Book Review – Doctor Who: The Many Lives of Doctor Who

  • Title: Doctor Who: The Many Lives of Doctor Who
  • Authors: Richard Dinnick
  • Artists: Mariano LaClaustra, Giorgia Sposito, Brian Williamson, Arianna Florean, Claudia Ianniciello, Iolanda Zanfardino, Neil Edwards, Pasquale Qualano, Rachael Stott, Sarah Jacobs (Letterer), John Roshell (Letterer), Fer Centurion (Inker), Color-Ice (Colorist), Carlos Cabera (Colorist), Adele Matera (Colorist), Dijjo Lima (Colorist), Enrica Eren Angiolini (Colorist)
  • Line:  All-Doctors Crossover Special
  • Characters: First Doctor, Second Doctor, Third Doctor, Fourth Doctor, Fifth Doctor, Sixth Doctor, Seventh Doctor, Eighth Doctor, War Doctor, Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, River Song, Twelfth Doctor, Ian, Barbara, Susan, Jamie, Polly, Ben, Sarah Jane Smith, Romana II, Tegan, Nyssa, Turlough, Peri, Ace, Josie Day, Jack, Rose, Alice, Bill Potts, Thirteenth Doctor
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/19/2019

**Spoiler Alert** Doctor Who The Many Lives of Doctor Who” is a series of vignettes and short stories, one per Doctor, plus a War Doctor Story, a story with River Song, and a few pages with the 13th Doctor. Each of the stories adds to the idea of the Doctor regenerating into who she will be, for example, the number 13 comes up several times, though in the Thirteenth Doctor’s pages she mentions she isn’t actually the 13th Doctor. The Fifth Doctor story as the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa, and Turlough in the cloisters on Gallifrey where they are supposed to be chasing down a renegade Time Lord. But when they find him, he talks the Doctor into helping him use some Gallifreyan tech so he can regenerate. The Doctor agrees, and the other Time Lord regenerates into a woman. We also see both the fourth Doctor, with Romana and the Seventh Doctor, with Ace, solving a problem by meeting someone earlier, which they will do after they did it. The graphic novel itself is very short, and some of the vignettes are only a few pages, while others are full, albeit, short stories. I enjoyed this graphic novel though, and it whetted my appetite for the next two graphic novels in Titan Comics 13th Doctor series. The only flaw in the book is it’s almost too short. Recommended.

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Doctor Who – Spearhead from Space Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: Spearhead from Space
  • Story #: 51
  • Episodes: 4 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 01/03/1970 – 01/24/1970
  • Cast: Jon Pertwee, Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney
  • Format: Standard, Color, DVD, NTSC

“What are you a doctor of, by the way?” – Dr. Liz Shaw
“Practically everything, my dear.” – The Doctor

Spearhead from Space is known for its firsts and is almost what would now be termed a soft reboot of the series. It’s the first story filmed in color, and unusually for the series – the entire episode was shot on film and on location. At the end of the previous story, The War Games, the actor portraying the Doctor, Patrick Troughton left, as did his companions Zoë (Wendy Padbury) and Jamie (Frazer Hines), so as well as introducing a new Doctor, Spearhead from Space introduces a new companion, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist from Cambridge, and the Brigadier returns, still in charge of UNIT. Doctor Who will now be focused on Earth-bound invasion stories, set in the “near future” (something later forgot by the production team who seemed to assume the stories were contemporary to when they were made).

This story has the Doctor’s TARDIS arriving in a wood, the Doctor stumbling out, and collapsing. He’s brought to a nearby cottage hospital and is unconscious for much of episode one, and erratic for much for episode two. It isn’t until he takes a shower in the hospital and borrows some clothes that the Doctor seems to wake up – eventually working with Liz and the Brigadier to discover just what the mysterious landfall of meteorites and strange goings-on at Auton Plastics factory mean. The story develops somewhat slowly but fits together well, as bit by bit, UNIT, the Doctor, Liz, and other characters in the story, learn what is going on. UNIT’s radar station reports on the meteorites and the Brigadier tells Dr. Shaw a larger group landed earlier. Liz scoffs at the Brigadier using the word, “landed”.

Meanwhile, a poacher in the woods finds one of the “thunderballs” and buries it to hide it. UNIT is looking for the meteorites and finds the Doctor’s TARDIS. The Doctor is unconscious at the local cottage hospital. In episode 2, a salesman returns to his factory only to discover it mysteriously changed, his boss unreceptive to his hard work opening a new market in the US, and a letter of dismissal at his home. He later sneaks back into the factory and discovers an Auton who fires at him. Terrified out of his wits he runs out to the woods and into UNIT’s hands. One of the Brigadier’s men takes his statement. He later convinces the Brigadier something is wrong at the factory. Meanwhile, the poacher digs up his “thunderball” and transfers it to a metal box in his shed.

The alien in this story is the Nestene Consciousness, which has no form to speak of, only a hive mind stored in the hollow plastic-like balls that landed during the meteor shower. The Consciousness can animate plastic and co-opts the manager of a plastics factory. This story features store dummies breaking out of window displays, and plastic duplicates of General Scobie and other civil servants and military leaders. The salesman is instrumental in giving information to the Brigadier and UNIT that something is wrong at the factory – but he’s also killed by an Auton dummy. Eventually, his boss, the factory manager, who was under Channing’s control is also killed by the Autons. And when the Doctor and Liz construct a device to disrupt the signals animating the Auton mannequins and break up the Nestene Consciousness – Channing is revealed to be another Auton dummy. During the final attack, the device works fine on the basic Autons but doesn’t work on the Consciousness itself. The Doctor is attacked by tentacles coming out of a tank, and it’s Liz who, on her own must adjust the device until it works, which saves the Doctor and defeats the alien menace, so to speak.

They return to UNIT, and the Doctor bargains with the Brigadier, getting a job as scientific advisor to UNIT, with access to equipment and tools, plus essentials like clothing (since he borrowed his current outfit from the hospital) and a car (since he must return the borrowed red roadster he used in the episode). The Doctor gives the name of “Dr. John Smith” for his paperwork that will make him official on Earth.

Spearhead from Space starts off a new era for Doctor Who. It introduces Dr. Liz Shaw and changes the direction of the show. The cost savings of staying on Earth with contemporary settings, like offices, and 1970s London, were put into car chases, effects, large-scale practical attacks, and a grander scale for the stories. Spearhead from Space is almost like a pilot in introducing these ideas: there’s a chase scene with the Doctor in a wheelchair, UNIT makes an assault on the Auton Factory, the setting is meant to be slightly futuristic but since people still use corded phones (and pay phones at that) and in one scene all the reporters are male – there’s an old-fashioned quality to it too. But it definitely starts to establish the new rules and new patterns for the next three years. Pertwee would play the part for five years, but only regain the time and space traveling abilities of his TARDIS after the tenth-anniversary special, The Three Doctors. The story itself is a bit slow in spots, but the four-episode length helps it from being extremely slow. I liked that Liz actually saved the Doctor herself without any assistance, but I didn’t like that she gets no credit for this, not even a thank you from the Doctor. Still, this is a great place to start with when watching the Third Doctor, or even for starting to watch Classic Doctor Who.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Binary

  • Title: Binary
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Eddie Robson
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Shaw, Childs, Cpl. James Foster
  • Cast: Caroline John, Joe Coen, Kyle Redmond-Jones
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/13/2018

Binary is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line. The Companion Chronicles features stories told from the point of view of the companion. Although many audios in the line feature one of the Doctor’s companions telling someone a story about “a time when I was with the Doctor”, this one is in the present tense and it is more like Big Finish’s completely produced audio plays, as it features two guest players as well as Caroline John as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, a companion of the Third Doctor as played on the BBC television series by Jon Pertwee.

Dr. Shaw is sent to examine an alien computer by UNIT. The three previous people sent to examine it have disappeared. When Liz arrives she meets Childs, a UNIT soldier – she thinks. She begins to examine the computer and disconnects what she thinks is an automatic defense system. She and Childs are shrunken down and transported inside the computer.

Once inside, Liz finds she can communicate with the computer using the terminals inside. The computer points her towards the maintenance system. She and Childs are attacked by “drones” antibody-like beings. They find the body of one of the previous UNIT officials. When she and Childs are threatened with attack by a large number of drones, Liz orders the computer to make a new tunnel and seal it behind them. The tunnel takes them directly to the problem. The system that makes the maintenance drones is broken. Drones are coming out of the system and dying immediately. The few that survive are in horrible pain, unable to think clearly or perform their tasks. This is why the computer cannot repair itself – it’s maintenance and repair system is broken. Childs becomes pushy about Liz fixing the computer, but she isn’t so sure. She’s afraid this alien computer might be used for bad things. As Childs becomes pushier, Liz gets even more suspicious. She lobs a piece of pipe at him, and not only does he fail to catch it – it drops right through him. He’s an image, created by the computer. Liz asks him to explain why he lied to her instead of explaining what and who he was, but he doesn’t give her a satisfactory answer. Eventually, he disappears.

Liz returns to one of the terminals – and finds Foster there. She gets another communication from the Doctor. All his efforts to disable the force field surrounding the computer have failed. He advises her to start smashing vital components in the hope of destroying to force field from the inside, and eventually the entire computer.

Liz thinks this might be a good idea, and gets directions from the computer itself for the force field generator – but it’s too far, and it’s surrounded by drones. She gets directions for the computer core and finds it closer and easier to get to. She and Foster make their way there, but once they arrive, Foster becomes very pushy about her destroying the computer. So she hesitates – and tries the same trick, throwing a pencil through Foster. He goes through him – he’s another projection, this time of the computer’s Fail-Safe, which wants the computer destroyed rather than in enemy hands. Liz objects again.

She manages to repair the computer maintenance system, using directions from the computer itself. She then gets herself out. Once she’s safe and normal size in the UNIT lab, the computer disappears. Liz explains to the Doctor that she has freed a slave. The Doctor, though a little perturbed that she didn’t out and out destroy the computer, accepts this in the end.

This story is basically “Doctor Who Does ‘Fantastic Journey'” in an alien computer. But it is never the less an interesting story. I liked that they have three actors in the story. However, we only ever hear two of them at once – Liz and either Childs or Foster. This emphasizes the point of the story, that Dr. Elizabeth Shaw knows her own mind – and she isn’t going to do what anyone else tells her to do. In fact, Childs and Foster’s bullying is what clues her in that neither is to be trusted. Dr. Shaw is also struggling with her decision – should she leave UNIT and return to Cambridge. She decides to stay with UNIT. Recommended.

The CD includes trailers and a panel interview of the cast and director.

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

Click this link to order Binary on CD or download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Exilir of Doom

  • Title: The Exilir of Doom
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Paul Magrs
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Jo Grant, Iris Wildthyme, Eighth Doctor, Claude
  • Cast: Katy Manning, Derek Fowlds (Claude)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 4/10/2018

**Spoiler Alert** The Elixir of Doom is a brilliant addition to Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles series. The Companion Chronicles tell stories from the point-of-view of the Companions, often filling in the gaps of the TV series, Doctor WhoThe Elixir of Doom features Katy Manning not only playing Jo Jones (neé Grant) but also playing the time-traveling adventuress, Iris Wildthyme. Jo is now married to Professor Jones and has left the Doctor. She has joined Iris in her time-traveling double-decker London bus and the two are off on an adventure. They materialize in Hollywood in 1936 and attend a Hollywood party, where they meet an actress famous for her monster pics. Both Iris and Jo have a past with her, or in Jo’s case, a future – as she and her Doctor meet Vita Monette in the 1970s, and save her from a vampire. Iris had met Vita a few years ago when Iris was an extra in Boadicea. Jo also sees a man in a velvet coat with curly brown hair at the party, a man who seems oddly familiar to her. Iris stops her from meeting the man.

Jo also catches part of a showing of Boadicea, only to spot Iris doing Semaphore in the background. Jo knows how to read Semaphore, the code performed with flags or arms. Iris was warning that Vita stole something dangerous from her – but then the message cuts off before Iris can give exact details. And, of course, Iris being Iris, doesn’t remember the warning – just that it’s important.

Jo and Iris return to Iris’s bus and read up on old film fan magazines. They realize the film that Vita is currently working on was a film that was never made. The film was never finished due to a horrible accident on the set. They also review the five famous monsters that Vita faces in her movies: Lizard Man, the Human Jelly, Leopard Boy, the Living Skeleton, and The Bloody Count (a Vampire). Coincidentally, Vita also has five ex-husbands.

The next day, Jo and Iris sneak their way on to the set, where Jo meets the Human Jelly, who really is a Jelly and not an actor in a suit. His name is Harold and he’s one of Vita’s exes.

Iris and Jo go to the wake/party at Vita’s spooky mansion, and discover her new husband, Claude, has taken some of Iris’s Elixir – an Elixir of Doom, it turns him into the Wolfman. Jo finds the other “monsters” locked-up in the basement and frees them. The Wolfman attacks Vita but doesn’t kill her.

The Doctor (as played by Paul McGann) is also at the party, and he lectures both Vita and Iris.
With the monsters free, and Vita injured but not dead, and Iris once more in possession of the Elixir, Jo and Iris leave in her bus. Jo realizes the mysterious man is the Doctor but doesn’t get to spend any real time with him. Jo also learns from Iris that she may be from Gallifrey, but she’s from the “wrong side of the tracks” and cannot regenerate.

I loved this story! Katy is one of my favorites as a performer for the Companion Chronicles and here she gets to play both of her Big Finish characters – and she does so brilliantly. I wish there had been a bit more of the Eighth Doctor though, causality be darned! Still, I cannot recommend this story enough. It gets my highest recommendation. I truly loved it!

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

Click this link to order The Elixir of Doom on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Sentinels of the New Dawn

  • Title: The Sentinels of the New Dawn
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Paul Finch
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters:  Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Shaw, Richard Beauregard, Third Doctor
  • Cast: Caroline John, Duncan Wisbey
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/29/2018

The Sentinels of the New Dawn is a story in the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line. The story is told by Caroline John and Duncan Wisbey (as Richard) and features the Third Doctor as played by Jon Pertwee on the British television show. An older Dr. Liz Shaw is interviewed by a new UNIT soldier about “her involvement” in New Dawn. Liz explains that she both was and wasn’t involved and that there are no records at UNIT about New Dawn. Then she tells the story of herself and the Third Doctor going to Cambridge to check on Liz’s mentor, who has developed a time dilation device. Liz is both unsure if such a device will work as intended to allow time travel, and worried about the dangers. The Doctor declares the device won’t work for travel, but it will open a time window for observing the past or the future. However, the window cannot be moved, so it will only show what happens in the room.

No sooner than he says this than the device is turned on and he and Liz are sucked through a time corridor. They awake in 2014, where a Conservative far-right group known as New Dawn is planning a take-over of the world using nefarious means. They’ve used the time window technology to raise money, recruited the rich and powerful, and obtained a weaponized Ebola virus from an African dictator who has joined their cause. And the cause? To bring the world back to “perfect” medieval times, with the Sentinels as the absolute power and “leaders”. The Doctor and Liz are appalled. They meet another scientist who has doubts about the cause he’s joined. In the end, the Doctor, Liz, and their scientist ally defeat New Dawn and return to Liz’s present where they destroy the device and all of her mentor’s notes.

Liz finishes telling her story to the UNIT soldier and answers his questions. As he leaves – we learn who this “soldier” really is.

This is an excellent Companion Chronicles story, especially the punch-to-the-gut ending. Caroline John does an excellent job performing and telling the story. The story is interesting and relevant. I liked it very much. Highly recommended.

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

Go here to order Doctor Who: The Sentinels of the New Dawn on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Shadow of the Past

  • Title: Shadow of the Past
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Simon Guerrier
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters:  Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Shaw, Sgt. Marshall, Third Doctor, 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: www.bigfinish.com.

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
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • 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: www.bigfinish.com

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!