Doctor Who – the Dalek Trap

The Further Adventures of Lucie Miller Volume One – The Dalek Trap by Nicholas Briggs

The thing about black holes is, they’re big and they’re black and they’re deadly, and you’d have to be mad to go anywhere near them. Because anything that falls inside a black hole ends up crushed in the singularity.

Unfortunately, the Doctor just went mad, or so it seems, and flew his TARDIS beyond a black hole’s event horizon, causing him and his companion Lucie Miller to end up marooned on a planetoid just inside the event horizon. Along with a Dalek saucer… and something else. Because this is no ordinary black hole…

In answer to the cries of fans around the world, Big Finish has delivered a whole new run of adventures featuring the Eighth Doctor and Lucie ‘Bleedin’ Miller. One of the most well developed of companions of the Big Finish line, Lucie Miller is a rollicking sassy and quick thinking woman who has a chip on her shoulder and a big heart. She also has quite a mouth on her, putting Tegan Jovanka to shame.

The Dalek Trap is set within a black hole where the TARDIS has been drawn to due to a distress beacon. Once within the singularity, the Doctor goes into a trance-like state and is unresponsive to Lucie. Left to her own devices, Lucie explores their surroundings and encounters two bedazed individuals who struggle to remember their own names. Soon the source of the distress call is revealed as the Daleks who have set a trap for the Doctor to save them from the black hole. It’s up to Lucie Miller to set things right but she too is losing her mind the longer she stays within the black hole.

The Dalek Trap is a great, if short, adventure. It features the Daleks at their most cunning and mad as they chant that the Doctor will deliver them from The Darkness. It also focuses on Lucie Miller as she is the prime mover of the story. She keeps a journal in much the same way that Jo Grant once did back in the day and introduces herself to the Daleks as “Lucie Bleedin’ Miller” which the metaltrons hilariously use as her monicker.

I greatly enjoyed the Lucie Miller adventures with the Eighth Doctor as they featured not just stellar writing but a great chemistry between Sheridan Smith and Paul McGann. The blend of street wise Londonder and romantic adventurer was a delight and it is wonderful that fans are getting still more of this era.

Here’s hoping for volume two!

The Further Adventures of Lucie Miller is available for purchase on BigFinish.com

Doctor Who Chimes at Midnight listen a long

Doctor Who - The Chimes of Midnight listening party!

On Friday 1 May at precisely 7pm (UK time), the very first Big Finish listening party will get underway, with a free livestream of Doctor Who: The Chimes of Midnight, the Doctor Who Magazine poll-winning audio drama starring Paul McGann as the Doctor and India Fisher as his Edwardian adventuress companion, Charley.  

For the duration of the listening party, this entire classic four-part Eighth Doctor audio adventure will be available to stream for free on SoundCloud, so that Doctor Who fans worldwide can join in and listen together simultaneously. (Of course, people who have previously bought the story may prefer to listen to their own personal CD, download or vinyl copy.)  

Meanwhile, on Twitter, writer Robert Shearman, director Barnaby Edwards, and stars Paul McGann and India Fisher will be tweeting along, chipping in facts and memories of the story using the hashtag #PlumPudding. (If you haven’t heard the story before, all will soon become clear.)  

How to join in:  

Doctor Who – Seeing I

Seeing I by Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman

The Doctor is searching for Sam and his quest brings him to the planet Ha’olam where Sam is living the life of a refugee. First crashing in a rescue shelter, Sam struggles to find a job and ends up with an office gig for INC, an interplanetary corporation. Meanwhile the Doctor encounters bureaucratic static while trying to locate Sam and attempts to hack into INC’s database using data umphs (a kind of hostile program). The attempt leads to him getting caught and imprisoned.

The Doctor spends the next three years in jail while Sam leaves her corporate life behind and joins a group of outcasts living on the fringes of society. The slow decline into catatonia of the Doctor is very sad to experience. At first he is convinced that he will escape the prison in no time flat, given the many such brave escapes he has had in the past. But somehow the facility guards are one step ahead of him at every turn. It’s disheartening and leads to his crumbling sanity. When an alien appears in his cell, it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Seeing I is a book about strife and imprisonment (both in an individual sense and in a cultural one). It’s wonderfully written and the cyberpunk aspects of it are very welcome (something I recall being accomplished in the New Adventures range as well). Seeing Sam evolve over her three years away from the Doctor is interesting as she continues to gravitate towards counter cultures and rebelling against the man. Meanwhile the Doctor struggles to retain a sense of self. It’s a bold choice to make, especially given the number of prisons the Doctor escaped from on screen alone.

A book that further develops the characters and relationship of Sam and the Doctor (though they are apart for much of the novel), Seeing I is another rung on the excellent ladder of the Eighth Doctor adventures. I am eager to see more.

Next: Placebo Affect

Doctor Who – Dreamstone Moon

By Paul Leonard

Sam is on her own in the Husk ship when she is rescued by a passing craft. She meets Aloisse, a Krakenite alien with political leanings and a rebellious nature. She is soon enthralled in the counterculture of the moonbase where dreamstones are mined. Aloisse and her fellow reactionaries are fighting for the planet’s interest and for better working conditions for the miners. Meanwhile the Doctor is on Sam’s trail and finds the pilot of the craft that rescued Sam, Daniel O’Ryan. He soon discovers that the mining of Dreamstone Moon is hazardous and that the planet is far more than anyone expects. But will he be able to make a difference in time before things spiral out of control?

Dreamstone Moon was the first Eighth Doctor novel that I read so it holds a special place for me. I even re-read it on my second pass and enjoyed it all the more. The world building in this novel is stunning. The technology of the dreamers is terribly interesting and the many aliens that are littered throughout the book are stunning. From the insectoid Arachnoids to the Krakenites, there is no limit to the author’s intelligence and imagination.

The desperation to escape through dreams is key to the novel as is the violent nature of humanity. The soldiers who arrive to assault a supposed alien invasion are blood thirsty and trigger happy, wrecking havoc in their wake. The Doctor has quite a challenge before him as he realizes that the dreamstones are part of a larger living organism and not some futuristic pet rock as the humans think.

The character of Anton, a dream author on a mission to unravel the mystery of the dreamstones is a fully fleshed out personality. As he dissolves further into insanity one cannot help but feel sympathy for him yet he makes his own problems as well.

Just as in the previous novel, Sam is separated from the Doctor and endures a litany of dangers. In a hostile environment, Sam spends much of her time in an environment suit with little to no oxygen. How her lungs survive so many experiences of air deprivation is hard to believe. She struggles through her time among the reactionaries and shows her own rebellious nature as she becomes embroiled in their cause to bring better conditions to the miners.

Dreamstone Moon is one of the most imaginative and exciting novels in the Eighth Doctor line that I have read so far (with Alien Bodies being an exception). If you are looking for a book that explores the possibilities of Doctor Who without limits, I highly recommend this book.

Next: Seeing I

Doctor Who – Legacy of the Daleks

By John Peel

I adore Dalek stories. Full of high adventure, danger, strange planets, peril and lots of gunplay. When I was first getting into Doctor Who, I gravitated toward the Dalek stories and seemed to focus on them. When the dreaded pepper pots were on the screen, I was happy. So it goes to follow that I would be just as happy with them in novel form.

With John Peel in charge, I was overjoyed.

Set thirty years after the events of Dalek Invasion of Earth, the story picks up with the troubled marriage of the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan and her husband David. Being a Gallifreyan, she ages more slowly than a human and still appears to be an 18 year old while he is much older. This bothers her since it means he will die while she is still a youngster. The anguish is just too much for her and they quarrel. After David leaves in a huff, she gets a call to investigate a Dalek Artifact which should be off limits. The investigation leads to far more than she can imagine.

Meanwhile the Doctor receives a telepathic message from Susan as he considers looking for Sam (last seen escaping a moonbase). He follows the message back to post Dalek-occupied Earth and attempts two missions; find Sam and his granddaughter. He runs into a knight named Donna and his adventure takes a different turn.

Legacy of the Daleks is full of Shakespearean plots and schemes for power as two power hungry lords seek to oust each other from ruling half of England. The Lord Haldoran has a cunning and somewhat demonic assistant Estro who is always at his side and swears that he can deliver victory against his opposition, Lord London, using superior firepower. The firepower turns out to be Dalek weapons, something which should be horrific to any sane man, but proves valuable to Lord Haldoran.

The Doctor is soon in the middle of a power grab and a civil war between two armies. His search for Susan and Sam is side-tracked when he learns that the Daleks are involved and that the artifact thought long disused must be very much alive.

Legacy of the Daleks is a grand sweeping adventure with plenty of surprises and lots of drama. There is also a heaping lot of Dalek action that made the youngster in me very happy. I could hear the different Dalek vocal tones as each one spoke and attacked a human.

If you are a fan of classic Dalek adventures and curious as to what happened to Susan after Dalek Invasion of Earth, this book comes highly recommended.

Next: Dreamstone Moon

Doctor Who – Longest Day

By Michael Collier

The TARDIS picks up a temporal anomaly which is traced to the planet Hirath. Landing on a nearby moonbase, the Doctor and Sam investigate the mystery and split up. Sam encounters a maddened and drunk crew member who forces her into a transmat capsule and sends her to the planet which is split up into temporal zones separated by dangerous barriers that distort time. Adding to the danger, a craft is approaching in deep space full of deadly aliens called Kusks. The Doctor is too late to save her and, using the VW bug that he keeps in the TARDIS, he jumpstarts the computer to follow Sam down. From there, things get horrific as all manner of terror and danger wait on the planet surface.

Longest Day is a terribly unpleasant book. Throughout its pages Sam deals with a camp of hostile political prisoners, the brutal Karme army sent to apprehend them and the terrifying Kusks who are hunting for their ‘prize’ on the planet surface. She is burnt, beaten and at one point assaults herself with the butt of a rifle in answer to a command to beat two prisoners to death. Meanwhile the Doctor trudges through the dangerous terrain, meeting time distortions, madmen and hostile aliens.

The book is well written and flows well. The many impediments and challenges that the Doctor and Sam face are well crafted and make an impact on the reader. The alien Kusks are a worthy addition to the menagerie of monsters and well described from Sam’s point of view as a deep fried Mars bar squeezed into shape. However it’s all so very unpleasant and upsetting and dour that it gets oppressive. I found myself wondering how many pieces the heroes would be in by the end of the novel. As it is, both the Doctor and Sam barely survive and are separated in the conclusion, leading to a multi-book thread in which the two travelers are apart and looking for each other.

I can’t really recommend Longest Day because at the end of the book I thought it was a slog to get through and rather one note in its approach. It commonly put an importance on physical torture and emotional distress that it got tiring. The Doctor is still very clever and charismatic and the 8th incarnation continues to make his mark on the series, something I am pleased to see as he got so little screen time. But at the end of the very long day, this is a book that must be endured rather than enjoyed.

Next: Legacy of the Daleks

Doctor Who – Option Lock

By Justin Richards

The Doctor and Sam land in present-day England on the ancestral home of the Silver family. However, the house hold clues to a dangerous centuries old society and something that drove a man to suicide. Unraveling this will take Sam and the Doctor through time and space to save Earth from nuclear fire.

Option Lock is a thrilling tension-filled adventure that stretches between a quiet manor in the middle of nowhere in England to a soviet state to the office of the President in the United States. It’s a story of a cult’s devoted mission to fulfill a prophecy and the oncoming nuclear storm of global warfare. The mystery starts when the TARDIS crash lands outside a manor home and continues inside with a series of sketches and paintings. Painted by Edward Siolfor, they depict several vistas around the manor but leave the viewer with a feeling of dread. Investigating the artist’s memoirs, the Doctor discovers that Siolfor was the leader of a group of alchemists that spans the decades to the present day.

Meanwhile in a soviet state, a scheme is hatched to launch nuclear missiles toward the US. This puts into action a secret fail-safe option that has been guarded by those in power since the days of Reagan’s Star Wars. While the Doctor tries to unravel the mystery of the alchemists, the world gets closer to nuclear war and a philosopher’s stone in the manor library glows that much brighter.

Option Lock gets some time to get rolling but once it does, it is a rather enjoyable book and lets the dashing and charismatic Eighth Doctor shine. Sam Jones is likewise a great companion and has plenty to do in the story from an English-like tryst to some deep action. I recommend this book for fans of the Eighth Doctor looking to delved into his era.

Next: Longest Day

Doctor Who – Genocide

By Paul Leonard

The Doctor and Sam Jones land on what appears to be an alien world ruled by a race on centaur-like creatures called the Tractites. The civilization is impressive and beautiful, consisting of primitive dwellings ad extravagant cities. While visiting a vast library of books (where words are replaced by tastes), the Doctor learns a terrible truth and faces an impossible task. This is no alien world. It is Earth of 2019.

Genocide is a morality tale of crisis as the Doctor attempts to retain the course of history while refraining from committing murder on a grand scale by undoing the Tractite civilization. Traveling into the ancient past he sees a more complex tale has seized grasp of history and are attempting to wring their own version of truth from the strands of time.

Genocide also features a return of former companion Jo Grant (and briefly John Benton) who is a welcome addition. She brings her own form of frazzled energy to the adventure along with a trip down memory lane of her days in UNIT. She gets to work with Sam a bit and the two are a good mix. Her reaction to the new younger Doctor is interesting as well.

The story of Genocide is a thrilling and thought-provoking one that dwells on the importance of decisions that the Doctor makes in his travels and the dangers of colonization. The novel is also full of magnificent world building and the Tractites are a fascinating race. I highly recommend this book and it makes a worthy entry into the Eighth Doctor Who era.

Next: War of the Daleks

Doctor Who – The Time War 1

timewar1While a war throughout time and space is waged between the Time Lords and Daleks, the Doctor and his companion Sheena enjoy a trip on a galactic pleasure vessel Theseus. Cleverly using his psychic paper, the Doctor procures a room for the duo and soon enough they begin to uncover a sordid mystery beneath the glamour of the Theseus involving a galactic goblin taking its toll from the crafts which pass over its ‘bridge.’ All in all, a standard adventure until reality shifts and the Theseus is a refugee ship… and his companion changes names… twice.

Residue and fallout from the Time War has reached the Doctor despite his attempts to escape its pull. The Theseus crashes on a planet which is awash with temporal weapon radiation, causing the fauna and flora to climb up and down evolutionary ladders. Forests turn lush and decrepit in the blink of an eye and the simian-like natives are both primitive and advanced. The Doctor is quite literally drafted into the war and the Daleks draw ever closer to annihilation of their enemy, the Time Lords of Gallifrey.

I have differing opinions of this first installment of the Time War. It starts off interesting enough then turns into a long slog through a jungle (as interesting to listen to as it would be to watch in screen) and perks up a bit toward the end when the Doctor is the maverick who refuses to fit in at the Time Lord boot camp. The Doctor is separated from his friends from the crash of the Theseus, Quarren and Rupor, by Cardinal Ollistra who shows an abnormal interest in them. In the end, Quarren is not at all who he appears and his past is called into question as the universe hangs in the balance.

I think my biggest gripe is that the audio shares far too much with the Nu Who TV series, even to the point of a magic button that can unravel any and all problems. Only Time War 1 combines the magic button with a character and a last minute grasp for the heart strings. The revelation of Quarren was another twist in a series of turns that this four part story took, and one too many in my opinion.

I typically enjoy the Eighth Doctor audios immensely and Paul McGann is in fine form here, but the script and guest cast (especially Bliss) fell beneath my expectations. It was almost a chore to make it through to the end! I hate to sound negative but by and large this was a disappointment for me and not the blockbuster opener to a new series of Eighth Doctor stories that I had hoped for. Maybe Ravenous will be better?

Doctor Who – The Bodysnatchers

Body_snatchers_cover.jpg

Strange goings on are afoot in Victorian London. Massive creatures stalk a local factory late at night and the owner, Nathaniel Seers, is not the man he once was; having transformed from a once kind and friendly individual into a cold and stern man. The Doctor and Sam arrive just in time to see a man devoured by a monster from the sea. Noting the time period, the Doctor calls upon the aid of his old friend Professor George Litefoot who had proven so helpful against the dreaded Magnus Greel a number of lives ago. Against an army from another world utilizing bizarre technology, the Doctor and his friends must take up arms against the Zygon horde for the future of the humanity.

The Body Snatchers is something of a mish-mash of stories, combining The Talons of Weng Chiang with Terror of the Zygons (two of my all time favorite adventures), although the novel gets quite gruesome at times. Set during a time when men were worked to the bone in unsafe factories, corpses were stolen in the night, grisly pub punch ups grew relentless in their brutality, bodies washed up with regularity from the Thames and bodies of children were uncovered with the thaw, nestled together into frozen blocks… it’s all quite unsettling.

The flippant and witty Eighth persona of the Doctor along with the unflappable Sam Jones and the quaint gentleman George Litefoot, provide some offset to the violence. However, the Zygons themselves, a monster that strangely only appeared once in the classic series are powerfully threatening. Their organic technology and bizarre physiognomy are fleshed out (if you can excuse the term) in this novel, even expanding the race into different strata from warrior to scientist and different genders as well. Fans of Zygons have a lot to chew on here.

A lovely blend of Victorian adventure and mystery along with body horror alien invasion, The Body Snatchers is a memorable and thrilling entry in the adventures of the Eighth Doctor.