Book Review – Doctor Who: The Memory Cheats

  • Title: The Memory Cheats
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Simon Guerrier
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Zoë, Jen, Jaime, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Wendy Padbury, Charlie Hayes (as Jen, guest)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/05/2017

**Spoiler Alert** The Memory Cheats is the second volume in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles “Zoë Trilogy”, with the first volume being, Echoes of Grey. Since it’s been awhile since I listened to Echoes of Grey, I re-listened to it prior to listening to The Memory Cheats. This also isn’t the first time I’ve listened to The Memory Cheats, either, I’ve listened to it a couple of times but never had the time to review it.

The story starts with Zoë being held by The Company, and she’s being interviewed by “Jen” who at first seems to be an attorney or advocate. Jen, though, slips Zoë a drug in her tea to stimulate her memory. Jen discusses the Achromatics from the previous story, but Zoë insists she doesn’t remember the formula. Jen switches tracks and asks her about her previous travels with the Doctor – specifically a trip to Uzbeckistan (Russia) in 1919.

The TARDIS arrives and the Second Doctor (as portrayed on Doctor Who by Patrick Troughton), Jamie, and Zoë, leave it and head to the local village. Although the people in the village are welcoming and generous, all are sad and upset. And as Zoë puts it, it’s more than the recent war, the sickness, or the change in leadership that is upsetting them. The Doctor impersonates a Russian official, and soon discovers that several of the village children are missing. The TARDIS crew joins with the Lansings – a couple who run the local school and are trying to help the impoverished village. The Doctor discovers that every child that was taken disappeared from a room with a door or window that faces West. They form a group to investigate the mountains to the West. The group discovers a spaceship, and an alien, with the children held captive, but being fed medicines and food through tubes. Although the Lansings die in an initial mistake with the alien (which Zoë blames herself for – going so far as to say “she killed them” because it was her error), the alien is relatively harmless. It has crashed during the war, and while trying to repair its spaceship, had become concerned about the children. Zoë insists to her interviewer from The Company, that the alien would take the children to a planet, where they would have an up-bringing like her own, devoted to logic and free from prejudice and want. The bargain for letting the captured children go to this other planet is that no more children will be taken from the village, and that the group that had gone in search of the children would be allowed to leave.

The name of the planet, however, is that of something that doesn’t exist. And Zoë then insists to Jen that it’s a file – the file that describes the Elite program in detail. How Zoë, and others like her were taken from their parents and put in the training and education program. How they were devoted to logic at the expense of emotion and personal ties. Zoë insists the Elite program, which The Company sponsors must be stopped. Jen tries to return to finding out more about Zoë being a time traveller – and that she wants her to explain the secrets of time travel, but Zoë insists that she made everything up. That she read Jen’s files, repeated back what Jen wanted to hear, and that if she got stuck, Jen herself supplied more details. Then Zoë insists again that there is no such thing as time travel, she made everything up, and she remembers nothing.

Overall, I found this story a bit weak. The story within a story is very short, and Zoë insists that it was a parable anyway – a fable she uses to try to get Jen to stop the Elite program. Meanwhile, the company still wants to learn secrets from Zoë – secrets she won’t or perhaps can’t remember. Having “Total Recall” but also having been mind-wiped by the Time Lords, she literally can remember that she can’t remember. This makes both Zoë and Jen unreliable narrators – one because she doesn’t know what she does or does not know, and the other because she has unrevealed motivations. Like “Ali” in the previous story, the listeners don’t know what The Company is up to, but it’s definitely no good. Perhaps the third story in the trilogy will make more sense out of the whole group, but overall, this one was a bit flat.

Go here to read my Review of Echoes of Grey.

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

Click here to order The Memory Cheats on CD or Download.

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

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Book Review – Doctor Who: Resistance

  • Title: Resistance
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • 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!

Non-Fiction Book Review – Twitter Who vol. 2: The Second Doctor

  • Title: Twitter Who vol. 2: The Second Doctor
  • Author: Hannah J. Rothman
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/06/2014

Rothman’s second volume follows the same format as the first, each Patrick Troughton Doctor Who story, including reconstructions of the missing ones is reviewed in Twitter posts, with several posts per story gathered together into a single blog post. So, again, it’s like reading a transcript of a live tweeting event. In this volume, the discussions of the individual stories are longer. However, it’s still a very fun, enjoyable, light, funny, and a quick read. I enjoyed it very much and I look forward to the rest of the series.

Twitter Who, Vol. 2 – The Second Doctor is highly recommended, especially to fans of the world’s longest-running Science Fiction television series, Doctor Who. The format is also unique to the deluge of non-fiction books about Doctor Who especially since the 50th anniversary last year.

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!