Eighth Doctor Who Paul McGann returns in Night of the Doctor

In 1989, Doctor Who was unceremoniously cancelled after its 26 year-long run. The Doctor and his companion Ace walked off into the sunset talking of other adventures that awaited them in the time and space but those stories would be restricted to comic strips, a series of new novels and eventually audios. In 1996, Doctor Who returned with a new lead actor, Paul McGann. Dressed in a high colored shirt and velvet jacket, the Eighth Doctor was Byronic in appearance and romantic at heart(s), but he was still the daring and brilliant adventurer of time and space.

The Eighth Doctor - Paul McGann

The Eighth Doctor – Paul McGann

After only appearing in a single made for TV pilot in 1996, McGann was not seen again on the screen as the Doctor… until now.

… pinch me. Christmas came early.

Like the previous Doctor, McGann’s adventures continued in comic strips and a series of novels. But it was when the actor returned to the part through Big Finish Productions that the Eighth Doctor finally got a new lease on life and found a new following. The Eighth Doctor had many companions – whom he names before he regenerates, thus at least hinting that his audio adventures ‘count’ as canon… these kinds of things matter to fans. As soon as a story un-writes something viewers can get antsy about what ‘counts’ and what doesn’t anymore. So these little things mean a lot.

Previous to ‘Night of the Doctor,’ the story of how the Eighth Doctor’s life ended and his regeneration was never told. With this minisode, that gap can finally be closed. Now we know how the Eighth Doctor sacrificed his life during the Time War and became the man needed at the time, a character now called ‘The War Doctor’ played by John Hurt (CGi’d to look young in a reflection).

McGann_2013_NightoftheDoctorSure, it has been said that bringing McGann back just for this 6 minute mini-story is a back handed compliment, but as it is likely all we are going to get I am prepared to accept it as the best thing to happen to Who since that first viewing of Rose in 2005.  The annals of fandom just got a bit more robust and fans of the Eighth Doctor may have swelled a bit as McGann wins over still more followers.

DrWho_McGann_2013Night of the Doctor sets the stage for the 50th anniversary adventure Day of the Doctor but it is a special gift to fans who have been following the program since its early days before Russell T Davies arrived and it also adds to the mythology of the new program. Not only do we have a story set during the Time War between the Daleks and Time Lords (something Moffat stated he was never interested in exploring), but we also can finally put to rest the conundrum of how the Eighth Doctor ‘died’ and answer some of the questions as to who the Doctor played by John Hurt is.

It also juggles the numbering up making Smith the 12th Doctor, not the 11th, until Moffat explains how the ‘War Doctor’ doesn’t count.

Unfamiliar with McGann? I recommend the following:

Doctor Who Big Finish- Storm Warning
Doctor Who and The Silver Turk
Doctor Who and The Blood of the Daleks
Doctor Who – Dark Eyes

(More McGann here)

Read more of my Doctor Who reviews by clicking here!

Read more of my Doctor Who reviews

Interviewed by the BBC, Steven Moffat had a lot to say about the special mini-sode:

Question: How did The Night of the Doctor come about?

Steven Moffat: Well, we had our new ‘hidden mystery’ Doctor and I was thinking, what else can we do for our anniversary year… I thought… Why don’t we get Paul McGann in and regenerate him into John Hurt? I’d like to see that! I’d love to see that! And we had this possibility that we could do it as a surprise, so we got in touch with Paul who was dead keen and I’m delighted to say he was so happy to join in with the idea of keeping it secret. He was childishly excited about it!

Paul came along and shot it – it was the last two days of the shoot for the fiftieth, actually. He did a wonderful job. It was great! We designed a new costume for him based on his old one. Howard Burden did a fantastic job with that.

Q: It was a well-kept secret! How important was that for you, and what measures did you go to, to ensure this regeneration was kept under wraps?

SM: We were phenomenally secret with the making of it! And I’m sure some people are a bit cross that we were so secretive but the fact is, there is only one way to ensure you keep a secret, and that’s to keep it! So, we kept it very tight and we hope it all came as great surprise to everyone.

Q: For those that don’t know him, could you describe the Eighth Doctor?

Paul_McGann_Dr_WhoSM: The Eighth Doctor is perhaps the first of the sexy, romantic Doctors. I don’t mean he’s the first sexy Doctor – he’s not. But he’s the first one who kisses a lady, for example. He’s obviously dashing, terribly handsome and quite romantic. I always found it hard to imagine him fighting in the Time War. I’d always imagined the ‘Time War Doctor’ would be more grizzled, somehow, you know?

Paul only played the Doctor onscreen once before, in the TV Movie. He gives a wonderful performance in it. It’s a terrifically exuberant performance and it anticipates the later performances, particularly of Matt and David. He’s a dashing, romantic, very funny and very affecting Doctor! Of course, Paul is not only known for the telemovie but for all his wonderful audio adventures. I’m always telling the Doctors and companions, as they come through the show, that they’ll never be quite done with it – Big Finish is expecting them.

Q: It’s an interesting spin on the Time War – the Time Lords becoming this hated race, as bad as the Daleks in some people’s eyes. Will we see that play out with John Hurt’s Doctor and so on?

john-hurt-doctor-whoSM: We will see some of that play out. We’ve already seen some of it play out on the show, in The End of Time, where the Doctor reveals the Time Lords got as bad as the Daleks towards the end, and he was as worried by them as anything else. And we know the Doctor wiped out his own people. He wouldn’t do so unless things had got pretty bad. Genocide is a big decision for anyone!

Q: People seemed delighted when they heard the Sisterhood of Karn was returning. Did that surprise you?

SM: A little bit! I was terribly excited about having the Sisterhood of Karn coming back which is why I did it! But I should probably learn to have a little more faith in the fact that what gets me excited as a sad, old fan will get other people excited as well! And okay, the Sisterhood are unknown to the kids, but I was a kid when I first saw the Sisterhood and I thought they were great! So I’m hoping other people will like them!

Q: And the character the Doctor encounters in the mini episode… Is that supposed to be Ohica, from The Brain of Morbius?

SM: No! If you look at the credits you’ll see I called her Ohila so it suggests she’s in some way connected to Ohica. Instead of having that confusion in having it the same person, I thought we’d just imply they were connected.

Q: Finally, running a show like Doctor Who is always going to be hard work… But how much fun was it? Bringing back the Eighth Doctor?

DrWho_Eighth_McGann_Regeneration DrWho_WarDoctorSM: Oh, it was a complete treat! It was always frustrating that we never got to see more of him! The completist in me… the ‘box set man’ in me wants every box ticked and I wanted every regeneration scene! And we get to see the Paul McGann Doctor regenerate into the John Hurt Doctor! I love regeneration episodes – there’s nothing more exciting! And in the anniversary year we get to see two regenerations… That’s pretty cool!

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Doctor Who comic strip Dreadnaught adapted into animated form

The Eighth Doctor Who played by Paul McGann may have been on screen the shortest amount of time on screen, but he was embraced by fandom in other mediums such as audio, original novels and later audio dramas. McGann also returned to act in a new version of the unfinished Shada script by Douglas Adams. He has enjoyed increased popularity lately after the 1996 TV Movie was screened on BBC America and a limited edition bust was released by Titan.

This will be the latest in a series of animated adaptations of Doctor Who including Death Comes to Time, Real Time and Shada, but to my knowledge this is the first Doctor Who comic strip to get this treatment!

Via Kasterborous.com, an outstanding resource for Doctor Who fans.

Ever wanted to see an animated version of the Radio Times Eighth Doctor versus the Cybermen comic strip Dreadnought? Well now you can thanks to super-fan and voice of the Doctor Andrew Merkelbach!

Dreadnought was part of a series of five comic stories featuring the Eighth Doctor, printed in the Radio Times, which ran for forty-two issues after the premiere of the Doctor Who TV Movie in 1996.
DrWho_Eighth_Dreadnaught
Each one was scripted by Gary Russell with art by Lee Sullivan, colour by Alan Craddock and lettering by Elitta Fell.

The series was prematurely ended by the Radio Times before its planned 60 issue run could be completed.

Back in 2009, Andrew – who has been the voice of the Eighth Doctor in both the official Doctor Who Online Adventures series and various fan productions since 2005 – started work on the first part of his adaptation, which so far has attracted over 40,000 views online.

Now, he’s aiming to complete the second of two six minute episodes just in time for the 50th anniversary.

Starring Lesley Lyon as companion Stacy Townsend, Dan Armitage as her fiancé Bill and Andrew Merkelbach as the Eighth Doctor, the project has already garnered praise from Big Finish and the artist on the original strip Lee Sullivan.

You can view the first part here. Be sure to check out the Facebook fan page and Andrew’s twitter page @8thDoctorVoice for all the latest news on the project. And you can read the latest in our Whispering Gallery series, in which Lee Sullivan guides us around ten pieces of art, here!

Recommended:
McGann_bust

Doctor Who: The Movie (Special Edition)

Doctor Who: Sword of Orion

Dark Eyes (Doctor Who)

Doctor Who and The Horror of Glam Rock

‘The Horror of Glam Rock’

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Written by Paul Magrs, directed by Barnaby Edwards
Story 1.03
Transmitted 14 January 2007

The Doctor is anxious to be rid of his unwelcome traveling companion, Lucie Miller. This leads the TARDIS to a motorway diner outside London 1974. The soon-to-be-famous brother and sister duo The Tomorrow Twins, find themselves stuck on their way to celebrity status on Top of the Pops, and a menace from beyond the stars is hunting them, killing any that get in its path. The Doctor is bemused and intrigued by the Stylophone Tommy Tomorrow obsessively plays in his lament to the cosmic creatures of his imagination, but Lucie is more interested in the counter worker Pat, whom she knows better as her aunt in the near future.

The Horror of Glam Rock is a love/hate story that once more utilizes the strengths of the Graham Williams era of the TV program; absurdity, humor and drama. Paul Magrs, who previously composed new adventures for Tom Baker’s Doctor on BBC Audio in addition to working on the Iris Wildthyme adventures and many more, brings a rich character to the Eighth Doctor that (in my opinion) had been lacking after his first audio series. I am a fan of Magrs signature style and of Bowie, T Rex and Roxy Music, so The Horror of Glam Rock is perfection for my ears. The long-haired and velvet-jacketed Doctor also fits right into the era. Even the manager of the Tomorrow Twins, Arnold Korns (a reference to Bowie’s pre-Ziggy persona) takes the Doctor as a rival glam rocker.

Once more the audio series echoes the BBC Wales TV series by placing the focus on the companion and having her meet her family in the past. Amusingly, there is no universe-shaking contradiction at stake if Pat believes her future niece. The story shrugs off the significance yet it retains a kind of touching humanity as Lucie mistakenly states her aunt is no one in the future… just Auntie Pat. In spite of this, Pat, formerly drummer for Methylated Spirits, proves Lucie wrong by showing she may not be an integral cog in the matters of the universe, but that doesn’t stop her from being a brave, resourceful and wonderful person.

The story is a rather standard ‘base under siege’ affair as the Doctor, twins and the rest attempt to not only survive the attack from the monsters outside but also unravel their mystery, but often the simpler plot ideas are the best as they leave room for character development and strong dialog. Luckily this story has both qualities in healthy doses. The guest cast are entertaining with Bernard Cribbins as Korns especially full of great moments. I also quite liked the solution involving the Stylophone (since I am a fan of the instrument and it ties into the music-heavy subject matter) and the revelation of ‘the Only Ones’ as being desperate under-handed aliens looking for a quick meal. The Only Ones exist in two versions, a base monstrous creature and an ethereal one that appeals to Tommy’s sensibilities. Using the music of the Stylophone, the Only Ones seek to merge the two and become whole then feast of the teenage fans of the Tomorrow Twins.

It’s a crass notion, but it works, especially given the theme of glam itself that is both visceral and cosmic. Magrs really penned a winner here and it is so weird that it becomes instantly iconic of this new Eighth Doctor era. After so much drudgery in the Divergent Universe adventures, it is delightful to see so much variety in this series once more.

Horror of Glam Rock

When he arrived, Paul McGann was welcomed by all as the ideal man for the job as a new generation’s Doctor Who. His reign was of course cut short and even though comics and novels took up the mantle, he has found new life in the audio format. This revival of the Eighth Doctor is great fun, so much so that you can almost see it in the mind’s eye as a televised reality.

Doctor Who and Horror of Glam Rock can be ordered from The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide by clicking on the link below:

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Doctor Who and The Blood of the Daleks

‘The Blood of the Daleks’

drWho_BF_BloodoftheDaleks_1 drWho_BF_BloodoftheDaleks_2
Written by Steve Lyons, Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Story 1.1/1.2
Transmitted on 31st December, 2006 and 7th January, 2007

Having just lost his best friend Charley, the Doctor is in a sour mood. Unfortunately, he is given no time to himself as the TARDIS is infiltrated by a foreign body named Lucie Miller. A stroppy north Englishwoman, Miller wastes no time in getting right on the Doctor’s last nerve by insulting his wardrobe, hairstyle (is his hair real?) and also implying that there is much more to her than she lets on. Unmoved by the concept of time and space travel, Lucie Miller accuses the Doctor of being a Martian kidnapper. When the TARDIS lands, the travelers find themselves in a hostile environment on the colony Red Rocket Rising.

The population is desperate for escape from a doomed city that is on the verge of collapse. Chased by a mad mob driven to extremes, a car crashes into the impenetrable TARDIS, killing the driver and stranding a pair of handcuffed survivors, Eileen Klint and her prisoner Asha Gryvern. Drawing attention from the others, the Doctor attempts to glean some information from the mob by playing the fool but ends up more confused than before. Rockets are sparingly launching from the planet toward a new home, but spots on them are valuable and rare.

There seems to be animosity directed at Asha’s former associate, the mad scientist Professor Martez who had committed unspeakably dark crimes involving grave robbing and genetic manipulation. After Martez died, the anger passed on to Asha who surprisingly declined her seat on an escape ship and found herself in the custody of Colony Senator turned President Klint. The Doctor and Lucie escape an incoming acid rain shower thanks to an apparently deranged survivor Tom Cardwell, a crackpot screaming about intruders from the stars from beneath a tin foil ha
Of course, crazy Tom Cardwell is precisely correct. Invaders are on the way, yet they arrive under the false promise of salvation, the Daleks. What makes matters more complicated is that they are not only expected, but they are not the only Daleks on Red Rocket Rising. It turns out that Professor Martez fancied himself a junior Davros and crafted a cross-breed of Daleks using corpses and Dalek blood. Will the two factions unite or wage a war that could threaten the tentative future of the human population.

The era of the Eighth Doctor is a convoluted one. Directly after the pilot movie that failed to launch a new TV series, a line of novels and a comic strip attempted to take the latest Doctor into his own legacy. Then the audio dramas came and developed yet another Eighth Doctor saga. Following six years of original audio stories, the decision was made to give him a fresh start. The Eighth Doctor had become more fleshed out from the limitations of his characterization on screen, but he was soon trapped within a story that had become angst-ridden and overly emotive as well as wildly random in quality.

The first few years are quite solid and build toward a dynamic finale, but once Zagreus arrives there is a definite drop into the Divergent Universe where the Doctor became cranky and his companions rather annoying. I don’t mean to dismiss such a large body of work like that… but it’s hard going. There is a 14 story block that challenges the listener to hang in there. That’s unfortunate as there are some superb ideas in there and Charley is one of the best companions ever, yet even actress India Fisher realized by her final adventure that fans were likely happy to see the back of her (ooh-er!)

Luckily, the pay off is in Blood of the Daleks when the Doctor is granted a reprieve from his past and a new lease on life. There have been comparisons of Lucie Miller to Donna Noble, another spirited companion who gave the Doctor some lip, however… I like Lucie Miller. She’s smart, self-determined and full of her own ideas about what should be done and how. There are many differences between Donna and Lucie, but the biggest to me is that she and the Doctor grate on each other (she actually causes the Doctor to get downright nasty) yet they end up complimenting each other in the end. There is also a big mystery around Lucie, how and why she ended up in the TARDIS and what her relationship is with the Time Lords. It’s all told very well and entices listeners to come back and see where it will go. Thankfully all of these stories are in the past, so I can say with some authority that the pay off is there.

After so many Dalek audio stories, many were getting bored with the creatures. Much like the situation on screen in the BBC Wales program, they lost their impact with familiarity. Yet Blood of the Daleks makes them downright scary and full of hatred again. These are the Daleks who are both cunning and deadly, killing everything that gets in their way. When they meet a breed of newly created Dalek/human mutations, they are filled with rage. An adventure that hearkens back to the events of Genesis of the Daleks when the Doctor had the opportunity to exterminate his enemies. This time, the Doctor is compelled to make a different decision and end the threat of the Daleks once and for all.

Again, this is the start of a very different era for the Eighth Doctor, one that would take him to new extremes and challenge what the character was capable of. I honestly can say now that I enjoy all of the various Doctors in audio form, but the Eighth Doctor is the most exciting as his path is still a mysterious one, leaving the possibilities wide open.

doctorwhobloodofthedalexz6
As a new companion, Sheridan Smith is a mixed bag, but only in that she grated with me right away, reminding me of Rose Tyler who I had already grown so weary of I had come to associate with the many failures of the BBC Wales program. Yet I had forgotten how brilliant Big Finish is in creating these new companions and she grew on me very quickly. As soon as it became clear that the mouth northern girl was something of a cover, Smith’s vocal range gains another level and I realized that this was going to get interesting. Well known from TV, Sheridan Smith was something of a score for Big Finish and her entry into the annals of Who immediately creates a dividing line from Charley, the Edwardian Adventuress.

Initially appearing to be a standard contemporary companion that listeners more familiar with characters like Rose Tyler, all that changes in the first story alone. When Lucie Miller becomes separated from the Doctor, she gains the freedom to make her own decisions that have surprising consequences including betraying the Doctor right after vocally calling out to the Time Lords for assistance. Just who is Lucie Miller and what is she all about??
drWho_sheridansmith

Doctor Who and The Blood of the Daleks can be ordered from The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide by clicking on the link below:

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Doctor Who and The Girl Who Never Was

The Girl Who Never Was

DwBF_103_the_girl_who_never_was
Written by Alan Barnes, directed by Barnaby Edwards
Story 103
Released December 2007

After losing C’rizz, Charley has come to the realization that her life with the Doctor was at best a fantasy that has come to an end. The Doctor may appear to be a dashing romantic adventurer, but he is also an ageless alien being who exists outside of time and space. He is incapable of relating to Charley as she would like and the closer the two have become, the more alien he has become. Their journeys through time and space were fun, but the excursion into the Divergent Universe strained their partnership to the breaking point. Despite all this awkwardness, the Doctor is determined to give his best friend one last adventure before they part and takes her to Singapore, where she was headed when they first met.

However, nothing ever goes as planned and the TARDIS has become confused by a temporal anomaly, causing them to land in the right place but the wrong time, New Year’s Eve 2008. But he is not the only person investigating the strange temporal hump centered on the SS Batavia. Charley is convinced that the Doctor redirected the TARDIS to 2008 in order to prevent her from interfering with the ‘web of time.’ She befriends the shifty man named Byron who, along with his mother, is very interested in the anomaly on the SS Batavia. The Doctor and Charley manage to extricate themselves from Byron and travel to the Baravia to find that it is mysteriously abandoned and encrusted with what appears to be rust but is actually temporal corrosion. As the infection spreads for the TARDIS, the travelers become separated and the HADS (Hostile Action Defense System introduced in the Troughton story the Krotons) prompts a sudden displacement.

The Doctor and Charley become separated by decades with Charley back in 1942 and the Doctor, Byron and his mother who identifies herself as Charley Pollard. Meanwhile, Charley attempts to help the crew of the SS Batavia, stranded in the Karimata Strait and under attack from a platoon of Cybermen, stranded om Earth.

Yes, I had intended to listen to the Eighth Doctor adventures in order but after the dreadful pacing of the Divergent Universe stories and the arrival of Dark Eyes in the mail, I decided to skip ahead. The final adventure of the Eighth Doctor and Charley arrived strangely after the BBC4 radio series started with Blood of the Daleks which introduced new companion Lucie Miller. As such, it is a celebration of the early days of the Eighth Doctor era and the beginning of a different approach to the dashing romantic as he became more of a brooding loner. It’s a remarkable idea and The Girl Who Never Was fits the bill, being equal parts melodrama, comedy and action.

I am a fan of the Cybermen, so I was very happy to hear them in this story, earning their place as the second most dangerous Doctor Who monster. It is true that the Cybermen are always on the verge of extinction with each appearance. There is no exception here but I do have to say that I am getting very tired of hearing their battle cry ‘you will become like us.’ As monsters they make a great impact and are suitable creepy, but it does become clear that they are filling the void as the ‘monster of the week’ which could just as easily been Zygons, Ice Warriors… Mechanoids…. whatever.

invasion-cybermen-3d

I am a broken record, I know, but there are so many elements of the Eighth Doctor era that are present in the Russell T Davies material that I cannot ignore, especially the whimsical character of the Doctor and his sharp wit. However, just as Alan Barnes and company deal with the ‘Doctor in love’ idea far better than Davies, so is the Eighth Doctor far funnier and full of vitality than the 10th who serves as a pale imitation (in my opinion, anyway).

Like many, I was overjoyed with Charley at first, but as with everything, her character grated in the Divergent Universe adventures. Happily she is in fine form here and full of spunk and daring courage in the face of the unknown and an army of body stealing Cybermen. The temporal conundrums got a bit confusing at times, but the strength of the emotional story held up very well and paid homage to one of the most beloved of companions (if only to a select few) the ‘Edwardian Adventuress,’ ending on a sour note as the Doctor comes to realize that he must always lose his companions in the end.

I must say that the ending, sign posted by the change in signature theme, was very surprising and I look forward to what comes afterwards for both Charley and the Eighth Doctor in the stories to come. After some major set backs, the Charley/Doctor story ended on a very high note that Big Finish should be proud of.
DrWho_Girlwho_FinalVoyage

Doctor Who and The Girl Who Never Was can be ordered from The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide by clicking on the link below:

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Paul McGann,The Eighth Doctor, returns in Doctor Who – Dark Eyes

Finally some details have emerged for the new Eighth Doctor box set, Dark Eyes. This hotly anticipated series set after the cataclysmic story ‘To The Death.’ McGann can be seen on the box art sporting his new attire and ‘armed’ with a new sonic screwdriver.

Doctor Who: Dark Eyes will be released November 2012.

Click to pre-order!

In the aftermath of To The Death…

An epic, box set adventure, taking the Doctor on a desperate journey through space and time.

Part One. The Great War – The Doctor is heading to ‘the edge’ and beyond. But the Time Lords have other ideas. On Earth, during the First World War, Molly O’Sullivan works hard as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nursing assistant. How can her destiny be bound up with that of the Doctor’s?

Part Two. Fugitives

Part Three. Tangled Web

Part Four. ‘X’ and the Daleks

More details soon…

Written By: Nicholas Briggs
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast

Paul McGann (The Doctor), Ruth Bradley (Molly O’Sullivan), Peter Egan (Straxus), Toby Jones (Kotris), Tim Treloar (Lord President), Laura Molyneaux (Isabel Stanford), Natalie Burt (Sally Armstrong), Ian Cullen (Nadeyan), Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)

More details to come…

Doctor Who and The Silver Turk

‘The Silver Turk’

Written by Marc Platt, Directed by Barnaby Edwards
Story 153
Released October 2011

“You poor pitiful creature. Your world has no God. Who will save your soul?”
“We save ourselves.”

In the streets of Vienna, a strange oddity called the Silver Turk amuses the populace. A cloth-wrapped mechanization, it is an expert gamesman and pianist. Possessing a garbled voice box, it cannot be understood and appears to be wounded and in some distress. But if it is expecting rescue from the Doctor, it will be sorely disappointed. When the Doctor encounters the stranded Cyberman he is overcome with disgust, placing a solid schism between him and his compassionate traveling companion, Mary… who no doubt sides with the monster over the monster hunter.

Traveling with the famed novelist Mary Shelley, the Doctor lands in Vienna during the 19th Century. Exuberant with the possibilities of showing the marvels of time and space to one of the progenitors of science fiction, this is a very different version of the character who was far more angst-ridden and moody after the events of the Divergent Universe. I had intended to listen to all of the Eighth Doctor stories in order, but after being frustrated by the second series, I have jumped to the most recent trilogy, skipping Company of Friends which means I am missing the initial meeting of Mary and the Doctor.

When I had first learned of Mary Shelly being the new companion, I immediately ruled out that Mary Shelley, so imagine my surprise when I learn that this is indeed the person who penned Frankenstein. Historical characters in the new BBC Wales series have been frankly tiresome, but in this case Julie Cox injects so much vitality and passion that she stands out as an ideal match for the ‘breathless Romantic’ Eighth Doctor.

The lovely Julie Cox as Mary Shelley


But the Silver Turk, used as a relatively innocent sideshow attraction, is not the real danger here. The dastardly Dr Johan Drossel (played by Gareth Armstrong, Juliano from The Masque of Mandragora). A propped up Cyberman playing piano and chess may be strange, but Drossel’s Marionette World is simply terrifying. Using technology from the grounded craft, Drossel uses a Cyberman driven mad with anguish to derive material from the streets, leaving a stream of corpses in its wake, their eye sockets empty.

Mangled bodies, wooden mechanations with human eyes set in their faces, gurgling clicking creatures that strike in the night… The level of grotesque and tactile horror is upsetting but made all the more poignant by the Doctor’s dispassionate reaction to it all. While he takes it all in stride, Mary is almost driven to anxiety by the situation , especially because the Doctor is comfortable with labeling the Cybermen as simple monsters that need to be stopped at all costs. After losing so much, sacrificing friends and freedom to save all of creation, perhaps this Doctor has become far more alien than the human-like gentleman we first met.

Depicting the Cybermen as wretched weak victims of circumstance is an inspired choice and it works so well. They are still striking and terrifying boogeymen who clank and growl in the darkened streets of nineteenth century Vienna, but they are near death and desperate. As Mary finds out, their lives are also cold empty things ruled by logic and purpose. They live only to propagate their race and survive into the future. With two worlds lost, an empire crumbled and tombs raided, they are still one of the creepiest monsters of classic Doctor Who.


There are some lovely touches to this story, such as the aforementioned friction between the Doctor and Mary. It is also very moving when Mary realizes that all of her friends and family would be dead in the future. It’s not overdone, so it carries much weight and moves the story along with equal measure. Marc Platt’s script is brilliant but again not overly so. His previous Cyberman story Spare Parts got a trifle too smart at times, but this adventure is so emotive and intense that the drama, horror and fantasy blend so well that it is classic Doctor Who.

A stirring Gothic horror with an iconic monster and even more dangerous central villain, The Silver Turk is a dark opera of murder and alien invasion combined with the tragedy of human cruelty.

The Silver Turk can be ordered from The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide by clicking on the link below:

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Doctor Who and The Natural History of Fear

The Natural History of Fear

Story 054
Written by Jim Mortimore, Directed by Gary Russell
Released February 2004

“A fist is not a threat, a gun is not a threat, a word is a threat. An idea is a threat. Ideas are patient.”

In Light City, everyone enjoys watching their favorite emotionally-charged adventure program provided for light entertainment. The program is actually a rehash of the events in Neverland in which the Doctor and Charley struggle to express their true emotions to each other while the universe hangs in the balance. But this is a fiction in a bland world where every question is a crime punishable by removal.  When one of the citizens rejects the distraction, he is forcibly removed from his home. Fleeing his captors, he launches into the air and falls to his death beside a fountain.

No one reacts or questions the event.

In an abstraction of reality, familiar voices of the Doctor, Charley and C’rizz swap from character to character as the truth is edited and rewritten over and over. Citizens start to see the cracks in the foundation of Light City, but are quickly silenced by censors and the editor.

The Natural History of Fear is the strangest and most post-modern Doctor Who story I have ever experienced. Not only does it feature the a fictionalized version of Doctor Who used as a tool to control the masses, but it also utilizes the creative writing process including revision and editing in order to control the course of a story… or society. This is a world that is struggling to maintain a static state and keep the masses from questioning their world or changing. It is the ultimate tyrannical empire where free thought is impossible.

The true nature of this story takes its time to unravel, but it is clear early on that this is not a simple tale of the Doctor and his companions fighting an alien despot. In fact, the Doctor inadvertently introduced chaos into this world while he was simply passing through. The rest is post-script as Light City nears a period of violent revolution and a toy top that the Doctor left behind spins languidly on.

A deeply sophisticated and mature story, The Natural History of Fear dwells on the question of identity, of the purpose of entertainment and the price of freedom. It is a disturbing and moving piece that teeters on the edge of being far too clever for its own good but never topples over. Author Jim Mortimore shows that he could be one of the most brilliantly gifted writers to ever pen a Doctor Who story with this one.

I have to admit that I was thrown by this one at first, desperately trying to figure out if our heroes had gotten their minds wiped by some evil entity or placed in some trap to derive secrets from their brains.  The proximity to Zagreus in which several familiar actors and actresses voice different characters is unfortunate as it makes the innovations in this story seem familiar (and nothing should remind anyone of Zagreus).  The shifting characters grants the actors ample opportunity to stretch their creative muscles and try on some different emotions which is a real treat.

The Natural History of Fear is a gift to the cast of McGann, Fisher and Westmaas who rise to the occasion and give life to what could have been a nonsensical audio story.

When it was first released, The Natural History of Fear had a somewhat split reception; some praising it as genius others derided it as delusional nonsense. There are some cliched moments (as one would expect in a story such as this), and some strong similarities to popular films such as THX-1138 and the Matrix as well as the novel 1984 but it introduces so many wonderful new ideas that engage the listener with its energy.

A welcome break from the journey through the Divergent Universe, The Natural History of Fear is a real stunner that reminds fans that one can truly do almost anything with a Doctor Who adventure. The only limit is imagination.

The Natural History of Fear can be purchased from Big Finish and from local retailers such as Mike’s Comics.

Doctor Who Big Finish- The Creed of Kromon

‘The Creed of Kromon’

Story 053
By Philip Martin, Directed by Gary Russell
Released January 2004

“I saw and felt enough. I glimpsed the soul of the Kromon. It was like a vision of a pit of deepest hell.”

The Doctor and Charley find themselves in the Interzone, a connected system of spheres ruled over by an entity known as Kro’Ka. Forced through a series of tests and tirtured by their memories, the Kro’Ka learns of the Doctor’s origins and is intrigued by the notion of travel outside of its small universe. It allows the pair of travelers safe passage through the Interzone, but is clearly watching them carefully, as a scientists observes an experiment.

In the vast wasteland of Eutermes, the Doctor and Charley meet C’rizz, a heart-broken man living in a society ruled over by massive insect-like creatures. Every inhabitant has a role, a purpose, and lives out a very limited lifespan in their tiny world. C’rizz was intended to be a member of the royal class, a collaborator with the Kromon over his people, but found himself exiled when the mind-control process failed on him. A strange liquid, ingested during a ceremony, failed to work on him, but transformed his lover L’da into a zombie.

The Doctor is anxious to find his TARDIS, but is driven to confront the Kromon and end their wicked regime.

I have often viewed Philip Martin as a writer of untapped potential. Creator of the post-modern program ‘Gangsters,’ (which starred the excellent Maurice Colbourne, who later turned up as Lytton in a pair of Doctor Who stories) he is the author of the Doctor Who adventures Vengeance On Varos and Mindwarp, two of the memorable TV stories starring Colin Baker. Both stories are very traditional in structure in that they feature the Doctor rebelling against systems of control and restriction. The Creed of Kromon continues this trend with the Doctor acting as one man in the face of an entire culture ruled over by the the Kromon.

Ultimately Creed of the Kromon is a rather dull story with very little to offer. This is especially disappointing after the spectacular ‘Scherzo’ just prior to this one. The landscape and world that the story is set in is very interesting and it is of course refreshing to have an alien companion for once, but all of the development that the Doctor and Charley have endured over the course of the previous tales has somehow evaporated, leaving them stock characters with little to say to each other.

C’rizz, on the other hand, receives great heaping loads of development. Teaming up with the Doctor and Charley, he tries to overthrow the Kromon who are cross-breeding with C’rizz’s people through genetic manipulation. Charley is saved from being assigned as breeding stock, but L’da has been transformed into a monstrosity pumping out hatchlings. Horrified, C’rizz grants her a merciful death. However, the experience leaves him a broken man who craves death and oblivion for his actions.

With the Doctor’s help, C’rizz overcomes his grief and takes down the Kromon, a combination of an evil monster and a corporation, giving freedom back to the population. The Doctor and Charley are allowed to continue their travels through the Interzone, this time with C’rizz who is interested in uncovering the truth behind his world and how the Kromon took control.

A tremendously traditional story, The Creed of Kromon is by the numbers Doctor Who with very few twists including the new dimensional setting and a new companion. The loss of the TARDIS and the immense power of the Kro’ka are intriguing and open up some new possibilities, but the end result is rather blandIn the end, I found myself struggling to maintain interest.

The Creed of Kromon can be purchased from Big Finish and from local retailers such as Mike’s Comics.

Doctor Who Big Finish- Scherzo

‘Scherzo’


Story 052
Written by Robert Shearman, Directed by Gary Russell
Release date: December 2003

“What good is being a Lord of Time in a realm where there is no time?”

Exiled in the Divergent Universe, the Doctor discovers to his horror that he is in a realm without time as he knows it. This is interesting as it makes the limitations of the Time Lords more implicit. As the Doctor writhes in agony, the TARDIS is reduced to ash before his eyes. Ironically, it is Charey who helps him through the experience, her reluctance to back down before a challenge and her undying love for her friend assists her in being strong enough to survive.

Part of the appeal for me of the Eighth Doctor audio adventures has been their innovation. Of all the audios, they have had the unique opportunity to chart new realms, unrestricted by continuity and mythology as seen on TV. His first era of stories was a mixture of traditional and bizarre, granting listeners a kind of nostalgic hint of the Graham Williams era along with some new ideas. The step into another universe where reality is entirely different adds a new spin… one that gets explored in great detail in Robert Shearman’s Scherzo.

To this point, the Doctor had been portrayed as an adventurous romantic with a touch of mania. In Scherzo, new facets are added and we see that he is a very very strange man. In the white void outside of the TARDIS, the Doctor cannot sense anything. The world around him is a blank slate. For Charley, however, her senses are filling in the gaps, supplying sounds, tastes, smells and even textures where there are none. Charley is overcome, but the Doctor is detached and alien, a distant stranger compared to the man that she had grown to love.

This is part of the genius of Big Finish, the transition from romance to alienation is of course the path that a relationship with the Doctor would take. It’s absolutely stunning to hear Charley realize that she has sacrificed everything that she knows for someone who ultimately rejects her, not out of callousness but out of his nature. The Doctor simply cannot love in the same way that a human being can. And like his being a Time Lord, a lack of compassion and intimacy is also a handicap for the Doctor.

Realizing that without the TARDIS, the Doctor and Charley are both going to die in a universe they should not even exist in. His act of bravery now a hollow gesture, the Doctor is furious and hurt, but also feeling new emotions that confuse him and make him more lost than his blindness caused by their surroundings.

Scherzo is a character piece, a wonderful and brilliant examination of the Doctor and what he relies on to exist. Shearman’s script consists mainly of Charley and the Doctor walking about in a circle, awkwardly trying to reach closure on their relationship, unable to make any real connection. Their only company is a half-mocking echo of their words played back at them. A disembodied entity has been attempting to communicate with them through sound, relying on the intonations in their words. It’s an interesting correlation to the Doctor and Charley’s lack of empathy.

For anyone thinking that this must be the most boring story ever, four episodes of two characters flapping gums in a void, I can sympathize. However, Scherzo is absolutely amazing. Their senses dwindling one by one, the travelers walk in a circle endlessly encountering a cadaver to give them sustenance, each time evolving more until they find that they are feeding off of a corpse in Charley’s image.

The pinnacle of the adventure is likely the moment when the Doctor and Charley find that they have been holding hands for so long that their flesh has become fused. At the Doctor’s suggestion, they push further and merge fully, becoming one being.

The start of what should have been one of the most amazing string of stories ever, Scherzo needs to be heard to be believed.

Scherzo can be purchased from Big Finish and from local retailers such as Mike’s Comics.