Book Review – Doctor Who: The Quantum Archangel

  • Title: The Quantum Archangel
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Craig Hinton
  • Characters:  Sixth Doctor, Mel
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/05/2013

This story is a sequel to the aired Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor) story, “The Time Monster”, which I re-watched prior to reading it. That was a good idea – several of the guest characters from that story re-appear in this one.

The Quantum Archangel features the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Mel. The book opens with the Doctor and Mel recovering from a disaster — and Mel is so devastated she decides to leave the Doctor. But when he drops her off, not only is he off by three years, but he discovers “the son of TOMTITT” is causing universe-spanning troubles — troubles that the Doctor, the Master, Mel, and several of Mel’s college buddies are drawn into. Not to mention several guest characters from “The Time Monster”.

The first half of this novel was slow and very confusing. However, it gradually built steam, and the conclusion was awesome. Overall, a worth-while read in the Doctor Who BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures range.

By the way, the author notes state the author is a fan of “American” comics — and it shows, there are plenty of references to various comics, which is fun – in a rather grim book. The phrase, “With great power comes great responsibility” is used often. And Oa is mentioned. Anyway, theses references lighten up the book. There’s also a lot of various Who references. And the entire plot has to do with computing and the search for a workable Quantum Computer, among other things. Enjoy!

Book Review – Doctor Who: Instruments of Darkness

  • Title: Instruments of Darkness
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gary Russell
  • Characters:  Sixth Doctor, Mel, Evelyn
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/11/2012

Doctor Who Instruments of Darkness is one of the BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures which feature Doctors 1-7 and were published just after the 1996 TV movie (starring Paul McGann) and coherently with the Eighth Doctor Adventures starring McGann’s Doctor (and with new Companions).

This particular story was only so-so. I liked seeing Evelyn in a novel (she’s a companion from the Big Finish audio plays) and her interaction with Mel was great. But, on the other hand, unlike “Spiral Scratch” which had me liking Mel, even though I have never liked Mel as a Doctor Who companion, in Instruments of Darkness she’s back to her old, boring, annoying self.

I must admit, I put this book down halfway through – and though I did pick it up again and finish it, the story really didn’t stick with me. I think part of the problem is that it spends much too much time with characters other than the Doctor and his companions, especially at the beginning of the story. I’m willing to put up with that for a chapter or two (it almost seems to be part of the outline for this series of books) but not the majority of the first half. And it doesn’t make me more sympathetic to the characters – because they all get killed anyway (or most of them do). And in this novel in particular, most of the characters specific to the novel are bad guys. Even the teens and young people with ESP powers, at the end, prove to be just as dangerous as the various forces that were holding them hostage.

Overall, I have to give this a three out of five rating. It’s OK, and not extremely bad like some of the PDA Doctor Who adventures, but it’s not extremely good either.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Spiral Scratch

  • Title: Spiral Scratch
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Gary Russell
  • Characters:  Sixth Doctor, Mel
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/04/2012

This is a tie-in to the wonderful British Science Fiction television show Doctor Who. It is not a novelization of an episode but rather an original story, that borrows the characters of the Sixth Doctor (played by Colin Baker) and Melanie Bush (played by Bonnie Langford) under license from the BBC. Doctor Who is the world’s longest-running science fiction program, having run continuously from 1963 to 1989, picked up for a TV movie in 1996, and then returned to the screens in 2005 and still running strong. The program will celebrate it’s 50th Anniversary next year (2013). The BBC Past Doctor Adventures (sometimes referred to as PDAs) were published by BBC Books and are one of five series of original tie-in novels. There was also a series of novelizations published by Target Books (the paperback arm of UK publisher WH Allen). Of all the various Doctor Who novels I’ve read I find the PDAs and EDAs (Eighth Doctor Adventures, published at the same time) to be the best.

This was one of the best Doctor Who BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures I’ve read. The story felt like a good Doctor Who story, something that could have been done on the series – if they’d had the budget. It’s actually a complex tale. The Doctor and Mel head to Carsus, the universe’s ultimate library to meet an old friend of the Doctor’s, a retired Time Lord named Rummas. It’s not quite a vacation, but not quite a mission to save the universe – yet. However, while traveling to Carsus, various other versions of the Doctor and sometimes Mel appear in the TARDIS. When they arrive at the library, first the Doctor find Rummas dead, then he’s alive. Mel sees other versions of his helpers at the library. And before long she and the Doctor have to save the universe.

However, it isn’t just the universe at stake – it’s the multiverse. Spiral Scratch deals with multi-universe theory in a highly interesting way without being too bogged down in long explanations. Before long, The Doctor and Mel are trying to save Helen, but as things get more complex, and they continuously fail and return to the Library, it becomes apparent that something bigger is going on.

What that is… is Monica, a Lamprey, a creature that lives in the Vortex itself and devoures Chronon (time) Energy. However, Rummas has become trapped – because Monica lives outside of time, and Rummas lives life in a normal line and cannot change his own past — every time Rummas tries to stop Monica, she can simply slip back and stop him. Rummas, unaware of this, continues to call the Doctor to him, bringing in more and more versions of the Doctor from different alternate universes.

Our version of the Doctor, and Mel, are unaware of this – as is the reader at first, as they try to rescue various time-sensitives, from various planets, in various different universes of the multi-verse. And each time the Doctor fails – he or Mel sees ghost images of other versions of himself in the TARDIS control room.

The fun of this novel starts with the various different universes such as an Imperial Earth where Rome never fell. The novel also includes chapters without the Doctor or Mel as Monica goes about her business of wrecking havoc – which the reader can slowly put together like clues in a great mystery novel. I also liked the other versions of the Doctor — one dressed in mourning black, with a scar on his face, missing an eye. He’s kinder and gentler than “our Doctor” but also blames himself for Peri’s death (in the universe where Rome never fell – she was from the Americas and a native princess named Brown Perpugilliam). Another Doctor travels with a human/Silurian hybrid named Melanie Baal. These “other” Doctors and Mels are fascinating.

The conclusion of the story is fantastic, and I loved it. I’m not going to spoil it here, but trust me… if you’re a long-time Who fan, familiar with various versions of the show and official tie-ins to it, you will enjoy Spiral Scratch. Also, this novel fills in a continuity gap from the original series that most fans will recognize. I also loved, loved, loved that. And I will say, though normally I don’t really like the companion Mel, I found that this book made me much more sympathetic to her, which is an accomplishment. I highly, highly, highly recommend this novel to fans of the TV Series Doctor Who. I also think that if you like a good tie-in novel with a strong SF plot, you’ll enjoy this… though if you don’t know Doctor Who you’ll probably miss some subtleties of the plot.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Palace of the Red Sun

  • Title: Palace of the Red Sun
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Christopher Bulis
  • Characters:  Sixth Doctor, Peri
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 8/24/2012

This book started very s…l…o…w…l…y. The Doctor (the 6th Doctor, played on the series by Colin Baker) and Peri land on a planet that seems to be an idyllic garden with a red sun. However, there are no people around. And for at least fifty pages… nothing happens, because there are no people around.

Eventually the Doctor and Peri get separated and the TARDIS disappears from where the Doctor left it. Again, very typical and not that interesting.

So I put this book down for a LONG time… like months. I just picked it up again and finished reading it in a couple of days. Overall, despite the slow start it was an OK read. Bulis really needs to improve his delivery style.

Anyway, when I picked up the book, the Doctor meets Green-8, a sentient gardening robot. Unlike most of the “thinking robots” in Doctor Who such as Daleks and Cybermen or indeed most thinking robots in science fiction in general (such as the Terminator movies) Green-8 is benevolent, curious, and even somewhat obsessed with philosophical questions such as “Who am I?” and “How did I come to be?” or even “Who made me?” and “Do I have to follow the Lords orders?” The Doctor convinces Green-8 to help him find his missing companion Peri.

Peri, meanwhile, has been taken hostage by the Red gardening robots and is being used as slave gardening labor alongside a group of other captured people called scavengers. Peri befriends a young scavenger boy named Kel.

Suddenly a large fireball appears in the sky, a huge wind and sand storm hits the land and considerable damage is done to the gardens. Peri uses this as the perfect opportunity to escape with Kel.

Meanwhile, the Doctor has just convinced Green-8 to help him find Peri, when the same fireball, storm, and shockwave hit his section of the planetoid. Green-8 reports the damage to the Lords in the Palace and orders his fellow Green Robots to clean-up and take care of the damage. This delays the Doctor and Green-8 from going anywhere. The Doctor also recognizes the firestorm as bombardment from space…and realizes he must warn the lords in the palace, even if it delays his search for Peri.

Meanwhile, a princess named Oralissa is beginning to have doubts — questioning things no one else around her questions, such as the mechanical servants that take care of the palace and grounds. She’s also less than happy to be forced into a marriage to one of two unsuitable suitors.

Peri and Kel encounter a “ghost girl nanny” then return to Kel’s home in the woods. Once there they soon run into a tabloid space reporter who’s covering the attack of a megalomanic dictator named Glavis Judd. Peri, Kel, Kel’s want-to-be bride, and another scavenger all head to the palace, accompanied by the reporter’s automatic camera drones.

Arriving at the palace, they meet the Doctor and the mystery begins to unravel… which I’m not going to spoil here. I will say that I had at least part of the mystery figured out before Bulis got around to explaining it. I also didn’t appreciate Bulis’ pushing the ideals of anarchy and anti-authority and anti-law and order every chance he got; especially given the epilogue is the exact opposite of his preaching.

Not the best Doctor Who book I’ve read in the BBC Books Past Doctor series, and overwhelmingly slow at times, but over all — not the worst book in the series either. The mystery elements were fairly well handled.

Classic Doctor Who DVD Recs – The Sixth Doctor

This post consists of my recommendations for for Colin Baker, the Sixth Doctor, find recommendations for other Classic Doctors by following the links below.

Attack of the Cybermen_resized

The Doctor receives a distress call abroad the TARDIS from Lytton (the mercenary from the Peter Davison story Resurrection of the Daleks) who is stranded in 1985 Earth. He and Peri land in the TARDIS to investigate. When the TARDIS materialises, the Chameleon Circuit engages, however, instead of blending in to Totters Lane – it takes various extremely conspicuous shapes. The Doctor and Peri discover Lytton is in contact with the Cybermen on Telos. The Cybermen plan on changing time, destroying the Earth to spare their planet, Mondas. Meanwhile, Lytton turns out to be really working for the Cryons, the original inhabitants of Telos.

In Attack of the Cybermen, Colin is excellent – he’s outraged at the injustice of what the Cybermen are doing, yet when he discovers Lytton’s changed his ways, he also swears to help him help the Cyrons. It’s a good story, with an edge to it. The individual episodes for Colin’s first season are 45-minutes not 30; however the series still depended on multi-part stories that ended on cliffhangers.

Vengeance-on_Varos_Resized

Vengeance on Varos has long been my favorite Colin Baker story. Varos, once a prison planet, is now one of the few sources of Zyton-7, a priceless natural resource that is needed by all spaceship. However, Sil an envoy from Galatron, has convinced the governors of Varos that Zyton-7, their only export, is worthless and he’s doing them a favor by taking it off their hands at extremely low prices. Meanwhile, the normal residents of the planet turn to television as a distraction from their difficult existence of hard labor. Two citizens, sit in their tiny living quarters, eating merger meals, and watching the punishment dome live – as rebels are punished with physical and mental torture. The Doctor and Peri join the rebels. Meanwhile, the governor does not escape, as the television viewers can also approve or veto his televised commands – and when they vote “no”, he’s tortured with electric shocks. Of course, some vote “no”, simply to see the governor tortured.

Vengeance on Varos is a commentary on televised violence, especially that of sports and reality television, so, of course, it was severely criticised for it’s violence. But the story’s secondary plot, that of a corporate entity severely exploiting a single-resource economy is also worth noting. Colin, and a strong guest cast, make the story one not to be missed.

Timelash

Timelash is a fun story, it’s light, but it doesn’t quite get into the silly territory. The Doctor and Peri, joined by a very young, Herbert (H.G. Wells), become involved in a plot involving a woman named Vena, a monster called a Morlox, an alien dictator named the Borad, his assistant Tekkar, and a time tunnel called the Timelash that’s used by the dictator as a torture device. The references to The Time Machine fly fast and furious. But at the heart, it’s a story about a young man experiencing adventure and love for the first time. Besides – it’s just plain fun to watch.

Trial-of-a-Time-Lord_Resized

After a hiatus, Doctor Who returned with another umbrella season, The Trial of a Time Lord, which is four stories released as a box set. Additionally, the stories were meant to be in the Doctor’s past, present and future, as well as a wrap up. With Trial, Doctor Who returned to its 30-minute format.

In The Mysterious Planet, the Doctor lands on a mysterious space station, and discovers he is to face a tribunal of Time Lords, and their prosecutor, the Valeyard. Evidence from the Matrix will be shown on a large screen. On the screen, Peri and the Doctor land on the planet, Ravalox, which was nearly destroyed by a solar fireball. The planet is really Earth, far in the future and moved to a different location in space. Peri and the Doctor discover a underground civilization, ruled by a robot dictator. Peri also discovers the Tribe of the Free, eking out an merger existence on the surface, and Glitz, and intergalactic rake. The Free invade underground, and the robot is destroyed. The Doctor claims the Valeyard is manipulating and tampering with evidence.

In Mindwarp, The Doctor and Peri arrive on Thoros-Beta, home to reptilian farmers, like Sil. Their leader, Kiv, has expanded his brain, but it is growing so big he must transplant it into another being – naturally, he chooses Peri for this. The Doctor is subjected to one of Kiv’s scientists’ machines, which causes him to act selfishly, even betraying Peri. Peri escapes with the Warrior King, Yrcanos. They stage a rebellion of the human slaves, but are captured. The Doctor, meanwhile, manages to free Yrcanos, but is pulled out of the situation before he can rescue Peri, and her mind is destroyed when it’s replaced with Kiv. Or is it?

In Terror of the Vervoids, the Doctor presents his story as rebuttal to the Time Lords. In his future, he and a new companion, Mel, follow a distress call to the space liner, Hyperion III. The distress call was sent by an undercover agent, but he’s killed before he can say much, other than a dangerous criminal may be on the ship. Meanwhile, Prof. Vasky has developed a killer plant life-form which is taking over the ship and causing havoc. Vasky, however, is the criminal the agent was looking for, and he plans to sell his plant lifeforms as slave labor. However, they are far to dangerous – the Doctor destroys them and is accused of genocide by the Time Lords.

Terror of the Vervoids actually plays out like a class British mystery. I mean, yes, with mad scientists, and killer plants, but still a British mystery.

The Ultimate Foe – Glitz and Mel arrive at the Doctor’s Trial as witnesses, as does the Master. The last two episodes of the Trial storyline explain everything that is going on, and Colin gets to deliver one of his best speeches as the Doctor:

This is the speech where Colin, and his Doctor’s pursuit of justice as well as outrage at corruption really shine.

Colin was only the Doctor for two seasons on the television series. However, he also shines in the Big Finish Doctor Who audio adventures. If you like what you see in his aired adventures, give those a try!