Book Review – Doctor Who: The Prisoner’s Dilemma

  • Title: The Prisoner’s Dilemma
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Simon Guerrier
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Ace, Zara (guest), Seventh Doctor
  • Cast: Sophie Aldred, Laura Doddington (Zara)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/19/2017

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a Big Finish audio play in the Doctor Who Companion Chronicles series. It’s also a companion piece to the Peter Davison (Fifth Doctor) Key2Time mini-series of three audio plays. I haven’t listened to the other volumes of the Key2Time series, though I’m now thinking that I should order them. But anyway, this is meant to be a stand alone story, and I found that it did work that way. If anything it seemed to me to be a sequel to the Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor) Key to Time season.

This story is a bit confusing, and I did have to listen to it in my car twice, but at the same time I found it to be a good story, if a bit unusual. The story has two episodes, and the first episode is told by Zara and in her point of view. The second episode is told by Ace and is in her point of view, though most of it takes place earlier than Zara’s section (the two sections overlap). Zara is from outside of time, a place she refers to as “The Grace” and she is an Elemental. The Grace also has two Guardians, equal and opposite. These Guardians will be familiar to Doctor Who television audiences, with both of them turning up in the Key to Time season with the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana I (Mary Tamm). The Black Guardian was also a major player during Peter Davison’s tenure as the Doctor. So, Zara’s introduction makes perfect sense, she is working for the Guardians – along with her sister. Both are brand-new to our universe. Both have an assignment – to each find three segments to the Key to Time to bring back to the Guardians so the Key can be assembled and the off-kilter balance of the universe put right.

The story starts with Zara and Ace each stuck in a jail cell someplace. Will they trust each other? Or, will they betray each other? Zara fills us in on her story – after literally appearing from nothing, she takes her first breath of air on a planet. And she’s immediately kidnapped by Zinc, who, along with his wife Magda, is investigating a strange new cult that’s taking over the galaxy. But that is a detail we learn later. All we know now is what Zara knows, she’s picked up from this rainy planet, and she’s suddenly somewhere else with Zinc.

Zara, not knowing any better, tells Zinc everything: about the key to time, the Guardians, her job, etc. Zinc probably doesn’t believe her and tries to figure out where his teleport bracelet has brought him, because he is way off course. They go to the telescope room at the local museum. And Zinc abandons Zara. Zara, though miffed, thinks she’s learned a lesson about not trusting anyone. And she realizes the strange tickling in her nose is actually how she perceives being near a segment of the Key to Time. She follows the sensation to a huge lake on the surface of the planet Erratoon, which is a former prison planet and covered with a Geodestic Dome. She talks someone into taking her out on the lake in a boat, touches the surface of the water – and the entire lake disappears as it takes the form of a segment of the Key, which Zara puts in her satchel. Unfortunately, when the lake suddenly disappears, everyone on the lake dies. Anyone in a boat suddenly crashes down to the rock-hard surface of the lake bed, and dies from the impact. Zara is arrested for “stealing” the lake.

Ace, meanwhile finds herself in a jail cell with Zara. Zara doesn’t even tell her, her name. Ace, being Ace, decides immediately to escape. Zara warns her it’s not a good idea because if you try to escape you forfit your right to a trial and your memories are stolen. Ace gets them out of the cell anyway, and they are both captured and mind-wiped.

Ace awakes, her memories scrambled, but tells us what she remembers. She’d been with the Doctor, whom she now barely remembers, looking into a “Bonnie and Clyde” couple, Zinc and Magda, who had stolen a time ring and were now running all over space and time – pulling heists, setting up “nest eggs”, but also, at times, helping people and being heroes. She and the Doctor are investigating Zinc and Magda to see if they need to be stopped (their current investigation into the cult is trouble, a mystery that isn’t meant to be solved yet). But when Zinc goes off to grab an cultist to interview he simply disappears with no word. We, the audience, know he grabbed Zara and disappeared to Erratoon rather than back to his camp with Magda. Ace takes care of Magda, finding a shelter, making a fire, even preparing food from their supplies. Zinc returns and tells Magda that his trip wasn’t in vain – the planet he accidentally traveled to is rich in an ore needed for intergalactic travel than makes hyperspace much safer. The three end up on Erratoon and Ace is meant to fire a rocket at the geodestic dome, killing everyone on the planet and leaving it free for mining. Ace tries to find her way out of this, even telling a robot constable what will happen. But the robots only prosecute actual crimes. They don’t do any crime prevention. The rocket is set off, and the dome destroyed, but Ace finds herself in a hospital, under the care of The Doctor, but still with a rocky memory. It turns out that all the buildings on the planet were actually ships. When the dome breaks and everyone is expelled into space, they are scooped up by the buildings which are now spaceships. No one died. And now that the secret is out (all the meaningless tasks given to the prisoners weren’t so meaningless) a space dock will be built, people can come and go as they please, once the ore is found, everyone on the planet will be rich, and a new colony built. The Doctor even promises he has something called “a TARDIS” which can restore her memories.

This was an excellent story, well told and performed. I liked it, even though at times it was hard to tell what was going on because of the non-chronological nature of the telling of the story.

Recommended.

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

Click here to order The Prisoner’s Dilemma 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: Timewyrm: Genesys

  • Title: Timewyrm: Genesys
  • Series: Virgin Publishing New Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: John Peel
  • Characters: Seventh Doctor, Ace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/12/2017

I originally read this book when it came out in 1991, and I remember that I didn’t like it much. TV Tie-Ins should feel like an episode of the show they come from, and, at the time, I thought this story didn’t. I also didn’t like the characterization of Ace. However, since I’ve decided to read my entire collection of original Doctor Who novels, I decided I really needed to start reading the entire Virgin Publishing Doctor Who The New Adventures series of original novels from the very beginning. So I started with Timewyrm: Genesys.

I actually really enjoyed Timewyrm: Genesys this time around. I read it in about a week. I realise it’s been a lot longer than that since I’ve posted a book review here on GoodReads but I started another novel that I just couldn’t get into, plus I hit one of those rare instances when I just didn’t really feel like reading a book. Anyway, I read this pretty quickly and I actually, honestly, enjoyed it.

The Virgin Publishing Doctor Who The New Adventures series takes place immediately after the aired episode, “Survival”, and follows the Seventh Doctor (as played on the BBC Series by Sylvester McCoy) and Ace, and later in the series, new companions, like Dr. Bernice Summerfield (an archaeologist). This novel begins with a prologue of an alien in a spaceship firefight with her people. Her ship is destroyed and she crash lands on Earth in an escape pod. However, one isn’t to feel sorry for her – she’s an evil megalomaniac who had destroyed her own planet. The alien first meets Gilgamesh, who refuses to help her – seeing her evil, but she becomes the goddess Ishtar and is taken to a temple in Kish by it’s King Agga.

It’s ancient Mesopotamia and Urak and Kish are posed for war. Ishtar (the Timewyrm though that doesn’t become clear until the end of the book) encourages this, and anything else that will help her gain complete control. She uses advanced technology to Touch soldiers and others in Kish, using them as her spies, slaves, and solders. Meanwhile, Ace wakes in the TARDIS with no memory of who she is. She wanders to the TARDIS control room and meets the Doctor. The Doctor had been deleting his memories – and moving them into the TARDIS data banks, when he overdid it a bit and hit Ace as well while she slept. He reverses the process and gives her, her memories back. This is an admittedly weird and strange scene, and it resembles nothing we’ve seen in Classic Doctor Who, though it did remind me of Sherlock Holmes deleting his memories and searching his “mind palace” in Sherlock but that’s besides the point.

The TARDIS lands in ancient Mesopotamia. Ace and the Doctor meet Gilgamesh and become involved in events. Before long, Gilgamesh, his Neanderthal servant, a fallen priestess of Ishtar, the Princess of Kish, and a wandering musician and songsmith, are working together to defeat Ishtar without Mesopotamia being destroyed.

It’s a fast-moving back and forth battle, with small victories being overcome by defeats. In the end, the Doctor saves Kish, but although at first he thought he had destroyed the Timewyrm (as she is by then known) by drop-kicking her from the TARDIS to the Time and Space Vortex, she returns to tell him she’s survived, escaped, and can now, with help from some Chronovores, travel to any place in space and time. And since there are three more books in the series, this provides a set-up to make her a stronger villain.

Overall, I honestly enjoyed Timewyrm: Genesys. It was a fast read, and full of high adventure. Ace did get to do things, beyond simply blowing things up with Nitro-9, though there’s plenty of that. The Doctor sends her, Gilgamesh, and the songsmith to the mountains to find the other aliens who, chasing the alien who had destroyed their planet had also crash-landed on Earth. Later, it’s revealed that the Doctor had done that simply to get the group out of the way and keep them safe. However, Ace learns to be a leader, to work with people, to deal with setbacks, and to use innovative thinking to solve problems. Plus she saved the Doctor, the princess, and the priestess – so there’s that. It seems obvious that we will see growth in Ace’s character in this new series.

Overall, I can honestly say that I recommend Timewyrm: Genesys both as a Doctor Who original novel and as historical science fiction adventure.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Bang-Bang-a-Boom

  • Title: Bang-Bang-a-Boom!
  • Series: Doctor Who Main Range
  • Authors: Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman
  • Director: Nicholas Pegg
  • Characters: Seventh Doctor, Mel
  • Cast: Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford, Sabina Franklyn, Nickolas Grace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/27/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Bang-Bang-a-Boom is one of my very favorite Big Finish audio plays – because it is relentlessly funny. This is a full-cast audio play, with music, sound effects and an excellent cast. It features the Seventh Doctor, played by Sylvester McCoy and his companion, Mel. The story starts with a bang, as the TARDIS arrives on an in-bound shuttle to a space station. The Doctor and Mel no sooner arrive than they realize the people on the shuttle are dead and it is about to explode. Before they can get to the TARDIS, they are beamed to the space station.

The station, Dark Space 8, is expecting a replacement commander, the previous one having died in a space flu. The staff of the Station welcome the Doctor as the new Commander, and Mel as his pilot. The Station is about to host the Intergalactic Song Contest.

The Doctor and Mel meet the contestants of the contest, including representatives of two Galactic Empires posed on the brink of war. They also meet the Arbiter, a galaxy-wide famous diplomat. Before long, people on the station start getting murdered, the Doctor investigates, and Dr. Eleanor Harcourt feels so … helpless.

The story is great fun, and the parodies of ST:TNG and ST:DS9 are rampant. The Doctor gets to play detective with Mel as his reluctant assistant. They eventually realize that the Intergalactic Peace Conference that is taking place at the same time, supposedly on another planet, is actually taking place on the station – and the Song Contest is a convenient cover. The Doctor also uncovers a number of secrets about the crew of Dark Space 8. The story has a light tone and is laugh-out-loud funny. It truly is one of my very favorite Big Finish stories and I highly recommend it.

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

Click this link to order Bang-Bang-a-Boom! on Download only. Note: currently for the discounted price of $2.99. Get it while you can!

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Ripple Effect

  • Title: The Ripple Effect
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Malorie Blackman
  • Characters: Seventh Doctor, Ace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/02/2016

Doctor Who – The Ripple Effect is part the of Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 12 Doctors 12 Books series of mini-books. The Ripple Effect features the Seventh Doctor as played on the BBC television series by Sylvester McCoy and his companion Ace (aka Dorothy McShane). The mini-book opens with the Doctor and Ace in the TARDIS and they are stuck. They are in the space/time equivalent of the Sargasso Sea – becalmed and utterly unable to move. Other ships are also stranded. While the Doctor works on the TARDIS console trying to fix it so they can get out of the time/space trap, Ace watches out the viewing screen at the greyish exterior. Then she suddenly sees the TARDIS. But the Doctor dismisses this as an illusion.

The Doctor makes a desperate move, and the TARDIS is kicked free of the trap. They “auto-land” on a planet, which they soon discover to be Skaro. But rather the home of the militaristic, xenophobic, racist, bullies we know as Daleks – Skaro is home to a race of Daleks who are the center of teaching, medicine, and research for the entire galaxy. People of all races and of all ages come to the Academy on Skaro to learn, study, and do research. Even the Time Lords have come to Skaro to say thanks for the Dalek medical team that saved the life of the Lord President of Gallifrey.

The Doctor, of course, knows this to be wrong. Ace also remembers her own fights against vicious Daleks, but over time she comes to accept the new world she’s on, and the new universe.

The Doctor, however, continues to investigate – and although the Daleks are as good as they seem, this alternate universe isn’t stable – and in the end, he and Ace must do something about that.

The Ripple Effect is an excellent story, in that it’s really about prejudice – the Doctor’s previous experiences with evil Daleks make it difficult for him to accept that these Daleks are good. Ace at first agrees with him, but she gradually accepts what she sees with her own eyes, despite her memories, these Daleks are good. Ace even becomes friends with one of the other students – which makes the end even more tragic.

This is an excellent and very short story, as all the other stories in this series are short. 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: Atom Bomb Blues

  • Title: Atom Bomb Blues
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Andrew Cartmel
  • Characters:  Seventh Doctor, Ace
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 2/22/2013

Finishing this book gave me a sense of accomplishment and a sense of sadness. I have been collecting and reading the BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures (PDA) and Eighth Doctor Adventures (EDA) paperback books series for years (at least since 2001 and possibly before that). I’ve always thought that of the six series (so far) of books based on the BBC television series, Doctor Who, that the PDAs and EDAs had the best writing and were the closest to the characterizations from the actual TV series. So reaching the last Past Doctor Adventure was sad… but since I’ve read most of the PDAs, it was also a sense of accomplishment, it is a series of 76 books after all — that’s a lot.

So, getting on to the review of this particular book in the series. Atom Bomb Blues brings Ace and the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy’s version, e.g. the 7th Doctor) to New Mexico in 1945 during the development and testing phase of the nuclear bomb. The novel moves very fast at the beginning and introduces some great characters. Later on it gets a bit confusing. However, overall I did really like the book, it was an enjoyable read, and the Doctor and Ace were in character. This is a stand-alone Ace and the Doctor novel and not part of Mike Tucker & Robert Perry’s mini-series within the PDA series starring Ace and the Doctor.

One of few things I did find annoying about the PDAs was that every time the series takes the Doctor and his companion to the US there are very basic errors (Dying in the Sun being one of the worst). Unfortunately, Atom Bomb Blues is no exception, with the author continuously mis-spelling “chili” as “chilli”. Very distracting. (At the beginning of the novel a Mexican-American cook/housekeeper’s chili is an important plot-point of sorts). Minor problem, yes, but annoying anyway. I also think it should have been colder in the New Mexico desert at night, but whatever.

However, I did like the plot and the characters. “Cosmic Ray” seemed a bit out of time (his accent and slang are very 60s) but that gets explained later. Ace was wonderful — I especially liked how she reacts to the Doctor’s withholding information. That was very like the series itself, especially the 7th Doctor Era.

Overall, I recommend this particular book in the BBC Past Doctor Adventures series. This is a nice Swan Song for the series to go out on. The book is an enjoyable, fast read.

Doctor Who – New Adventures Booklist

The Doctor Who New Adventures were a series of original paperback novels that were published by Virgin Publishing, along side the Missing Adventures, after the series disappeared from our screens in 1989. The books started with the Seventh Doctor and Ace, but later introduced new companions, such as Dr. Bernice Summerfield, an archaeologist. They must be read in order. The chart below lists the book number, the title, the author, and the cast.

 

Virgin Publishing New Adventures featuring the 7th Doctor
Book # Title Author(s) Main Cast
1 Timewyrm: Genesys John Peel 7th Doctor, Ace
2 Timewyrm: Exodus Terrance Dicks 7th Doctor, Ace
3 Timewyrm: Apocalypse Nigel Robinson 7th Doctor, Ace
4 Timewyrm: Revelation Paul Cornell 7th Doctor, Ace
5 Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible Marc Platt 7th Doctor, Ace
6 Cat’s Cradle: Warhead Andrew Cartmel 7th Doctor, Ace
7 Cat’s Cradle: Witch Mark Andrew Hunt 7th Doctor, Ace
8 Nightshade Mark Gatiss 7th Doctor, Ace
9 Love And War Paul Cornell 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
10 Transit Ben Aaronovitch 7th Doctor, Bernice
11 The Highest Science Gareth Roberts 7th Doctor, Bernice
12 The Pit Neil Penswick 7th Doctor, Bernice
13 Deceit Peter Darvill-Evans 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
14 Lucifer Rising Jim Mortimore & Andy Lane 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
15 White Darkness David A McIntee 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
16 Shadowmind Christopher Bulis 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
17 Birthright Nigel Robinson 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
18 Iceberg David Banks 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
19 Blood Heat Jim Mortimore 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
20 The Dimension Riders Daniel Blythe 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
21 The Left-Handed Hummingbird Kate Orman 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
22 Conundrum Steve Lyons 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
23 No Future Paul Cornell 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
24 Tragedy Day Gareth Roberts 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
25 Legacy Gary Russell 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
26 Theatre of War Justin Richards 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
27 All-Consuming Fire Andy Lane 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
28 Blood Harvest Terrance Dicks 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
29 Strange England Simon Messingham 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
30 First Frontier David A McIntee 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
31 St Anthony’s Fire Mark Gatiss 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
32 Falls the Shadow Daniel O’Mahony 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
33 Parasite Jim Mortimore 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
34 Warlock Andrew Cartmel 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
35 Set Piece Kate Orman 7th Doctor, Ace, Bernice
36 Infinite Requiem Daniel Blythe 7th Doctor, Bernice
37 Sanctuary David A McIntee 7th Doctor, Bernice
38 Human Nature Paul Cornell 7th Doctor, Bernice
39 Original Sin Andy Lane 7th Doctor, Bernice, Chris, Roz
40 Sky Pirates! Dave Stone 7th Doctor, Bernice, Chris, Roz
41 Zamper Gareth Roberts 7th Doctor, Bernice, Chris, Roz
42 Toy Soldiers Paul Leonard 7th Doctor, Bernice, Chris, Roz
43 Head Games Steve Lyons 7th Doctor, Bernice, Chris, Roz
44 The Also People Ben Aaronovitch 7th Doctor, Bernice, Chris, Roz
45 Shakedown Terrance Dicks 7th Doctor, Bernice, Chris, Roz
46 Just War Lance Parkin 7th Doctor, Bernice, Chris, Roz
47 Warchild Andrew Cartmel 7th Doctor, Bernice, Chris, Roz
48 Sleepy Kate Orman 7th Doctor, Bernice, Chris, Roz
49 Death and Diplomacy Dave Stone 7th Doctor, Bernice, Chris, Roz
50 Happy Endings Paul Cornell 7th Doctor, Bernice, Chris, Roz
51 GodEngine Craig Hinton 7th Doctor, Chris, Roz
52 Christmas on a Rational Planet Lawrence Miles 7th Doctor, Chris, Roz
53 Return of the Living Dad Kate Orman 7th Doctor, Chris, Roz
54 The Death of Art Simon Bucher-Jones 7th Doctor, Chris, Roz
55 Damaged Goods Russell T Davies 7th Doctor, Chris, Roz
56 So Vile a Sin Ben Aaronovitch and Kate Orman 7th Doctor, Chris, Roz
57 Bad Therapy Matthew Jones 7th Doctor, Chris
58 Eternity Weeps Jim Mortimore 7th Doctor, Chris
59 The Room With No Doors Kate Orman 7th Doctor, Chris
60 Lungbarrow Marc Platt 7th Doctor, Chris
61 The Dying Days Lance Parkin 8th Doctor

Note that some of these novels have been adapted to stories on New Who, including Human Nature, and possibly, The Also People.