Book Review – Doctor Who: Ringpullworld

  • Title: Ringpullworld
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Paul Magrs
  • Director: Neil Roberts
  • Characters: Turlough, Huxley, Fifth Doctor, Tegan
  • Cast: Mark Strickson, Alex Lowe
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/30/2017

**Spoiler Alert** I usually enjoy Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles series, and Ringpullworld is no exception. The Companion Chronicles feature stories told from the point of view of the Doctor’s companions, and are closer to a traditional audiobook format, often with the main character telling the story to someone else. In the case of Ringpullworld, the narration of the story is split between Turlough, the Fifth Doctor’s Companion, and Huxley, the novelizer from Verbatim 6. The story actually opens with Turlough being quite cross or angry at Huxley, who is irritating him by constantly describing everything Turlough does and sees.

The Fifth Doctor, as played on the long-running BBC series, Doctor Who by Peter Davison, Turlough and Tegan had landed on the planet of Must, where they were latched on to by the three novelizers – Huxley, Wolf, and Joyce. The six explore the one building on the planet and find a strange artifact. Tegan dismisses it as a “tin of beans” but Turlough notices the Doctor seems oddly unsettled by the object.

Investigating the object, it is Tegan who also gives it a name, The Ringpull, as in, the ring used to pull open a tin can or a can of pop (soda for those of you outside the Midwestern US). When investigating, the three are shrunk and drawn into the micro universe inside the tin. The story then cycles back to it’s beginning. Turlough, empathetic with the Ringpull Universe, a whole galaxy that because of the natives war-like nature has been trapped on it’s own and cut off from the rest of the civilized universe, decides to steal a ship and free the Ringpull Galaxy. So Turlough, with his novelizer, Huxley, along for the ride, steals a ship and intends to open the Ringpull using a backpack of the Doctor’s tools.

The Doctor had already told Turlough that it would be a bad idea, and as Turlough heads off to open the Ringpull he is pursued by the Doctor and by the local aliens that he stole the ship from. Turlough and Huxley are captured, and as part two opens they are stuck in a cell. Huxley reveals he can telepathically communicate with his fellow novelizers through the Great Narrative. So, Turlough discovers the Doctor and Tegan are on the bridge of the ship, and the Doctor is pleading for Turlough’s life. Then Huxley reveals something else; as a narrator, not only can he reveal the past and narrate the present, he can provide a flash forward – reveal possible futures from the current moment.

Turlough is talked in to learning these futures. Huxley tells him one straight off – Turlough will be executed by the aliens – keel hauled and thrown into space with no protective suit. But, Turlough doesn’t accept this, so Huxley continues with another – The Doctor and Tegan rescue Turlough, but during their escape, they are forced to open the Ringpull, leading to catastrophe. Turlough, understandably, isn’t too pleased by this idea either. Then Huxley tells him he can provide the best possible future possibility. Not only that, he can link up with Turlough mentally and let Turlough read his thoughts and see the future for himself. Turlough takes him up on it. Turlough then narrates his own story. In this last version, he is again released, and he and the Doctor talk the aliens in to opening the Ringpull themselves. This happens, and the Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough escape in a ship, riding out the explosion that destroys the warlike invaders, frees the Ringpull Universe, and even returns the Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough to Planet Must, where their novelizers decide their adventures are too dangerous and release them from their parasitic relationship.

Then Turlough realizes he is back in his cell. The third possibility, which had felt so real, was, like the others, only a possible outcome. Turlough begs Huxley to tell him what would happen, but Huxley says he must wait and see, that to find out which possibility actually happens – he must live it. This frustrates Turlough to no end, then the door begins to open, bringing with it the future – and the ending music.

I enjoyed Ringpullworld and listened to it twice in my car. This is one of the few audios Mark Strickson (Vislor Turlough) has done, and I enjoyed it. The story moves at a fast clip, and actually has a great deal of humor, as Turlough and Huxley have a great double act relationship. They irritate each other, but Turlough has a certain affection for Huxley, who reminds him of his friend from school, Hippo. In fact, during the audio, Turlough actually calls Huxley, Hippo on several occasions. The story, of a trapped galaxy, gives one food for thought. The only thing I didn’t like about the audio was it’s lack of a definitive ending. Still this story is recommended.

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

Click this link to order Ringpullworld 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: The Darkening Eye

  • Title: The Darkening Eye
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Stewart Sheargold
  • Director: Ken Bentley
  • Characters: Nyssa, Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Adric
  • Cast: Sarah Sutton, Derek Carlyle
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/28/2016

**Spoiler Alert** The Darkening Eye is from the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line and features Sarah Sutton performing the story as the Fifth Doctor’s companion Nyssa. The story features as well, the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, and Adric. However, the wrap-around story features an older Nyssa who is speaking to a patient with a usually fatal disease. The patient is terrified because the only known treatment for his unnamed disease is so harsh it often kills the patient. Nyssa tells him she had his disease and survived, then she explains her tale.

The Fifth Doctor (as played on the BBC series Doctor Who by Peter Davison) lands the TARDIS on an empty freighter in space. But no sooner than they land than everyone, even the Doctor, wants to leave. The freighter was hit during a space battle and is open to space. There shouldn’t even be any atmosphere but there is – the first mystery. And the Doctor detects time distortion or an anomaly. Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric want to leave anyway, and the Doctor agrees, but they meet the species providing the atmosphere – Dar Traders there to claim salvage of the dead. Tegan is appalled. Adric immediately assumes their culture is their culture and not something they should judge. Nyssa is simply trying to understand when the ship is hit. The hulk is broken in half with the companions left with the Dar Traders and the Doctor on the other side with the TARDIS. The Doctor mimes heading back to the TARDIS – and Tegan, Nyssa, and Adric are left with the Dar Traders. Using a magical mirror – the Companions travel to the Dar Traders ship. As this story is told from Nyssa’s point of view, we don’t see the Doctor for awhile. On the Dar Traders ship, the traders want to determine if Nyssa is “alive” – they throw her into a cabinet and torture her. She survives this, and learns about the Dar Traders – they are obsessed with death, and will cure deadly diseases or injuries for a chance to see the “threshold” then coming back from death.

On the Dar Traders ship they also encounter an assassin who has a Dwarf Star Alloy cabinet that keeps him alive.

The group heads down to the nearby planet so Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric can find the Doctor and the TARDIS. First, Adric is stabbed by the assassin, but recovers. Nyssa is also attacked as they make their way through the war-torn planet to find the Doctor. The Dar Traders bring Nyssa back. The group finds the Doctor and the assassin tries to steal the Doctor’s life force to power his cabinet. Unfortunately, Dwarf Star Alloy and Time Lord physiology don’t mix. Nyssa tries to prevent the disaster and nearly pays with her life, again. But the Dar Traders gift helps her to come back from near death and recover. Everyone piles in to the TARDIS.

Nyssa, having explained to the patient she can help, offers – “Shall we trade?”

The Darkening Eye was a bit confusing, even on a second listen – though I must admit I did listen to this CD audiobook while driving in my car. And my commute is a short 22 minutes in good weather so it took a couple of trips to listen to the whole thing. Still, Sarah Sutton does an excellent job and it really is Nyssa’s story – the Doctor is barely there and the other companions are nearly minor characters. It’s just not as good a story as some of the Companion Chronicles.

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

Click this link to order The Darkening Eye on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The 12 Doctors of Christmas

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

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

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

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

Stories, Doctor, Companion(s), Authors

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Crystal Bucephalus

  • Title: The Crystal Bucephalus
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Craig Hinton
  • Characters:  Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Turlough, Kamelion
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 9/17/2015

The Crystal Bucephalus is one of several books in Virgin Publishing’s Doctor Who the Missing Adventures series. It’s actually the first book in the series I read many years ago about the time it was published. All I remember from the first time I read it was that it was a bit confusing. Re-reading the book now, I was able to understand the novel, but I still thought the end was rushed.

The Crystal Bucephalus features the Fifth Doctor (as played by Peter Davison), Tegan, Turlough, and eventually, Kamelion. For once, the novel doesn’t start with the TARDIS landing someplace and the Doctor and company getting involved in local affairs. The Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough are enjoying a fine meal in France when they are literally picked up, only to appear in The Crystal Bucephalus, an extremely exclusive tenth millennium time-traveling restaurant, where the movers and shakers of the galaxy make their deals to form the galaxy.

The Crystal Bucephalus is a unique restaurant, it consists of a series of cubicles which can be projected back in time to any restaurant or other exclusive recreational area. There, the customers of the restaurant can eat, drink, and be merry without affecting history because their “reality quotient” is .5 – and when they return to the restaurant’s present, even their image is forgotten by those in in the time period they visited (time re-sets itself as if the time travellers were never there).

But one of the patrons has been murdered, and in the emergency retrieval of that patron, Arrestis, and his mistress – the Doctor and his companions are brought to the Bucephalus too.

There, the Doctor and Turlough are taken to the Maitre’D, while Tegan “escapes” with Arrestis’s “girl” – actually an agent of the Intent (but more about that later).

The Doctor reveals to the Maitre’D, that he is the Benefactor – the person who endowed the money to build the restaurant. The Doctor also asks to see Alex Lassiter, the time scientist responsible for making the Bucephalus work.

Politically, the Galaxy in the Tenth Millennium is split between three groups – the Enclave, a group of mobsters who run all crime in the Galaxy, The Lazarus Intent – a religious group with considerable Political Power, several small Empires of Reptilian Races (Draconians, Earth Reptiles, Martians, etc.) who have been steadily losing power, influence and territory, and the remainder of the Earth Federation/Empire. But the real power players are the Lazarus Intent and the Enclave. And, as Arrestis was the leader of the Enclave, and his mistress an agent for the Intent – it could be a charged murder mystery right there.

However, the Doctor soon discovers Arrestis is a clone – in a time where all cloning technology and research had been banned so long most people don’t even know what it is. (Tegan at one point explains what cloning is to someone.) The Lazarus Intent strictly forbids cloning and all research into cloning technology.

The Doctor also is intrigued by the technology of the Bucephalus because it’s very close to a working, TARDIS-like, time machine. Soon, though, other murders take place (it becomes confusing because most of the “murders” end-up with no one actually dead – just temporarily misplaced in time – such are the hazards of a time machine that’s breaking down). The Bucephalus uses Legions to pilot it’s time bubbles in the Time Vortex, but one is attacked and barely saved by the Doctor, then another is killed (really).

However, the plot does still get confusing – people “dying” but who are alive and trapped in another time. Or on the time machine operated by Matisse, Lassiter’s ex-wife and previous co-developer on the Bucephalus, now agent of the Enclave. Even the Doctor at one point is time-scooped by Matisse and dropped on a frozen planet of intelligent dog-like creatures, where, once rescued – the Doctor spends five years opening then building up the reputation of a restaurant so it will be included in the Carte d’Locales of the Bucephalus so he can find his way back.

The plot does eventually settle down into it’s two many points: the tangled love life of Monroe, Matisse and Lassiter (Monroe and Matisse are both his ex-wives), and the plan of the head of the Enclave to also take over the Lazarus Intent. And a few truly bizarre time travel hijinks – that work, but are a bit strange.

Overall, though at times it was a bit confusing, there was an almost philosophical bent to The Crystal Bucephalus which was interesting and different. The characters were well-written and written like their television counterparts. Turlough, especially was well-written (he shows up in very few Past Doctor Adventures which focused on Davison’s early TARDIS crew or Peri). It was also neat to see Kamelion, I really think this is the only novel I’ve read that features him.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Sands of Time

  • Title: The Sands of Time
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Justin Richards
  • Characters:  Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 8/13/2015

I started this book as an e-book and finished by reading the paperback reprint that is part of the BBC Books Doctor Who Books Monster Collection. Sands of Time was originally published by Virgin Publishing as part of their Doctor Who Missing Adventures. Additionally, it’s a sequel to the aired episode, “Pyramids of Mars” featuring the Fourth Doctor as portrayed by Tom Baker. The novel features the Fifth Doctor, as played by Peter Davison and his companions Tegan and Nyssa. However, from a strictly linear sense the story takes place before “Pyramids of Mars”. Timey-Whimy indeed.

I enjoyed this story very much. It is very much a historical story, with the only SF elements being the TARDIS and the idea that the gods of Egypt are aliens called Osirans. All the “guest” characters are strong and memorable. I particularly liked Atkins, the Victorian butler who ends-up being a short-term companion of sorts.

The story begins with the TARDIS being drawn off course, and landing in the British museum. There, the Doctor, in trying to figure out precisely where he is prior to returning to the TARDIS, walks out of the museum and meets Atkins, who knows him well. The Doctor, though, has no idea who Atkins is. The Doctor and Tegan follow their path, Nyssa having been kidnapped, both trying to rescue her and trying to figure out what’s going on – only to discover they are caught up in events that seem to already have happened. They go to the Savoy, for example, to get some hotel rooms – and discover they are already registered. Tegan finds a green Victorian dress waiting for her in her room. At breakfast, the waiter offers the Doctor and Tegan the table they had the previous night.

It’s a wonderful twisty-turny plot that comes together beautifully. And interspersed between the main chapters are very short chapters that fill-out the story perfectly. These short bits are some of my favorites in the novel, because they give the story depth or fill-in background information that’s interesting but not part of the main plot (such as when a mummy is scanned by a CAT scanner).

I highly recommend Sands of Time especially as it is now available again in a reprint edition.

One important different between the e-book and the reprint. The e-book includes extensive author’s notes, which are instructive to an aspiring writer. And it also includes the author’s alternative ending. I must say – I prefer the original ending (the one in the reprint and the one used in the original final version of the first published version) rather than the alternative ending. But the author’s notes on why he wrote a second ending are fascinating – in short it’s a classic case of second-guessing yourself. I’m glad his editor said, “No, keep the first one – it’s better.” Because I liked it better as well.

Update: As mentioned at the start of this review, this novel is now available as a reprinted edition as part of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. This time I actually read the reprint!

Book Review – Doctor Who: Goth Opera

  • Title: Goth Opera
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Characters:  Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 8/02/2015

When I decided to read all the Doctor Who Missing Adventures published by Virgin Publishing, I also decided to read them in Doctor and Doctor-Companion order. That is, chronological according to when they would take place in the series, not the original publication order. So, after just finishing the last book in the series, The Well-Mannered War, I’m now reading the first book in the series, Goth Opera, which includes a nice introduction by Peter Darvill-Evans, the book series editor. Goth Opera is also a sequel to the New Adventures book Blood Harvest, despite the fact that Blood Harvest features the Seventh Doctor and Goth Opera features the Fifth Doctor, as played by Peter Davison, as well as featuring Tegan, and Nyssa. I thought about skipping the book until I’d read Blood Harvest but decided to read it anyway – and re-read it when I read Blood Harvest.

Goth Opera opens in Tasmania at a cricket match. The Doctor’s taken Tegan there in order to give her a holiday after her second encounter with the Mara. But Tegan is not enjoying her vacation. Soon, the Doctor and his companions are involved in a plot by vampires to take over the world and turn all humans into vampires. Aiding the vampires in this is Ruath, a Time Lady that the Doctor has encountered before – or that he will encounter again in his Seventh form. Nyssa is kidnapped and turned into a vampire. And Ruath even turns the Doctor into a vampire, though the process takes longer to affect him. Eventually, the Doctor is able to turn the tables on the vampires, eliminate many of them, and even turn other new vampires back into humans, or in Nyssa’s case, back to being a native of Traken.

The story was good, with several interesting characters. However, I’m not a big fan of vampire stories. Still, I enjoyed this novel.