And here is more from the most sustained series I’ve ever written on the blog here, (apart from the ‘Coffeehouse’ epic...) Please see one of my earlier posts for a note on why I’m reading/listening in the odd order I am!
This segment has books and audios relating to the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Doctors.
INDISCRIMINATE SPOILERS FOR ALL STORIES HERE!
- Doctor Who: And the Daemons,
by Barry Letts (Target Original)
(3rd Doctor. I had real trouble reading this one – for a very silly reason: this was always my favourite Dr Who story EVER, growing up. It had everything I always pick up books or watch TV or film for: demons or ghosts, possible supernatural occurrences, incredibly likeable main characters who must pit their wits [note, not brawn alone] against a distinct but localised threat, a small village setting with plenty of green to look at, superstitions which may have deeper meanings, villagers that are split by the occurrences – great commendation here to the brilliant Damaris as Miss Hawthorne, in the TV story, she was just wonderful! I was really worried that the book might not live up to my memories of the oft rewatched episodes.
It did – specially towards the end, where the Doctor is vainly trying to get the soldiers to construct his energy drain box, and it eventually works – right when Damaris was about to perform a similar feat but magically – to bounce energy back on the Daemon and cause him to overload. The repeated exchanges between her and the Doctor – “magic!”, “Science, Miss Hawthorne!” punctuating her attempts to understand how the daemon works, were very nicely handled. There’s a huge conversation where she tries to explain energy manipulation to the Doctor, and he counters that the controlling of psychokinetic energy raised by negative emotions is how the Master channels power and controls the daemon. Miss Hawthorne despairs, “for the life of her, unable to see where the difference lay” [between the science of the daemons and the magical ideas she has studied to the same end]. Its exchanges like that that I like – where 2 seemingly completely contradictory systems try to understand each other.
There was also plenty for the excellent subsidiary characters to do here – Yates and Benton spend a lot of time in action mode, but also get some great lines, and though Jo spends a portion of the story knocked out, she does her Jo thing of climbing out of a window when Yates isn’t looking to attempt to save the Doctor [and thereby imperilling herself and moving the plot along nicely]. The Master also gives one of his best turns here, very pleasing to see him as a Devil Rides Out style villain, as well as his usual skulking off at the end. The whole story was a joy – with no extraneous running about bits, I felt – there was sufficient info, character drama and plot action going on in all segments [the idea of the ‘elemental’ in the church; the many incidents with Bok] to keep the narrative flowing along. Rattling yarn!! With the usual joy I get from the Brigadier, too! ACTUAL BOOK.)
- Doctor Who: Option Lock,
by Justin Richards (BBC 8th Dr Adventures)
(This one had many elements I like, much like the last story reviewed: old houses, strange people in the old rambling house, historical research, mind control, possible supernatural things that turn out to be something else. It’s funny because the first few pages were terrible – heavy and portentous, and caused me to stop reading the book for a couple of months. When I re-engaged with it with a sigh, thinking to skim – I loved it, once the plot took off, and stopped talking portentously of the Kameiriens, getting down to the business of the Doctor and Sam. I was less interested in the business about the invisible Star Wars Ronald Reagan era defence system, Station 9, and the elaborate – and suspensefully written – ruse that caused the Americans to reveal its location. The whole nuclear doom thing has been done enough times that it always causes part of my brain to wander off. And I’ve never been a fan of political thrillers. But it was done for good reason, plotwise, and when done again [yes, there were 2 mock nuclear doom incidents in this book], it oddly didn’t feel old.
Pickering was a good character here, and Sam had some good lines. Though so far, she suffers as a companion of feeling to this reader as if she’s constantly on catch up, not knowing who she is – only that she idolises the Doctor somewhat [in a way, she’s a proto Rose, of new poo Who].
This was quite an enjoyable story, and felt as if it would have been a good Pertwee era story too – being so governmentally and nuclear policy focused…Oh yes, and there was some almost irrelevant but very interesting red herring plot stuff about a tortured painter in the middle of the book. Another element I liked. ACTUAL BOOK.)
- Doctor Who: The Fearmonger,
by Jonathan Blum (Big Finish Audio Monthly stories)
(An excellent adventure with the 7th Doctor and Ace. The first one I’ve really enjoyed. Held together from beginning to end and was very well paced – proper cliffhangers [Ace gets shot!]. I knew all would be fine when Sylvester tried very hard to convince a frightened man by saying: “ You don’t have to do this. We could just have a nice cup of tea and talk this over sensibly. Ohhh…doesn’t anyone want to do that anymore?” He sounded as if he’d never left the studio and there’d been no gap. Ace sounded exactly the same in terms of speech inflections, but she’d been written with more calm and maturity – a very nice job. She was properly helping the Doctor in his schemes and plans [a bit like Liz Shaw used to help Pertwee, as proper colleagues], and there was excellent banter between them.
The idea of the Fearmonger itself, an alien that hides within people causing them to act out of fear and hatred, and the placing of this within a political context – that was inspired. Hearing the lovely voice of Jacqueline Pearce, as the persuasive face of the far right, that was quite inspired too. This one had masses of atmosphere, I visualized it all, it wasn’t just abstract stiff voices – I felt it move and breathe and progress. 10/10! ON DOWNLOAD.)
- Doctor Who: The Marian Conspiracy, by
Jacqueline Rayner (Big Finish Audio monthly stories)
(6th Doctor. This one was SUPERB!! A proper old style historical set in the times of Queen Mary, and full of humour, wit, banter. Easy characterisation of subsidiary characters, I got them straightaway, yet they felt like slightly more than just cutouts to move the action along. The sound palette was lovely – music unintrusive but appropriate, and set place and time very well. It added to both the humour and the drama. The addition of an entirely new companion, never seen on TV: Evelyn Smythe, a feisty mid fifties historian, was excellent. She bounced off Colin effortlessly, a strong character herself.
The only false note about her character was that for a historian, she seemed to have remarkably little obvious understanding of how to NOT create a time paradox – she spent one notable scene explaining to the Tudor characters all about cocoa [not introduced to England till the 17th century, and then only among the rich]; metal zips on bags, and prescription analgesics – which was necessary as a plot device for later events, that last…but still, clumsy to have it there as an incident, as you’d think she would understand the importance of not changing history too much more than most. This also applied to the lovely happy ending, where she persuades the Doctor to save 2 characters and their entire families from execution as heretics, plus gets him to tell them why its ok they leave the country and why they’ll be back later…This was a bit…annoying.
However, it fit with the mood and tone of the story. As did Colin’s slightly more mellow Doctor. Not hugely more mellow, not unrealistically mellow – just more humourous and thoughtful, as if he was Bumptious Colin, but on a quiet day. The pairing did work extremely well, and I look forward to hearing more. And to more of Jacqueline Rayner’s work altogether. The framing of the idea of a person disappearing because of events changing in the past – a la Back to the Future?! – was nicely handled here with the Protestant/Catholic Tudor politics and trying to right the balance. A serious story, but told with a very clever light touch. I also loved the Reverend Thomas Smythe – what a nice posh villain voice! ON CD.)
- Doctor Who: Paradise Towers,
by Stephen Wyatt (Target Original)
(7th Doctor. I know a lot of people have a big problem with this story, and several others of Sylvester’s. I have never had any problem with this. I like the setting, the Cronenberg like towerblock. I like the Kangs and their Clockwork Orange style own slang. I like the Rezzies, and their ruthless way of keeping alive – I think older people can be very ruthless indeed, much as children can…I like the Caretakers and their ingrained sense of obedience to their bible, the Rulebook, their sense of security and order. I had no problem with Richard Briers portrayal in the TV episodes – I felt it was both restrained and wonderfully creepily true to several caretakers I’ve known [I’ve known quite a few – for many years my dad was a caretaker in an office block or two – I know the type of person that ends up in these jobs]. I liked the portrayal of what happens when you subtract the middle part of society [the parents, basically] and leave the children and the old to get by. When you leave them in an environment that is hostile for its own reasons [the Great Architect of the building is disgusted by humans and views them as mess to be cleaned up…a perfectly respectable view, I feel, on my grumpier days – see, *I* could be a caretaker!]. I like the way events eventually cause all the parties to come together despite mistrust and work to free themselves from fear and suspicion, to take steps to becoming an integrated society again. And I shed tears at the end for the fate of the last minute bravery of Pex – a character I felt a lot of sympathy with, being hardly brave myself! ‘Pex Lives’ – sniffle. I really do like this story; and not just because Fluffhead has made me watch it many times; I had no problem the first time round. Its lots of archetypes together, learning a lesson due to a catalyst: the Doctor, of course. And Stephen Wyatt’s clear and calm writing make this a good read, when it could have been played farcically. Very much enjoyed.)
- Doctor Who: Red Dawn,
by Justin Richards (Big Finish Monthly Audios)
(5th Doctor. Ahhhh – The Icccccccce Warriorssssssss! And Oh! The treachery, counter treachery and greedof humans! The nobility and honour of Lord ZZaal! The coldness of Mars! The brilliant idea of Peri landing a spaceship! [I do like the way the books and audios get her doing far more than she ever had a chance to do in the TV stories, where they underused/misused her, as simply a pretty but moany girl.] This one had a good claustrophobic atmosphere, taking place entirely in small spaceship and space hangar areas, and switching focus back and forth between 2 main groups of people, all trying to do the right thing, except for one bad apple called Webster. The music on this one was particularly nice too, a lazy and oddly emotional synth riff in the background, a good spacey sound; with an otherwise very quiet sound palette. This on was very talky but very clear and a good lesson in what the Ice Warriors think of as honour and diplomacy. A nice self contained adventure; and I have always liked the Ice Warriors. ON CD.)
- Doctor Who: The Spectre of Lanyon Moor,
by Nicholas Pegg (Big Finish Monthly CDs)
(Hmmm. I was very happy to see Colin reunited with Evelyn again – but her character had significantly changed from the last story; she was quieter and somehow frailer, less acerbic but more boringly sarcastic – as were several of the characters. This was an odd story, in that it had many elements I like in it: the moors, THE BRIGADIER!, strange little creatures running about, magic and references to the Golden Dawn, historical researches etc. Yet I found it slow to engage me, though it then took off well. I found there to be a bit too much straight exposition included, that maybe could have been handled differently. I liked the line: “Are you telling me my housekeeper has entered into a Faustian Pact with a pixie from outer space?” But on the whole, sound palette included, I found this one a little patchy. And I had trouble taking the word ‘fogou’ seriously. ON CD.)
The Dalek Special I promised you will be coming soon – I realised I had other stories to catch up with finishing and tell you about first!
Happy I’m enjoying the Big Finishes more now – odd how some grip instantly, and hold on; then others seem to slide off me…
Next Dr Who part coming shortly…