THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS
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Plagued with Flawed Tapes by Kevin McCorry 7/8/98

Here is the sad chronicle of my past few months in collecting of CBS-FOX's Doctor Who videos. In April, I had a friend buy and send me Destiny of the Daleks. Through the second 50 minutes of the tape, there were repeated dropouts caused by dirty heads on the machine that recorded the tape, including one that obliterated the whole picture for some 4 frames. At some 5 dollars expense of postage, I had to return the tape for a replacement. Luckily, the replacement was perfect. But my fortunes went downhill fast. I ordered Earthshock from Columbia House. First tape: major tracking problems in Part 4. Replacement (after paying 5 dollars in postage to return the defective first tape): the dirty-heads-on-recorder dropout problem, including the ever-popular screen-spanning dropout. Second replacement: same picture problems, though in different places, as on first replacement. Conclusion: after spending 15 dollars on postage returning one inconsequential tape after another, I give up on Earthshock. I'm never going to get a decent copy.

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me The Armageddon Factor. Same problem: the dirty-head recorded screen-spanning spurts of video noise. Had to return it. No doubt replacement will be equally unsatisfactory. Trying a different source, I ordered Castrovalva from Amazon.com. When it arrived, I put the tape in my machine and found a pair of rainbow glitches at the start of the tape, indicating that the tape was reused and not properly blanked. Rainbow glitches are unacceptable on a prerecorded tape that costs more than 30 dollars in Canadian dollars (when I can buy theatrical movies for less than 15 dollars with more reliable quality. Had same problem with "Terror of the Autons" that I ordered from various sources. Every tape I ordered of this episode had rainbow glitch on it. Last year, on a double pack of The King's Demons/The Five Doctors, rainbow glitch on The King's Demons. Double tape packs are invariably flawed on one of the tapes.

Just what is going on here anyway? Am I just the unluckiest collector in the world, or does CBS-FOX not care about its Doctor Who videos and is using inferior, used tapes and unkempt equipment to record them? Has anyone else experienced these problems? Right now, I'm at the end of my rope. I just cannot order any more Who tapes. Until they're available locally with a money-back guarantee, I cannot risk any more of my hard-earned money on these shoddily manufactured videos.


Through the Past Darkly-- Enjoying the Lost Episodes of Doctor Who by Carl West 22/8/98

Being exceedingly curious about this Telesnap Reconstruction craze, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and request a copy of the much raved-about Fury from the Deep. With the deepest respect for the talented (and kind) gentlemen who create and distribute these reconstructions for free, I really have to say that I was a little disappointed with the video. I have heard that the actual telesnaps are really rather tiny in size, and I am afraid this becomes all too evident when they are scanned by a video camera: the resolution of the images is fuzzy. I understand that with some of the more recent reconstructions, the scanning of the telesnaps is much better, so I certainly do not wish to demean these people's more recent work (I have not even seen any of it).

Anyway, my point is that, for me, the Telesnap Reconstructions are scarcely better than the Target novelizations in terms of being an adequate means for bringing the lost episodes back to life. So where does the answer lie? If you ask me: the audios. Although I was not really impressed by the visuals of the Fury video, it was very exciting to get the chance to experience the existing audio of the story. Particularly since most of us are quite familiar with Patrick Troughton's Doctor from the stories that do still exist, his voice in the Fury audio is more than enough for us to imagine the tramp-like little man (this holds true for Jamie's and Victoria's presence on the audio, too).

I was quite delighted to hear that the audios for every single lost episode do in fact exist. Now, I for one would not recommend that anyone try to sit down and listen to a "raw," unnarrated Doctor Who audio and expect to be very pleased. The predominant question on your mind half of the time would be: "What the hell is going on?" The BBC has released several of the audios with narration by Tom Baker, Colin Baker, and Jon Pertwee, but for some exceedingly frustrating reason the BBC has allowed these tapes to go out of print. (Actually, there is a marvelous site called The Missing Scripts, which provides what could be a valuable and accurate readable companion to the audios.) Regarding the Target novelizations, Doctor Who for most of us is a sight and sound, television experience, and those rather unliterary TV tie-ins can be a little less than satisfying sometimes.

With the recent lawsuit in England concerning the illicit distribution of BBC material, the future of fan-distributed, rare Who seems quite uncertain. Personally, I would really like to see the BBC release more narrated audios of the lost stories. Marco Polo and The Abominable Snowmen are two that I would particularly love to see released.


My vision for the future by Jacob Cash 22/8/98

Doctor Who should be in a strong position for revival. There are many dedicated and sensible fans willing to support any sort revival that anyone might suggest. In fact, there are many more fans than one might first suspect.

I suspect that Star Trek had a similar following after its original series ended, but it had the advantage of having a shorter original series, allowing the perfect timing for it's original creator to make "the next generation". Doctor Who of course kept going with it's original series, making any "next generation" seem like a copy-cat manoeuvre.

As with any long running show, keeping originality and "freshness" of ideas becomes difficult, and Doctor Who has it's share of "re-hashes", but less than most due to its highly flexible nature. It's long running and established "tradition", makes any departure into a "next generation", I suspect, a risky move that would be confronted with much (unjustified?) negativity from the dedicated fans. New or casual fans might not be as concerned, but a group of vocal fans could make such a series unpopular. I think these factors keep possible sponsors of a new series away.

Perhaps some fans see the Doctor Who movie as a "next generation" departure, and hence this is why they don't like it. I will admit that it is definitely a different generation from the original series, but whether it is the next generation I think is up for debate.

Something to consider is an amalgamation of the movie and the original series, if we are to see Doctor Who move into the 21st Century with new adventures to its name. Of course many fans will tell me that the books, and in some way the telesnap reproductions are the new Doctor Who. In many ways they are right, but for the majority of the public (to which a new series has to be aimed), Doctor Who is a television series, nothing else.

What I prepose is a re-creation or re-production of the missing/destroyed episodes. Obviously you wouldn't "copy" to the extent that you would get a William Hartnell or Patrick Troughton impersonator, but instead use the scripts with the new characters. The stories could be re-created with a new doctor and companions, without having to drastically change the story. Of course some of the dialogue would change for a new doctor and companions, but the story, the most important factor in any Who, would still be there.

I know many fans would see this as sacrilege, but I think it would make the basis for a number of seasons and allow the public to see these great stories again. Some would say, "what happens if we find a warehouse with all the missing episodes"? Well firstly, I would say that this is extremely unlikely, and secondly, so what? The object wouldn't be trying to re-create exactly the older episodes, but make them as new adventures, with the plot or story the same as the older episodes.

Obviously some problems exist, such as stories with one or two episodes in existence, but I'm sure there are many inventive ways this could be overcome. You could even use these on purpose, under the pre-text that the doctor has to re-visit his past to save the fabric of time from some unknown evil or some more inventive scenario.

Predominantly what I'm trying to say is:

  1. I and many members of the public would like a new series of Dr Who, and using already proven stories might be a way of getting investors interested, and
  2. Despite the excellent efforts of the book writers and the telesnap re-creators, in my experience the most enjoyed format for Doctor Who is the televised one, and the only one which would capture the public imagination.

I would be most interested in people's comments.


The Future For Doctor Who by Tom May 24/8/98

Jacob's vision (in the essay above) is one which potentially is a winner. Personally, I would like to see newly scripted stories, by an array of good writers-- Parkin, Miles, Orman, Blum, Cornell etc, backed up by a reasonable budget, a stylistic direction for the series to take, and directors of Alan Wareing and Graeme Harper's class. The direction my series would take: As much as I'd like to do a more adult series, circa The NAs, I think new Doctor Who would have to have broad appeal, without the JNT Era continuity excesses.

I'd have to use monsters a lot, and bring back old enemies, but not very often. The cleverness and social depth of the McCoy era should be moulded with historicals from the Hartnell era, the horror of the Troughton era and the humour of the Williams era. Of course, to achieve such a lethally good combination would be distinctly tough.

Jacob's idea should work fine, but has this sort of thing been attempted before? A lot of people would have to be convinced, not least the fans. Nevertheless, I think it would be great to see big budget creations of such classics as Marco Polo, Web of Fear, Abominable Snowmen, Fury From The Deep, Daleks' Master Plan, Power & Evil of the Daleks, The Massacre, The Crusade.... The only problem would be how the Doctor's personality and actions in these stories would have to be changed. For instance, the actor chosen would find it hard portraying the same role in Marco Polo and Evil of the Daleks.

Also, the relevance of Power of the Daleks would be lost, unless the lead actor changed. The whole concept of re-doing stories, could also entail a little agitation for hardcore fans, who know exactly what's going to happen in the missing stories. The funny thing is though, that this approach to new Doctor Who could have large appeal to the general public, despite alienating fans who hate it, because it can't fit into the Doctor Who canon.

It would be worth giving it a try I think. All of the true lost classics could be made, and then, once this new series was popular, new stories could be made. The choice of Doctor/Companions would be vital, with Alan Davies, Martin Clunes and Brian Blessed all likely to do well. For the companions, I think that either famous, or up-and-coming actors (for the Ian/Ben/Jamie role), and actresses (Susan/Barbara/Polly/Victoria) should be cast.

All of this though is highly unlikely to happen, as the BBC harbour a ridiculous grudge against it's most iconic and entertaining programme.


The Meaning of Vortis by Dr. Terry Evil 24/4/99

...being an update of The Meaning of Liff, wherein the names of towns get their own definitions. Here, I've done the same thing with planets in the Whoniverse, wherein you get more exotic, if slightly more quarry-strewn, places.

Anea (n. medical)
The correct term for choking on a cup of tea, thereby spraying it both up your nose and for a two metre radius.

Aneth (n.)
An Estonian holiday celebrating the one time when stuffed pork roll was available on the black market.

Argolis (n.)
A type of cheap heater which Anne Robinson is always warning you about but which has nevertheless been gassing selected members of the elderly community for the past twenty years.

Betrushia (n.)
A Russian eyebrow comb.

Castrovalva (n.)
A type of motor oil that used to be manufactured in East European communist countries. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, many gallons have been imported to the west, where it's been hilariously ruining the cars of penny-pinching capitalist running dog lackey drivers ever since.

Chloris (adj.)
Descriptive of the annoyance directed at a partner who feels that one cannot have enough photosythesising going on in the house.

Draconia (n.)
The mysterious treatment which has been keeping the Queen Mother alive all these years, despite the fact she drinks three bottles of gin and smokes 50 fags a day.

Dronid (pl. n.)
The excretia from very small insects which you apparently swallow three tons of during your lifetime, according to a typically panic-inducing article in the Sunday Times magazine.

Emindar (n.)
The panic caused by equating the amount of dairy products eaten in a lifetime with a new report on the possibility of catching lysteria, salmonella, e-koli etc.

Gallifrey (adj.)
A friendly punch-up in an Irish bar.

Kastopheria (vb.)
The apprehension one feels when Cliff Richard releases a new record.

Kursaal (vb.)
To chastise oneself for doing absolutely nothing when you at least should have done something about that smell in your bedroom.

Mechanus (adj.)
An official BBC phrase describing the interior workings of devices created by Matt Irvine.

Menda (vb.)
The act of walking incredibly fast. Usually only performed by sellers of the Big Issue and people in shell suits.

Mictlan (n.)
The language spoken by actors in films when they're ordered to converse in any foreign language. Usually consists of phrases like 'isken-lisken-bisken-twisken-noronov.'

Mondas (n. archaic)
The ancient Roman word for actors who come on occasionally, sincerely agree with the lead character, and walk off again. The word is only used today in reference to Noel's House Party.

Pakha (vb.)
An Indian term of amusement, mostly displayed on witnessing a westerner arrogantly ordering the hottest curry on the menu and zealously eating his way to dehydration, mouth ulcers and a full fortnight of horrific toilet experiences.

Peladon (n.)
University professor specialising in a subject especially created by an insane English monarch and which has been so buried in embarrassment that he can claim a stipend for doing nothing.

Refusis (pl. n.)
Of arguing - Polite words that begin along the lines of "I agree with you, but..." followed by a whole stream of baseless argument painstakingly culled from various sources expressly for this purpose.

Reklon (n.)
What the bodies of Soviet cars were made out of.

Ribos (vb.) The antithesis of Tigella (qv.). To play a practical joke that is so vicious that the participants never speak to each other again, despite the many cries of 'it was only a joke'.

Segonax (n. archaic)
A medieval instrument of torture, the exact nature of which has been lost to time. Usually displayed on stately home walls, it has made visitors uncomfortable for many years, as they go through all their secret psychotic fears trying to work it what it was used for.

Skonnos (n.)
Hell's Angels' tea cakes.

Solos (n.)
An ancient Egyptian god who once earned the honour of having thirty-five dogs sacrificed to him, despite giving no indication that this is what he wanted.

Spiridon (n.)
University professor specialising in the practice of drawing intricate patterns with plastic cogs.

Tigella (vb.) To play an ineffective practical joke on someone far too nice but who insists on 'joining in the fun'. Usually consists of hiding their stapler or deliberately getting their name wrong on the Christmas card list.

Traken (n.)
The specific word used by the emergency services for fell walkers who have inadvertently died while climbing what they thought was a hill but turned out to be a mountain.

Vandor Prime (n.)
A pre-Bill Gates computer, so outdated that it is only used nowadays for kitsch, as a reference point for useless technology and for co-ordinating air traffic control at Heathrow Airport.

Vortis (n.)
A make of battery only ever found in 50p shops that are guaranteed to run out just after opening the packet.

Zamper (n.)
A new device which greatly improves the quality of tape players and which will shortly become a standard on all new models, thereby forcing audiophiles to bankrupt themselves once again.

Zolfa-Thura (n.)
Nuclear Man's arch-enemy (c. DC Comics 1960-61).


My Theory of the Doctor's Early Life by Robert McMullen 24/8/00

Because I am, and will forever be, a Whovian of the Prydonian order (as we all are, even if some of us aren't quite aware of this truth), I am fascinated by the Doctor's life, and am intrigued as to what makes the Doctor who he is (no pun intended). What made the Doctor such an independent spirit? What made him hold his own people, the Time Lords themselves, in such utter contempt? In all of his adventures, why was he so selfless? Why has the Doctor always been so willing to share his voyages with so many different people, even those who have stowed away on the TARDIS? I feel the only way I can dare to shed light on these questions is to look at his life while he grew up on his home world, Gallifrey.

The Doctor's early life prior to his arrival on earth with Susan in London in 1963 is veiled in mystery. Because the Doctor is a sentient being, he has grown, learned from, matured, and lives his life based off of his experiences and what he was able to gain and discard from those life moments, just as we all have done. Assume then, for the sake of open-ended argument, that the Doctor's childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, and the duration of his formal education were years of great misery, confusion, tumult, anger, that ultimately, led to understanding in his life that made him take drastic measures to ensure his freedom and to promote his goodwill towards others.

My theory is that, during the Doctor's youth, Morbius had to be the President of the High Council of Time Lords on Gallifrey. Because of Morbius' reign of terror, which incidentally involved the Elixir of Life that belonged to the Sisterhood of Karn, the Doctor knew early on just what immense harm evil can produce. This would be an explanation as to why he had such a horrific reaction when he saw Solon's sculpture of Morbius' face in the story, The Brain of Morbius.

As the Doctor grew into his adulthood and his years in the Prydonian Academy, normalcy came to the High Council. Successions in power often went very dully and without complication, and everything ran smoothly as far as Gallifreyan government went. This could not be said for the Doctor. Because he's always been a very gifted person, one who has vast intellect balanced with emotion, and strong convictions that are tempered by his overwhelming sensibility to others, sentimentality, and a romantic, almost quixotic outlook on life, the Doctor had a hard time identifying with many of his peers. Because of this difficulty in trying to accept his role in the strict society he lived in, he forged relationships with such wayward souls as the mischievous Drax (The Armageddon Factor), the shallow Runcible, the newscaster in The Deadly Assassin, The Master, and The Rani. He also sought enlightenment from older and more learned Time Lords such as Borusa, eventual President of the High Council (The Deadly Assassin, The Invasion of Time, Four to Doomsday, and The Five Doctors) and Kampo Rimpochet, AKA Cho-je, the wise monk who guided the Doctor through much of his tribulation during his adolescence, notably when the Doctor would visit him atop his lonely hill (as alluded to in Planet of the Spiders).

Finally, after years and years, it reached a point where our hero could no longer endure the conformity of Time Lord society. On Gallifrey emerged a system of social stratification, hence the different colored headdresses and attire of each group of Time Lords, pomp and circumstance that overshadowed the importance of his society's advancement and whole reason for its poignancy and omnipotence, and utter disregard and lack of respect for other beings in the universe, many of whom were treated by Time Lords as second-class beings (humans, and Rutans, The Horror of Fang Rock) or were races across galaxies who needed defense from threats too frightening to imagine at any point in time--Daleks, Sontarans, Cybermen, Sutekh, Nestene Autons, Axos, and countless more--who were looked upon indifferently.

Quite frankly, the Doctor could have none of it any longer. As a show of protest and rebellion, the Doctor chose to act against all of the conventions of Gallifreyan culture. He spoke out against nonintervention, rebuked his formal learning and urged change. He encouraged people to speak out and to just live. And since this wasn't enough to make his fellow Gallifreyans open their eyes and realize that they could not suffice on their own for eternity, the Doctor made a fateful decision that would set into motion his future. He then came to a realization--why not steal one of the many symbols of Time Lord greatness and arrogance--The Hand of Omega (Remembrance of the Daleks) and flee Gallifrey for good? Could this be the one thing that would make the other Time Lords realize that they were so caught up in their own hyperbolic existence that they in turn, undermined the collective vision that Rassilon and Omega shared that brought about their world to begin with? The Doctor took the risk, and off he went. And thus, the rest is history in the making.

From the lessons he learned living on his world, the Doctor learned that in a universe so vast, so great, and so wondrous, there are two things that prevail and remain at a constant--a hand in need, and the ugliness of evil. Most importantly, he learned that an impact had to be made to ensure that balance and harmony could be maintained in the very universe that Gallifrey shares with so many other worlds. In his lifetime, up to that point, he himself was in need--many times. The Doctor was fortunate and thankful to have those in his life support him and aid him through his crises. He also saw how brutal and painful death and destruction can truly be. It is this premise that the Doctor bases his life's work upon, to fight endlessly in the pursuit of what's right.


Too Broad and too deep for the small screen by Yonatan Bryant 4/4/01

In my mind the books are where Doctor Who truly belongs. The TV show was trying hard but it was nigh impossible for the show to show us the big picture, there wasn't the money and there weren't the fans writing for it. But in the Novelizations and the books when have seen more than we could ever see on TV. We has seen a giant seal of Rassilon with people living on it surface. We have been in the cockpits and flying along side of great starship . We have seen a ship trapped in an infinite loop, We have Seen the Whole of London being transformed time and time again we have seen the Doctor dancing with death on the surface of the moon, we have being into the depths of the Doctors mind, we know more and less about the doctor than we ever had before. We have seen a planet blown abort. All of those would not have looked good at all on the TV show. The Stories are truly too broad and too deep for the small screen.

Also we have people writing the books these days who know the show, they love it they are all of us, they are the people where here amazed by the show when the first saw it 10 ,20, 30 years ago and fell in love with it. in the TV show you had 2 or 3 fans who ever wrote for the show. For the writers of the show, it was their day job, for us it is our lives. All of us yearn to be fighting the fight of the just alongside with the Doctor. And because of that any new show will ultimately disappoint, because what can be seen in the mind is not always transferable to TV. To be able to maybe achieve the scope of the books, you would need a movie sized budget for each story, in order to make the villains believable, the settings real and the story unconstrained by money.

And lastly we have the actors. In the TV show people stayed or 2-3 years generally and then went on. There is now way with a TV show we could have got 9 years of the Seventh Doctor or 6 out of Bernice also there is no way the Mel could have appeared in one story and the vanish for 2 years. In fact there was an interview with Sylvester McCoy where he said that he would have left the show after one more year.

When the TV show died, Doctor Who, which is now in Guinness World Records for the books, stopped becoming just a old TV show with a bad budget. It became a legend. A legend that freed from the pettiness of the Small screen like the 3rd Doctor From earth, was free to explore the entirety of Time and Space uninhibited by anything but the imagination.


Hype Space by Andrew Wixon 1/9/01

Living in the UK at the moment one rapidly comes to the conclusion that nostalgia ain't what it used to be. Nearly every Saturday night the TV listings are filled with 'I Love the Seventies' or 'Top Ten Folk Music' or 'The 100 Greatest Gardening Programmes Ever'. This sort of list-making is addictive and insidious but it certainly fills up the schedules. It's spreading, too; it seems you can't move without tripping over the Ten Best This or the All-Time Great That. And, inevitably, DW is not immune - it features in other lists (apparently the BFI membership thinks it's the third best TV series ever made which even I find hard to believe), and for a few years now there've been regular 'Best Story Ever' polls. The DWM one was won by Genesis of the Daleks, of course, and isn't it interesting that the most frequently-shown story should turn out to be the most popular? But elsewhere, for the most part outside the walls of Who-fandom, a consensus seems to be appearing on this topic. And the consensus is that the pinnacle of DW is City of Death.

SFX magazine recently covered the serial's genesis in its' Past Perfect column, saying DW in general was 'mostly charming, usually interesting, and habitually inventive, but rarely brilliant. And yet for four weeks in the fag end of the 1970s it touched excellence...' going on to cite the vast audience as proof of its superiority, apparently unaware of the special circumstances of its broadcast. The BBC Online section devoted to Douglas Adams is unequivocal when it describes CoD as 'Douglas' (and the shows') finest [story]'. Some of you probably agree. There seems to be a critical juggernaut building up here and I'm going to be brave and stand in the path of the beast.

I like CoD a lot. It is, obviously, brilliant: deliriously witty, fantastically original and inventive. Certainly a top ten contender. But is it the best story ever? If I was to pick one story to show DW at its' best and most representative, would this be it? I find myself shaking my head. This isn't a review of CoD per se, so I'll keep this brief, but... CoD is a marvellous souffle of a story, it leaves a wonderful taste in the mouth as it skips along powered by ingenious plot-twists and eminently quotable one-liners. But DW's strength is to be powerful and moving as well as fun and inventive, and powerful and moving are two words you can't use to describe CoD. It has a heart of purest candyfloss. It's great, but ultimately undone by this in any 'best ever' consideration.

And I think it's fair to say that it owes its' current favoured status largely to the name of the author. (It seems that most of the time Douglas Adams gets sole credit for what was a three-writer script.) Doctor Who very rarely attracted 'name' writers to it. Nigel Kneale turned the opportunity down, Christopher Priest was approached but ultimately fell out badly with the production team, Tanith Lee was reportedly interested but nothing came of it. Terry Nation did become relatively famous but this was on the back of his work for the show. Virtually the only well-known authors to work on DW were Douglas Adams and Steve Gallagher - and with all due respect to him, Gallagher has never approached Adams' degree of fame. That CoD is Adams' story must draw attention to it when people outside hard-core fandom survey the series. That it should be so good is a bonus.

From a certain perspective it is obvious, even logical that CoD is the best DW story. Adams was a brilliant writer of SF comedy, and as previously mentioned the most celebrated author ever to be credited for a DW script. To an outsider, how could an almost unknown hack like Robert Holmes or Malcolm Hulke write a better script than him? By awarding CoD, and Adams, the 'best DW ever' prize the SF community in general reassures itself that a feted author is a feted author no matter what the context (and as a corollary, proves to itself that it understands DW just as well as any hard-core fan may).

But I think the very idea of a 'best DW story ever' is mistaken. The series, famously, didn't have a format or an agenda. It could and did do different things, in different styles, from week to week, and exactly what the 'best' story is depends on what you're looking for. You want the wittiest dialogue and most inventive script? Sure, City of Death is the best example. You want moral debate and a dark, gripping narrative? Turn your attention to Genesis of the Daleks. Or literary pastiche, and a loving recreation of period? Then Talons of Weng-Chiang is where you should be looking. There is no single greatest DW story, any more than there is an archetypal DW formula. But the glory of this is that almost no matter what you're looking for, Doctor Who will have made a story, often a great story, that exactly meets your needs.


The Rad vs Trad Fallacy by Rob Matthews 6/12/01

I only became aware of it very recently, but I find this whole argument about 'rad' and 'trad' Doctor Who quite stultifying. One reviewer of City of the Dead recently assessed the novel not in terms of whether it was good or bad, but whether it was rad or trad. And as a 'rad' novel it was dismissed almost out of hand.

This almost reactionary attitude seems entirely against the spirit of the impetus of Doctor Who, which, whether on TV or in books, was never about ploughing familiar furrows or talking down to its audience. A quick rundown of the series' recognised classic stories reveals them all as in some way radical -

TV stories in the vein of 'trad' novels would be ones like The Mind of Evil, Day of the Daleks, The Sontaran Experiment, The Five Doctors, Warriors of the Deep, The Awakening; forgettable stories that entertain briefly but have no impact on the series and the characters.

(well, to be fair, Warriors of the Deep doesn't entertain even briefly)

So I'm confused by why stories like, say, Alien Bodies or Transit get these 'rad' labels stuck on them. Alien Bodies is a Doctor Who story pure and simple. That it introduces new concepts is par for the course. That's sort of the point of an ongoing series. Transit, meanwhile, is Doctor Who 'does' cyberpunk, just as Spearhead From Space is Doctor Who 'does' Quatermass or The Deadly Assassin is Doctor Who 'does' political thriller. Frankly, if you don't want originality, why not stick only to the TV series or track down the Target books and leave it at that? Don't you think the TV show would be moving forward in the same way if it were still being made?

One of the reviewers of another 'rad' novel, Verdigris, suggested he was uncomfortable with the appearance of a gay character, because Doctor Who started life as a children's programme. This - like criticisms of (what is after all very occasional) swearing - disregards the fact that the novel range is not written for children (kids don't even know what Doctor Who is nowadays), and also implies with casual homophobia that the subject of homosexuality must be kept from children at all costs.

I suppose what 'trad' readers want, then, are slightly patronising and conservative children's stories. I suggest they only buy the books with the words 'Terrance Dicks ' on the cover.


The Paradox of Set's by Andrew Wixon 28/1/02

For a programme which for the majority of its run was fundamentally concerned with time travel, Doctor Who never really explored the whole knotty and cerebral area of time paradoxes and the effects of changing history (and all the better for it - I wish someone would tell the Big Finish crew as much!). There's the grandfather paradox in Day of the Daleks, the whole messy finale to the McGann telemovie with the Pertwee logo, and, um, that's about it... except for Pyramids of Mars.

As every true fan knows midway through episode two of this marvellous story the TARDIS visits 1980... the 1980 that will occur if the Doctor does not oppose Sutekh's schemes. It's a barren, devastated wasteland, of course. So history is not predetermined and Sutekh must be fought. It's a nice twisty tangent for the story, and doesn't seem to be a paradox at all. Until you think about it a bit more.

Time for the jargony bit: for convenience's sake I will henceforth be referring to the main, standard universe that DW occurs in as Earth-P (for Prime; yes, I read too many DC comics as a child). The 'wasteland Earth' version of history where Sutekh escapes is Earth-S. The version of history where Britain became a fascist dictatorship and an apocalypse was triggered by Stahlmann's project is Earth-I. The version where the destruction of Auderley house led to World War Three and a Dalek invasion in the 21st century is Earth-D. The version of history where Thinktank cause a nuclear war (averted by the Doctor on TV) is Earth-R.

It seems pretty much a given in Doctor Who that History as such can only be changed by time-travellers, or aliens with a time-travel capacity (such as Linx in The Time Warrior). The Master's attempts to reroute History in, for example, The King's Demons are described as perverting the course of History, whereas the Zygon attempt to conquer the Earth isn't. It also seems reasonable to suppose that without the Doctor's intervention the History of Earth-P would be vastly different; Earth-P would have been conquered many times over in the 1970s alone. So the Earth-P that Sarah is native to owes its existence to the Doctor's efforts to enforce his view of History.

Sutekh is not a time traveller, nor does he appear to actually employ time travel technology (the 'time tunnel' just seems like an interdimensional short cut). So he is a native of the main Earth-P timestream in the same way as the Axons and the Zygons, and left unopposed his actions would be a part of the natural flow of History. The Doctor is the one who interferes in order to stop him.

All this would be fine were it not for the sidestep to Earth-S. The suggestion is that a given future (in this case, the 'artificial' Earth-P Sarah comes from) cannot come into existence until the actions that create it have occurred. Earth-S is the 'default' future until the moment Sutekh's defeat becomes inevitable, at which point it is replaced by Earth-P. In other words, Sarah's Earth can't exist until Sutekh is defeated.

But this is nonsense. The Doctor visited Earth many, many times in his personal timeline. Most of these were post-1911 and Sutekh's death, but prior to Sutekh's defeat in terms of the Doctor's own personal history. The first, second and third Doctors all visited Earth-P, not Earth-S, despite the fact that Sutekh's defeat was not yet certain.

Why was it not yet certain? Sarah says 'We know the world didn't end in 1911', basically making the same point. This is the whole reason they visit Earth-S. There are two possibilities here:

a) That Sutekh's defeat is uncertain, which means that all the Doctor's previous (to him) post-1911 visits should have been to Earth-S and not Earth-P, that Sarah should never have been born, and that the Doctor's own life-history would have taken a vastly different path.

b) That Sutekh's defeat is certain, in which case Earth-S will never come into existence (and so can't be visited).

Consider this analogy: suppose the Doctor leaves Earth midway through Robot and visits the future of the planet. According to Pyramids of Mars' view of temporal mechanics he should visit a future where Thinktank either won, or caused a nuclear holocaust (Earth-R). Now suppose he made that trip a few months earlier - just after Monster of Peladon. Thinktank's plan still hasn't been stopped yet, so he should still wind up on Earth-R. When you think about it all his visits to the future should be to Earth-R until the events of Robot when he defeats Thinktank, at which point Earth-P will reappear. This isn't the case. Therefore Earth-S is a weird anomaly of some kind.

Other possible solutions that have been suggested to me: One idea was that the Doctor can visit all possible alternative futures at will, it's simply a case of steering the TARDIS down the correct trouser-leg of the time vortex. This seems dubious to me for several reasons: the Doctor is genuinely staggered to arrive on Earth-I in Inferno, suggesting that alternative worlds are unknown to the Time Lords. It also makes a nonsense of any idea of 'the web of time' or 'changing history' if all possible histories are equally valid from the Time Lords' viewpoint. (You also wonder why he hangs around on Earth-P at all, given that there has to be a alternative version somewhere where the Daleks were never created, the Silurians not blown up by the Brigadier, etc, etc.)

It's not the same as Earth-D (the home of Day of the Daleks' guerillas), either. That was another anomaly, but a self-negating one given the Doctor's influence (sadly we don't see what happens to the future Earth ruled by the Daleks when the events causing it are prevented from happening).

I suppose we could just put this down to another bit of illogical grandstanding by Bob Holmes (that's not meant as harshly as it probably sounds), but I feel obliged to offer a solution: Sutekh would not have been freed even had the Doctor not been around to stop him. There was a faulty component in the rocket's antigrav drive; it blew up on takeoff setting fire to the Priory and destroying Scarman and the mummies. Sutekh stayed trapped until his death c. 12000AD, and so no Earth-S in the usual flow of events.

When the Doctor and Sarah arrive they interfere, as is their wont. Unfortunately (and unbeknownst to them) one of their bits of interference is to inadvertently fix the damaged component in the rocket (picking it up and shaking it; this happens just before the side trip). Thus for the first time there's the potential for the rocket to work, for Sutekh to actually escape and create Earth-S. This narrow window of possibility only exists until the end of the story, but it's within this timeframe that we see Earth-S. A brief glimpse into alternative time, which - subjectively - only existed for a few hours. It's not much of a solution, and I'm open to a better one.

(I leave it to the interested fellow-student to explain why Sarah is able to visit a version of history her very existence is incompatible with, and why the Doctor doesn't recognise Earth-S as the blatant anomaly it clearly is.)


The McCoy flamewars on RADW by Terrence Keenan 27/8/02

It's common knowledge that Doctor Who fandom is fragmented. Put ten different Who fans in a room and you're guaranteed ten different opinions as to what makes great Who and what makes bad Who. Overall, this is a good, and expected thing for a television show/book series/audio adventure format that's lasted nearly 40 years.

Taking that into account, where one's favorite era of Who might lie depends on numerous factors -- ex: first Doc watched, first author read, etc. --, so it inevitable that certain eras ring true for certain fans, while others drive them crazy. For me, Tom Baker is the standard bearer, Peter Davison is my new second favorite, Colin Baker has dwindled in favor, and unfortunately Sylvester McCoy does nothing but irritate.

Which is a good time to bring up a certain battleground that has raged over at rec.arts.drwho. A lengthy, pedantic, mean-spirited and downright crass flamewar has been going on at RADW over the relative merits, or lack thereof of a total of 12 stories that starred McCoy as the Doctor. Between diatribes, insults, smart-aleck FAQs, poetic attacks and other methods, the Pro-McCoys and the Anti-McCoys have waged war over each other to the point where the mere mention of McCoy mobilizes both armies into action.

I've been a lurker at RADW for the past nine months, ever since hearing about it at the Ratings guide, and am now an occasional poster. I will admit to posting a couple of comments as to why I don't like the era. What I don't understand is how things got so poisonous over one era? Not that I can't imagine things like this occurring in a place where words are the only weapons, it begs to wonder who fired the first salvo and why?

But, it's not just whether McCoy was good or bad that's part of this fight. Another aspect is a counterattack against the Pertwee Era. For some reason, the pro-McCoys seems to have nothing nice to say about Pertwee and in their defence, point out the numerous faults of the Pertwee era. (Note: I wonder if this is part of the Pertwee backlash that happened in fandom during the early and mid 90's). A second offshoot is a Liberal v. Conservative battle that rages along. Anti-McCoys seem to generally loathe the PC leftist views that were hinted at in the McCoy stories and expanded upon in the Virgin books by certain authors. (Note: The PC politics bug me, not because I'm a conservative -- far from it -- but because of how the message has been presented by the messengers). Author Jonathan Blum, husband of Kate Orman, seems to be at the center of this storm, because of his political views. A main counterattack in this sub-war is the calling of Anti-McCoys anti-PC, anti-gay & against common decency because they're right wing gits.

So, what would a newcomer make of seeing people's taste, ancestry and intelligence questioned by taking side either way in this battle. Honestly, I think it turns people off. Anyone who checks out the newsgroup hoping to see interesting discussions of Who has to wade through numerous posts which state, more or less, "you're a moron if you like McCoy," or "you're a moron because you don't like McCoy," would be bored. I know I am.

And it's a shame, because, from what I heard, RADW used to be a place where authors would hang out and chat with fans, debates would develop over fun nitpicking details, new stories would be over analyzed, old stories reviewed for new takes/ideas. Regular RADW posters would get namechecked in books and whatnot. Now RADW is dragged down by whether or not its okay to like 42 25 minute episodes of a children's/family television show.

It's a shame. And it needs to stop. If you don't like an era, fine. State your case once and be done. Refrain from posting a story by story episode guide where stories are rated according to their level of "shittiness." Refrain from posting odes that declare all McCoy fans stupid and gay. Refrain from counterposting attacks on Pertwee being a right winger. Refrain from calling anyone not pro-McCoy anti-gay, anti-diversity, anti-PC.

"Can't we all just get along?"

A postscript -- for now, it seems that the Anti-McCoys are "winning" the flamewars, if only because their side is more obnoxious and confrontational. It's hard to be Pro-McCoy when you'll be blindsided anytime you post something positive about that era.

A second postscript -- As much as I dislike the McCoy era and the Virgin New Adventures that followed, this flamewar has prodded me into doing a reevaluation of the era just to see if opinions made long ago still hold up. I'll let everyone know about that in the near future.


A Life in the Year of Doctor Who by Andrew Wixon 30/8/02

It's July 15th 2002 as I sit down to write this. Yesterday I watched the McGann TV movie. The day before that it was Survival episode 3, the day before that Survival episode 2. And so on, and so on, missing only two days (once for a convention and once for the Star Wars premiere) all the way back to the beginning of August 2001, when I'd popped An Unearthly Child into the VCR. Obviously I don't have a complete run of episodes, and there have been times when I've watched more than one at a time, but even so I didn't expect it to take very nearly a year (and, I should add, I've got a good two months worth of stories to catch up on that didn't fit into the chronology of the run).

What possessed me to do this? Well, it seems to be fashionable in certain circles of Who-dom. DWM have their Time Team, someone on the BBC board was commending it, and I understand Paul Cornell is in the middle of a similar, rather more leisurely undertaking (last I heard he was mired in the Key to Time season). And, well, having spent the last two summers religiously watching an episode of either This Life or Big Brother every day it did seem to me that DW was far more worthy of this kind of attnetion.

So, was it worth it? And what insights, if any, did I gain?

Well - yes, it was entirely worth it, for several reasons. Some of these were thoroughly practical: for one thing it made me aware of some of the shameful gaps in my collection, and inspired me to fill them (though the absence of the two Pertwee/Baker regeneration stories still rankles as do the yawning gaps in seasons 16 and 20). And for another, it made me watch stories I hadn't actually sat down and viewed in years and years: The Mind Robber. Ambassadors of Death. Snakedance. Most of the Colin Baker era. If we're honest, I'd got trapped in cycle of watching the same few tales over and over again, mainly from the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era and season 7.

Which is a shame, because it was reassuring to see that throughout its history Doctor Who was rarely less than watchable. Sure, every now and then a story like The Rescue or Seeds of Death swims into view, but there's always quality close at hand. It just isn't always the same kind of quality. Once again, I'd always associated great DW with the idea of a totally dominant Doctor, a commanding, Holmesian, investigator-crusader. But the stories of season 1 are nothing like this, and that season contains at least one all-time classic and several outstanding episodes in other stories. Season 1's Doctor is shadowy and erratic and self-interested, but still entirely the Doctor. As is the 'polite' Doctor of the Davison years, the enigmatic gamesman of the final seasons, and - irksomely - the pain-in-the-neck Doctor played by Jon Pertwee.

The series has this chameleonic quality too: as I rather clumsily allude to in my review of Spearhead from Space (for which I sincerely apologise, by the way), it's more like several different series with different formats and styles, all of which happen to share the same title and a few recurring characters. But there must be some golden thread linking them all up, and noticeably lacking from the TV movie.

I can't claim to know the secret of Doctor Who. It's something to do with the series' magpie appropriation of bits and pieces from other genres and series, its concentration on plot and ideas rather than character and emotion, its philosophy of the power of the individual even in a hostile and corrupt universe. Whatever it is, it's unique, and rightly celebrated.

The other great benefit of the run can be summed up in one word: context. Time and again I would watch stories that had never really clicked with me before, like The Aztecs, Ark in Space and of course Caves of Androzani, and it would be like watching them for the first time, they're so much greater than the stories that precede or surround them. Not to say that they wouldn't be equally great watched individually, I suppose, but being sandwiched between Planet of Fire and The Twin Dilemma really does make Caves shine.

The benefit was in terms of more than just single stories, though. Watching one story in isolation gives you almost no sense of how it fits into the series' style of the time or how representative it is, quality-wise. Similarly, viewing five or six Jo Grant-era stories in a row was almost enough to put me off the third Doctor for life. Nearly every era of the show produced at least one great story (yes, even the dark ages of Baker/Saward), but there were a few times when the show hit a run of startling sustained quality: Season 7, Tom Baker's first three seasons (rather more often than not, anyway), the run from Full Circle to Earthshock, and of course Seasons 25 and 26.

Had the series ended in late 1986 I would be inclined to put my hands up and say 'Yup, fair cop, it got what was coming to it,' so tired and flat was it beginning to look (Robert Holmes' final pyrotechnic plot twists excluded). But to axe it after season 26 verged on the criminal - this was a series that seemed as fresh as ever, it was going to new places, it was rapidly growing in maturity (something it had struggled to do throughout the 1980s), it was politically aware and astute. Had stories like Greatest Show and Ghost Light been made on film rather than VT and promoted better by the BBC, I'm sure the popular and critical success they might have achieved would have put them within spitting distance of prestige projects like The Singing Detective and Edge of Darkness (which they resemble far more than, say, Blake's 7 or Star Cops).

Wasn't to be, of course. Proper TV DW went away, never to return, and while I enjoyed many of the books and the TV movie was a nice idea in principle, nothing has ever really filled that hole it left in my heart. Right now I'm fighting the strangest urge to stick the pilot episode in the VCR and start all over again. Do the chronological run yourself and you may see what I mean.

But for now, I tell myself, fight the urge... fight the urge... fight the urge... (Where's that complete set of Babylon 5 tapes gone, anyway?)


In defence of BBC by Joe Ford 6/9/02

It's not like me to want to write an ultra long review on a particular subject but in this circumstance I feel I should. You see I feel the BBC eigth Doctor books get too much flak when compared to the Virgin output and I can't for the life of me see why. So I thought I would go back and have a look at both series and see if I can see how this opinion came about.

The Virgin books had something of an opaque start with the convoluted Timewyrm and Cat's Cradle series. Neither were particularly good but they proved one vital point, this series was going to be bold and wasn't going to play by the rules. One book of these first seven stood out however (Exodus) and it was hardly a suprise to learn it was the work of Who expert Terrance Dicks. However many of them were just a mess with dull secondary characters (Apocalypse) and amateurish prose (Time's Crucible, Genesys). They weren't exactly satisfactory as arcs either being quite plodding and failing to continue the plot threads in a exciting or easy to follow way. It was quite a worrying start, especially Timewyrm: Revelation which I feel epitomises everything this series did wrong. It was horribly violent, pushed the television characters into situations I really didn't want to see them in and was full of boring dream imagery (Kinda style!). No thanks Paul.

However suddenly we were treated to two excellent books out of the blue. The wonderfully frightening and nostalgic Nightshade which is still one of my all time favourite Doctor Who books ever. And Love and War, which introduced Professor Bernice Summerfield who in this one book proved more interesting than anything we had seen with Ace to this point with the books. Her instant appeal and the books dramatic and emotional ending proved fortuitous for the range which now promised things that were much more interesting. And we left the now stale Ace far behind. Cheers Paul.

Then it was a steady period of hot and cold for at least eleven books (Transit to The Dimension Riders) where a number of new authors were experimented, sometimes surprisingly successful (the gripping Birthright and the bizzarre but brilliant The Highest Science) but more often producing stale and unreadable books (The Pit is famously awful but Transit, Deceit and The Dimension Riders are all similarly bad). It didn't help matters that Ace returned, older, tougher and more angst ridden than ever. Her disgust at the Doctor and his manipulative ways got tired very quickly so thank the godess we had Bernice to remind us how companions SHOULD be done. There were some awkward science fiction ideas during this period and the 'curse of the first time novelist' seemed to affect Ben Aaronavitch, Neil Penswick, Peter Darvill-Evans, David A. McIntee and more...

Once again though the range had a sudden upswing of quality. And it couldn't have come a second sooner. The Left Handed Hummingbird, Conundrum, Theatre of War, Blood Harvest, Falls the Shadow, Sanctuary, Human Nature... these were all fantastic reads. Virgin had finally hit its stride. It knew what its fans wanted and it gave it to them. Relationships between the regulars was kept fresh and interesting and for her last stretch Ace actually WORKED along side Bernice and The Doctor. She had a grand exit in Set Piece when it was well truly time to say goodbye. Bernice was just so wonderful she had a number of books solo and they, not surprisingly turned out out to be some of the most popular books the range offered up (Sanctuary and Human Nature). The writing too seemed to improve with earlier writers offering up some meaty characterisation and solid plots (Andrew Cartmel and David A.McIntee improved in spades!). The introduction of the exceptional novelist Kate Orman, the first female voice to the range was a stroke of genius and she went to write some of the best the range had to offer. Steve Lyons too was a fine addition to the cast of writers. of course there were still clunkers (who can forget St Anthony's Fire and Strange England, I know I can't!) but they seemed less offensive surrounded by these towering classics.

The third quarter of the books (say Original Sin to Happy Endings) was solid, sometimes exceptional but more often just solid. The books were okay... Zamper, Head Games, Shakedown, Death and Diplomacy were all fine, perfectly readable but they all lacked a certain sparkle that the earlier classics maintained. Three books stand out as excellent, only three which is a a pity but they were SO good it eased this average period a little. Just War was the first book by newcomer Lance Parkin and proved an instant winner. He tortured Bernice in inexplicable ways and put The Doctor through hell... this was rivetting drama the likes of which we had never seen before. The Also People was Ben Aaronavitch's salvation after his apalling Transit, a light, frothy read featuring a world everyone who's read the book wants to live in. It was so unexpectedly different it just worked. And Warchild which again provided some emotional fireworks and was unputdownable all the way to the excellent finale. We had the introduction of Chris and Roz in this period and in some respects they were perfect (their banter was great and Roz had some seminal scenes with the Doctor being, as she was, Ace done right) and in others they disapointed (with three companions in the TARDIS it seemed the writers wanted to bed them all in so many varied ways... I have nothing against rumpy-pumpy within the ranks but for god's sakes it seemed Chris was bedding someone every week and Roz and Bernice made some stupid mistakes on this score too, a shame). However the ensemble did feel fresh once again which was a nice feeling. They got on too, which was a godsend.

Happy Endings was a whole lot of fun. Bernice leaves the TARDIS to marry Jason Kane and everyone from the Virgin books turns up for the celebrations. Paul Cornell writes comedy superbly and this had many memorable scenes. However, it totally epitomises the biggest problem with the range. Its self contained nature. Although they were telling seperate stories the Virgin range insisted on heavy continuity from one book to another and this made it difficult for casual readers (and me) to follow the psi powers arc and other inter-related relationships. And this book must have been a real nightmare for someone just joining the range. The Virgin range reminds me strongly of the TV series Babylon 5 in this respect... having created this universe they want to explore it to the fullest... leaving casual viewers behind but rewarding regular readers no end. It is both a curse and a blessing, after all the Virgin range had created a mighty fine universe to play with but I will admit I left certain books behind unfinished for this reason.

The last stretch of books shows a significant improvement with some great work being done with the soon to be regenerated Doctor and the death of Roz which sets the series up for a dramatic exit. Two books, Damaged Goods and Bad Therapy were just superb and I ripped through them like no others in the range but So Vile a Sin, Return of the Living Dad and Lungbarrow were also quite excellent. The books went on the high the deserved to. There was a bit to much emphasis on 'events' (Roz's death, Bernice's Dad) than telling original stories but then they had a whole lot to wrap up and you can't complain about that.

The Virgin range was a good series of books and often fantastic. They brought some wonderful characters to life and visited many wonderful planets. They were never short of surprises and many authors made their names here. I just don't feel it was consistently GOOD enough to be as popular as it is. The first chunk of books was almost consistently poor and the bad novels were B-A-D. Inexcusably bad. I guess I would have to quote that old nusery rhyme to sum up my feelings on this set of books... "When they were good they were very, very good but when they were bad they were awful!" I would say mixed, but good.

The BBC books on the other hand are another kettle of fish entirely.....

The BBC books had a horrible, horrible start. Almost so poor you had to wonder how ANYBODY stuck with them. The first ten books produced three good books. THREE. Vampire Science, Kursaal and Option Lock... the only three I managed to finish. Even the revered Alien Bodies rubbed me up the wrong way in the last third and I put it down, never to return to it. And the biggest insult is that Terrance Dicks, who wrote the best book of the Virgin range's begining, wrote the laughably, horribly lame The Eight Doctors which kick starts the range on such a bad foot you wonder how they recovered (oh yeah, Kate Orman and Jon Blum). The ultimate atrocity was the inclusion of Sam, the new female companion who seemed to be a mix of both older Ace and Chris' worst characteristics and a pacifist, greenpeace, vegetarian at that. Oh please. Spouting out liberal crap every five minutes it is just impossible to like this girl!

Things improved but only slightly, still a number of desperately atrocious books (Beltempest, The Taint, Placebo Effect) but a number of okay to good books (let's say readable) in the form of Dreamstone Moon, The Janus Conjunction, Demontage. Seeing I and The Scarlet Empress rise so far out of this dreck it is impossible to think they are edited by the same guy. Seeing I in particular seemed like a Virgin book at the height of their powers, compelling, thought provoking and in places devasting. Whats more they managed to do something with the nigh unapproachable Doc 8/Sam partnership which bordered on outstanding (they even made that "Ooh Sam let's do plan 11 today" look good which is a miracle!). These two books were like a breath of fresh air.

And then Fitz came along. Now please don't think I'm saying Fitz solved all of the BBC books problem because that would be simplifying things but lets just say he started them on the right track warp factor nine! He was just so wonderful, easily as good as Bernice upon her introduction. He drinks. He smokes. He swears. He wants sex, sex, sex! He's from the sixties! And he's got a heart of gold. And the fact that he proves the complete reverse of Sam in being writer-proof instead of unable to write for was a stroke of luck indeed. He was just so damn human you couldn't help but love him no matter how many mistakes he made.

Fitz's arrival seemed to coincide with a dramatic upswing in quality. From Demontage to The Ancestor Cell things ran a whole lot smoother. I have a few theories as to why. If you take a peek at the writer's names you will notice that the first chunk of books in the BBC range are all written by Virgin writers. Writers who had exhausted their talent with the other range. The only 'old' authors still providing any enjoyment were those that are justifiably renowned... Kate Orman, Justin Richards. Suddenly Stephen Cole started to introduce new talent to the range and their opus was such an improvement... Nick Walters (Dominion is a cracking little thriller), Peter Anghelides (Frontier Worlds proves alien planets can be fun!), Paul Margs (whose Blue Angel was almost as great as The Scarlet Empress!). With the introduction of Compassion, the selfish, nasty, back stabbing bitch of a companion to the range the books started to gain some momentum from NO-WHERE! After Compassion gets the overwhelming twist of turning into a TARDIS, the Stephen Cole is on easy turf to its conclusion with only a few duds to spoil all the fun (The Space Age was especially bad). However The Banquo Legacy, his penultimate book proves an intelligent surprise success and matches anything done in the Virgin range in terms of sophistication, prose and cleverness.

Justin Richards takes over and all nervous readers can relax. He has the BRILLIANT idea of wiping out Gallifrey and the Doctor's memory (and thus all continuity) and we start his reign with the feel of a genuine new era. The Doctor is stuck on Earth for 100 years over six books, it was an arc but unlike much of the Virgin output these six stories were VERY induvidual with only the Doctor providing that vital link. The quality of this arc was phenomenal with only the finale, Escape Velocity letting it down. But who cares when you have such gems as The Burning and Father Time, easily two of the best Doctor Who books ever published. I remember feeling so excited about the range at this point, more than I had since I heard Virgin were going to start a range themselves!

To the surprise of everybody things didn't return to normal once the Doctor got the TARDIS back. No old monsters or planets, just a fresh new TARDIS team (what with the new less idealistic, more violent Doctor and the wonderfully dry Anji Kapoor on board... and of course Fitz things were looking great!) and zero continuity. This was probably the most refreshing change Who had been through in many, many years.

But Mr Richards didn't finish there. There has been a constant stream of fresh new writers (Steve Emmerson, Jac Rayner, Llyod Rose, Kelly Hale, Jonny Morris, Paul Ebbs, Mags L Halliday) providing some wonderful books. The stories are loosely connected by the terrifying idea of 'With the Time Lords gone who will look after all time?' but the current output is completely standalone and easy for a casual reader to follow whilst still being well written and enjoyable.

Justin, an acclaimed novelist himself has been driving solid, exciting works from people who were seriously disapointing earlier in this range (stand up Trevor Baxendale, Stephen Cole, Lawrence Miles, Steve Lyons and Mark Clapham). There have been a number of utterly flawless books that have just blown any comparison with Virgin out the window (The Year of Intelligent Tigers, City of the Dead, Adventuress of Henrietta Street, The Crooked World, History 101). The biggest difference is that these books have succeeded on their own with no back up from past characters or mentions of earlier books, they have been totally original works from authors who are working their butts off to impress. And with the emergence of Sabbath, the mysterious character in shadows directing events in the timeline it appears another arc is sprining unexpectadly from the range, just compelling enough to be exciting and not intrusive enough to be annoying.

The Doctor, Fitz and Anji make a highly engaging but it looks like things are set to change in a big way soon. i for one cannot wait.

The BBC books have done some really surprising things. I wouldn't even consider comparing them to the Virgin range during their first third, it would have been an insult to the older range. But by golly wow things have improved tenfold and im currently more optimistic about the series than ever. Such a dramatic upswing in quality is unheard of usually but we should be thankful, Doctor Who is exciting and unpredictable again. Long may it continue!

I think you have figured which range I prefer but at the end of the day they both produced some brilliant books and some seriously disturbing duds. They are very different in their own way but are both quintessentially Doctor Who.

And as such should both be reverred.


DWM Comic Strips (Additional Doctorless Strips, DW Related) - A Guide by Richard Radcliffe 30/10/02

Doctor Who Weekly began in October 1979. Included between its pages was a mix of new stories (in comic strip format), old Sci-Fi classics and information about the series. We were treated to information about the Daleks, the Story so far. The information has long since been superseded by books and magazines, but at the time it was a godsend - it was all we had. Now the articles seem basic in the extreme, and all rather quaint. It is therefore to the Comic Strip that much of the magic still lies. DWW Number 1 had no less than 3 Comic Strips, and the Weekly was to continue in this vein for the bulk of its 43 issue run. I had dissected (literally) my magazines years ago, but a friend had more sense. Thus a great big box of old DW magazines found its way to my house. I eagerly lapped up the main strip featuring the Doctor (reviews elsewhere).

The Main Strip was always the Current Doctor - the 4th in this case. The Iron Legion saw the 4th Doctor battling against aliens who controlled an earth, where Rome never fell. The secondary strip plundered the Sci-Fi archives. War of the Worlds was the first of these classics, closely followed by The Time Machine and First Men on the Moon. These turned slowly into more general Time Tales, and all manner of classic Adventure stories were told. By the time the Monthly (issue 44) was upon us Time Tales were no more. There was also another Strip. These featured monsters, villains, characters from DW - but with no sign of the Doctor. These strips lasted well into the Monthly. It is those strips that promoted this project - because a lot of them are actually very good indeed.

DWW and DWM printed at regular intervals the Dalek Tapes - written by David Whittaker, an alternative history of the Daleks. That is for reviews elsewhere, as is the impressive attempt to copy this - the Cybermen (DWM 213-238). In this article I will focus on the run of stories that took up the last few pages of Doctor Who Weekly/Monthly - the forgotten DW strips - Doctorless Doctor Who stories, if you like.

And so over the course of this article the names of Steve Moore, Alan Moore (yes really, the one whose recognized as the Best Comic Strip writer ever), Paul Neary, John Peel, David Lloyd, Steve Dillon, John Stokes will be prominent. They deserve their place in the sun. Let's begin:-

Return of the Daleks (1-4) - DWW began with the obvious monster - the Daleks. The Planet Anhaut had been invaded by the Daleks 800 years previous. Glax, a film-maker, wants to make a real life movie about the Daleks. He signs great actor Hok Nepo to play the lead role - Nor Din, the man who defeated the Daleks. A Spaceship arrives at Anhaut, the beautiful and mysterious Kuay has a suspicious cargo. The Daleks are let loose on Anhaut, and the film becomes reality.

What's impressive about the opening strip is not just the straightforward story by Steve Moore (the writer of all the secondary strips up to issue 34). The art by Paul Neary and David Lloyd is extremely good too. All would contribute to the success of this secondary strip during its run. Anhaut is given alien, but highly humanoid inhabitants. The Archive Library beckons you in, urging you to explore the past - you want to know what the History of this place is all about, despite having only just heard about it! The people of Anhaut travel round on the back of Pterodyctal-like birds. There's a wasteland that's mysterious and frightening.

The Daleks are their usual selves, exterminating all and sundry in the name of progress. But it is the Anhaut characters that emerge best from this 4 part, 16 page strip. Glax is highly likeable and seems involved in everything, Kuay is wonderfully mysterious - just why is she working with the Daleks?

The first additional strip is a very enjoyable story. A good start. 7/10

Throwback (The Soul of a Cyberman) (5-7) - So this was where Kroton the Cyberman first appeared! I had read all the DW main strips, including the Cybermen Barnes/Salmon saga. In the 8th Doctor's time Kroton joined the TARDIS crew as a Companion. It seems the authors of those stories went to the past of their magazine for inspiration.

You usually get with groups of villains or monsters 1 good one - it's a common plot device of Sci-Fi - the one that will help the good guys in their battle against evil. Kroton is one of the best of this type I have come across, and his repeated appearances show many others think so too. The planet Mondaran (bit close in name to another Cyber Planet that!) has been invaded by the Cybermen. Small pockets of resistance amongst the humans survive. Two such freedom fighters are Pendar and his partner Marilka - our 2 heroes. Kroton, junior Cyber-leader, begins to doubt his races actions against the populace. Slowly and surely he becomes Pendar's ally, and enables them to escape to freedom.

Throwback describes Kroton's inner turmoil. How he changes sides, his human originality coming to the surface over the machine. Pendar is the heroic fighter, just wanting freedom for his partner, Marilka. Kroton feels for them, and this exploration of the Cyber race was never really emphasized as much until much, much later in DW. All credit to Steve Moore (writer) and Steve Dillon (artwork) for giving us this excellent character, and great story over just 12 pages.

I really like the character of Kroton. He seems to be dead at the end of the story, but such a good character survives. I look forward to seeing him again. 8/10

The Final Quest (8) - We've had Daleks and Cybermen. Time for another monster now - the Sontarans.

Katsu is a ferocious Sontaran Warrior. He lives for battle, and has won them all except one. He wants to find the ultimate weapon that will defeat this enemy - Levanaxus. Thus he arrives on Aleph 777, a planet of peace. There he violently acquires the weapon, but 1 resident outwits him, turning the biological weapon on Katsu.

This one off story isn't the strongest additional strip, but it has a good moral at the end. When the Doctor appears (as a narrator, common policy amongst these strips) saying the smallest foe can outwit the biggest, so there's a knowing nod from the audience.

Steve Moore brings something new to a pretty 1-Dimesional race - the Sontarans. Paul Neary draws the 4 pages pretty well. 6/10

The Stolen TARDIS (9-11) - We move away from the monsters of DW now, to the Time Lords. Plutar wants to become a Time Lord, but those in the know say he is better suited to TARDIS Maintenance. Thus he's busy working away under some console, when an alien Circus arrives on Gallifrey. Sillarc the Sage wants a TARDIS of his own, and only Plutar knows about his clever scheme to pinch one.

There then follows 3 parts of shifting through Time. Back to Prehistoric Gallifrey, where they meet some dinosaurs. All the time Plutar is trying to stop the dastardly lizard-like Sillarc, from acquiring his own TARDIS.

This isn't a bad story at all by Steve Moore. There's clever use made of a Time Machine, and the fact it can only travel in Time not Space. Steve Dillon provides excellent artwork again - I believe he just shades Neary and Lloyd for these strips. It's nice to meet a bit of a rebel on Gallifrey, which the Doctor himself must have been like. Plutar is the hero here, and we always support the small people, don't we. Gallifrey is an interesting place after all it seems! 7/10

K9's Finest Hour (DWW 12) - This 4 page "K9 is still around" vehicle is quite funny. It's not the most profound of strips because of its size and the main character. It's pretty unique as it's the only time the Doctor appears the the secondary strip (apart from his usual narration).

Rolgof wants the Doctor. The Sontarans have expressed an interest in the Time Lord and Rolgof, with the aid of Firandel thinks he can acquire the prize. Unfortunately instead of beaming over the Doctor, Rolgof beams over K9. K9 saves the day by outwitting a stupid robot, and zapping the 2 baddies.

That's it really. Steve Moore has written better, Steve Dillon draws just fine. The 4th Doctor and K9 have a good laugh about it at the end. If this is K9's Finest Hour then it was time for it to be written out, which indeed it was in the next TV season of Who. Not the secondary strip's Finest Hour. 5/10

Warlord of the Ogrons (DWW 13-14) - Another old monster returns - the Ogrons. A few writers have tried to make the Ogrons more interesting than they are. The key to this, they believe, is intelligence - and thus we have a brainy Ogron story, which does the strip no favours at all. In an attempt to do something different Steve Moore writes a pretty standard spin-off story.

The best pilot in the galaxy, Rostow, allies with the best surgeon Dr Leofrix. Leofrix wants to augment an Ogron. Make him brainy, then he will form an army of Ogrons, thus giving Leofrix and Rostow a chance to conquer the galaxy. Of course scientists with such high ideas who pervert the course of science never win - and it is Ogron Gnork who goes off to conquer the galaxy.

Steve Dillon's art is excellent as usual, but it's the story that fails to ignite any flames. Standard at best. 6/10

Deathworld (DWW15-16) - I often used to wonder what would happen if 2 of Doctor Who's enemies battled each other. This strip has just that - the Ice Warriors and the Cybermen fighting each other for the control of Yama-10.

The Ice Warriors want the Trisilicate. The Cybermen just want the Planet. This battle of honour vs logic is a good one. Each are determined in their efforts, they want this planet.

It is the Ice Warriors that ultimately win. The logical Cybermen forget that water turns to ice, and this is not fatal for the Ice Warriors. The 2 contrasting Monster races make this strip work - Steve Moore again providing the script. New boy David Lloyd appears with the art, and he starts well - he was to provide much that was excellent in the coming strips.

If you like battles, Cybermen and Ice Warriors then this is your story. I liked it pretty well. 7/10

Abslom Daak - Dalek Killer (DWW 17-20) - There must be a great deal of affection out there for these early comic strips. We've already met Kroton the Cyberman, who returns later. Now we meet probably the most famous DW comic creation of them all - Abslom Daak, convicted Murderer - he kills Daleks you know. Daak is a great character. You can see why he was used again. He totally overshadows the Daleks to be honest.

Daak is a murderer. He is sentenced to death or DK Duty. He chooses DK, chances of survival very slim. DK Duty involves entering a Stargate (least it looks like one), travelling light years to a Dalek occupied planet, killing as many Daleks as he can, before he is killed. Daak manages to kill lots of Daleks on Mazam, he falls in love with a princess (Taiyin) and survives.

As befits such a character Daak is wonderfully savagely drawn by Steve Dillon. Even more impressive, in a rather different way, is Taiyin - the depiction of people in these strips is very good indeed. This is ultimately a tragic tale by Steve Moore. Daak starts with no wish to live, he finishes wanting to live - but only for revenge. The legend of Abslom Daak is born - and having read his return stories they have yet to beat his best - the original. 9/10

Twilight of the Silurians (DWW 21-22) - The Silurian culture was one of the most interesting of the entire DW series. They were monsters, but you could see their point of view. It's great, therefore, to go back in time with this strip - and see their society as it was before they hit the shelters.

This is a story about Nagara - a Silurian scientist, who keeps apes to study. He separates them, treating them like the animals he thinks they are. The other Scientists meanwhile discuss the imminent destruction of their world - the Moon is about to arrive - and the long sleep awaits. Meanwhile the Apes are not as stupid as they look - particularly lead ape, Kin. The moral of the story is clear as Kin gets revenge on Nagara - the apes are beginning to get smarter.

The artwork is excellent once more by David Lloyd, and Steve Moore produces one of his better smaller stories (it's only 8 pages long). This is a superb depiction of one of the better presented monster races of DW. 8/10

Ship of Fools (DWW 23-24) - Steve Moore after this story had now done 24 Weeklys. At 4 pages per issue this was homing in on the 100 page mark quite quickly. The experience of the medium was building, and he decides to bring back one of this best creations (as he was to do with Daak later) - Kroton the emotional Cyberman.

Kroton is left floating in space in Throwback. Here he is picked up by a pleasure liner. The ship is stuck in a time warp though. These people are living out their existence aimlessly - not one of them doing very much about getting them out of it - hence the Ship of Fools. There's a great deal of boredom for some, cocktails for others - these people really are stupid. Kroton can't get his head around this. The love of life exhibited by Pendar and Marilka are miles away from this bunch. Kroton decides to do something, the Robot Pilot is accessed, and the ship is freed.

Kroton continues his voyage of humanity in this strange 2 parter. It's good that he sees the worst of humanity, along with the best - that he acts to save them, only to destroy them - is rather profound for such a little story. It looks like Kroton has a good few many stories in him yet - and for that I'm glad. 7/10

The Outsider (DWW 25-26) - The S Moore/D Lloyd team are back together again for another story featuring the Sontarans. Again, like Final Quest, this is about a lone Sontaran.

He has been called to set up base on Brahtilis. Demimon, an astrologer of this world, welcomes Sontaran Skrant with open arms. It is only when things start to go very wrong - and his daughter is involved, that Demimon realizes prophecies are open to interpretation - and he has interpreted this one very wrong.

I wasn't quite as interested in this story as most others of these secondary strips. The Sontarans I never really liked too much, and Demimon - the big new character, seems pretty naieve. It's not bad, just not stand-out good like many of the others. 6/10

Star Tigers (DWW 27-30) - Again we come across a character who reappears later. The Star Tigers, founded by Abslom Daak, become a duo - thanks to introduction of Salander the Draconian.

Star Tigers has extremely good points about it (Daak, Salander, the story) - but is spoilt by some terrible things. The Space battles between Daak and the Daleks are pathetic. You just can't see whats going in those little panels. The Daleks are marginalized too (quite a feat in that it contains a man whose sole mission is to be a Dalek Killer!). Draconian politics are also terrible. It's one of the main reasons I don't like the Draconians - but I'm willing to give Salander a chance, a lone ranger is better than the collective.

This strip also shows Steve Dillon to be a superior artist than David Lloyd for this type of story. It's always a tough job coming in to do the very last issue of an ongoing story, when someone else has done the rest - but that's what Lloyd has to do here. It shows him up a bit, which is a shame as Lloyd is a good artist. Dillon wasn't to appear again, Lloyd would vastly improve over the next few issues.

Draconia succeeds in being even more boring than ever, but Daak and Salander should provide good things in the future. 6/10

Yonder... The Yeti (DWW 31-34) - Steve Moore has given us some pretty good strips. It was time for him to step up to the main strip. He would write a few more of these additional strips - but this is the last of his initial run. David Lloyd has stepped up to become the main artist of this strip - and the way he evokes Tibet is really excellent. The additional strip has also been shortened to just 2 pages an issue. Lasting 4 mags this is actually only 8 pages long. But they do pack the action in to these things, so I'm not complaining.

Bruce and Angela Healy are taking a break. They're searching for the Yeti. Local guide Shiro joins them, and they are initially put off by Lama Gampo - lead monk in the area. Gampo however turns out to be one of a long line of protectors. They are ready for the Great Intelligence to return - and will fight to rid the world of it at all cost.

Borrowing prolifically from Abominable Snowman this actually becomes hugely interesting just as it is finishing. The Great Intelligence stuff is nothing new, but real Yetis fighting against Robot Yetis - now that's interesting! It brings back fond memories of the original DW story, and is quite a good ride by itself. 7/10

Black Legacy (DWW 35-38) - It is with a sense of pride that DW fans cite Douglas Adams as a former script editor of the TV show. I'm a big fan of the DW Comics - and I can cite (with some pride) that Alan Moore, the greatest comic book writer of them all, graced DWW with his talent way back in 1980 - long before he became famous. His first strip is excellent, there's enough characterization and atmosphere to satiate my moods.

The Cybermen arrive on Goth. They've heard of a super weapon that lies there. The world is dead, cities are crumbling, the residents long since gone. But in the wilderness outside the city lies a darkness that is about to overpower them. The Apocalypse Device roams free, and the Cybermen are in big trouble.

The Apocalypse Device Humanoid is straight from Dr Death - a frightening apparition. The Cybermen waste away, and emotions run rampant - not bad for an inhuman species. The Cybermen are the anomaly in this. You can understand their fear developing over the course of the story, but the emotions run rife right from the beginning (I'm not at all sure about the Cyberman Medic either!) - and this is the only problem with an otherwise excellent story.

Overall probably the best additional strip there has been. This is 8 pages of great story, terrific artwork by David Lloyd. This really is a voyage into the imagination - even if the Cybermen weren't quite right! 9/10

Business As Usual (DWW 40-43) - The team of Alan Moore and David Lloyd continue with another excellent story. The length is the usual 8 pages (4 issues), and the inspiration is showing more this time. We're in Spearhead From Space country. Lots of this is taken straight from that story - but I expect the Autons work in more or less the same way in all their invasions anyway!

The excellence comes from that art this time. David Lloyd produces some really dark, scary artwork for this. There's much use made of shadows, and the eerie plastics factory is the perfect place for shocks. Alan Moore's story is a little too similar to Spearhead for me to applaud him totally - but he seems to know what the fans want. This is another masterpiece.

In 1989 Winston Blunt, a plumber, discovers some strange balls in a field. He is possessed by them, and builds an Auton. They discover a new form of plastic and make millions. The Auton, Mr Dolman, lives on whilst Blunt commits suicide. Meanwhile Max Fischer, a business spy, wants to see what's going on at the new plastics factory.

There are lots of impressive scenes in this story, but the one with Fischer trying to escape from the toy soldiers is particularly excellent. Toy Story never was this scary! 8/10

And so the Weekly finished. Every issue, bar 1 had a main strip, and 2 supplement strips. The spin-off DW strips was arguably the most consistent of the lot. But this isn't the end. It wasn't about to keel over and die just yet. The monthly would dismiss the Classic Sci-Fi strip, but this additional strip would continue for a year or so yet.

Star Tigers Part Two (DWM 44-46) - Steve Moore returns to the secondary strip here, David Lloyd again providing the art. Daak and Salander return in a strip imaginatively named exactly the same as their previous story! So let's call this Star Tigers Part Two.

It's time for Daak and Salander to swell their Tiger Team. Thus their Killwagon (their spaceship) seeks out Harma (Ice Warrior) and Vol Mercurius (Daaks old partner, Earthman). Harma is running some kind of strange torture chamber. Mercurius lives in a tower in the middle of a vast waste with a Robot. The 4 then go off to their 1st adventure, and promise the reader thrills and spills, but not a lot of camaraderie.

It's made clear here that Daak has been in this space for a long time. This must therefore be considerably after his initial exploits with Taiyin. Taiyin remains frozen in her capsule though - a story that would be picked up much later in the Main DWM Strip. There's a few Daleks, disguised as Meteorites, in the final part - but this apart the artwork isn't too great. Daak doesn't dominate as before, Salander does nothing. The 2 new kids on the block have some potential though.

Star Tigers isn't something that really sets my pulse racing to be honest. Macho exploits with lots of battles, dysfunctional teams who really don't want to be together - not really my thing. 6/10

Star Death (DWM 47) - DWM had now decided to keep their additional strip to just 1 issue. The page count varied between 4 and 8, but it seems the standard suffered the most initially. The opening 1-parter was by Alan Moore, and it fooled us into thinking the strip was still pretty good. The art continues nicely, new boy John Stokes joins the show here.

Star Death takes us back to Gallifrey, in the early ages of Rassilon. Qqaba is just about to become a Black Hole, the means by which the Time Lords come into being. A Time Traveller from the future, Fenris, wants to put a spanner in the works of all this. He actually becomes the means by which Rassilon puts the whole jigsaw of Time Travel together - thanks to his Directional Control Device Belt.

Star Death isn't that bad, it's just average. It's one of those Time Stories that DW didn't do enough of. There's also a bit of mystery surrounding Gallifrey, which is always welcome. But it's not in the same league as his previous efforts. 6/10

The Touchdown on Deneb 7 (DWM 48) - This is where the strip really started to get pretty terrible. Paul Neary returns to the fold, this time as the writer (he helped draw the first few stories in this series). David Lloyd provides the art (which is actually pretty good).

K9 disobeys the Doctors orders when the TARDIS lands on Deneb 7. He goes out of the TARDIS, meeting some robots. They are seeking the Pennant Bearer. The robots are there to figure out whether the planet should be settled.

To be honest I just couldn't get my head round this one. I read the thing, re-read it in an attempt to understand it. Then I just flung the magazine down in exasperation - I wasn't going to waste any more time on such drivel. By far the worst strip of these additional stories thus far - but it was the shape of things to come. 3/10

Voyage to the Edge of the Universe (DWM 49) - Paul Neary and David Lloyd combine again. After the atrocious Touchdown story I was expecting an improvement. It is better, but not by much.

This story brings back the Daemons. They are on a trip to find the Edge of the Universe. Azal is aboard. They travel for a very long time, not arriving at the very edge. Then they get caught up in a strange nether world - blank space. Here Azal meets himself, and strange things occur.

That's really it for this one. The Daemons are well drawn, but surely a better new story could have been invented for these excellent monsters from the 3rd Doctors era. It just meanders along, not really igniting much interest at all. The additional comic strip was falling behind. 5/10

Crisis on Kaldor (DWM 50) - Steve Moore returns to the strip, hopefully to give it a much needed injection of life after the last 2 clunkers. John Stokes showed skill with Star Death, and he is very good again with this Kaldor City story.

Sylvos Orikon and Tran Korkolo are Kaldorians. They are a bit suspicious of the Robots - so many are in Kaldor City it seems. The Super Vocs are now considered the ideal captains of the Sandminers - and Orikon is determined to show they are not. He thus goes undercover as a Super Voc Robot - SV23 - to prove his theory. His plans go horribly wrong.

After the Daemons returning in the previous story, its good to see one of the best designed foes in this one. Kaldor City is a place rich for story potential (as the continuing Audio series of 2001 onwards shows). This is only a toe dip into such a world. It's pretty good overall, and further proof that Steve Moore is a very good writer. 7/10

4-D War (DWM 51) - A shift of Moores takes us back to Alan now! This isn't his best offering though. It's basically a continuation of his previous strip - Star Death, but this time with David Lloyd in the artist chair.

The Time Lords want to rescue Fenris from the Time Vortex. They're intrigued to find out who sent him, and for what purpose. Thus the eminently disposable Wardog is sent in. The 4-D war of the title is a War that concerns Time. The Order of the Black Sun are involved. There's a battle in the Vortex, Wardog loses his arm.

This tale is rather forgettable overall. Everything seems very rushed, and Alan Moore seems to have lost his initial magic. He was to write one more, but it was clearly time for him to move to his own thing. 4-D War is hardly his greatest 5 minutes! 5/10

The Greatest Gamble (DWM 56) - After a 5 month gap, where we thought we'd lost this additional strip, it suddenly returned opposite a Photo-File on Celestial Toymaker. Bit of a giveaway that as to who the villain would be! There's a new writer and artist too. John Peel, the author of those controversial Dalek Books, takes us back to the Old American West. Mike MacMahon, artist of the controversial Junkyard Demon, provides the images.

We're on the Mississippi, Old West. Gaylord Lefevre likes a game of cards. He wants to win at all costs, and the Toymaker calls him into his Games Parlour. Lefevre gets more than he bargained for when he accuses the Toymaker of cheating.

It's interesting to see the Toymaker moving easily through Time. Q-Like he seems to appear as and when he wants, appearing in Ancient Rome towards the end. The artwork is unusual, that's for sure, but I happen to like it as a one-off (which is turned out to be). It's an imaginative little story, making greater a very good character from TV DW. 7/10

lack Sun Rising (DWM 57) - Alan Moore returns with his 3rd part of his Time Lord Trilogy. David Lloyd is employed again for the art, and the same rushed style that brought down the previous 2 stories, afflicts this.

Lady Remadu arrives for a business conference. She is accompanied by the Parahumans - X-Men style people (with wonderful names like Millenium and Cobweb) - who can help her in her dealings. One of these is Wardog. There's also a Sontaran on board, and the Order of the Black Sun are up to their old tricks. The Sontaran proves the nasty bloke, brainwiping one of the Parahumans. Wardog deals with him.

Reading this I was constantly looking back through Stardeath and 4-D War. It does form a pretty definite trilogy, but it's not a very clear one. This proved to be the last of such jaunts for Alan Moore, and you have to say it's pretty lame. The arts okay though. The strip has certainly not shied away from representing the Doctors Home race, but it hasn't been particularly successful. 6/10

Skywatch 7 (DWM 58 & WS81) - Steve Parkhouse lends his considerable talent to this additional strip, drawn by Mick Austin (whose Lunar Lagoon main strip was excellent). Featured monster - the Zygons - well one of them anyway.

UNIT are manning a remote Radar Post. Captain Hawks is in command when an unidentified meteor enters the Earth's atmosphere. Campbell is sent out to investigate, and on his return smashes up the Radar equipment. The Zygon has taken on his form. Hawks takes matters into his own hands, accidentally shooting the real Campbell, and giving the Zygon invader an icy grave.

I have been most surprised that these additional strips have not featured UNIT more. But this makes up for that, because its excellent. The classic base under siege scenario is played to its full. There's also THE most memorable image of the additional strip in these 8 pages - The Zygon in the cupboard. You had to buy the 1981 Winter Special to read the 2nd part, but it was well worth it. One of my favourites. 9/10

MINATORIUS (WS 81) - Accompanying the 2nd part of Skywatch 7 was this stand alone Time Lord story. Written by editor Alan MacKenzie, with the great Dave Gibbons providing the artwork this promised to be special.

Time Lord new boy Cargan is on one of this first trips in his TARDIS. He's accompanied by ORB, a small flying robot, who likes to chip in with daft comments. Cargan arrives on Minatorius, where the populace have a rich energy supply that makes their lives very easy. Turns out this energy supply is dangerous. Cargan takes matters into his own hands, disobeying the Time Lord rule of non-interference. The feedback from his electronic dabblings destroys his own TARDIS and himself.

Now this is a cheery little tale! The hero of the story dies, and the irritating little ball survives! It's all wonderfully drawn, and you have to applaud MacKenzie for doing something dark. It's a better, and easier to understand, Time Lord story than Alan Moore's efforts too. Not bad at all really. 7/10

The Gods Walk Among Us (DWM 59) - John Peel will provide the next 3 additional strips, all of them delving into the rich mythology that DW provided. They do so extremely well, and thus Mr Peel joins the best contributors to this medium. David Lloyd provides the art - his talent is evident. The old monster on show here is the Sontarans - used quite a bit in these additional strips.

We're in Egypt, and an archeological dig is about to open the Tomb of Sontar. Back in time we go to Ancient Egypt. Turns out a lone Sontaran landed there, slaved the populace. Only Tothmes was wise to his invasive plans, and while the Sontaran slept he was walled up. And so Styx has remained in the Tomb all that time. He escapes, naturally, when the dig opens the Tomb, only to be caught by another Trap, where he is buried in tons of Sand.

Ancient Egypt provides an effective backdrop to this 4 page story. Tothmes emerges with great credit from this story, and I got really engulfed in it all. It's clear, it's concise. It's exactly what these strips should be. 9/10

Devil of the Deep (DWM 61) - The same team as before - Peel and Lloyd. But a totally different tale, tinged with sadness, laced with an unusual friendship - enter the Sea Devils and Pirates.

Early 17th Century South America. Diego De Columba of Cordoba is captured by Pirates and made to walk the Plank. He ends up as a Castaway on a Desert Island, thanks to a friendly Sea Devil, who just happens to be passing as Columba is about to drown. They strike up a friendship. One day the Pirates return, the Sea Devil is captured. Then Columba remembers a device that the Sea Devil told him not to ever press. He does, and a Sea monster rises up destroying Pirate Ship and his friend. Columba is rescued by a Spanish ship.

It's a terrific little story this one. The Desert Island is wonderfully drawn, and its good to see a DW Monster that isn't really that bad. The device that the Sea Devil possesses provides a rather convenient story plot, but the whole idea was well put together generally. Another hit for this strip. 8/10

The Fires Down Below (DWM 64) - John Peel finishes DWM's additional comic strip run (the next 2 are in the Summer Special), with John Stokes returning with the graphics. The privilege of the last Monster is given to the Dominators - Hmmm!

UNIT under the command of Major Whitaker are sent to a extinct Volcano in Rejkavik. Tremors under the surface need investigating, and so UNIT metamorphosizes into a Geology team. Seems a lone Dominator, with his Quark entourage wants the Planet Core. UNIT sabotage the machinery and the plan is foiled!

The Dominators suffer because of comparison with the TV story. For me that was one of the worst DW stories ever - so I never was going to be that struck on their return. It's a pity such a villain is presented as the last. Nonetheless the story is adequate and the art pretty good. An average end though, which is disappointing. 6/10

The Fabulous Idiot (SS 82) - The end of the additional strip was given to us by Steve Parkhouse. This, and the next, were part of a Summer Special that boasted interviews with Peter Davison and Anthony Ainley. In both strips Parkhouse uses existing creations of his, actually both from the DWM Main Strip The Free-Fall Warriors. Here the focus is Dr Ivan Asimoff.

Asimoff is a Science Fiction writer. He creates Commander Conquest, which is himself, who battles enemies and conquers all. He re-enacts the main scenes in his bedroom - much to the annoyance of his Auntie who he lives with. She wants him to write quieter stories! Meanwhile his illustrator is working on the new cover. This startling image knocks the poor Doctor over in shock!

Parkhouse give us a marvelous one-off strip, better than any featuring this character. Asimoff's daily routine is the cause of most of the humour here, and the story cleverly leads us down one line, only for our preconceptions to be shattered at the end. It's a supremely likeable strip, much in keeping with Parkhouses previous efforts. Parkhouse also helps draw this one (with Geoff Senior), and it's not bad at all on that front. Very good. 8/10

A Ship Called Sudden Death (SS 82) - Steve Parkhouse brings back another creation of his own in another terrific one-off strip in the Summer Special of 1982. This time it is the Free-Fall Warriors themselves. Dave Gibbons is recruited on the art front, and this really is excellent.

There's a race about to be taking place, starting on the planet Ariadne. The 2 competitors (small race this one) goes round the planet Persephone, getting rather close to an asteroid belt. Against the Free-Fall Warriors, in their ship Tigerfire, is Khan, with his ship Sudden Death. Our favourite pilots outwit Khan, emerging triumphant, with Khan apparently dead.

It's a very simple story about a race. But the introduction of Khan is impressive (a skull like baddie, with a ship straight from hell), and the Free-Fall Warriors are better here than elsewhere. Parkhouse thus finishes off the additional strip run in fine form. 8/10

SUMMARY And so the additional strip was no more. Lasting a very short 3 years it had given us much of DW mythology, presented without our hero at the fore. Some stories were great, others very poor indeed. The additional strip was actually the same with consistency as many other medium - books, audios, TV stories, main comic strip - whatever.

New characters like Abslom Daak and Kroton the Cybermen proved popular enough to return elsewhere. Characters like Lama Gampo and Plutar-TARDIS man, were to disappear forever - and that was a shame. The monsters and villains we knew would return.

But overall the additional comic strip that graced DWM for those 3 years was a good ride. I thoroughly enjoyed reading, and reviewing, this neglected part of DW History. Access to these 30 Stories will be limited, I expect. But hopefully it will encourage those fans who have an extensive DWM collection to go up to their attic and recover these lost treasures. There's a lot to enjoy. Try it, you might like it! Overall rating for the additional strips 7/10

Here's the best Ten:-

Skywatch 7, Black Legacy, Abslom Daak - Dalek Killer, The Gods Walk Among Us, Business as Usual, Throwback, The Fabulous Idiot, Devil of the Deep, Twilight of the Silurians, Minatorius


So just what is Canon anyway? by Paul Deuis 28/1/03

We Whovians are a passionate bunch, and it doesn’t take much to realise that we all have differing opinions on many subjects related to our favourite Time Lord. What is your favourite story? Who is your favourite Doctor? Which companion did you hate the most? So many of these types of question are asked, time and time again, particularly when introductions are being made. It gives you a nice cosy starting point to the conversation. For the most part, people will have their say, listen to the other person/people have their turn, and little more is said. They end up respecting the other opinions presented, agree to disagree if the viewpoints are extreme opposites, and get on with their lives.

This, however, is not true if we are talking about canon. Trust me, if you want to start an argument in any Doctor Who club, forum or discussion, online or real life, just mention the word “canon”. I can almost guarantee you fireworks will follow shortly afterwards. What is it about mentioning that one little word that makes so many Whovians climb on to their proverbial soap boxes? Why do they start telling anyone who wants to listen that they are an authority on the subject and anything they say goes? Of course, if you don’t agree with them, you’re wrong and that’s all there is to it. The judge’s decision is final, no correspondence will be entered into.

The biggest headache is caused by the fact that so many viewpoints can be, and frequently are, taken on the subject. The worst people to encounter on the topic are the extremists, a statement which won’t surprise anyone greatly I’m sure. On one side, there are people who argue “If it wasn’t televised between 1963 and 1989 by the BBC then it doesn’t count”, leaving even Shada and the TV Movie out in the cold. On the other side, there are those who say “I don’t care if it was a badly drawn one frame comic on the back of a cereal box, it was called Doctor Who and it looked a bit like Tom Baker with that hat and scarf and that makes it canon”. Thankfully, the good majority of Whovians fall somewhere in the middle of these two arguments, but that doesn’t necessarily make discussion on the topic any less animated.

At the time of writing this, it has been over thirty nine years since that unmistakable theme music played at the start of An Unearthly Child for the first time, and Doctor Who has surfaced in many shapes and forms, many not on the television, and one of the many arguments for accepting something as canon, is the stamp of approval from the BBC. This on its own means a lot of hard work trying to piece it together. The Virgin line of New and Missing Adventures was endorsed by the BBC. The new books ARE from the BBC. The Big Finish audios are also authorised and licensed by the BBC. The Pescatons is believed by many to be canon, as are the three stories that were to be part of season 23 before being dumped, since all have seen the light of day as Target novelisations. Even Dimensions in Time, though it is a short story shot only for charity, was produced by the BBC and I seem to remember being told it had its own production code, although I could well be mistaken about this.

Even companion spin-off stories can be included. Harry and Turlough both appeared in Target novels without the Doctor. Benny Summerfield has proven to be very popular since leaving the Doctor in both book and audio forms, and who can forget almost everyone’s favourite companion, Sarah Jane Smith, who was in the (in)famous K9 and Company and now has her own Big Finish audios as well.

There are, of course, plenty of good arguments for almost any stand taken on the subject. The problem lies in drawing the line somewhere. Just where do you make your stand? What makes people say “enough is enough” and decide what is canon and what is not? Is it enough that there are the words “Doctor Who” attached? The Doctor may not be in it, but he wasn’t in Mission to the Unknown either but that isn’t questioned as being canon. The BBC originally endorsed the Virgin line, but on finishing that up and starting their own series with The Eight Doctors, told writers to disregard anything written in Virgin books for continuity purposes. Does that mean they aren’t canon? Well apart from the fact that many writers have ignored that directive, and at the very least not contradicted anything written in the Virgin books, continuity as we all know too well was often thrown right out the window during the televised series. Many times, this was in stories which are regarded in many circles as out and out classics, Genesis of the Daleks being the most obvious example I can think of at this moment. Anyone want to say Genesis isn’t canon? I wouldn’t think so.

Confused? Most are, and that is probably the reason most Whovians avoid the subject like the plague. We’re happy watching and re-watching the series over and over again on our VCRs and/or DVD players, and in a lot of cases, reading the books and listening to the audios, but even if your life depends on it, just don’t upset your little world (or anyone else’s) by asking that question “So just what is accepted canon anyway?”

Get off that soap box. Like beauty, canon is most definitely in the eye of the beholder, and while opinions will probably always differ on the subject, the most important thing to remember was said by our good Doctor to Duke Giuliano: “Keep an open mind. That’s the secret.”


Baker Bashers Beware! A review of violence in Doctor Who during Season 22 by Ronald Mallett 3/3/03

If there is one word that captures the essence of the character of The 6th Doctor it is controversial. Take note of how many reviews there are of Colin Baker's interpretation as opposed to the others and how much they vary! Like all The Doctors he made the journey from an extreme caricature of himself to that of a more settled, mellow version over the course of his tenure. He was proud, verbose, abrupt, eccentric and at times callous but he was also heroic, noble and a born iconoclast.

The Doctor we meet at the beginning of The Twin Dilemma is not the same Doctor we know by the end of the story. It has long been recognised that it was a mistake to introduce The 6th Doctor as a deranged maniac as many were unable to let go of the image of him attempting to strangle his companion. While he remained at times unpleasant, The Doctor's morality could not be questioned. His chastisement of The Rani in The Mark of The Rani attests to this as he debunks her grim philosophy of being. His speech to Drathro in The Mysterious Planet, explaining why organic life is important indicates the consistency of this morality. As he explains to Peri in the same story, he can't allow innocent people to die if he can save them.

If The 6th Doctor has a central failing (aside from his rather lacklustre interpersonal skills and dress sense) it is his callous (i.e. alien) reaction to the death of his adversaries. As Colin Baker insists in the audio commentary of Vengeance on Varos, that was a conscious production decision in keeping with his more alien persona. He turns to the dissolving guards in the acid bath and declares: "Forgive me if I don't join you". In The Two Doctors after killing Shockeye with cyanide (not ignoring the fact he had recently killed and eaten an old woman, had just been in the process of dissecting Jamie alive and at the very least intended to kill The Doctor with his sword) The Doctor remarks: "Your just desserts!" However in the same story he openly mourns Oscar's death - quoting Shakespeare in a very sensitive way. It's just clear he doesn't have a lot of pity for murders and psychopaths. After Orcini blasts Davros' hand off, The Doctor playfully offers his own in a fake gesture and comments: "No arm done!" This aspect had all but vanished by The Trial of a Time Lord and after being forced to wipe out the Vervoids in order to save humanity, the Doctor looks remorseful. But perhaps it is because he knows that the Vervoids have just been following their instincts and are not truly evil in the pure sense of the word, although their actions appear that way to us. There is certainly no admission such as The 5th Doctor made at the end of Warriors of the Deep: "There should have been another way!" The 6th Doctor just isn't the type to openly wear his heart on his admittedly gaudy sleeve!

Many voices raised against the character of The 6th Doctor point to differences between him and the other Doctors. How fair is that? It seems clear to me that he was continually acting by virtue of a strong moral impulse [rather than continuously playing god with time or forcing his companion to face her darkest fears (ie. Ghost Light) like The 7th Doctor]. It has been suggested that in Vengeance on Varos during the scene where Peri is being converted into a bird, The Doctor displays a fascination with the process and at first does not attempt to stop it (The Handbook: The Sixth Doctor, Howe-Stammers-Walker, 1993, pp. 496-497). In reality his first reaction is to shout "What!" His voice betrays his concern. He prevents Jondar from throwing away his life in a useless gesture of resistance. Quillam declares the experiment has gone too far. When he is viewing the experiment it is with deep concentration as he is trying to think of a way to save Peri and Etta. He demands the machine be turned off. Then he provides the distraction needed for Jondar to seize a weapon. The Doctor then uncomfortably attempts to force Quillam to cooperate at gunpoint (no worse than The 5th Doctor holding a gun to protect himself and his friends from a loose Kaled mutant in Resurrection of the Daleks - and unlike the Doctor in that story who had finally decided that Davros needed to be 'put down', the 6th Doctor had no real intention of using the weapon to kill). He doesn't shoot him but the machine instead. Shortly later he prevents Jondor from killing a guard, saving yet another life. In fact he's continuously saving lives throughout the entire adventure just like any other Doctor. The Doctor actually refuses to even take a gun in The Mark of The Rani joking he has given them up as they can seriously damage your health! So much for Doctor Wholigan!

Let's look back at the behaviour of one of the earlier Doctors then and place him on trial for a moment. Paul Shaw (Data Extract 162 July/August 2002, p. 8) clearly lists some of his more questionable behaviour: he calmly causes the death of Styre in The Sontaran Experiment, blows up the Zygons in their ship in Terror of the Zygons, uses cyanide on Solon in The Brain of Morbius, snaps a neck in The Seeds of Doom, brings about the molecular disintegration of Greel in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, deliberately masterminds the death of Taren Capel by altering his voice in The Robots of Death. All were acts of premeditated murder but given the circumstances and the nature of the victims, perfectly understandable. The Doctor Wholigan tag often applied to the 6th Doctor and coined I believe by Antony Howe, seems a mite unfair when placed in proper context. Of the early 4th Doctor, Paul Shaw concludes: "...he snaps and snarls, beats up people in The Seeds of Doom, lays into Goth with a big stick (The Deadly Assassin), coldly flicks a flesh eating Horda onto someone's shoulder (The Face of Evil) etc. etc. ... Tom is praised for this, Colin is damned. I've never understood why..." As the 6th Doctor himself professes during his trial he resorts to violence only in self-defence. That can probably be qualified as all the Doctors at times also acted violently in the defence of the defenceless. The 4th Doctor shoots down a Rutan ship at the end of The Horror of Fang Rock and declares: "That'll teach them!" He also claims the universe won't miss the Jagaroth and engineers their final extinction in City of Death. At least The 6th Doctor didn't send off the hand of Omega to obliterate Skaro (i.e.. Remembrance of the Daleks). One would hope that the 7th Doctor knew that is was clear of Thals. But then again, didn't even the 4th Doctor think that Dalek life counted as well in Genesis of the Daleks when given the opportunity to abort their evolution?

Probably the most misunderstood of all Colin Baker's stories was Vengeance on Varos. It seems to epitomise the degree to which the use of violence in the program at that time has been distorted. Antony Howe (A Voyage Through 25 Years of Doctor Who, December 1988) claimed that while it was an attempt at social criticism of video nasties, its over-exploitation of violence turned it into one. Paul Corrigan (Data Extract 161, May/June 2002, pp. 10-11) has more recently maintained that it was the lunatic behaviour of The 6th Doctor that resulted in two deaths in the notorious acid-bath scene and that he deliberately engineers the deaths of four Varosians in a way that equates with premeditated murder.

Closer inspection of the story on DVD reveals that both opinions are flawed. There is no gore in Vengeance on Varos, only the suggestion of it and the traditional fantastical violence involving fictional death rays etc. For example when Jason Connery's character Jondar is being tortured, it is simply a ray of light shinning or super-imposed onto his torso. I don't see how that even compares with the infamous drowning scene in The Deadly Assassin, which is actual physical violence and easily imitated by the impressionable.

The acid-bath scene is less than a storm in a tea cup and more a sort of black-out in a police box! What actually happens is that the Doctor recovers and then in an inoffensive manner, taps one of the guards on the shoulder. They believed he was dead and perhaps surprise causes one to fall into the pool (into which they were about to tip the body of the Doctor). The remaining guard then tries to force the Doctor into the pool alive and is eventually pulled in by his dying comrade.

Like all Doctors, when pressed and given no other choice, the 6th Doctor would act to protect innocent and even not-so- innocent lives. People forget that when the Doctor saves the lives of Peri, Jondar, Etta and himself by causing the death of Quillam and his henchmen, Quillam has just told them what he has planned: "I want to hear their screams till I'm deaf with pleasure. See their limbs twist in excruciating agony. Ultimately their blood will gush and flow along the gutters of Varos. The whole planet will delight in their torture and death." By utilising the vines, the Doctor is merely defending himself and his charges against the worst kind of psychopathic scum.

The other stories from season 22 - which has come to be known as the video nasty season in some circles - have not been devoid of criticism. The most distorted scene in Attack of the Cybermen is the moment the 6th Doctor shoots the Cyber Controller. He was actually trying to rescue Lytton and when discovered, he was attacked. The Cyber Controller isn't wandering over to give him a warm bear hug! I've actually read very little about the scene which I believe did cross the line that is where Lytton has his hands crushed to a bloody pulp by the Cybermen. It was actually even included in Timeframe by David J. Howe as one of the selected magic moments of the series!

I feel that blood has no place in Doctor Who and all injuries should be internal and caused by fantastical weapons that children will imitate with sounds. Ooze running out of corpses and the like was a trademark of the 5th Doctor's era and was actually a very good substitute and retained for the death of Mestor in The Twin Dilemma. Having said this, it must be noted that the 6th Doctor was not present in the aforementioned scene and I feel the scene was an attempt to reinforce the ruthlessness of the Cybermen as a race.

The Mark of The Rani features people being transformed into trees which is more laughable than graphic. It is all done in puffs of smoke of course and there isn't even time for the traditional scream. Despite popular belief, The Two Doctors does not feature any cannibalism at all. Shockeye is an alien. I think some people need to look up the definition of cannibalism in the dictionary, you definitely have to belong to the same species as your meal for it to qualify as such. In Timelash the Doctor merely reflects the Borad's beam back onto him, causing his clone as it turned out, to age to death. At the end of the story the Doctor felt his exile to 12th Century Scotland was a just punishment - not death! Cannibalism on a mass scale is referred to in Revelation of the Daleks, much to the disgust of the Doctor and Orcini. Davros has in fact been financing his experiments into producing Dalek/human hybrids by selling the remains of those interred on Necros in the form of a concentrated protein to starving human colonies. It's a disgusting thought but it's meant to be: Davros is evil. He had his own people wiped out in Genesis of the Daleks because it suited his purposes. It's remarkable the difference a large alien in a kilt licking his lips over humanity can make isn't it!

In conclusion I must say that the degree of violence during Colin Baker's tenure has been exaggerated. In fact compared to some other seasons, I have found season 22 it to be rather mild. I think there have always been a number of people who have disliked Colin's portrayal and have used a few little production misjudments to slander his interpretation and his stories. To me the 6th Doctor is the definitive Doctor as he draws strongly on all other Doctors up to his own time and also injected a great deal of individuality. He played the Doctor as a tough hero, just as Tom did during his peak. If you don't like his interpretation I can deal with that, but don't lie in order to make an argument. I have a great deal of regard for Peter's era but don't think much of his Doctor. When I say he looks uneasy in the role I'm not claiming anything Peter hasn't admitted himself. I don't have to lie and distort to make my point. In fact I like season 21 because he largely began to find his feet and toughen up a bit (i.e. Resurrection of the Daleks) and arguably become a more pro-active Doctor in the tradition of his predecessor and successor. The 6th Doctor will of course continue to be the most controversial Doctor of all, which is sad because I suspect given time his popularity would have eventually rivalled that of Tom Baker. It is fitting to note that he was recently voted most popular Doctor in a DWM poll - a long overdue endorsement of character who was certainly the best Doctor of the 80's, if not of all time.


Big Finish guide! by Joe Ford 10/3/03

Okay okay okay... enough of this Big Finish audios isn't proper Doctor Who already! If you don't want to fork out 13.99 every month then why not check out my handy guide to find out just which one's are worth looking into...

Phantasmagoria.
Doctor: Fifth (with Turlough)
Top moment: The Doctor plays Valentine at his own game...
Overall: An excellent start. A funny, atmospheric piece with lots of good OTT characters and a wonderful villain. What's more the horrible team of Davison and Strickson (at least horrible on the telly) is given a very entertaining spin by the talented Mark Gatiss: 9/10

Whispers of Terror.
Doctor: Sixth (with Peri)
Top moment: Beth Purnell torturing the sound-villain. Oh and the woman who gets stabbed is pretty scary too.
Overall: Spooky. Justin Richards writes a script that exploits the sound medium to the full and the production is full of wonderfully scary bits. Colin and Nicola sound much like they did on telly... bitching and moaning... look to other productions to see them both at their best: 7/10

The Land of the Dead.
Doctor: Fifth (with Nyssa)
Top moment: the first TARDIS scene where you're genuinely happy to hear Sarah Sutton again before the tedium of the script settles in.
Overall: Dull as dishwater and then some. What a horribly complicated and boring plot. Even Davison and Sutton can't hide their boderm and the guest characters are just atrocious. Avoid at all cost (unless you're having trouble sleeping!): 2/10

The Fearmonger.
Doctor: Seventh (and Ace)
Top moment: Has the Doctor been infected by the Fearmonger... top cliffhanger at the end of episode three.
Overall: Great dialogue throughout and a good production convinces you this could have taken place in season 27. Jackie Pearce makes a star turn as the fascist dictator (hmm and that's probably not going far enough) and Alistair Locks gritty score is perfect. Exciting and pacy: 8/10

The Marian Conspiracy.
Doctor: Sixth (with Evelyn)
Top moment: The scene where the Doctor tries to tell Evelyn about his chat with Willian Cecil is laugh out loud hysterical. His quiet moments with Queen Anne are priceless.
Overall: An excellent historical with a simple but compelling plot. Maggie Stables makes a fine impression as Evelyn and already she and Colin have great chemistry. Not for those who want action and thrills but for the quiter, cleverer side of Who it gets a definate thumbs up: 9/10

The Genocide Machine.
Doctor Seventh (and Ace)
Top moment: The entire second episode as the Daleks make their presence felt...
Overall: A good action piece that falls to pieces in the last episode. The sound effects are exceptional and it is never confusing during the action pieces who is fighting who. McCoy overacts (as ever) but Sophie is still acting for two. I love the comedy character Mr Prink who never gets a word in!: 8/10

Red Dawn.
Doctor: Fifth (and Peri)
Top moment: The chilling cliffhanger to episode one... the Ice Warriors are here...
Overall: Hmm a bit underated actually. Okay so we have Stephen Fewel as one of the dullest bad guys ever but the portrayl of the Ice Warriors (as noble creatures) almost makes it worthwhile. Russell Stone's high octane score halps alot and fortunately Davison and Bryant make an engaging team: 7/10

The Spectre of Lanyon Moor.
Doctor: Sixth (with Evelyn and the Brigadier)
Top moment: Evelyn describing her attack by the imp creature, very creepy.
Overall: A gothic tale with all the spooky trimmings. Its also a good SF tale full of memorable characters too. The dialogue is fantastic and there are lots of scary bits to keep your interest perked up (Nicky's death, Mrs Moyailhan being savage by her dogs!). Evelyn continues to impress and has a great line in sarcasm ("You're crackers!"): 8.5/10

Winter for the Adept.
Doctor: Fifth (with Nyssa)
Top moment: The mirror smashing to the floor and then the fragments collecting in the air to attack. Oh and the Doctor being pursued by a grand piano!
Overall: Another underated Davison adventure (brr... I must stop saying that!) which has atmosphere in spades but little of a coherent plot to go around it. There are some fine characters here (Ms Tremayne the Scot's headmistress is scary as hell!) and the music by Russell Stone compliments the horror of the tale perfectly. It just has a daft ending that spoils things considerably: 6/10

The Apocalypse Element.
Doctor: Sixth (with Evelyn)
Top moment: President Romana's meloncholic monologue in her cell talking about the horror of the Daleks. The Doctor's outburst at Evelyn in episode four is shocking.
Overall: A bit of a mess really. It tries to be an action piece but wants to tell too many stories (the missing planet Archetrax, Romana's abduction, Evelyn's first encounter with Daleks, the invasion of Gallifrey...) and ends up being the Resurrection of the Daleks of the audios. All style and no substance. Superficially entertaining: 6/10

The Fires of Vulcan.
Doctor: Seventh (with Mel)
Top moment: the end of episode two. Mel is arrested just one day before the volcano is to erupt. How on earth can she escape this one?
Overall: A masterpiece. Bonnie Langford turns out to be a surprise success and delivers a tour de force performance as a companion struggling with her knowledge of the future. The score is beautifully cinematic and the cliffhangers are gripping. Don't miss out on this one folks: 10/10

The Shadow of the Scourge.
Doctor: Seventh (with Ace and Benny)
Top moment: The Doctor is taken by the Scourge and Ace and Benny realise he has been beaten at chess by a better opponent...
Overall: Very good but poorly placed... anywhere else and this would be celebrated but surrounded by two classics it falls down a bit. Benny and Ace make a fine team, I love Sophie Aldred's turn as the more agressive Ace from the NA's. Paul Cornell has written a dense, complicated script with lots of well played emotional moments. And a killer ending: 8/10

The Holy Terror.
Doctor: Sixth (with Frobisher)
Top moment: The absolutely devasting ending... it left me in tears.
Overall: One of the best. Frobisher as played by Robert Jezek is witty, cool and entertaining. We should see more of him. Colin Baker makes a fantastic script even better and delivers his finest performance. So many excellent characters (Berengaria is hysterical!). Rob Shearman twists the story from high comedy to horror then tragedy and it hangs together so well no matter how many times you give it a listen: 10/10

The Mutant Phase.
Doctor: Fifth (with Nyssa)
Top moment: The Daleks call the Doctor's bluff and kill one of the hostages... his pained reaction is great.
Overall: Tedious and dull, even the Daleks are boring this time round. The plot tries to be clever but before we can get to the good stuff in episode four we have to wade through three episodes of non-atmosphere and boring characters. No thanks: 3/10

Storm Warning.
Doctor: Eighth (with Charley)
Top moment: I'm sorry but the ROOOARRR scenes are just brilliant!
Overall: A jolly adventure romp to begin the eigth Doctor's audio adventures. It helps that McGann and Fisher are instantly likable. Gareth Thomas is great as Tamworth such an OTT British gent and yet all the more lovable for it. The Triskili are a very imaginative alien race and the whole story has a delightfully fresh feel to it: 9/10

Sword of Orion.
Doctor: Eighth (with Charley)
Top moment: It's kind of cool when the Cybermen get blown out into space.
Overall: Oh dear. Not as exciting as Nick Briggs would like to think it is and full of well 'ard characters that say things like "Shut it!" this is a tremendous letdown after the promise of the previous story. Even the Cybermen aren't around very much, the audio medium needs something more than the mere suggestion that they're hiding around the next corner. A bit dull to be honest: 4/10

Stones of Venice.
Doctor: Eighth (with Charley)
Top moment: The ending with Orcino killing himself to save Venice... it has the perfect romantic end.
Overall: Splendid, a Doctor Who romance full of secret cults, misguided Dukes, sinking cities and rebelling toad people. The score deserves to be heard on its own it is so beautiful and McGann is so gorgeously full of wit and charm you can't help but get excited with all the adventure as he does. Seductive: 9/10

Minuet in Hell.
Doctor: Eighth (with Charley)
Top moment: Senator Pickering knocks down Charley's bedroom door with the face of the devil screaming ("You're not Senator Pickering!" to which he replies in a very cocky... "You think?")
Overall: Terrible accents and way too long despite having some great ideas (an amnesiac Doctor being split between several people!) and another excellent return by the Brigadier. The US is depicted in a very stereotypical way full of cheesy characters like Dr Pargeter and Pickering (who even has the nerve to say "You varmit!"). Becky Lee is so obviously Buffy it's insulting: 5/10

Loups-Garoux.
Doctor: Fifth (with Turlough)
Top moment: The Doctor challenges Stubber and in doing so inadvertently becomes Ileana's champion! Much to his embarassment (tee hee).
Overall: Seriously overated this story is horribly edited in places and has far too many boring speeches about Turlough's 'dark side' (yawn). This is a werewolf story... too much chatting and not enough action. Marc Platt tries to make things thoughtful but it just ends up being dull. Still Alistair Lock's on hand and delivers a gorgeous score: 4/10

Dust Breeding.
Doctor: Seventh (with Ace).
Top moment: The unveiling of.... well just wait until you listen to the end of episode two!
Overall: Better than the last two but far from perfect. Caroline John has a lot of fun with her OTT role of Madame Salvodori and she is great fun to listen to. Sophie Aldred disappoints... she spends most of the story shouting and her replacement Bev Tarrant (from Genocide Machine) is a bit bland to care about. A case of too much plot too with leads to a overloaded fourth episode. The Krill are cool and should return soon: 6/10

Bloodtide.
Doctor: Sixth (with Evelyn)
Top moment: The discovery of the Silurians larder... human corpses hanging from meat hooks...
Overall: After a bad eighth, fifth and seventh Doctor audio Colin Baker returns to save the day. The Doctor and Evelyn's scenes in episode one are a delight, their scenes together radiate such warmth. The story itself is intelligent and thoughtful with a new twist added to the Silurians to keep them interesting. Darwin's inclusion should be gratuitous but it isn't, it makes the story and listening to Evelyn trying to resist pushing him closer to his theories is great fun: 8/10

Project: Twilight.
Doctor: Sixth (with Evelyn)
Top moment: Cassie's gradual transformation in episode four.
Overall: Gritty, dramatic and rivetting. A perfect recipe of gore, violence and drama. Evelyn was the perfect choice for this story as the horror seems all the more repulsive through her eyes and the sixth Doctor once again proves how shocking he can be (his reaction to the truth about the villains is exceptional). Reggie and Amelia are memorable villains and I really want to know how Cassie is getting on now: 10/10

The Eye of the Scorpion.
Doctor: Fifth (with Peri and introducing Erimem)
Top moment: Peri's schizophrenic attack in episode four.
Overall: It seems ages since there was a decent fifth Doctor story (hmmm) and its good to say this is a return to form. A snappy psduo-historical with some good politics reminicent of The Aztecs. Nicola Bryant continues to ahine on audio and has great chemistry with newcomer Caroline Morris. They hold up episode three on their own beautifully. Yanis is a poorly acted bad guy but his rantings aren't enough to drag this fascinating look at Egyptian culture down: 8/10

Colditz.
Doctor: Seventh (with Ace)
Top moment: Easily the most exciting moment yet as Kurtz is torn apart by the TARDIS!
Overall: Steve Lyons has written another fascinating historical with lots of detail. There are some great set pieces here from Ace's escape from Colditz to the Doctor's mind bending conversations with Kline (who makes a brillaint baddie!). Great militaristic music too. All in all this an underated gem: 9/10

Primeval.
Doctor: Fifth (with Nyssa)
Top moment: Kwundaar taunts the Doctor ("Don't turn around..." "I'm not frightened of you!" "No but you haven't turned around have you?") and then he attacks him!
Overall: Pleasant and easy on the ear thanks to another seductive score by Russell Stone. It's a bit talky in places though and the people of Traken are such hypocrites its hard to care a fig for any of them. Still Nyssa gets some nice development (and a semi-romance with Sabien) and Kwundaar is a great, silky voiced villain (of which Big Finish is chalking up an impressive number of by now!): 8/10

The One Doctor.
Doctor: Sixth (with Mel, Sally Anne Stubbins and Banto Zame!)
Top moment: Too many to mention but for laugh out loud brilliance it would have to be the Doctor/Banto scenes ("Have you taken a look in the mirror lately... come to think I don't think you've done much else!" or "Oh here we go another voyage around the English language!").
Overall: For sheer entertainment you can't do better. Another cracking performance by Langford who has a great time poking fun at her character ("You can drop the goody-two shoes act!" "What act?"). Very, very funny with lots of heart warming moments... Big Finish have taken the TV show's most unpopular team and made them the most popular in the course of one story (This won the best audio poll in DWM). What an achievement: 10/10

Invaders from Mars.
Doctor: Eighth (with Charley)
Top moment: Any bit with Mouse who has the funniest accent ever!
Overall: Enjoyably camp with a hysterical score. It's not the strongest story introduce McGann back in on but its a lot of fun especially with all the kidnappings, camp villany and insane aliens! A fine parody of the gangster genre with two excellent guest spots for Jessica Stevenson and Simon Pegg from Spaced: 7/10

Chimes of Midnight.
Doctor: Eighth (with Charley)
Top moment: The whole thing is brilliant but okay, the heartfelt conclusion between the Doctor and Charley.
Overall: A classic with a creepy soundtrack and a frightening Sapphire and Steel atmosphere. It's another Rob Shearman masterpiece with plenty of sick humour ("She's been stuffed with her own Plum Pudding!"), intriguing mysteries (the eerie episode one) and set pieces (Charley turning against the Doctor and becoming Mr Grove's daughter, time racing forward to take anothe victim...). The last episode is the best with the plaudits going to the character of Edith who manages to be pathetic and supremely sympathetic at the same time. Brilliant conclusion proving how perfect McGann and Fisher are together: 10/10

Seasons of Fear.
Doctor: Eighth (with Charley)
Top moment: The surprise appearance of.... oh you'll have to wait and listen to the end of episode three!
Overall: Poor Paul Cornell he always comes along at the worst times once again following a towering classic his story pales in comparison. It is still a strong tale with lots of historical facts that are interesting and another good role for Charley as the plucky sidekick ("I went to an orgy once!"). We'll call this The Keys of Marinus of the audios... lots of hoppin about and fun little tales all compressed into one entertaining whole. Cracking cliffhanger too: 8/10

Embrace the Darkness.
Doctor: Eighth (with Charley)
Top moment: The suitably horrible cliffhanger to episode one.
Overall: Sorely underated this is an atmospheric tale with lots of great lines and brilliant red herrings. The post production work is terrific giving the story a real SF feel (the ROSM units sound fab!). A more subdued McGann is something i'd like to see more of and his bites at some of the characters are great. It is surprising the amount of tension they rake from an audio story: 9/10

Time of the Daleks.
Doctor: Eighth (with Charley)
Top moment: Leaman gets her just desserts in the end when she is mutated into a Dalek... cool and disgusting!
Overall: Needs two or three listenings to aprichiate all the nuances Justin Richards has put in the dialogue but it emerges as another strong eighth Doctor tale with a fascinating new role for the Daleks. To hear them quoting Shakespeare is both funny and disturbing... good job. Leaman is marvellous, what a cow but you can't help but cheer her on. Interesting: 8/10

Neverland.
Doctor: Eighth (with Charley and Romana)
Top moment: The Doctor's final choice... kill Charley or sacrifice the Web of Time...
Overall: Yes it's a bit dialogue cluttered in places and the plot goes into overdrive in the last twenty minuts but who cares? A truly imaginative script that takes on the monumental task of wrapping up the McGann season and manages to give Charley's situation a truly emotional and sensitive end. Romana makes another startling performance and there are loads of strong images thrown in (especially in Neverland... but the frozen TARDIS is also quite excellent). Amazing, nail biting cliffhanger too: 9/10

Spare Parts.
Doctor: Fifth (with Nyssa)
Top moment: The incredible twist end... find out just how badly the Doctor influences the Cybermen's history...
Overall: Excellent. Top notch human drama and gripping SF too. Sarah Sutton and Peter Davison give their best performances yet (and have a heartfelt argument in episode two... their best moment together ever!). A dramatic, rising score by Russell Stone punctuates the genesis of the Cybermen...: 10/10

...ish
Doctor: Sixth (with Peri)
Top moment: The end of episode one ("What makes you think you'll get out of here alive...?"
Overall: A delicious script, superbly performed. I love this with every fibre of my being. I've heard it be called torturously complicated but it's not, it's intelligent, literate and makes perfect sense if you listen carefully. A traditional Doctor Who story given a lexical twist as the longest word ever invades our vocabulary and attempts to destroy all language. And how great is Colin Baker... once again proving why he's the best Doctor of them all: 10/10

The Rapture.
Doctor: Seventh (with Ace)
Top moment: The incredible head fuck that is the end of episode two.
Overall: Childish but compelling it is the horrible acting that lets this one down... the worst production in a while (but still pretty good). The music is phenomenal and carries the production throughout. McCoy gives a towering powerformance outclassing Aldred for a change who plays the teen angst of her character a bit too melodramatically. Once again the ideas are good and as a whole the production is very listenable: 7/10

The Sandman.
Doctor: Sixth (with Evelyn)
Top moment: The end of episode one, the entire first episode is subverted as the Doctor turns very nasty indeed...
Overall: Subsequent re-listenings have changed my opinion of this one quite a bit. It's very moody and has a great premise (the Doctor as the bad guy!) and uses it to the full. This script is a gift to Colin Baker who gets to play bad big time and loves evey second of it... this visious, condescending monster he plays so well and yet there are still so glorious gentle scenes to play that against. In all a good SF tale, the Galyari are superbly explored and Evelyn is so welcome after such a time away: 9/10

The Church and the Crown.
Doctor: Fifth (with Peri and Eremim)
Top moment: Any bit with Nicola Bryant as the Queen. What a performance.
Overall: What a let down, what promises to be a fun swashbuckling adventure turns out to be a damp rip off of every Doctor Who historical ever made! Davison is forgotten about as he has such wonderful (and far more interesting) companions around him. Nicola Bryant is astonishing, let's hope we see more of her soon. I just couldn't get involved with the overdone melodrama of this one. Sorry: 4/10

Well I hope I've helped a little bit. I hope you enjoy the audios as much as I have... and if you've given them a try, try out some these I reccomend, you might find yourself surprising addicted.

Supplement, 14/1/04:

Jubilee: What a mixed reaction this piece received. Generally fans appeared to relish it, enjoying its rich characterisation of the Dalek slave, the scathing comments about the commercialism of the show, the witty lines and the dramatic use of top companion Evelyn Smythe. Non-fans mocked the strong humour, the unbalanced characters and the sicker moments. I loved it, a Rob Shearman commentary on the Doctor Who universe, more than any other CD this year it made me think: 9.5/10

Nekromanteia: Oh dear, a space opera, not one of Doctor Who's greatest genres anyway, that lacks the three things that would make it work. Interesting characters, excitement and suspense. The Doc/Peri/Erimem has already started to lose its impact and Davison gives his worst performance of the year, the scenes in his head are about as revealing as his celery explanation in Androzani! And I hate the music: 2/10

The Dark Flame: And we started the year so well! It's the first of Big Finish's epics this year, by that I mean short stories stretched beyond capacity to a two hour length and filled with pointless running about and bitching. There are some good ideas here, a space travelling cult is worthy of a follow up but this all so predictable and slow not to mention another poor attempt from McCoy whose seventh Doctor is starting look a bit stale: 2/10

Doctor Who and the Pirates: Are they only trying with the sixth Doctor audios? Yes this is the famous musical, well at least part three is and yes it's brilliant. The lyrics are witty, the songs are catchy and the payoff is satisfying. Evelyn once again comes across very well; her breakdown in episode four is one of the most dramatic Doctor Who moments. Colin Baker gets his own classic: 9/10

Creatures of Beauty: I love Nick Briggs' work, he's always trying something different and ploughs ahead to give the best work he can, whether fans will hate it or not. This story deliciously plotted to tell the tale in fractured non-linear chunks takes a lot of work but is ultimately fascinating and rewarding. I love it when the audience is left to do some of the work and this is the ultimate story in that style. Great use of Sarah Sutton too: 8/10

Project Lazarus: A tale of two halves, the first half being gritty, dramatic and emotional and the second half being disturbing, twisted but a bit empty. Once again it is Maggie Stables who makes the most impression, her viscous reaction to Cassie's death being one of the highlights of the year. McCoy manages to rein his over excitable tendencies and delivers a quieter, more intense performance and Colin Baker pleases in two very different roles. It is superficially gripping but don't go looking for too much intelligence underneath: 6/10

Flip-Flop: Hmm, a story that is too invested in being a story to actually tell as story! Does that make sense? No? Then go listen to this, another overlong piece that is too obsessed with plot mechanics than characters and hard to get involved with as a result. The direction is weak, some entertainment is available thanks to witty lines and Bonnie Langford's star turn but ultimately the two responsible for the story (Morris and Russell) fail in their attempt to make this screwball temporal thriller as fun as it is clearly meant to be: 5/10

Omega: Another half/half story, it is genuinely funny in places and Davison rocks throughout. The twists come thick and fast in later episodes and the cliffhanger to episode three is a winner. However the first episode is dreadfully boring and I had no compulsion to finish the story after hearing it. The music (shame on you Stone!) fights the story and the direction again lacks punch (tut tut Russell). I enjoyed this a lot but it should be a classic and never once reaches close to that status: 7/10

Davros: Colin Baker and Terry Molloy, outstanding. Gary Russell and Bernard Horsfall, disappointing. Wendy Padbury, a surprise success! The script, lyrical and dramatic but way, way too long. The big events feel small (nuclear explosions, climatic suicides) and small events feel BIG (the intimate exploration into Davros' character, the flashbacks to his non-romance) and the overall package is spoiled by a director who is taking on far too much work and not lavishing enough time on each piece: 6/10

Master: Gary Russell get away from the director's chair! Joseph Lidster get a decent script editor! It seems a shame to critisize Master when it does succeed in its basic aim in taking the Doctor/Master to a new place, exploring their old friendship rather than their rivalry in a powerful fashion. It's the incidentals that are lacking, the murder mystery is predictable, the secondary characters are Unlikable and the sudden twist into horror/SF territory with the appearance of a comically melodramatic Death harms the story terribly. A shame: 5/10

Zagreus: Oh shit, looking over my scores so far it is clear I have been less than satisfied this year and here is the real crunch, the worst Big Finish story I have ever listened to made all the worse thanks to their 18 month gap whetting the appetites of the fans. Go read my review for my reasons but I truly believe this is not the way Big Finish should be taking the series, there is now more continuity in this series than there ever was in the eighties: 0.5/10 (Nicola Bryant is hysterically good!)

Scherzo: At last! At last! I can say something nice! And this really is a fantastic story, experimental in all the right ways and exploiting the audio medium in fascinating and disconcerting ways. Paul McGann and India Fisher give emotional performances and guide you effortlessly through 100 minutes of riveting, powerful drama. The setting is unique, very alien and brilliantly scary throughout. I loved it: 10/10

Doctor Who Unbound:

Auld Mortality: Go and read Rob Matthews review of this story, what a wonderful piece of writing and he sums up well my feelings on this story. The only real disappointments are Carole Ann Ford who still fails to convince as Susan after all these years and Marc Platt continues to be quite a pretentious writer, obsessed with getting his view of the show across. The story is intelligent, touching, refreshing even so: 8/10

Sympathy for the Devil: Now David Warner is a guy I would love to see taking on the Doctor more! This is so different from Auld Mortality, fast paced, exciting and full right bastards! The music is great and the production never once fails to convince, it shocks me to think these shock looks into the possible worlds of Doctor Who are more gripping than the real ones this year. The last scene is an annoying tease: 8/10

Full Fathom Five: If there was anybody who could convince you the Doctor is a caring, thoughtful guy and twist him into a nasty, selfish bastard in the space of 70 minutes then David Bishop is your man! The story revels in its cliches, helping to make you feel safe before slapping you in the face with the final, breathtaking twist. The atmosphere is dark and disturbing and despite the presence of some iffy accents the production impresses a lot: 9/10

He Jests at Scars: Oh just when it was going so well Gary Russell had to get in on the action! Stick to your day job mate, this script is crap! A tedious, unimaginative mess that makes zero sense treats its characters (and the audience) like imbeciles and has the audacity to waste Bonnie Langford in a role she should have refused to play. The more I listened the more annoyed I got until the last scene, which capped off the whole nightmare with a spin on the 'did this really happen' idea. God I hope not: 1/10

Deadline: I would have thought it impossible, a Rob Shearman script I hate and the one he claims was his best! I don't understand the point of setting a story in a nursing home where the main character abuses his family, ignores his friends and loses his grip on reality. It deals with nasty stereotypes, bored kids, schizo nurses, unbalanced sons and fails to say anything interesting about any of them. Set in one room (or the entire universe) this story pokes fun at Doctor Who by including aspects of real life the show shouldn't touch: 2/10

Exile: I think the last line of my review summed this story up perfectly in my eyes; "I loved every second of it. Now don't do it ever again"... a one off experiment with a female Doctor who gets drunk a lot, has a job at Sainbury's car park and hangs out with two illiterate losers. Nick Briggs again, of course, making us wet our pants with laughter and upsetting half of fandom in the process! Ever wanted to hear a Time Lord say "Oh shit!"?: 7/10

Supplement, 27/10/04:

The Creed of the Kromon: Surely one of the dullest chapters in the eighth Doctor's life and proof that the cult of Gary Russell made a huge mistake containing his adventures in the third season to one planet. It is a plodding run-around with little sparkle and introduces the incredibly dull new companion C'rizz and even Charley seems boring compared to her superlative treatment in the last story. It's another overlong with too little plot and too much exposition: 2/10

The Natural History of Fear: Loved and loathed in equal measures, I was pretty much on the fence with this one. The schizophrenic season three takes another silly risk with this experimental tale of mind wipes and controlled societies. On the plus side Paul McGann and India Fisher both give phenomenal performances, surely some of their best ever material. On the downside it's all a bit complicated and silly with a twist at the end that is so silly it defies belief: 6/10

The Twilight Kingdom: Oh dear, the point where I nearly gave up on Big Finish. It's a competent run-around but there is nothing to define from all the other competent run-arounds Doctor Who has served up over the years. Micheal Keating makes an ineffective villain and Paul McGann seems to have given up interest in the story, sounding very, very bored. Its clich├ęd and obvious and features Charley acting very Adric-like. One of the blandest stories ever: 4/10

The Axis of Insanity: The best Peter Davison story is ages... the fifth Doctor is given especially much to do but Davison is on real form anyway, shouting and cursing and bringing the story alive. The twisted character of the Jester is one of the better Big Finish baddies and his world is memorably frightening, providing loads of dangerous fun for Peri and Erimem. There is a great musical score and the script is loaded with imaginative ideas and witty lines. The best story in nearly a year: 9/10

Arrangements for War: Doctor Who as a Mills and Boon romance? Yuck surely? Trust the superb Maggie Stables to refuse to let this sink into hopeless melodrama and keep the listener just on the edge of tears throughout. It is heartbreaking to imagine Evelyn leaving the Doctor and Colin Baker's sensitive portrayal of the Doctor helplessly out of depth when dealing with human emotions keeps you riveted. Another fab score and the political back-story is for once genuinely interesting. Well written and acted, it is a real return to form for Big Finish: 8/10

The Harvest: Well I never - a decent seventh Doctor story! We haven't had one of those since Colditz! Philip Oliver makes a terrific debut as Hex, the laddish hospital nurse who joins the Doctor and Ace in this horror tale of organ theft and emotion harvesting. There is some juicy horrific material but the human element is never forgotten and one of the Doctor's old foes returns with unexpected style, having a much better success on audio than their last few years on telly: 8/10

The Roof of the World: The first episode drags terribly with little of interest happening. The second episode is an psychological tour de force, exploring Erimem's past in succulent detail. The third episode is a bizarre mixture of embarrassing SF ideas and silly voices and genuine human emotions. The fourth episode wraps everything up rather too neatly and and reveals the monsters to be rather less interesting than their build up. A real mixed up story, which entertains but offers nothing new: 6/10

Medicinal Purposes: Hmm... not the gothic nightmare I was expecting because this is an SF story disguised as a historical. Leslie Phillips shines as the callous Dr Knox and has some delicious scenes with Colin Baker's jolly Doctor. The atmospherics are all in place and yet the story loses points because it concentrates more on plot than character and refuses to deal with the grotesque idea of bodysnatching outside of a Doctor Who style-romp. It's a perfectly good story, just not what I was expecting: 7/10


Manic Episodes: In Praise Of The Format by Matthew Harris 21/4/03

Now, as you may have noticed, there has been a lot of complaint about the fact that our beloved show has been axed. In fact, there has been a steady stream of animosity for, oh, about thirteen years. Fourteen, sorry. And for much of that time, the BBC has ignored it, putting it down to where it comes from - that is to say, a bunch of sad, spoddy SF-conventioning Comic-Book Guys, which, while an accurate description of much of the fanbase, hardly justifies their ignorance. Even Comic-Book-Guys deserve a say.

Anyway, it turned out last year that Heggessy, the Queen of BBC One, She Who Brought The Dancers (which, now I come to think of it, will be lost on the non-British readers, but it's so manifestly unimportant I don't know why it isn't lost on the rest of us as well), Lorraine Bloody Heggessy, anyway, she is, er, a fan. Or at least appreciates the show. Big yay. No, really. And she's (apparently) now embroiled in talks over "rights issues" with a view to thinking about contemplating bringing it back, a bit. At least she's trying.

This news inevitably took over the hearts and minds of Doctor Who fandom for all of a fortnight, before everyone realised that, despite talks continuing (and still continuing as I type this, by all accounts), it still wasn't back. And so, jaded by one more disappointment among several, they got bored and went home.

But during that rather wonderful fortnight, any casual observer to rec.arts.drwho could conceivably have had a small aneurysm at the newsgroup's content - for instead of being filled with people whining about how the McCoy era wasn't to their taste, and other people whining about the people whining about the McCoy era not agreeing with them, and some of the more hardcore twats slagging off anything and everything, just because they had been involved with the series after 1987 (Mark Ayres and Alan Wareing, for Christ's sake!), the good folk of RADW had made lists. Lots and lots of lists. Lists of things that they wanted to see and didn't want to see in the (any) new series.

Included in these lists were things like casting McGann (of course), not casting Ainley (or Roberts), losing much of the continuity, apart from the TARDIS (uh-huh). There was the odd radical thing, like tearing the whole thing down, losing the Doctor and starting all over again years later, but few people responded to those.

There was one thing, however, that most everyone agreed with. This was to lose the episodic format, and go with 50-minute episodes a la Star Trek.

And this is where I scratch my head. Because, you see, I don't get it. I really do not get it. Excuse my going slightly unnecessary here, but... What. The. Bloody. HELL?

Take a look at that opening paragraph. How long did I say we'd been waiting? Fourteen years? It's closer to thirteen and a half, really, but either way it's a bloody long time. Thirteen and a half sodding years we've been waiting for a new series, and now we're closer than ever (I won't say we "are close") to getting one, your initial concept is to ruin it completely? Am I missing something? Why was I the only dissenting voice? Is "Doctor Who Fandom" in reality a codename for a shadowy BBC-funded organisation bent on bringing it down completely (which, now I come to think of it, doesn't seem that unlikely)? Am I alone in this world? What's going on?

Okay. Right. Calm blue ocean. Okay, so, we want the episodic format gone, do we? Zoom, out the window, bye-bye "NEXT EPISODE - PRIEST OF DEATH", so long, cliffhanger, nice knowing you, cliffhanger noise. Self-contained it is. Like Star Trek. One hour. Well, 50 minutes without the commercials. We can tell a decent story in 50 minutes. Or 45. Hey, that's, like, er, half as long. Oh, well, never mind. We can do that. I mean, we had two-parters back in the day. We had, er, The Awakening. Um, and Kings' Demons... The Sontaran Experiment? The Rescue? Ah...

See, there's a reason why the old two-parters were the exceptions, rather than the rule. For the record, I enjoy all of those stories, but none of them are keepers in my collection. Do you want to know why? Well, I'll tell you anyway: because NONE OF THEM HAVE VERY MUCH DEPTH TO THEM. And that is because (do you see where I'm going with this?) they are TOO DAMN SHORT. All of them are gap-fillers, with the possible exception of Rescue... but even that was really a gap-filler with a new companion attached. And they all have something in common: rather crap endings.

Remember how Rescue ends? The Didonians suddenly appear from nowhere and kill the bad guy, then they bugger off again. The Awakening, meanwhile, has the Malus give up very easily at the end there, and after Styre in Experiment is defeated (also comparatively easily) the Marshal and his fleet also decide to give up and go home. Meanwhile, King's Demons doesn't even end at all, the Doctor just sods off in his TARDIS and lets the story finish itself without him. All of these had problems dealing with a 45-minute plot rather than an 80-minute one.

You know how a lot of Who fandom hates Star Trek? I don't, I quite like it (even Voyager - it picks up eventually, really it does), but it will never take the place of Who in my heart of hearts for one reason. It's big and red and it's called the Reset Button. 90% of all Star Trek episodes, no matter how enjoyable they might be (to me and Michael Hickerson, anyway) end with someone finding something right in the nick of time and saving the day. There just isn't time in forty-five minutes for enough to get done, and the sacrifice is almost always a proper conclusion. Most of fandom hates Star Trek, and yet seems to want to turn their series into it.

Imagine Caves Of Androzani truncated to less than half its length. Think of what is lost. Imagine Genesis of the Daleks squidged into 45 minutes. Does that work? Does it? Alright, so maybe it would have made a two-parter, but still, we've lost probably that whole, forbidding first episode, the whole character of Kavell and maybe Ravon, and possibly the conversation about the virus. It doesn't help the plot, does it? Does it? It's therefore surplus to requirements and goodnight, Vienna. Now can anyone, truly, hand-on-heart, really, actually, want that to happen?

(This isn't to say that it's impossible to inject depth into a 45-minute story - Black Orchid, for example - just that it's the exception rather than the rule. Rather tellingly, Black Orchid is a pure historical, rather than a science fiction one, and so Dudley was therefore arguably under much less pressure than he was for, say, King's Demons)

So, if that's all true, why do people want to shrink it? The main reason is that "the episodic format is dated" (as someone said on these very pages). Dated? That just means old. And yes, I suppose the episodic format is old. But so was William Hartnell. Evelyn Smythe's no spring chicken, either. Nor is the show, in fact - 26 years is a long time for a show to exist, especially a niche show like Doctor Who, and soon it celebrates its 40th anniversary and it's still going strong one way or another. My favourite football team, Plymouth Argyle (quiet, you) recently appointed Michael Foot, who I believe dates back to the Plesiozoic Era, as a director, and they got promoted as champions immediately afterwards! Dated? Well, yes. But who cares? It works!

"But no-one makes programmes episodically anymore!" I hear someone bleat. But they do; ER, The West Wing, Buffy and so on all have plots and subplots that span the entire season, which gives the writers the space they need to develop things, instead of simply moving them about a bit and then stopping altogether, as they are forced to do on Star Trek. Trek doesn't tend to develop storylines beyond two-parters and sequels very often, which is why it feels the limitations more. The open-ended format of Doctor Who (please tell me that bit at least is sacred) means it will be in the same boat - every episode utterly self-contained, with little possibility of season-wide subplots. It's going to hurt, in other words. Besides, since no-one does something anymore, is it any reason not to do it now?

All right, so there's been "arcs", and sequences like The Key To Time. But even they were largely self contained - the only Key To Time story that could give a damn about the Key To Time is Armageddon Factor, and the Psi-Powers and Cat's Cradle Arcs are built around unrelated stories with bits added on and taken off to give it some sort of continuity.

The other criticism is more tricky. Hooking it to a 4 or 6 part format, they reckon, is trying on the writers, constantly having to engineer cliffhangers rather than develop anything. Hmm. Well, yes, that is a danger. Look at Twin Dilemma, for example, where the first and last cliffhangers suddenly burst from nowhere, or almost any episode written by Terry Nation. But to a good writer it doesn't matter. The Man Robert Holmes, for example, gave us some truly memorable cliffhangers over the years. The Ultimate Foe, for instance. Anything from Caves. Both in The Two Doctors. The first and third in Deadly Assassin. The first in Carnival of Monsters. I could go on like this, but it's dull enough now, thank you.

And there are ways around it. Twin Dilemma made the mistake of thinking that "cliffhanger" means "the Doctor's in danger!" Not necessarily. Terence Dudley, for example, almost never used that format, except for Four To Doomsday episode 3, and to an extent King's Demons. But as a general rule, he preferred the shock-and-awe method (to coin a phrase) - "This is me." in Four being a good example, or the "chilling atmosphere"-style one in Black Orchid. A good writer can make the cliffhanger flow from the story. A bad writer (or one, like Anthony Steven, who's talented but unused to the format and genre, and is ill and dying anyway and whose typewriter exploded etc etc) is forced to tack their cliffhanger onto their story - a story which, if it's in that situation, is probably rubbish any road up. The moral of the story is: hire good writers. Which they'll hopefully do anyway.

The point I'm trying to make is that after fourteen years of waiting, now that there's a greater than 2% chance of bringing it back, why on Earth do people want to rob it of its main innovation - the 100-150 minute format? Why pester the BBC for a whole decade and more and then tell them to ruin everything? If you're in a restaurant, and the waiter's being unusually slow with your order, do you, once it finally arrives, pick up the plate and hurl it to the ground? Keeping the analogy up: if you order steak, and get a small, greasy, plain beefburger, would you be happy?

Don't drop the episodic format. It's what Doctor Who is all about. Never mind the beefburgers. Eat steak.


NA Thematic Chronology by John Seavey 23/4/03

I've been going on about this on Jade Pagoda for a while, so I do think it's time to set down my personal ideas of how the NAs wound up working in terms of their structure -- that is to say, even though it wasn't intended to have a unified, 61-book arc, it does seem that you can pin down various phases of characterization, theme, and so forth that exist in addition to and superceding the various different "story arcs" we see. There are, no doubt, a number of sub-phases this could be broken down into further, but I feel that simplicity is a virtue, so three it is.

Phase One: Birth Pangs
Timewyrm: Genesys-No Future

This first arc dealt with the baggage left behind by the TV series, with its new and radically different portrayal both of the Doctor (a more manipulative, "darker" Doctor who played bigger games with higher stakes) and of the relationship between the Doctor and his companion (trust and friendship, as with previous companions, but an undercurrent of manipulation and resentment that was entirely new.) Ace underwent significant change, turning from an angsty teenager to a violent and angsty adult, and we saw a new companion introduced in Bernice, who entered the series aware of the Doctor's manipulative nature, but very wary of it. As the series progressed through several "false resolutions" of the issue (Timewyrm: Revelation, Love and War, Lucifer Rising), tension levels rose among the TARDIS crew, finally culminating in the Alternate Universe Cycle, where an outside opponent used these tensions as a weapon against the Doctor. Defeating the enemy meant reconciling with his friends, and breaking the tension once and for all.

Phase Two: Smelling the Roses Tragedy Day-Happy Endings

After No Future, the Doctor and his companions finally and definitively reconciled with each other. The Doctor became somewhat less manipulative, but just as importantly, his companions grew to understand the pressures he was under, and come to accept their roles as occasional pawns. It even became something of a running joke (lines like "needs must when the Doctor drives" in SLEEPY, or the wonderful interchange between Chris and Roz in Death and Diplomacy). Every once in a while, hints of that tension rose up again (as in Head Games, where Melanie compares the Doctor she sees quite unfavorably with the Doctor she knew), but for the most part, the danger and tension came from outside of the TARDIS here, rather than inside. Even when Ace left, it was to take up the Doctor's role as protector of time, not because she hated him -- symbolically, at least, she'd become his daughter taking on the family profession. Her later appearances confirm and heighten this impression; witness Happy Endings, where she and the Doctor talk about the impending death of Danny Pain like two true professionals. Two new companions replace her, Chris and Roz, but they get assimilated into the TARDIS crew quickly, easily, and with the barest minimum of angst. All of this joy, happiness, and more straightforward adventures culminates in Happy Endings, Bernice's wedding and essentially a celebration and summation of the 49 previous New Adventures. It ends with the Doctor trying to leave his friends behind, only to be told, "Nobody should be alone."

Phase Three: Grave Reservations GodEngine-The Dying Days

By this point in real life, the television movie had already come out -- the Seventh Doctor, after gaining an extension to his life in print, suddenly found himself obsolete. From this point on, the New Adventures begin concentrating on connecting their stories to the FOX movie, and that meant preparing the Doctor for his own impending demise. Suitably for Time's Champion, the Doctor knew of his regeneration, and books like The Room With No Doors and Lungbarrow focused on his decision to face his future, and his own possible death, head-on. (It's important to note that the Doctor only knew of his future existence up through his seventh self -- as he puts it, he's the original Eighth Man Bound.) The Doctor wasn't the only person to face death, though; with So Vile A Sin, the series gave us the first companion death since Kamelion's in Planet of Fire, and the first meaningful companion death since Adric's in Earthshock. Like the Doctor, Roz knew that she faced death; her wonderful line, "This isn't history, it's family," could almost foreshadow the Doctor's trip to Lungbarrow. Ultimately, the books suggested that they were culminating this mortality trip the only way they could, as The Dying Days killed off the Eighth Doctor mid-way through the novel -- however, Lance Parkin saved the Doctor and ended the final phase of the New Adventures, an exploration of death, with a celebration of life. Regenerated and renewed, the Doctor continued on to a new series of adventures, if not to a series of New Adventures.


The EDA quick guide by Joe Ford 25/4/03

Part one:

Whilst scanning through Outpost Gallifreys forum I was shocked to discover how many fans of the books just buy the popular ones and have no idea what many of the others are about! So here, for the benefit of everybody (especially you Rob!) who only pick up the odd book is my definitive quick glance guide to the EDA's, what to watch out for and what to avoid like the plague!!!!

The Eight Doctors: A terrible start to the range, a confusing, continuity heavy mess with no coherence or character. As a leap board into a new range it tells us nothing about what is to come merely re-hashes so much of the past. Terrance Dicks prose is so very poor his Junior edition books were more of a compelling read. And what's more new companion Sam is awful. Avoid: 2/10

Vampire Science: This is more like it. Bold and refreshing with a great take on the movie's 8th Doctor, this actually feels like an opening story. Kate Orman works in successful collaboration with her husband and the book is a triumph of wit and scares. The imagery is quite memorable and Sam gets some of her best ever scenes where she realises just how dangerous it is to be the Doctor's companion: 9/10

The Bodysnatchers: Average but underrated. The Zygons really didn't need a return visit especially so unrecognisable from their debut TV story but it gives a chance for the Doctor and Sam to have a typical Doctor Who adventure in smoggy Victorian London with loads of good atmosphere. Some nice twists and characterisation help but we've seen all this before, a lot better: 6/10

Genocide: A rarity for this early into the EDA range but this is actually has quite an interesting storyline that is worth following to its memorable ending. Sam is used quite effectively and a companion returns in an older, slightly more memorable form. Good stuff if you can ignore the simplicity of the prose: 7/10

War of the Daleks: A convoluted, continuity obsessed (and destroyer of!) nightmare with enough plot to fill ten books. John Peel tries to take the Daleks into the new media and fails dismally. Loads of grating Daleks talking does not a good novel make!: 3/10

Alien Bodies: This is okay if a bit location bound and insipid in places. Some of the alien characters are fascinating and knock spots of the characterless 8th Doctor and Sam. The story begins on a real high and has an ending that everybody raves about but once you know the 'twist' in the tale it's really nothing special. Bonus points for the comical return of an old monster: 6/10

Kursaal: Well written and quite tense, this is a Earthshock part one, done better. Sam's continuing ability to betray the Doctor actually makes sense here and the story moves along with some marvellously gory passages and some excellent prose from Peter Anghelides. I would recommend this as how to get an early EDA right: 8/10

Option Lock: Justin Richards reminds us why he's in charge of the EDA's now with a brilliant entry, both atmospheric and gripping. With all the talk of war looming on the horizon this tale of nuclear Armageddon becomes even more exciting and the passages with the US military base being sabotaged and the nukes being fired are truly nail biting (and how often can you say that about the books?). And what's more Justin has remembered to give the 8th Doctor a personality and it is nice to have such a clever and involving hero for a change: 9/10

Longest Day: Michael Collier should never have been let near Doctor Who. His novels are only 280 pages long but they feel three times that length after you've dredged through the flat prose, uninvolving characters and boring SF ideas. Plus this is the point where we truly hate Sam and her treated of the Doctor. Why can't she just die? The aliens we meet here are so dull and the ending is a damp squib: 2/10

Legacy of the Daleks: OHMIGOD!!! This is (somehow) even worse than War withmore of the same but this time it's diluted into action adventure form which is insultingly simple. Some nice imagery (spider Daleks) cannot excuse an author who is making a mockery of both the TV series and the books: 1/10

Dreamstone Moon: An improvement but not perfect, at this point the hit rate of the books is so low we'll take anything that's better than the last two. Leonard has a good grasp of how to structure a good novel and his ideas in this are highly imaginative too. Sam is almost likable (until the end) and her friendship with some of the aliens provides some good scenes. It's too short but it's quite enjoyable for it: 6/10

Seeing I: This is so good it actually diminishes everything around it. An excellent psychological thriller taking the characterless Doctor and Sam and testing them to the limit. There are so many devastating moments it would take me ages to recite them. The scenes with the Doctor stuck in the prison where everybody is NICE to him and how it wears him down to nothing are nothing short of amazing. Sam grows into a young woman over three very memorable years. A superb book conforming the Orman/Blum name as one to watch for: 10/10

Placebo Effect: Ahhhh! No, get Gary Russell away from the typewriter! He's messing about with continuity (why? WHY???) and undoing all the good work done by Orman and Blum concerning the Doctor and Sam at the same time! His story is so slow moving you actually get excited during a wedding, the characters are awful. I don't know how this one made it to print: 0/10

Vanderdekens Children: Worthy and has bags of atmosphere, this still needs two or three re-writes. There are far too many characters rushing about and introduced in numbers it is extremely difficult to tell them apart. Still the cover is incredible, the story unfolds unpredictably (and tortures Sam so that can't be that bad!) and the 'vessel' proves to be one of the most intriguing locations for a long while. Bulis has done better but he's also done a lot worse: 7/10

The Scarlet Empress: The definitive Paul Margs book. It's quite wonderful, full of so much magic and wonder I read most of the book with a huge smile on my face. Iris is an incredible addition and very funny too (and if any book range needed a few laughs it was this one at this point!) and her scenes with the Doctor set the book alight! Hyspero is described in wonderful detail and is only the second alien planet I'd like to visit (after the planet in The Also People). Packed with detail and charming scenes, Margs' reputation was rocketed sky high from the very beginning. Even Sam's okay: 9/10

The Janus Conjunction: Second good book in a row (something of a record!) this introduces fab author Trevor Baxendale, coined 'traditional' Trevor by those who don't like his archetypal Doctor Who type stories. I think this is great, a fast paced, action packed mystery with tons of good characterisation and lots of healthy scenes of Sam melting away in a radioactive wasteland. The Doctor rocks in this, he's funny, charming and entertaining: 8/10

Beltempest: You cannot fault Jim Mortimore's ambition and he sets about destroying planets on a grand scale in this one. Unfortunately he forgets to tell a coherent story around it and the finished book has a bitter aftertaste to it, not attempting to justify death on such a grand scale. The Doctor is again on form (there are developments with Sam we would rather forget though) but he can't save a book that has not been edited with enough thought or detail. Jim has been responsible for some rip-roaring classics in the past but alas, this is not one of them: 4/10

The Face-Eater: Hmm... the first third is quite intriguing with an unusual but effective narrative style (basically it is told from different characters' POV one chapter at a time) and the planet is well brought to life but in the end a horror story without much horror just cannot sustain itself. The actual monster isn't worth getting excited about but an excellent twist later in the tale adds a lot of boost and tension to the story: 6/10

The Taint: Another disaster, albeit one that should have been much more. There are some effective passages here, especially concerning wonderful new regular Fitz but in the end Michael Collier just cannot hold my attention. The plot is good but the prose is just worthless with no drive to it. It feels as though he struggled to finish the book too with a sloppy ending. Still Fitz brings a little hope after the failed Doctor/Sam relationship: 4/10

Demontage: Bless Justin Richards, old hand at this game but so much better than practically anyone else having a go at the EDA's at this point. He tries his hand at comedy here. to unusual effect because this space opera has far more to it than that. Fitz proves to be a laugh and half and we even get Sam hidden for half of the book so we can spend some more time with this hysterical loser. The plot unfolds with the trademark Richards twists with a particularly brilliant poker game near the end. Effective and needed therapy for the range: 8/10

Revolution Man: Paul Leonard gets better with each book and this one has a killer of an ending that left me reeling. The plot is simple but quite strong (drug controlled hallucinations!) in places and Fitz and Sam are fleshed out nicely ina story that affectionately pokes fun at the 60's. Truly scary hallucinations: 8/10

Dominion: All the stuff with the Doctor and Fitz is wonderful especially the absolutely gripping attack on the house by the aliens but this is dragged down by Sam and her psycadelic adventures. UNIT is dragged out of mothballs and given a re-vamp and the action oriented scenes contain the right amount of oomph. Nick Walters has a good writing style, not too heavy but quite effective: 7/10

Unnatural History: Oh dear. Orman and Blum, my heroes finally let me down. Don't get me wrong this is a well written book with some more wonderful work done with the Doctor (more than any other writers they manage to capture the magic of the character) but the plot is just a big confusing mess that gets sillier and more complicated as it goes along. The US has lost its appeal as a Doctor Who setting too and the couple struggle to find anything new to say about it. Mind you I'm perhaps the only person who likes the fact that Fitz shags Dark Sam (a decent character): 5/10

Autumn Mist: Completely unmemorable, I can hardly remember anything about this book accept that David A McIntee is utterly obsessed with his weapons which are more lovingly described than his characters. Sorry folks but this one left no impression on me at all, for good or for ill: 5/10

Interference 1 and 2: Erm, not bad. It surely has a grand scope and has to tie up lots and succeeds on that front giving the horrible Sam a memorable send off and twists accepted history in a most unexpected way. There are some truly emotional scenes especially in book two as the Doctor makes the ultimate sacrifice. The book is trying to be far too clever for its own good though and seems to just go on and on. Miles has never been known for his concise attitude. There's lots that will make you laugh, cry and declare in a loud voice "I am a Doctor Who fan!" but there's also some stuff that will make you want to tear the pages out and burn them. A brave experiment that doesn't quite come off despite setting up good things to come: 6/10

The Blue Angel: A unique book that treads the fine line between comedy and drama that the show often did so successfully. This book is quite popular and it's easy to understand... these Margs books are packed with detail and spoilers. He writes for the new TARDIS team with a deft hand and convinces us confidently that this is definitely the right way to go. Iris is back in fine form (gee can't she be in every book). A Star Trek parody provides most of the laughs but this is actually quite touching book that hits all the right buttons: 9/10

Frontier Worlds: This is more like it, Anghelides returning in style writing a book that verges from the hysterical (that bloody robot!!!) to the disturbing (Compassion and her terrifying attitude) to the gripping (the gorgeous corn field climax!). The prose is stunning and the book has a real fresh feel to it what thanks to the fascinating three protagonists. The scene where Compassion leaves a character with an axe hanging from his head is unexpectedly magical: 9/10

Parallel 59: Underrated, this is two thirds good and one third running on the spot. Fortunately it is the beginning and end that rock and only some repetitive scenes in the middle that get tiresome. Fitz's plot is probably the best, his shagging adventures proving a lot more touching than they initially suggest. Stephen Cole has a good eye for his characters and there are some memorable bastards about this one. The ending is excellent, sombre and melancholic: 8/10

The Shadows of Avalon: Whoa this is a good run of stories... it's Paul Cornells turn to up the ante for the EDA's taking us on a wild trip of magic and danger. Some brilliant sequences especially involving the Doctor and the Brigadier add much to this involving drama. I love the character of Mab, she makes a formidable ally. There is a twist at the end that surely NOBODY saw coming and once again leaves us with hope for the next book: 9/10

The Fall of Yquatine: A space opera but a good one with some fine action sequences an drama. It is the private drama between the Doctor and Compassion that wows the most, as he effectively rapes his companion (don't forget she is a TARDIS... no funny business!!!) and the consequences are page turning stuff. Fitz falls in love again but that is never dull since he's such a readable loser you're rooting him for him every second of the way. It's not so much a wonderful whole but a sum of it's many exceptional parts: 8/10

Coldheart: A bit dull actually, Trevor Baxendale has got the Doctor right but never really sets his story up with enough drama or pathos. The prose is readable, quick and snappy but the setting and characters are difficult to care about. A near miss: 5/10

The Space Age: Oh dear, the usually reliable Steve Lyons disappoints big time with this strange tale of intergalactic space hippies. I never felt engaged or interested in the central story. The potential of this TARDIS crew is ebbing away and so is the time, a shame after some great earlier stories. Another quick read but severely lacking: 4/10

The Banquo Legacy: Incredible. Lane and Richards have written a superlative tale, chilling and fast paced. The narrative style is wonderful, the story dished out between two well rounded, fascinating characters. The first half is a tense chiller but it soon erupts into an out and out horror story with some of the most memorable deaths in the entire range. This is a wonderful piece and full proof of what the EDA's are capable of: 10/10

The Ancestor Cell Not a good end to Stephen Cole's editorial reign, this is a beastly book which I lost interest in early on thanks to its torturously complicated storyline and dull characters. Romana and Gallifrey are back but these strengths are quickly glossed over and the deathly dull faction paradox return to haunt the books again (what's the appeal?). If nothing else the end is as dramatic as anything the EDA's have managed and set the books off in a whole new direction...: 4/10

Part two:

The Burning: What has happened? Gone is the smiley buffoon of an 8th Doctor and in steps a darker, ruder and more violent version. I could read about him all day. Justin Richards returns the 8th Doctor to his Victorian roots and creates a wonderfully atmospheric story. Taking the simplest monster available (fire) a handful of exceptionally crafted characters and some vivid prose we have a strong, inventive beginning for the new 8th Doctor: 9/10

Casualties of War: Whoa, this is scary! An excellent debut novel from Steve Emmerson with some really terrifying images. The Doctor continues to grow into a formidable character this time indulging in almost romance with Mary Minett, a wonderful character we root for all the way. The book starts out slowly but the second half is packed with scares and action. The prose is gorgeous and the ending to die for: 9/10

The Turing Test: Wow, another winner and easily the best thing Paul Leonard has ever produced. It’s a literate novel told from the unique first person perspectives of three historical characters. Quite wonderfully Turning’s is the best as he is so besotted with the Doctor but Heller and Greene are both strong personalities too that make their mark most memorably. The ending is devastating; we are as shocked as the Doctor to see what lengths he will go to leave the planet. But it’s the unusual narrative that really elevates this one: 9/10

Endgame: This is actually quite a lot of fun assembled in a way only Terrance Dicks can with his quick, snappy chapters and comic book violence. This is more like a fast paced movie than a novel, switching locations without excuse and indulging in lots political machinations. The players are still interesting and the Doctor’s conversation with the Countess is a gem. Read it for Terrance’s unique look at how bored the 8th Doctor is now with his life on earth: 7/10

Father Time: Stunning. This is everything Human Nature should have been and more, brave, mature and utterly compelling. The Doctor finally settles down and has a family and realises he cannot have ties to this planet in one of the most emotional books in the range. Miranda is a great character that demands a return visit and the book is filled with magical scenes that stay with you long after the last page is turned (the rose petal tower, the transformer). The Doctor’s reaction to the death of his ‘wife’ is unexpectedly powerful: 10/10

Escape Velocity: Actually this isn’t that terrible, it’s just the past five books expose its faults more than it would if had stood alone. You’ve got the return of Fitz, the introduction of Anji and the TARDIS back… all great scenes and the final scene is a real charmer. Unfortunately Colin Brake’s space opera tale would suit TV much more (being as shallow as much current telly) and the climax is insultingly simple. Clunky prose too: 6/10

Earthworld: Bubbly, frothy and much needed. Jac Rayner’s steady hand is apparent in this outrageous comedy. Anji is fleshed out superbly after her first story and given a very strong voice. Fitz is treated to an overhaul too, providing some great laughs as he takes on Elvis (don’t ask!). It is this refreshingly unpretentious new TARDIS team and the imaginative surroundings that impress most. Great characters too: 8/10

Vanishing Point: Under Justin Richard’s hand Steve Cole produces a good novel with some really effective prose (just read the first page… its full of gorgeous imagery). The religious angle is very brave and dealt with in an unexpected way. The Doctor has emerged from the COE arc as a real star and his breathless enthusiasm in this just rocks! Not much else to sat except well done: 8/10

Eater of Wasps: Excellent. Trevor Traditional manages to shut up all his critics by providing a squirm inducing horror, which looks back at the TV series nostalgically but also looks to the future with much optimism. The more violent aspects of the Doctor are out in the open here in the most entertaining way. There are so many good bits from the exciting fight on a moving train roof to the disgusting wasp attacks to the poor old git Rigby turning quite horribly into a giant wasp: 9/10

The Year of Intelligent Tigers: Intelligent indeed and a return to form for Kate Orman. Hicthemus is one of the most vivid Doctor Who planets we have ever visited, its surface is explored thoroughly throughout becoming a character in it’s own right. The story is justifiably slow as it leaves room for some scorching character drama and the beginning of Anji’s long tirade against the Doctor. The ending will just blow you away: 9/10

The Slow Empire: Dave Stone disappoints by running out of steam before the book is out. While this is still is packed with wit and charm (I love the footnotes!) it's so unfocussed, the plot would only sustain one hundred pages but it's dragged out to double that length and more. Lots of fun diversions in a novel that betrays Doctor Who’s and Dave Stone’s talents… imagination (there’s just not enough of it here): 5/10

Dark Progeny: Quiet but mature. An impressive cast list head this eco thriller that manages to be much more than that describes. The opening passages are gripping and the climax shocking. The middle of the book is much slower but full of magical touches that flesh out the characters considerably. Another stellar portrayal of the Doctor (his reaction to the alien children is beautiful): 8/10

City of the Dead: Good stuff but far too overrated. Yes New Orleans is gorgeously recreated on page and yes the book manages to put a great spin on the occult with some deliciously dark scenes. Anji and Fitz are well treated too. But the ending is a mess and the book struggles to flow into a coherent whole. Still the Doctor’s nightmares are fantastically scary: 8/10

Grimm Reality: Ahh… not this one! A cynical fairytale is not something I would read by choice. There are some good lines, the odd funny joke and even a good twist or two but that can’t disguise the fact that this book has been written with adults in mind (which while writing a fairy tale is the ultimate crime). A tedious sub plot does not help matters. Neither does the tacked on ‘planet in danger’ ending: 4/10

The Adventuress of Henrietta Street: Lawrence Miles’ best work. He says he sweated blood over this one and it shows, it’s so full of historical detail, top-notch drama and genuine frights the books becomes an experience, not just another novel. The incredible narrative style gives the book a unique flavour and the arc twists are nothing short of masterful. It would be a nightmare to try and read this quickly but take your time with it and you’ll be privy to one of the greats: 10/10

Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Margs is back doing what he does best; making us wet our pants with laughter. This a superb follow up to Adventuress, a much-needed return to the fluffy adventures of old. Splitting the narrative between the different time periods gives the Doctor, Fitz and Anji a chance to shine on their own and there are some memorable surprises along the way. At the end of the day it’s the genuine good humour that gives this its bite: 9/10

Hope: A strong SF tale and good character piece for Anji. Silver is the best thing about this book though, a cool comic book villain who has a giant cybernetic arm. How cool is that? Hope itself is a memorable place to visit and enjoyably inhospitable. The Doctor/Anji fireworks give the book a real emotional kick: 8/10

Anachrophobia: Kept me awake some nights because it scared me so much. Another Doctor Who staple, the base under siege story, is worked into the books with real imagination and atmosphere. You really feel for the Doctor, Fitz and Anji as they are put through physical torture. The imagery of the clock-faced monsters is enough to give you nightmares and some of the death scenes gave me the shivers. An excellently written book: 9/10

Trading Futures: A surprisingly lightweight book from Lance Parkin, which still manages to impress thanks to some decent dialogue and good laughs. My least favourite genre, the spy thriller is given the Doctor Who overhaul and escapes the shallow confines of its Bond parody and emerges as a fun holiday novel. Nothing deep just a whole bunch of fun: 8/10

The Book of the Still: Paul Ebbs' incredible prose forces a couple of extra points onto this one because the overall book is so entertaining and psychedelic despites its made up plot and incomprehensible ending. It zooms by safely, Fitz coming up trumps in a subplot that looks set to disappoint but actually ends up quite touching. Loads of violence, dance routines and sadistic wankers never hurt a book either: 7/10

The Crooked World: Pleasantville the sequel set in cartoon land. Such a thoughtful book and yet so laugh out loud funny too. Nobody escapes the book without incredible growth including the reader. I love the characters and their funny quirks, Lyons captures all that is wonderful about cartoons and yet all that is lacking too. He reminds us why Doctor Who is so brilliant by providing a book that is in turns heartbreaking, hysterical and intelligent. Plus the cover's a beaut: 10/10

History 101: Another great debut but this time an extremely complicated one. The rewards are plentiful here, a female voice capturing Anji so beautifully, a miss-one-line-and-you’re-lost plot that gathers terrific momentum and drama, another frightening example of a TARDIS-less Doctor, Fitz out on his own experiencing history in the worst possible way… Mags L Halliday should be used again and soon this book is nothing short of brilliant: 9/10

Camera Obscura: Justifiably reknowned, this is another masterpiece in an unbelievable run of books. A delicious depiction of Victorian society enhances an already priceless examination of the Doctor/Sabbath relationship. The prose is unbeatable, not fancy but extremely evocative. I just wished this one could go on and on but in the end you’re left with 280 pages of pure delight: 10/10

TIME ZERO: What a corker, the short chapters enhance the tension and Justin Richards builds up a violent and action packed SF tale. He treats the regulars with a really sensitive touch and they steal much of the limelight but why not, they are by now the best book line-ups we’ve ever had! The last third is deliciously complicated so make sure you pay attention, it’ll leave you scratching you head but in the most wonderful way. And what a cliffhanger: 9/10

The Infinity Race: Anji’s bits are smashing, such a blatantly female look at time travelling adventures creates laughs a plenty and Fitz and his boyish dreams ad a lot of charm too. The book enjoys a comfortably Doctor Who-ish plot and has a nice run of well-defined characters (especially the pathetic Marius). However, it is a little too simple for my tastes and does take quite a while to get going. And by the end you want the narrative to stop shifting as it distracts you from the fireworks elsewhere: 7/10

The Domino Effect: Terrific, pulse racing work that doesn’t leave you time to put it down. David Bishop's ability to tell a tight human drama on such a grand scale still impresses me and his detailed and structured story adds a lot of juice back to the range. The last third is a unputdownable race against time and ends on a helluva cliff-hanger that leaves you gagging for more. What’s more he’s managed to use a staple of the books in an unexpected and imaginative way: 9/10

Supplement, 22/2/04:

Reckless Engineering: Humble but a little dull, this is the only book you can actually skip in the AUN arc without missing anything. Lacking Sabbath is welcome and the prose is rewarding, Walters proving he is improving with each book but the plot is a mess, sometimes deliberate, sometimes not so and with an ending this lazy and unsatisfying it is hard to get worked up: 4/10

The Last Resort: Gripping and wonderfully complicated, I love reading all the reviews of people who were tied in knots over this book. The plot is actually very simple but told in a fractured, easy to get lost way, Paul Leonard not interested in making it easy but trying out an experiment while he has the chance. I'd say he has succeeded, some of the most memorable EDA scenes crop up here: 8/10

Timeless: Outstanding and further proof that writing suits Stephen Cole more than editing. His characters shine, especially the regulars, the plot is snappy and full of twists, the atmosphere is delightful and most of all he shakes up the ongoing story in a fantastically unpredictable way. Who knew he could write something THIS good? Let's have another Steve: 9/10

Emotional Chemistry: Bizarrely out of place but a much welcome return to the historical genre, Simon Forward writes a mini epic about love over the centuries. It's well written, well characterised and well thought out but the absence of the regulars does jar somewhat, Trix having yet to prove her place in the series: 7/10

Sometime Never...: Oh snap this up right now, Justin Richards is responsible for the best book in ages, full of huge ideas and wrapping up plots that stretch back to his freshman editing days. The plot is a constant delight, the Doctor is as magical as he has ever been and Sabbath rocks big time in his best appearance to date. Everything The Ancestor Cell should have been but was not: 10/10

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