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Roderick Donald

Welcome to the News & Reviews section here at Doctor Who Online! This is where you will find all the latest Doctor Who related news and reviews split up into easy to use sections - each section is colour coded for your convenience. The latest items can be found at the top, and older items follow down the page.

Archived news and reviews can be accessed by clicking on the relevant area on the News / Reviews Key panels to the right.

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18 July 2021

Publisher: Inklings Publishing

Written By: Fern Brady

RRP: £12.04 / $14.95 (Paperback) | £3.92 / $5.43 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Nathan Jones

Fern Brady's United Vidden - the first book in her Thyreins’s Galactic Wall series - is a highly creative, compelling Science Fantasy / Space Opera story set in an imagined future of our universe, with a unique romance theme at its core.

The story revolves around Princess Verena, daughter of the widowed King Dekkyle, ruler of Dravidia—the northern half of the Vidden continent on planet Jorn, one of fifty-one major populated planets in Thyrien’s Galactic Wall (wall, we believe, meaning galaxy). The second major player is Prince Amiel, ruler of the southern half of the Vidden continent—Aulden. Amiel seems set on ruling over the whole continent and winning the heart of the fair and courageous Princess Verena. His motivations, however, are questionable.

Across the eastern Black Ocean, or western Green Ocean, the Gortive people of the Parthia continent seem to be preparing for war, so perhaps a United Vidden would be in favour its people, who usurped the aboriginal Gortive from “their” lands eons earlier.

More than anything else, United Vidden is a wonderful combination of royal court drama (reminiscent of Elizabethan times) and adventure. The changing allegiances of the aristocracy as the story progresses are captivating and led by the intriguing twists and turns of the masterful plot. The main characters are truly unforgettable and far from static, changing and developing as the gripping story unfolds. Their tempestuous journeys make this a real page-turner.

The machinations of the Wall’s magical religious sects (Rajin, Nijar, The Elamin Order, and more) overlay the plotting and romances of the book’s “ordinary” folk. And on a higher level than this, we get hints at The Wall’s interplanetary politics, between members of the Intergalactic Council such as planets Schol, Drulin, Fratern, and Fridgia. The various levels of power and influence give the read a true sense of being a space opera, along the lines of Frank Herbert’s Dune.

This book would make an amazing movie, it very much plays out like a blockbuster in the reader’s head. One that would appeal to both Sci-fi and Fantasy fans. Understandably, as this is the first book in a series, many of the plot lines remain open at the climax, but the ending of the novel is very satisfying regardless.

As this was released in June, 2020, we’re very much hoping the sequel will be released sometime soon.

+  United Vidden is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @Fbrady03 (Fern Brady) on Twitter.
+  Follow @NathanJonesBook (Nathan Jones) on Twitter

16 July 2021

Back in May, a section from the old BBC Doctor Who 'FAQ' page turned up online, with fans concerned at the policy on fan fiction and artwork. The policy read as follows:

Can I create Doctor Who fan fiction?
You are welcome to write Doctor Who fiction for your own enjoyment, but we should remind you that it is not permitted for you to publish this work either in print or online.

Following a growing number of worried tweets from fans wanting to know if this was still current policy, DWO got in touch with the BBC Brand Protection Team for clarification on the matter. Yesterday we received their official reply:

Hi Sebastian,

Thank you for your email.

In answer to your question, while we do not have objections to fans creating and publishing their own Doctor Who inspired fiction, artwork or other content, we request that these do not copy a substantial part of the Doctor Who TV programmes or other official Doctor Who content such as scripts, books, magazines, artwork or photography.

Also, we request to avoid use of official Doctor Who or BBC logos and would appreciate if the fan art is not presented in a way as to suggest or confuse viewers into believing that the fan creations are ‘official’ Doctor Who content, or are endorsed by or associated with the BBC. In this regard, we ask fans to add a clear and visible disclaimer stating that the content is fan-made and un-official. 

As for the old BBC FAQ section you have attached in your correspondence, we confirm this is no longer available.

We trust this is helpful for you.

Kind regards

Content & Brand Protection Team

The response definitely shows a shift in policy, and whilst there are some important requests from the BBC in way of the use of logos and existing text, they appear to be embracing the creativity of fandom more. This is a truly positive step from the BBC, and one that many fans will appreciate.

[Sources: DWO, BBC Content & Brand Protection Team]

14 July 2021

Publisher: Journey Fiction

Written By: Grimly Darkwood

RRP: £9.99 / $9.99 (Paperback) | £1.46 / $2.01 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Grimly Darkwood's 'The Shop On Peculiar Hill' (book 1 in his 'The Vale Of Strange' series), is a captivating children's fantasy that equally and wonderfully captures the imaginations of adults alike.

The story focuses on Peter - an orphan who has been sent to live with his Uncle Bob and Aunt Maggie, who are shop owners in (the awesomely named) Peculiarshire. Lurking within Peculiarshire is the mysterious Vale Of Strange - a foreboding place where tourists go missing and are never heard of again. A young boy goes missing and Peter, together with new-found friend, Amanda, begin a truly thrilling journey to discover what is really going on...

The author has peppered the mystery, intrigue and suspense perfectly throughout the book, and despite being aimed at kids, even as an adult I have to admit that it had me on the edge of my seat on several occasions. There are shocks and scares and Heeble-Greebs and...ahem...Bogeys (no, not those kind), and at every turn, there’s a genius new plot twist or device that propels the reader into the adventure further.

Whilst there is darkness, Darkwood gives us a much needed dose of humour throughout. Actual laugh-out-loud moments, that make you question whether the author had a previous life as a comedian! This balance of dark and light sews together a truly charming adventure that feels so much larger than the sum of its parts.

Everything is so vivid and visual - even in the darker places, and you cannot help but hope that this gets turned into a tv series or movie. Its practically begging for the big screen!

The reader can be forgiven for drawing parallels to Lemony Snickett's Series of Unfortunate Events, as there is definitely a similar vibe here, also flavours of Harry Potter with the in-depth, in-world characters and ecology, but Darkwood very much cuts his own creepy path here. 

Book 2 ('Stranger Days On Peculiar Hill') is already out, and you better believe we're going to be along for the ride to find out what happens next in this brilliantly bonkers fantasy for all!

+  The Shop On Peculiar Hill is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @DarkwoodGrimly (Grimly Darkwood) on Twitter.

5 July 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Jim Hamilton

RRP: £8.09 / $9.95 (Paperback) | £1.64 / $2.27 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Back in April we had the pleasure of reviewing Jim Hamilton's first entry in his Chaos Trilogy; The Chaos Machine - an epic Science Fiction adventure that spans 7000 years. For book 2; Second Contact, Hamilton brings down the timeframe from 7000 years (in the first book) to a much smaller one here, but don't think that you get short-changed on any of the action... It's all here in spades, and we'd actually argue that this is an ever better story than the first.

"When aliens from different parts of the Universe encounter each other in 5342 AB, old friendships are renewed and new friendships begin as 19-year-old Cassiopeia upends the ancient Shoomaran Empire. And when she's done, nothing in the Universe will ever be the same again."

Set mainly in the year 5342AB, we follow our protagonist, Cassiopeia (and by god what a great, strong female lead she is) who is at the centre of a multi-faceted fight for Human / Shoomaran acceptance and harmony. This is moreso a political tale that its precursor (akin to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace), where you can almost foresee the foreboding ramifications if our heroine isn't successful in her mission.

Ultimately, this is a story of hope - something that in a year of viruses and restrictions and lockdowns, we can all sympathise with. That hope resonates with the reader - not just because of the events in the story, but for the parallels of our own world.

Once again we have clear-cut characters who are believable and naturalistic in the way they're described as well as their inter-species dialogue. Sure there are aliens, but Hamilton paints them in such a real way that suspends your disbelief without question.

As with The Chaos Machine, the author's use of timelines is genius; whilst on the outside it may look complex with all the many strands, Hamilton's peripheral hand-holding (without patronising) really makes you feel like you are present in the action, and it somehow all somehow feels transpicuous.

This is an author who is clearly full of great ideas and knows exactly how to execute them. He also knows how to hold onto ideas and put them in his back pocket for use later. Little things from book 1 come back here for book 2, and its not hard to see how the events in Second Contact are going to play out in the third part of the trilogy (Mankind 2.0). Another palpable hit here from Hamilton!

+  Second Contact is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @Chaosity8 (Jim Hamilton) on Twitter.

2 July 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: David Llewellyn

RRP: £10.99 (CD) / £8.99 (Download)

Release Date: June 2021

Reviewed by: Robert Emlyn Slater for Doctor Who Online

"Paris, 1809. The Fifth Doctor takes a tour of the Catacombs and meets a sassy Time Agent doing the same...

Paris, 1944. The Tenth Doctor misses his target and lands in occupied France. He hides from the Nazis – in the Catacombs.

A collision of two Doctors' timelines triggers a temporal catastrophe, granting the Cybermen dominion over the Earth.

The Doctors must travel back in time to find the source of the Cyber-invasion and close the Gates of Hell..."

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers. You have been warned!

Fourteen years after Time Crash, the Tenth and Fifth Doctors reunite in Paris, as they battle Cybermen and try and close the Gates of Hell in this second volume from the Out of Time mini-series. 

Out of Time 2: The Gates of Hell was arguably one of my most anticipated Big Finish releases for 2021, so I definitely went into it with high hopes. I think it’s pretty safe to say that it didn’t let me down.

David Llewellyn’s script wastes no time in getting down to business. Not as soon as the opening theme is over are we thrown into the adventure, with the Fifth Doctor encountering the Cybermen and meeting the Tenth Doctor in twentieth-century Paris. 

The story doesn’t really pause for breath once the Doctors unite, and we’re taken on a timey-wimey adventure featuring Cybermen, explosions, yet another Time Agent with an American accent, and a mysterious golden orb.

I’m cutting to the chase a bit here, but it was so much fun hearing David Tennant and Peter Davison bouncing off each other once again. Ten and Five sound like they really enjoy each other’s company, and almost seem to be reluctant to part ways at the end. I know I was hoping that they’d stay together and have a couple more adventures before sailing back off into the time vortex to go their separate ways. 

I’ve said before in a previous review that I find that multi-doctor stories can be a bit tedious at times, but that wasn’t the case at all in this story. There wasn’t really much of your typical multi-doctor ‘shenanigans’ and insult matches at play here, really. The Doctors just bumped into each other, teamed up, and got on with the job. Usually, multi-doctor adventures feel like big epic events, but I don’t feel like that was the case here, and that’s not a bad thing in the slightest. 

Also, the references to the past were a hell of a lot of fun too, and I loved the catty comments the pair made about the Fourth Doctor and Tegan. 

The guest cast in this adventure is minimal but strong. Shelley Conn plays a time agent called Tina Drake, who pretty much calls the shots and saves the day here, whilst Mark Gatiss was unrecognisable as Joseph Delon, the man who the Cybermen corrupted and turned into their slave. I had no clue Gatiss was even in this play, so I was particularly impressed to find out it had been him who’d been playing the evil Frenchman all along! It also goes without saying that Nicholas Briggs was great as the Cybermen too, as he always is, and he sounded really menacing going up against the two Doctors as they battled against them and attempted to foil their plans. Glen McCready also appears as both Marcel (Joseph’s father) and King Charles VI, and though I didn’t feel as if he had too much to do, he still gives a strong performance all the same.

If I had any criticisms of The Gates of Hell at all, it’s that a very interesting setting wasn’t explored nearly enough, which I was left a little disappointed by. Paris under Cyber-rule sounds like such an interesting, cool concept, and yet I feel like we hardly experienced any of it during this adventure. But with the audio only lasting an hour or so, things like that can’t really be helped. 

The pace of the story was definitely a big plus and made for a very entertaining hour on an otherwise boring Friday evening.

Overall, this is a great little adventure that will definitely keep you entertained for an hour, and will leave you wishing you had more time with Doctors Five, Ten, and the Cybermen. David Llewellyn’s script is tightly paced, and I really enjoyed how quickly he threw us into the adventure, and really appreciated all of his little nods to days gone by. The guest cast was very strong, and it’s always a good time when the Cybermen turn up and try and take over planet Earth. I could have quite easily listened to another hour of this story, as it was such a fun time! 

Out of Time has been a really entertaining mini-series so far, and long may it continue. I know we’re getting an adventure with Six, Ten, and the Weeping Angels next year, but here’s hoping that Doctor number ten get adventures with Doctors Seven, Eight, Nine, and hopefully even Five and Four again! Fingers crossed!

+ Out Of Time 2: The Gates Of Hell is OUT NOW, priced £10.99 (CD) / £8.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title from Big Finish!

1 July 2021

DWO's Matt Chambers takes a trip back in time to 1985 to play the Doctor Who text adventure video game; Doctor Who And The Warlord.

Don't forget to like, subscribe & comment on this video - we'd love to hear from you!

to the DWO YouTube channel!
+ FOLLOW @DrWhoOnline
on Twitter!
+ FOLLOW @WalsallMatt
(Matt Chambers) on Twitter!

[Source: Doctor Who Online]

29 June 2021

DWO's Matt Chambers unboxes and gets hands-on with the Doctor Who: The Collection - Season 24 box-set.

Don't forget to like, subscribe & comment on this video - we'd love to hear from you!

to the DWO YouTube channel!
+ FOLLOW @DrWhoOnline
on Twitter!
+ FOLLOW @WalsallMatt
(Matt Chambers) on Twitter!

[Source: Doctor Who Online]

25 June 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Spaulding Taylor

RRP: £9.34 / $19.67 (Paperback) | £0.99p / $1.37 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

For a first SciFi novel, Spaulding Taylor has hit the ground running with 'Last Star Standing' - a truly well-thought-out, dystopian thriller with bags of adventure, suspense and well-placed humour.

The story focuses on our protagonist, Aiden Tenten, and is told in a first-person narrative, which makes you feel that much closer to the action. It's a post World War Three setting, where Earth is all but decimated by aliens, and we're in it for the long haul as Aiden tries to complete his mission against all odds.

There are tremendous action scenes which Spaulding brings to life in such a way that it feels like it has all the budget of a Hollywood blockbuster movie, and due to the narrative style it's close, real, and perfectly epic. 

'Last Star Standing', whilst obviously a work of fiction, has a lot of echoes into our world, and you can almost forsee some of the events within coming to fruition. It somehow feels like a warning to the reader and you'll notice many parallels that make you stop and think.

With flavours of Star Wars, 1984 and a tiny dash of Starship Troopers thrown in for good measure, this is a Science Fiction yarn that will offer much needed escapism in a time where, let's face it, we all need to escape for a bit. 

Without spoiling things, there isn't a cliffhanger as such, and a lot does get wrapped up whilst also  offering a springboard for a sequel. Looking forward to seeing what's next from this talented author!

+  Last Star Standing is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!

15 June 2021

DWO's Matt Chambers takes a trip back in time to 1983 to play the first-ever Doctor Who video game; Doctor Who: The First Adventure.

Don't forget to like, subscribe & comment on this video - we'd love to hear from you!

to the DWO YouTube channel!
+ FOLLOW @DrWhoOnline
on Twitter!
+ FOLLOW @WalsallMatt
(Matt Chambers) on Twitter!

[Source: Doctor Who Online]

8 June 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Mark Wright & Tim Foley

RRP: £24.99 (CD) | £19.99 (Download)

Release Date: May 2021

Reviewed by: Robert Emlyn Slater for Doctor Who Online

"Two brand new adventures for the Third Doctor, Liz Shaw and Sarah Jane Smith:

7.1 The Unzal Incursion by Mark Wright

Under the supervision of the Doctor, the Brigadier and Dr Liz Shaw, UNIT are getting ready to activate Hotspur: their new, advanced early warning system.

But something goes wrong. Can it be that UNIT has been betrayed from within? Suddenly bases are falling across the globe, and only the Doctor and his friends are able to escape.

Not knowing how far the conspiracy goes, the Doctor, Liz and the Brigadier become fugitives. Their investigations lead them to the Fulcrum military training facility. And something beyond the Earth.

7.2 The Gulf by Tim Foley

The TARDIS lands on an ocean planet where the Doctor and Sarah find themselves stranded on a former rig, which has recently been converted into an artistic retreat.

But art is far from the residents’ minds. A troubled member of their collective has disappeared, and the Doctor senses a sinister psychic presence. The waves are rising. And there’s something in the water."

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers. You have been warned!

We’re thrown back into the 70s this month with two new adventures featuring the Third Doctor, Sarah-Jane, Liz Shaw, and the Brigadier. Taking place in two different eras of the Third Doctor’s time on the show, we’re given two completely different stories here in the seventh volume of The Third Doctor Adventures.

The first story, The Unzal Incursion, written by Mark Wright, is a pacy, bombastic adventure which sees the Doctor, Liz Shaw, and the Brigadier become fugitives who have to go on the run when it seems that UNIT has turned against them. 

This four-part story never really lets up, right from the first minute. It’s an action-packed game of cat and mouse, with the Doctor and his friends always trying to keep ahead of the people that are chasing them, by any means necessary. There are car chases, airplane chases, and even a big Venusian Aikido fight for the Doctor against the villainous Unzal in this rip roaring adventure. It was a thoroughly entertaining ride, and one I’m looking forward to revisiting already.

I must give praise to the acting in this story. Daisy Ashford is brilliant as Liz Shaw and provides a really convincing performance as Liz Shaw, the role her late mother, Caroline John, used to play in the show. I was very impressed with what I heard from her in this boxset and look forward to hearing more from her in the future. 

Jon Culshaw is also utterly fantastic. His impression of the Brigadier is so scarily accurate that I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t actually Nicholas Courtney who was stood behind the microphone. I always knew Culshaw was good with his impressions, but this was something else. A 10 out of 10 performance and impression.

My only criticism of this adventure is that I feel as though the final ‘fight’ between the Doctor and his friends and the Unzal in episode four fell a bit flat. The Unzal were much more intimidating when they were hidden away, rather than when they went all ‘lumbering monster’ and turned up for a scrap at the end.

I was a big fan of the Unzal’s plan, however, and thought it was a nice, clever change from the usual ‘alien invasion of Earth’ trope. The ‘mystery’ that was left dangling at the end was also a really nice touch.

Overall, for the most part, this was a pacy, exciting adventure with fantastic performances from all the cast that was a real joy to listen to. I’m hoping for more adventures with Ashford’s Liz and Culshaw’s Brigadier in the future.

The second story, The Gulf, written by Tim Foley, was in my opinion, the slightly stronger story from this boxset. Featuring Sadie Miller as Sarah Jane, this adventure takes place aboard an old rig out in the midsts of an ocean planet. The rig, which floats just above the water (which is a really cool mental image) is now home to an artist’s retreat which is seemingly being haunted by a maleficent telepathic force.

This base-under-siege-esque adventure was a nervy, atmospheric story that could be quite disturbing at times. You could really feel the claustrophobic sense of isolation here, and the Doctor and his friends being chased through the rig as it slowly falls into the sea was incredibly exciting. 

I was particularly impressed with the performances from the guest cast in this adventure. Everyone was on top form, in particular, Wendy Craig as the famous painter, Marta Malvani. Lucy Goldie also gives a chilling performance as Laurel, the woman who fell into the sea and came back changed. 

The Gulf is Sadie Miller’s second appearance as Sarah Jane Smith following her debut in The Return of the Cybermen earlier this year, and I was once again really impressed, and blown away, by how similar she sounded to Elisabeth Sladen at times! It wasn’t an outright impression, but there were times where it was really uncanny, especially towards the end. I’m looking forwards to hearing more from her in future audios.

It goes without saying that Tim Treloar was absolutely brilliant as the Third Doctor in this boxset. He nailed his impression, as always, and had everything right, down to even the smallest of mannerisms. 

In fact, it was really weird, and obviously really impressive, that every single performance of these much-loved characters was an impression of them given by another actor. I honestly felt as though I’d just tumbled back through time into the 70s and was listening to the original cast act out two brand new audio adventures for me. I did have to keep reminding myself that these people weren’t the real actors, and I guess that just goes to show how brilliant they all were in this boxset.

I also have to give huge praise to the production team too. The sound design in particular was excellent, and really felt as though they’d lifted music straight from the show and placed it into this boxset. This volume was clearly made by people who loved this era of the show, and the adventures available here really feel as though they could slot into their respective seasons quite easily. 

If you’re a fan of this time in the show’s history, or if you just want to sit back and listen to two excellent, atmospheric, pacy stories that will have you gripped throughout, then I highly recommend you giving this volume of The Third Doctor Adventures a listen. It’s a huge success, and I for one can’t wait to see where they go next in volume 8. 

Excellent stuff. 

+ The 3rd Doc. Adventures: Vol. 7 is OUT NOW, priced £24.99 (CD) | £19.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title from Big Finish!

7 June 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Razi Imam

RRP: £10.37 / $12.95 (Paperback) | £FREE / $4.01 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Razi Imam's 'Masters Of The Broken Watches' is an exciting new entrant to the science fiction genre.

This is a story that focuses on two groups of protagonists; a Vietnamese fisherman Pham Kai and his wife Minh, and the other on Sebastian Miles and his team of fellow scientists. The juxtaposition of these two worlds is stark and acts as a refreshing change in tone.

It is clear just how much research the author has put into the book; from the cultures we encounter to the locations we visit - all are written so richly and vibrantly, and in doing so Imam brings so much from the page to life. Some of the exposition at the start may seem a little slow at first, but its totally necessary in fleshing out the characters and places and making them feel that bit more real.

As the title suggests, time plays a part in the story, but in a totally brilliant way. Fans of Douglas Adams' work may feel at home here, although there are no cheap gags and everything is played straight-up with sincerity. Some of the more 'out there' elements of Masters Of The Broken Watches end up making you suspend your disbelief and it is these shining moments that make the story truly magical.

We mentioned about this being a Science Fiction novel, but it is so much more than that; it's a thriller, a scientific quest, a heart-breaking story of love (and the lengths a person will go because of that love). In many ways this is a genre-bending adventure that very much carves its own unique path.

Keep your eyes on this author as we expect more great things from his fantastic mind!

**This book is FREE to download for DWO visitors TODAY! 

+  Masters Of The Broken Watches is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!

28 May 2021

DWO recently caught up with Doctor Who Actor, Eric Roberts to discuss his long career, his work on 1996' Doctor Who: The Movie and joining Big Finish for the recent 'Master!' audio adventures. Read the DWO interview, below:

Eric, you have a staggeringly impressive list of acting credits to your name (over 600 at our last count); dare we ask what your top 3 favourite projects have been to date, and which project you are most proud of?

Maybe not three, but three among this shorter list: Doctor Who, Final Analysis, It's My Party, Love Is A Gun & Music Videos.

Are there any Movie or TV franchises that you've not been in that you'd really love to be a part of?

Lots! Friends (if it was still being done). The Walking Dead - to join my friend, Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Rebel or anything Krista Vernoff does. The Resident. Chicago Med. Californication (if it came back). Doctor Who (of course), and I love the franchises I am part of! The Righteous Gemstones & Grey's Anatomy.

With Doctor Who: The Movie, how much did you know about the role of The Master going into the project, and were you aware of the series prior to the job?

This is a very good question! I did not know a lot about The Master and I was aware of the series, but I had to do a quick tutorial. I am still learning more and more about Dr.Who from fans at the conventions and on Twitter.

You recently returned to the role for Big Finish' 'Master!' audio series. What was it like bringing your Master to audio for his first dedicated series, and would you like to do more? As a cheeky add-on to that question, if asked back by the BBC, would you also consider a return to the screen for your character?

It was fantastic doing The Master for Big Finish! It's especially great because the people from Big Finish can answer all my questions and give me excellent direction. I love doing it! I'd adore to do more. Without question YES!!! [RE: return to the screen]

Finally, if you could take a round trip in the TARDIS, anywhere in time and space, where would you go and why?

If I could go safely, I'd take my 3 kids and 2 grandkids and travel until we found at least two of the civilizations out there. There is definitely so much life, it's beyond fathoming.

[Source: Doctor Who Online]

16 May 2021

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Written By: Kimberly Baer

RRP: £12.98 / $16.43 (Paperback) | £3.60 / $5.06 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

What's not to like in Kimberly Baer's captivating story, The Haunted Purse? The premise is brilliant:

"That old denim purse Libby Dawson bought at the thrift store isn't your run-of-the-mill teenage tote. It's a bag of secrets, imbued with supernatural powers. Strange items keep turning up inside, clues to a decades-old mystery only Libby can solve."

One could be forgiven for thinking that Libby (our central character) has found an old item belonging to a time lord; a seemingly transcendental bag where mysterious objects turn up, sounds like something straight out of an episode of Doctor Who, but The Haunted Purse is very much its own thing. In fact, as a plot device, the concept of a mere purse that can help drive the plot forward is simply genius!

If you read the Acknowledgments section at the start of the book, you discover how the author conceived the concept for the purse, and who it was that gave her the inspiration. Needless to say it's a wonderfully apt and perfect little bit of detail.

In this Young Adult story, Libby is a teen who has had a relatively hard life, having been abandoned by her contemptible mother, and now living alone. The titular purse paves the way for a good old fashioned mystery - almost Nancy Drew meets Doctor Who.

There's a fun cast of characters too, Libby and her friends are all layered with their own quirks and there's some great inter-character development and discourse that evolves throughout the book.

This was a surprisingly gripping story, the likes of which, I must confess, I've never really experienced in a book of this genre. Baer's pacing and peppering of mystery was that of a seasoned author let alone a debut novel.

The ending, for us at least, was one of the most satisfying conclusions to a young adult novel that we've read in a long time. It was bittersweet, and whilst we won't draw on the detail, its nice (for a change) to know that a book can just 'be' without the promise of a sequel. The Haunted Purse is a beautiful standalone story that teens and adult alike will enjoy. Recommended!

+  The Haunted Purse is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!

15 May 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Roderick Donald

RRP: £12.50 / $14.99 (Paperback) | £3.99 / $5.53 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

The Mind Controller, by Roderick Donald, it the first book in the author's Cait Lennox: Femme Fatale series; an urban fiction that straddles the thriller, paranormal and fantasy genres.

*It's worth noting that there is actually a prequel to Book One called 'The Awakening'. Whilst you do not necessarily have to read it, there is a handy 'The Story So Far...' section at the beginning of book one, which fills in some gaps.

We follow our protagonist, Cait Lennox - a strong female lead, who slowly discovers her paranormal abilities. At first glance, there doesn't appear to be anything particularly exciting about Cait, but as the story progresses, we watch her transform into a multi-layered force of nature.

There's a particularly harrowing scene a few pages in that merits some slight caution for those of a sensitive disposition, but it's an important and poignant one that gives us our first taste of 'The Gift' that binds itself through Cait's journey.

Donald's use of description is simply wonderful; his almost poetic scenic descriptions bring the reader within a hair's breadth of the setting in such clarity that you genuinely feel you are there. Here's a perfect example from the very first chapter:

"In a glance, she [Cait] took in the heavy, steely clouds casting a sad spell over everything; clouds pumped so full of moisture and hanging so low in the air she felt she could eat their contents. A damp mist, cold and lingering as surely as if it had been sent by the devil himself had settled on all things mortal, leaving evidence of its passing with waterdrops clinging to leaves and umbrellas and clothing and hair, with seemingly no discretion or choice."

Donald, Roderick. The Mind Controller: Action-packed Contemporary Urban Fiction (Cait Lennox: femme fatale series Book 1) (p. 3). Kindle Edition. 

For a story that is bathed in the paranormal - a genre that traditionally looks to the past, there are some rather refreshing nods to modern-day life; Wi-Fi, WhatsApp and Facebook all get name-checked. That's not to say that the past isn't referenced... there's plenty here and even a few pop culture classics from yesteryear, thrown in for good measure. Heck, "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" is Cait's ringtone. How's that for some time-spanning juxtaposition?!

By the time we reach the end of the book, (and not wanting to spoil too much) we realise that Cait is merely at the start of her journey of self-discovery and the powers she is just learning to harness. There is a strong sense of her new purpose to help those in need and defeat evil, and all of this together bodes for an exciting follow-up in Book Two: The Assassin's Apprentice.

This is truly a well thought out series that paces well and leaves you wanting more. We're in it for the long haul and strongly recommend you come along for the ride!

+  The Mind Controller is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Visit Roderick Donald's official website

14 May 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Nicholas Briggs

RRP: £24.99 (CD) | £19.99 (Download)

Release Date: May 2021

Reviewed by: Robert Emlyn Slater for Doctor Who Online

"Three brand new adventures featuring Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor, written by Nicholas Briggs.

1.1 Sphere of Freedom

On the Sphere of Freedom, the Doctor is about to shut down an evil Immersive Games business empire. He’s assisted by a valiant galley chef called Nova. But his plan spectacularly fails... And who exactly is Audrey?

1.2 Cataclysm

Nova is dislocated in time while the Time Eddies are out of control. Meanwhile, the Doctor is about to face the end of the universe. Or is that just the Battle of Waterloo?

1.3 Food Fight 

The TARDIS is starting to get a little crowded! Audrey finds herself haunted by a ghostly Doctor."

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers. You have been warned!

This isn’t a sentence I ever thought I’d get the opportunity to write, but after 16 years away, Christopher Eccleston is finally back as the Ninth Doctor in Ravagers, a boxset of three brand new episodes courtesy of Big Finish Productions

I’m cutting to the chase here, but it’s absolutely incredible to hear Christopher Eccleston back in the role. I never thought it would happen, but he’s back, and it doesn’t sound like he’s ever been away. Within seconds of the first episode starting, he is, without a doubt, the Doctor again. There’s no adjustment period, no shaky moments, or times where you’re not sure whether he’s fully in the role yet — he’s just the Ninth Doctor, from minute one all the way through to the end. I was instantly transported back to 2005 listening to these adventures, back to being 8 years old curled up on the sofa, watching this mad, mysterious, brilliant man save the universe. It was, in short, an amazing experience listening to this boxset. 

Ravagers, the first of four (and hopefully more) volumes starring the Ninth Doctor, is a series of three inter-connected episodes. Set Pre-Rose, these stories see the Doctor go up against an enormous gaming business empire that is using time itself to provide its rich clients with incredible, yet stupidly dangerous, immersive video game experiences. The Doctor, teaming up with Nova, his companion-of-sorts, must stop the game business empire’s plans, or risk the end of the universe itself.

The first episode, Sphere of Freedom, throws us straight into the action, mid-adventure, with the Doctor and Nova (Camilla Beeput) defeating the games corporation’s plans, until everything goes wrong and Nova is taken by a time-eddy. The Doctor then meets the mysterious Audrey and fills her in on everything that’s happened, giving us an opportunity to see what led to him attempting to stopping the gaming empire in the first place. 

This episode is a hell of a lot of fun, mostly in part to the fantastic chemistry between the Doctor and Audrey (Jayne McKenna), as they banter, snark, and flirt with each other as the Doctor tells her his story. But it’s also fun because we get to listen to him travel to London in 1959 and stop a battle between a Roman legion and British soldiers from breaking out, track time eddy’s, and team up with galley chef Nova in an attempt to bring down the gaming empire on the Sphere of Freedom. It’s a really strong start to the set, provides us with a compelling mystery, and leaves us with a gripping cliffhanger that ensures that you’ll be desperate to listen to more.

The second episode, Cataclysm, is a bit slower than the first episode, but just as entertaining. It’s a lot more timey-wimey than any of the Ninth Doctor’s adventures on television, but that’s definitely not a bad thing. It follows the Doctor as he tries to escape Audrey’s traps, find Nova, and stop the universe from imploding, which has already happened. Sort of. It’s definitely an episode that you’re going to have to pay full attention to, that’s for sure. 

The Doctor and Nova’s dynamic is great, and they bounce off of each other really well throughout the boxset. Nova is very different from Rose, and so is her relationship with the Doctor. Whilst both characters’ main reason for accompanying the Doctor on his travels is to experience a better life, Nova is tougher, snarkier, and far less trusting of the Doctor than Rose is, which is a lot of fun. It’s great that we’ve got a completely different companion for the Doctor in this boxset too, rather than just a simple carbon copy of Rose, which I admit I was worried would be the case when this boxset was first announced. I’m glad to see that I was proven wrong. 

The final episode, Food Fight, is also the episode that wraps up the whole Ravagers arc. The Doctor and Nova, along with all the characters we’ve met along the way unite to launch one final attack on the gaming empire in an attempt to save the universe. If you thought the last episode was a bit timey-wimey, wait until you listen to this one. 

Whilst Food Fight does get a bit complicated at times and does take a lot of concentration to fully keep up with, it wraps up the Ravagers storyline well, and leaves us counting down the days until the next volume of the Ninth Doctor’s adventures is released! 

The monsters of the plays, the titular Ravagers, don’t really make much of an appearance in these episodes. Though they are largely absent from proceedings, their presence is still felt very strongly throughout. 

Whilst the cast are all excellent and give great performances throughout, Eccleston, McKenna, and Beeput in particular, praise must also be given to the team who made all of this happen, in particular scriptwriter and executive producer, Nicholas Briggs. I was so impressed with the three scripts he’s written for this boxset, and he absolutely nails the Ninth Doctor here. This isn’t a Doctor who’s moping about the Time War or upset about being the last of the Time Lords, this is a version of the Ninth Doctor who’s having the time of his life, who’s full of energy, and who’s full of hope. Briggs captures all of that and more in the three brilliant scripts he’s penned for this boxset. A huge round of applause for all involved, both behind the scenes and in front of the microphones.

If I have any criticisms at all, it’s that the timey-wimey does become a bit too much and a bit too confusing to keep up with at times, but that could just be a personal thing. Other than that incredibly minor issue, this is a well-written, brilliantly performed boxset featuring a Christopher Eccleston who you can just tell is having a whale of a time back in the role, and that’s the best thing about it. It’s also so refreshing that the boxset is sort of disconnected from the 2005 series too. It’s set before the events of Rose, before Nine burst back onto our screen, and so the story possibilities are almost endless. 

I can’t quite believe that this boxset is a real thing. I never, ever thought Eccleston would come back to the worlds of Doctor Who, but I am so, so glad that he is. If Ravagers is anything to go by, I really can’t wait to see what Big Finish have up their sleeves next. I know that there are adventures with the Cybermen and the Brigadier yet to come for the Ninth Doctor, and if I wasn’t excited before, I definitely am now. August can’t come soon enough.

There’s only one word to describe this boxset really, isn’t there... and I think everyone knows what it is. You guessed it. Fantastic! 

+ The 9th Doc. Adventures: Ravagers is OUT NOW, priced £24.99 (CD) | £19.99 (D/L).

+ ORDER this title from Big Finish!

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