Book Review – Doctor Who: The Prisoner of Peladon

  • Title: The Prisoner of Peladon
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
  • Director: Nicola Bryant
  • Characters: King Peladon, Third Doctor, Ice Warriors
  • Cast: David Troughton, Nicholas Briggs
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/08/2017

The Prisoner of Peladon is part of Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line. David Troughton returns as King Peladon telling a bed-time story to his child. The story is of Peladon, during the time of a crisis on New Mars. With Mars being taken over by a brutal dictatorship, thousands of refugees have fled to whatever safe haven they can find. As a new member of the Galactic Federation, King Peladon offers Peladon as that safe haven, despite threats of reprisals from the new dictator of Mars. Peladon separatists also aren’t really happy about the King’s decision and would rather continue their isolation.

The Doctor arrives, and King Peladon is happy to see his old friend. However, soon there is a murder in the court, as a visiting Ice Lord is killed. Another Ice Warrior, of a military bent, both accuses King Peladon of the murder and blames him for a death and series of kidnappings of young Martian girls in the makeshift refugee camps.

Meanwhile, the Doctor mentions seeing a light in a mysterious tower in the King’s citadel. Peladon claims to both know nothing of the tower, and states it is abandoned. Later, the King goes to investigate on his own – and runs in to the Doctor. King Peladon also decides the tour the refugee camps, where he and the Doctor pick-up a few clues.

However, it becomes really obvious what is going on, who is being held in the tower, and even the murderer isn’t that much of a surprise. David Troughton does a fantastic job performing this story, but as a mystery it’s painfully obvious. I give this story a 3.5. Still, it’s recommended as a fun sequel to The Curse of Peladon, and fills in the gap between that story and The Monster of Peladon.

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

Click this link to order The Prisoner of Peladon on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Heralds of Destruction

  • Title: The Heralds of Destruction
  • Author: Paul Cornell
  • Artists: Christopher Jones, Hi-Fi
  • Line: 3rd Doctor
  • Characters: Third Doctor, Jo Grant, UNIT
  • Collection Date: 2017
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/06/2017

The Third Doctor story Heralds of Destruction is a fun read that feels like a Third Doctor Era story. Taking place just after “The Three Doctors”, the story features Jo Grant and the full UNIT crew as well as the Master, and a surprise guest villain responsible for the ubiquitous “alien” invasion. The story opens with Jo and Capt. Mike Yates on a date, only to be interrupted by an emergency. The Doctor, similarly, is playing chess when he is called in. The Doctor meets Jo, the Brigadier, Mike, Sgt. Benton, and various UNIT men in the small English village of Fairford to combat robot machines. The Doctor tries to talk to these “aliens” with no luck at first. It soon turns out the machines are composed of micro-machines (nanotech) that can rebuild itself from local materials. The Doctor blocks in the machines with a force field, then takes a sample to his lab to study.

At the lab, the Doctor encounters himself, or rather, the Second Doctor (or does he? Double identities and people pretending to be someone they are not is a strong theme in this graphic novel). As the Brigadier keeps an eye on the situation in Fairford, he encounters the Master and fights off his hypnotism. Meanwhile, at the lab, Jo is attacked by the micromachines, which take over her body. The Doctor hypnotizes her and goes into her subconscious. The lettering for this inner journey is fantastic, though Jo’s subconscious is just as forthright, honest, and happy as Jo herself.

The Doctor is able to have a conversations with the micromachines and not only rescue Jo but keep this part of the hive mind on his side, rather than on the side of the real villain – who is not the Master.

The Master, despite his impersonations of various people throughout the book, actually ends-up working with the Doctor, even pointing out that a certain character isn’t who he says he is (to say more would spoil one of the biggest surprises of the novel, which I won’t do).

The villain is actually out to steal Time Lord technology – something the Master doesn’t want to happen either, thus his partnership with the Doctor. As they, and UNIT, go to capture the villain, the villain succeeds in transporting his lab building back in time.

In 1868, the Doctor, the Master, and the bad guy all try to convince the all-male British Parliament to follow different paths – from accepting the bad guy as dictator, to preserving history.

The Doctor though is able to use his previous alliance with the small group of micromachines that attacked Jo, to influence the other – thus, taking away the villain’s main weapon. The Master fails to gain control of the micromachines, but escapes custody. The villain is captured and jailed. The Doctor returns the lab and UNIT to the proper time. He also discusses with Jo, that in a sense the Master and even the villain were right – he’s been sitting in one place, doing one thing, too long. When Jo intuits that he’s planning to leave in the TARDIS, now that he can, he agrees – and invites her along. We also see clear indications that Capt. Mike Yates isn’t satisfied with his life and longs for a Golden Age that is less complex and cleaner and prettier (for lack of a better term). This sets-up his otherwise inexplicable behavior in, “Invasion of the Dinosaurs”, something that otherwise does come from nowhere.

I enjoyed this book very much. It really felt like a Third Doctor adventure. Everyone was in character. It featured all the UNIT crew, including Corporal Bell – a female UNIT officer, and Osgood a tech (whom the author points out is a nod to the Osgood in the new series). The art in this book is very good – everyone looks as they should, and the colors are fantastic. I also loved the chapter lettering for the trips to Jo’s subconscious. The relationship between the Doctor and Jo is also very well-written and I really enjoyed it. Highly recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Doll of Death

  • Title: The Doll of Death
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Marc Platt
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Jo Grant, Third Doctor
  • Cast: Katy Manning, Jane Goddard
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/10/2016

The Companion Chronicles is a Big Finish Audio Series that let’s the company explore earlier eras of Doctor Who than the full audio plays do, which feature the living Doctors. The Doll of Death is read and performed by Katy Manning (Jo Grant). Although it starts in “modern” times with Jo attending an environmental conference with her activist husband Professor Jones, she’s sick in her hotel room – so she decides to “catch up with her blog”. The rest of the story is Jo telling the story, and because it’s Katy – she uses “funny voices” to play the various characters.

The story does feel very much like a typical Third Doctor Era story. The Doctor has a device, a blue shift detector that sets off an alarm. He and Jo investigate a mysterious break-in at a museum. At the museum – they meet a professor who accuses them of trying to steal his research and project (not to mention a mysterious tablet). There are mysterious blue doll-creatures, and backwards-running attack dogs. The dogs are described as “Labradors” though – not something I would ever think of as “vicious” or even used in an guarding or attack capability.

Anyway, once the Doctor and Jo’s investigation really kicks off – the story proves to be fascinating despite it’s very typical framing. The Doctor and Jo encounter a research from a parallel Earth that runs backwards to this one, what the Doctor calls “Reverse Causation” – events before their causes. The Doctor and Jo, but especially Jo, investigate and see the results first, then the causes – bit by bit. It’s Jo who finds the creepy “doll hospital” and it’s owner Mrs. Killebrew, who is “possessed” for lack of a better term by the Alternate Earth researcher. Throughout the story, the motivations of the researcher are in question – is she an honest academic who was trapped? Or does she have deeper and darker motivations – especially when it’s revealed that she is their to observe the Doctor.

I liked the way the backwards-story and forwards-story collided. And the story does make a lot of sense – one can follow it easily. My rating for this particular Companion Chronicle would be 3.5 though. I thought the story was just a little bit too typical. It’s always good for a Companion Chronicle to reflect it’s era – but this one just fell a bit flat. It’s also presented as “Jo telling us a story” – rather than it being about the companion giving us their own point-of-view on being a companion for the Doctor. This particular story was very much, just OK, but not great. I’m not totally disappointed – I’ve just heard better (Like “Find and Replace” also a Companion Chronicle or “The Wormery” which technically features Iris Wildthyme played by Katy from the main range.) I wouldn’t discourage anyone from picking it up – the dolls ARE creepy, the backwards story works, etc., but it was very much only, well, 3.5 stars.

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

Click this link to order The Doll of Death on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Ghost in the Machine

  • Title: Ghost in the Machine
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Jonathan Morris
  • Director: Louise Jameson
  • Characters: Jo Grant, Third Doctor
  • Cast: Katy Manning, Damian Lynch
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/03/2016

**Spoiler Alert** I listened to this audio-play mostly on Halloween, then finished it on the first. It’s a wonderfully appropriate story for Halloween as it’s very atmospheric and creepy. Ghost in the Machine is part of the Companion Chronicles Doctor Who audios series from Big Finish. The audios always remind me of the Missing Adventures or Past Doctor Adventures books because they feature stories with older, previous Doctors, those whom are no longer with us for the most part. Uniquely for Doctor Who stories – the Companion Chronicles are often from the point of view of the companions, and not third-person.

In this story, Jo Grant leaves the wardrobe room of the TARDIS and enters the control room to find it empty. She examines the TARDIS console and finds they have landed and the atmosphere outside is breathable. So Jo decides to leave the TARDIS to find the Doctor. Jo quickly finds the Doctor comatose and a tape recorder with two words written on it, “use me”. Jo then makes a recording of everything she’s doing. She quickly discovers she’s in an underground base, a base where everyone is dead, and the power is off. She finds the exit but it’s sealed from the outside. She also finds the control room of the base.

In the control room, she finds a skeleton, and a series of tape recordings. She plays a recording which contains a warning, a warning that she is in terrible danger and she needs to leave: now. Jo, of course, ignores the warning as she tries to find out more.

Gradually, Jo discovers the research facility was researching sound, audio recordings, and using audio to bring someone back from the dead. And as you as listening to this as an audio recording this makes for a very creepy listen. Suddenly as she’s listening to the audio recordings of Benjamin Chikoto, Jo realizes that what Ben is saying is somewhat different each time. Then she plays back the recording of her own voice and hears herself saying things she didn’t say. Jo gets creeped out. Finally, Jo herself is captured and moved into one of the tape recordings, and her body is taken over by the Voice.

Inside the tape, Jo learns from Benjamin Chikoto what is going on – that the facility was researching sound and audio, that they found the very first audio recording: a wax cylinder of Thomas Edison reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. the recording also had a second noise or voice on the recording. By isolating that voice – they unleashed a monster. And Chikoto’s boss ordered the base sealed, resulting in the death of everyone there.

Also, inside the tape, Jo discovers the shadow following her is the Doctor. Since he had not recorded himself saying anything – the only way he can speak is to borrow someone’s body. He borrows Ben’s body and then Jo’s to explain part of what’s going on – and to formulate a plan.

The Doctor manages to execute his plan flawlessly – he and Jo escape, the Voice is destroyed by her own plots, and Ben? Poor Ben is erased – but by his own choice after years of being trapped in a half life inside a tape recording.

Ghost in the Machine reminds me very much of the British television series, Sapphire and Steel, particularly “Old Photographs”, but that is a compliment, not something negative. The story is creepy, atmospheric, and suits the audio format extremely well. It also feels very much like a two-handed play, with Katy Manning as Jo and Damian Lynch as Ben – though each also play other parts at times. I highly recommend this story. Give it a listen on Halloween!

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

Click this link to order Ghost in the Machine on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Old Soldiers

  • Title: Old Soldiers
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: James Swallow
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, Third Doctor
  • Cast: Nicholas Courtney, Toby Longworth
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/04/2014

The Big Finish Companion Chronicles is fast becoming one of my favorite lines published by Big Finish. They are not full audio plays like most Big Finish Productions, but rather narrated stories by the Doctor’s companions, in this case, Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, with Toby Longworth performing the part of Konrad Schrader. Having two actors almost turns this into a two-handed play, but much of the story is narrated rather than performed. There are some effects, but not as many as in a full audio play. However, the Companion Chronicles format allows for stories featuring previous Doctors. This is a story of the Third Doctor (played on Doctor Who by Jon Pertwee) and his companion, the Brigadier. It takes place shortly after The Silurians.

The story involves an old friend of the Brigadier’s, who’s now a commander at a UNIT base in Germany. He sends a desperate message for help to the Brigadier. When the Brigadier arrives, he find his friend extremely ill, a commandant in charge who’s a bit of an idiot, and an honest-to-goodness haunted German castle. And the ghosts – are armed.

It’s a good story. The only thing that prevents me from giving this a perfect 5 stars is that I found the very end a bit depressing. It made sense but it was still a tad depressing.

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

Click this link to order Old Soldiers on download or CD.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Blue Tooth

  • Title: The Blue Tooth
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Nigel Fairs
  • Director: Mark J. Thompson
  • Characters:  Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Shaw, Third Doctor, Capt. Mike Yates, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart
  • Cast: Caroline John, Nicholas Briggs
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/02/2014

Caroline John reads this audiobook by Big Finish, The Blue Tooth, part of the Companion Chronicles line. I thought the storyline would have something to do with alien control of Bluetooth™ technology, however, it doesn’t – though the Cybermen are involved eventually. Dr. Liz Shaw looks back on her time at UNIT, and considers when she decided to quit. She had gone to Cambridge to visit one of her university friends, only to find her friend missing and the friend’s cat brutally slain.

Before long, the Brigadier and Captain Mike Yates arrive, investigating not only Jean’s disappearance, but the disappearance of several scientists and even support personnel from Cambridge. The investigation leads to a mysterious blue living metal, a really bad dentist, Cybermats, and a crashed Cyberman scout ship. It’s an intriguing story.

My only qualm about this one was that I found it a bit gross. I know it seems weird to describe a story in audio format as gross – but it is. This story is a bloodbath, in more ways than one. I also found the title a tad too literal.

Anyway, This is still my favorite Doctor Who range, and this story is enjoyable. Recommended, but it’s not for younger listeners.

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

Click the link to order The Blue Tooth on CD.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Find and Replace

  • Title: Find and Replace
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Paul Magrs
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Jo Grant, Iris Wildthyme, Huxley, Third Doctor
  • Cast: Katy Manning, Alex Lowe
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/24/2013

Find and Replace is somewhat between an audiobook and a full audioplay. Katy Manning doesn’t merely read the story, she acts out the part of Jo Grant and the part of Iris Wildthyme. Alex Lowe acts out the part of Huxley. However, unlike Big Finish’s audio plays where the play is a full audio play, with sound effects, music, and a full cast – in this Katy reads the descriptive text then acts out her own dialogue, while Alex acts out the part of Huxley. So, for example, Katy might read a passage describing how Iris looks, but then perform (as Iris) her lines. It’s an effective technique and I wasn’t bored.

I listened to this on Christmas Eve, as I wrapped presents and did a little bit of last minute picking-up and cleaning. I was unaware when I started it that the story takes place on Christmas Eve. However, that made the story even more appropriate. And I enjoyed it immensely.

I can highly recommend this, especially if you are a Doctor Who fan who enjoyed the Jo Grant and Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) Era. It is an enjoyable trip down memory lane, again, appropriate for Christmas.

The Audio CD includes a bonus interview with Katy Manning.

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

Click this link to order Find and Replace on CD or download.

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