Book Review – Doctor Who: Lights Out

  • Title: Lights Out
  • Series: Doctor Who Novelette Collection
  • Author: Holly Black
  • Characters: Twelfth Doctor
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/11/2016

Doctor Who Lights Out is the last volume in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 12 Doctors 12 Booksset of mini-books. GoodReads describes these as “e-books” and they may have been first published that way, but my set consists of 12 little mini-books the size of your hand, plus 12 postcards in a slip case. I bought the set from either Amazon or Barnes & Noble (I don’t remember which).

This particular story features the Twelfth Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi. Clara is mentioned but is not actually present in the story. The story begins in first person with a “space trucker”, someone who ferries coffee beans from the Intergalactic Coffee Roasting Station (ICRS, pronounced Icarus) to “the planet of the coffee shops”. This un-named character is waiting in line at a coffee shop, a couple of people behind the Doctor, when the lights suddenly go out – when they come back on, someone is dead, and people nearly panic because the coffee supply has been cut off. The Doctor immediately begins to try to solve the mystery.

But as the Doctor starts talking to people, suddenly the lights go out again – and there’s another murder. The Doctor suggests he and our point-of-view character go to the station control center to find out about the power outages. During the walk through long corridors the lights go out again, but no one is killed.

The Doctor and our character go to the control center, only to find both workers dead. The Doctor convinces our main character that they must go to his ship. On the ship, the Doctor has a talk to him about monsters – about becoming a monster. We learn more about the guest point-of-view character, whom the Doctor had rescued from a scientific “research” laboratory that was creating merged creatures, monsters, as weapons. The Doctor’s “pep” talk convinces our point of view character that the Doctor must take his escape pod and return to the Station and he will do what is needed.

The ending of this story was surprising, but it felt a bit rushed. I wasn’t sure I liked it. Having the main point-of-view character as the “monster”/murderer was a different approach as well. I just don’t know about this last story.

The series, however, is worth getting both for veteran Doctor Who fans and for new fans. In fact, I’d say, this collection is ideal for new fans – it introduces each of the Doctors and some of their best-known companions. The stories are modular and not dependent on any continuity knowledge and can be read independently. Each story features the Doctor and a single companion, or no companion, or a companion for the individual story only – a format familiar to New Who fans. Even eras of the show that had a larger supporting cast, are stripped down to the Doctor and a companion. This means the stories are approachable to New Who fans. And Classic Who fans aren’t forgotten – there is a story here for each Doctor as well as featuring some of the best known companions. The booklets are small – about the size of your hand, and short – easily read in a single sitting. Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Heroes and Monsters Collection

  • Title: Heroes and Monsters Collection
  • Series: BBC Books – Special Themed Short Story Collection
  • Author: Various
  • Characters: War Doctor, Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, Twelfth Doctor, with companions
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/07/2017

Doctor Who Heroes and Monsters is a collection of short stories featuring the Doctors from New Who. There’s a single War Doctor story, several stories each with the Ninth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, and Twelfth Doctor. There’s a pair of stories taking place at the same time and place – one of which is from Amy’s point of view on her solitary adventure and one from Rory’s on his only solitary adventure.

The problem is that though some of the stories are good – many are only so-so; and, nearly all of them read like they were written for children – not even young adults, but children. And it’s the type of children’s literature that, unfortunately, looks down on the child’s abilities to read, comprehend, and follow a good story – so the stories are overly simplistic instead.

The Amy-Rory pair of stories is one of the better sets. The Doctor lands the TARDIS on a giant shopping mall planet. Amy goes off on her own, and through kindness to a young boy, stops an invasion. However, the young boy is in his position due to a strange man, whom we suspect to be Rory. The next story in the collection shows us events from Rory’s point of view. I enjoyed that device for the pair of stories, however, it is a fairly simple story nonetheless.

The last story in the collection is a solo Twelfth Doctor story, which, while fun, and a bit less child-oriented, still has a predictable bent to it.

Overall, I was disappointed. Yes, it’s a quick read, but I’d rather have a bit more depth to my Doctor Who tie-in stories.

 

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: Silhouette

  • Title: Silhouette
  • Series: BBC Books New Series Doctor Who Adventures (new series)
  • Author: Justin Richards
  • Characters: Twelfth Doctor, Clara, Vastra, Jenny, Strax
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/15/2016

Doctor Who Silhouette is all about atmosphere. Set in Victorian London in the Winter, with plenty of snow, frost, and cold – it’s a novel to read during the Holiday season. The opening scene is in the TARDIS, with Clara asking to meet yet another probably fictional legendary character, but the Doctor refuses. The TARDIS picks up an unusual power spike from Victorian London, and the Doctor takes Clara there instead – and thus our adventure begins. The Frost Fair and it’s accompanying Carnival of Curiosities is in town, stretching out over the frozen Thames, near the embankment. Mme Vastra is called in to investigate a locked-room mystery, where the victim’s previous location before dying in his locked office was the Carnival. One of Strax’s drinking buddies has also mysteriously died. Clara and the Doctor attend the Fair and the Carnival, with the the Doctor looking to avoid involving Vastra, Jenny and Strax. However, that doesn’t last. The Doctor sees a Shadowplay show at the Carnival that’s a bit too good. Clara meets her soulmate at the tea shop in the Fair, as does Jenny the next day, and Vastra a few days later.

The Doctor and Clara meet Vastra, Jenny, and Strax and decide to work together on the different aspects of the mystery.

There are three fascinating characters associated with the Fair and Carnival: Silhouette, Affinity, and Empath. They are working for a mysterious arms dealer named Milton – and not entirely of their own free will. The three had been part of the Carnival – and talented. Milton turned each into a human weapon. Silhouette has the ability to control ink and the paper it was written on completely. She can even turn origami birds into weapons. Affinity has the ability to take on the aspect of someone else, like a mirror, thus it’s Affinity who is the teacher Clara meets at the Fair and it’s Affinity again who is the servant Jenny meets at the Fair as well. The price for Affinity’s ability to be just like someone else, but not in a creepy copy way, is when he isn’t imitating someone he has no face. Empath can amplify and then absorb emotions. Milton is using him to absorb anger and release in into a large hollow glass ball. Milton plans to release the cloud of negativity into London so the city will tear itself apart.
The atmosphere – frosty, Winter London, is wonderful in this novel. The side characters, especially Silhouette and Affinity, are wonderfully depicted. Mme Vastra, Jenny, and Strax are all in character, as are the Doctor and Clara of course. Milton’s dastardly plot is dastardly. Well, that’s a bit unfair, once it becomes clear – it’s frighteningly real.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it.

Free Comic Book Day 2017

Free Comic Book Day 2017 was Saturday May 6th, 2017. I went with a friend of mine and we arrived probably around 11:00 am. So there was a long line that wrapped around the corner. However, it was still an excellent event. There were cosplayers, and Vault of Midnight, my local comics shop, had their side walk activity area with vendors, artists, and kids activities. This year there was even a food truck! Once inside the store was less packed solid than last year – making it even easier to get to the free comics on the back wall as well as to look around the store for other items to purchase. This year we were allowed to choose four free promo books. I also picked-up my weekly pull list comics and inquired about a Doctor Who graphic novel that was missing from my collection. It is to the credit of the excellent staff at Vault of Midnight that even as busy as they were, they were still willing to check on a special order for me.

On to the comics, this year I picked-up four free comics, all tie-ins by chance. I picked up: Titan’s Four Doctors FCBD event issue; IDW’s Star Trek the Next Generation Mirror Broken; Archie Comics Betty and Veronica (a tie-in to Riverdale, somewhat), and DC’s Wonder Woman.

I’m going to start by discussing Wonder Woman. I picked this free promo comic up thinking it would be a tie-in to this Summer’s Wonder Woman movie. However, I was a bit disappointed because it’s actually a re-print of Wonder Woman Rebirth #1, which I have already read. In fact, Wonder Woman has been on my pull list since Rebirth started. Also, with two volumes of Wonder Woman Rebirth available in graphic novel format – it’s probably something that a lot of people have read since it’s included in the first Wonder Woman Rebirth Graphic Novel. That’s the negative. The positive is – I re-read the comic anyway and I really enjoyed it. As much as I enjoy Rebirth, and I do, Wonder Woman and Green Arrow have been the hardest lines for me to “get in to” so to speak. I finally dropped Green Arrow (I applaud the extremely brave social commentary of Green Arrow – but I found I couldn’t connect to Oliver and it always ended-up at the bottom of the stack when I was reading my books.) Wonder Woman is also teetering on the edge of being dropped from my pull – though I’d probably get the graphic novels instead. With two completely different storylines, Wonder Woman is really hard to follow month to month, especially if one isn’t that familiar with her storyline and background in the comics. But having said all that, I re-read this, the first issue of Wonder Woman Rebirth, and I found I really enjoyed it. Having read the bi-weekly book for about a year, I had a slightly better idea what was going on. If you haven’t read the new Wonder Woman, I do recommend it, I just feel the graphic novels are an easier format for enjoying the stories.

Betty and Veronica I picked up as a tie-in to Riverdale, the new series on the CW that’s based on Archie Comics. This story was fun, and full of surprises. It’s narrated by J. Farnsworth Wigglebottom III (a.k.a Hot Dog) Jughead’s dog. The dog speaks directly to the audience and is amusing and fun as he both narrates and comments on the action. Wigglebottom even “eats” two pages of the comic and then has Betty and Veronica giving exposition instead – in swimsuits. There’s a fair amount of humor in the book too. The story involves a national coffee chain buying out and closing down Pop’s the diner where the kids hang out. Betty is angered by this and rallies everyone to save Pop’s. When she discovers that Veronica’s father owns the coffee company, and the bank that holds Pop’s mortgage, Betty explodes at Veronica – and the issue ends there. The back of the book includes informative advertisements for Archie Comics, including the “new Archie”, and a Riverdale tie-in. There are also character portraits from Riverdale. Overall, I enjoyed this. The story is somewhat basic, one of the characters even comments that threats of Pop’s closing seem to happen a lot. But the breaking of the fourth wall, and the humor, make this an enjoyable read. Betty and Veronica and the other newer Archie comic books make for an excellent comic for teens and children, filled with Americana and a slightly old-fashioned bent.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Mirror Broken is a return trip to the Next Gen Mirror Universe. This story follows Lt. Barclay’s Mirror Universe double. I have always like Lt. Barclay and his Mirror Universe counterpart is tough, capable, and definitely shaped by the circumstances of his universe. In the Mirror universe, the Empire is breaking down, having suffered catastrophic wars with the Klingons and the Cardassians – Spock’s era of reform is over, resulting in an even more ruthless attitude within the Terran Empire – or what’s left of it. Assassination is still the only means of advancement, something we forget as we see Barclay contemplating getting out of engineering and into a “better” life. I liked the focus on a single character with basically a concluded story in this promo book. It’s also a good intro to the ST:TNG Mirror Universe comic, and the write-up for that series promises to be very character-focused, introducing a character per issue before any major plot. That’s the type of writing I like in comics – focus on character, and character interaction as well as world-building. The plots should always add to this. But when mere “action” takes over, without character being explored – the stories can fall flat. This issue of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Mirror Universe comic emphasizes character, and a relatively minor one at that (Barclay) and I enjoyed it. The last pages of the book explain three other available series from IDW, with three sample pages of each one. They are Star Trek – Boldly Go, which follows on from the reboot Star Trek films, taking place just after Star Trek Beyond. The second is Star Trek / Green Lantern. And the third is, Star Trek – Waypoint. Star Trek – Waypoint is an anthology series featuring all the various versions of Trek, though the sample issue seems to be set in a future version of Trek (Data has been uploaded to the Enterprise and is now the ship’s computer, though he projects holograms of himself to various duty stations.) all three of these series looked pretty good, and I actually plan on looking for a graphic novel version of the ST/GL crossover series. The art in this book (and the sample pages) is also very good, with a lovely painted look that’s has a dark undertone that’s appropriate for the Mirror universe. The color palettes for the sample pages fit the various versions of Trek they represent. If you are a Star Trek fan, check out IDW’s comic series – you won’t be disappointed, I think.

Doctor Who – The Promise (Four Doctors, FCBD 2017) begins, appropriately enough with teh Twelfth Doctor and Bill running on an alien planet. They find an ancient temple and enter, using YMCA as the visual key lock. The Doctor locates a fob watch, but it’s broken. He and Bill tell the local aliens a story and prevent a civil war. In the TARDIS, Bill asks the Doctor to tell her the real story and he tells her about his friend, Plex. The story flashes back to when the Ninth Doctor has to break the bad news to the hermit, Plex, that his entire planet has been destroyed. Plex then reveals to the Doctor he’s producing clones from his own stem cells and siphoned Time Lord Arton energy. The Tenth Doctor visits Plex when he dies, where he sees a hologram from his friend, who sends him to the planet of the clones. The Tenth Doctor has t “fixing” the overly deferential nature of the race of alien clones. The Eleventh Doctor awakens Plex, who becomes the leader of his re-united planet. Though as the Twelfth Doctor tells Bill, he’s afraid the society will break down again. This is a pretty good story, though it’s a bit hard to follow at times, since the different Doctors visit Plex at different times in his life – and nothing occurs in linear order. The back of the promo book includes a very handy catalog of Titan’s various Doctor Who graphic novels and specials. The art is excellent, and colorful in this book.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Supremacy of the Cybermen

  • Title: The Supremacy of the Cybermen
  • Authors: Cavan Scott and George Mann
  • Artists: Ivan Rodriguez, Walter Geovanni, Alessandro Vitti, Tazio Bettin, Nicola Righi, Enrica Eren Angiolini, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line: Multi-Doctor Specials (Doctor Who Comics Event)
  • Characters: Twelfth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Ninth Doctor, Gabby Gonzalez, Cindy Wu, Alice Obiefune, Rose Tyler, Captain Jack Harkness, Jackie Tyler
  • Collection Date: 2017
  • Collected Issues: Issues # 1-5
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/25/2017

Supremacy of the Cybermen is the collection of the 2016 Doctor Who Comics event. It features the four modern Doctors and their companions in the main stories, plus cameos from every Doctor ever from Hartnell to John Hurt (the “War Doctor”). The story features Cybermen who have gotten a hold of time travel technology and are changing history. The Doctors, in various time periods know something is wrong but don’t know how to fight it. And, scarily enough, they are losing. From Cyber-Silurians in the Dinosaur Age, to Ace as a Cyber-person attacking the Seventh Doctor – this book is richly illustrated and quite depressing – until the very end.

It is the Twelfth Doctor who discovers that the Cybermen aren’t bent on attacking Gallifrey, but that Rassilon has forged an alliance with the Cybermen – giving them control of space/time and the Eye of Harmony (Gallifrey’s black hole that powers time travel) itself. The Doctor is justifiably angry at Rassilon and realises he is being duped by the Cybermen.

Rassilon is absorbed as pure regenerative energy, then the Doctor is also connected to the Eye of Harmony. Inside, the Doctor meets Rassilon and they must work together to overcome the Cybermen’s plot. But the Twelfth Doctor still remembers the disasters of the past – even after they are reversed.

I enjoyed this story very much, especially the cameos of the past Doctors. The artwork was particularly beautiful. And the story was very complex. Doctor Who Supremacy of the Cybermen is a story not to be missed by any Doctor Who fan. Highly recommended.

Book Review – Twelfth Doctor Vol. 5 – The Twist

  • Title: The Twist
  • Authors: George Mann
  • Artists: Mariano Laclaustra, Rachael Stott, Agus Calcagno, Fer Centurion, Carlos Cabrera, Alexandre Siqueira, Rodrigo Fernandes, Thiago Ribiero, Juan Manuel Tumburus, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line: 12th Doctor
  • Characters: Twelfth Doctor
  • Collection Date: 2016
  • Collected Issues: Year 2, Issues # 6-10
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 1/28/2017

**spoiler alert** The Twist consists of two complete stories. In the first story, the Twelfth Doctor, as played by Peter Capaldi, is travelling alone after the departure of Clara, so he attends a rock concert on The Twist, a Moebius Strip-shaped colony in space. After the encounter, he goes to fanboy one of the singers, Hattie, and they are caught-up as a man is chased by the police. The man is accused of the murder of Idra Panatar, but protests his innocence, claiming mysterious monsters killed the woman. The Doctor, Hattie, and Jakob investigate the maintenance and service tunnels below the living areas of the colony. There, they encounter the Foxin – intelligent, advanced people who had, years ago, encountered the colony ship. The Doctor finds records that the colony ship had encountered a disaster and it’s sleeping colonists had died. The Foxin used their intelligence and science to clone the remains, allowing the humans to exist and to become the colony known as the Twist. Jakob it turns out had murdered Idra, because she was a reporter that had not only discovered the Foxin, but who had contacted a resistance group that was protesting the Official Foxin Policy of isolation and hiding from the humans. This group wanted to reveal themselves to the human population of the colony and live in peace with them. The Doctor organizes another rock concert, this time in a park, to reveal this information to everyone on the station. He also sees to it that Jakob is arrested for murder.

It’s an excellent story. I enjoyed very much having the “monsters” turn out to be an intelligent, helpful, science-driven species (not to mention adorably cute, because: walking, talking, bipedal foxes). And the bad guy turning out to be a fearful, racist bigot had it’s points too. Set against the backdrop of punk/heavy rock music in space – it’s an awesome story that suits the 12th Doctor.

The second story has the Doctor taking Hattie for a trip in the TARDIS. They land on a wind-swept moor and find a spooky house. The house seems to be haunted by images of children, and the clock inside is counting down from fifteen. The Doctor and Hattie discover the owner of the house, who is trying to find her children. The children went missing while playing hide-and-seek in the house which seems to be adding rooms, suddenly. The Doctor, with Hattie’s help, discovers the answer to what is happening, rescues the woman’s children and husband, and solves the issue.

In the second story, it is far too obvious just what the house is (I figured it out from the moment they encountered extra rooms and both indoor and outdoor-seeming areas.) There’s no challenge to the story. I also found it odd that the woman kept referring to “her children” and never mentioned their names. The story was a bit flat. However, it’s still a nice “contained” story – a good way for Hattie to experience time travel. After their adventure, the Doctor brings Hattie back to the Twist.

This is still a very good Doctor Who graphic novel and story. As with all the Titan Doctor Who graphic novels, the art is excellent. There’s some stunning pages and colors. I loved the first story. It’s message of tolerance and embracing those who are different is very appropriate these days. Plus, intelligent, walking, talking FOXES! I’d love to see the Foxin again. They are awesome. That the second story felt a bit like filler is somewhat of a negative, but it still had some truly amazing art. And while it didn’t feel all that original, or like a “good mystery” that’s hard to figure out, it is an enjoyable read. This volume is highly recommended.