Book Review – Doctor Who: The Memory Cheats

  • Title: The Memory Cheats
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Simon Guerrier
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Zoë, Jen, Jaime, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Wendy Padbury, Charlie Hayes (as Jen, guest)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/05/2017

**Spoiler Alert** The Memory Cheats is the second volume in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles “Zoë Trilogy”, with the first volume being, Echoes of Grey. Since it’s been awhile since I listened to Echoes of Grey, I re-listened to it prior to listening to The Memory Cheats. This also isn’t the first time I’ve listened to The Memory Cheats, either, I’ve listened to it a couple of times but never had the time to review it.

The story starts with Zoë being held by The Company, and she’s being interviewed by “Jen” who at first seems to be an attorney or advocate. Jen, though, slips Zoë a drug in her tea to stimulate her memory. Jen discusses the Achromatics from the previous story, but Zoë insists she doesn’t remember the formula. Jen switches tracks and asks her about her previous travels with the Doctor – specifically a trip to Uzbeckistan (Russia) in 1919.

The TARDIS arrives and the Second Doctor (as portrayed on Doctor Who by Patrick Troughton), Jamie, and Zoë, leave it and head to the local village. Although the people in the village are welcoming and generous, all are sad and upset. And as Zoë puts it, it’s more than the recent war, the sickness, or the change in leadership that is upsetting them. The Doctor impersonates a Russian official, and soon discovers that several of the village children are missing. The TARDIS crew joins with the Lansings – a couple who run the local school and are trying to help the impoverished village. The Doctor discovers that every child that was taken disappeared from a room with a door or window that faces West. They form a group to investigate the mountains to the West. The group discovers a spaceship, and an alien, with the children held captive, but being fed medicines and food through tubes. Although the Lansings die in an initial mistake with the alien (which Zoë blames herself for – going so far as to say “she killed them” because it was her error), the alien is relatively harmless. It has crashed during the war, and while trying to repair its spaceship, had become concerned about the children. Zoë insists to her interviewer from The Company, that the alien would take the children to a planet, where they would have an up-bringing like her own, devoted to logic and free from prejudice and want. The bargain for letting the captured children go to this other planet is that no more children will be taken from the village, and that the group that had gone in search of the children would be allowed to leave.

The name of the planet, however, is that of something that doesn’t exist. And Zoë then insists to Jen that it’s a file – the file that describes the Elite program in detail. How Zoë, and others like her were taken from their parents and put in the training and education program. How they were devoted to logic at the expense of emotion and personal ties. Zoë insists the Elite program, which The Company sponsors must be stopped. Jen tries to return to finding out more about Zoë being a time traveller – and that she wants her to explain the secrets of time travel, but Zoë insists that she made everything up. That she read Jen’s files, repeated back what Jen wanted to hear, and that if she got stuck, Jen herself supplied more details. Then Zoë insists again that there is no such thing as time travel, she made everything up, and she remembers nothing.

Overall, I found this story a bit weak. The story within a story is very short, and Zoë insists that it was a parable anyway – a fable she uses to try to get Jen to stop the Elite program. Meanwhile, the company still wants to learn secrets from Zoë – secrets she won’t or perhaps can’t remember. Having “Total Recall” but also having been mind-wiped by the Time Lords, she literally can remember that she can’t remember. This makes both Zoë and Jen unreliable narrators – one because she doesn’t know what she does or does not know, and the other because she has unrevealed motivations. Like “Ali” in the previous story, the listeners don’t know what The Company is up to, but it’s definitely no good. Perhaps the third story in the trilogy will make more sense out of the whole group, but overall, this one was a bit flat.

Go here to read my Review of Echoes of Grey.

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

Click here to order The Memory Cheats on CD or Download.

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

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Book Review – Doctor Who: Echoes of Grey

  • Title: Echoes of Grey
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: John Dorney
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Zoë, Jaime, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Wendy Padbury, Emily Pithon
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/25/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Echoes of Grey is part of Big Finish’s excellent Companion Chronicles series. This story features the Second Doctor, Zoë, and Jamie. It is preformed by Wendy Padbury as Zoë and Emily Pithon as Ali. Zoë is simply walking down the street when she’s approached by a woman called Ali, a woman who claims to know her, who said she met her during an encounter with the Doctor at the Whitaker Institute, an encounter involving the Achromatics. Ali says she has some equipment that can help Zoë remember. Ali takes her somewhere and hooks Zoë up to an Alpha-Wave generator, and Zoë begins to remember her adventure.

The TARDIS lands in what seems to be an abandoned medical facility. The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoë discover an empty medical ward, with charts still hanging on the beds, and some strange yellow creatures. They meet a girl, Ali, who, like Zoë, was a child prodigy, who was soon surrounded by adults and seen more for her skills than as a person. They meet a man who’s just snuck into the facility to find out what happened to his grandmother, and they meet the staff. They also discover a mysterious vat of white stuff. After the mysterious murder of one of the staff members – the trio, now mistaken as members of the “Company” that is paying for the research, on a fact-finding mission, discover what it is the Whitaker Institute has manufactured – the Achromatics – beings that can absorb any sort of disease or injury. Unfortunately, the semi-senitent Achromatics don’t stop with simply absorbing the disease – once the disease is absorbed and the person cured, they move on the absorb healthy cells – until the person dies. And then they move on to the next host. The Achromatics continue their healing/killing until they are so diseased – they die. The Doctor and Zoë are appalled that living creatures would die for this cure – and that it doesn’t work since the host/patient also dies. In the end, the Doctor manages to dispose of the Achromatics in a rather clever way – and the trio leaves in the TARDIS.

When Zoë speaks to Ali again, the woman presses her for the formula for the Achromatics – a formula she saw on one of the white boards in the Institute. With her photographic memory – she should recall it. But Zoë realises something is wrong – she doesn’t remember Ali being there, even though Ali insists she was. Zoë also realises that the Achromatics Project is far too dangerous and inhumane to get out. In the end, she decides – she doesn’t remember.

This was a good story, with lots of atmosphere, well-performed by Wendy Padbury who always does a very good job in the Companion Chronicles. The only criticism I have is that it’s a bit short. I would have liked a slightly longer, more complex story. Still, it is a good story and it’s easily visualized. I recommend Echoes of Grey. Oh, and I loved the reason for the title, it’s reference, and even where the name of the “monster du jour” comes from.

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

Click this link to order Echoes of Grey on CD or Download.

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: Fear of the Daleks

  • Title: Fear of the Daleks
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Patrick Chapman
  • Director: Mark J. Thompson
  • Characters: Zoë Heriot, Jamie, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Wendy Padbury, Nicholas Briggs
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/08/2014

Fear of the Daleks is the most “bookish” of the Doctor Who Companion Chronicles CDs I’ve listened to so far – but it is also the earliest. The story is told by Wendy Padbury (who played Zoë Heriot on the original Doctor Who television series) with Nicholas Briggs providing the voices of the Daleks. Zoë is in therapy, trying to deal with the dreams she’s been having – dreams of monsters.

The story changes scenes from Zoë telling her therapist about her dream to the story, where she, Jaime, and the Doctor arrive on an asteroid that is home to a huge, domed city. The city is to be host to a peace conference to end a war between two space-faring races in the nearby system. But before the TARDIS crew can do anything, they are arrested. They are taken to a lab where a megalomaniac plans to use a Dalek mind transfer machine to control Zoë and use her to assassinate one of the planet’s leaders – thus continuing the war. The scientist also plans to use The Doctor in a similar way.

However, although the machine works on Zoë, projecting her astral self to the spaceship hosting one of the two alien races, and controlling her movements; when the Doctor tricks the scientist to use it on him – he is able to resist the conditioning and prevents Zoë from killing the planetary leader. The Daleks are revealed to be behind everything, and the Doctor, again, tricks them into revealing their true nature – causing the scientist to reverse his plan.

Wendy Padbury has a wonderful voice and she reads well – performing what parts she can, though this particular story is more narration than some of the other Doctor Who Companion Chronicles I’ve listened to. Nicholas Briggs has played the Daleks many times, both on the television series, and in Doctor Who audios from Big Finish, though having met him at Chicago TARDIS – I couldn’t help but picture him while listening to this story. The problems with Fear of the Daleks though include it not really being a scary story, some rather silly dialog, and a plot that’s a bit simple. I’ve never been a big fan of the Daleks as a Doctor Who monster – I prefer the Cybermen, and the over-usage of every word ending in -ate imaginable starts to sound silly rather than scary. The plot also was someone flat and simple – I actually wanted to learn more about Zoë and how the Time Lords mind-wipe had affected her life. However, from looking at later discs in this range, I suspect Zoë’s story might continue, and this was only an introduction to her eidetic memory cancelling out the Time Lord’s erasure of her memories of her time with the Doctor.

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

Click this link to order Fear of the Daleks on CD.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The 12 Doctors of Christmas

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

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

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

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

Stories, Doctor, Companion(s), Authors

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

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice

  • Title: The Wheel of Ice
  • Series: Doctor Who – Unknown
  • Author: Stephen Baxter
  • Characters: Second Doctor, Jaime, Zoë
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/26/2016

The Wheel of Ice is a hard Science Fiction novel featuring the Second Doctor, as played by Patrick Troughton on the BBC television series, Doctor Who. The Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë are in the TARDIS when it unexpectedly appears in the middle of the rings of Saturn. The atmosphere of Saturn is volatile and the TARDIS is immediately hit by large chunks of ice. But they are rescued by Phee, a young girl on an in-system scooter and MMAC a computer and AI that maintains the Wheel.

The Wheel is a space habitat for the miners and administrators who are mining the moon, Mnemosyne, for Bernalium – a rare and thus extremely valuable mineral. The mining operation is run by Bootstrap Mining, and their head administrator is Florian Hart – a ruthless businesswoman. Also, the Wheel has additional departmental heads: Jo Laws, the mayor; the chief medical officer, Sinbad Omar; Luis Reyes, ambassador from the Planetary Ethics Commission of Earth; and Marshal Sonia Paley, the head police officer. Jo and her family are central to the story. Her daughter, Phee, is the first to meet The Doctor and the TARDIS crew, her son, Sam, is a teenager, forced to work in the mines and not too happy about it, and her baby daughter, Casey, actually is the first to encounter the mysterious alien hidden on Mnemosyne.

Florian Hart is ruthless, in the name of profits for Bootstrap, she has forbidden all education for the younger generation, the children born on the wheel, and uses them as laborers in the mine. Children as young as seven are sent on “familiarity courses”. Jo, with three children, isn’t thrilled about this, but sees it as the way of the world.

The Wheel is also experiencing acts of “sabotage”, which Florian Hart blames on the children and teenagers of the Wheel, despite the inherent lack of logic in her accusations (she’s basically picking on a group she doesn’t like to blame without any evidence and ignoring evidence to the contrary). When a piece of machinery is destroyed by an explosion, Hart uses it as an excuse to round-up all the teenagers who work in the mines and place them under house arrest. She even threatens to physically mutilate them as punishment. The teenagers, including Jaime – who’s gotten wrapped up in their situation – escape to the moon, Titan.

The Doctor, and Dr. Omar, investigate the explosion and discover that the machinery was destroyed by a methane explosion. They also find a dead “Blue Doll”. These aliens had been seen by the children working in the mines, but were denied by the administrators of the Wheel, especially Florian Hart. When the Doctor points out that the machinery exploded because of the methane fuel, and shows the evidence of the dead Blue Doll everyone but Hart agrees something else may be going on.

The Doctor, Zoë, Jaime, Jo Laws, Sam, and the other administrators besides Hart begin to investigate to figure out what is really happening on the Wheel and the nearby moons. The truth involves an ancient AI, Ark, and storage library from another galaxy from long ago, and the Blue Dolls, and later, Blue Soldiers it constructs.

Most of this book is told in the typical third-person fashion of the Doctor Who original tie-in novels. However, there are chapters told from the point-of-view of the two AIs: MMAC (who has a Scottish accent) and Arkive. And there’s a chapter that describes how an amulet (really a temporal lure sent by Arkive deep into Earth’s past) is passed down from woman to woman in Jo’s family to finally be worn by Phee.

I enjoyed the characterizations in this book the best – Phee, Sam, Jo, MMAC, ARKIVE, even the villainous Florian Hart all leap off the page. Jaime, Zoë, and the Doctor also are in character and given plenty to do without the obvious trope of the companions being split up simply so each can learn separate pieces of information, get rescued, and report back. Zoë and the Doctor spend most of their time together, for example. And although Jaime has his own adventures, it’s nice to see the 18th century Scot get some real action where he’s able to be useful despite his unfamiliarity with the environment. The section of the book on Titan is wonderfully written, both the descriptions, and showing how Sam and the other teens behave and think. The book also succeeds in terms of the plot. Some readers might find Florian Hart to be a bit of a cardboard villain, but she is given a credible backstory that relates to an older Second Doctor adventure on the BBC series.

Recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Menagerie

  • Title: The Menagerie
  • Series: Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Martin Day
  • Characters:  Second Doctor, Jaime, Zoë
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/20/2013

The Menagerie is part of Virgin Publishing’s Doctor Who – The Missing Adventures paperback original novels series. This one features the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Zoë, and Jaime, which is one of my favorite Doctor and companion combinations. However, the story is just, well, to be frank, pretty awful actually.

The Doctor decides to take his companions to a low-technology world for a nice vacation. The TARDIS lands, and the three wander to the local village and enter the pub. Within minutes, the place is raided, and the three are split up. The village where they have landed is in the iron hands of the Knights of Kubris – technology-hating religious zealots who have not only banned all technology and science, but also live “only in the moment”, banning the study of the past, and forbidding any planning for the future.

OK, it may sound like Tea Party paradise, but the problem is the first half of the book is very slow going, as it feels like one grand lecture that goes on and on. The Knights position is completely untenable. to live without science and technology is pretty much impossible – and wrong. But to condemn the study of history, and make it a crime to discuss what you’re having for dinner tomorrow, much less your plans for the weekend… It’s just not a natural state of affairs.

And if you think the anti-science nature of the Tea Party is just plain wrong, Martin Day’s novel comes across as strident preaching to the converted. Science and technology are cool, and necessary, and one simply cannot pretend they don’t exist or ignore them. Besides, learning from the past then using technology to develop improved ways of doing things is the only way to prepare for the future – one certainly cannot fight it, or in real life, travel backwards to some “golden era” (especially as there is no “golden era”).

Eventually The Menagerie wanders around to explaining what had happened. The planet itself had an underground scientific/military research station. This station was exploring using genetic manipulation to create biologic weapons. They succeed in creating a new creature called a Mercim, but the creature also harbors a deadly microbe. Between the aggressive nature of the Mercim and the deadly nature of the microbe the research team is virtually wiped out. A few escape to the planet’s surface and their descendants occupy the planet at the time that the Doctor and his companions arrive.

The research station’s home planet sends a rescue/investigation party, but it is more or less too late. In a last, desperate act – the leader of the rescue party, who has contracted the disease spread by the Mercim, is turned into a Cyborg. He leaves the planet in his spaceship, immediately crashes, and this cyborg is the leader who had established the science and technology-hating Knights.

Perhaps the novel would have worked better if it had started with the research station. I can certainly picture the Second Doctor warning the military scientists against “messing with forces they shouldn’t”, then if it had jumped forward to see the cultural result of the disaster, the story might have worked better, and the first half been less boring and strident.

Overall, the novel something for only the completist to own. I read an e-book version. It’s not the worst Doctor Who novel I’ve read, but it’s far from the best.

Book Review: Doctor Who – The Indestructible Man

  • Title: The Indestructible Man
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Simon Messingham
  • Characters:  Second Doctor, Zoë, Jamie, Gerry Anderson shows
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 2/23/2013

This novel is very, well, novel. As the photo-cover and title suggest, it really is a cross-over with all the Gerry Anderson stuff. Mostly it crosses Doctor Who (Second Doctor, Jamie, Zoë) with Captain Scarlet — the indestrcutible man, and with UFO, thus Zoë’s purple wig. But other Anderson shows make an appearance, including, Thunderbirds.

I was expecting, therefore, for this novel to be very funny, and it wasn’t, from what I remember it was actually kinda’ depressing. However, I did read it awhile ago, and it’s one of the Past Doctor Adventures I’d definitely read again.

Overall, definitely a book to read and add to your Doctor Who collection. It’s something to also recommend to the Gerry Anderson fan you know.