As Big Finish celebrates its 200th main Doctor Who range release, I decided to take a look back on some of the old favorites and see if they still held up.
Intended as the Cybermen version of “Genesis of the Daleks,” “Spare Parts” is one of the more revered stories from Big Finish. And yet as I listened, I couldn’t recall when or if I’d heard this one before. I feel like I should have heard it when it first came out, but I couldn’t recall many details beyond superficial ones.
Arriving on Mondas in the last days before the population became fully Cyber-ized, the fifth Doctor and Nyssa find themselves embroiled in the politics that helped created the earliest Cybermen. Listening to “Spare Parts,” I couldn’t help but feel that Marc Platt has crafted a superb prelude to “The Tenth Planet” and that I should dust off that DVD and visit the classic serial again.
What could have been a simple imitation of “Genesis of the Daleks” becomes something a bit deeper and different. There’s no one unifying voice for the Cybermen as there was with the Daleks. Instead we see various members of the population and how they react to the developments taking place within their society and on their world. Platt allows us a bit of time to get invested and interested in these characters before he begins changing them into what will eventually become the Cybermen. (If you’ve seen the new series, there are certain sequences from the story that were used in the return of the Cybermen there, though I’d argue they are more effective here). Continue reading
The first trailer for series nine of Doctor Who is available.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch it about a billion more times.
It’s rare to find a Doctor Who novel that will allow us inside the mind of the Doctor. More often than not, we’ll see into the mind of his companions and those around him.
That makes a story like “The Deadly Assassin” difficult to adapt for the printed page since it’s the only story in the classic canon that doesn’t feature a companion for the Doctor. It’s also a story whose third episode features a lot of action pieces and very little in the way of dialogue.
Because of this, Terrance Dicks’ attempt to adapt the classic Robert Holmes four-parter falls a bit short. I can’t help but wonder if Dicks had produced this story at the beginning or the end of his association with the Target range if he might have expanded some things a bit or made some different storytelling choices. As it is, this comes from the middle period when Dicks rarely had time to do more than adapt the shooting script for the printed page. He didn’t have time to add the flourishes that made novels like “The Day of the Daleks” so memorable.
With two mysterious adversaries for the Doctor to battle (one works for the other), Dicks decides to give away the identity of one earlier in the novel than the televised story does. I can’t help but wonder if it might have been better to let readers in on who is working for the Master rather than the Master himself. It’s disappointing that one of the more pivotal and controversial stories in the classic series run only gets a novelization that’s par for the course. Dicks tries his best, but this is a story that works better visually (at least the sections inside the Matrix do) than they do on the printed page.
Thankfully, the audio version features a reading by Geoffrey Beavers, the only actor who played the Master in the classic series who is still with us. Beavers reading is, as always, a delight and he brings a lot to the read, especially when called upon to read lines for the Master. You can just hear Beavers voice dripping with contempt as he channels the Master in this one. I can’t help but wonder why this line hasn’t seen fit to let Beavers read a story or two that doesn’t feature the Master. I think he’d be great. Why not let him read “Day of the Daleks” — one of the truly great entries from the Target line that hasn’t yet been adapted for audio.
Before I began running, I used to joke that running couldn’t be as much fun as they say it is because you never see anyone running with a big grin on their face. And while I may not have a big smile planted on my face most days while out pounding the pavement, I can’t help but think I had a big smile planted on it for much of the time I was working out while listening to Remembrance of the Daleks.
Based on one of my favorite seventh Doctor stories (and one of my favorite stories from the entire run of Doctor Who), this novel was one that I spent months looking for in book stores when it was first published (back in the days before Amazon and other on-line sellers) and then eagerly consumed once I’d found it. It was one of my favorite entries from the Target novels lines — taking a great story and making it even better with some world building, character development and hints about the past of the our hero, the Doctor that, at the time, I lapped up with a spoon.
I’ve still got my original copy of the book, sitting proudly on my bookshelf with all my seventh Doctor Target novels. And I was fascinated to see that this novel was chosen to represent the seventh Doctor’s era for the fiftieth anniversary books that came out a couple of years ago. And yet for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to re-read the book. Part of me was worried that my memory would cheat and the re-read couldn’t live to the memories I had of reading it. And then there was part of me that said — man, if there was ever a novel I’d love to see become part of the audio range, it would be that one.
And so it was that when the Target audio range finally got rolling again this year, I was took great delight to see that Remembrance of the Daleks was headed to audiobook. I ordered it the audiobook, quickly converted it to .mp3 for my iPod and was ready to start listening. Continue reading
One of the things that keeps me from embracing the Big Finish range more than I do is that it seems too determined to maintain the sensibility of the classic Doctor Who serials from which it springs. No where is that more evident than in Andrew Smith’s latest offering to the range, Mistfall.
A sequel to Smith’s own Full Circle, the story finds the fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Turlough heading back to Alzarius, just in time for Mistfall to happen again. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing, mind you, except that Alzarius is in a separate universe and the story spends a good bit of the first episode negotiating the TARDIS and our heroes back into e-space. Once we get there, we head to Alazarius where the Marshmen are rising from the swamps and people are trapped on the planet. There’s also a nefarious agenda involving the Marshmen thrown in for good measure.
Smith incorporates some aspects from his novelization of Full Circle here, but I just couldn’t quite get past the feeling that we’d been here before that pervades the first two installments. Things pick up a bit in the third part when the story begins to go in different directions, leading to a hurried fourth installment that tries to wrap up things a bit too quickly and neatly for my liking. The pacing for this one is entirely off and the story as a whole suffers for it.
And, of course, this being the current state of the main range for Big Finish, this one has to be the start of a trilogy of stories. Again, we’ve had a trilogy of stories in e-space and they were fairly successful the first time around. I can’t help but get the feeling of “here we go again” from the inevitable cliffanger to end the story, but dammit, if they don’t make it just intriguing enough that I want to come back and see how it all unfolds.
It’s hard to believe that we’re celebrating the tenth anniversary of the revived Doctor Who — despite the evidence of my DVD shelf (which has eight seasons plus one year of specials).
Part of me wasn’t ready to believe that the good Doctor was coming back until the first episode appeared on our screens all those years ago. All during that entire initial Christopher Eccleston season, I couldn’t convince myself that this wouldn’t be more than a one-season thing — a last hurrah and then we’d be done. And so I determined to enjoy the ride and not worry about how much, if any, more Doctor Who we’d get.
Now we’re heading into the ninth new series and working on the fourth Doctor of the modern era.
And while I can sometimes be a bit cantankerous about new Who and some of the fans who follow it, I’ve got to admit I like the potential surrounding each new episode and series to take me back to my early days of watching the show and enjoying every minute of it. I also am grateful that the new series has made a fan of my nephew and that we can share the adventures of our favorite Time Lord together. (His enthusiasm at showing me various Minecraft levels that look like the TARDIS is a lot of fun and makes me wonder — why didn’t we have this kind of cool stuff when I was his age?!?)
Yes, I may scoff at the sheer amount of Who collectible stuff out there today (do we really need a TARDIS spatula?!?) and the attitude of some segments of new Who fans (there are other Doctors besides David Tennant…though this argument reminds me of the long-ago Internet fans who felt that you were only a true Who fan if you liked only Tom Baker) but then again I never thought I’d get to see the 50th anniversary special shown on the big-screen to a packed theater of fellow fans. (Honestly, I thought it might be me and a couple of Who fan friends gathered together with pizza, watching a classic serial).
So, here’s to the first decade of the revived Doctor Who. Congratulations!
After reading and enjoying The Crawling Terror, I was cautiously optimistic to see what the next installment from the Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who novels would offer. Unfortunately, I may have had my expectations set a bit too high because I came away from The Blood Cell feeling a bit disappointed by the whole experience.
I read tie-in novels for many reasons, but one of the biggest is the desire to spend more time with some of my favorite characters. James Goss attempts to distinguish his Capaldi era novel by offering up a narrative from the first-person perspective of the head of a prison that’s just received a new prisoner. The prisoner in question is, of course, the Doctor. Clara is also on hand, showing up at intervals to protest the Doctor’s imprisonment and to warn our narrator that the Doctor isn’t likely to stay in prison long.
I will admit I was a bit apprehensive about these first three Capaldi era novels because they were set to hit shelves relatively quickly after the first few episodes of the season aired. I wondered if they could capture his Doctor on the printed page or if we’d be treated to a more generic adventures and take on the Doctor with a bit of Scottish brogue and crankiness thrown in to make us believe that this was the new Doctor. The Crawling Terror did a nice job of making it feel like Mike Tucker had a good handle on Capaldi and had either seen footage of the new Doctor in action or been granted access to the scripts. Goss’ novel feels a bit more generic and was, ultimately, a lot more disappointing.
Part of it is the choice of a first-person narrator. This can work in Doctor Who novels, but it doesn’t quite feel all that effective here. Instead, it makes the Doctor and Clara feel like minor characters in their own novel for the first half. Things do pick up a bit in the second half, but by that point, I had lost much of my enthusiasm for this novel.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.