plot was also significantly horrifying (and realistic) and gave the audio much relevance. I have been very pleased with all the Sarah Jane audios I’ve heard so far, and highly recommend this audio and the series.

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

To order Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre on CD or Download follow the link.

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