Category Archives: Doctor who

A Decade of New Who

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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!

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Review: Doctor Who: The Blood Cell by James Goss

Doctor Who: The Blood Cell (New Series Adventures, #54)

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.

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Way Back Wednesday: Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks by Ben Aaronovich

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We’re halfway to the weekend and that means it’s time for Way Back Wednesday hosted by A Well Read Woman.   The purpose of this meme is to look back on those books that made a special impact on you and that you love to read.

This week’s entry comes from the Target line of Doctor Who novelizations.   In the days before we could collect Doctor Who on VHS or DVD, there were the Target books, which adapted just about every broadcast Doctor Who story for the printed page.   A majority of these were written by one-time script-editor Terrance Dicks (and I’ll probably get to at least one or two of those adaptations in a future installment), but there were other writers in the range.   As the books caught up to the stories airing on our screens, there were times that the original script writer would adapt his or her work for the printed page, often adding in scenes that didn’t make the broadcast due to time or budgetary reason or giving deeper background to scenes or character development.

Remembrance of the Daleks Novelisation Cover“Remembrance of the Daleks” falls into the category of a script adapted by the original writer and one that expanded on an already great story and made it even better.

Featuring the seventh (and my favorite) Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, “Remembrance of the Daleks” aired during the show’s twenty-fifth season and celebrated the anniversary of the long-running show.    The Doctor and Ace are back in 1963, just days after the original TARDIS crew began their adventures together and find themselves helping a para-military group that is caught between two warring factions of Daleks.  Both sides want the mysterious Hand of Omega, a Time Lord artifact that each side believes will give them the upper hand in their civil war and their drive to conquer the universe.    Continue reading

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Review: Doctor Who: The Masters of Earth & The Rani Elite

Doctor Who: Masters of EarthDoctor Who: Masters of Earth by Cavan Scott

One of the problems with an audio drama featuring the Daleks is they aren’t exactly the most exciting aliens to listen to for any length of time. Or heaven forbid you have two or even three Daleks carrying on a lengthy conversation that includes plot details or developments.

It’s not to say that I don’t like the Daleks. They’re my favorite Doctor Who adversary, but I think that in order to do them right in the audio dramas, you have to be a bit more creative than you would on TV.

Give props to Masters of Earth for at least trying to do something creative with the Daleks in the realm of Big Finish audio dramas. Arriving on Earth during the Dalek occupation, the sixth Doctor is ready to jump back into the TARDIS and leave to prevent himself or Peri contaminating his own personal time line. Seems he’s arrived a couple of years before his first incarnation will help overthrow the Daleks and liberate the planet.

But before you say “Exterminate,” the TARDIS sinks into a bog and the Doctor and Peri are caught up with the resistance on a cross-country trip that will include encounters with RoboMen, Varga plants and the Slyther. If you’re a fan of 60’s Who and in particular the Dalek stories from those early days, there are a lot of nice homages to that era.

But homages to an era do not a story make and it’s in the story that Masters of Earth really feels like it let me down. Because the Doctor can’t affect any change, there’s not a lot for he and Peri to do, besides avoid changing history and letting the Daleks know he’s on the scene. There are some interesting chases involving Daleks on gliders (an homage to the 60’s comics), but overall I can’t help but feel the story had more potential than was realized in what we got here. Continue reading

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Review: Doctor Who: Revenge of the Swarm, The Widow’s Assassin

Doctor Who: Revenge of the Swarm

Revenge of the Swarm

If you were to poll classic Doctor Who fans on which adversaries from the original run they’d like to see back, odds are the Swarm wouldn’t make the top ten. Nor the top twenty or thirty.

A poorly realized (visually anyway) adversary from the 70’s story, “The Invisible Enemy,” the Swarm isn’t the most threatening, interesting or even well regarded foe the Doctor ever faced. But maybe freed of the limitations of the television series and with the virtually unlimited special effects showcase of the imagination, maybe the Swarm could flourish in the world of audio.

Unfortunately, not so much.

Leaning heavily on the catch phrase from the original story, “Revenge of the Swarm” is a tale of two halves. The first half finds the Swam has hidden itself inside the TARDIS all these years, waiting just the right opportunity to show itself again. That opportunity comes with Hex/Hector, who has recently become (literally) a new man. (If you’re a bit lost here, you’re not alone. I hadn’t listened to any of the stories leading up to this one and I’m sure I’m missing some of the nuances of Hex/Hector’s story.) Continue reading

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Doctor Who: Dark Water

darkwater2In many ways, I feel like whoever edited the preview seen at the end of “In the Forest of the Night” did a huge disservice to the two-part season finale by including footage from both episodes in the preview.   I get that it’s hard for the BBC to not publicize the return of an old monster like the Daleks or (in this case) the Cybermen, but I felt like a lot of the tension that “Dark Water” was trying to achieve was undermined by the preview and SPOILER photos that had leaked through various tabloids before the season began.

But I still felt like “Dark Water” kept a lot of its cards close to the vest and still had a few surprises along the way.

The most enjoyable was how much it felt like an homage to the Patrick Troughton era Cybermen stories.   In most second Doctor Cybermen stories, the Cybermen are a threat for the first half of the story, but really don’t emerge in force and en mass until the mid-point cliffhanger.   And that’s what happened here, even if the Doctor doesn’t necessarily realize that the Cybermen are behind the Nethersphere and using it as a way to harvest new humans to convert into Cybermen.   The feel of the tanks, running side by side and stacked up several deep, brought to mind visions of “The Tomb of the Cybermen” while the Cybermen emerging into modern day London and among iconic landmarks felt like it was a page right out of “The Invasion.”  At one point, I fully expected to see a sewer cap thrown aside and a Cybermen emerge.    Continue reading

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Doctor Who: Mummy on the Orient Express, Flatline

Since I’m behind on my Doctor Who reviewing, I’m offering commentary on “Mummy on the Orient Express” and “Flatline” in one post.  It’s two posts for the price of one!

Mummy on the Orient Express

mummy_orientIn the 80’s, the production team wanted to introduce audiences to a more alien, less likeable Doctor who would slowly mellow over time and become more and more liked by the audience.  The result was the sixth Doctor and the plan didn’t exactly go, well, as planned.  Colin Baker’s era was one of the most polarizing in the classic series run and led to the show becoming the target of a great deal in internal criticism at the BBC and the show going on hiatus for eighteen months.

With the Peter Capaldi era, I feel like that in addition to destructing the character of the Doctor, Steven Moffat has taken on that task of giving us a more alien, less likeable Doctor and is showing us how it could have and should have been done.   With “Mummy” we look into the question of just how the Doctor goes about solving the problem or defeating the alien threat facing him in each story.   Do the ends justify the means?

In this case, it’s a high body count (nothing new, just watch any story by Robert Holmes) that piles up before the Doctor can come up with a way to stop the Mummy from killing everyone on the train.    Does the Doctor have the right to ask each of these various people to sacrifice themselves in the interest of obtaining data on how to defeat the Mummy and Gus, who has lured the Doctor into this particular trap (interestingly, the Doctor has turned down multiple invitations to come on board and solve this until Clara threatens to leave him.  More on this later).   The Doctor realizes there is a way to stop the Mummy, but it takes data (in this case the death of innocent people) to give him the pieces he needs to solve the puzzle.

Of the stories we’ve seen this year, this one feels like it comes closest to the classic Who model of the “base under siege” story.  In fact, I’d say it felt a great deal like the Tom Baker era story “The Robots of Death” with people trapped in an isolated, locked-room location and a force coming to kill everyone on board.    Having the Doctor chose to take Clara into what can be summed up as “the most typical of classic Who models” for what she wants to be her last hurrah in the TARDIS is interesting.   The Doctor doesn’t give her a tour of the marvels of the universe and all the beauty within it, but instead a classic battle against the forces of evil that he faces.   And in doing so, he gives her a bit of insight into who he is now and just how alien he truly he is.  He also feeds her addiction to traveling with him — the excitement of the discovery and just how these various monsters are defeated. Continue reading

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