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Tom Baker at 80 (Tom Baker Big Finish)
Tom Baker at 80 (Tom Baker Big Finish)
by Tom Baker
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Fourth Doctor interviewed by the Daleks???, 6 Dec 2014
An utter joy to listen to, Tom Baker reflects, reminisces and ponders over his acting career in a way only he can. Whimsical anecdotes and fabulous stories abound as, subtly guided, by Nicholas Briggs, he discusses his life, albeit with an expected focus on Doctor Who. Most listeners will probably find they have encountered much of this material before, especially in the autobiography ‘Who’s Tom Baker’. This doesn’t really matter though as hearing Baker narrate the stories and events himself gives them a whole new dimension, making them thoroughly enjoyable throughout.

After all the fiftieth anniversary celebrations last year and their virtual culmination in the appearance of the Curator coupled with Baker finally joining Big Finish in recent years, it seems suitably apt that this is produced to mark Tom Baker’s 80th year. Inevitably the latter stages of the interview are concerned with these things. Baker makes it honestly apparent that he had some reluctance to participate in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ or Big Finish but is now happy that he has done both. The obvious enjoyment he gains from doing the audios is quite clear and delightfully genuine.

Briggs does little to direct and control the interview aside from an occasional nudge, making the wise choice to allow Baker to decide much of the pacing and content. Briggs is obviously in fan mode despite working with Baker for a few years and appears in awe of him for much of the duration. In a way it is almost as if Briggs adopts the role of a companion in that there is a sense that he is experiencing the interview along with the listener.

A wonderful and joyous two hours to celebrate Tom Baker and the Fourth Doctor – who effectively often seem one and the same.


The Worlds of Doctor Who: Mind Games / The Reesinger Process / The Screaming Skull / Second Sight
The Worlds of Doctor Who: Mind Games / The Reesinger Process / The Screaming Skull / Second Sight
by Justin Richards
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £29.25

4.0 out of 5 stars A taste of the spinoff worlds of Doctor Who, 2 Dec 2014
Because it is so close to last year’s fiftieth celebrations and the release of ‘The Light at the End’, Big Finish have opted, probably smartly, to forgo any type of multiple Doctor story for their own fifteenth anniversary. Instead they have produced an interlinked series of four new plays based around, quite aptly, their own successful Doctor Who spinoffs.

The first of the four features the ever popular Jago and Litefoot; two characters created by Robert Holmes just for the serial ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang’ but who are now on their eighth series of audios. Compared to some of their excursions this is more of a back to basics story for them. Consisting of a series of murders in Victorian London centred around Jago’s theatre it isn’t the most original of stories for the duo. However, the team involved in Jago and Litefoot are more than proficient at what they do and the usual high quality of acting, writing and production are present. The ‘villain’ and the plot are a little obvious but that doesn’t affect the entertainment.

The second story centres around the Counter Measures team who originally only appeared once on screen in ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’, but have subsequently gained their own spinoff. If you have listened to the Jago and Litefoot story first, which indeed you should do to fully appreciate the story arc, then the plot to ‘The Reesinger Process’ is fairly predictable. Even so the basic use of ring composition is still fairly satisfying at the conclusion. The reoccurring antagonist doesn’t receive so much of a role as in the previous story and there is, sadly, little more character development. With political machinations and intrigue and a much more serious and dour tone, it contrasts well with the previous story in this set.

The conclusion of the previous story makes it fairly obviously how this one will, at least, begin and the direction it might take. Unlike the other three stories in the sequence, the characters it involves (Ruth Matheson and Charlie Sato) do not exactly have their own spinoff series as such. The characters were created so that actors Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso could appear in the Companion Chronicles series as the characters they played on screen in the Eighth Doctor TV movie couldn’t really be re-visited in any worthwhile, sensible way. This is thus the third audio from big Finish that they have featured in. It is certainly not essential to have listened to their previous appearances as the listener is soon filled in with their general situation. Perhaps to compensate for using two less well known spinoff characters, UNIT stalwart Mike Yates teams up Matheson and Sato to explore the strange happenings within the UNIT Vault. The story possesses somewhat more of an intensity than the previous two with its lead characters trapped in the dark rooms and corridors of the Vault pursued by various zombie like minions. The attention is split quite equally between Matheson, Sato and Yates, but there is a much greater role and development for the main antagonist who starts to feel like a more hazardous threat. It ties together some of the events of the previous two stories, sets up things nicely for the final instalment and is the only play of the four to conclude on a bit of a cliff hanger.

The final story in the sequence turns to the successful, long running Gallifrey series. The story hasn’t got much to do with the spinoff per se. Very little takes place on Gallifrey and the political machinations of the series don’t really come into. Instead the main leads of the Gallifrey series, Leela and Romana, end up on Earth where the previous three stories were set. ‘Gallifrey’ is used more for the reason of involving Louise Jamieson and Lalla Ward. The Doctor also finally makes an appearance; after all celebrating fifteen years of Big Finish wouldn’t be the same without him. It is the sixth incarnation of the Doctor that is chosen, which seems suitably apt as this version has probably benefitted best from the Big Finish audios and has also previously appeared in Gallifrey and with Jago and Litefoot. Colin Baker’s Doctor interacts wonderfully with Leela and Roman providing a new dynamic to the relationship the Doctor has with these two former companions. Inevitably we discover more about Rees’ background and motivations that give the character another dimension and a lot more depth.

The discs come in a beautifully designed box set with a presentation style book that pairs well with the Big Finish’s Doctor Who fiftieth anniversary release, ‘The Light at the End’.


Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons (Doctor Who Library)
Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons (Doctor Who Library)
by Terrance Dicks
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A deadly alliance, 2 Dec 2014
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A year after their failed attempt to take over the Earth, the Nestine Consciousness and its Auton minions try again. This time, however, they, like UNIT, have a Timelord to aid them, the Master.

I have always considered that ‘Terror of the Autons’ was perhaps not the best way to introduce the Master as he has to share the limelight with the Nestene Consciousness and the Autons. The relationship between the two was always quite vague. There is, perhaps, more of a sense of it being an uneasy alliance in the novelisation and a bit more vying for power. This impression is mainly given through Dicks providing the reader with some access to the Master’s internal thoughts. It is still not really made entirely clear how the Master actually expects to benefit from the arrangement. For a man that is painted as supposed to be incredibly intelligent (a rival for the Doctor no less) he comes across as extremely, uncharacteristically gullible in trusting the Nestene Consciousness. His realisation on screen that he can’t trust his allies seems a little convenient for the plot. At least the novelisation has the Brigadier give him a bit of a further incentive.

As you might expect the characterisation of Delgado’s Master is spot on from Dicks. After all the character was partially his conception. Likewise, his grasp of the Third Doctor, the Brigadier and Jo is excellent. However, Yates is portrayed a little blandly. Non-regular characters Professor Phillips and Rex Farrel are given more attention than allowed for in the onscreen version and thus become more rounded and realistic.

The Autons are quite a visual monster in ‘Terror of the Autons’. Some of their visual impact is lost in the novelisation (Dicks does a lot better with them in ‘The Auton Invasion’). However, this does have its plus side as it negates some of the awful appearance of the devil doll and the telephone cord. The Nestene Consciouness is given a little more attention and interestingly the Autons/Nestenes seem to be given some form of political set up that wasn’t really apparent on the televised version of the story. There appears to be some form of hierarchy and there are references to a ‘high command’.

The novelisation successfully captures the essence of the onscreen story but infuses it with a better pacing and continuity allowing for the story to flow smoother.


Sixth of the Dusk (Cosmere)
Sixth of the Dusk (Cosmere)
Price: £1.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing but unsatisfying, 2 Dec 2014
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This is a short story that seems basically unrelated to any other series/saga by the author. It essentially follows a character known as Dusk (named so for two possible interrelated and not fully disclosed reasons). He is a trapper/hunter who appears to be perfectly attuned to his environment and spends much of his life living a role of solitude and deprivation. Uncomfortable around other people, the story centres around how he deals with the arrival of mainland explorers and his encounter with the lost Vathi. The explorers and their objectives offer connotations with the imperial and capitalist expansion that has taken place within our own world over the ages.

Unlike Sanderson’s usual work the world portrayed within this novella never seems fully realised. At once intriguing and a little irritating, it remains tantalisingly out of reach. Small hints and references suggest there is a lot more to the setting than we are offered within the confines of the story. In part this is due to the nature of the short story and its limited word count. This encourages Sanderson to opt for following one particular individual in their remote corner of this world. This means very little is revealed outside of Dusk’s own perception. Indeed part of the novella is concerned with Dusk’s limited perception of the world around him being broadened by his contact with Vathi.

The novella proclaims itself to be part of the Cosmere, the universe that Sanderson seems to have used for the general setting of many of his works (although how all that comes together is still very unclear at present). However, you would not know it was set in Cosmere if it were not for the subtitle. There is no obvious indication within the story that suggests its overall locale or any relationship to any of the other novels reputedly set in Cosmere.

Dusk does not come across as a particularly likeable character and, although he begins to endear himself to the reader as things progress, there is not really enough space within the story to take his character very far. Much like the world where the story is set, there is plenty more that can be made of this character and his place in a changing world.

Overall this is a fairly enjoyable read that suffers from feeling that it is just the outset of a story or the first fifty pages or so of a much larger novel. Hopefully the scenario and characters from this will be revisited by the author on a much grander scale sometime in the future.


Doctor Who-Inferno
Doctor Who-Inferno
by Terrance Dicks
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Infernal danger across dimensions, 17 Nov 2014
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This review is from: Doctor Who-Inferno (Paperback)
I have never completely grasped exactly why the television serial of Inferno appears to be one of the Third Doctor’s most highly regarded stories. Personally I have always found it a bit of a mixed bag. The parallel dimension side of the story feels as if it has been shoehorned into an existing four part serial to stretch it into seven episodes. The ‘monsters’ of the piece are contenders for the worst in Doctor Who, make no sense whatsoever and are completely unnecessary. They, too, feel as if they have been included in an existing script merely to have a ‘monster of the week’. Furthermore, despite being a very seriously portrayed story, the science of it is all over the place. On the plus side though, it has some stunning performances and one of the most effective background soundtracks of any television programme.

Unfortunately, the novelisation, by its very nature, can’t help but fail to duplicate the noises of drilling machinery persistently pumping away. It is somewhat amazing how much of the atmospheric tension is lost without this accompaniment. Similarly, although Dicks successfully and believably portrays the alternate dimension characters, the text doesn’t pick up the nuances of the performances.

The novelisation does more successfully blend the events across the two involved dimensions. It doesn’t feel as clumsy as the onscreen version. The Primords are just as awful though. I was hoping that the novelisation might make a bit more of an effort to justify them. Dicks chose to gloss over them, however, and the novel instead offers less of an explanation for what the bright green primordial ooze might be and how it can regress humans to some form of zombie-werewolf thing that has nothing to do with our evolutionary heritage.

The novelisation has some good pacing and, despite the loss of the background noise, successfully builds up the tension as it progresses. Much like the onscreen version it still suffers from feeling a bit anti-climactic towards the end. The Threat faced in the latter stages is easily eclipsed by the dramatic events that end the parallel dimension part of the story.


The Keep of the Lich Lord: 1 (Fabled Lands Quests)
The Keep of the Lich Lord: 1 (Fabled Lands Quests)
by Dave Morris
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.56

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome re-visit, 15 Nov 2014
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Conceptually this is a highly interesting experiment in adventure gamebooks. Inevitably, in over three decades, several gamebooks changed series, for various reasons. Usually this has been in their development stage, long before publication. ‘Keep of the Lich Lord’, however, was originally published as part of the Fighting Fantasy range around twenty five years ago. It is now revisited by its original authors and has been crafted into their own series from the mid-nineties, ‘Fabled Lands’.

To all intents and purposes the amalgamation works quite successfully. There is a fair percentage of re-writing in the early stages to make the adventure part of the Fabled Lands’ world. Much of this is an improvement on the original. Fortunately, the adventure being set on an island enables the transition from the Fighting Fantasy world of Titan to that of the Fabled Lands relatively smoothly. If Stayng had been continental it could have posed real problems for the Fabled Lands system of moving between books.
Throughout the course of the adventurer’s exploration of the island there are many subtle re-writes that bring in the peoples and races of the Fabled Lands. The Chaos warriors of Allansia are easily swapped for knights of Nagil, for example. This works particularly well with the Uttakin, who I feel we actually learn a touch more about than in the available Fabled Lands’ books. Having all these connections with the peoples and cultures of the Fabled Lands vastly enriches this book, making it feel part of a greater world. In contrast the Fighting Fantasy version had little to do with the rest of Titan.

In contrast the latter stages of the adventure don’t really offer that much Fabled Lands’ influence and really slip into a relatively basic ‘infiltrate the major villain’s stronghold and kill him’ style plot. Mortis himself is particularly disappointing after all the background that is built up concerning him throughout the course of the book. There is hardly any interaction with him and he appears quite briefly. On the plus side though there are two methods of defeating Mortis and completing the adventure. This provides some variety in re-reading, but neither are hugely satisfying.

Where there is somewhat of a problem is the method of combat. Although the Fabled Lands’ system works perfectly fine in the confines of its own series it doesn’t quite port across that well. This is due to the fact that the original Fighting Fantasy version was conceived as a self-contained, one off adventure. However, the nature of the Fabled Lands books encourages you to develop a character over the course of your adventures. Many readers I expect will come to this book because they have already played through most, if not all, the Fabled Lands series. Inevitably this means that whatever character the reader may have already developed will have far too powerful a set of combat statistics for the opponents of this adventure. The instructions in the book do advise you to play as new character rather than using one that you may have developed throughout the other Fabled Lands books and this would no doubt give a better balance to play. But who wouldn’t want to play with the character that they already have? It gives a greater a sense of continuity with the rest of Fabled Lands.

Most of the other Fabled Lands attributes are smoothly integrated. ‘Thievery’ works particularly well in conjunction with the ‘Alarm Value’ statistic from the original version. ‘Resolve’ is also kept from the Fighting Fantasy original. I’m not sure why though. Again, carrying over a character from a previous Fabled Lands adventure can easily make this pointless, especially if your rank is six or higher. Surely it would have been an improvement to drop ‘resolve’ and replace it in some way by using the ‘sanctity’ attribute common to Fabled Lands.

Over the last decade there have been two reissues of the Fighting Fantasy series. Primarily, though, these have stuck to the Ian Livingston and Steve Jackson written adventures, sadly neglecting the efforts of many of the other authors. This is partially why the rerelease and rewrite of ‘Keep of the Lich Lord’ is something to be welcomed. It might encourage other authors of Fighting Fantasy books to revisit their works. ‘Keep of the Lich Lord’ certainly benefits from its republication into the Fabled Lands series, allowing the authors to tweak and improve it. It also introduces the very intriguing idea of Fabled Lands Quests. Hopefully this is a sub-series to come. If ‘Keep of the Lich Lord’, already established as a Fighting Fantasy book, can be republished as part of another series then surely some of Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson’s other ideas for Fighting Fantasy can be re-visited, hopefully as Fabled Lands Quests. Some of these ideas for adventures are recounted at the end of this book, but, personally, I would love to see the publication of ‘The Keeper of the Seven Keys’.


Doctor Who-The Ambassadors of Death (Doctor Who Library)
Doctor Who-The Ambassadors of Death (Doctor Who Library)
by Terrance Dicks
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars The Doctor aids a jeopardous UK space mission, 15 Nov 2014
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Personally, I have never been much of a fan of the televised version of ‘The Ambassadors of Death’, finding the storyline a bit dull and dry, the characters unengaging and Jon Pertwee’s performance uncharacteristically uncharismatic. Unfortunately the novelisation fails to improve on the televised version. That’s not to say that there are not good points to the story though.

‘The Auton Invasion’ and ‘The Cave Monsters’ (the novelisations of the two stories that take place before this one in the programme order) both featured plenty of in depth character exploration that successfully builds on and embellishes that seen on screen. Unfortunately this novelisation doesn’t offer the same, and many characters feel more two dimensional than their television counterparts. A little work is done in providing a background for Reegan, but it is very superficial and his character doesn’t really benefit from it. I was hoping for some insight into the internal thoughts and motivations of General Carrington. However, the novelisation just writes him off as insane.

Also the aliens, who I find quite disappointing in the televised version, are probably worse in the book. Again I was hoping the novelisation would provide some embellishment on them. However, the aliens are in many ways secondary to the plot which is essentially concerned with human political plots and conspiracies.

The onscreen version of this story featured several elongated action sequences (possibly too long). The book can’t really capture these. What is kept though is the ridiculous use of what can only really be described as ‘magic’ from the Doctor. Why the Doctor should suddenly have the ability to cast items back and forth into the future always seemed utterly random and inconsistent with the rest of Doctor Who. I was really hoping the novelisation would leave this out or find some more scientific explanation for it.

Although I generally enjoy Dicks’ writing I found that the text had far too many breaks in it in this novelisation. The chopping and changing between characters and situations just serves to break up the tension and atmosphere.


Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters
Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters
by Malcolm Hulke
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Silurians?, 8 Nov 2014
Novelised by the writer of the original script, Malcolm Hulke, this deservedly regarded as one of the classics of the Doctor Who Target range.

In main this is due to the brilliant depiction of the Silurians. Although they were portrayed more than adequately in the televised version, the novel further emphasises that they were not merely the aliens/monsters of the week but a much more complex and varied species. Hulke really gives the impression that this reptilian species were once a highly developed and cultured civilisation. The individual Silurians that the story chooses to focus on are well thought out and rounded characterisations with their own distinct personalities, reasoning and aspirations. This is initially reflected in the names Hulke chooses to entitle them with that were sadly absent from the televised version. The novelisation uncannily captures the fact that despite the fundamental difference in being mammals and reptiles the humans and Silurians are, in essence, much more similar than either species would care to acknowledge.

Hulke provides an interesting compare and contrast between the two species with his focus on individuals that weren't quite so developed on television. At times the story is provided from the perspectives of Quinn, Dawson, Barker, and, to a lesser degree, Lawrence. This provides an insight into their actions and choices through a greater exploration of their aspirations and motivations.
Likewise, the Silurians receive the same treatment. In fact Okdel is easily the most sympathetic character within the book. Hulke creates a scenario where the Doctor and Okdel form a comparative pair with their willing to accept and understand, Mokda and Barker with their intolerance and warmongering, and Quinn and K’to with their abstract focus on scientific achievement at the expense of life.

Sometimes this focus is at the expense of some of the other characters, however. The characterisation of Liz Shaw particularly suffers, being incredibly different from the performance offered by Caroline John. She virtually has a different personality and has a less prominent or active role in the story.

The term Silurians is hardly used within the book, as are the terms Eocenes and homo reptilia. Hulke randomly uses reptiles, reptile men, lizards, etc. Fortunately the uninspiring ‘cave monsters’ is never used to describe them apart from in the rather unapt title. The change in title seems rather pointless (Dicks does provide the unconvincing reason in his introduction) and ‘cave monsters’ seems only to negate Hulke’s efforts at making the Silurians a fully-fledged species.

The new edition includes a jolly introduction by Terrance Dicks where his admiration for Hulke is clearly apparent throughout. Furthermore, there is a closing section which clearly and categorically lays out the multiple alterations Hulke makes from the onscreen version. It makes some interesting reading and reveals how much effort the author has put in to improve on the original script and make this a thought provoking highlight of the Target series.


Return to the Stones
Return to the Stones
by Jeremy Burnham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unsatisfying sequel, 26 Oct 2014
This review is from: Return to the Stones (Hardcover)
This novel is a sequel to the highly memorable, seventies drama ‘Children of the Stones’. It doesn’t feel that much like a sequel though. For the majority it is still set in Milbury (where ‘Children of the Stones’ completely took place) and most of the same characters still appear. Other than that the two stories haven’t got that much in common.

Although it is nice to see these familiar characters again they are pale imitations of their former selves, relying heavily on the depth of character developed throughout ‘Children of the Stones’. It feels as if the characters have been shoehorned in just to be present; as a shorthand method to connect with the readers. There are far too many characters trying to do too much and there isn’t enough room for them all. It is very different from ‘Children of the Stones’ which essentially focussed events through the eyes of Brake and his son. Brake is far too jovial throughout the book, this default character not altering no matter what the situation. Matthew comes across as far less determined and confident than his younger self.

The actual stone circle itself doesn’t serve the same purpose as last time, or one that is overly related. Instead it is used more as site for some ill-conceived science fiction re-working of the trial in Aeschylus’ Oresteia. It is nice to see Milbury Hill receiving more attention. It is also tied into some of the archaeological discoveries at real life Silbury Hill upon which it is based. However, the exploration of Milbury Hill feels as if it has little relevance to the overall story.

At times the writing and the plotting is dull and plodding. There is rarely much of a change of pace and there is none of the eerie, slightly off putting atmosphere that was prevalent throughout ‘Children of the Stones’. Disappointingly, there is a complete lack of tension and suspense.

Possibly the most annoying aspect of the book is that there is a complete lack of explanation for why Milbury is as it is now. The events of ‘Children of the Stones’ are completely forgotten by most characters and there is no real effort to explain why the time loop/trap no longer seems to be operating given the suggestions and questions left at the end of ‘Children of the Stones’. The circumstances of why Brake is now living there, how did he return, and marry are all frustratingly vague. This is clearly due to the events of ‘Children of the Stones’ having little bearing on this ‘sequel’.

If you were hoping to relive childhood memories or get that same slightly uncomfortable but exciting feeling, then this will be a disappointment to you.


Doctor Who: Lights Out: Twelfth Doctor: Twelfth Doctor (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Shorts Book 12)
Doctor Who: Lights Out: Twelfth Doctor: Twelfth Doctor (Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Shorts Book 12)
Price: £1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Too much coffee?, 23 Oct 2014
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I’m not sure why this novella has been published as part of last year’s series for the fiftieth anniversary, which celebrated the Eleven Doctors that then existed. It feels as if it has just been tagged on so that the Twelfth Doctor can be included retrospectively. The nature and style of this story also doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the series.

The above aside, the story is well written and entertaining. It successfully utilises the short story format in a way Maupassant would be proud of. It doesn’t deal with more than its remit. There is a highly defined structure, the writing is concise and consistently relevant, and there is a minimal amount of characters so that they and the event can be focussed upon.

The Doctor is not the main character of this story (he is more of a facilitator for the main character). Therefore it is not that easy to tell how well the Twelfth Doctor has been characterised. The author has certainly done quite a good job with the dialogue. It looks as if she must have had access to some scripts in advance because something of Peter Capaldi seems to be present. There is also, of course, what now seems to be an obligatory reference to eyebrows.

There is something endearing about the lead character of this story that provides an emotional attachment for the reader. This is not the most typical Doctor Who story and there are no great enemies to overcome. However, it showcases one of the things the Doctor does best when not saving the universe – improving the life of an individual.


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