Book Review – Doctor Who: Echoes of Grey

  • Title: Echoes of Grey
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: John Dorney
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Zoë, Jaime, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Wendy Padbury, Emily Pithon
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/25/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Echoes of Grey is part of Big Finish’s excellent Companion Chronicles series. This story features the Second Doctor, Zoë, and Jamie. It is preformed by Wendy Padbury as Zoë and Emily Pithon as Ali. Zoë is simply walking down the street when she’s approached by a woman called Ali, a woman who claims to know her, who said she met her during an encounter with the Doctor at the Whitaker Institute, an encounter involving the Achromatics. Ali says she has some equipment that can help Zoë remember. Ali takes her somewhere and hooks Zoë up to an Alpha-Wave generator, and Zoë begins to remember her adventure.

The TARDIS lands in what seems to be an abandoned medical facility. The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoë discover an empty medical ward, with charts still hanging on the beds, and some strange yellow creatures. They meet a girl, Ali, who, like Zoë, was a child prodigy, who was soon surrounded by adults and seen more for her skills than as a person. They meet a man who’s just snuck into the facility to find out what happened to his grandmother, and they meet the staff. They also discover a mysterious vat of white stuff. After the mysterious murder of one of the staff members – the trio, now mistaken as members of the “Company” that is paying for the research, on a fact-finding mission, discover what it is the Whitaker Institute has manufactured – the Achromatics – beings that can absorb any sort of disease or injury. Unfortunately, the semi-senitent Achromatics don’t stop with simply absorbing the disease – once the disease is absorbed and the person cured, they move on the absorb healthy cells – until the person dies. And then they move on to the next host. The Achromatics continue their healing/killing until they are so diseased – they die. The Doctor and Zoë are appalled that living creatures would die for this cure – and that it doesn’t work since the host/patient also dies. In the end, the Doctor manages to dispose of the Achromatics in a rather clever way – and the trio leaves in the TARDIS.

When Zoë speaks to Ali again, the woman presses her for the formula for the Achromatics – a formula she saw on one of the white boards in the Institute. With her photographic memory – she should recall it. But Zoë realises something is wrong – she doesn’t remember Ali being there, even though Ali insists she was. Zoë also realises that the Achromatics Project is far too dangerous and inhumane to get out. In the end, she decides – she doesn’t remember.

This was a good story, with lots of atmosphere, well-performed by Wendy Padbury who always does a very good job in the Companion Chronicles. The only criticism I have is that it’s a bit short. I would have liked a slightly longer, more complex story. Still, it is a good story and it’s easily visualized. I recommend Echoes of Grey. Oh, and I loved the reason for the title, it’s reference, and even where the name of the “monster du jour” comes from.

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

Click this link to order Echoes of Grey on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Great Space Elevator

  • Title: The Great Space Elevator
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Jonathan Morris
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Victoria, Jamie, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Deborah Watling, Helen Goldwyn
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/14/2016

**Spoiler Alert** The Great Space Elevator is a Companion Chronicle story featuring the Second Doctor as played by Patrick Troughton, and his Companions, Victoria and Jamie. The audio is read/performed by Deborah Watling who played Victoria on Doctor Who. The Companion Chronicles series by Big Finish always remind me of the Doctor Who Missing Adventures books or the BBC Past Doctor Adventures books and this one is no different. It’s great to re-visit an older era of Doctor Who.

The TARDIS lands in a jungle, and the Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria see a huge skyscraper rising into the sky. They are brought to a base station and told they are in an restricted area. The Doctor actually offers to leave immediately but the base station receives a distress signal from the sky station. The Doctor and his companions, as well as Tara, the base commander, take the Space Elevator to the Sky Station to investigate.

Once at the Sky Station, which takes several hours of travel time, Tara and company arrive, only to be told nothing is wrong and they should turn around and head back to the ground. But the crew of the Sky Station is acting strangely. First, everyone is wearing thick, insulating space suits (which Victoria, who is telling the story, assumes to be normal). Second, the Doctor quickly discovers the crew are magnetic, and they seem to have electricity in their eyes.

The Doctor tells Victoria to return to the space elevator where it’s safe, while he and Jamie investigate. Victoria waits a few minutes, then goes to investigate on her own. She wanders through the station and is soon attacked and thrown into a storage closet. She’s rescued by the Doctor and Jamie, who have been joined by one of the Sky Station workers – someone who “hasn’t been converted” like the ones in the control room. Victoria realizes she was nearly converted and offers to pretend she was and investigate in the control room. The Doctor and Jamie tell her it’s too dangerous, but Victoria insists.

In the control room, Victoria discovers the purpose of the Sky Station – to monitor and control the weather. And the “converted” staff are attempting to create a giant electric storm, a cyclone. The cyclone will be centered on the base station – it will also allow the creature that is controlling everyone on the station to feed on even more pure electric power.

Unfortunately, when Victoria sees Tara, she sees her as an ally – she’s chased out of the control room. Tara follows, aiming to convert her, but is trapped in a Faraday cage by the Doctor. The Doctor interrogates Tara and discovers the electric creature comes from deep space. Unfortunately, more of the converted crew arrive and “convert” the Doctor – and everyone returns to the control room. In the control room, the Doctor quickly reveals he was never converted because he had ground himself (in the story referred to as “being Earthed”). However, it is Victoria who turns on the automatic fire suppressant system, grounding everyone and forcing out the electric creature. The creature escapes down the elevator cable, but the Doctor calls down to the base station and has the cable ground. The Doctor also turns the storm back to sea and disperses it.

I liked seeing Victoria in this story. She is often an underused companion. And I liked seeing her frustration with the Doctor’s protective attitude (and Jamie’s – “you’re just a girl” comments). And it was great to see Victoria figuring things out and even saving the day by turning on the fire extinguishers. But the story here was a bit basic. I kept expecting the mysterious force controlling the crew to be Cybermen, but the actual electric monster was a bit disappointing. Still, it’s well worth a listen. Recommended.

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

Click this link to order The Great Space Elevator on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Fear of the Daleks

  • Title: Fear of the Daleks
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Patrick Chapman
  • Director: Mark J. Thompson
  • Characters: Zoë Heriot, Jamie, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Wendy Padbury, Nicholas Briggs
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/08/2014

Fear of the Daleks is the most “bookish” of the Doctor Who Companion Chronicles CDs I’ve listened to so far – but it is also the earliest. The story is told by Wendy Padbury (who played Zoë Heriot on the original Doctor Who television series) with Nicholas Briggs providing the voices of the Daleks. Zoë is in therapy, trying to deal with the dreams she’s been having – dreams of monsters.

The story changes scenes from Zoë telling her therapist about her dream to the story, where she, Jaime, and the Doctor arrive on an asteroid that is home to a huge, domed city. The city is to be host to a peace conference to end a war between two space-faring races in the nearby system. But before the TARDIS crew can do anything, they are arrested. They are taken to a lab where a megalomaniac plans to use a Dalek mind transfer machine to control Zoë and use her to assassinate one of the planet’s leaders – thus continuing the war. The scientist also plans to use The Doctor in a similar way.

However, although the machine works on Zoë, projecting her astral self to the spaceship hosting one of the two alien races, and controlling her movements; when the Doctor tricks the scientist to use it on him – he is able to resist the conditioning and prevents Zoë from killing the planetary leader. The Daleks are revealed to be behind everything, and the Doctor, again, tricks them into revealing their true nature – causing the scientist to reverse his plan.

Wendy Padbury has a wonderful voice and she reads well – performing what parts she can, though this particular story is more narration than some of the other Doctor Who Companion Chronicles I’ve listened to. Nicholas Briggs has played the Daleks many times, both on the television series, and in Doctor Who audios from Big Finish, though having met him at Chicago TARDIS – I couldn’t help but picture him while listening to this story. The problems with Fear of the Daleks though include it not really being a scary story, some rather silly dialog, and a plot that’s a bit simple. I’ve never been a big fan of the Daleks as a Doctor Who monster – I prefer the Cybermen, and the over-usage of every word ending in -ate imaginable starts to sound silly rather than scary. The plot also was someone flat and simple – I actually wanted to learn more about Zoë and how the Time Lords mind-wipe had affected her life. However, from looking at later discs in this range, I suspect Zoë’s story might continue, and this was only an introduction to her eidetic memory cancelling out the Time Lord’s erasure of her memories of her time with the Doctor.

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

Click this link to order Fear of the Daleks on CD.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Helicon Prime

  • Title: Helicon Prime
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Jake Elliot
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Jaime, Second Doctor, Mindy Voir
  • Cast: Frazier Hines, Suzanne Proctor
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/04/2014

Helicon Prime is the second of Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles I’ve listened to. The format is somewhat between a true audiobook and one of Big Finish’s audio plays. Frazier Hines reads the story and plays the parts of Jaime, and, surprisingly well, the Second Doctor (I didn’t realise it was Frazier at all at first). Suzanne Proctor plays the part of Mindy Voir, and then Frazier reads the descriptions. It helps that in this story, Jaime is actually telling his story to someone else. Also, the story is split into two parts – with a cliffhanger and theme music at the break.

The story is about Jaime, who suddenly remembers an adventure he had with the Doctor on Helicon Prime, a resort in the Golden Section of the galaxy, where there is no violence due to the pacifying effect of the Golden Section. However, suddenly people are getting murdered. It turns out the deaths are because a small group of people is looking for a long-lost treasure.

I enjoyed the story – I listened to Part I in December and Part II today. It’s a good tale, though at times it was a bit confusing. I was a bit nervous about this format – often I find it difficult to concentrate when listening to audio books – it starts to fade into background noise and I fail to pay attention. But this format, with two actors performing their characters, then one reading the rest of the story, works surprisingly well. I have two more of these Companion Chronicles that I’ve purchased, and if they are as good, I’ll have to look into purchasing more of them from Big Finish. Also, these stories are like having the Missing Adventures or Past Doctor Adventures book series back again, but in a much faster format (it’s a single CD, so less than an hour to listen to the entire thing). There are two trailers, an interview with Fraser Hines, and a very strange music-only track included on the CD as bonus tracks.

I highly recommend Helicon Prime. The format also worked really well. And I enjoyed listening to a new and original Patrick Troughton (Second Doctor) story.

Find out more about Big Finish at their website.

Purchase Doctor Who Helicon Prime on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Nameless City

  • Title: The Nameless City
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Michael Scott
  • Characters: Second Doctor, Jaime
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/10/2016

Doctor Who The Nameless City is the second book in the Twelve Doctors 50th Anniversary boxed set of 12 mini-books. It features the Second Doctor, as played by Patrick Troughton on the BBC television series Doctor Who and his companion Jaime, the Scottish Highlander. Polly is mentioned but not present and no mention is made of Zoë or Victoria (or even Ben), which made me wonder when the story was meant to be set in the Second Doctor Era.

In the story, a disguised Master manipulates Jaime into taking a dangerous book as a reward and giving that book to the Doctor. The Doctor, meanwhile, is attempting to fix his TARDIS but needs gold, mercury, and Zeiton-7 – three substances it’s difficult to get in Victorian London. However, when Jaime gives the Doctor the book, it turns out to be the Necronomicon. The Necronomicon, or Book of Dead Names, was written by an ancient (even more ancient than the Time Lords) and mostly dead race known as the Archons. And the Archons have a grudge against the Time Lords. The book possesses the TARDIS and brings it to the Archon homeworld, just outside the Nameless City.

There, the Doctor, the TARDIS, and Jaime are transported to the city by ape-like robots. The Archons make threats, including wanting to use the TARDIS to change history so they were never defeated. They therefore, conveniently, fix the TARDIS, with pools of gold, mercury, and Zeiton-7 – which are all plentiful on their world. Their city is also made from glass and exists in multiple dimensions.

Needless to say, after the TARDIS is fixed – the Doctor and Jaime manage to escape in a rather clever way.

I enjoyed this – whereas the first book in this series of basically short stories was filled with references to Peter Pan; this one is full of references to H.P. Lovecraft – including the Necronomicon, the dangerous book of arcane magicks. The Nameless City itself is very awesome and cool, though it also brings to mind Lovecraft’s use of strange and odd descriptions that make a place seem very off-center.

I don’t want to spoil how the Doctor and Jaime escape because it was novel – and a highlight of the story. But this was also a case where the Master, in his plot, actually helped the Doctor. If the TARDIS had remained in Victorian London, the Doctor would never have been able to get a “ton of gold” (literally). He might have been able to get the mercury – depending on how much he needed. But he would have had a very hard time getting the alien component Zeiton-7 needed to repair the TARDIS (in a process that’s also way cool so I won’t spoil it). But by sending the TARDIS to a planet where these components are as ubiquitous as salt water – the TARDIS could be repaired easily. You have to wonder if the Master ever really thinks his plots through. Anyway, this is an enjoyable mini-book. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The 12 Doctors of Christmas

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

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

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

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

Stories, Doctor, Companion(s), Authors

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice

  • Title: The Wheel of Ice
  • Series: Doctor Who – Unknown
  • Author: Stephen Baxter
  • Characters: Second Doctor, Jaime, Zoë
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/26/2016

The Wheel of Ice is a hard Science Fiction novel featuring the Second Doctor, as played by Patrick Troughton on the BBC television series, Doctor Who. The Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë are in the TARDIS when it unexpectedly appears in the middle of the rings of Saturn. The atmosphere of Saturn is volatile and the TARDIS is immediately hit by large chunks of ice. But they are rescued by Phee, a young girl on an in-system scooter and MMAC a computer and AI that maintains the Wheel.

The Wheel is a space habitat for the miners and administrators who are mining the moon, Mnemosyne, for Bernalium – a rare and thus extremely valuable mineral. The mining operation is run by Bootstrap Mining, and their head administrator is Florian Hart – a ruthless businesswoman. Also, the Wheel has additional departmental heads: Jo Laws, the mayor; the chief medical officer, Sinbad Omar; Luis Reyes, ambassador from the Planetary Ethics Commission of Earth; and Marshal Sonia Paley, the head police officer. Jo and her family are central to the story. Her daughter, Phee, is the first to meet The Doctor and the TARDIS crew, her son, Sam, is a teenager, forced to work in the mines and not too happy about it, and her baby daughter, Casey, actually is the first to encounter the mysterious alien hidden on Mnemosyne.

Florian Hart is ruthless, in the name of profits for Bootstrap, she has forbidden all education for the younger generation, the children born on the wheel, and uses them as laborers in the mine. Children as young as seven are sent on “familiarity courses”. Jo, with three children, isn’t thrilled about this, but sees it as the way of the world.

The Wheel is also experiencing acts of “sabotage”, which Florian Hart blames on the children and teenagers of the Wheel, despite the inherent lack of logic in her accusations (she’s basically picking on a group she doesn’t like to blame without any evidence and ignoring evidence to the contrary). When a piece of machinery is destroyed by an explosion, Hart uses it as an excuse to round-up all the teenagers who work in the mines and place them under house arrest. She even threatens to physically mutilate them as punishment. The teenagers, including Jaime – who’s gotten wrapped up in their situation – escape to the moon, Titan.

The Doctor, and Dr. Omar, investigate the explosion and discover that the machinery was destroyed by a methane explosion. They also find a dead “Blue Doll”. These aliens had been seen by the children working in the mines, but were denied by the administrators of the Wheel, especially Florian Hart. When the Doctor points out that the machinery exploded because of the methane fuel, and shows the evidence of the dead Blue Doll everyone but Hart agrees something else may be going on.

The Doctor, Zoë, Jaime, Jo Laws, Sam, and the other administrators besides Hart begin to investigate to figure out what is really happening on the Wheel and the nearby moons. The truth involves an ancient AI, Ark, and storage library from another galaxy from long ago, and the Blue Dolls, and later, Blue Soldiers it constructs.

Most of this book is told in the typical third-person fashion of the Doctor Who original tie-in novels. However, there are chapters told from the point-of-view of the two AIs: MMAC (who has a Scottish accent) and Arkive. And there’s a chapter that describes how an amulet (really a temporal lure sent by Arkive deep into Earth’s past) is passed down from woman to woman in Jo’s family to finally be worn by Phee.

I enjoyed the characterizations in this book the best – Phee, Sam, Jo, MMAC, ARKIVE, even the villainous Florian Hart all leap off the page. Jaime, Zoë, and the Doctor also are in character and given plenty to do without the obvious trope of the companions being split up simply so each can learn separate pieces of information, get rescued, and report back. Zoë and the Doctor spend most of their time together, for example. And although Jaime has his own adventures, it’s nice to see the 18th century Scot get some real action where he’s able to be useful despite his unfamiliarity with the environment. The section of the book on Titan is wonderfully written, both the descriptions, and showing how Sam and the other teens behave and think. The book also succeeds in terms of the plot. Some readers might find Florian Hart to be a bit of a cardboard villain, but she is given a credible backstory that relates to an older Second Doctor adventure on the BBC series.

Recommended.