Book Review – Doctor Who: The Wanderer

  • Title: The Wanderer
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Richard Dinnick
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Ian Chesterton, First Doctor, Barbara, Susan
  • Cast: William Russell, Tim Chipping (as Grigory)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/26/2020

**Spoiler Alert** I don’t give out 5 Star reviews lightly. My reviews usually top-out at four stars, and to earn five, something has to be extraordinary. The Wanderer, a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles audiobook/play lines is extraordinary. I loved every minute of it. My second listen wasn’t to catch any details I’d missed (I listen to audios while commuting) but because I just really wanted to listen to the story again. Immediately. It was that good.

The story begins with Ian reflecting on how the phrase, “Nomadic Lifestyle” conjures up romantic ideas of Arabian Nights, riding across the desert on camelback, but the reality is quite different, then he mentions one true wanderer he and Barbara met on their travels. Then his wonderful telling of the story transitions into the story itself. The TARDIS lands, we quickly find out, in Siberia in 1900. It’s extremely cold, though the local carters who give the Docter, Susan, Ian, and Barbara a lift to the nearest village remark that it is Springtime.

As they arrive in the village, they meet another wanderer, dress in robes, gathered in at the waist by a rope. He is called Grigory, and the people call him Staritz, meaning Elder, leader, healer of his people. Everyone is just getting to know one another when a man rushes up, asking for aid. He’s a local lumberjack and his sons have taken ill. The Doctor offers his services and they wander off, making the trek to the logging camp. But when the Doctor opens the door to the simple log cabin, he is taken very ill and collapses. Ian reflects that it reminds him of the Doctor getting radiation poisoning on Skaro. Barbara and Susan stay with the Doctor and the other two sick men while Grigory and Ian return to the village for medicines and aid.

At the village, they find the healing woman and obtain basic herbal remedies, they also obtain more lanterns then head back. But when they reach the cabin they find it’s been ripped apart, Susan and Barbara are gone, the two loggers have died, and the Doctor is still ill. But he recovers enough to tell Ian that he’s being affected by chronon radiation. There’s a device in the nearby boathouse that’s alien – and leaking radiation.

Barbara arrives and fills in some details. The Doctor starts to recover a bit. Susan was poisoned by the radiation, it affected her mind, she ripped up the room, then took off. Barbara ran after her then returned. The Doctor’s notebook contains information about the alien device. He’s recovered enough to tell Ian a little bit about it – it’s supposed to be a recon device, gathering information – but it’s malfunctioned. The interaction of the chronon radiation and the device’s original purpose means it’s recording Earth’s future at a rate of 1000 years per day. And anyone who touches the device is overwhelmed, either by the radiation itself or by a sonic blast of literally too much information. The two men who died touched the outer surface of the device and were poisoned. Susan touched the inside, became stuck to it by some force, and Barbara had to pry her off, but she still wasn’t stable and ran off. Grigory hears all this and touches the device. He’s knocked out but recovers. The Doctor manages to free the device’s homing beacon and reverse it. He gives it to Ian and asks him, Barbara, and Grigory to find the alien spaceship. As Ian and Grigory walk through the woods, it becomes clear Grigory wasn’t unaffected by his encounter with the alien device. He’s now seen the next thousand years of Earth’s future but not his own fate. The description really reminded me of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”.

“I can see: Alexander, Kaiser Wilhelm, Bolsheviks, a Great War
Revolution, Armistice, Stalin, Nazis, Hitler, a Second World War
Television, Computers, Space Flight, Gagarin, Berlin Wall, Cuban Missiles
A Tenth Planet, Aliens, Invasions, Lunar Bases, Men on Mars, The Doctor!”
– Grigory Rasputin

And a little later, Rasputin continues to describe to Ian how he sees the Doctor through time.

“The Doctor is woven through the Tapestry of Time, keeping it safe against all manner of enemy: Others of his kind, denizens of Hell and other planes,
Soldiers from distant worlds and home-spun foes,
Plastic people, Men of Metal, Creatures of Carbon, Silicon, and Calcium,
Egyptian Gods, werewolves, ghosts, and vampires,
So many nonsensical things with unpronounceable names, like scrambled Roman numerals.
If they are as ungodly as I suspect, then The Doctor must truly be a Staritz.” – Grigory Rasputin

After a short walk, Ian and Grigory come across a small, squat, frog-like spaceship. Hearing a scream, Ian hides behind the ship then sneaks around it. He sees three aliens, short and stocky, but powerful, like their ship, with four arms, and a tail that curves up over their heads from the back and ends in a nasty stinger. Essentially, they seem like intelligent, walking scorpions. One of the aliens is holding Mikhail prisoner (the father of the two loggers who found the device earlier). Ian makes himself known and Grigory runs off. The aliens demand Ian tell them the location of their Ranger. They kill Mikhail and bring the unconscious Susan out of the spaceship, threatening her. Ian demands them produce and set free Barbara, but the aliens ignore the demand (because they actually haven’t seen her). The aliens threaten Ian, but he points out that if they kill him, they will never find their Ranger. He also tells them the device was damaged in landing and it’s making the humans here sick. But he’s scanned, the aliens find the homing beacon on him, then he and Susan are returned to the ship and tied up. then the aliens (four of them now), leave. Susan opens her eyes. She’s awake, uninjured, and no longer affected by the poisonous radiation from the Ranger device. Just as she and Ian try to figure out how to get themselves free, the door opens. It’s Rasputin, who lets them out. He’d run off so he wouldn’t be captured and he could let them free.

Everyone ends up back at the boathouse, where the Doctor and Barbara are waiting, including the four aliens. The Doctor tricks the aliens into handling their device, but because it is malfunctioning, it turns the aliens into petroleum puddles. Grigory is suddenly overwhelmed by the info-dump of a thousand years of future history, screams in agony and collapses. The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan gather the villagers and they haul the alien spacecraft by horse to a nearby river and drop it in to hide it. The Doctor takes the alien device (what’s left of it) and Grigory into the TARDIS. Grigory is cured of the radiation poisoning by exposure to the time vortex, and the Doctor wires the device into the TARDIS console. He returns Grigory to the garden outside the palace in St. Petersburg, after assuring Ian that Grigory will not remember any of the events he experienced. But when the Doctor tries to program the TARDIS to return Ian and Barbara to 1963, the alien Ranger finally gives up the ghost and goes “poof”. Barbara is upset at first but then accepts it. Ian is depressed that he and Barbara will still be doomed to wander, but he realizes that as long as he’s with her, she is his home, so it’s all right.

I loved this story! Loved it – every though a short summary makes it sounds somewhat grim, it’s actually a very enjoyable and fun story, with lots of laugh-out-loud moments. Ian’s somewhat sardonic narration is absolutely perfect. And you gotta’ love that Ian meets a man, dressed as a monk, named Gregori, in Russia, in Siberia, in 1900 – and it NEVER crosses his mind this guy might possibly be Rasputin until Rasputin mentions his last name. That bit was hilarious – and it’s so Ian, he can be quite clueless sometimes, but it a totally loveable way. Also, Ian being a bit depressed at the end of the story because of the possibility of finally going home is dangled in front of him and then it’s snatched away until he realizes that wherever Barbara is is his home is perfectly priceless. The entire story is just filled with little gems here and there, bits of dialogue, situations, that just really work. They suit the characters, break the tension, get you to laugh, but never make fun of or demean any of the characters. I also enjoyed the beginning where Grigory is a very rational man, but also a man of faith who believes he has a destiny. This isn’t presented as ego, but as a common thing – that everyone, no matter who they are, wants to be remembered. The Wanderer is a truly enjoyable story and I highly recommend it.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Beginning

  • Title: The Beginning
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Marc Platt
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Susan, First Doctor, Quadrigger Stoyn
  • Cast: Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Terry Molloy (Stoyn)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/08/2018

I listened to The Beginning at the beginning of this week, but it was a good and enjoyable story in the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line, even if the details are a bit fuzzy now. The Beginning starts with the Doctor and Susan on the run on Gallifrey, they find a TARDIS in a repair/junk shop and leave. The Doctor and Susan are refugees, fleeing their home, because “their home is no longer their home”. Unfortunately, they aren’t the only ones on board their TARDIS – Quadrigger Stoyn, who is meant to be dismantling the TARDIS engines is also on board when the ship takes off. They discover this when the TARDIS makes a rather ungraceful landing. Stoyn is not the nicest person, and he clearly buys the Gallifreyan party line – whatever it is. The audio doesn’t make things crystal clear, but we can assume a few things: Gallifrey is now supporting isolationism, Stoyn and others have a negative, ethnocentric attitude towards “outsiders” and “aliens”, and although it isn’t stated outright – the Time Lords may even be racist in their attitudes towards others.

The TARDIS half materializes and half crashes on the Earth, but not the Earth we know – and aliens call Archayons are seeding Earth to make it a garden but with the precision of a formal English garden rather than the wildness of a forest. They are doing this from the moon apparently. At first, the Doctor hopes to obtain help from Stoyn (after all he should know how to fix their TARDIS), and a power source from the Archayons. But as it turns out, the Archayons are much darker than they appear, and Stoyn’s price is higher than the Doctor is willing to pay.

The second part begins with Susan waking in a lunar ambulance that is heading to Giant Leap base. She watches the First Contact video shown to her by her nurse, and wonders where her Grandfather is. She can hear his warnings in her head, but she doesn’t know where he is. The ambulance is attacked, the nurse and medical doctor are killed, but Susan finds her grandfather unharmed. They manage to warn Giant Leap base that the ambulance is infested with deadly parasites, but then they see Giant Leap base being attacked. The Blue Lightning clearly is an Archayon weapon. Somehow the Doctor and Susan get to the TARDIS and return to the Archayon base, which is now attacking Earth and the moonbase. Apparently, the Archayons are upset that their order has been upset by untamed life in the millions of years that they were frozen. Still, the Doctor and Susan manage to warn the Earth, which is well-prepared to attack back and even destroy the Archayons weapons and base. Stoyn, who has sided with the Archayons, is left behind and the Doctor and Susan leave in the TARDIS, which has a new power cell and is sort of working. They visit another planet.

This is a new and different take on how the Doctor and Susan left Gallifrey. I liked the idea of the two being refugees. The Archayons are unusual creatures – looking like glass peanuts, with the ability to flow together to form structures or do work, then flow apart as individual beings. However, in part two they become almost cardboard villains – so determined to not only seed life but orderly life they can’t see the forest for the trees. Stoyn, whom I also encountered in Luna Romana is a weird character – played by Terry “Davros” Molloy – he flips between government functionary to nearly radical “anti-alien” activist in a sense. He’s probably meant to suggest the type of people the Doctor and Susan are fleeing, but it feels off. When Classic Who visited Gallifrey, it was often shown to be a rather boring and stuffy place. But Gallifrey also seems to have an awful lot of corruption and political intrigue too. So in some aspects, the character of Quadrigger Stoyn doesn’t quite fit in with that. But then, The Beginning clearly indicates that something’s happened on Gallifrey – something serious enough that the Doctor and Susan are literally fleeing for their lives.

Recommended.

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

Click the link to order The Beginning on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Here There Be Monsters

  • Title: Here There Be Monsters
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Andy Lane
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Susan, First Doctor, Barbara, Ian, First Mate
  • Cast: Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Stephen Hancock (The First Mate)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/15/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Here There Be Monsters is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line of stories. The companion chronicles feature stories told from the companion’s point of view. This one is told by Carole Ann Ford as Susan. Susan’s never been one of my favorite companions (I preferred Barbara in the very first Team TARDIS). However, Carole Ann Ford does a really good job here, and she plays Susan in a slightly more mature fashion. This story seems to be set just before “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” – when Susan leaves.

The TARDIS is hit by some strange energy in space and has to materialize immediately. Upon landing the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara leave the TARDIS and find themselves on a spaceship occupied by a plant. The plant’s leaves follow them as they move through the ship, and they even find a secondary control room where the plant is operating the controls with vines and branches.

The TARDIS crew follows the plant’s branches and vines until they find the main control room. There they find the captain of the vessel, a “vegetable life form” named Captain Rostrum. The ship is a Benchmarking Vessel, named Nevermore – which is punching holes through the galaxy, creating artificial black holes as an aid to navigation. The Doctor is appalled. Not only are black holes dangerous – but by punching holes through the fabric of space and time – Rostrum could destroy the galaxy. Rostrum steadfastly insists the process is safe and he must complete his mission. The Doctor insists he’s wrong and messing about with dangerous forces he doesn’t understand. Susan gets bored and wanders off.

Susan wanders off and meets a character we will later learn is called, “The First Mate”. The area this man is working in is dead – and the leaves are brown and falling away. Ian, Barbara, Susan and the Doctor had found similar dead areas in the ship while exploring. Susan and the stranger talk and he encourages her to spread her own wings, to live her own life, and to stop always accepting her grandfather’s word. While talking, Susan starts to feel weak. The First Mate then tells her the engines where he is working, emit radiation that’s dangerous to her – and she should leave. Reluctantly she does, and she returns to the control room.

When Susan arrives at the control room, she finds that everyone is staring out the viewport at a spaceship. The spaceship is attacking. As a scientific vessel, the Nevermore has no weapons, no defenses, not even shields. A group of missiles is heading towards the ship. However, just as it seems everyone is heading for certain death, a rip in space appears. This tear drags the missiles and the spaceship into it. Everyone on the Nevermore hears the message from the captain of the formerly attacking vessel. The benchmarking vessel’s artificial black holes had really messed up the ship’s home galactic system’s trade routes. This was viewed as an unprovoked attack. The Doctor uses this to try to convince Rostrum he’s right about the dangers of the benchmarking process but Rostrum doesn’t believe him. He is a stubborn vegetable.

Susan wanders off again, and this time she again ignores the First Mate’s warnings for her to leave when she feels ill from being near him. She ends up collapsing. Barbara finds her and gets her back to the control room.

However, the Doctor and Ian are now wondering about the dead areas in the ship, and they ask for a map of the dead areas so they can explore. Susan had told them all about the First Mate, but Rostrum insists no one else is on the ship – and that if there was, they must be part of the Doctor’s party. Soon, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan are searching for the First Mate.

They find him – and find he’s from the other universe, the one on the other side of the rip that’s appeared in space. The benchmarking process is devastating to his universe and he’s been sent to stop it. And because he’s from another universe, he drains energy from people in this universe, including Rostrum. So it’s the First Mate who’s caused the dead areas on the ship.

When the Doctor tells Rostrum this, he isn’t believed – after all, Rostrum can’t see the First Mate.
But Susan talks to the First Mate and with the rest of the TARDIS crew, they decide they must end the Benchmarking process. The First Mate can shift back to his “natural” state – which will destroy everything within a light-year. The TARDIS crew runs for the TARDIS and barely makes it. The TARDIS protects them from the explosion. The benchmarking ship is destroyed, and the rip sealed. Just before he is also destroyed, the First Mate sends out a message – praising the courage of the people he met on the other side of the universe, stating they are not monsters. However, he suggests that people from his own side of the universe not travel to the universe due to the basic incompatibility of their species (e.g. the energy-draining thing).

I liked this story. It runs a bit shorter than some Companion Chronicles but the comparison between early navigators trying to discover how to determine longitude when sailing, and the benchmarking process were really interesting. I also loved the idea of a plant crewing a vessel in space. Stephen Hancock brings the First Mate to life particularly well, even if at first I thought it was David Warner (he sounds just like him). Carole Ann Ford did a particularly good job as Susan too. Finally, this story harkens back to the Age of Discovery with its title, Here There Be Monsters – the old way of marking off the unexplored areas of maps. The Doctor, as he talks about the dangers of benchmarking, talks about the universe as fabric, with weak spots. And beneath the fabric is an unseen place – where monsters come from. The Doctor’s worry is the universe could be destroyed, at the very least – rips could allow the monsters through. The First Mate also states that in his universe it was assumed that the “other universe” was occupied by monsters. As both the Doctor and the First Mate learn – the Other is not a monster. All you need is to talk to someone in a non-threatening environment to learn that people are people no matter what. The audio also plays the captain of the other ship’s message, which assumes the benchmarking vessel is aggressive and attacking without reason, to the First Mate’s message that states that the damage was an accident, and the people of the other universe aren’t monsters but courageous – and helpful in ending the damaging program, against each other. The two messages are polar opposites. And it’s the First Mate’s message, the message from a being from another universe, that correctly describes the Doctor and his TARDIS crew, as trying to help. This was a good story and I recommend it.

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

Click this link to order Here There Be Monsters on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Library of Alexandria

  • Title: The Library of Alexandria
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Simon Guerrier
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Ian Chesterson, First Doctor, Barbara, Susan
  • Cast: William Russell, Susan Franklyn
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/15/2015

Doctor Who – The Library of Alexandria is from the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line. The Companion Chronicles started with one person reading or telling the story (and sometimes a second guest reader), however, this play, as a more recent one (it’s from Season 7), though it still only has two people playing the parts, also has music and sound effects. One thing I like about all the Companion Chronicles is that they really do feel like Missing Adventures. I enjoy that.

This First Doctor story features William Russell telling the story of the time he, Barbara, Susan, and the Doctor spent a few weeks enjoying Alexandria. Susan Franklyn plays the part of Hypatia, a Greek Philosopher, but I’m pretty sure she’s also playing the parts of Barbara and Susan. (One critique I had was at times it was difficult to tell which character was speaking – Hypatia or Barbara.)

Of course, it’s a Doctor Who story, so of course, our characters’ vacation cannot last long. And it’s the Doctor who urges they all leave in the TARDIS before the Great Library is destroyed.

One problem with this story is the lack of surprise – we know the Library is going to be destroyed – and Ian, the Doctor, and Barbara all know it’s going to be destroyed. Ian and Barbara even know they can’t change anything, Barbara’s tried that before and it’s been a disaster.

The story does, however, supply a typical Doctor Who-style explanation for what really happened to the Library, but for some reason, it just seemed very, very predictable.

On the other hand, William Russell read and acted the story well. The Library of Alexandria really felt like Hartnell-Era Doctor Who. And other than occasionally having trouble figuring out if the speaker was Barbara or Hypatia – all the voices and characters were distinct.

I give this audio a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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

Click this link to order The Library of Alexandria on CD or download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: A Big Hand for the Doctor

  • Title: A Big Hand for the Doctor
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Eoin Colfer
  • Characters: First Doctor, Susan
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/08/2016

A Big Hand for the Doctor is one of twelve short stories sold in a boxed set called 12 Doctors / 12 Stories, one featuring each Doctor – or each of the twelve actors to play The Doctor on the popular British series, Doctor Who. I was expecting this to be a children’s story, but it’s actually more “all ages” and it’s thoroughly enjoyable.

The Doctor and his grand-daughter, Susan, are in Victorian London to stop Soul Pirates. The Soul Pirates are despised throughout the galaxy – they steal children and use them as an energy source – batteries, or for spare parts, leaving nothing left – thus the name. They fly from planet to planet in huge factory ships and pirate ships.

The story begins with the Doctor, having already lost a hand to these pirates, visiting a Xing surgeon for a replacement. The surgeon attaches a two-fingered bio-hybrid hand to the Doctor’s wrist, while growing him a new hand which will take a few days. But when the Doctor leaves the surgeon’s disguised shop he discovers a number of messages from Susan on his wrist-communicator. To his horror, rather than observing a house that she and the Doctor think the Pirates might hit, she’s gone in to rescue the three children from the Pirates.

The Doctor arrives and discovers Susan, the three children, and the soldier meant to guard them, being taken away in an anti-grav beam – a beam also flooded with soporific agent which knocks them out and causes happy dreams. The Doctor fights the Pirate on the roof and takes the beam to the Soul Pirate spaceship. There, in grand style, he does what the Doctor does – and performs rescues as well as a few surprises.

The entire story is full of references to Peter Pan – though this is a dark and scary version of Peter Pan. It’s also a lovely little book and well-worth reading and enjoying. Recommended.

Book Cover for The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

  • Title: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Christopher Bulis
  • Characters:  First Doctor, Ian, Barbara, Susan
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/27/2013

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is part of Virgin Publishing’s Doctor Who Missing Doctor Adventures . The Missing Adventures were companion books to Virgin Publishing’s The New Adventures line. Both series were published following Doctor Who being put on hiatus by the BBC in 1989. The Missing Adventures feature Doctors 1-6, and are independent novels. The New Adventures feature the Seventh Doctor and Ace, and later Bernice, in an inter-connected series.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is great fun and I really enjoyed it, much more than I expected to enjoy it. The First Doctor (William Hartnell), Ian, Barbara, and Susan, set down on what appears to be an idyllic forest glen — Barbara and Ian even think they may have finally made it home to 1960s England. Well, until they find a body burned to a crisp, and a village with similar burn damage. Ian convinces the Doctor they should head back to the TARDIS at least for the night, because the forest is too dangerous. The Doctor, for once, agrees. But he also decides to take a short cut back to the TARDIS, and they encounter a downed spacecraft that’s been over-grown with forest. The Doctor, Susan, and Ian investigate briefly, but soon Ian and Barbara convince the Doctor they can leave the spacecraft alone for now and return to the TARDIS. One the way back, they are attacked by a dragon.

Yes, a dragon. When they reach the TARDIS, it’s doors are jammed and they cannot get inside. However, though Barbara is injured, they are rescued by a knight. Before long, the four are involved in the affairs of Albion, literally a fairy-tale world of magic and wonder. On Albion, knights and castles, witches and wizards, fantastic creatures, and magic all exist. Susan and the Princess Mellisa are kidnapped by flying monkeys and taken to the Dark Tower of an evil wizard. Ian, and the Doctor, join a quest of a knight, elf, dwarf, and leprechaun to find the mystical Helm of Merlin to defeat the evil wizard. Barbara, recovering from her dragon injuries, starts to investigate the situation on Albion (or Elbyon as the natives call it) while staying at the castle, but eventually wonders off and into her own adventure. As wild as this description sounds, the story was great fun. There are references to classic fairy tales and fantasy novels, including Baum’s Oz, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and CS Lewis’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The story itself moves quickly, and again, is just fun to read.

Of course, the Doctor, manages to figure out what’s going on for real, which I’m not going to spoil. However, this novel does, even with the fantastic settings, by it’s end, fit into the Doctor Who universe. Highly, highly recommended.