Book Review – Doctor Who: The Apocalypse Mirror

  • Title: The Apocalypse Mirror
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Eddie Robson
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Jaime, Zoë, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/07/2017

The Apocalypse Mirror is a Doctor Who Companion Chronicles audio play from Big Finish featuring the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Jaime and Zoë. It is not part of the previous Zoë trilogy. The TARDIS lands in a big city in the far future, but it seems to be deserted. A hologram appears reminding them to stay in their homes. The Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë meet up with some rebels, who are convinced that “the state” is using the Hawkers to kidnap people. People are also suffering from “nostalgia sickness” seeing visions of the city that was, or a different city.

The Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë try to find out more, but Zoë finds a room of military computer equipment. None of the rebels knows how it works. Zoë gets it working, but has very bad news – a meteor is about five hours away from hitting nearby. The impact will destroy the city – and even if it’s far enough away to not actually hit the city directly, the cloud of dust and ash from the impact will block out the sun. The Hawkers attack.

The Doctor and Jaime end up at the council chamber where they meet the few in government – who are as clueless if not more so than the rebels. Yes, the government has a transmat system that they have used to try to bring people to the council chamber – but thousands of people have just disappeared, and the council knows nothing about them. Zoë is one of the disappeared. She finds out that there is another version of the city. That’s what the so-called, “nostalgia sickness” is – people who are forward-thinking, who want a better way of life for everyone, who aren’t stuck dwelling on the past, can see this other city – a city that moves forward into the future. The other city, the decrepit, old, half-abandoned city is stuck in the past. Zoë also says that the new city has the technology to destroy the meteor. The scientists built a phase mirror for something different, but it caused the city to be split in half – one-half old and stuck in the past – falling apart and doomed. The other half – new, full of people, exciting, and looking forward to (not fearing) the future. The people can cross-over to the new city and survive but they must want to – they must believe in the future and the new city. Jaime gives a speech via the hologram system to all the old city residents. He and the Doctor cross over to the New City and meet Zoë. Many of the rebels are there, but not all, and one of the women is reunited with her husband. The TARDIS, which had disappeared, is right where they left it in the New City. Zoë announces that over 4 million people made the transition to the New City, but just over 3 million are still in the old, doomed city. The Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë make their way to the TARDIS and leave.

The Apocalypse Mirror is about belief – belief literally making the world to be the way you believe it to be. If you believe the world is falling apart, that it’s doomed, that it’s the end, and everyone and everything is going to die – that will happen. But if you believe in the future, in progress, that things will always get better, that there is a future, that the future is a bright and successful and “happy” place – that will happen. The story is about how the power of belief shapes reality – that in a sense there is no empirical reality at all but believing makes it so and shapes reality itself. It’s a powerful message of hope in a time filled with apocalyptic films, books, and TV shows – filled with death and horror. This is a story that speaks to the power of a hopeful future and it’s importance, over doom and gloom messages and “end times” preaching. I found that to be a powerful and important message.

The audio brings together both Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury as Jaime and Zoë to perform the story, and like others in the Companion Chronicles series – it is not a full audio play. However, unlike some in this series by Big Finish, this is closer to an audio play because Frazer and Wendy can play off each other – and Frazer plays the Second Doctor as well, so it feels much like he’s telling a story but doing all the voices. I enjoyed this story very much! The only negative, probably because of the short running time, but the ending seems a bit pat or contrived. Still, I highly recommend it.

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

Click here to order Doctor Who: The Apocalypse Mirror on CD or Download.

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

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Doctor Who – The Seeds of Death Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Seeds of Death
  • Story #: 48
  • Episodes: 6 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 01/25/1969 – 03/01/1969
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Your leader will be angry if you kill me. I’m a genius!” – The Doctor

“How do you propose getting it to the launch pad without T-mat?” – Eldred
“Just so happens I found a petrol car in a motor museum.” – Ms. Kelly
“Really? What make?” – Eldred
“I have no idea but it has four wheels and it goes.” – Ms. Kelly

“The Seeds of Death” is one of my favorite Patrick Troughton stories, and I actually like it better than the first Ice Warriors story. For a six-parter it moves at a good clip too, in large part due to the various locations – and the computer voice commenting on the world situation makes the story feel like it’s on a larger scale, not the normal base under siege. There are a few issues with the T-mat system, but that’s part of the whole point.

The first episode largely introduces T-mat and the situation, there’s the female controller, Miss Kelly, who’s about to do a shift change sending an ill-fated controller to take over from Fewsham, who is known for making minor mistakes. Miss Kelly states one day Fewsham will make a major mistake – boy is she correct! The new controller for the day is almost immediately killed by an Ice Warrior on the moon control station for T-mat, another technician is also killed, Fewsham decides to save his own skin by throwing in with the Ice Warriors, and Phipps escapes and ends-up in the solar store. Meanwhile on Earth, all T-mat deliveries have stopped, causing food shortages, chaos, and disorder (this gets worse as the story goes on – at first there’s just great concern over the lack of deliveries).

The Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime land in the TARDIS in a rocket and space transportation museum. They meet the museum owner – an old rocket scientist. Kelly and her boss arrive, and try to convince the museum owner, Eldred, to help. The Doctor finds out about the issues with T-mat, which Kelly and her boss know isn’t working but they can’t communicate with the moon station to find out why. The Doctor proposes going in person to the moon to investigate. With Eldred’s help they get a rocket ready and the Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime head to the moon. The communications break down immediately.

On the moon, Phipps uses flare from the solar power generator to attack an Ice Warrior, it works for him but unfortunately knocks out the automatic homing beam for landing the rocket. Fortunately for all concerned, Phipps also tries to make radio contact with anyone, raises the rocket on short-range transmission and is able to set up a homing beacon.

After the Doctor lands he goes to find out what’s going on, but Jaime and Zoë stay in the ship to check things out and make repairs. Unfortunately, the rocket’s engines are burnt out and can’t be repaired – it’s useless. The Doctor and company will need to return by T-mat. Jaime tells Phipps that the Ice Warriors are vulnerable to heat. Phipps has already discovered bright solar power can be used as a weapon against the Ice Warriors. The Doctor is captured by the Ice Warriors. He discovers they are sending deadly seed pods to Earth by T-mat (and is knocked out). Once T-mat is working, Kelly and some technicians arrive. Fewsham tells her that the controller went crazy and started killing everyone. Kelly doesn’t really believe it, but the Ice Warriors are in hiding.

Very soon after, Kelly meets up with Zoë, Jaime, and Phipps, and finds out the truth and that Fewsham is in league with the Ice Warriors. She also learns the Doctor’s been kidnapped. Jaime lets Kelly know the Ice Warriors are vulnerable to heat. They want to rescue the Doctor and get the heat turned up. Turning up the heating is a bit more complex than it sounds – the control is in main control with the Ice Warriors – Phipps tries to sneak in but can’t make it through the last grate. Zoë insists on trying and succeeds, with the Ice Warriors temporarily incapacitated by the heat. T-mat though is working and sending deadly seeds to earth. One kills one of the technicians in the London control office and reports come in by communications computer of deaths in other T-mat control offices. Not only that but the seeds expel a deadly foam that is causing a plant blight and absorbing the oxygen. All the deaths are from severe oxygen depletion. This, on top of the starvation and disruptions caused by T-mat not working to transport food and supplies.

Jaime and Phipps get the heat going and rescue the Doctor whom the Ice Warriors wanted to send into space. On Earth a minister shows up at T-mat control, complaining about the “unbelievable” report – he soon believes it as first the Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime are sent back to the Earth station and then Miss Kelly arrives, but Fewsham doesn’t follow as he said he would. Ice Warriors are sent by T-mat and attack guards, but seem to have a single goal – to get to the Weather Control station.

The fungus (foam) and seeds are becoming a real problem, and the Doctor examines it, finding it to be organic and absorbing oxygen – threatening to make the atmosphere so thin humans couldn’t live, but it would be like the surface of Mars. The Doctor also discovers the fungus can be destroyed with simple water. He sends Zoë and Jaime to tell the commander about this. Unfortunately, he’s in a meeting with Ms. Kelly and the Minister, and the computer refuses to put the call through. Zoë decides to find the weather control herself, and Jaime comes along. They make it through the foam and to weather control, but find everyone there is dead and an Ice Warrior is on patrol preventing access to the now broken machine. There’s a bit of hiding from the Ice Warrior.

Back at control, the Doctor talks to Miss Kelly and the controller, and they get a video message from the moon – which includes the homing signal for the Ice Warrior fleet, and info on their plans. Fewsham finally grows a spine, but the Ice Warrior realizes what he’s doing. Still the Doctor realizes they can put the signal on a telecom satellite and use it to draw the Ice Warrior fleet into orbit around the sun. Meanwhile, the Doctor asks about progress on getting rid of the fungus – only to discover the commander and Ms. Kelly never got the message because they were in a meeting. He also realizes Zoë and Jaime must have gone to weather control themselves. He runs off to rescue them. The Doctor is trapped at the door by the fungus. Jaime draws off the Ice Warrior and Zoë lets him in. They manage to use a solar weapon against the Ice Warrior and the Doctor gets the weather machine to make rain. The Doctor also makes one final trip to the moon where he disables the Ice Warrior homing beacon there – so the fleet will follow the other one into the sun, which it does. The Doctor also tells the Ice Warriors he’s figured out how to stop the fungus.

Back on Earth Eldred tries to convince Ms. Kelly that they need a secondary transport system as well as T-mat. Miss Kelly and the controller want T-mat controlled from Earth. The Doctor and the TARDIS crew head back to the museum and leave.

I like “Seeds of Death” – for a six parter it moves fast. Yes, the fungus is dish soap bubbles, but seriously – they did the same thing for the web/fungus in “Web of Fear” and it’s a bit more threatening here where it bubbles up to swallow people, plus there’s the whole “absorbing oxygen” thing that makes it seem deadly. Also, the first episode shows us how T-mat works, the issues of late shipments, Kelly’s professionalism, and Fewsham’s bad reputation – so when the Doctor arrives we’re actually ahead of him in terms of what is going on. This is Doctor Who showing not telling and it’s more effective.

The Ice Warriors are also held back and we only see parts, a hand, a weapon, legs and feet. Even once we know who they are, when some of the Warriors get to Earth we just see legs and huge feet stomping through the forest. This is effective, and a good way to build suspense.

T-mat is an interesting system, and the entire point of the story is no system is perfect, so secondary systems, over rides, and methods to fix things are needed. Half the story could have been told with no alien invasion at all. When the Ice Warriors do invade they hit a thinly-manned station on the moon, which is easily taken over. Fewsham isn’t the typical “guy working with the invaders” – he doesn’t have any plans to get rich, or to obtain power, or anything – he’s simply a coward out to save his own skin. And from the first episode, we know he isn’t trusted by his co-workers anyway.

This story has some brilliant direction, and a competent woman in T-mat Controller Kelly. The Ice Warrior costumes are less blocky. I highly recommend this story.

The six part story with commentary and info text is on Disc One, and the special features are on Disc Two.

Doctor Who – The Krotons Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Krotons
  • Story #: 47
  • Episodes: 4 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 12/28/1968 – 01/18/1969
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“This is the most advanced machine, perhaps he can’t answer the questions.” – Gond Leader
“Of course he can, the Doctor’s almost as clever as I am.” – Zoë

“It is not patriotism to lead people to a war they cannot win.” – Gong Leader

The Doctor and his companions, Jaime and Zoë, land in the TARDIS on an alien planet. They step outside and Jaime immediately notes the smell of bad eggs, while Zoë realizes there is sulfur in the air. They explore a bit anyway and find a city and then a building, but the Doctor realizes immediately that it is a machine not a building. They see a man stumble out of the machine but he is immediately gassed and killed. A few minutes later a woman stumbles out, the TARDIS crew block the gas jets for a few moments and pull the girl free, but she is catatonic. They make their way to the Gond city, and the woman is given treatment but stays catatonic until the last episode.

The Gonds are a primative people, with no weapons. They make regular sacrifices to the Krotons, when called upon. The most intelligent, clever, and successful men and women are sent to live with the Krotons. But some of the people rebel at this status quo, especially the woman’s boyfriend who begs her not to submit to the Krotons (she does, and is rescued by the Doctor and company). Eons ago, the Krotons arrived and during the war that followed, they caused poisonous rain to fall on the planet, creating the Wasteland (where the TARDIS lands). Since the Gonds have lived within their city, being taught by teaching machines. But the machines and their knowledge is supplied by the Krotons. The Gonds themselves are starting to realize there are major gaps in their knowledge but they no way to fill those gaps themselves.

The Doctor tries to help the woman, Vana, who is comatose for much of the story, but remarks he’s not a medical doctor. Zoë tries out the teaching machine, gets double the score of even the best Gond, and is immediately called to join the Krotons. The Doctor also passes the teaching machine exams, so he is called and can accompany Zoë into the Krotons’ machine. Inside the machine, the mental power of the Doctor and Zoë is converted to energy and used to reconstruct the Krotons who are crystalline aliens (they look like big robots though). Zoë realizes they are using the mental power of the Gonds for energy. She asks why they don’t set the Gonds free afterwards (since this process doesn’t actually harm the person they get the energy from) and the Krotons are actually confused – they are simply disposing of the waste.

Jaime meanwhile, who had been watching over Vana, returns to the teaching hall, and upon learning the Doctor and Zoë are inside the Kroton machine, breaks into it. He later breaks out.

One of the Gonds challenges the Gong Leader as well as the Gong head scientist to attack and destroy the Krotons – saying they can attack with slings and fireballs. The Doctor has the Gonds make sulfuric acid after analysing the Kroton’s structure and crystal slurry in the TARDIS. (He escapes, does his analysis and then goes back to the scientist.) Another Gond suggests knocking out the pillars that support the Kroton machine from below (forgetting that it would destroy the entire hall.) The military attack is doomed to failure but doesn’t really get started, and the destruction of one pillar only makes the entire situation worse for the Gonds. But the Doctor has Jaime work with the scientist to make gallons of sulfuric acid. When Zoë and the Doctor go back into the Krotons machine, it’s Jaime who leads an attack. Zoë dumps the sample of sulfuric acid and other components into the Krotons slurry tank, while Jaime attacks the Kroton machine with the acid. Between the two attacks, the Krotons are defeated, the Doctor and Zoë escape, and the Gond Leader, having shown his idea worked rather than the pointless military attack, wins the respect of his people. The Gonds decide to develop their own science. The Doctor and company leave in the TARDIS.

I had seen “The Krotons” on PBS, and when I purchased the DVD, but I could remember nothing about it when I went to re-watch it. After several five and six-part episodes and the eight-part “The Invasion”, going back to a traditional 4-part Doctor Who actually felt a little short. But this is actually a pretty good story – the villains are not your traditional evil invaders – they are simply so alien they don’t understand organic life. In essence, they are treating the Gonds the way people treat metal, or wood, or stone – as a resource to be used. And the Gonds aren’t your traditional “stupid natives” – they aren’t that advanced, but even before the Doctor’s arrival, some are questioning the status quo. This story has some thought behind it.

Zoë is wearing a really awful plastic-looking bolero jacket over an incredibly short skirt. I know it was the 1960s and the mini was in, but come on – if you can’t sit down, the skirt is too short. There are several edits and shots of Zoë from the hips up where it’s obvious that if you saw her legs you’d also see her panties. Honestly, I own tunics and one tunic-style sweater with a longer hem than that mini-dress she’s wearing, it’s truly ridiculous. Compare the length of Jaime’s longer kilt, and you’ll see what I mean. And of course, as always in the Troughton serials, no one remarks on the strange clothes all three of the TARDIS crew are wearing.

But other than some bad wardrobe choices, “The Krotons” is a good, “typical” Doctor Who story – it won’t win any rewards or sit at the top of any “Best in Who” lists, but it’s an interesting culture, interesting aliens, some good sets, and some nice set pieces (some of the Kroton machinery and labs are pretty cool). I recommend this story.

 

Doctor Who – The Invasion Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Invasion
  • Story #: 46
  • Episodes: 8 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 11/02/1968 – 12/21/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Nicholas Courtney, John Levene
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“He’s a ruthless man, without moral or principles, his object is to get complete control of the electronics industry of the world.” – Professor Watkins describing Vaughn

“Now all I need is my cameras from the house and I’m all set.” – Isobel
“Now wait a minute, this is hardly a job for you.” – The Brigadier
“Why ever not?” – Isobel
“Well, you’re a young woman. This is a job for my men.” – The Brigadier
“Of all the bigoted, anti-feminist, cretinist remarks.” – Isobel
“This is no job for a girl like you. Now that’s final!” – The Brigadier
“Oh, you men!” – Isobel

“I’m sorry, Doctor, but I think those crazy kids have gone off to the sewers to get photographs of the Cybermen!” – the Brigadier

“The Invasion” is eight half-hour parts, spread over two DVDs (parts 1-4 on DVD 1 and parts 5-8 on DVD 2), and it feels really long. Parts 1 and 4 are animation and the rest are the original film/video. There is some very nice monochrome animation here, especially the shading. This story brings back Col. Lethbridge-Stewart, now Brigadier, and introduces Sgt. Benton and UNIT. The titular invasion is the Cybermen, working for Tobias Vaughn of International Electromatics.

Although “The Invasion” is long, and at times a bit clunky (there is a lot of our team getting split up, captured, escaping, comparing notes etc) what the story seems to be, more than anything, is a pilot for the early Jon Pertwee years when the Doctor is stranded on Earth and working for UNIT to stop alien invasions and plots week after week. That’s not a bad thing, or a criticism – but the long length, the modern-day on Earth setting, the invading force, the human in league with aliens – all of that will become very, very familiar in future years (and even in modern New Who it’s a pattern that’s followed occasionally).

The TARDIS is in space on the Dark Side of the Moon when a missile nearly hits forcing the Doctor to materialize – he does, and finds out he is on Earth, in “The Community” a network of factories, living quarters, hospitals and stores, where everything is owned by International Electromatics. Anyone not working for “The Company” is exiled. And the company’s security forces use lethal force against anyone they perceive is breaking company rules, regulations or policies. The Doctor and TARDIS crew are smuggled off corporation property, by a man we learn much, much, much later is an undercover UNIT operative. Although the Doctor doesn’t realise it, the man who helped him is killed by IE security troopers. The Doctor and company then catch a lift to London.

In London, they go to Professor Travers’ house hoping to replace or repair some damaged TARDIS components, only to meet Isobel, a flighty photgrapher. Isobel’s uncle is Professor Watkins, a friend of Travers’ (who has moved to the US). Isobel states both that she thinks her uncle could help, and that he’s working for IE and she hasn’t seen him for a while. Zoë poses as a model for Isobel and the Doctor and Jaime head to International Electromatics to find Professor Watkins. And thus begins a very long story.

The first four episodes are really focused on IE – who are they? Who is their mysterious manager-controller, Vaughn? Just what are they doing? And are they more than an autocratic electronics firm? The Doctor and Jaime meet Vaughn and the Doctor senses something is wrong with him. They meet Professor Watkins, and also run in to the Brigadier and UNIT – who are also investigating IE (it seems people go in but never come out, or they come out oddly changed). But because the Doctor and Jaime run in to UNIT they are away for a long time. Zoë and Isobel decide to try to find out what is going on themselves – and Zoë feeds an impossible equation to the reception computer, causing it to blow up. they are arrested by Vaughn’s private troopers and locked up. In episode 4, the Brigadier organizes a helicopter and the Doctor and Jaime perform a daring rescue. This is one of the animated episodes, unfortunately, but it’s still impressive. It’s also Jaime who discovers some crates in the warehouse on IE property actually contain Cybermen!

The second half of the story is a Cybermen story. Vaughn is working with the Cybermen, but plans on betraying him, leaving himself sole dictator of the entire world. The Cybermen have a ship in space, capable of launching ships and bombs at the Earth. They also have a hidden army in Vaughn’s facilities. But also, for some reason, they are planning on using mind control to take over Earth. They have a beam that can debilitate and control people that is amplified by the micro circuitry in all of International Electromatics products. So episodes 5-8 are really an elaborate chess game between Vaughn and the Cybermen on the one side, and the Doctor and UNIT on the other. UNIT is able to conveniently order attacks (such as one on a prison convoy that frees Professor Watkins), and work with other nations (they have the Russians launch missiles to destroy the Cyber fleet and later knock out a massive cyber bomb and the Cyberman mother ship.)

Some aspects of this story are impressive: the helicopter rescue, the Cybermen walking down the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the fight in the sewers. But others really show the show’s lack of money (Isobel and Zoë are jailed by IE and disappear for a few episodes; Jaime is injured during the fight in the tunnels with the Cybermen – and does the same thing, etc.), the UNIT men discuss attacking the IE convey, later we see Vaughn’s head security goon reporting the attack and that UNIT made off with Watkins, and we see him reuniting with Isobel – but we don’t see the attack itself. But in a way, we don’t need to – your mind fills in the gaps, and Doctor Who shows it’s stylistic roots in British theatre.

“The Invasion” is a good story, but like most Doctor Who episodes that are longer than six parts, it just feels long, and like it needed a good once over by the editor’s pen. If it was tightened-up to even six episodes instead of eight – it would be a great episode. The animation for parts one and four is good, and I think this is one of the first if not the first story to be released on DVD with animation reconstructing the original episodes that were missing. Recommended.

Both disc 1 and disc 2 have special features as well as the actual episodes.

Doctor Who – The Mind Robber Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Mind Robber
  • Story #: 45
  • Episodes: 5 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 09/14/1968 – 10/12/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Well, there is an emergency unit but I can’t possibly use that.” – The Doctor
“But this is an emergency!” – Zoë
“But it moves the TARDIS out of the Time/Space Dimension! Out of reality!” – The Doctor
“Well, fine, reality’s getting too hot anyway!” – Jaime

“Presumably we’ve landed. So why isn’t the scanner showing anything?” – Zoë
“Well, because, well, we’re nowhere. It’s as simple as that.” – The Doctor

“Oh, a strip cartoon of the year 2000!” – The Doctor
“But you’ve been in the year 2000, haven’t you?” – Zoë
“Yes, but I hardly had time to follow the strip cartoons.” – The Doctor
“But you had better start following this one, he’s halfway up that cliff.” – Zoë

“The Mind Robber” has long been one of my favorite Patrick Troughton Doctor Who stories and one that I often recommend, because it is just so imaginative. At the end of the previous story (“The Dominators”) the TARDIS is about to be covered by lava from an exploding volcano. And of course, when the Doctor tries to dematerialize – the TARDIS doesn’t cooperate. He uses the emergency unit.

The first episode of the 5-part story, “The Mind Robber” only uses the TARDIS set, a white room, and a few robots who will be seen later. But it just goes to show how much you can do with an imaginative script and good acting, even without sets, really. After the emergency unit is used, the TARDIS is somewhat stuck – Jaime sees Scotland on the scanner and Zoë sees the city. The Doctor warns them not to go out while he checks the power, but seeing home is too much of a temptation. The two young companions do leave the TARDIS and encounter a white room, where they soon become lost in disorienting mist. The Doctor calls them back, but they can’t find the TARDIS. The Doctor is in a mental battle with the same force that tempted his companions outside. He leaves the TARDIS to find Zoë and Jaime – and the TARDIS is all white, as are Jaime and Zoë’s costumes. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS but everything is weird – the TARDIS explodes. Zoë, and Jaime as well, are stretched out on the slowly spinning, falling TARDIS console.

The Doctor and his companions are now in the Land of Fiction, though they don’t realize it at first. They start off in a maze of words and are soon encountering various characters from literature and are required to pass a number of tests (solving riddles and games and such). Toy soldiers seem to be the guardians of the place and Gulliver (of Gulliver’s travels) keeps showing up and creating a distraction.

The Doctor and TARDIS crew are charged by a unicorn (like in Jaime’s earlier dream) and when they shout that unicorns don’t exist – it freezes. They find a creepy stone house, where the first shot is through a spider’s web. Here they find a ball of twine and a maze. This leads to the heart of the maze and a minotaur, which is only seen in shadow. Again, the Doctor and Zoë use “it doesn’t exist” to stop the minotaur.

Jaime meanwhile meets Rapunzel and climbs her hair into the control room where a ticker-tape machine spits out a description of what the Doctor and Zoë are doing – which is running in to Medusa. However, rather than following “the script” and killing Medusa with a sword that has just appeared, the Doctor uses a mirror and Medusa is again turned in to stone. The Doctor and Zoë then encounter the Krakus, a strip cartoon character. Zoë fights him, flipping him over her shoulder five times, and then forces him to submit – he then becomes her servant, helping with difficult tasks. The Doctor and Zoë reach the control room where Jaime is, but Zoë is startled and runs out of the room, setting off alarms. The white robots arrive to take the Doctor to the Master.

The Doctor meets the author. This land has a library of all known works of fiction, and a master brain which needs the creative power, intelligence, and imagination of an author. The current author is getting a bit old and the master-brain wants to replace him with the Doctor. There is quite the battle between the Doctor and the Author. They conjure up various fictional characters (Cyrano de Bergerac, d’Artagnan the musketeer, Blackbeard the pirate, Sir Lancelot etc.) The Doctor has to avoid putting himself in the story because he will become fiction, but he has the Karkus fight for him and other fictional characters. The Author turns Jaime and Zoë into fiction, but the Doctor finally manages to release them. Zoë overloads the computer, and the Doctor orders the robots to destroy the computer. The Doctor rescues the Author, the screen fills with mist and smoke, and the TARDIS reassembles.

“The Mind Robber” is a witty and intelligent script that plays to the imagination. Not only is this a story set in The Land of Fiction – but the sets tend to be fairly minimalistic until later in the story, even then although the stone cottage is impressive, as is the control room and the liar of the Author and the Master-Brain, it’s still not the completely fleshed out alien landscape one would expect – but that works in the story’s favor as the Doctor and his companions encounter various fictional characters, creepy children, white robots, and robotic toy soldiers. Everything plays out like a play with minimal set dressing and because of the imaginative plot – it works. This story also has a clever and quotable script. Highly recommended.

Doctor Who – The Dominators Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Dominators
  • Story #: 44
  • Episodes: 5 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 08/10/1968 – 09/07/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“You wanted to destroy. Unnecessary destruction is wasteful.” – Dominator

“Dominators do not seek assistance. What we want – we take.” – Dominator

“Medical kit? Oh – it’s surprising what you can do with a few simple chemicals and a little ingenuity.” – The Doctor

I must admit I wasn’t really looking forward to re-watching this story, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered. The story opens with a group of very interesting traditional-looking UFOs approaching a planet. One of the UFOs lands and the two beings inside, the Dominators, remark they have finished absorbing the radiation from the planet below. Meanwhile, a more traditional type of ship approaches the nearby “Island of Death”. The people on the ship are young thrill seekers. They crash into the Island, survive, are shocked to discover the island is no longer registering radioactivity – though it’s very lucky for them that it isn’t, and the young people are cut down by the Dominators. Their ship is also destroyed.

The TARDIS lands and the Doctor tells Zoë and Jaime they are on Dulkis, a completely peaceful world occupied by total pacifists. Unfortunately, The TARDIS didn’t land in the capital but on the radioactive Island home to a museum of war and weapons – the only place on the planet that weapons exist.

The Dominators order their Quarks to set-up drilling.

As the TARDIS crew examines the museum they are found by some people – Dulcian students and their professor. They are forcibly decontaminated, before the Dulcians realize they are not radioactive in the first place. The professor jumps to the conclusion that it takes 170 years for radioactivity to completely disappear – and doesn’t believe their could be any other explanation. When Cully, the leader of the ill-fated thrilling adventure tour shows up, they figure that the Doctor and company are his charges – remarking the existence of life on other planets has been disproven.

The Doctor and Jaime leave the education and research center, and run into the Dominators and their robot servants, the Quarks. They are taken into the spaceship, examined and tested. Only Jaime is physically examined and the Dominators assume the Doctor is the same. The Doctor also intentionally flunks the intelligent tests.

The Dulcian professor and students send first Cully and Zoë to the capital and then the Doctor and Jaime who have escaped the Dominators. The leader of the Dulcians and his council are completely useless, not believing the TARDIS crew are from another world, unwilling to investigate the Island because what they say can’t be true, and even the emergency coordinator is stubbornly unwilling to accept any new information or to check on the story that Cully and the TARDIS crew tell them.

The TARDIS crew returns to the Island. The students and the professor have been captured by the Dominators and forced to work as slaves, clearing the area near the former research/education station for drilling. One of the Dominators had ordered the Quarks to destroy the building and his commander had become upset with him for wasting energy. The one Dominator also keeps wanting to destroy the Dulcians on the Island, while the other insists on using them as slave labor to spare using the Quarks which are low on power. The two argue about this. Often.

The Dominators argue with each other a lot, and eventually argue so much in front of the Doctor and Jaime that they reveal the plot. They plan on drilling through the Dulkis’s crust, which will cause a volcanic eruption. But they are also drilling a bore hole to drop a nuclear device in which will destroy the planet and create a lot of radioactive material which they can then mine for power. They also determine the Dulcians are unsuited to being a slave labor force and plan to destroy them with their planet.

The students on the Island, the Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë discover this plot. The Dulcian students had discovered an old underground bomb shelter from the days of the testing – and have used it as hidden shelter throughout much of the story. The TARDIS crew decides what they must do is dig a cross tunnel to the bore hole and catch the seed device and deactivate it. This will take a little time, so Jaime and Cully are sent out to distract and destroy the Quarks and slow down or stop the drilling. Jaime, since he was free and returned to the Island with Cully, has been running a campaign of harassing the Quarks and destroying as many as he can with unique weapons, like boulders.

The plan more or less succeeds – the Doctor catches the nuclear seed device, but cannot deprogram it because it’s sealed – so he sneaks it on the Dominators spacecraft (which blows-up in the atmosphere). Unfortunately, the drilling had started a local volcanic eruption. The TARDIS crew barely make it inside the TARDIS ahead of the lava.

“The Dominators” has some very silly costumes. The Dominators costumes look like the lightweight plastic blow-up loungers one has in a pool. The Quarks are more cute than threatening, though the ray gun effect at the beginning is truly horrific. However, the Dominator Commander is determined to not kill anybody, not out of altruism but more because he doesn’t want to waste energy. His subordinate would rather just destroy everything. Their bickering leads to their downfall, but is also really annoying (as is their shouts of “destroy, destroy, total destruction”). The Dominators are a bit laughable. The plot is actually horrific – destroying an entire occupied planet, simply for energy?

The Dulcians are rather unbelievable too. OK, so they are total pacifists who have outlawed war and all weapons. I can actually buy that – but when they are threatened, it seems strange they would rather debate about it than take some sort of action. The Doctor warns the council of the dangers from the Dominators, but the council refuses to believe that the Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime are from another world, and they refuse to believe the Dominators intend them harm, since they won’t harm anyone else. Yet, you would think it was obvious that the TARDIS crew weren’t from Dulkis, since they are all brunette and everyone on Dulkis is blonde. And even the Dominators with their scans figure out their are two groups on the planet. Also, doesn’t Dulkis have some way of keeping track of people? You’d think they realise Jaime, Zoë, and the Doctor aren’t locals.

So this isn’t one of my favorite Troughton stories, and I’d give it probably a 2 or 3 out of 5. But the Domintor plan is horrifying and the story does actually move along fairly fast, so there is that. And it’s good to see the TARDIS crew of the Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë – my favorites of the Second Doctor’s companions.

 

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Uncertainty Principle

  • Title: The Uncertainty Principle
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Simon Guerrier
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Zoë, Jen, Jaime, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Wendy Padbury, Charlie Hayes (as Jen, guest)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/18/2017

**Spoiler Alert** The Uncertainty Principle is the third story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles “Zoë Trilogy”, however it doesn’t end with a satisfactory conclusion. The story picks up where the previous story left off, Zoë is still being held captive by The Company. They want information from her, but because of the uncertain nature of her previous questioning, where they couldn’t determine if she was telling the truth or making up a story based on the information given in questioning, her interrogator won’t tell her what they want to know. Zoë is drugged and again begins to tell her story.

The Doctor (the Second Doctor as played by Patrick Troughton on the BBC television series), Jaime, and Zoë arrive at the funeral of Meg. It’s a rainy day, which Zoë enjoys – having been raised in space stations, such as The Wheel, she’s not used to being outside or real weather. After the funeral, the three go along to the funeral, fitting in with the mourners at the wake. They learn Meg died in an accident at her work and investigate. They also meet Archie, the boy next door who had a crush on Meg, before she left for college and her new job. Zoë is immediately taken with Archie. The TARDIS crew goes to Meg’s work to investigate. On the way there, they are attacked by mysterious electric creatures, which seem to explode upon encountering the Doctor who is wearing heavy rubber wellington boots which break the circuit. At Meg’s work, they discover a quantum computer, that has been turned off because they can’t get it working. Meg was working on the computer but was killed by it.

As Zoë, Jaime, and Archie look in to things (with the Doctor off doing his own investigating), Jaime puts his hand between the two towers of the quantum computer. The electric creatures attack again, and Archie defeats it by throwing water at it, which again breaks the circuit.

They return to Archie’s home, only to find it engulfed in flames. Archie is immediately worried about his mother, whom he can’t raise on his mobile phone. Jaime dashes into the burning house, rescues her, and collapses. He’s taken to the local hospital, comatose, with machines breathing for him as he recovers.

Zoë and the Doctor head to Meg’s work again. She explains that at the nano scale of the nucleus of an atom, things get very weird and particles can be in two states simultaneously. A particle can be both decayed and not decayed. She brings up the famous thought experiment of Schrödinger’s cat. Zoë explains to her interrogator, Jen, that the cat is both alive and dead. As she returns to explaining what happened, the Doctor, after talking to Archie begins to figure out what happened. The creatures are inter-dimensional – and rely on electricity and quantum mechanics. The Doctor is able to help the creatures – which allows Meg to come back. Jaime also recovers in the hospital. It is heavily implied that Zoë’s memory is like the cat – she has perfect recall, but she cannot remember. In fact, being forced to remember with drugs is giving her an increasingly bad headache. However, because of her photographic memory, she can remember that she cannot remember.

Jen is unsure if they have enough to save Zoë from her un-named fate. Jen does say that although Zoë cannot explain how the quantum computer worked, she’s proven it’s possible. She also believes she’s proven that Zoë traveled in time, since the gravestone epitaph she quoted at the beginning of her recitation was something she couldn’t possible know without actually being there. Jen also reveals that Archie and Meg married but divorced six years later.

This trilogy is very uncertain, no pun intended. I have the next CD in the Companion Chronicles series that features the Second Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë – but it doesn’t seem to be part of this series at all. Also, as a technical fault, there’s a scene or two in this story where it’s actually hard to tell if it’s Jen or Zoë who is speaking. I found this entire trilogy to be interesting – I’ve never really liked what happened to Jaime and Zoë at the end of the aired Doctor Who episode, “The War Games”, but this trilogy doesn’t provide a lot of answers to what happened to Zoë. Likewise, The Company, is mysteriously and frustratingly vague. On the other hand, as with all the Companion Chronicles stories for the most part – I really, really like the format of this line from Big Finish. The stories are similar in feel to the Past Doctor Adventures or Missing Adventures with the notable exception of being from the Companion’s point of view rather than the Doctor’s pov – which gives the stories a great hook. I still recommend this story, I just wish it had been a bit more definitive in it’s end.

Go here to read my review of volume 2, The Memory Cheats.

Go here to read my review of volume 1, Echoes of Grey.

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

Click here to order The Uncertainty Principle on CD or Download.

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