Book Review: Birthright by Nigel Robinson


Author: Nigel Robinson
TitleBirthright
Publication Info: London Bridge (1993)
Summary/Review:

The TARDIS crashes and Bernice Summerfield finds herself alone in the East of London in 1909, albeit the Doctor has somehow found a way to supply her with a bank account to draw upon, and the support of the Waterfield family for a place to live.  Soon she’s investigating a series of grisly murders attributed to Springheel Jack, but are actually committed by … aliens!  Meanwhile, Ace is on a desert planet in the far future aiding the surviving humans against the insect-like Charrl.  And the Doctor is off having adventures in another book that I won’t be reading.

This is the first example of a “Doctor-light” story that became common in the future Virgin Adventures and in the new television series.  It also continues the trend of characterizing the Doctor as a manipulative mastermind, the Ace as surly and violent, and Benny as clever but self-doubting.  Even the surreal dream-like sequence of the conclusion is a New Adventures’ trait.  Nevertheless, it’s a much more simply-written, straightforward narrative than some of the other, more complex books.  And barring a few examples of sexist language, it’s a pretty enjoyable adventure to read too.

Rating: ***

Comics Review: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor


Author:  Nick Abadzis
Artists: Elena Casagrande
Colorist: Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and  Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 1: Revolutions of Terror 
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2015.
Summary/Review:

The Tenth Doctor comics explores adventures that take place after he tragically mindwipes Donna (I’m still not over that), and reluctantly begins traveling with a new companion, Gabby Gonzalez. And what a wonderful companion she is!  Gabby is a young Mexican-American woman living in Brooklyn and working in her family’s restaurant and laundromat, but dreaming of becoming an artist and going on adventures.  She’s utterly charming and clever, and well characterized for a character original to the comics.

This volume contains two adventures.  The Doctor and Gabby meet when the Pranavores, a psychic lifeform that exists in a symbiotic relationship with intelligent lifeforms and feeds off their positive energy, come under attack.  Their assailants are the Cerabavores, scientifically modified Pranavores who hunt the Pranavores by causing the humans they’re associated with to have horrific visions.  Gabby’s quick wits and cheerful spirit help the Doctor defeat the Cerabavores and he invites her on a one-time trip on the TARDIS.

Because Gabby is an artist, he takes her to see an art gallery on a magnificently strange planet and meet an artist named Zhe who uses her mind to create block transfer sculptures.  Of course, Zhe is in trouble, trapped in stasis while two malevolent apprentices she created attack the Doctor and Gabby.  The story is illustrated with fun house visuals accompanied by Gabby’s sketchbook where she tells the story through sketches and notes to her friend.  It’s a wonderful visual story best suited to the comic book art form.

This is a great start to the Tenth Doctor comics series and of course, Gabby is invited back for further travels so there’s more to look forward to in upcoming comics.

Rating: ****


Author:  Robbie Morrison
Artists: Daniel Indro & Eleonora Carlini
Colorist: Slamet Murjiono & Hi-Fi
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 2, The Weeping Angels of Mons
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2015.
Summary/Review:

Gabby & The Doctor land in No Man’s Land in the midst of The Great War in 1916.  There they discover that Scottish infantrymen and their German opponents are both facing a much greater danger – The Weeping Angels!  The battlefield scenes of mud, smoke, and darkness are a perfect fit for the angels and the comic quickly sketches an interesting cast of guest characters.  Gabby continues to be wonderful and is growing into one of my favorite companions rather quickly.  The story builds on the Weeping Angels mythos created in “Blink” but not as well explored in their later tv stories.

<HUGE SPOILER>The brilliant – if obvious in retrospect – twist is that one of the soldiers is sent back in time to a nearby French village, where he marries and settles down as a farmer, waiting to catch up to the First World War and bail out his friends.</HUGE SPOILER>

The only downside to this comic is that the Doctor seems to a sanctimonious ass for much of this comic, which I guess is true to the characterization of the Tenth Doctor, but I still don’t have to enjoy it.  The volume also includes a one-issue story called “Echo” set in contemporary Brooklyn which is highly derivative of the Pranavores plot except these are creature who amplify sound instead of feelings.  The resolution is also derivative of “Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks” so it makes me wonder if the creators of this issue were just in a rush to get something out.

Rating: ****


Author:  Robbie Morrison
Artists: Elena Casagrande, Eleonora Carlini, Rachael Stott, and Leonardo Romero
Colorist:  Hi-Fi and Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and  Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 3: The Fountains of Forever
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2015
Summary/Review:

After a silly, short story about the TARDIS laundry and a golem of sonic screwdriver activated dirt, the Doctor and Gabby return to New York.  Gabby’s friend Cindy is seething with jealousy and the two quarrel, an unfortunately stereotyped depiction of relationships among young women.  The plot moves into a story about ancient artifacts, a cult, and an aged movie star that eventually reveals itself to be a sequel to Pyramid of Mars.  Honestly, I got bored with it and ultimately lost the plot.  This is a disappointing volume after the first two collections were so very good.

Rating: **


Author:  Nick Abadzis
Artists: Eleonora Carlini, Elena Casagrande & Leonardo Romero
Colorist:  Claudia SG Iannicello and Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 4: The Endless Song
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2016
Summary/Review:

The Tenth Doctor and Gabby’s adventures continue, beginning with another conceptual being, the Shan’tee, who are perceived by humans as music, making for a clever albeit somewhat cliched adventure.  Gabby’s notebook returns as Cindy, left behind on Earth, reads it to herself and notices that stories are changing.  Unfortunately, the story devolves into something more boring involving Ebonite, but is redeemed by the appearance of Jack Harkness!  The final story involving early humans and Neandethals is kind of, eh?

Rating: ***


Author:  Nick Abadzis
Artists: Eleonora Carlini, Elena Casagrande & Iolanda Zanfardino
Colorist:  Arianna Florean, Rod Fernandes, & Hi-Fi with Azzurra Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 5: Arena of Fear
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2016
Summary/Review:

This volume starts with epic weirdness as the Doctor and Gabby are forced into an epic fight against Captain Jack, Cleo and Cindy.  Everyone’s memories are twisted and the story from the Pleistocene era is incorporated, so it’s just so very strange.  Later they travel to the UK and end up in a spooky story involving a witch in a well. I feel that the characterization of Cindy is improving and that the stories are feeling less contrived, but I do wish there was less emphasis on continuing story arcs.  I just don’t care about Anubis

Rating: ***1/2


Author:  Nick Abadzis
Artists: Giorgia Sposito
Colorist:  Arianna Florean, Azzurra Florean, Mattia de Lulis and Adele Matera
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 6: Sins of the Father
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2017
Summary/Review:

This volume begins with the Doctor and Gabby enjoying some down time in 1920s New Orleans and Cindy even finding romance (and while it’ll be played as a tragic romance trope, it’s still nice to see new things done with her character).  Music infects this jazz age story and the Nocturnes are back to infect the music, perhaps the best return of an original monster in these comics. And then Anubis and Sutekh return.  Yawn!

Rating: ***


Author:  Nick Abadzis, James Peaty
Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Warren Pleece
Colorist:  Arianna Florean, Azzurra Florean, Mattia de Lulis, Hi-Fi, Adele Matera
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt; Nick Abadzis & Arianna Florean
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 7: War of Gods
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2017
Summary/Review:

This volume pairs the ongoing (and hopefully conclusion) of the yawner of the Sutekh story.  The Revolving Doors story sees Gabby going to London for the first time and dwelling on the Tenth Doctor’s man pain.  These comics have fallen a long way in my estimation since they began.

Rating: *1/2


Author:   Nick Abadzis
Artists: Giorgia Sposito
Colorist:  Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor – Facing Fate, Volume 1 – Breakfast at Tyranny’s
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2017)
Summary/Review:

Hooray for new storylines!  Anubis continues in the story but now as an amnesiac going by the name Noobis, and more interesting for doing so (especially when depicted as an actual dog).  The first story sees the TARDIS team stuck in a virtual reality in a New York City department store, that is basically The Matrix with tentacles.  Things get better when they travel to ancient China – with portions of the comic in the style of traditional Chinese art – and liberate a castle full of hundreds of Cindys!

Rating: ***


Author:   Nick Abadzis
Artists: Giorgia Sposito
Colorist:  Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor – Facing Fate, Volume 2 – Vortex Butterflies
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2018)
Summary/Review:

The Doctor leaves Gabby and Cindy in a house he keeps in London (but not the English house he has in the Virgin New Adventures, alas) where Sarah Jane comes to their aid when Gabby falls ill.  The Doctor meanwhile seeks out what is troubling the TARDIS, and discovers that the Vortex Butterfly is a manifestation of Gabby’s Block Transfer powers.  It’s a nice way to develop an ongoing story going back to the origins of the comics, but it also is resolved a bit too easily.

Rating: **1/2


Author:  Nick Abadzis
Artists:  Giorgia Sposito
Colorist:  Adele Matera
Letterer:  Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Facing Fate Volume 3 – The Good Companion
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2018)
Summary/Review:

This appears to the conclusion of the Titan Tenth Doctor Comics featuring Gabby.  The Time Sentinels are a strange and kind of uninteresting antagonist.  But I do like how this book brings back old themes and characters (Cleo and Zhe) to tie together Gabby’s ongoing story.  It’s interesting to see how much – and how believably – everyone has changed since being introduced.  There’s also a nice cameo at the end.

Rating: ***

Comics Review: Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor


AuthorCavan Scott
Artists: Blair Shedd, Rachael Stott
Colorist: Blair Shedd, Anang Setyawan
Letterer: Richard Starkings,Jimmy Betancourt
TitleVol. 1: Weapons Of Past Destruction
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, 2016.
Summary/Review:

Way back in 2011, I started watching Doctor Who with Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor.  He remains one of my favorite Doctors and it’s disappointing that there’s only one season.  Even the Eighth Doctor has been able to get a ton of stories in audio dramas and novels.  So I’m pleased to read the further adventures of the Ninth Doctor with Rose Tyler and Jack Harkness.

Appropriately, these comics are set after The Doctor Dances and before Boom Town, the story in which the Doctor, Rose, and Jack spend a dinner with Mickey telling stories about adventures we never got to see.  I’ll have to go back and watch that show to see if the comics illustrate any of those stories.

The crux of this volume is that the Doctor and his companions discover an arms market selling Gallifreyan weapons.  They soon find themselves in the middle of a war that is rehashing the battles of the Time War.  The Doctor angrily – and carelessly – announces that he’s selling off the “mind of a Time Lord.”  The comic is epic and imaginative and uses the format well to illustrate ideas that wouldn’t have worked in a tv show.

Rating: ***


AuthorCavan Scott
Artists: Adriana Melo, Chris Bolson
Colorist: Matheus Lopes, Marco Lesko
Letterer: Richard Starkings,Jimmy Betancourt
TitleThe Ninth Doctor, Vol. 2: Doctormania
Publication Info: London : Titan Books, 2017.
Summary/Review:

There are two main adventures in this story.  First, the Doctor and his companions arrive at a planet where the Doctor is a big celebrity.  This leads to lots of meta-commentary about Doctor Who as a television show and fan culture. Ultimately, this story leads to a hunt on Raxacoricofallapatoria.  I don’t know if anyone was clamoring for more Slitheen stories, but they are the signature monster of the Ninth Doctor, and this comic does a decent job of setting a story on their planet.

The next story is much better with timey-wimey twists.  Mickey Smith calls the Doctor to San Francisco, but he’s the older, more confident Mickey whose married to Martha and teamed with her as free lance monster hunters.  The story requires that Rose not see future Mickey and the Doctor not meet his future companion Martha which makes for interesting plotting. Meanwhile, Rose is lured in a group of people who’ve gained flying powers and are contending with gargoyle creatures.  Her flirtatious romance with a handsome young man in the group is true to Series 1 Rose before she ended up romantically interested in Tennant’s Doctor.

This comic collection builds on the Ninth Doctor’s adventures in a fun and visually varied ways.

Rating: ***1/2


AuthorCavan Scott
Artists: Adriana Melo, Chris Bolson
Colorist: Marco Lesko
Letterer: Richard Starkings,Jimmy Betancourt
TitleThe Ninth Doctor, Vol. 3: Official Secrets
Publication Info: London : Titan Books, 2017.
Summary/Review:

The Doctor, Rose, and Jack continue there adventures by working with a 1970s or 1980s where they end up working with UNIT division in Bristol lead by Harry Sullivan.  This is a nice touch since it would be impossible to bring back Harry on TV due to Ian Marter’s early death. The story also introduces Tara Mishra, a UNIT nurse and soldier who joins the TARDIS Team!  Who knew the Ninth Doctor would be getting new companions between The Doctor Dances and Boom Town!

The second story sees the team travel back in time to 17th century Brazil, where the Doctor deals with both Portuguese slavers and alien mer-people.  Meanwhile, Jack continues to make discoveries about his past and the moments erased from his mind by the Time Agents.  Rose is uncertain she can trust Jack after what is revealed.

The characterization of Jack relies much on what would learn about him from Torchwood, while the Doctor in these comics is also informed by revelations of the War Doctor.  The creators of the comics cleverly retcon these things that no one knew about in Series 1 without overdoing it.

Rating: ***1/2


AuthorCavan Scott
Artists: Adriana Melo, Cris Bolson, Marco Lesko
Title:  The Ninth Doctor, Vol. 4: Sin Eaters
Publication Info: London : Titan Books, 2017.
Summary/Review:

With Jack having left the team, the story begins with the Doctor incarcerated in a high-security prison on a space station for the murder of Tara.  It is, of course, a fakeout to give the Doctor a chance to investigate the prison’s suspicious rehabilitation methods.  Things go wrong when Rose arrives in disguise and is unable to prevent the Doctor having his anger and darkest thoughts removed into a doppelganger called a sin eater.  The sin eaters would be absolutely ridiculous in televised Doctor Who, but some how they work as in pen and ink, where the body horror is quite so bad. The whole story is built on well-worn science fiction tropes, but still somewhat entertaining.

The remainder of the volume pays off the plot of Jack Harkness losing his memories and the Doctor offering up the Mind of Time Lord plot is also paid off.  Once again the Doctor is held in captivity for much of the story as four alien agents attempt to bid on his brain.  The Doctor is able to defeat his enemies with his grief (not unlike a plot twist in an episode of Class). Tara ends up staying behind to help a devastated planet, freeing up the Doctor, Rose, and Jack to return to Cardiff to meet up with Mickey and Margaret.

Rating: ***1/2

TV Review: Class (2016)


Title: Class
Release Dates: 2016
Season: 1
Number of Episodes: 8
Summary/Review:

This spinoff series from Doctor Who was designed as a young adult science fiction drama with the scripts being written by popular young adult author Patrick Ness.  It’s curious that in many ways Class is darker and more mature (and more gory) than Doctor Who, although teens actually do like that kind of thing, tv productions don’t generally recognize it. The premise of a team of people fighting off the monster-of-the-week that emerges from a rift in space and time is very much reminiscent of the very grown-up Torchwood.

The show is set at the Coal Hill School, a frequent setting of Doctor Who going back to the first episode in 1963.  Because of the Doctor’s frequent visits to Coal Hill with the TARDIS time and space have become unstable creating the rift.  The Doctor has also placed two alien refugees at the school, disguised as human for their protection: Charlie, the prince of the Rhodians, and Ms. Quill, a revolutionary from the same planet who is tied to Charlie by a mental link that forces her to act his protector.  They are each the only survivors of their species after genocide by the Shadow Kin.

The rest of the kids are ordinary, highly-intelligent students with the typical problems of teenagers. Ram is talented football player who grieves the loss of his girlfriend to the Shadow Kin.  April is nerdy and well-behaved, but hides a troubled past with her father.  Tanya is the youngest in the group having moved up three years at the school and comes from a Nigerian immigrant family.  Matteusz is a Polish immigrant who is ostracized by his parents for being gay, and has a romance with Charlie.

The cast are all really charming and the show does a great job at developing their characters, albeit sometimes unevenly to serve the plot.  The scripts are especially good at exploring grief and young people learning to trust and work with one another. Ms. Quill is a scene stealing anti-hero, revolutionary become physics teacher.  The Shadow Kin are the main villain in this series and the four episodes they appear in are strained by the Shadow Kin being rather ridiculous and uninteresting.

The best two episodes come near the end of the series.  Episode 6 – “Detained” – is a bottle episode where the five students are shoved out of normal space-time and encounter a creature that makes them confess uncomfortable truths.  It’s good drama and also symbolic of young people learning to communicate with one another honestly.  The next episode – “The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did” – features Ms. Quill on adventure using a TARDIS-like device to travel into metaphysical realities in search of regaining her free will.  It’s a very imaginative and really lets Katherine Kelly to expand her character and acting chops.

Unfortunately, Class was canceled after one season, which is possibly a good thing because the cliffhanger hints at a premise that I don’t think would’ve worked well.  If the showrunners had known that they had only one season I think that they could’ve have reshaped these 8 episodes into a more self-contained miniseries.  But now we’ll just have to use our imaginations – and Big Finish audio dramas – to find out to find out what happens next.

Comics Review: Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor


AuthorAndrew Cartmel
Illustrators: Christopher Jones, Marco Lesko
Contributor: Ben Aaronovitch
TitleDoctor Who: The Seventh Doctor
Publication Info: Titan (2018)
Summary/Review:

The three parts of this Titan comics miniseries include two different stories.  “Operation Volcano” takes up most of the pages with “Hill of Beans” filling out each volume.

“Operation Volcano” is set in 1967 when a hydrogen bomb exposes an alien craft in the Australian desert.  RAF Group Captain Gilmore – a character introduced in Aaronovitch’s Remembrance of the Daleks – calls in the Doctor and Ace to investigate. Subsequent issues reveal a horrifying snake-like species that can attach itself to humans and tap into their consciousness.  But all is not what appears and the Doctor knows more about these aliens than he lets on. Can his plan prevent the destruction of Earth by nuclear weapons, and how does Gilmore end up in the future with a snake on his back? There’s a strong UNIT/spy thriller feel and the artistry captures the 60s style (write up to the illustrator lovingly detailing the women’s breasts and short-shorts in the classic style).  This is faithful the Seventh Doctor stories as portrayed by Sylvester McCoy and the Virgin New Adventures and I could see it succeeding as a tv adaptation.

“Hill of Beans” catches up with Mags, the werewolf from The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, and the physic circus.  She’s under threat as her planet Vulpana is under fascist rule and rounding up werewolves and other noncomformists. Eerily, the villain looks like Donald Trump and says “fire and fury.” The art style is softer and works to capture an 80s aesthetic.  Being the shorter of the two stories, it is very bareboned, and everything gets resolved rather easily.   Again, though, it could be fleshed out into a tv show or book.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Transit by Ben Aaronovitch


Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Title: Transit
Publication Info: London : Doctor Who, 1992.
Summary/Review:

Having read Set Piece, I decided to jump back to this earlier book in the New Adventures series that introduces the character of Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart. The author, Ben Aaronovitch, previously wrote the teleplays for the classic Seventh Doctor serials Remembrance of the Daleks and Battlefield.  This novel was controversial at the time of its release because in response to the adult audience of the New Adventures novels, Aaronovitch depicted scenes with profanity, drug use, and sex for the first time in a Doctor Who story.

The main plot involves a transit system that connects the Solar System through “tunnels” which are actually transmat systems that carry “trains” over long distances at faster-than-light speeds. An entity from another dimension enters the transit system like a virus causing power surges and killing people.  The TARDIS gets caught in one of the surges separating the Doctor and Benny.  This is the first novel in which Benny is traveling with the Doctor and she ends up possessed by the virus, which is an interesting choice when her character hasn’t even been fully established yet.

Like other New Adventures I’ve read, this is a complex novel with dozens of characters and an entire fictional universe in the cyberpunk style without anything really for the reader to latch on to be introduced to the characters and their world.  I shouldn’t complain so much about the novels’ complexity, but I did major in English and read complex novels (heck, I even read Ulysses for fun!), so it’s frustrating to struggle with sci-fi tv spinoff novels from the 1990s.  Still, there are some great details, such as allusions to the Ice Warriors (here called “Greenies”) and a great war.  The final showdown between the Doctor and the entity is also well-written.

Rating: ***

Previously Reviewed:

Comics Review: Prisoners of Time by Scott Tipton and David Tipton


Author: Scott Tipton and David Tipton
TitlePrisoners of Time
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, January 2016.
Artist: Simon Fraser
Colourist: Gary Caldwell
Letterer:  Tom B. Long
Summary/Review:

The 50th anniversary comic tells one story for each Doctor, One through Eleventh, with the inevitable team-up in the last issue.  The stories are generally good, albeit short and easily resolved leading up to the conclusion of each story where a mysterious figure kidnaps the Doctor’s companions.  It’s eventually revealed to be Adam of The Long Game from the Ninth Doctor’s season, which is a bit underwhelming. Still, I like how the artistic style is a bit different for each Doctor, and how they pay tribute to the history of Doctor Who comics through the appearance of Frobisher, who appeared first in comics, and the essays at the end of each issue.  It’s nothing spectacular but it checks off each box of what an anniversary, crossover comic should do.

Rating: ***

Comics Review: Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension 


Author: George Mann, Carl Scott, and Nick Abadzis
TitleDoctor Who: The Lost Dimension Vol.1
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, 2018.
Illustrator: Rachael Stott
Colourist: Rod Fernandes
Letterer: Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
Summary/Review:

Another multi-Doctor story.  Unlike The Four Doctors, this one does a good job of having each Doctor’s story have a stand-alone aspect while adding to the overall story arc.  It also gives a good amount of time and agency to the supporting characters, the many companions and the Doctor’s Daughter, Jenny.  It also cleverly spins some history of  Galliferey and TARDISes without being overly fan-wankery.

Rating: ****


Author: Gordon Rennie
TitleDoctor Who: The Lost Dimension Vol.2
Illustrator: Ivan Rodriguez
Colourist: Thiago Ribeiro
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, 2018.
Summary/Review:

The second part is not as strong as the predecessor.  Once the Doctors get together the writing lazily relies on Doctors bickering with themselves and being brilliant together.  The conclusion is also highly derivative of The Day of the Doctor.  Still a fun romp though

Rating: ***

Comics Review: Doctor Who: Four Doctors by Paul Cornell


Author:  Paul Cornell
TitleDoctor Who: Four Doctors
Artists: Neil Edwards
Colorist: Ivan Nunes
Letterer: Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
Publication Info: London : Titan Comics, 2016.
Summary/Review:

Paul Cornell is a legendary writer of Doctor Who books and television scripts for the new series, so I had high hopes for this comics’ outing.  It brings together the Tenth Doctor with his companion Gabby Gonzalez, the Eleventh Doctor and Alice Obiefune, and the Twelfth Doctor with Clara Oswald (whom the Eleventh Doctor does not yet know).  I’ve never seen Gabby or Alice before, and although they seem interesting, they don’t get to do much beyond generic companion stuff.  Clara is running the show as she initiates the story by trying to tell Gabby and Alice that a photo of the three Doctors on Marinus must not be allowed to become a reality.  Which of course it does.  And with all of space and time on the line, the three Doctors have to figure out how to stop the Voord and an alternate version of themselves.  It’s a complicated timey-wimey story with some good fantastical bits, but it seems a bit rushed and undercooked to me.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Set Piece by Kate Orman


Author: Kate Orman
TitleSet Piece
Publication Info: London Bridge (1995)
Summary/Review:

This is Kate Orman’s second contribution to the New Adventures line and much like The Left-Handed Hummingbird she puts the Doctor and his companions in torturous scenarios that push them to their limits, physically and psychologically.  An organic vessel known only as The Ship is exploiting a Time Rift to abduct starliner passengers with the help of robotic Ants and harvest their minds for The Ship’s systems.  The Doctor and Ace make a plan to get themselves captured by The Ship to find out what’s happening and stop the abductions.  But when Bernice comes to rescue them the Time Rift throws them into three different eras.

The heart of the story focuses on Ace, as this is her farewell story, putting her in a situation where she has a long time to think about her travels with the Doctor, accept that they may be forever separated, and begin to use how she’s learned and grown to continue on her own.  Ace finds herself in Ancient Egypt, and unwilling to accept the cultural norms for women at the time, tries to prove herself as a soldier and a bodyguard.  She even tries to overthrow the tyrannical reign of the pharaoh Akhenaten, as you do.

Meanwhile, Berenice ends up in France in 1798 and ends up befriending the Egyptologist Vivant Denon and traveling with Napoleon’s army to Egypt. The Doctor also ends up in Paris but in 1871 during the Paris Commune, suffering PSTD from his experience on The Ship and slowly recovering under the care of a mysterious frenemy Kadiatu Lethbridge-Stewart.  It’s no spoiler that the three of them do find a way to get back together, but this book is more of a study of characterization and relationships in extreme situations than plotting.

This is the type of story that would be unimaginable in the original run of the television program, and although the New Adventures strongly influenced the revised series, I can’t see it done there as well.  It’s certainly difficult to imagine Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred in these parts as I read the book.  Not that they were not fine actors who could certainly give it a go, just that the characterizations of tv have evolved so much over the course of the New Adventures, so this is a satisfying farewell for book Ace that seems inexplicable for TV Ace.

While I’ve been enjoying going back and reading these books from the 90s to revisit an overlooked but transformative period in Doctor Who, it’s also frustrating how much continuity there is within the New Adventures.  Set Piece is the 35th of 61 novels and there is no way I’m going to find time to read them all (especially the one’s I’ve been told are not worth reading).  This is full of references to previous adventures and Kadiatu enters the story with no explanation of who she is or her significance, having previously appeared in the 10th book Transit.  I’m griping a bit too much, but I am grateful that I’m reading these in the time of Wikipedia, otherwise I’d be lost.

Rating: ***1/2

Previously Reviewed: