Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Return of Doctor Mysterio written by Steven Moffat and directed by Ed Bazalgette

This story in a nutshell: The Doctor wanders into a superhero movie to see what help he can offer…

Indefinable: I think this title has never been more appropriate. Capaldi’s Doctor has shown more development (or alteration) than practically any other Doctor since Tom Baker progressed from a brooding alien to a madcap Uncle to a haunted spectre of death in the seventies. Capaldi’s first season saw the show take a daring approach, to make the Doctor as distant and as unlikable as Colin Baker was in the 80s. Some fans enjoyed the approach, making the Doctor much darker and less approachable and having to work to get close to him. I certainly did. However, it’s probable that the casual audience were less keen and the gradual softening of the 12th Doctor has been a work in progress ever since the beginning of series nine. I didn’t enjoy some of the obvious quirks that were foisted upon the character (whether they were at Capaldi’s insistence or not) such as the sonic shades and the electric guitar. In my own words, it came across as an old man having something of a midlife crisis. However it is clear that Capaldi has the ability to turn on quite a charm offensive in quite a beguiling way…and I think Moffat finally got the mix just about right in The Husbands of River Song last Christmas. The Doctor was light on his feet, snappy with a one liner, charmingly one step ahead and seemed to be having a whale of a time. Interestingly we didn’t need a companion gushing about the wonders of time travel to get across the delight of travelling through time and space. That feeling of an adventurer who is at peace with himself and his place in the universe is extended here and the Doctor quite charmingly steps into a superhero tale to hold the protagonists hand from childhood who to adulthood. The Doctor is happy to stand back and let another man’s story play out. I’ve heard criticism that the Doctor seems out of place and is side-lined but that is quite a deliberate move. He is the outsider in this environment and that offers a new perspective on the character, not somebody who is trying to hog the limelight and show off (stand up latter day 11th Doctor) but someone who gently pushes the story on by truly living up to his name; a teacher, a friend and a mentor. I thought it worked very well and the small inclusion of a timeywimeyness with the Doctor popping up throughout Grant’s life added some depth to their relationship. The Doctor has always enjoyed an appealing relationship with children so it came as no surprise to me that the opening scenes had a suffuse glow about them. What surprised me the most was the very un-Doctor Who cut to the high school and Grant as a teenager rising to the occasion at the sight of Lucy and the Doctor offering advice. Doctor Who doesn’t often dish out erection metaphors (although those sonic screwdrivers are getting bigger over time) and rather than coming across as something lurid it feels innocent and sweet. Some might say that it isn’t the job of the Doctor to interfere in the domestic lives of people but this story does a good job of balancing his usual role (saving the universe from irritating nasties) and letting him help bring two people together. Simon still says that Capaldi is not one of his favourites and it saddens me to think that that might be a popular opinion because he automatically adds a touch of class to any episode he appears in and is probably the strongest actor to take on the role since it returned in 2005. He does everything that is asked of him to a very high standard. This isn’t stirring material for the actor, it’s comforting, hug-your-loved-ones-its-Christmas material. I’d take this over his unbalanced reign of terror on Gallifrey in Hell Bent any day of the week. Who cares if we don’t know why the Doctor is hanging outside of the window and setting traps, let’s just accept that he’s in the middle of an adventure and at the start of another at the same time. It wasn’t a problem in Blink. There’s few Doctor’s that would make an authentic Santa substitute and even fewer that would find the idea so amusing. The Doctor sipping pop, his legs hanging through the railings and talking to Grant about his adolescence, made me chuckle. Is this really the same Doctor who stepped out of the TARDIS in Deep Breath? There’s somebody worse at love in the universe than the Doctor, apparently. Even the Doctor realises this is less about the usual alien takeover guff and deals with all that and gives Lucy and Grant time to realise their future is together. How he calls in UNIT and deactivates the villains gun so half-heartedly at the climax reveals just how bothered he is by this latest threat to the world. I love his madness in the spacecraft, deciding the most unpredictable thing he can do is set their plan into motion and hope that Grant is paying attention on Terra Firma and isn’t distracted by a pretty girl. Nardole is right, when this Doctor smiles it means something is quite amiss. The final shot of him blazing eyed and heading off into the universe tops off a glorious performance from Capaldi.

Baldy: I don’t object to Nardole, in fact I though Matt Lucas did a nice job in underplaying the character nicely throughout and proving to be a sweet observer of the action in this story. But that is rather my problem – I don’t get why he is here. He doesn’t add anything to the story, we know absolutely nothing about his background and he has turned up again with the barest explanation as to how he and the Doctor met again after Husbands. He’s an enigma. One that I am sure it will be worth exploring further down the line in season 10 but for right now I find him a bit of an anomaly. His ‘You are completely out of your mind!’ was delivered to perfection, though. And how he appeared from the wreckage of the spaceship, Mainwaring askew, was very funny.

Sparkling Dialogue: I’m not really a fan of the one liner, especially not the Moffat one liner which is often drowning in self-assurance and smugness. Something was different in Mysterio, I found myself chuckling along with the characters. It’s because much of the humour is character based and it isn’t forced, it’s gently unassuming.

 ‘You’re kind of wet’ ‘I prefer mild mannered’ That line made me laugh on both watches.
‘Mrs Lombard, there are some situations that are just too stupid to be allowed to continue.’
‘You’re jealous of you!’ ‘Technically she’s jealous of her!’
'I flooded downstairs with Pokemon.’

The Good:

·         I have heard complaints that the episode looks cheap, with specific mentions of the general cheapness of the show since they moved on from The Mill. It’s nonsense. No part of this episode looks as though expense has been spared, in fact I was quite in awe at times at just how visually spectacular the show has become. Whilst it lacked the flash bang wallop action set pieces of a superhero movie (and I would never expect anything like that from Doctor Who), it is astonishing just how well New York is realised despite the production team never setting foot there. There were a multitude of vertiginous shots of the New York skyline that made me feel a little giddy, especially that incredible pan up the Ariel and looking down on New York from above. It’s delirious.
·         I have to confess that I am not the biggest fan of superhero movies but weirdly that might have increased my enjoyment of Mysterio. The episode had nothing spectacular to live up to for me and I thought the approach of playing out what is effectively a different genre to anything Doctor Who has ever been before was quite novel. There were lots of cute touches that I liked; the introduction to the episode through the panel of a comic strip, the comic book wallpaper in the young Grant’s room, the Doctor points out the absurdity to many a superhero cliché including how ridiculous the double identity plot is and why the regular Joe’s who are infected with radiation don’t happen to puke and die, Lucy mistaking the baby monitor for a bat signal app, neither Simon nor I guessed that Grant would wind up being the nanny to Lucy’s baby…when if this story was to pay homage to Superman he had to be a part of her life somehow as a regular guy, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Grant dashing off to save people from burning buildings and emerging with the baby in the apartment a second later, the biggest cliché of all – the glasses – turn out to be a lovely device, allowing for several catch your breath moments and reversals when it looks like Grant is going to be bold and reveal his identity to Lucy. My favourite thing was how because this is a superhero movie we have been pre-conditioned to accept the impossible. The climax features a man holding a baby monitor and spaceship. Under any other circumstances we would be decrying that that is ridiculous and the single most embarrassing thing that has ever happened in Doctor Who. Because of his choice of homage, Moffat has bypassed any complaints you might make about the implausibility of the story. I thought that was delicious.
·         Grant being a superhero and a nanny. It’s cute, it riffs on gender identification and it means there are lots of lovely gags that make your heart sing with the baby. I had yearnings for Sarah Jane Smith with Lucy a busy reporter sniffing out her own story and discovering the Doctor along the way. When the Ghost whisks in and snatches Lucy away he’s dragging the audience away from the naff Doctor Who story and into the romance/superhero one. It’s that point where the narrative makes up its mind what it wants to focus on. Lucy is smart and observant and takes all the information she needs from the questions she asks. Very Sarah Jane Smith. Lucy putting Grant’s superhero costume on (his glasses) was just lovely.
·         I can’t decide whether Mr Huffle is a nice, quirky notion or an idea that quickly out stays its welcome. Either way, he’s responsible for the one sincerely emotional beat in the story that made me catch my breath. Lucy grabs him tight when the Doctor says he is okay at the climax and she tortured the toy to prove that she knows he is lying. It’s nicely set up and it reveals a depth to their relationship. I like how he pops up in shock when the Doctor informs Lucy of the aliens’ plan for worldwide colonisation too. I wonder if Mr Huffle has a more important role to play in this story than Nardole, he certainly made me feel more. He’s a part of the TARDIS crew now, let’s see what other surprises he can provide.

The Bad: The ridiculous throwaway reason that Grant is granted super powers. As played it makes logical sense that grant would think that the crystal is medicine but it’s still pretty naff – a gemstone that when ingested gives you everything that you want? It’s almost as fairy-tale as the Doctor existing just because Amy Pond says so. Brains with eyes? Was anybody else thinking Morphoton brains? There was absolutely nothing original about the nature of the invaders, their plot to scare the world and their desire to take over those in power. Aliens of London/World War Three played this out much better because despite the domestic element of Rose coming home and the comedy aliens (I still love the Slitheen) it was structured like a traditional Doctor Who adventure and it was focussed on it’s scenario. The alien invasion takeover is the Doctor Who aspect of Mysterio but it feels like it is intruding on the more personal story taking place between Lucy and Grant. It feels like an intruder, there because it has to be rather than because it needs to be. A threat was needed, one is conjured up but let’s not pretend that the banal nature of aliens taking over by popping their brains into human shells and dropping a spaceship on New York is anything special. Strangely enough it is the most Doctor Who-y moments where I felt creative fatigue from Moffat. The effect of the head tearing open is fantastically achieved but beyond that these aliens didn’t managed to distinguish themselves at all. I get the point of the split screen sequence, cutting the action up like a comic book but I don’t think it is particularly imaginatively realised or effective. It feels kind of half arsed, just there to add a (unsuccessful) visual quirk. Not even the cut to the baby adds any charm to the sequence.

The Shallow Bit: Justin Chatwin con glasses. Hot.

Result: This is less of a superhero movie and more a collection of the elements that make up a superhero movie. It’s also less of a Doctor Who episode but more a collection of elements that make up a Doctor Who episode. The two don’t mesh together entirely well and plot wise you’re looking at a bit of a car crash of a story with some underdeveloped ideas. What salvages the story and lifts it surprisingly high in places is the amount of heart on display, the fun kisses to the genre it is aping, the stylish visuals and the character work, which whilst never aspiring to anything substantial is warmly written and brought to the screen by the cast. In other words, the precise opposite of what Steven Moffat usually delivers, light on plot and ideas and heavy on character and sentimentality. I really enjoyed the love triangle between Lucy, Grant and the Ghost and the cute humour that arose from the situation. There really haven’t been scenes like this in Doctor Who before…because these scenes aren’t really Doctor Who. They’re the New Adventures of Superman, but I rather liked that show and the bizarre love triangle that played out (until they married off Lois and Clark, that was a disaster). Justin Chatwin and Charity Wakefield deliver charming performances and you’re rooting for them all the way, even if their eventual smooch is predictable. It’s the gentlest kind of romance, so chaste and innocent there’s only one hint of sexual tension but that’s why it’s so enjoyable for all the family to watch. You know, at Christmas. There were moments where the direction worked a doozy (the vibrant way New York is brought to life, the honesty of the intimate character moments) and there were times where it felt a little sloppy (the pointless split screen sequence, the Doctor on the live camera, the pedestrian nature of how the aliens were presented). I’ve seen better Christmas specials (The Christmas Invasion, The Snowmen, Last Christmas) and I’ve seen far worse (The Next Doctor, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, Time of the Doctor), this was a middling adventure but a kiss and a cuddle of a character tale. Against the odds, The Return of Doctor Mysterio was very enjoyable. It left me with a warm feeling in my stomach…although that might have been the Disaronno too: 7/10

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Absolute Power written and directed by Jamie Anderson

What's it about: Two thousand years ago, all civilisation on the planet Teymah was wiped out in an AELE – an Anomalous Extinction Level Event. Now, the galactic entrepreneur Lyam Yce hopes, at last, to learn the reason why the ancient Teymahrians went extinct – by funding a huge archaeological dig. While the Doctor probes a strange sphere found by Yce's diggers, his companion, former Bletchley Park cryptographer Constance Clarke, agrees to help translate symbols written in the lost ancient language of the Teymahrians. And soon, they'll learn that ancient Teymah's secrets were best left buried deep beneath its shifting sands...

Softer Six: Despite being over 900 years old he does still have his occasional childish moments and when a Brudvahkian yak wound up spitting on Constance he couldn't help but have a good giggle. The Doctor has been working on a mobile device that is an extension of the TARDIS' telepathic circuitry for centuries. It allows you to feel the empathy for another but he cannot recall why he built it now for love nor money, it was a few regenerations back. The Doctor and his companion arriving can go one of two ways; he's accused of being a stranger and suspected of whatever trouble is going on or he is mistaken for somebody else and 'expected.' I'm glad this is the latter because it avoids all the clichés of the more familiar former approach. It's precisely why Russell T. Davies invented the psychic paper, to avoid the predictability of the Doctor having the finger pointed at him as soon as he arrives. Listen to the Doctor and Constance listening to the Yce propaganda video, its a small but vital demonstration of their easy chemistry at this point in their travels. Apparently he has as acccute a sense of directional hearing as a bat with Sat Nav. Always been one for modesty, Sixie. He enjoys a little corporate hospitality every now and again. Colin Baker is always at his best when he gets to raise up on his moral high horse. The destruction of Teymahrian civilisation, how the Ninexie representative worked his way through one host after another and subsequently wiped out their race in doing so, appals him. Tens of millions of them destroyed to ensure the procreation of a scientifically advanced species. Can you imagine his anger?

Constant Companion: When she's angry with him it is most definitely Mrs Clarke. She's admits she doesn't know the Doctor all that well and they have only been travelling together for a little time. She's certainly not been with him long enough so the wonder of the universe is lost on her. She steps out of the TARDIS in awe, not simply declaring not a dreary old planet. There were enough eighties companions like that on the TV. An artefact with an undiscovered language, exactly the sort of thing that a cryptographer from the Second World War can get her teeth into. As a wartime gal, Mrs Clarke was used to cutbacks and finds the set on Teymah more than a little extravagant. I love that the Doctor speaks very highly of Mrs Clarke's abilities, professionally. She really should have paid more attention to that escapology course at Blecthley...but then she had no idea she was going to be roaming around the universe and having mad adventures. She cannot handle male attention and shies away from it dramatically. Maybe she doesn't know him that well but Constance has absolute faith that he will turn up and save her when she is in a spot. 

Sparkling Dialogue: 'This is genocide on the most obscene and monstrous scale!'

Great Ideas: Emotional trauma is what claiming compensation is all about so it does surprise that that is taken to the nth degree in the future. Landing on the site of an AELE - an Anomalous Extinction Level Event - is a nice, juicy dramatic idea. You can bet your bottom dollar that we are going to find out by the end of the story. Doctor Who loves a mystery and this is one that is ready to be solved. When did any good come of poking around in mysterious spheres that are discovered on alien worlds? When will people learn to leave these sorts of things alone? I love how Anderson runs through some of the SF clichés when a character suggests what the sphere might be. There have been a fair few spheres in Doctor Who before and it's nice to see he is aware of that. After The Impossible Planet, Under the Lake and now Absolute Power I'm starting to wonder if the TARDIS wasn't fitted with a comprehensive list of languages of the universe to translate. Mind you, after all the planets that they have visited were the translation circuits have worked, this is just an aberration. An ancient God that derived his power from a special cylindrical object? You should never listen to rumour but sometimes it can't be helped. Electromitosis is the generation of electricity in order to reproduce. 3000 years ago a member of the Ninexie landed in a colonisation pod landed on Teymah. An attempted invasion and interstellar war led to led to a dramatic increase in immigration, spreading their reach into the universe. Their method of colonisation requires a certain level of technological sophistication and so he had to use the Teymahrians as hosts to advance their scientific development. Irresponsible but a sound survival instinct. The Genocide Squad sound like a terrifying prospect.

Audio Landscape: Shuttles landing and flying overhead, the Doctor working on a fizzing console in the TARDIS, the eerie atmosphere on Teymah, breaking into the sphere, power leaping from the sphere, a dust storm whipping up, a busy an bustling hospitality, the Doctor scribbling, a beeping bomb, a ship punching off into space, water rushing, laser fire,

Musical Cues: I immediately had the sense that the music was being composed by somebody different, it had a freshness and vibrancy to it that screamed of an original voice to Big Finish. That was a smart move on Jamie Anderson, to give his first main range adventure a unique style. The dramatic moments have a real sense of pace of the mystery of the planet that was abandoned is captured with haunting beauty. It's quite melodramatic in parts but to me that feels very traditionally Doctor Who. Too many of the main range scores have tried to feel like movie soundtracks in the last few years, forgetting that the show wasn't epically emotional all the time.

Isn't it Odd: A fellow reviewer sparked a moment of anger in me recently and it made me think about the whole nature of Doctor Who and what different people seek from it. His reviews are ones that I admire and follow religiously. We don't always agree but considering we are different people with different tastes that is only to be expected. His reviews are briefer than mine, more incisive, more decisive and generally far more intelligently written. However his sense of disbelief that somebody could look at the main range in the current state it is in and find it not only enjoyable, but exactly the sort of Doctor Who they seek out, was palpable. It stems from Big Finish rather smugly placing their positive reviews on their website to encourage others to buy them. As a marketing device, it's gold. These are word that have been written in praise of these stories and so to wave a flag towards them whilst trying to sell them is a smart move. However if you read all the review quotes that have been placed at the stop of all the stories you'll could possibly be under the impression that every one of them is an instant classic, with no quality variance whatsoever. My problem with the reviewers reaction to this is the incredulity that a cliché ridden nostalgia fuelled range might what somebody could hold up and champion. And why not? There's plenty about the main range that I am not satisfied with but I completely understand why somebody might listen to Order of the Daleks and think it ticks all the right boxes and tickles their fancies. It's horses for courses. We all like different things. I'm absolutely serious when I give The Chase and Time and the Rani 9/10 because they both give such pleasure. The series is the same, I didn't get a great deal of enjoyment overall from the Matt Smith era...but I'm finding the Capaldi era much more to my tastes. Interest is such relative thing, a personal thing. And that's what I've always promoted on this blog. My personal interest. I'm not speaking for fandom but my only personal reaction to the show. It's why I'm attacked occasionally with some scathing comments, because people have such different tastes to mine. My point is...let's enjoy what we enjoy (or not) and leave everybody else to their devices. Doctor Who is a personal love, and we all get different things from it. If am rewarded with innovation and intelligence there will be somebody else berating the fact that the story isn't Doctor Whoey enough for them. It's the name of the game. If you like the main range right now, good for you. It's fine to express personal dissatisfaction, but  questioning why others get enjoyment from something doesn't sit too well with me.

Florrie was played so sickly sweet that I had her pegged as being up to no good from the start. There's a little too much technobabble for me in the last episode.

Result: That was...really rather fun. I don't think there was one part of this story that wasn't a Doctor Who cliché of some sort or another; the mystery of an abandoned civilisation, a strange sphere found in the ruins, an unknown language, possession,  centuries old war having consequences on the present, genocidal revenge, a society unnaturally advanced. However how the story was presented, so pacy and dramatic, they all get a new lease of life. It's like Doctor Who tropes being stuffed into a firework, lighting the fuse and watching them explode in the sky in colourful patterns. I was carried along by the thrust of the story, the energy of the actors and Jamie Anderson's superb understanding of how to get the most drama out of any given situation. He really is quite a find this year. The regulars carry a lot of the story and I'm pleased to reveal that the sixth Doctor and Constance continue to impress. Baker and Raison work together very well, although I have to say I am excited for the shake up in the next release, simply for the amusing culture clash I think it will bring. The use of a fresh musician worked very well for me too. Music is very important to an audio adventure, sound is all they have to generate an atmosphere and Joe Kraemer is a fresh and original new talent to the range. I was carried lightly through the more traditional moments ideas thanks to Kraemer's exciting and mysterious score. If the main range was to bubble along popping out conventional stories, I would much rather it was something as snap crackle and pop as Absolute Power rather than some of the examples we have suffered in the past couple of years. Is this the sort of story that I think the main range should be using as a template for future adventures? Dramatically, yes. Do I want a little more innovation and originality in my Doctor Who? Yes too. Anderson clearly has a fine understanding of the show and of audio drama in general. I think he's going to write and direct an absolute classic at some point. Absolute Power isn't that. But it will colourfully kiss you all over with Doctor Whoness and when it's as effortlessly enjoyable as this it's best to just lie back and enjoy it. Take of that metaphor what you will: 7/10

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Order of the Daleks written by Mike Tucker and directed by Jamie Anderson

What's it about: In the Galactic Census, idyllic Strellin is recorded as a Grade Three planet – its inhabitants possessing neither advanced technology, nor knowledge of other worlds. Accordingly, Strellin is protected: landings by off-worlders are strictly prohibited. Unless, of course, those off-worlders are officials of the Galactic Census itself, come to investigate the origin of a mysterious sub-space signal – a signal no native of Strellin should be able to send... Breaking all local by-laws, the time-travelling Doctor and his companion L/Wren Mrs Constance Clarke (AWOL) have only just landed on Strellin, too. But they and the Census officials aren't the only off-worlders to have come here. Inside a nearby monastery, the monks of the reclusive Brotherhood of the Black Petal are guarding a strange and terrible secret. Something that might bring disaster not just to Strellin, but to every civilised world in the galaxy!

Softer Six: 'Until someone has loved an animal a part of ones soul remains unawakened...' quotes the sixth Doctor in typical theatrical style. I've said it a million times before but this character is simply made for audio. He bursts forth from the TARDIS ready for the next adventure with such vibrancy and gusto and I cannot help but get swept up in his wake. The planet Strellin is well known in the galaxy for its peace and tranquillity - you have to wonder why the Doctor chooses to take his companions to these universal paradise planets given his adventures usually devolve into a mayhem and murder. Does he have a desire to rid the universe of beauty spots? Something of an expert when it comes to visiting pre-Space Age civilisations, apparently. Despite the fact that it pours out of his very pores, he cries out against any suggestion that he is arrogant. His bark is worse than his bite and it's important to remember that because sometimes his bark is terrifying. In the face of Daleks with the equivalent of bayonets the Doctor is more facetious than ever by playing up to their impotence. Remember when the New Adventures had the Doctor taking a dose of mind altering drugs to save the day and fandom went up in arms about it? It says something about how the series as a whole has shifted that the Doctor does exactly that in this story and nobody will bat an eyelid. After destroying worlds, falling in love and killing people...what's a little hallucinogenic drug between friends? The Doctor almost manages to wrestle the Abbot's mind back from the Black Dalek by sheet force of will.

Constant Companion: She's a beautiful woman and even in her conservative wartime clothing might prove a little much for the Monks. The only reason she is prepared to wrap up in a cloak is because it is a shade autumnal (although it provides another striking image on the cover). I liked that fact that Constance finds out about the Daleks before the Doctor, although it has to be said she makes very little observation about them aside from not understanding at all what they are. Constance will act on her own volition rather than waiting for the Doctor's permission. I wanted to criticise the story for failing to do anything interesting with Constance out of the 'generic companion' mould until she took it upon herself to stab a Dalek mutant with a screwdriver. That's definitely novel. I like how she and the Doctor are treated as equals, she doesn't suffer his pomposity and he respect her. There's no degree of him talking down to her in the way he can with his younger companions (Peri, Flip). Travelling with the Doctor is starting to make Constance feel invincible, she's dashing into situations without evaluating the dangers. The Doctor has come to rely on Mrs Clarke, one of his constant companions.

Standout Performance: Whoever was responsible for bringing Colin Baker and John Savident together deserves a medal. If you've seen the entire run of Blake's 7 you'll know that these two actors are responsible for two of the most outrageously over the top and amusing guest characters that the show ever produced. Within the confines of a Doctor Who story they are both reined in a little but it is still a battle to see who can steal each scene. Their chemistry is a joy and the two characters butt heads with spectacularly, proving you don't have to get on to work together successfully. I haven't seen Colin Baker have to fight for scene space this badly since The One Doctor.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'What are they going to me to death?'
'Scuttle my shuttle?'
'Murder! Committed by men of peace!'

Great Ideas: The Brotherhood of the Black Petal are renowned for their work with stained glass. Trust Big Finish to dare to explore such a beautiful artistic field when they deal with a purely aural medium. It does give them the opportunity to produce the most striking cover in many, many a year though. It's magnificent. But to have a character who has taken a vow of silence in a setting that is known for it's magnificent beauty does rather feel as though it is pointing out the fact that we are lacking images. A crashed spaceship with aliens working night and day to try and escape from Stellin...who could they possibly be? The Daleks have no qualms about introducing higher technology to a primitive civilisation if it means advancing their plans. Morality was hardly a strong point of there's. There was never any distress, the signal was sent out merely to lure some poor innocent space traveller onto the rocks so they can salvage their craft. The Monk's donate what blood they can but they need fresh victims... to feed Dalek mutants that are being kept alive inside animal carcasses. What a repulsive idea. Daleks without guns is not an original idea but it is still an interesting one, forced into using their wits. The Daleks that have crash landed on Strellin are part of a battle fleet involved in the invasion of the planet Kantra. An elite squad and part of the Emperor's Guard. Smart enough to escape a crash on a primitive planet without technology and still manage salvage what help they can from a society without technology. If your only help is a group of Monks, have them construct (beautiful) stained glass cases for you. Daleks who are able to project their conscience into the minds of people? That would make for a formidably destructive army. Tucker enjoys putting some grisly images out there, knowing full well that we can't see them. A Dalek mutant screaming and squelching his way up a saucer exhaust pipe is really nasty. The Monks consume the extract of the Dream flower which allows them to become one with nature - a notorious hallucinogenic substance. Before the Daleks came they lived in perfect harmony with nature but now they have spoilt that. By using their blood to grow stronger they have become one with the perfect mind, perverting it. Trust the Daleks to take hold of something pure like a religious order and turn them to hate and murder.

Audio Landscape: Chanting, a scream in the distance, Brandylak's grazing, gates rumbling open, screaming hordes, alarm, screaming mutants, Volteen screaming in the distance, birdsong, crackling flames.

Isn't it Odd: Certain writers you expect big things from, others you are a little kinder to when it comes to their work. Tucker has never been a favourite of mine because I am more of a fan of substantial Doctor Who stories. He favours traditional, simple narratives, concentrating on the adventure rather than providing truly meaty characterisation or thematic depth. That's not necessarily criticism because his stories are usually very well paced, exciting and full of big, bold imagery. You cannot say he first episode of Order of the Daleks is packed with substance, it's a relatively simple set up that leads to a humdinger of a cliffhanger. Compare it to, say, the first episode of Jubilee or The Curse of Davros (other Colin Baker Dalek stories) and this is pretty shallow stuff, but it's rather engaging because of it. In a time of overly complicated stories are the works of Mike Tucker and Justin Richards (lets call them the Kings of Trad) shining through because they return to a tried and tested formula of old? The first episode is a whopping 33 minutes long but it skips by amiably enough.

Standout Scene: I really enjoyed the end of episode two because it not only proves that the Doctor's hunch was erroneous but it also does something novel with the Daleks, giving an actor the chance to play the role without any modulation. Robbie Stevens is excellent and really sells the moment. I had goosepimples.

Result: Often there is something rewarding about being patient. It takes Order of the Daleks some time to get to he good stuff but it is taking it's time for a reason, lulling you into a false sense of security before hitting you with some really unpleasant ideas. Power of the Daleks couldn't have been brought out at a more fortuitous time because that also sees the Daleks trapped and powerless, using their wits and manipulation techniques to exploit the local population into making them strong again. I love it when they are forced to use their intelligence rather than simply blasting away, it makes them a force to be reckoned with intellectually rather than just another faceless monster. Tucker has introduced enough elements to his story to keep it ticking over for its four episodes; the stained glass Daleks, the mental exercise in Dalek survival, the mutants being incubated in animal carcasses, the religious revolution. You're not going to be blown away by anything truly original because the Daleks have been explored to death across several mediums but by taking a visual approach on audio Tucker has at least tried something novel. And the ideas this story contains are good ones, enjoyably presented. Just as the striking cover suggests, this is a mix of a medieval setting with science fiction elements which gives it a hybrid genre that is hard to pinpoint. I rather liked that. Order of the Daleks isn't going to be anybody's favourite story but it skips along with some nasty concepts, features some sterling performances and lovely direction. For a range that is being criticised for losing its way this an rock solid Doctor Who adventure with the added bonus of featuring Colin Baker. He skips from he TARDIS with such gusto and drags me through the adventure in his wake. I recognise that I'm biased but I will automatically give this story an extra mark for his engaging presence: 8/10

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Judoon in Chains written by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris and directed by Barnaby Edwards

What's it about: The Sixth Doctor is no stranger to courtroom drama, but faces a very different challenge when he prepares to defend a most unusual Judoon. After an environmental clearance mission goes wrong, Captain Kybo of the Nineteenth Judoon Interplanetary Force is stranded in Victorian England, bound in chains, an exhibit in a circus show. But he has allies: Eliza Jenkins – known to audiences as ‘Thomasina Thumb’ – and the larger-than-life ‘clown’ in the colourful coat. Uncovering a trail of injustice and corruption, the Doctor and Kybo soon find themselves on trial for their lives…

Softer Six: A showman by the look of him, he proudly declares himself Tybo's defence council and you can almost hear him clutching his lapels arrogantly at the judge. People may not think much of Trial of a Time Lord (I don't think they're right but that's probably my issue, not theirs) but it certainly bought something passionate out in Colin Baker. An actor and a character who was on trial for his life. The natural theatrical nature of Baker meant that it was a very comfortable setting for him and that puts us in very good stead for Judoon in Chains. Meeting a theatrical impresario (although one with scarce as much flair as Henry Gordon Jago) makes me think that Colin Baker's Doctor would fit that sort of role; brash, arrogant and colourful. He is offered the job of 'Interpretor cum Clown', the Very Colourful Voice of Kybo because he understands the Judoon language. He's not over fond of courtrooms but he'll overlook that for the greater good. Hearing the sixth Doctor talking about the Shadow Proclamation gave me chills.

Gruff Officer: The Doctor assumes the worst of the Judoon and is surprised to find he has wound up with one with manners. In fact Kybo is unique in many respects. Being treated as a sideshow freak, Kybo the Rhinoceros Man is a massive indignity to him but he bears the insult well. It's worth the admission price just to hear a Judoon quoting Burns and admitting that he loves something as artistic as poetry because there is nothing comparable in his society. His own poetry is both very funny and very sweet, an ode to a beautifully craggy and horny Judoon. The story of how Kybo discovered the concept of beauty is delightful, his mind opening for the first time. He talks of crying for the first time.

Standout Performance: I would recognise Dr Eleanor Harcourt from Bang Bang a Boom a mile away. Kudos to Nicholas Briggs, a much undervalued performer in the Doctor Who world who has given a vast array of monster voices over the past decade. Half of the battle is the voice with the monsters and he's been consisting innovative in providing chilling, memorable examples. Here he gets the opportunity to do some serious acting once more, like he does with the best of his Dalek stories (the opportunities that the television story Dalek gave him were extraordinary, really showing his talent). Kybo is such a fun character and I was extremely drawn to him. For Briggs to get his voice so gruff and yet gentle must have been painful on the old larynx. A massive round of applause for the torture on his vocal chords, it was worth it.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'This planet is a present for my daughters 16th birthday!' How the other half live...
'I said we should have hired Ogrons...'
The only story to dare to get away with the expression 'horny headed friend.'
'You win some, you lose some. Hey ho.'
'A Judoon commune on the Moon?'

Great Ideas: Trust the Judoon to be as subtle as ever and moving the courtroom to somewhere more convenient. I love the framing device that this story hangs upon, setting up a courtroom drama and heading in to listen to the actual events informs us that something bad is going to happen. Morris and Barnard do not inform us of exactly what which adds suspense to the tale. Judoonese is the language of the Judoon. The Doctor considers the Judoon a rather simple species with exceptionally small brains that you could pick up in a teaspoon, hence their uninflected monosyllabic tongue. A sentience with no physical form, existing in all nature. They can be seen with humanoid eyes unless they emerge in one dimensional form. In a surface of a river or in the reflection of a pocket watch. The Iyesha sent out a distress call when Kybo's ship was attacked, saving his life twice over. They needed to communicate their plight to the rest of the universe, using Kybo as a whistleblower. They are the reason his mind has been opened and his artistic side has flourished. The universe has a population problem, planets exhaust their natural resources and then they die and the populace moves on to other worlds. That's where Genesis Corp come in, they make planets habitable for their clients. They can terraform in any way you like...for the right price. Everywhere has some kind of life but it isn't always the kind of life that humanoid races might recognise.

Audio Landscape: The thunderous footsteps of the Judoon, a shocked and entertained courtroom audience, Judoon assimilating language, thunder, lightning, rain, a very blowy hull breach, footsteps on a gantry, explosion, birds in a forest, a fairground jingle,

Isn't it Odd: Isn't there some kind of ruling that forbids a participant in the crime to stand for defence council of the accused?

Standout Scene: The Doctor is baffled how the Genesis Corp continued with their plans to terraform Iyesha when the intelligent species sent out a cry for help to stop. He's not shy of calling that behaviour murder and points the finger at the man accountable. Pleasingly he exposes him and his blasé attitude towards like to the shareholders effectively bringing him down. Justice wins just how it should be.

Result: Immediately this feels like a more natural fit for a classic Doctor than the Weeping Angels did for Peter Davison's Doctor. Fallen Angels felt like a classic Doctor in a NuWho adventure whereas the Judoon are just the sort of clod-hopping, unsubtle races that classic Who would use to hold a mirror up to humanity. I can imagine them stomping about an eighties adventure (think the Sontarans in The Two Doctors or the Cybermen in any eighties story) and the trial setting makes this uniquely suited to the sixth Doctor. As a result this crosses the bridge between old and new far more smoothly. What strikes me as odd is how I perceived this audio was going to be, a piece of fluff featuring an awful lot of legal waffle and posturing. There is a little of that but this is actually a very sweet and personable character drama too, concentrating on the relationship between two equally gruff protagonists (the Doctor and Kybo). It's fascinating to watch them interact, a boisterous Time Lord and a crotchety Judoon and watching as they practically cancel out each others combative traits and wind up exploring a much more gentle and respectful relationship. By the end of the story I rather fancied Kybo hopping in the TARDIS with the Doctor and doing a round of the galaxy but I guess that could never work because contemporary Earth stories would mean he would have to wear some kind of holographic filter at all times. Just like The End of the Line for the sixth Doctor's Last Adventure box set, Morris and Barnard understand precisely what makes the sixth Doctor tick and characterise him charmingly. The plot starts well and promises a great deal of drama but it doesn't really follow through on that promise (very like Trial of a Time Lord then) but it does hold up several tasty ideas along the way. I especially like the moral tone the story takes at the climax, the Doctor taking on a profit making corporation that is terraforming without ethics. Judoon in Chains is a fresh look at a two dimensional foe and pleasing because of it. It's not what I expected and is all the more enjoyable for it: 8/10

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Fallen Angels written by Phil Mulryne and directed by Barnaby Edwards

What's it about: 2015: When sightseers Joel and Gabby Finch encounter a strange man in Edwardian cricketing garb in the Sistine Chapel, their honeymoon suddenly takes a terrifying turn. 1511: Michelangelo is commissioned to create some very special sculptures by a mysterious sect. But as he carves, angels seem to emerge fully-formed from the rock. Almost as if they are alive… From Michelangelo’s workshop to the catacombs of Rome, the Fifth Doctor must keep his wits about him and his eyes wide open as he confronts the Weeping Angels.

An English Adventurer: Hat, door, rescue...that pretty much sums up the fifth Doctor very nicely. He always seemed to be spotting something on the scanner and dashing out of the door to save someone. A biege blur I think I described him as once. I was probably being derogatory but in hindsight it's not an inaccurate description. He finds if you act like you should be allowed in somewhere that you generally are. Actually that method has worked out quite well for all the Doctors. He's been at Heathrow recently, which sets this story near Time-Flight. The Doctor thinks that it is quite difficult to understand a general overview of time travel but if Dodo can get her head around it, anyone can. We've had enough lectures about fixed points in time for the fifth Doctor to get away with a throwaway 'and all that...' and we get the message that the Angels manipulation with time is important. When people are trying to kill hi he usually likes to know why. As his current companions will tell you, there are a manifest of reasons. The Doctor's method of covering his eyes and looking so he can see where the Angels are moving to is insanely dangerous...and very exciting.

Standout Performance: Matthew Kelly is not a name that you hear much these days but he was a formative part of my childhood hosting shows such as You Bet and Stars in Their Eyes. He brings a robust gruffness to Michelangelo, exactly the right sort of attitude and strength that you would imagine from one of the most famous artists this planet has ever produced. He's not somebody I would like to meet in a dark alley in a bad mood.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'You wont get a signal in 1511 and even if you do just think of the roaming charges!'
'I'm just not really used to people doing this sort of thing around me' says the Doctor about two people kissing in a wonderful dig at how domestic the show has become in it's latest incarnation.

Great Ideas: Immediately this feels like a descendent of Blink with the fifth Doctor's involvement discussed in the first scene before he has even arrived. Moffat's timey wimeyness (still brings me out in hives) is all pervading before the story has even begun. I'm not a religious man but I always figure that Michelangelo had some kind of divine intervention when he painted the roof of the Sistine Chapel. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it was a paradoxical leak from the future from the mouth a bloke called Joel. Italian artists are disappearing from history, vanishing from he established time stream, the glories of their art lost. A Weeping Angel is a creature that is quantum locked into position while it is being observed, just in case you're one of those strange people that has never seen Blink before. The Weeping Angel fell to Earth in pre-history. It wasn't planned, it was trapped in the sediment that eventually became marble in a quarry. It must have been in absolute torment for a millennia. It would have gone insane and would be looking for the richest meal of artron energy ever to get its strength back. Angels trapped in Venetian mirrors, beguiled by their own reflection - a glorious image.

Audio Landscape: The Angel attacks are very well executed, with some dramatic musical stings to point out when the creature is attacking. Crowd scene, chipping at stone, constructing a scaffolding, footsteps, flames crackling,

Isn't it Odd: A classic series adventure with a new series length is an odd beast, but it works very well for this adventure. Unless you were really daft then surely you would realise that you were standing in 1511? The co-incidence of Joel landing in the workshop of an artist he admires so much stretches credulity. It would be like the Angels sending me back in time and winding up in Terrance Dicks' office in the BBC in 1972. The Angels where the very definition of the law of diminishing returns, every time they appeared I feel they lost a little more of their original impact. The trouble with retuning to successful one-off monster is that you have to innovate them and the Angels were perfectly conceived in the first place. Eventually you wind up with something as crass and obvious as the Statue of Liberty marching across the City gnashing her teeth. The two stories I feel have utilised them the best since Blink are Touched By An Angel, an extremely strong BBC novel by Jonathan Morris and this audio. In both cases the author is working overtime to make the creatures work in a new format. Come Time of the Doctor and Hell Bent the Angels are featuring in stories as cameos. It's a pretty inexcusable waste of a great monster. Joel and Gabby are nicely played but don't standout like the best of the new series characters - they interact well with the Doctor but I certainly wouldn't be putting them up for companion material.

Standout Scene: Michelangelo literally tears down the scaffolding in the climax...after a 70 foot fall the Angels climb out of the wreckage and keep on coming.

Result: 'The most humane psychopaths in the universe...' The big question on everybody's lips is how do you tell a story about a purely visual monster in an audio format. Apparently by thinking about the nature of these creatures very carefully and constructing a clever story around them. With some clever description, jumpy sound effects and creepy music you can conjure up the essence of The Weeping Angels without ever having to see them. It's quite the challenge and not the sort that Big Finish - that I feel has been playing it safe in many ways lately- is keen to take. It's nice to see some balls. Then this is the work of Barnaby Edwards and he's by and large my favourite Big Finish director. If I was going to hand a difficult task like this to anybody, Edwards would be my choice. He injects a zest into the most lifeless of scripts (not that this is lifeless by any means) and assembles the most impressive of guest casts. He seems to have all the best actors in his little black book. Michelangelo carving out a statue of an Angel is an impressively bold image and a one line pitch that probably sold David Richardson on the idea of an Angel story. Peter Davison seems very home in what is essentially a new series adventure and the whole cast is clearly getting a thrill out of telling an Angel story. There's a zippy pace to the piece that reveals just how arduous some of those main range adventures can be. Perhaps there is an argument for two or three episode adventures for 5, 6, 7 and 8. Phil Mulryne is a new voice to Big Finish but if this script is anything to go by this wont be the last we hear of him. I was genuinely pleased that my first Big Finish review in a while was something this effortlessly enjoyable to listen to. Fallen Angels isn't the most standout of adventures but it does what it does extremely well indeed: 8/10

Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Chocolate Company - Special Offer!

I realise this is a different sort of post from the norm but my friend has a superb online business selling luxury chocolate and has handed me a special introductory offer to new customers that read my website. I want to be able to advertise for him just this once because I am a very satisfied customer myself (he arranged the favours for my wedding) but also because I believe in his product.

Take a look guys - his website is and you can have 10% off any order you purchase if you use the discount code WHO10%

He sells all of the UK brands of Lindt but many of the rare US flavours too that generally aren't available in this country. It's the perfect time to buy for Christmas and the gift sets are a real treat. Check it out, you wont regret it.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

8th Doctor Adventures for sale (plus reviews of the best stories!)

I'm selling my 8th Doctor Adventures to clear out some space that is needed at home. My listings are on ebay but I thought I might offer a little encouragement with a link to my other blog which reviews pretty much all of the Doctor Who books and graphic novels and post my reviews of the finest stories in each set.

Set One -

The Eight Doctors
Vampire Science
The Bodysnatchers
Alien Bodies
War of the Daleks
Option Lock

Best of the Bunch: 

Alien Bodies written by Lawrence Miles 

Plot: The Doctor and Sam arrive on Earth in the East Indies in the future and stumble across an auction taking place, involving several of the biggest alien powers. Just what is the mysterious Relic that everybody is after and how does it connect to the Doctor? And what’s all this business about a War with the Time Lords?

Top Doc: There is a wonderful passage where Sam imagines the eighth Doctor is extremely frustrated to be trapped inside a young body (with a baby face and foppy curls) when he is the accumulation of so many lives. He's not afraid of anything in Miles' hands, happily playing chess whilst he knows his life is in the most terrible danger and jumping out of the window when trouble arrives. He has to face up to the terrible truth that he will die in the future, hardly a shocking revelation but to have it shoved under your nose in such a tawdry way really hits home that the universe will continue to tick along without him. When the Doctor discovers what is being auctioned off it is the first time since he regenerated that he has gotten really, REALLY angry and he even has a few homicidal thoughts (which he later attempts to brush off as another of the Shift’s personality manipulations but even he isn’t convinced…). During a thoughtful conversation with his corpse he is condemned for not thinking about the consequences of his actions anymore. Obviously the book has huge consequences for the Doctor, but not necessarily this Doctor, as his death is pre-ordained and his corpse is present within the pages of the book. However this is somewhat muddied by the events in Alien Bodies, which turns his body into a paradox. Nothing is ever simple with Doctor Who, is it? Who cares, this is out and out one of the best takes on the eighth Doctor until his revision later in the range. He’s dynamic, funny, magical, terrified and beautiful. 

Friend or foe: Sam actually seems quite fun with Miles’ steady prose to guide her. Certainly there is none of the boisterousness or bitchiness, which she has exhibited when at her worst. There is an excellent moment where Sam isn’t culture shocked by the Faction’s ‘interior’ TARDIS, whereas Kathleen is a gibbering wreck. In the hands of a lesser writer she would come across as an arrogant chump. But she doesn’t. He even manages to suggest there is more to Sam than meets the eye when she is scanned and revealed to have had two different sets of biodata, one who is a drugged up failure who never met the Doctor and the one we know. It is even suggested that the version we have been travelled with has been manipulated, her timeline was twisted by the Doctor himself (unconsciously) so she could be everything his hearts desire, the perfect companion. Oo-er missus…what could this all mean? Sam is inherently a faceless placard so thumbs up for making her bearable and interesting throughout. 

Foreboding: This is it chaps. This is where the eighth Doctor arc starts and astonishingly doesn’t finish until the very last novel, The Gallifrey Chronicles. That’s a long time to wait for some answers. This book introduces the future War that the Time Lords will fight, the voodoo cult Faction Paradox (who will turn up again to fox the Doctor) and the Celestis (conceptual entities who used to be Time Lords but saw that they would lose and turned themselves into ideas). Brilliantly, Miles includes a scene where the Time Lord Homunculette compares the Enemy’s attack on Gallifrey to the Daleks attack on Earth little knowing the eventual fate of the planet in the new TV series. There is a moving prologue where the Doctor lays to rest a space travelling dog; this equation of the third Doctor and death is an omen for the tragic events in Interference. Sam’s twin sets of biodata s followed up in Unnatural History. The Grandfather Paradox is brought up and will return to haunt the Doctor in The Ancestor Cell. 

Twists: Pretty much the inclusion of everything in the previous category. Unveiling the secret of the Relic has to be the best twist of the entire book range though, even given the ramifications of the Time Lord War, this series is all about the Doctor at the end of the day and the confirmation of his eventual death is probably the biggest, boldest shock in any of the book ranges. I would go as far to say the Doctor undereacts to the revelation. 

Funny bits: Loads. This is a genuinely funny book with most of jokes ground in Doctor Who history so totally inaccessible to a non fan but absolutely hilarious to the rest of us. Marie the sentient TARDIS hiccups every time she lands. The Doctor’s reactions to Qixotl’s attempts to reveal the future are hilarious. Page 148 features a reference to Karma and Flares: The Importance Of Fashion Sense To The Modern Zen Master which the Doctor has read to be at one with his pockets (explaining why he always happens to have the right thing to hand). The Doctor’s jaw actually drops when Qixotl has the nerve to offer him 40% of the profits from his own body (and even tells him he has to bid himself!). The thought of the Krotons managing to overpower the Daleks is funny enough but everybody else’s reactions to their cumbersome appearance is a delight too. The way E-Kolbot’s head revolves alarmingly every time he gets agitated is worth a chuckle. His overreaction to the Raston sex dancers (dismembering each one) is one of the highlights of the book. There is a farcical moment right out of a Woody Allen movie where all the bidders get into a huge scrap once the Doctor’s identity is revealed. When the Doctor realises who Qixotl is he punches him in the face. 

Embarrassing bits: There is a mention of Dalek sex. Let’s never go there again. An incredible Doctor Who book, full of unusual, fascinating, imaginative concepts…so it’s rather embarrassing that the writer forgot to include a plot.

Result: The book that turned the EDAs from a tidy book series to risk taking engine of storytelling. Alien Bodies is about as good as Doctor Who literature comes; it is shocking, daring and imaginative and features some of the best prose in any of the ranges. Any of the innovations this book flaunts would be enough to drive a novel but they continue to pile up: the creepy and unnerving Faction Paradox, the glimpses of a Time War, the humanoid TARDISes, Sam’s dual timeline, the diabolical Celestis, the existential Mr Shift and more importantly the Doctor’s death. The guest cast are amazing; the book traps them all in one claustrophobic location and unpeels them like Russian dolls until we saw who they really are inside. Lawrence Miles produces such an accomplished piece you don’t bat an eyelid that he has forgotten to include a narrative. A poll topper and with good reason, the inclusion of the Krotons is a work of genius. The ideas in this nove are so strong that Steven Moffat barefacedly nabbed them for his series seven finale, The Name of the Doctor, without apology. Spellbindingly good: 10/10

Set Two -

Longest Day
Legacy of the Daleks
Dreamstone Moon
Seeing I
Placebo Effect
Vanderdekens Children
The Scarlet Empress
The Janus Conjunction

The Face Eater
The Taint
Revolution Man
Unnatural History
Autumn Mist

Best of the Bunch: 

Revolution Man by Paul Leonard 

Plot: Someone is writing graffiti over the Earth using the drug Om-Tsor. The result is dangerous changes in time that should not have taken place. The Doctor, Sam and Fitz arrive in 1967 and are unaware of the massive changes they will face in opposing the Revolution Man…

Top Doc: He is fully aware he has contributed complications to Earth’s history. He has far too many memories that take him from the present and immerse him in the past. He feels he is going through something of a mid life crisis and wants to confide in Fitz about it. Revolution Man features a very dramatic take on the Doctor’s responsibilities to time as he dashes about trying to cancel out all of the Revolution Man’s meddling. Like Paul Leonard’s Genocide he is no longer the congenital idiot but a much darker, more contemplative character. The situation gets so dangerous at the climax he throws all of his morals away to fix the problem (see Twists) and its about time too.

Friend or Foe: This book features the best chemistry between the Doctor and Sam since The Scarlet Empress and the best all round interpretation of Sam’s character since Seeing I. She is marvellous, a far cry from the angst-ridden kid of the previous five or six books. Sam is intelligent enough to recognise the growing sense of dissatisfaction at the end of the sixties, wishful thinking turning into paranoia and hatred and she also identifies the darker side to the ‘Flower Children’, the sexism and homophobia that was still to be conquered. She thinks of Fitz as funny and intelligent and not half as cynical as he would like to think and when he says he is leaving the TARDIS it is sweet to see how shocked and upset she is about it (especially after giving him escape plan and first aid training!). She ingratiates herself with the TLB with ease, is contrasted wonderfully with psycho-campaigner Pippa and realises that meeting up with legends (Rex) is not always a good idea, as they never quite live up to what you expect. She is bright, resourceful, entertaining and perceptive. What took so damn long?

Scruffy Git: Failed romance number two: Maddie. Fitz is still unsure of the Doctor and his powers, when he heals Fitz’s girlfriend Maddie he thinks the Time Lord is some sort of God. He feels left out at the beginning, like a novelty the Doctor and Sam have grown bored of. He takes pretty much the first opportunity to leave the TARDIS but finds he misses the lifestyle, his life on Earth feels too ordinary. Entrenched in helping Maddie discover more information about Om-Tsor, he is kidnapped and brainwashed by the Chinese into a pacifist non-thinker and some of that influence still lingers at the end of the book. However he breaks free of that conditioning when he realises the world is in danger and commits and terrible act in the climax. He is still unsure of whether he did the right thing at the climax and so are we.

Foreboding: Fitz is MARKED, each time it looks as though he and the Doctor have split danger follows him and they are reunited. This happens in Interference, Time Zero and The Gallifrey Chronicles.

Twists: The consequences of people taking Om-Tsor are extremely dramatic. The train derailed, the earthquake in Rome, the ceiling ripped from the concert in London, the gun magically flying through the air and discharging…all of these are shocking moments but none more so than when Fitz and Jin Ming take some and chase each other (as giants) over the world, stepping over mountains, using oceans to break their fall, etc. Brilliantly, Fitz is thrown from a helicopter high in the sky. Red herrings are afoot concerning the identity of the Revolution Man…is it the Doctor, is it Rex…nope its Ed Hill, the supposedly dead rock star! The news that Om-Tsor will bring the world to an end is jaw dropping. None of these moments hold a candle to the climax, which sees Ed attempting to gain control of the TARDIS. In a desperate act to stop him Fitz shoots him through the head but this has no effect so the Doctor, in the only time in the series’ long history, picks up the gun and finishes him off. We cut away to a shocked look on the Doctors’ face and blood all over his coat. He then has to take drugs to ensure the safety of the planet. An unforgettable, powerful finish. I just wish all those cry babies who don’t like the Doctor using a weapon would bugger off, in a choice between millions of lives and one I know which I would choose. As a good friend of mine said this is Doctor Who not Doctrine Who.

Result: A mature piece of work and Paul Leonard’s best novel yet. Basing a book on drug taking was always going to be risky but Leonard pulls it off with real style, mainly because his prose has always had that sort of trippy, hypnotic feel to it that makes the scenes here of people intoxicated so powerful. The regulars are divine and it is astonishing to think it has taken this long to get them this right, but all three of them are vivid and used to drive the story along. The heavily bashed conclusion where the Doctor shoots Ed Hill is anything but disappointing, it’s the sort of sting in the tail these books should all have. Only the relative shortness of the book works against it, this is a storyline that deserves more time to let it breathe. All told, fantastic: 9/10

Set Four -

Interference Books 1 & 2
The Blue Angel
The Taking of Planet 5
Frontier Worlds
Parallel 59
The Shadows of Avalon
The Fall of Yquatine

Best of the Bunch: 

Interference Book One: Shock Tactic by Lawrence Miles

Plot: Well its got the 8th and 3rd Doctor’s in it, Fitz and Sam, Sarah and K9, an idiot called Llewis, some whacko aliens called the Remote, the Faction Paradox, an Ogron and a travelling show of freaks but 300 plus pages into the book and there is no real sign of a plot yet. The Doctor’s been locked up, there is a new alien weapon on the market and Sam has been scripted a few times but that’s about it…

Top Doc: The 8th Doctor barely appears but when he does he is turned into the icon Miles thinks he should be. He is scared to let Sam go, not only because he doesn’t want to be alone but because she was never meant to exist away from him. After some revealing conversations with a fellow captive he decides he changes things because he can. He does what he thinks he can get away with, and makes a personal choice not to interfere in the events of Earth, no matter how many times he mentions the laws of time. He is described as ‘the young Edwardian one’. In what has to be one of his most iconic sequences yet the Doctor outfoxes his ‘unpredictable’ captives by scrawling equations on the floor with his own blood, computations that allow him to leave real time and confer with himself via the TARDIS. I hope he is around more in the second book; this is quality stuff for the eighth Doctor.

The third Doctor feels terribly, terribly old but has a gentlemanly sense of nobility about what he has achieved in this regeneration.

Friend or Foe: Sam is given a complete overhaul, and we are treated to some profound insights into how she thinks. For example she spots some protestors and thinks they look ridiculous and that people who carry placards are weak, showing how far she has come since she joined up with the Doctor. There is the great moment when Sarah realises that Sam is much younger in 1996 to the Sam she has already met, allowing us to see her as a child tripping out on drugs. Her visit to Sam’s home is revealing, it turns out to be as drab as I had always envisaged. The scenes between Sam and Compassion crackle with tension, there is a real feeling of Emma Peel/Tara King crossover as one prepares to depart as the other is about to arrive.

Scruffy Git: Oh. My. GOD! Poor, poor Fitz is treated to some shocking developments. He is kidnapped and trapped in the Cold for over 600 years. The Doctor fails to rescue him and bored and useless, he decides to join up with Faction Paradox! He misses the messiness of the Doctor’s travels at first but after being contacted by the Grandfather Paradox (brrr…) is fully converted. By the end of the book he is bitter and twisted and wants to see the Doctor’s head on his wall of mounted Time Lord heads. What can I say, that Miles character doesn’t mess about does he? I can’t wait to see where this is heading…

Foreboding: Miles fills part one with hints as to later developments. The Doctor is still missing his shadow, Sam recognises Kode’s body language, Sarah’s memory of Dust is a blur and there are thirteen members of I M Foreman’s travelling show. All will be revealed later…

Twists: The universe in a bottle is a great idea and Miles actually seems to be attempting to canonise his idea that the New Adventures took place in there. Fitz being kidnapped and revived 600 years later is a real shocker. K9’s sudden appearance made me start clapping. The Remote, a group of aimless ‘transmitter’ people are a marvellous idea. Sam’s vertiginous view of Anathema is astounding. Sam and Compassion are dive bombed by a ship at Anathema. Only Lawrence Miles would dare to start a brand new story two thirds into his narrative, completely disregarding everything he had built up in his original story until then. The Doctor realises that the Faction are attempting to form links between himself and an earlier self for some sinister purpose. The third Doctor is welcomed into the eighth Doctor’s world as the TARDIS bleeds around him. He wants to know what happened to his noble universe and why he is having thoughts of impending death. The Eleventh Day Empire is possibly the most chilling and imaginative idea Lawrence Miles has ever thought up.

Funny bits: Considering this books length I M Foreman’s admission that she only has a 300 page attention span is hilarious. In the middle of an awkward moment between the Doctor and Sam the Doctor slips on a Venus de Milo and lands on his arse. Badar asks if he has two hearts does that mean he can love two women? Sarah threatens to load K9 with windows 98 if he doesn’t shut up. Compassion’s reaction to the hypocrisy of Sam’s morality made me cheer. Lost Boy the Ogron is a charming character.

Result: A book that feels really important, that is adult, intelligent and covers a lot of ground. Lawrence Miles is an ideas genius but once again he forgets to write plot around his massive concepts. It’s all set up and no pay off, 300 pages of character/ideas introductions with little happening but finding out more about them. It does get a little dry in places but the prose is mostly excellent with some excellent narrative devices there to make the journey easier (you’ve got lip reading binoculars, scripting, Sarah’s notes, an omnipresent narrator, one scene told from six POVs). Sam is dealt with very maturely, Sarah is amazingly written and it is worth reading just to find out what happens to poor Fitz. It’s a book that cleverly demands that you read the second half and really feels as if it is entering dangerous territory. It isn’t perfect but after a small lull in the EDAs it feels like a massive step in the right direction: 8/10

Interference Book Two: The Hour of the Geek by Lawrence Miles

Plot: Still searching for a plot, this 313 page epic conclusion to book one once again fails to have many events, more an exploration of clever ideas as though those ideas are enough to support the story without ever having a running narrative to hang them on. Fortunately, considering this is Lawrence Miles the ideas are fantastic so he gets away with this shocking omission with trademark cheek and style. What a guy. Needless to say there are loads of characters and they all reach some kind of conclusion but aside from Fitz nobody really does ANYTHING.

Top Doc: Oh yeah, this is what I’m talking about. When the Doctor sleeps you can see all the details that make him human. When the Doctor gets incarcerated by the Saudi’s they are unpredictable and brutal, for once it’s the wrong sort of trouble for him to escape from. In a very revealing moment he wonders how many times he has saved the lives of his torturers. For once, he genuinely believes he is going to die. At the adventures conclusion he is frightened about what happened to Fitz, promising to bring him back for Sam to say goodbye to him. He and Sam deliberately do not kiss as they say goodbye but he tells her he knows what she means when she tells him she loves him, clearly there is a great deal of respect and intimacy between them. Much like the seventh Doctor's manipulations into his companions lives, he contacts Sam and has a direct (persuasive) impression on her development as a child, ensuring she becomes Blonde Sam. Since he regenerated he has craved a sense of romance, the ability to exchange ideas with people on an intimate level.

Friend or Foe: Sam gets a pretty decent exit all told, considering her troubled life to this point all her baggage is tied up nicely. She cleverly sends out some signals of her own to the Remote media net, realising that our lives are as controlled by signals as the Remote. She gets her best ever scene where she takes command of the situation and saves the Earth, convincing Guest via a series of images showing him the future of the galaxy if he detonates the Time Lord weapon. Despite the fact that Sam is written with some respect here, it was high time to say goodbye and it feels like the EDAs are really moving with the times now. It is a nice thought thinking of Sam and Sarah being best friends on Earth.

Scruffy Git: However good her exit is Sam, as usual, is totally upstaged by Fitz who is given developments more frightening than any other companion before or since. Forget Roz Forrester or Adric, this is a real tragedy. He actually experiences the history of the Faction that Sam was told about in book one, realising he has lost four years of his life to their cause and even if he does get back to the Doctor he will never be the same Fitz again. The reason Kode seemed so familiar in the first book is because he is Fitz, or at least a Remote lump of biomass remembered as Fitz. He is Fitz’s ancestor, a million times removed, remembered again and again until what was Fitz has been diluted down. Our Fitz (the one we have been travelling with four the last seven books) is forgotten about by the Doctor, he almost commits suicide when he realises nobody is coming to rescue him but chickens out and becomes a full time member of the Faction instead. He becomes Father Kreiner after a time, a bitter, twisted Faction member, one who barely qualifies as human any more. He is so angry when he finally meets up with the Doctor again (even if it is only the third Doctor) he punches him full in the face. He is last known to be injured, trapped in the bottle universe, status unknown. This is shocking, frightening development for the poor guy, that Lawrence Miles turning to pure sadism to punish Fitz for his choice to travel with the Doctor.

Somewhat selfishly the Doctor gives Kode, the remembered Fitz a chance to become who he was again. Thanks to the Doctor and the TARDIS he is fully remembered as Fitz again, but with the knowledge that he isn’t who he was, just a copy. Worth following up, that.

Stroppy Redhead: Compassion joins the TARDIS crew after her home planet is whisked off elsewhere and she has nowhere else to go. She is introduced to Sam’s idea of self sacrifice via a series of scenarios that dizzily prove to her that having ideals is a much more fascinating experience than she was open to originally. It is still too early to see how Compassion will turn out, too ill defined at this point, although it is funny to realise that the original Fitz was familiar with the original Compassion (or Laura Tobin as she was known) and as he has been remembered so has she, and they are now travelling together again in the TARDIS. That makes them the companions who have known each other the longest. Some mileage in that too.

Foreboding: The Doctor is now saying a man is the sum of his memories (he said the opposite in Unnatural History), almost as if he is egging on developments in The Ancestor Cell. The final wrenching twist in this books reveals the Doctor has been infected with the Faction virus since his third regeneration, growing in strength with each successive regeneration and causing the loss of his shadow in recent books. Where is this leading…?

Twists: Oh my, where to begin. The way the Remote remember the dead is waay cool and used very effectively to reveal the fate of Fitz and Tobin. It is quite shocking to see how dirty the Time Lords are getting in the midst of their Great War, sending a warship to Earth to cause the destruction of the Enemy. Gunplay in the TARDIS is pretty shocking as two members of the Special Internal Taskforce let rip a shower of bullets at Sarah and Lost Boy. The hypothetical scenario with Sam killing the baby is thrilling just for Compassions sickened reaction. The zombie ships are another brilliant concept, crashed ships salvaged by the Remote and coated with the Cold. It is worth trudging through book one just to reach Sarah’s hard-hitting documentary on illegal weapons deals in Britain, with a cameo by Iris Wildthyme! The appearance of Father Kreiner is shocking and memorable for anybody who gives a toss about Fitz. In succession you have three great twists, the Doctor being shot and regenerating on Dust (retroactively changing his past), IM Foreman becoming Dust and Magdalena becoming part of IM Foreman. Anyone who thought the Dust segments would be an anti-climax was totally wrong, as IM Foreman and his travelling show are revealed to be thirteen incarnations of the same Time Lord. Llewis becomes a member of the Faction and finally finds something he is good at. The twist that the Doctor isn’t the pioneer that what thought he was and that somebody preceded all of his travels is a real blow to the gut.

Embarrassing bits: Okay, it takes the (eighth) Doctor 420 pages to get involved in the plot in any way, surely a world record! Turns out the Remote never wanted to sell weapons to Earth, they just wanted to attract a Time Lord through the temporal interference and capture their TARDIS to reach the Cold. 75% of book one then is pretty much pointless or could be covered in much less page space considering its importance (erm, none).

Funny bits: The UN is described as a council of old women. Any conversation between Sarah and Lost Boy is hilarious, there is a sitcom spin off in the making! Turns out the Time Lords aren't descedents of anything embarrassing, which explains why they are so arrogant. Number thirteen wonders what a paradox will taste like when considering eating his earlier selves. Turns out that Faction Paradox destroyed the Blue Peter garden…we should have realised!

Result: A very satisfying wrapping up of the zillion clever ideas already set up in book one. The developments for the characters and the EDAs are astonishing, going beyond anything Virgin ever gave us in the ‘Oh my God I cannot believe that just happened to…’ stakes. Fitz’s story is horrible but brilliantly compelling and all the other characters get sparkling moments. The way the third and eighth Doctor’s life melts together is jaw dropping and the amount of surprises is unbeaten by any Doctor Who book to this point. I still have some reservations about the books length (it could have been a 400 page book with some of its flabbiness cut away) but for the sheer breadth of ideas (Miles is confirmed as the ultimate risk taker) this is one of the best Doctor Who novels ever written. A twisted, dangerous masterwork, which was severely underrated at the time and makes for impulsive reading in the twilight of the EDAs: 9/10

Set Five -

The Space Age
The Banquo Legacy
The Ancestor Cell
The Burning
Casualties of War
The Turing Test

Best of the Bunch: 

The Burning written by Justin Richards 

Plot: Things are changing in the run down town called Middletown. The clapped out mine is re-opening and a new substance is being mined. A substance which has the ability to remember its form, to transform into creatures of fire, to consume everything that gets in its path…it takes a lost, lonely man who stumbles into town with no memory of his past to stand up to its evil plans…

Top Doc: Welcome to the beginning of the eighth Doctor’s novel adventures. This is where it all begins folks; forget about that chirpy, goofy, useless shit we have been travelling with for the past 37 books. He was a momentary (yeah right) aberration, a glitch in the Doctor’s otherwise glorious personality. The Doctor has now lost his memory and past thanks to the events in The Ancestor Cell and he is a far more interesting, less predictable sort of guy. He is described as having a laugh full of life and the sort of man who lives a life full of interesting things to do and interesting people to meet. He states: “Doing nothing tires me.” He has no idea what the black cube in his pocket is (The TARDIS, recuperating from events in the last book). He manages to insinuate himself into peoples company with deceptive ease, expertly making people believe he is a friend of the next person in a crowd. He is contemplative at points and very quickly irritated at others (“Perhaps it would be best if I gave up and left you all to your fate!”). He exudes experience and confidence and can be extremely callous at times (a huge difference to the old eighth Doctor…his reaction to a man’s horrifying death in this book is, “Interesting, isn’t it?”). He likes to pour on the atmosphere (“There is evil all around us…”). When Dobbs is murdered he is shocked (nice to know he still has some feelings) but is sensible enough to put his personal shock aside and deal with the crisis at hand. He has moments of explosive anger and a lack of feeling for others emotions (“Yes you should have” he says to Stobbold when his daughter dies and he contemplates her life trapped with him, “but its too late now.”).

  Most importantly it proves the Doctor does not need a companion to work. He is pretty sinister here, but a tragic figure too. The last act he performs to really prove he is a changed man comes at the climax where he kicks Nepath into the river, effectively killing him. It is one of those fantastic moments when the Doctor really shocks you and proves this will be an interesting ride with this unpredictable character. The last scene of him leaving Middletown, in search of answers about his life, is genuinely touching.

Foreboding: The black cube transforms into a bare blue rectangular box, the TARDIS slowly taking back its old form. The answers to how the creatures in this book came about is hardly needed but for those who are willing to hang about enjoy these adventures will be rewarded with a surprise twist at the end of Justin Richard’s Time Zero, a book which, with The Burning, effectively boxes in what I consider to be one of the best runs of Doctor Who books there is.

Twists: The fissure cracks open the ground of Middletown in a wonderfully ominous opening. Paranormal investigators Dobbs and Stobbold are a great pair, an 18th Century Mulder and Scully! The triple cheat of making us think the Doctor has arrived in the book is fun, especially when he turns up at dinner without anyone noticing! Gaddis’ death isn’t that memorable, but Dobbs’ reaction certainly is. The Doctor and Dobbs’ midnight sojourn to Urton’s house is wonderfully nailbiting, they discover the burnt remains of Patience and are attacked by the tenants from the darkness with glowing eyes… Considering this is Doctor Who going back to its simple, effective roots there is a lovely parallel between Stobbold and his daughter and the first Doctor and Susan, in both cases they have become young women who stay with their relatives out of loyalty and protection. When the fire creatures emerged from the wall in the mine and murdered Dobbs I was very upset. Betty bursts into flames, the moor land erupts with lava and men of crackling fire emerge from the mine to kill the population…its all happening at the climax! The scene where Patience comes back to life is brill. I loved it when the military attempted to fight back and their guns exploded, made out of the same material as the fire creatures and the remains start to reshape into more monsters… The ending feels genuinely apocalyptic and I was awash with excitement when the Dam burst open and washed out all of the evil. The Doctor’s savage kick, killing Nepath, is a real shocker. Stobbold’s reunion with his daughter broke my heart.

Funny bits: The Doctor delights in winding Nepath up, calling his trinkets bric-a-brac and going as far as snoring through Nepath’s auction of his interesting and unusual artefacts.

Embarrassing bits: “How will we defeat this evil” says Stobbold. “We need a great load of water!” says the Doctor. “Where are we going to get that from?” says Stobbold. Oh wait, there just happens to be a handy dam nearby…

Result: Glorious, a book that looks to the future (offering us a fantastic new take on the eighth Doctor) and looks back to the past (giving us a traditional Doctor Who story with ALL the trimmings) in all the best ways. This is Justin Richards’ most surprising book, predictable as hell (which he rarely is) but containing some truly atmospheric prose (which he rarely is either!). The characterisation is fantastic and the book is packed full of memorable moments, the enemy is vivid and terrifying and there are a number of deaths that really shock you. This is exactly how the eighth Doctor books should have originally started, with a genuinely unsettling Doctor, some delicious scares and lots of intelligent detail. I really couldn’t put this down. A re-format that works on every level, and leaves you hungry for the next instalment: 9/10

Set Six -

Father Time
Escape Velocity
Vanishing Point
Eater of Wasps
The Year of Intelligent Tigers
The Slow Empire
Dark Progeny

The Year of Intelligent Tigers by Kate Orman 
Plot: The Doctor, Fitz and Anji are enjoying a relaxing holiday on the musical colony of Hitchemus when the indigenous Tiger population takes control. They want to be taught how to understand music but their brutal methods cause a violent rebellion from the humans. War rages, one that threatens to tear apart the Doctor and his friends forever as he gets in touch with his wild side…

Top Doc: The Year of Intelligent Tigers is a vital chapter in the eighth Doctor’s life and one of the all time best looks at ANY Doctor and is the book which marks the eighth Doctor as a diplomat (Kate Orman and Jon Blum suggested as much in Vampire Science) rather than the conqueror (which aptly sums up his predecessor). Following the trend since the Caught on Earth arc we are asked to intimately explore the Doctor’s identity, who he is and what his place is in the universe. These questions stopped being asked in the early eighth Doctor books, and yet they are vital to returning the series back to what's important, the Doctor himself. Early scenes in this book express his indecision beautifully; when he was trapped on Earth all he wanted to do was escape and travel the stars but now he has achieved that aim all he wants is to find somewhere to belong. Home. His trip into the Bewilderness is a great metaphor for the Doctor’s wish to fit in…it is with great sadness when he admits he does not belong with the Tigers. Despite his efforts, belonging still eludes him. He brings the book alive exhibiting very Doctorish traits; throwing tantrums, dashing into danger, throwing himself obsessively into a mystery and he is painted with a touch of misery and hopelessness too which was unique until Eccleston’s victim Doctor turned up. The weather is used as a (not very subtle but extremely effective) metaphor for his whirlwind of emotions, brewing up a terrifying electric storm to stop a nuclear attack and bringing the planet to the brink of calamity just to get both sides in the conflict to listen to his pleas for peace. Just picture him, his long hair cut off, his clothes torn to shreds, battered and bruised and playing with bunch of kittens in the heart of the enemies camp. This man could do anything…The Year of Intelligent produces a re-invigorated Doctor who can control the elements and walk away from a conflict where the violence has sickened him. “Save your own world for a change,” he shouts amidst a battlefield. We have a brand new, unique Doctor, fully refreshed after his one hundred year makeover.

He could outpull Fitz to a factor of a thousand, Anji thinks, if only he would show an interest. Whenever there are people in trouble he has to stick his nose in. He only gets drunk when he wants to. He thinks his own lifestyle sounds ridiculous and at one-point turns on Karl and snaps “You’re just jealous. Because I’m something more than human.” He was lonely rugged sailor in 1935 when he first discovered music, trying the violin for the first time and gives in to the music, wrapping himself around the instrument crying, scared if he stops he wont be able to start again. He tells Big he will never be human. He has a photo of Miranda in his pocket. He wants a happy ending and is perfectly willing to drag it out of them, seeing hope in everything. He is too much in love with being in the world to be able to view from the outside. He can’t forgive Karl at the end, only understand him, his passion is for life and not vengeance.

Scruffy Git: Described as someone you wouldn’t want to share a taxi with. It is only after he has rested up on Hitchemus for a month that he realises how brave and stupid he could be on their reckless adventures. His best scene comes later, where he improvises a band to play for the people on the eve of battle, a chance to remind them all what they are fighting for. Considering his character specifics, a sleazy, sex crazed bum from the sixties Fitz is capable of incredible depth and pathos and this is a good example of a character growing up and offering something nobody else could. It is a triumphant scene for Fitz. His love for the Doctor shines from every page and he barely even considers leaving him despite the fact that Hitchemus is the perfect planet for him (paying his way with music). Described as a fearless agent for the Resistance! He realises the Doctor isn’t the magic cure for everything but he sure does win a lot.

Career Nazi: Sometimes Anji feels she is stuck in outer space but not on Hitchemus, she feels she is the ultimate tourist. If she went back to Earth now she is scared that she would feel like an alien. Her tempestuous relationship with the Doctor continues and here she gives up on him totally as he walks out on his friends and joins up with the Tigers. I can understand why people were resistant to Anji at first as she isn’t portrayed as your usual, dappy, I’ll put all my faith you bint but rather a strong willed woman with her own opinions that conflict with the Doctors. It helps that the Doctor is acting so strangely these days, not at all like his old fluffy self and some of Anji’s accusations are genuinely valid. She is so disgusted with his inhumanity (stepping over her friends corpse without a second thought) she is perfectly willing to blow up the storehouse with him inside. She needs to know why he helps people and realises in the Doctor’s weather controlling climax that he isn’t mad but totally, utterly himself. In a moment that solidifies their friendship finally she laces fingers with him and faces a wall of angry Tigers pounding towards them. Anji admits that leaving the Doctor and Fitz behind now would be like leaving her family.

Foreboding: In the dramatic climax an eye in reverse appears in the bruised sky, staring down at them. Watch this space…

Twists: The opening chapters are genuinely accompanied by an entire orchestra (go on, listen, you can actually hear it…). The atmosphere of the planet crackles with music of all kinds, Anji is assaulted by noise from every direction and the Doctor’s manic violin playing is dizzying realistic. The sedate, charming opening reveals the TARDIS crews month spent on Hitchemus, a hugely different beginning to any other EDA. Hundreds of Tigers stalking through the streets to reclaim the town in a frightening image. The Doctor, dressed all in black, swooping down a hill on a horse to save Karl, is a memorable image. In a moment of panic Anji stabs a Longbody. At one point the Doctor stares down at the fighting on the spaceport, the flashes of red and orange on the tarmac. In a top dramatic moment, the Doctor steps over Besma’s corpse and Anji screams, “You had a chance to be human and you just stepped over it.” The Doctor tells her if she doesn’t calm down the Tigers will kill her to which she whispers, “You’d let them?” The abducted orchestra play a symphony for the Tigers and in defiance of their captivity smash their instruments to pieces. It is revealed that that control the weather they will need to get into the second storehouse, which will burrow from the ground and destroy the city! Stunning drama when Karl opens the floodgates to save the Doctor’s life and he ferociously grabs the conductor and drags him to a window so he can see the corpses flowing in the scummy water. The climax is amazing, the Doctor standing over the bloody battlefield, reaching out to the heavens, causing a terrifying storm that finally grabs everybody’s attention. Brilliantly, he destroys the spaceport and leaves them stranded on an unstable planet where they will have to work together to survive.

Funny bits: In what appears to be an important moment the Doctor has a flash of memory…the recipe for making chocolate martinis!

Result: What an amazing book this is. Kate Orman effortlessly breathes music into her story and creates a world that comes alive in so many ways, more than making up for the fact that we have stuck on Earth for so long. The book is peppered with beautiful descriptions, evocative locations and startling emotion. The regulars are defined magnificently, especially the Doctor who is such a far cry from his earlier persona (for the better) it is impossible to reconcile the two. His negotiations between two explosive camps and his despair at their violent reactions is riveting to read. The Tigers, an idea that could have been so naff, turn out to be one of the best ‘alien’ races we have ever met and the mystery surrounding their origins is well worth sticking around for. I read this in half a day, unable to put it down, captivated by the striking narration and vivid characterisation. It’s a unique piece, nuanced and sensitive, slow and sensual. My favourite Kate Orman book by miles: 10/10

Set Seven:

City of the Dead
Grimm Reality
The Adventuress of Henrietta Street
Mad Dogs and Englishmen
Trading Futures
The Book of the Still

Best of the bunch: 

The Adventuress of Henrietta Street by Lawrence Miles 

Plot: The Doctor has set up shop in a whorehouse. He is getting married. He is extremely sick and he is without Fitz, Anji or the TARDIS. Has the world gone entirely mad? Apparently so, as disgusting apes break through into the world and start tearing up people, it would appear that the Doctor’s actions destroying his home planet has had far more catastrophic consequences than anybody ever feared…

Top Doc: Another superb definition of everything that is the eighth Doctor, wrapped up in that wonderful Milesian desperation to make the Doctor a mythic figure. He has set himself up as the master of a house of prostitutes, writing thirteen letters to the great powers of the world to invite him to his wedding. He misunderstands human feelings. He is a byronesque, aristocratic, poetic type, who will probably end his days an outcast for unnatural acts. He has grown a goatee, a sign of how much he has changed. He judges people by their own standards and is described beautifully as an adventurer, escapologist, athlete, pugilist and amateur inventor. The Doctor’s intention to marry Juliette and thus bond himself to the Earth is hugely representational of the revisionist eighth Doctor adventures (the idea that her virginity could almost be used as a weapon, to give birth to an alien as humanity’s protector). The eighth Doctor began his adventures with the shock announcement that he is half human (on his mothers side) so this symbolic link to the Earth enhances the direction of the books, turning their back on Gallifrey (hurrah). ‘He wanted to give himself roots in a universe where he no longer truly belonged’ screams the narrative, the Doctor attempting to bring security to our troubled world in a universe without the Time Lords. He is a tragic figure, an elemental cast out from his own world and there is an uncomfortable sense that he is interfering in affairs that are no longer his concern. If there is one thing he cannot ignore, it is a monster. As the book continues he grows stroppy, prone to mood swings as his body starts to wither away. We realise, with some horror, that his second heart, which links him to Gallifrey, has become poison to him. Once it is removed and he is married to Scarlette, it is wonderful to see him step from the flames (as depicted on the glorious cover) and claim his place as the King of Earth’s Time.

Scruffy Git: Fitz is unsure about the decorum around a bordello at first and cast shy looks about at the ladies. Described as being likeable enough, but that you would expect more alertness from an elemental. He can still pull his 007 routine of with style and his starting to see just how fragile the world is. For all his faults, described as having a mind ahead of its time, Fitz proves surprisingly adept at investigating for the Doctor, and taking charge when he is very ill. His concern for his friend, as ever, is palpable and they enjoy a quiet, intimate stag do sharing champagne overlooking the sea.

Career Nazi: Clearly Miles despises Anji, and not just from what he has said in interviews. He sidetracks her as much as possible and when he does include her makes her snappy, rude and overbearing. Described as sarcastic, snappish, overbearing and impatient, more telling he describes her as a force of nature, a prophet and an Indian Oracle. Her and Lisa Beth are partners in aloof cynicism. An angry, exotic elemental.

Ham Fists: The Doctor’s new arch enemy, worthy of his own section because he is a frequent semi-regular. Described as having a keen mind and a talent for escaping tight corners. Powerful and witty with eyes that sparkle with intelligence. His purpose is to protect the Earth and wishes to travel beyond its limits to do so. He believes the Doctor’s people and their influence is outdated and wishes to step into the breach caused by their absence (“You were a Professional Doctor but your company has gone bankrupt.”). The Doctor admits that he knows more than Sabbath but Sabbath belongs more than he does. Whether he removes the Doctor’s heart out of compassion or for his own gain is unclear, they make uneasy allies but it is clear that Sabbath does have something of a grudging affection for the Doctor.

Foreboding: Being a Lawrence Miles book this sets up loads of stuff that will be returned to in later books. Primarily there is Sabbath, who will be back for subsequent revisits. But also worthy of mention are the fact that time is no longer stable, leading to a flurry of upcoming time travel stories, the fact that Juliette leaves the Earth with Sabbath (followed up in Sometime Never…), the black eye sun (explained in The Gallifrey Chronicles but seen a few more times after this), the disappearance of the Doctor’s second heart (and the fact there are mentions of surgery and Sabbath in regards to this organ) and of course the fact that the Time Lords no longer exist (which will come back to haunt the Doctor in his final novel…). The Master reveals there are only four of us left in the universe, but what he is talking about is maddeningly vague.

Twists: The book grabs you from the first page and never lets go, a hypnotic, tantric sex encounter leading to the summoning of a bestial, bloody ape. It is revealed that now the Time Lords have gone there is nothing holding time together and that other people are trying to do the work they used to do. There are some teething problems when Fitz and Anji are summoned and they turn up stark bollock naked! Sabbath’s story of being pushed into the Thames, bound by thirteen chains, is great. The exploration of the Jonah is a gothic delight, a throbbing black machine manned by slavering apes shrieking their lust for carnage. The appearance of the Master in the book is a shock of delight, especially his glorious comments on the state of the Doctor’s adventures these days. We realise that the Doctor, through his destruction of Gallifrey, is responsible for the apes coming. Their appearance is due to the unstable nature of Time and the ability of others to explore its realms, the apes are the limits of human ignorance set upon those who would try and expand their knowledge in areas they should never have been allowed to approach. Sabbath has to watch, horrified, as Tula Lui is torn to pieces by the apes. Juliette’s traitorous act, turning against the Doctor and aiding Sabbath, is a complete surprise. Brilliantly, when tensions start to fray between the thirteen great powers, Scarlette hatches an ingenious scheme of hunting the apes, uniting the factions with a common sport. The Doctor’s wedding ceremony, surrounded by monster masks, held by a drunken priest, Scarlette the surrogate bride and the Doctor close to death is one of the most memorable scenes in Doctor Who fiction. The fact that apes storm the church and transport the guests to the Kingdom of Beasts rounds off a classy service. In the Kingdom of the Beasts there is a land which resembles Gallifrey, which the Doctor declares as “home.” In one of the most shocking scenes in Doctor Who fiction Sabbath plunges his hand into the Doctor’s chest and rips out his cancerous heart. There is a memorable climax, with the apes pouring into the house on Henrietta Street and the Doctor ruthlessly decapiting the King of the Apes, thus breaking the chains of human ignorance and proving that knowledge has no bounds. Sweetly, Scarlette fakes her own death so the Doctor feels no obligation to stay on Earth with his new wife.

Result: Terrifying (in terms of its content and in terms of its content) and unforgettable, this is the ultimate eighth Doctor experience. Defining the exciting, unpredictable new universe the Doctor has found himself in (delightful because Miles has clearly put some real thought into what horrors might lie in a universe without the Time Lords) like no other; this is the sort of book that has been crafted, not written. Packed with sickening images, detailed historical atmosphere, adult relationships and amazing developments, this is my favourite Doctor Who book. Bar none. This is Lawrence Miles’ true masterpiece and the highest level of sophistication the EDAs have ever reached. Challenging and intelligent, it doesn’t get much better than this: 10/10

Set Eight;

The Crooked World
History 101
Camera Obscura
Time Zero
The Infinity Race
The Domino Effect
Reckless Engineering
The Last Resort

Best of the Bunch: 

Camera Obscura written by Lloyd Rose 

Plot: There is a time machine causing dangerous instabilities, fracturing people both mentally and physically. Worse, its continued use might see the time continuum chewed up and spat out. The Doctor turns to his sometime ally, sometime enemy Sabbath for help tracking down the machine and along the way discovers some very disturbing things about where his heart is in the matter…

Top Doc: He springs from the page, vivid and electrifying, it’s another astonishing example of why the eighth Doctor is such an amazing character these days. He has never gotten used to his single heart and he never will. He feels it makes him damaged, crippled and worse, human. His memory and heart have both been taken from him but thinking about them is a waste of the time he has too much of. He remembers once being shorter, and taller too! His profile is dramatic rather than beautiful. He gets annoyed at his lack of ability to die but he soon realises Sabbath is ‘using’ his second heart and wakes up screaming, “You son of a bitch!” He is furious at Sabbath’s homicidal tactics and enjoys winding him up, attacking him in his mind with a giant squid simply because he is a ‘jerk’. He takes things far too personally. The Doctor hates his weaknesses, he feels he know longer deserves his heart and wonders if he was responsible for whatever infected and blackened it. He is bored with the ‘empty pockets’ routine, not giving a toss how many yo yos he has (tee hee). He is asked if he ever shuts up. He ponders on why he is so great at saving himself but less successful with others. A sly animal, you never know what he is about. He beautifully sums up what he is about, “Injustice is the rule, but I want justice. Suffering is the rule but I want to end it. Despair accords with reality but I insist on hope. I don’t accept it because it is unacceptable. I say no.” Proving how close to the edge he can be, he is willing to risk a confrontation with Death to stop the time machine being used again. He discovers from her that he has cheated death many times before. Described as a monstrous egotist, insane risk taker, a manipulator and trickster, someone who is radically and completely other. When it comes to women, the Doctor is practically a monk. Heartless, no matter how many beat in his chest. In the exciting climax he suicidally attempts to trick the Chiltern monster into throwing him into the machine and destroy it and despite Sabbath’s attempts to retain it, the Doctor succeeds. He is treated to a stunning array of strange man staring back at him in the mirrors, previous incarnations that he does not recognise. Catalytic, the bringer of fate. Sabbath has destroyed his integrity; he’s neither complete nor incomplete.

Scruffy Git: It is interesting to get to see the reaction of the Doctor’s companions existing on the periphery of the story, kept in the dark about much of what is going on and left to sit by the Doctor’s bedside as he throws himself into one near death experience after another. Fitz is far more sombre than we have seen before and is cut deeply when Jane calls him a loser, forcing him to re-evaluate his life and discover that he is not entirely satisfied trailing after the Doctor. As a result he signs himself up for an expedition to Siberia to search for fossils. Usually pretending to be someone else is relaxing and liberating for him but he finds Victorian London depressing and can’t find any way of picking up girls without visiting a whore house and that is bit a raw even for him. He celebrated his 33rd birthday in Spain (History 101) and is terrified of never reaching 40. His love for the Doctor is proven when he stays by the guy’s side, even when he threatens to break every bone in his body.

Career Nazi: The Doctor’s weakness in this story affects Anji greatly, getting cross with him for being so blasé about his near death experiences. She is tired and tries to stress to the Doctor how hard it is to sit at his side and wonder if he is going to die. She admits how much she cares about him, being with him has made her very protective of him. She is appalled at her own rage towards the Angel Maker for stabbing the Doctor, calling her a bitch and dragging her by her hair. She decides if he survives, she is going home. Anji feels absurd in a sari and doesn’t like being stared at because she is different. She trusts the Doctor’s intentions but sometimes feels he stumbles around in the dark.

Ham Fists: Finally Sabbath gets a book where he is centre stage and it more than lives up to Adventuress. Described as a housekeeper tidying up the universe. He needed to ‘use’ the Doctor’s heart to penetrate Deep Time and is now physically tied to the Doctor. Every time he has been in mortal danger, Sabbath has felt the effects. Brilliant in his own way and used to the finer things in life, he appropriates a mansion and sets about giving a time sensitive an education. Sinister, mysterious and something of a posturing ham. Sabbath feels the Doctor is dangerous, visiting time zones and branching off a new timeline each time he does. The Doctor states he must be stopped by any means. He loves clocks because they translate time into sounds and make it so apprehensible to human senses. In the climax Sabbath tears out the Doctor’s heart, grieving for the loss of the Angel Maker and tells the Doctor that it is not a human heart. It is shocking, the most emotional moment the fella has had yet.

Foreboding: Anji is going home, Fitz is going to Siberia and Sabbath is companionless…all this segues into the next book, Time Zero. Sabbath’s employers want to keep the Doctor from themselves.

Twists: There is a scene from Anji’s POV of Victorian London, which is awesome truly comes alive. Dealing with Miss Jane and her fractured personalities is really creepy. Anji and Fitz’s wandering around Crystal Palace is bedazzling. Octave is revealed to be the same man split into eight parts by the time machine. The eight parts attack the Doctor viciously, smashing a sandbag down on his chest and driving his ribcage through his back into the floorboards. Sabbath is revealed to have stolen the Doctor’s heart and actually implanted into his body, thus saving the Doctor from death at the hands of Octave. He slaughters Octave, thinking it will be the end of the problem. The time machine is revealed as being supremely dangerous, capable of bringing the time period to you and allowing you to step into it. It is designed to be used by many civilisations, user friendly and adapted to in this new universe where time is unregulated. Even with all its parts it could distort time and destroy the universe. The dragging, limping rustling creature that attacks the Doctor in his darkened cell is absolutely terrifying. Chapter Seventeen is fantastic, the pinnacle of Doctor Who prose, frightening, atmospheric and intoxicatingly good. The Doctor thinks Sabbath is trying to strangle reality, pairing down its possibilities. He tricks the Angel Maker into stabbing him through his remaining heart and descends into hell in a truly nightmarish sequence. Sabbath discovers him impaled on a meat hook, part of a clocks mechanism! Chiltern monster is horrific, revealed to be made of eight parts, including a toaster, a rose bush and a rats mouth snapping away instead of an eye. In a shocking climax, Chiltern kills the Angel Maker and Sabbath viciously snaps his neck, killing both him and Nathaniel. Sabbath, disgusted by the Doctor’s otherness, rips the heart from his chest and frees the link between them.

Funny bits: The Doctor cannot resist leaving a whoopee cushion down for Sabbath to sit on. His attempts to pretend to be knocked out and dragged away by Scale are hilarious. The hate-hate relationship between Anji and Sabbath leads to her unkindly suggesting his name is really Melvin. “You know Doctor, even allowing for the, ah, unique circumstances of your last near death experience, it’s extraordinary how often you’re plucked out of trouble at the last minute. Rescuers turn up. Weapons jam. Your companions, who, if you’ll forgive me, don’t strike me as more than usually competent, save the day. Buildings explode immediately after you find the way out. Cities fall just after the TARDIS materialises. Electrical currents short circuit. Evil masterminds make foolish errors. If you fall out of a window, there is someone to catch you. If you’re drowning, a spar floats by. You find your way unsigned out of burning houses. You survive alien mind probes that would boil the average brain in its skull. You are dug unharmed beneath fallen rubble. No one ever shoots you in the head. Deadly drugs turn out not to affect you. Villains tie you up too loosely, and hidebound tyrants’ convictions falter at your rhetoric. In short, in your presence, the odds collapse.”

Result: A magnificent novel, one of the best Doctor Who books published and a really tasty historical with so many memorable passages I would be recounting much of the book to list them all. After you have finished it you realise that the plot is actually quite thin, nothing more than a protracted chase after a time machine but how the book works its way into the running arc of the EDAs turns it into so much more. This book succeeds on the astonishing strength of characterisation and brutally thoughtful moments. The Doctor and Sabbath are explored in considerable depth and any scene featuring the pair is instantly classic, bouncing off each other beautifully. The prose is stimulating, the sheer beauty of the writing results in an effortless read. It the pinnacle of a great run of books, matching Rose’s debut step for step and being the all round best achiever of the ranger since Adventuress. Powerful and involving, read this now: 10/10

Set Nine:

Emotional Chemistry
Sometime Never...
The Tomorrow Windows
The Sleep of Reason
The Deadstone Memorial
To The Slaughter
The Gallifrey Chronicles

Best of the bunch: 

The Tomorrow Windows by Jonathan Morris 

Plot: Alien auctions for planets, Tate Modern blown up, nuclear blasts, God worship, sinister lava lams, killer cars, politics, ghostly apparitions, crappy effects, mind reading, deep freezed superstars, pirate cities, Dalek and Cybermen knock offs….this book has it all. And a chapter set in Lewisham.

Top Doc: He has really found the fun since sorting out the trouble with the broken down universe hasn’t he? This marks as real development because the Doctor has come through his trauma with a brand new lust for life and it is extremely infectious. It is wonderful to see him having fun with some of his confused memories and he is utterly delighted to be told that he defeated the Yeti’s in the Underground, the shop window dummies at Ealing and the Dinosaurs in St James’ Park! His relationship with the Kendroid ('Ken we had a deal, I defeat the aliens from outer space, you get the buses running on time!') is really gigglesome. However he has lost none of his bite and he is extremely sarcastic and edgy at times ('Mankind will learn and it can’t do that if it can flick to the back of the book and look up the answers'). His philosophy: 'Why waste time when you can do it all in a mad rush?' His anger at feeling powerless to stop a planet being destroyed is extremely palpable ('You stupid, stupid fools!'). Saving planets never makes up for the ones he has lost. He has a nagging feeling he is in deficit, that he is seeking redemption. He feels there is always a way and when one doesn’t present itself he gets very angry. The Doctor’s favourite place to be lost is his thoughts. He condemns Prubert for introducing the selfish memes ('Do you have any idea what this idiot has done?'). He is never cruel and he cares for all. He and Trix finally bridge their differences, he realises how Martin has violated her and kisses her, stroking her hair and comforting her.

Scruffy Git: Fitz is still going super strong even after all this time. He looks into a Tomorrow Window and sees a toothless old man…then it shifts to a handsome chap with an olive skinned bride. It gets him thinking about the future and he is very unsure. He has been living in the moment for so long he has forgotten to think beyond it. He’s scared if he leaves the Doctor he will regret what he has left behind. One day, maybe soon he will get a life. He doesn’t know where he belongs, he has no family, no career, no way of determining his life. His adventures being hypnotised by a car would be patently absurd if it was written with such frightening conviction. His Poirot scene (more on that later) is truly excellent and easily the best Fitz moment in his entire run until this point, displaying his wit, his intelligence and his physical ability. Oh and its hilarious too!

Identity Tricks: What started out as a one trick wonder is slowly developing into one of the more interesting companions the eighth Doctor has ever travelled with. What I love about Trix is that she is clearly so vulnerable underneath her bravado, it is very appealing, especially because you only see it when her guard is down such as it is in the latter stages of this novel. Saving planets is what she does. Delightfully (and imaginatively…when you find out the reason why) the book adopts a first person narrative for Trix’s scenes, which allows us to get closer to her than ever before. She is confronted with a cot full of mutilated babies about to be slaughtered and tries desperately to grasp a persona who can deal with the horror, further proof she is hiding from reality in these acts of hers. She cannot remember which story she is supposed to tell, she has spent so long trying not to remember that sometimes she can almost forget (which later transpires to be a deadly secret about her father, who was rushed to hospital after a confrontation, Trix angry and ashamed at what she had done). Annoyingly the Doctor can see through all of her disguises (even the Trix Macmillan one, which we later discover is genuinely an act and not who she really is) and see her, the real her. When it transpires that Martin has been reading her thoughts throughout, getting off her secrets Trix feels sick to the stomach that her privacy has once again been abused (after this and Reo she feels a girl cannot call her mind her own anymore!). She isn’t even sure if she remembers her past anymore because she has spent so long trying to bury it. In her best scene to date she manages to convince Martin that he is the most gorgeous bloke in the universe (with her thoughts alone) just long enough to get close to him and kick him in the nuts.

Foreboding: The Doctor looks into the Tomorrow Window and sees many possible futures but the image finally settles on…Christopher Eccleston!!! Trix’s confrontation with her father will return to haunt her in The Gallifrey Chronicles.

Twists: The Tomorrow Windows have been set up in Tate Modern to give people the ‘Gist of Things to Come’. Brilliantly when the Doctor looks into one it shows him several ‘possible’ futures (including Rowan Atkinson, Alan Davies, Eddie Izzard, Michael Jayston) and also some events (the Daleks/ the Time War?, the Nimon (Seasons of Fear). After making a speech Ken Livingstone’s head splits to reveal an electron bomb (leading to the brilliant line, 'The Mayor of London is about to explode!') and Tate Modern is reduced to rubble (hurrah!). The tribal war dance on Valuensis is brilliant. I love the ‘only God can save us now’ situation because all the jokes become suddenly, terrifyingly real and you realise these people are really willing to destroy their entire planet for one more glimpse at their God and that the Doctor can do nothing to prevent it. I love the Ceccecs, what a fabulously scary idea. All the auctioneers are marvellous creations and they all get a funny (in the spirit of taking the piss…Alien Bodies also gets ribbed!) introductory chapter (my favourite was Question Intonation: ‘Why have the creatures chosen to name themselves after a mode of speech. It is my firmly held belief that they do it to be annoying.'). The visit to Welwyn’s Gaia Sphere is brief but memorable, especially when he realises it has reached puberty! The Aztales are very memorable, their never neding conflict and their pretense of humanity is frightening. The Astral Flower, one of the natural wonders of the universe, is beautifully depicted in print and it destruction is tragic but similarly beautiful. The cause of all these planets having their populations wiped out is all down to the loathsome Martin, who is 14,000 years old and (basically) wants a load of cash to settle down (with Trix!). He wants to sell all the planets on the Galactic Heritage list but the troublesome populations need to be dealt with first so he employed Prubert Gastridge to pretend to be the God of these worlds and introduce selfish memes into their meme pools that will ultimately bring about their destruction. Then Dittero Shandy can take the auctioneers on a tour of the galaxy and get the bidding rolling! Gotta love Fitz’s Poirot sequence; proving peoples innocence ('I’m sorry Vorshagg, as much as you’d like to be I’m afraid you are not the murderer'), someone pointing out absurdities ('What would a lava lamp want with a planet?') and revealing the murderer to be Dittero himself ('I had to get the highest possible price by any mean necessary! I am an estate agent!'). Absolute genius. The pain Trix goes through is horrible but her revenge ('Well Mr Mind Reader, listen to this, you disgusting, effluent creep. I would rather die than kiss you. I can think of nothing more revolting then you, your face and your body. You sick, nasty pervert. I think I’ll kick you again') is very sweet. Martin fulfils Astrabel’s prophecy that he will die on Gadrahadrahon and shoots him but Charlton is there to show the younger Astrabel his notes.

Funny bits: Zoberly Chesterfield’s breasts seem to be forming an escape attempt from her brassiere. Prubert Gastridge is a hilarious reminder of all those ex-Doctor Who actors…once famous and now relegated to doing panto at seaside resorts and voice work! When it comes to saving planets from spooky alien tentacles stuff the Doctor is so 'da man!' 'What sort of person leaves a nuclear bomb unguarded? I mean its just shoddy, what is the universe coming to?' / 'God has excellent time managing skills.' / 'Any sudden moves and its hors d’oevres!' All the chatter about Earth is hilarious, especially, 'No other planet in the universe has produced a Rolf Harris!' and 'Ooh a moon…what do they call it?' 'They call it "the moon".' The line, 'The people get the government they deserve' is marvellously apt. One chapter is called The Tomorrow Peephole. The running joke about Gallifrey is perhaps the funniest thing in a book full of laugh out loud jokes…talk about taking the p*ss in style!

Result: Screaming with imagination, excitement, fantastic jokes and with a sense of whimsy that is impossible to dislike, this is one of those rare Doctor Who books that deserves its chart topping position. Every page has gags, dialogue and plot revelations that sparkled and the sheer number of ideas thrown at you is breathtaking. It is deceptively simple to read but contains a lot to think about when you are done rolling about on the floor with laughter, much of the humour having a touch of horror about it. The regulars gleam with interest, especially Trix who (again) is treated to some fascinating developments. Johnny Morris is one of my top three Doctor Who authors, he makes his novels look so effortless and yet clearly a lot of work has been put in here. Sublime humour (“None may sup the sacred soup!”) and a twisty turny plot make this a ruthlessly entertaining book. A top five (of all ranges) book: 10/10