Book Review – Doctor Who: Shadow of the Past

  • Title: Shadow of the Past
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Simon Guerrier
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters:  Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Shaw, Sgt. Marshall, Third Doctor, Capt. Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart
  • Cast: Caroline John, Lex Shrapnel
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/13/2018

The Shadow of the Past is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line, which features Caroline John as Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Shaw and for this story, Lex Shrapnel as Marshall. An older, retired Liz goes to Unit Vault 75-73/Whitehall to look in to something from her time with the Doctor, she meets a young UNIT officer and tells him her tale.

A younger Liz is at UNIT when a spaceship crash is reported. She, the Doctor (the Third Doctor, as played by Jon Pertwee on the television series, Doctor Who) and UNIT troops head out to Kent to investigate. The Doctor is keen to try to rescue the pilot. Liz is a bit more cautious – insisting on contamination suits at least, and the Brigadier and company – well, this is a tale set early in the third Doctor’s time, so the Brigadier and the Doctor are still feeling each other out. Liz and the Doctor enter the spaceship – and Liz is overcome by the smell – the pilot is smeared all over the interior of the space ship.

Liz leaves and the Doctor rushes out and to his TARDIS at UNIT HQ. At UNIT, he reports another problem, a Mim invasion fleet is heading for Earth. The ship must have been a scout. Liz and the Doctor return to the control center set up by UNIT near the spaceship – only for the Doctor to remark by radio that Earth’s defenses are disabled and the Mim invasion can invade.

In the present, the older Liz explains to Marshall the properties of sponges. As long as you keep them in seawater – they can reassemble themselves. Cut them in half – and they will reunite. Whirl them into soup and they will reassemble. Even whirl two different sponges together into soup – and they will reassemble into the two original sponges – given enough time.

Picking up the story with young Liz, she and the Brigadier realise the person that invited the invasion fleet in – isn’t the Doctor. The entity reveals itself to be a huge purple beast – and attacks the UNIT soldiers and officers. The Brigadier orders Sgt. Robin to take Liz to UNIT HQ, find the Doctor, the real Doctor, and return. Liz protests but Robin insists she go with him.

At UNIT HQ, Liz realises she has a key to the TARDIS and enters. The Doctor is unconscious on the floor of the TARDIS. Liz realises the pilot of the ship wasn’t dead after all, but it attacked the Doctor, taking his shape – and as the recovering Doctor explains, it poisoned him as well. But he takes energy from the TARDIS to speed his recovery then uses the TARDIS to call the Time Lords. A man in a bowler hard and pinstripe suit appears, and Liz and Robin convince the Time Lord representative to help. The Time Lords return the Mim invasion fleet to the Mimsphere, but the representative says the Doctor and UNIT will have to deal with the Mim agent themselves.

The Doctor also explains that the Mim, as the name implies, are Mimics, shapeshifters, but they are also incredibly dangerous and violent. Liz realises that she had tried to shut down the nuclear weapons UNIT had but was dragged away by Robin – the Mim then finished her work, shutting down the weapons. But they can’t trigger a nuclear explosion in the middle of Kent.

The Doctor, Liz, and Robin return to the control center and talk to the Brigadier. They come up with a plan to get the Mim to return to it’s spaceship and to get a device inside.

As Liz explains to Marshall – that’s the spaceship here in the vault. She also mourns the death of young Robin and the other UNIT soldiers killed in the conflict. As she continues to talk to Marshall, pointing out how he reminds her of Robin – even looks like him, Marshall puts it together.

The rest is a spoiler, but you can probably guess where this one is going.

Still, I liked this Companion Chronicles story. It was a pleasure to listen to a story featuring Dr. Liz Shaw but its a bit bittersweet too, since she has subsequently passed away. That is one sad bit about the Companion Chronicles line, it can be hard listening to stories told by Doctor Who actors who have recently passed away. Shadow of the Past is a straight-forward Third Doctor story. A spaceship crashes, there’s an invasion, and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that UNIT and the Doctor defeat it. But it’s still a good story. The surprise at the end is a surprise, but it makes total sense once you know. Caroline John does a very good job telling the story and she plays well off Lex Shrapnel. Recommended.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website:

Click this link to order Shadow of the Past on CD or Download.

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


Doctor Who: The Scorchies Review

  • Title: The Scorchies
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: James Goss
  • Director: Ken Bentley
  • Characters: Jo Grant, Third Doctor, UNIT, The Scorchies (Guest)
  • Cast: Katy Manning (Jo), Melvin Hayes (The Scorchies)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/26/2017

The Scorchies want to take over the world. The want to kill the Doctor. And they want to perform some outstanding showtunes. Though not necessarily in that order…

Doctor Who The Scorchies is a Big Finish Companion Chronicles story performed by Katy Manning and Melvin Hayes. The Scorchies are a very nasty bunch of aliens, who just happen to look like cute, adorable, puppets. They come to Earth and take over a children’s TV show, using it to take over the minds of the adults who watch the program. Apparently, it’s the television equivalent of comfort food – something not really good for you, but that adults can’t ignore. Throw in some form of mind control and you have the basic plot.

The story, however, starts with Jo already captured at the television studio – by the Scorchies. The Doctor and UNIT are outside the studio, attempting to lay siege to it so they can defeat the “alien menace” so to speak. The plot, including the background of where the Scorchies come from, and the horrifying meaning of their name (they leave behind nothing but completely scorched planets – utter devastation). But because they look like puppets, and it’s a “children’s television show” this is accompanied by some truly awful songs and fairly terrible singing.

What surprised me about this particular story was that I expected it to be very, very funny. Instead, it’s horrifying. The moral – “don’t watch so much television” feels out of place in a television tie-in universe. Katy Manning, as always, is wonderful though, and the Scorchies (voiced by Melvin Hayes and by Katy herself) are voiced well, and at times, are very chilling. However, overall, since the actual story wasn’t really what I expected, I didn’t enjoy the story like I expected that I would. Still, even though it wasn’t the wild and humorous story I expected, it’s performed well, and it’s also much more like a full audio play, rather than what’s normal for the Companion Chronicles line where someone is telling someone else a story (not that I mind that, the story-telling part is a big part of what I like about the Big Finish Companion Chronicles.) Recommended with reservations – this is not what it says on the tin, rather, it’s a fairly horrifying story.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website:

Click here to order The Scorchies on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Magician’s Oath

  • Title: The Magician’s Oath
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Scott Handcock
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Capt. Mike Yates, Third Doctor, the Brigadier, Jo Grant, UNIT
  • Cast: Richard Franklin (Mike), Michael Chance (Diamond Jack (guest))
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/13/2017

The Magician’s Oath is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line, told by Capt. Mike Yates (Richard Franklin), though it’s set fairly early in the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) era, probably his second season. The framing sequence has Capt. Yates showing up at UNIT to “make a statement”, this being his story.

During the Summer, in London, a series of strange weather events occurs. At first, these strange occurrences are amusing, but when a flash freeze hits half of Hyde Park and kills every one there, UNIT becomes involved, including Mike, Jo, the Brigadier, and the Doctor. The Doctor also detects some strange energy readings, which he thinks are more worth investigating than the weather.

Mike and Jo, despite being warned off, decide to investigate anyway. A witness comes forward, the only person to survive what happened in Hyde Park, and she gives the cryptic clue of “Diamond Jack”. following the weather reports, Jo and Mike go to Trafalgar Square where a street magician named, Diamond Jack, is performing. Jo is dragged into his act and disappears. When Mike confronts him, weird stuff happens, including Diamond Jack floating in the air.

Capt. Yates finds Diamond Jack’s house. While outside, Mike is warned off confronting Diamond Jack by the Doctor and the Brigadier, but he ignores the warnings to rescue Jo. He locates Jo inside, who can’t believe she’s only been gone a few hours – she thinks it was days. The house itself is strangely empty with no photos or personal touches. Before Jo and Mike can escape, they are confronted by Diamond Jack.

The Brigadier, the Doctor, and UNIT arrive. The Doctor had found Jack’s spaceship. At this point things get a little weird. The Doctor uses a device he found at the spaceship, a red cylinder, which seems to work in the reverse of the zap device from “Men in Black” – and restores Jack’s memories. But Jack is actually an alien prisoner – and a prisoner in three types, a “human” Jack who’s suffering from short-term memory loss until the Doctor reverses it, the person’s memories, stored in the cylinder, which the Doctor restores, and the physical body – which has only animal instincts. The Doctor, Jo, and UNIT go to the spaceship, where they manage to release the animal creature.

Meanwhile Jack manages to kidnap Jo, again, and take her to Tower Bridge. Mike and the Doctor race to rescue Jo before the human Jack and his animal counterpart meet. Mike does rescue Jo, but not before Jack attacks her mind again, causing her to be placed in a coma. UNIT manages to take down Jack and the monster.

In the end, Mike confesses it took Jo a week to recover from her coma, and she lost her memory of the incident. Mike also confesses that he truly cared for Jo, even loved her, but she had only feelings of friendship for him.

The first half of this story works pretty well – the flash freeze is an intriguing mystery. But the second half, with the mysterious three-part alien, not to mention some alien civilization deciding Earth would make a great prison planet, works considerably less well. It’s like part 1 and part 2 are almost different stories, and they don’t gel being forced together. Mike’s sudden crush on Jo also seems misplaced, though the ending interview remarks that Mike was supposed to be a love interest for Jo. (Note: Mike was on the show before Jo Grant, as he was introduced with UNIT in Pertwee’s first story, whereas Jo was the Third Doctor’s second companion.) Even the flash freeze seems a little weird as “freezing to death” doesn’t work that way (it’s usually a process that takes a lot of time, and in cases where people have fallen into freezing water, for example, and are pulled out immediately – even if they seem “dead” they recover.) The way the situation in Hyde Park is described by Mike it’s more like the entire park was flooded with liquid nitrogen. I was left wondering, “huh?” Not to mention thinking the author had never actually experienced cold weather or frostbite.

But this is a Companion Chronicles story told from the point of view of an unusual companion, Capt. Mike Yates. As far as I know it’s the only story told from his point of view in all of the tie-ins for Doctor Who. Yes, there are various UNIT stories, but they are often more team stories than the point of view of a single member of UNIT. Though as I said, I don’t remember even hints of a Mike-Jo romance, this is from Mike’s pov, and from what I remember of his character, he could quite easily have a thing for a woman who has no interest in him.

Overall, I’d give this 3.5 stars. It’s not horrible, but it’s not one of the best Companion Chronicles either.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website:

Click here to order The Magician’s Oath on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – The Many Deaths of Jo Grant

  • Title: The Many Deaths of Jo Grant
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Jo Grant, Rowe (guest), Third Doctor
  • Cast: Katy Manning, Nicholas Asbury (Rowe)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 09/27/2017

**Spoiler Alert** The Many Deaths of Jo Grant is an audio in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles series. The story opens at UNIT HQ, where the Brigadier is upset because the Doctor has left in the TARDIS and he needs him. Jo is waiting for the Doctor to return. But when the Doctor does return he brings a baby alien princess whom he’s rescued from her planet which has been invaded by fierce alien conquerors. No sooner than the Doctor arrives though than the aliens also arrive, threatening to destroy Earth to get to the baby. UNIT fights off the aliens who teleport in to HQ as well as their space ship, but the aliens have fantastic weapons. Jo, the Doctor, the child, and an UNIT soldier named Private Rowe try to leave. Jo sees the Doctor in danger and sacrifices herself to save him.

Two more vignettes follow – in one Jo dies, thrown into a pit to be eaten by a giant mouth (it sounded similar to the creature in Return of the Jedi that Jabba threatens to thrown Luke into.) In another instance, Jo again sacrifices herself – to save an alien planet, after the Doctor is unable to do it because he’s knocked out.

But each time, in each vignette, there are two re-occurring figures: Rowe, and a space-suited figure with a mirrored faceplate that only reflects Jo’s own face – not allowing her to identify the figure inside the suit. Jo also keeps experiencing deja vu.

Jo then wakes up in a space ship, exiting a strange pod, and meeting the Doctor. He explains she’s been trapped in a mindscape – a torture device that has been banned for centuries.

But they are soon confronted by Rowe, and he threatens Jo and the Doctor with a disrupter – the two fight and are seemingly both destroyed.

Jo wakes again. This time she sees that the Doctor is also in a pod. He had entered the Mindscape to rescue her and it was the Doctor in the mirrored spacesuit. Meanwhile, Rowe is an alien scientist, from the conquerors who are after the alien princess. Rowe’s people are selfish and have no empathy with others – especially the worlds they conquer. The idea of sacrificing yourself for something greater or to save someone else is so foreign to Rowe’s people they simply can’t understand it. So Rowe had put Jo into the Mindscape to study her. He had “killed” Jo in the device 412 times. But Rowe’s people are also experiencing troubles with the princess’s planet. The princess’s people, in desperation, are taking any ship they can and crashing it into Rowe’s people’s outposts, military depots, and weapon stores. This kills the pilot and any skeleton crew on board the ship but these kamikaze attacks are having an effect against Rowe’s people too because they are completely unprepared and do not understand the idea of sacrifice for a cause. Rowe was studying Jo to try and understand her feelings for the Doctor and her willingness to sacrifice herself for him.

In the end, the Doctor makes a deal with Rowe – he wins the baby princess’s freedom but promises not to take her home to her planet. He and Jo are also freed and will return to UNIT.

This was a good story, Katy Manning does an excellent job telling it, and although I felt she had Jo a bit too innocent at times (the story is set between “Carnival of Monsters” and “Frontier in Space” – and in “Frontier in Space” Jo really kicks butt – preventing the Master from hypnotising herself, rescuing the Doctor several times, she’s even instrumental in figuring out the solution to the problem) so this Jo should be more grown-up and capable, not the somewhat incompetent girl of “Terror of the Autons”. Still, seeing how much Jo cares for the Doctor and what she’s willing to do for him was well-played. It’s somewhat odd having the other actor in the story being Rowe – who’s several different characters or versions of the same character, but it does always help to have two people in a Companion Chronicles story. And like many of the stories in this range – it does have the feeling of a Missing Adventure book or a Past Doctor Adventures book which I appreciated. I hated seeing Jo die over and over – it seemed cruel, and I figure she’d have serious issues with dying 412 times – even if it didn’t “really” happen. But still, it’s a good story and worth checking out.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website:

Click here to order The Many Deaths of Jo Grant on CD or Download.

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

Non-Fiction Book Review – Twitter Who vol. 3: The Third Doctor

  • Title: Twitter Who vol. 3: The Third Doctor
  • Author: Hannah J. Rothman
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/18/2016

Hannah J. Rothman’s Twitter Who series is a joy to read. I read volume 3 last weekend, but unfortunately this week was so busy this is the first time I’ve had to sit down and review it.

Hannah’s project is to watch all of Classic Who and “live-Tweet” her reactions. The “live-Tweets” are then collected for each story, similar to a log of live-Tweeting session. In volume three, although the stories are presented in order, it’s evident from the dates for each collection of Tweets that the stories were not watched in order. However, that isn’t a negative. This book is even more fun and amusing, well-crafted and insightful than the previous two volumes. I enjoyed it very much.

I also found myself in complete agreement over Hannah’s opinions of Pertwee’s companions – all of whom she liked for different reasons, including one of my personal favorite companions: Jo Grant. I’ve always liked Jo, and for years Doctor Who fandom as a whole has been dismissive of her character – writing her off as a ditz and a screamer. However, Jo is quite capable, and she’s fiercely loyal to the Doctor. Jo grows during her time as a companion – something I always appreciate in any television character, where there’s time for a character to grow. But then, the first story I saw with Jo was “Frontier in Space” and she basically kicks butt in that, resisting the Master’s hypotism, rescuing the Doctor, even caring for an injured Doctor (which carries over to the next story, “Planet of the Daleks” where she leaves the safety of the TARDIS on an alien, hostile planet to find help for the Doctor). Anyway, Jo has inner strength. It was nice to read another Whovian who appreciates Ms. Grant. And the author, Hannah Rothman, also doesn’t fall in the trap of insulting or putting down Pertwee’s other companions. She rightly points out just how liberated and special Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Shaw is – and that it was the production team at fault for not knowing what to do with a character as clever as the Doctor. And then there’s Sarah Jane, whom everyone loves.

The Pertwee Era, for all it’s “UNIT Boys” and James Bond-like emphasis on action, vehicle chases, gadgets, and even fancy dress costumes – had great female companions.

Twitter Who is a fast read, but it is well worth it. I recommend it and look forward to future volumes in the series.

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:

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.