Profile for Alaran > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Alaran
Top Reviewer Ranking: 4,042
Helpful Votes: 236

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Alaran

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
Doctor Who Meglos (A Target Book)
Doctor Who Meglos (A Target Book)
by Terrance Dicks
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars A divided society, a super weapon and an evil cactus, 9 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A malevolent cactus, the sole survivor of the ancient race of Zolfa-Thurans, assumes the Doctor’s identity so that he can infiltrate the planet of Tigella and steal the Dodecahedron; a mighty power source that fuels Tigellan civilisation but was originally the heart of a Zolfa-Thuran weapon of mass destruction.

This is a somewhat odd and random story. The plot is never really adequately explained and Meglos’ ‘grand’ plan often seems like it is improvised or left to chance despite the thousands of years he has spent planning it whilst trapped as a cactus. There is no explanation given as to why he waits so long to act. Perhaps he had to wait for allies in the Gaztaks (who seem far from the best allies he could have found) or for the Doctor to be passing. Why he needs to have human abducted from Earth so that he can steal their body is also incredibly vague. The reason given in the text is that humans are more malleable. That seems incredibly unlikely considering what is seen of both Gaztaks and Tigellans. Surely it would have been easier to assume the form of one of the Tigellans to infiltrate Tigella. The book makes a slightly better effort than the televised version to offer reasons behind Meglos’s plans but it is still very unsatisfactory in its logic and depth.

Dicks’ best addition to the story, in what is otherwise a pretty standard novelisation, is the embellishment of the role of the abducted human, George Morris. In the televised story he was no more than a mere vessel for Meglos to utilise. Dicks includes what are almost a prologue and epilogue to provide him with a back story and at least some character, however minimal. It is enough though to make him endearing and sympathetic, which the character really needs.

The best elements of the televised version were Tom Baker’s performance as the villain and Jaqueline Hill’s return to the program as the dominating High Priestess Lexa, a role completely different from that of Barbara. Although Lexa and Meglos remain good characters in the novelisation they lack the sparkle and depth brought to the two parts on screen.

This is also not a great story for the Doctor’s companions. K-9 is saddled with the usual technique from authors who wish to him out of events; needing to be frequently re-charged. Whilst Romana spends most of the book caught in a time loop or running around in the jungle in circles for one pointless reason or another. This also raises the question of how dangerous the plant life on Tigella really is. Despite some problems Romana seems to cope adequately but the Tigellans are too terrified to even go above ground to the surface.


Doctor Who: Keeping Up with the Joneses (Time Trips)
Doctor Who: Keeping Up with the Joneses (Time Trips)
Price: £1.99

3.0 out of 5 stars "However far you go there's mostly Wales", 6 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Due to a temporal mine, a sentient weapon left over from the Time War, manifesting itself as a malevolent storm, the Tardis appears to merge with a Welsh village with some odd and disastrous consequences.

This is actually quite a difficult book to review without giving spoilers. It appears to be mostly set in the Tardis (at least I think so). This seems to follow a recent trend. In fact, this novella has a few things in common with 'Amy's Choice'.

Although the writing style can be quite entertaining the storyline is a little too frivolous and silly. It is hard to take the threat seriously. This is also generally the lighter side of the Tenth Doctor. The characterisation of the Doctor is a bit random though. It flitters between Tenth and Eleventh with a bit of the Sixth. Other than Christina, whose role is probably the most intriguing element of the story, there isn't much in the way of worthwhile characters. Heidt is pretty bland and most others appear briefly for comic effect, and are all called Jones???

Personally I didn't particularly like the story but there is enough humour in it to sustain it for the length of the novella.


Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive
Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive
by David Fisher
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Improves on the televised version in several ways, 5 Feb 2014
I was never a fan of the televised version, finding the storyline disjointed and muddled. However, the novelisation improves vastly upon it. Novelised by the author of the original script, much more time is taken in telling the story and letting it develop. This provides better reasons for events and helps to explain the motivations and ideals of both individuals and societies. This is most apparent in the depth of detail offered concerning the two alien races and the background to their conflict. It enables both the Foamasi and the Argolin to appear as legitimate civilisations and gives weight to the events of the book.

The opening beach sequence is extended and has a clearer reason for being included. It feels more like part of the story than it did in the televised version. The whole fiasco of K-9 ending up in the sea actually makes a bit more sense as well. I could never work out why Romana appeared to be trying to kill K-9 and then got so upset about it in the televised version. I assume it was some bad editing.

The Argolins always looked quite good on the television. Some of their austere appearance and manner is lost in the novelisation. But his is more than compensated by the improvement of the Foamasi who are no longer the cumbersome, overweight chameleon looking creatures but more agile lizard like beings with functional tails. They also benefit highly from a better portrayal of their skin suits and an explanation of their history and usage in Foamasi civilisation. They are much more credibly realised in the book.
The story still tails off towards its conclusion but it is consistently more informative and detailed than its televised counterpart.


Doctor Who and the Ice Warriors
Doctor Who and the Ice Warriors
by Brian Hayles
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.60

4.0 out of 5 stars In the ice of a glacier something awakessss, 5 Feb 2014
Undoubtedly, this story is most renowned for its introduction of one of Doctor Who’s most famous monsters, the Ice Warriors. Despite this it is probably the weakest portrayal of them as an alien species amongst their appearances. Much of their role in ‘The Ice Warriors’ is as generic bad guys. Aspects of their society and how they function as a species are only revealed in their subsequent stories. It is not until then that we gain some understanding of their civilisation. Brain Hayles, author of the original script, improves upon this somewhat in his novelisation. There are added details concerning their martial code, especially with Zondall in the latter stages, which provide some impression of their psychological make-up. Even though the novel may benefit in this way it suffers from not having the wonderful on screen performance of Bernard Bresslaw who breathed such life and realism into Varga that Varga becomes the template for the Ice Warriors from then on.

The true focus of this story is not upon the eponymous aliens but a myriad of philosophical debates concerned with how reliant a society should become upon technology. Many of the issues surrounding this subject are re-hashed and reiterated throughout the course of the story. A lot of this material could have been cut out as it sometimes does nothing more than labour a point. The novelisation does a better job than the TV version of making this more coherent. Most of these arguments are polarised by the characters Penley and Clent. In fact much of the story develops because of the division between them. Only once they work together to things work out.

There are times when the Doctor feels a little superfluous. Often he is just filling in for Penley’s absence. There also isn’t that much for Jamie to do either. However, Victoria gets a better role to play as she facilitates information on the Ice Warriors through her interaction with Varga. This role is extenuated in the novel. Without her the reader would not be privy to Varga’s plans or his motivations.

The story seems to work better in the form of novel. It is more concise, less muddled and better paced. Some minor events are in a slightly different order, which benefits the story. This republication also possesses a short, but heartfelt, introduction from Mark Gatiss, who eventually returned the Ice Warriors to the screen.


The Armageddon Rag
The Armageddon Rag
by George R.R. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Some good aspects but lack of direction and an unsatisfying resolution, 1 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Armageddon Rag (Paperback)
As a novel this will probably have a limited appeal towards a certain audience. It will certainly never possess the mass appeal of the ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’ series. It is an exploration of what happens to a group of people who were either part of a late sixties early seventies rock band known as the Nazgul or were fans/followers/friends of theirs and their desire/belief that their music will affect some type of social revolution. Set ten years after the onstage assassination of the lead singer of the Nazgul the novel follows writer and past friend/fan of the Nazgul, Sandy, as he meets up with those from his past. Meanwhile others who have become more reactionary and militaristic are attempting to orchestrate the Nazgul’s return and bring about the revolution they believe they were denied.

Much of the first half of the book is terribly slow as the lead protagonist meets various old friends and associates. Most are quite well drawn characters but they do feel like they rely on a few clichés. Much of what they go through is based also based around uninteresting self-indulgence. Few of the characters evoke much sympathy.

One of the better aspects of the book is the way that the writing slowly increases in tempo until it reaches quite a pace once the Nazgul make it back on stage. The writing can be quite atmospheric then. The discordant style and pace give the scenes of performances and visions quite an intensity. There is an eerie sense throughout the course of the novel that it is building to something strange and dynamic. It provides intrigue but it fails to deliver on it. The book concludes quite lamely giving the sense that it was about a load of old nothing. The murder mystery element, that is at the forefront as the book begins, seems to fade into the background, the revelation of the murderer a little obvious and unimportant and the main antagonist seemingly forgotten about in the closing stages.


The King of Sontar (Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures)
The King of Sontar (Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures)
by John Dorney
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £10.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Super Sontar-Ha, 1 Feb 2014
I confess to being a big fan of Sontarans. Hence I’ve been eagerly awaiting this release that pitches them against the Fourth Doctor once more. Thankfully it doesn’t disappoint.

In recent years, especially with Strax, the Sontarans seemed to have been used in a more amusing manner. Even their part in Trenzolore serves only to provide some comic relief. The Sontarans in this story are more serious, desperate and hence seem more deadly. This story re-instates them as a threat, one almost as dangerous as the Daleks or Cybermen. It does this from the play’s start. Indeed the story begins with an explosive opening that immediately sets the tone for what will come.

There is about as much action as you could possibly fit into and audio play. And the story warrants it. Without it the atmosphere would lack the manic chaos that permeates it. The fabulously produced soundtrack of explosions and gunfire ramps up the tension and gives the whole story a strong sense of pace and urgency. Of course this does mean that some lines of dialogue are delivered between exchanges of fire which feels a little artificial. But that is merely one of the drawbacks of audio.

However, the story is not all action. There are some delightful philosophical ponderings that briefly skirt around some of the issues raised in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’. They prevent the whole story from becoming just a lot of fighting and strengthen the motivations of the characters. They offer credible explanations for why they choose to act as they do. They also enable an exploration of an underutilised side to Leela and the Doctors’ relationship that looks as if it will continue into later stories of this particular series.
The Doctor and Leela are separated early on to allow them to play to their strengths. Much like ‘The Invasion of Time’ (Leela and the Doctors’ other clash with the Sontarans) Leela is left to stir rebellion from the outside whilst the Doctor works against his enemies from within. This also allows Leela to team up with a Sontaran and go into battle at his side, a combination that works really successfully.

Most importantly though, this story is about Sontarans and it provides two more great Sontaran characters. Vilhol is a disillusioned warrior whose shaken confidence needs Leela’s support. It is a very convincing performance. Dan Starkey (who now seems to be to Sontarans what Nicholas Briggs is to Daleks) is brilliant. His role as Strang is miles away from the numerous other Sontarans he has played and provides a great opponent for Tom Baker’s Doctor. The cliff hanger for the first episode maybe a bit predictable but that doesn’t matter as Tom Baker and Dan Starkey sell it so well.

Some great performances, a lot of action, a lot of fun and some serious subjects of debate to consider well after the play has finished.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 19, 2014 5:42 PM BST


The Time Machine (Destiny of the Doctor)
The Time Machine (Destiny of the Doctor)
by Matt Fitton
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £10.20

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a very satisfying conclusion to the series, 29 Jan 2014
This volume concludes a series that has included eleven Doctors over eleven months. The company responsible for producing the ‘Destiny of the Doctor’ series, Audiogo, went into administration unfortunately towards the end of October so the release of this audio failed to materialise during November (the fiftieth anniversary month). However, Big Finish have taken over the distribution and made it available.

Is it worth the wait? Overall, probably not. There’s a worthwhile story here but it isn’t the best of the series and it certainly isn’t the big finale that might be expected. Initially the play is very slow and it takes a considerable time to get going. The Creevix linger in the background in quite an oppressive manner, but spend most of the time lingering. As an alien/monster they are a credible threat. There is something of the Silence about them. Nicholas Briggs, voice of the Daleks and many other Doctor Who aliens, provides a brilliant and relatively distinctive voice for them that contrasts quite well with Jenna Coleman’s delivery.

The play is quite light on characters but those it has are quite well defined. Jenna Coleman’s impersonation of the Eleventh Doctor isn’t great but she helps create a very believable and sympathetic Alice. Clara is not part of this story, which assumingly takes place sometime after the loss of the Ponds or during the Doctor’s visits to them; at least before modern Clara. Instead Alice fulfils the main companion role despite initially being very different from usual companion material. Her personal story, if a little irrelevant to this series overall, provides the most human side to this story.

However, where this audio lets down the audience is with its role as the final chapter of the ‘Destiny of the Doctor’ series. Anyone expecting this play to satisfactorily tie up all the events and missions involving the previous ten Doctors will be sadly disappointed. It does sort of pull them altogether but only in the most superficial manner. For the vast majority of the story it feels it feels as if it has few links to the previous adventures. What you do get is a few minutes of the Eleventh Doctor rapidly providing a vast info-dump right near the end. It almost feels like the writer reluctantly included it. It is undefined and messy and done at top speed. Any listener will need to hear it more than once to take it all in. even after repeat hearings is all seems too vague and not that well connected.

It is a good play in its own right but as the end of a yearlong series featuring all the Doctors to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary it, unfortunately, fails.


Night of the Stormcrow (Doctor Who)
Night of the Stormcrow (Doctor Who)
by Marc Platt
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £10.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Something and no thing is coming, 27 Jan 2014
This is one of those stories where a science fiction, alien threat manifests itself with aspects of Gothic horror. It is a ‘sub-genre’ that Doctor Who often does particularly well, especially during the earlier stages of the Fourth Doctor. As such it feels that in several ways this audiobook belongs to the period of Leela’s time in the Tardis.

With a group of scientists performing research outside of some relatively remote village and uncovering an alien threat through their experiments, this story is, perhaps, most reminiscent of ‘Image of the Fendhal’. However, ‘Image of the Fendhal’, much like many other Gothic/science fiction crossovers in Doctor Who, had great atmosphere. ‘Night of the Stormcrow’ certainly has some atmosphere but it feels mainly forced. A lot of it is created by the soundtrack, which is superb throughout. But the behaviour of the characters doesn’t really sell it. It seems like the actors are having a bit too much fun with it and some of the motivations for some of their behaviour seem a little basic and not quite believable.

The Stormcrow itself, or those that follow it, isn’t the most memorable of alien species. It is a mishmash of elements and characteristics that have often worked for other Doctor Who monsters/aliens but don’t really give the Stormcrow its own definition.
However, the cast do a fairly good job and the characters are reasonably well developed and defined. The focus is clearly on Leela though. She has slightly different things to do in this story which aren’t readily associated with her. Mostly this involves having to converse and sympathise with terrified and lost individuals. It shows a side to Leela not so often seen and which often make her seem more intelligent. Her character only benefits from this and Louise Jameson seems to relish expanding upon Leela.

Unfortunately, many stories of a similar nature have featured in Doctor Who in one form of media or another over the last five decades and this is far from the best of them. There is little original to be offered by it and there is a sense that this has all been seen/heard before. Even so, there is still plenty to be entertained by here.


Doctor Who: Shada
Doctor Who: Shada
by Douglas Adams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Finally novelised, 27 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Doctor Who: Shada (Paperback)
Renowned for many years as being the lost Fourth Doctor story due to industrial action, ‘Shada’ has been released, re-imagined and remade across various forms of media more than any other Doctor Who story. Since its initial failure to be completed for television it has experienced a VHS release complimentary of Tom Baker’s accompanying narration, been made into an audio play and released as a web based animation featuring the Eighth instead of the Fourth Doctor. It has also finally been released as a novelisation, which feels as if it might be the closest to what Douglas Adams intended.

It is an amalgamation of Douglas Adams’ original scripts and notes and the inventiveness of Gareth Roberts, renowned for writing some of the most popular Fourth Doctor and Romana novels (some of which are to be made into audio plays later in 2014). As a product of two authors it works very well. Roberts clearly knows and understands Adams’ unique style and humour and there is little indication of who wrote what. Having Roberts, writer of several televised scripts since the programme’s return, write the novelisation has the advantage of making the story feel that it is influenced by both the original run of Doctor Who and its return since 2005. Hence there are references to such things as Carrionites and the Corsair. It makes the story feel less routed in 1979. In a way it becomes more historical than modern.

The writing style is basically what you might expect if you’re a Hitchhikers fan or of any other works of Adams. Effortlessly whimsical and tongue in cheek but rarely frivolous to the plot and never pointless. The balance of humour is perfectly pitched. The novelisation is a fully fleshed out version of the TV story. This provides much more depth for the small cast of characters making them stronger and more dimensional, providing greater incentives and motivations for their actions and behaviour. Thus, however despicable, Shagra also manages to become a figure of sympathy. The love story angle between Chris and Claire is covered more satisfactorily and Salyavin becomes a far more understandable and explained character (something that felt a little absent in the TV version).

It’s great after all these years that ‘Shada’ finally gets a novelisation. It’s a good example of Douglas Adams’ marvellous contribution to Doctor Who and cements Gareth Roberts’ mastery over the Fourth Doctor/Second Romana era. I look forward to novelisation of ‘City of Death’.


Doctor Who and the Horns of Nimon
Doctor Who and the Horns of Nimon
by Terance Dicks
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Theseus and the Minotaur in outer space, 26 Jan 2014
In much the same way as ‘Underworld’ is a science fiction re-working of the Greek myths surrounding Jason and the Argonauts, ‘The Horns of Nimon’ is a re-imagining of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. The essential basic storyline elements are much the same but the settings and names have been altered; the settings to reflect a more science fiction concept (such as the labyrinth of Knossos becoming a giant power circuit) and the names merely by juggling around a few letters (ie. Corinth becomes Crinoth, Daedalus becomes Soldeed, etc).

In such a scenario the bull like Nimon are clearly based upon the Minotaur but they also play the role of King Minos in that they rule over Skonnos and are the demanders of the tribute. As aliens they are a fairly interesting creation. Their vampiric feeding upon other worlds after they have conquered them by pretending to be gods is certainly imaginative and intriguing. In the novelisation they are also free of the lumbering gait and somewhat amusing pose that is required for them to fire from their horns. Unfortunately their vocabulary is still somewhat stunted so that they don’t interact particularly well with the Doctor. The Doctor always works better with foes he can have scintillating conversation with.

Most of the non-regulars are fairly insignificant or characterised as pale imitations of various mythological figures. Seth is hardly Theseus, the cultural hero of ancient Athens, nor is Soldeed a scientist who knows little science, a match for the intellectual reputation of Daedalus (wings made of feathers waxed together aside). But this is, perhaps, the point of the story. It allows the ingenuity of the Doctor to step in and shape the destinies of these quasi-historical figures. Without his presence events would not follow the traditional pattern of the legend they are based upon. In some ways he fulfils the deus ex machina role to be found in Eurepidean tragedy.

Overall it is a fun story which works well with the intellectual humour and bickering between the Doctor, Romana and K-9. Fortunately the novelisation is not plagued with some of the more annoying visual comedy aspects exhibited in the programme. Soldeed is also tuned down somewhat.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20