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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.

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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!

5 May 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Guy Adams & Sarah Grochala

RRP: £24.99 (CD) | £19.99 (Download)

Release Date: April 2021

Reviewed by: Robert Emlyn Slater for Doctor Who Online

"5.1  For the Glory of Urth by Guy Adams

The TARDIS has barely landed in an alien sewer when a distant scream sends Susan racing to give aid, and the crew split up.

Trying to reunite, the travellers find themselves in something resembling a monastery led by a man half-way between an Abbot and a warlord. They discover that they are in Urth, a barbaric place clinging on to its former glory.

It's somewhere its populace are never allowed to leave, somewhere keeping many secrets from its people.

And today those secrets will be revealed...

5.2 The Hollow Crown by Sarah Grochala

When the TARDIS lands in Shoreditch, 1601, the Doctor suggests going to see a play at the Globe Theatre and his friends readily agree.

But this is a turbulent time. There is violence in the street, plots against the Queen, and rebellion is in the air. At the centre of it all stands the most famous playwright in British history - William Shakespeare - who is having troubles of his own.

As tensions mount and wheels turn within wheels, the travellers are about to discover if the play really is the thing..."

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

I’m going to admit right off the bat that whilst I was always interested in listening to these audio adventures featuring David Bradley’s version of the First Doctor, I just never got round doing so. So listening to The First Doctor Adventures: Volume Five for this review has been my first foray into this version of the First Doctor’s era, and whilst it was a bit of a mixed affair, I will definitely be coming back to listen to more in the future. 

The first of the two stories on this boxset is For the Glory of Urth by Guy Adams, an adventure in a dystopian future where everything is horrible and bleak. The ‘humans’ who are left in this dark, disturbing world despise aliens with a passion, which isn’t good news for the Doctor and his friends. 

Out of the TARDIS team, it’s probably Susan, played by Claudia Grant, who gets the most to do in this story. She becomes a voice of reason in this horrific future world and is eventually sent on a diplomatic mission to improve relations between the humans and the aliens they hate so much. The exploration and focus on Susan’s character in this story was something I was a big fan of, and is something I’m glad to say is a major part of this boxset as a whole. 

I guess my main criticism of this story, however, is just how little else really happens. The Doctor spends most of the adventure locked up and tortured, whilst Ian and Barbara are sent down the sewers along with Brooskin, the weird-looking creature on the cover of the boxset, who’s as odd as it looks. There’s a couple of close shaves with death for the trio, but other than that, they don’t get much to do, which I found to be a little disappointing. I hate to admit it, but I found my attention drifting often during this story too. It’s a real shame because I usually really enjoy stories based in dystopian settings like this. It just didn’t really feel like a First Doctor adventure to me, and I don’t think the pace of the play helped either. 

I must say that I did enjoy the portrayal of Urth’s very own Big Brother, Daddy Dominous, played by Clive Wood, though. His slimy announcements over the tannoy system and bickering with Mummy Martial (Amanda Hurwitz) gave this otherwise bleak tale a bit of a humour and light-heartedness. And Bruddle Medicus (Phil Mulryne), a sadist who loves experimenting on aliens and making them scream, is utterly despicable and is one of those characters that makes you wish horrible things upon them. 

Though this story did miss the mark a bit for me personally, I’m sure that if you’re a fan of Orwellian-type dystopian stories, where themes of hatred and fear of the unknown are examined in great detail, then this should well be a story you’ll enjoy. 

The second story, The Hollow Crown, written by Sarah Grochala, was much more up my street and, in my opinion, was the stronger of the two stories. 

Following on from their trip to the horrible future, the TARDIS team land in the equally horrible past, in London, where the threat of revolution is growing and tensions are high. The TARDIS crew must team up with William Shakespeare himself to ensure that history doesn’t go awry and that the world’s most famous playwright doesn’t lose his head. 

Following on from her star turn in the previous adventure, Susan is once more given a lot to do in this story. Her partnership with Lauren Cornelius’ Jude was one of the strongest parts of the play, and gave Susan an opportunity to explore her rebellious side, much to the displeasure of the rest of the gang. 

Again, this story doesn’t give Ian and Barbara much to do, and the Doctor is once more locked up, but his chats with Nicholas Ashbury’s more weary version of Shakespeare in the Tower of London were yet another highlight of the story. I was also a big fan of the fact that the Doctor’s future meddling, aka marrying and ditching Elizabeth I, affected this Doctor, despite him being centuries away from even doing those things. A little nod to The Shakespeare Code also gave me a geeky little buzz too.

The guest cast in this story were brilliant, in particular Lauren Cornelius as Jude and Wendy Craig as Elizabeth I. Ian Conningham was great as both the villain of the play, Lord Cecil, and as the Earl of Essex, and Liane-Rose Bunch is a lot of fun as the ambitious and power-hungry, Lady Penelope Rich. 

The biggest highlight of this boxset for me is the development of Susan. Carole Ann Ford herself said that all Susan seemed to do in the show was scream at things, but this boxset does much, much more than have Susan be the whiny damsel in distress. The Susan in these stories is headstrong, she dives into action, and she’s more than ready to rebel against her grandfather and her friends if it means doing the right thing. In fact, she’s almost unrecognisable from the Susan in the show at times, and that’s no bad thing. The expansion of Susan’s character is the biggest achievement of this boxset for me, and Claudia Grant is excellent in the role. 

David Bradley, Claudia Grant, Jamie Glover, and Jemma Powell really have made the roles of the original TARDIS team their own, and by the end of this boxset I was completely convinced that they were the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan. Whilst it was a bit of a mixed bag for me, there were still some interesting ideas in here, and great performances from the whole cast, regulars and guests alike. With this boxset ending on an intriguing little cliff-hanger, it’s safe to say that I am definitely up for finding out what happens next! An enjoyable listen for the most part. 

+ The 1st Doc. Adventures: Vol. 5 is OUT NOW, priced £24.99 (CD) | £19.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title from Big Finish!

27 April 2021

TARDISMonkey's Torchwood Diary - watching Torchwood an episode a week from the start...

3.5: Children Of Eath - Day Five

So, this is it, the final day of the most epic proportion in Torchwood’s history. With the death of Ianto, the whole Torchwood team has been ripped apart.


We start the episode with Gwen talking to camera on a crude video camcorder, saying she finally understands why The Doctor avoids the Earth, and would turn away in shame if he knew about their own children being sacrificed in such cowardice to the 456. The Government spread a message saying the children needed to be vaccinated and sent back to school, however, the families were not so easily fooled when only a select few were called upon to have this “vaccination.” In present circumstances in writing this review, it does reflect somewhat real-life scenarios that make your hair stand up on end and that is why Russell T Davies is so brilliant at as a writer, by creating that sense of realism, even in the most Sci-Fi universe.


When you think things can’t go from bad to worse, they do. The Government go ahead with their plan of kidnapping school children who they see as being “underachievers” and they are scarified for the planet. It’s a choice that should never be made or validated as a course of action. UNIT being curious as to what the reasoning is behind the kidnapping of school children, makes your heart drop to your stomach. The children are not being used so that the 456 can survive, they’re being used as a kind of drug induced “hit” that makes them feel good. With that knowledge, you realise just how all this sacrifice isn’t to save two species, they’re doing a drugs trade with planet Earth and that makes you feel sick.


The families start getting suspicious as their kids are taken away in coach loads and in a state of panic, the Government forces Frobisher to film his kids being taken away. With the knowledge of what they do to them, the harrowing scene of Frobisher reaching for a gun and taking his family into the kids’ room, before closing the door and hearing 4 single shots fired, is a moment that is so heart wrenching. This man only wanted to do good under the most manipulative system and he has to pay the ultimate sacrifice for it. Peter Capaldi excels in this scene and it makes for incredibly upsetting and hard to watch viewing. What cements this scene so perfectly, is when Bridget Spears is talking to Lois Habiba about the life Frobisher led, his passion and ambitions and no matter what happens after that scene in his house, he will always be a “good man.”


Children of Earth never lets you down in pace and action. We quickly swing back round to fixing the equilibrium of this whole saga in Torchwood style. Captain Jack works out that the kids and the 456 all work on the same frequency (due to the fact the 456 killed Clem in the previous episode) and if he can get the right tone, it would essentially blow up the 456 and kill it for good. The only problem is one child needs to be used as a beacon for this signal and who should be the only child in the area, but his own grandson. Torchwood likes to make these epic grand statements of impossible choices, something that is very closely related to Doctor Who with the Fourth Doctor deciding if he has the right to kill the Daleks. It’s a moral conflict that Jack feels he needs to take upon himself, maybe because he believes he owes The Doctor some kind of debt for his immortal status? In the end, Jack makes that final choice and kills his grandson to save the world. This isn’t the big celebratory ending we’re so used to; it reflects the world in a true way showing that not every story has a happy ending.


Just to add more heartbreak, Alice Carter (Jack’s daughter), can’t even face Jack and turns away in anger, and shame as she sees Jack sat in the corridor. How would you ever get over the fact your own father killed your child, even for the sake of saving the world. In this moment, Jack realises he can no longer stay on earth and decides to hop on a spaceship flying past to get far away as possible. It’s a heart-breaking scene as you can see the scared and upset look on Gwen’s face as it appears she will be taking over the role of saving the earth on her own.


The whole saga of Children of Earth has been an epic ride from start to finish. It’s still for me the perfect example of what Torchwood is all about. 

Ellie (TARDISMonkey) 



Follow @Tardis_Monkey on Twitter!
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23 April 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Robert Valentine, Robert Whitelock & Matt Fitton

RRP: £19.99 (CD) | £16.99 (Download)

Release Date: March 2021

Reviewed by: Robert Emlyn Slater for Doctor Who Online

"Abandoned in the Vortex, the Master’s lost incarnation is about to be thrown a lifeline.

Earth rebuilds in the aftermath of invasion, and power rests with those who innovate. Genius Lila Kreeg makes a deal with the devil to see her dreams fulfilled.

As the Master returns, there are those – like Vienna Salvatori – who wish to hunt him, and those upon whom he wishes vengeance himself...

1. Faustian by Robert Valentine

Drake Enterprises is the most powerful company on Earth. Dr Lila Kreeg is its most valued asset. But her experiments open a doorway which allow an evil back into the universe. The Master can offer Lila the world, so long as she obeys him...

2. Prey by Robert Whitelock

Impossibly glamorous assassin Vienna Salvatori has a new target. Crossing time and space, Vienna takes one final job to free her from this life.

But when the Master is hunted through the slums and ganglands of London, the line is blurred between predator and prey...

3. Vengeance by Matt Fitton

The Daleks are returning. Their plan, long in the making, is complete. Earth will be theirs once more.

But someone stands against them. Someone with his own reasons for revenge – and Vienna and Lila are caught in the crossfire. Because Earth’s greatest hope against the Daleks lies with the Master."

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

One thing I love about Big Finish is how they give even the smallest of characters a second life once their time in the show, however brief, is over. The War Doctor and the Jacobi Master are just a couple of great examples of characters who’ve been given a second shot to establish themselves within the worlds of Doctor Who thanks to the Big Finish and their seemingly endless supply of stories.

And now, 25 years after his seemingly one-off appearance in the 1996 TV Movie, Eric Roberts’ Master finally gets an extended run-out in the Whoniverse thanks to this new, 3-episode boxset, Master! 

Despite having made a couple of appearances in previous Big Finish dramas, this is the first time where the Roberts' Master is the real star of the show, and after having listened to this boxset, I’m really struggling to understand why they didn’t think of doing something like this sooner! 

I’m cutting to the chase here, but Roberts is honestly brilliant in this series. He’s almost snake-like, with his silky smooth voice never really fully concealing the real venom within. He’s not one to get angry or lose his head like his other incarnations, but he’s just as dangerous, just as wicked, and just as ready to betray people, even those he claims to like. I was very, very impressed with Roberts performance and would love for him to come back and do some more audio dramas in the hopefully not-so-distant future.

There’s no time-travelling or space-hopping in this boxset, which was a welcome surprise. Every single episode is set in a Cyber-punk-inspired London in the year 2223, or in other words, a London post The Dalek invasion of Earth. The world is rebuilding and mega corporations hold the power now, which is a pretty scary concept in itself. Over three episodes we follow the Master as he builds himself up from nothing to become the most powerful man on the planet, going up against mob bosses, assassins and Daleks along the way. 

The first episode, Faustian written by Robert Valentine, tells the tale of Lila Kreeg, a scientific genius, as she tries to master the art of matter transfer. However, the company she works for, Drake Enterprises, keep trying to shut down her experiments. When her experiments start affecting time as well as space, the Master shows up, and Lila rescues him from the void. 

Faustian is a bit of a slow burner, and we do spend an awful lot of time with Laura Aikman’s Lila, but that’s certainly no bad thing. I was really invested in the character and her experiments, and the Master turning up and brutally making his way to the top with Lila at his side just added to what was already a really engaging story. I have to praise Laura Aikman too, who gives great performances throughout the 3 episodes and makes a great companion-of-sorts to the best villain around. 

The second episode, Prey, written by Robert Whitelock, is a big sci-fi mob movie with robots, assassins, and mutated underground-dwelling humans thrown into the mix for good measure. Vienna Salvatori, a brilliant assassin, is out to kill the Master, and what takes place over the course of this episode is a game of hide-and-seek throughout the slums and backwaters of a future London. 

I know that Vienna Salvatori, played by Chase Masterson, has appeared in Big Finish audio dramas before, however this is my first time meeting the character, and I’ve got to say I was impressed. I really enjoyed her teaming up with the war droid, Artie, and will definitely be checking out the rest of her adventures soon. 

The third episode, Vengeance, written by Matt Fitton, is presumably the one everyone’s been waiting for. The Daleks are back in this sort of sequel to The Dalek Invasion of Earth from 1964, and the only thing between them and world domination is the Master. This is an episode that’s full of backstabbing, betrayals, and plenty of Dalek action, and I really enjoyed it.

I’m always impressed by how Nicholas Briggs manages to make the Daleks he plays so different from each other. The Dalek Litigator is slimy, even for a Dalek, and really reminded me of the Dalek Prime Strategist from the Time Lord Victorious storyline, whilst the Dalek Supreme was paranoid and quick to anger. Though the power battle between the Litigator and the Supreme felt a little too similar to what happened in the Daleks! YouTube series between the Strategist and the Emperor, it was still an interesting element all the same. 

The Master facing off against the Daleks was fun, and the ending definitely leaves it open for more appearances from Eric Roberts’ Master in the future, should Roberts ever want to return of course, which I hope he does. 

Whilst Roberts’ Master may never reach the heights of those who have come before and after him, this boxset leaves us in no doubt that he is the Master. Featuring great performances all round, an interesting Blade Runner-inspired setting, twists, explosions, and plenty of evil Master laughs, this is a boxset everyone should give a listen to, be they fans of the Roberts’ Master or not. If it doesn’t redeem him, at the very least it gives us an interesting and more in-depth take on a fan favourite character. 

+ Master! is OUT NOW, priced £19.99 (CD) | £16.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title from Big Finish!

23 April 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Jim Hamilton

RRP: £9.25 / $17.68 (Paperback) | £1.64 / $2.29 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

The Chaos Machine is the first book in The Chaos Trilogy by Jim Hamilton; a SciFi adventure spanning 7000 years that's light and easy going on the reader.

"When the crew of a Shoomaran freighter find themselves stranded on Earth in 5342 BC, they learn that the native inhabitants are destined to die out in only a thousand years. Aided by a machine that can foretell the future, they are able to make minor changes from time-to-time in order to keep mankind on the path to survival. However, in spite of all of their efforts, the clock will finally run out for everyone in less than a year from now. Unable to find a solution on their own, they turn to those that they have watched over for more than seven millennia. But will the humans be able to find a way to save the solar system from annihilation?"

First off, the use of timelines is genius; from 5342 BC to present day and then darting around the 15th, 19th and 20th centuries, the reader genuinely feels like they have been on an actual adventure, and because of the regular changes in time, you never once feel bored or that the storyline becomes stagnant. Often when multiple locations are used over and over again in a story, the reader can quickly become tangled in a web of confusion of the author's making, but Hamilton guides you clearly though his journey through time and space.

Kudos to the author for his use of location, too; San Francisco, the Persian Gulf Delta (and sea floor), Turkey, New Jersey, Germany, Las Vegas, London, Tennessee and the alien home world of Shoomar are all brought to life in crisp detail, and agin add to that sense of adventure.

If you like first contact stories, The Chaos Machine will tick a lot of boxes for you. Forget the likes of Independence Day, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Alien, though - this is very much seated in a more plausible scenario; aliens coming to Earth to essentially help us. Sure, on paper having aliens target Earth for an attack may look better, but it's far more interesting in the long run to actually see how friendships can be formed and what we can learn from one another; something that is at the heart of this particular story.

It is clear that the author has a big plan in mind for the series, and the breadcrumbs laid out in this first tome - whilst maybe not evident right away - actually  set things up for the bigger picture to come in books 2 and 3. That being said, everything ties up nicely in The Chaos Machine, so you're not left hanging uncomfortably when you reach the final page.

This was Hamilton's first book, and you really wouldn't know - it's incredibly well put together and the skill shown in the world-building and character development is that of an author with many books under their belt. A truly fantastic read!

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

22 April 2021

The team over at BBV have been in touch with details of the DVD release of their uncut interview with Ex-Doctor Who producer, John Nathan-Turner.

BBV Productions are proud to announce JNT: Uncut, the complete and unedited interview with John Nathan Turner. Clips from the interview have previously been used for Doctor Who DVD and Blu-Ray extras, but this is the first time the full interview has been released in its entirety. 

John Nathan Turner started on Doctor Who in 1968 for The Space Pirates, returning to work in production for several serials in the Pertwee era. In 1979 he became producer for the series, performing the role until the series was cancelled in 1989. During his time as producer he oversaw the eras of four Doctors. 

Bill Baggs, who interviewed JNT, had this to say about the release:

“I had the pleasure of working with many Doctor Who luminaries over the years, but JNT was by far the most intriguing. For the first time on camera he talked candidly about the love/hate relationship he had with the show.”

JNT: Uncut will be released in May, and is available to pre-order for £10.99 exclusively from www.bbvproductions.co.uk.

The newly launched website also collects BBV’s back catalogue of 40 audio adventures and 20 video productions, in addition to several new releases. 

The audio dramas produced by BBV contained many stories set in the Doctor Who universe. The Audio Adventures in Time & Space feature many Doctor Who concepts, such as Sontarans, Rutans, Zygons, Wirrn, and the Rani. The Audio Adventures also brought back Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Elisabeth Sladen in new roles, some straying close to the roles they performed in Doctor Who.

BBV’s most memorable contributions to the world of Doctor Who were its video releases: The P.R.O.B.E. series, written by Mark Gatiss, sees Caroline John reprise her role as Liz Shaw, as she takes command of a new organisation dealing with the supernatural. The Auton trilogy has UNIT do battle with the Nestene Consciousness and their deadly army of plastic warriors. Finally, psychiatrist Lauren Anderson clashes with Cyberons and Zygons in the features Cyberon and Zygon: When Being You Just Isn’t Enough.

The final release coinciding with the launch of the website is the latest P.R.O.B.E. Case File, Goo!, available to download for the low price of 99p. Further episodes in the series will be released fortnightly. 

+  JNT: Uncut is available to PREORDER via: www.bbvproductions.co.uk.

[Source: BBV Productions]

19 April 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Alfie Shaw

RRP: £8.99 (Download)

Release Date: April 2021

Reviewed by: Robert Emlyn Slater for Doctor Who Online

"Trapped, a haunted monster waits to consume new victims. It needs help. It needs a doctor. Unfortunately, it also needs to kill whoever it meets. Thrust into immediate danger, and on the back-foot, it will take all of the Doctor’s ingenuity to triumph.

Two interlinked adventures. Two Doctors. One foe."

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

After months of postponement thanks to the pandemic, Big Finish finally brings the Time Lord Victorious saga to a close with Echoes of Extinction, a multi-doctor story of sorts featuring both Paul McGann and David Tennant.

I have to admit, I was apprehensive going into this audio drama. I haven’t exactly paid that much attention to the Time Lord Victorious saga, mainly because I’m not made of money, so I was unsure as to whether or not I would understand any of what was to come in Echoes of Extinction. I know a little of the Time Lord Victorious story thanks to a couple of the books and comic strips I’ve read, but I was still a little worried that there would be plot points that I wouldn’t understand that would affect my enjoyment of the story. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

In fact, after having listened to this audio drama, other than a couple of references towards the TLV storyline right at the end, I’m struggling to understand why this story was even a part of the TLV in the first place. Other than acting as a little coda to the series, Echoes of Extinction could well have been just a regular release from Big Finish and it wouldn’t have made a single bit of a difference. 

The story itself consists of two half-hour episodes that are interlinked, which is a pretty neat concept and works well. One episode features the Eighth Doctor and the other features the Tenth Doctor, but it’s all one long overarching story. The Tenth Doctor has to clean up the mess the Eighth Doctor made in his episode as they both go up against the same enemy. 

Though there are two Doctor’s present in this story, they don’t directly interact with each other at any point, meaning this isn’t the sort of multi-doctor story we’re used to. 

I for one was pretty pleased that the Doctor’s don’t interact with each other. Over the past few years, I feel as though multi-doctor stories have become less of an event and more of just a thing that seem’s to happen on a regular basis in audio dramas, comics, and novels. The regularity of all these Doctor’s constantly meeting each other just kills the multi-doctor magic, and it becomes less special. Therefore, I have to praise writer Alfie Shaw for resisting the urge to have Eight and Ten meet up and swap sarcastic comments. The story works much better without all the usual, somewhat tedious, multi-doctor shenanigans thrown into the mix.

As for the story itself, it’s actually quite enjoyable. The first episode follows the Eighth Doctor as he lands on a space station manned by a butler droid called Edwards, his owner/captive, Jasmine, and a psychopathic serial killer called the Network. It’s in this episode that we learn who and what the Network is and discover what it actually wants. The episode ends on a cliffhanger, which leads us into Doctor number ten’s episode.

The second part of this story takes place on the planet the space station was orbiting. The Tenth Doctor has to mop up the mess his previous incarnation left behind and bring an end to the Network before it can slaughter the rest of the universe. 

Whilst I did enjoy this story, I do feel a little let down by the villain. In the first episode, the Network is built up to be this complex, psychopathic villain who is struggling with a bit of an identity crisis, however, by the end of the second episode it seems to have just regressed into a shouty monster who wants to kill everyone. Burn Gorman, brings an air of menace to the Network and is unrecognisable in the role. 

I have to further praise Alfie Shaw on how well he’s written both Doctor’s too, in particular the Tenth Doctor. He’s a lot sadder, a lot snappier, and seem’s to have a much shorter fuse than usual, which is definitely in keeping with where he’s at in terms of being the self-appointed Time Lord Victorious. It’s also always great to hear David Tennant back in the role too - so, bonus points for that. 

As always, Paul McGann is great and is brilliantly sarcastic, witty, and clever when going up against the Network as he tries to save Jasmine’s life. I am yet to hear Paul McGann give a performance that’s anything other than brilliant. 

In terms of timelines, from what I could gather, this adventure is set before the Eighth Doctor’s involvement in the Time Lord Victorious storyline (he hasn’t flown into the Dark Times with the Daleks yet, anyway), and it also seems to be set right at the end of the Tenth Doctor’s adventures in the TLV storyline too. I’m sure if you’ve been following TLV closer than I have it’ll wrap things up nicely, with the Doctor seemingly having learned his lesson from his war against the Kotturuh, but if you haven’t, it’s a touching ending to an enjoyable story all the same.

As well as McGann and Tennant, the guest cast is brilliant. Kathryn Drysdale was a great sort-of-companion to Eight, and Inés de Clerq was just the right amount of despicable to get you as annoyed with her as Tennant’s Doctor does. It’s also really weird hearing Arthur Darvill and Mina Anwar playing roles other than Rory Williams and Gita Chandra. Although they don’t really have much to do other than bicker and die, they’re fun additions to the cast all the same.

According to producer Scott Handcock, Echoes of Extinction can be listened to in any order. However, if you’re a more of a fan of linear storylines, I’d recommend listening to the Eighth Doctor’s story first, then the Tenth’s, like I did. It’ll make much more sense that way, but again, it’s entirely up to you. 

Overall, this is an enjoyable story with great performances from the two leads, and takes full advantage of a really interesting concept, that being future Doctor’s having to clean up the mess or finish jobs their past selves set in motion. Whilst I’m still unsure as to why Echoes of Extinction had to be a part of the Time Lord Victorious storyline, it’s still an enjoyable enough story all the same. 

+ TLV: Echoes Of Extinction is OUT NOW, priced £8
.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title from Big Finish!

16 April 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: John Dorney & Andrew Smith

RRP: £24.99 (CD) / £19.99 (Download)

Release Date: April 2021

Reviewed by: Robert Emlyn Slater for Doctor Who Online

"Time has gone awry. The Doctor is lost, without his TARDIS. But he’s not alone. The Space Security Service agents Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven haven’t always been on his side in the past, but now they are here to help him.

And he’s going to need them - because the oldest foes of all are waiting to strike. Ready to take down their greatest enemy...

1.1 Buying Time by John Dorney

The far future. Anya Kingdom of the Space Security Service is on a mission investigating an SSS ship crashing on a distant jungle planet. Unknown to her superiors, she’s searching for something very specific... but what she finds is completely unexpected. Her old friend, the Doctor. With a completely different face and no idea what he’s doing there.

The Time Lord soon finds himself drawn into a conspiracy involving voracious predators, time travel and a malevolent businessman.

History itself is breaking down. If he makes a mistake, it could mean the end of everything...

1.2 The Wrong Woman by John Dorney

The team’s investigations have taken an unexpected turn - but the signs all still point to Sheldrake. With the clock ticking down to the launch of the time tunnels, the Doctor, Anya and Mark split up... but soon discover how hard it is to fight a foe who can always keep one step ahead of you.

But stopping him is only half the battle. The Doctor says that time can be rewritten - and Anya is searching for redemption. Can she put history back on track? Or is the Doctor’s future never going to be the same again?

1.3 The House of Kingdom by Andrew Smith

The Doctor and his friends are trying to locate a scientist to help them on their quest... but an attack on a space-station alters their plans.

Rescued by Anya's grandfather, Merrick, and taken to Neptune, the Doctor and Mark discover her family history. A story of betrayal and loss.

Will the Kingdoms be reconciled? Or are they destined to continue the mistakes of the past?"

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

The Tenth Doctor is back in a new series of adventures in this first volume of Dalek Universe. Paired up with new ‘companions’ Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven, out of time and without his TARDIS, this volume of adventures really does feel like something very different from what we’re used to when the Tenth Doctor is involved. 

Consisting of three episodes, Dalek Universe 1 takes us from the jungle world of Myra to Earth in the 44th century and all the way out to a terraformed Neptune populated by Mechanoids. It really does feel as though Big Finish have literally scooped the Tenth Doctor out of the 21st century and dumped him into the pages of a classic sci-fi comic strip. The Space Security Service, Mechanoids, Varga plants, and the return of a very familiar villain all make this first boxset of the new series feel very 60s inspired. I can just as much imagine William Hartnell’s Doctor having these adventures as I can David Tennant’s.

Those of you who are looking forward to non-stop, wall-to-wall Dalek action, however, will be very disappointed. Though their presence is definitely felt, particularly in the third episode, the Daleks are reduced to nothing more than a ten-second cameo in the middle of the boxset. It’s certainly a bold move from Big Finish, considering the boxset is literally called Dalek Universe, but honestly, I thought it was all the better for it. You know the Daleks are going to turn up at some point, it’s just you’re not sure when, and that’s just going to make their eventual return that much more dramatic and rewarding.

You can tell that this series is going to be a bit more of a slow burner too, and though the stories move on at a decent pace, by the end of the final episode in this boxset, you’ll feel as though things are only just getting started.

The first episode, Buying Time by John Dorney, is the strongest of the set. Pitting the Doctor, Anya Kingdom, and Mark Seven up against invisible monsters in an alien jungle was great fun. The race against time to stop the launch of a time travel device manufactured by Mark Gatiss’ George Sheldrake, a callous, genius businessman, only added to the drama.

The main talking point of Buying Time, however, will be that ending and that cliffhanger. I can guarantee you that you will not see it coming in a million years!

Following on from the shocking cliff-hanger that I won’t spoil, is the second part of Dorney’s story, The Wrong Woman. Without going into too many spoilers, Gemma Whelan as ‘The Newcomer’ is great fun, and I’m sure fans will really enjoy her portrayal of the character that she’s playing. This was a story full of twists, turns, brilliant acting from Tennant, and dinosaurs, and I, for the most part, really enjoyed it.

My only issue with this episode was I feel as though Mark Gatiss’ character was a bit wasted. He seems to have gone from a chilling, uncaring villain in the first episode to just some random businessman who only cares about money. Without a proper villain, I feel as though this episode did fall a bit flat at times, but Tennant and Whelan bouncing off each other certainly did help a lot!

The third episode, The House of Kingdom by Andrew Smith, was a strong end to the boxset, and really did feel like we’d stumbled back into an adventure from the 60s.

Escaping from space pirates in an outer-space transit station, the Doctor, Mark, and Anya are rescued and taken to Neptune, which is in the process of being terraformed with help from the Mechanoids. Soon the gang is mixed up in a conspiracy involving the SSS and a certain dangerous type of plant life from the planet Skaro. Not only does this episode explore Anya Kingdom’s character and background more, but it’s also the episode where the Dalek’s presence felt the strongest, despite them not appearing at all within the story. And that cliffhanger at the end has definitely left me wanting more.

On a personal note, the Tenth Doctor is my favourite Doctor and the one I grew up watching, so it’s always great fun hearing David Tennant back in the role. Set during the 2009 Specials era (I assume — it’s definitely post-Donna), we get a Tenth Doctor who’s a bit more broken than in some of the other appearances he’s made in his Big Finish adventures so far. Lamenting the loss of the Time Lords, Rose, and Donna, you can really feel the Doctor’s vulnerability at times during these adventures, which makes me think that maybe that aspect of his personality will become a larger part of proceedings the further into the series we go. Will we get to explore more of the Time Lord Victorious, perhaps?

This mournful aspect of Ten’s character was particularly apparent during The Wrong Woman, but I don’t want to spoil any of that episode for you, so you’ll have to listen to it to see what I’m alluding to.

And of course, the writers, John Dorney and Andrew Smith have nailed the Tenth Doctor. He’s absolutely the chatty, cheeky, energetic Doctor we all know and love, and I could have quite happily spent much, much longer than the 3 or so hours we get with him here.

As for Jane Slavin as Anya Kingdom and Joe Sims as Mark Seven, they make great companions to the Doctor and are welcome additions to the cast. It isn’t all happy families, however, as the Doctor is still trying to get over Anya betraying him, and a lot of the first couple of episodes is spent exploring that.

Mark the android is also a lot of fun, though I feel as though he didn’t really get much to do in The Wrong Woman other than shoot at the big lumbering baddies, which was a shame.

It’ll be very interesting seeing where this series goes next, especially after the cliff-hanger that ended this first volume. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the Tenth Doctor go up against the Daleks, especially considering where he’s at now after losing Donna following his last battle with them, and I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll get to catch up with Gemma Whelan’s character again in future boxsets.

For now, Dalek Universe 1 is a trio of adventures that are not only fun in their own right, but intriguingly sets up what’s to come next. It’s good to have the Tenth Doctor back!

+ Dalek Universe 1 is OUT NOW, priced £2
4.99 (CD) / £19.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title from Big Finish!

8 April 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Simon J. Walker

RRP: £7.99 / $10.44 (Paperback) | £0.99 / $1.30 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 8th April 2021

We take a sideways trip in the Dark Fantasy genre for Simon J. Walker's Battlebridge novel - a thrilling alt-universe saga (or sequence, as the author puts it) that feels like a genius mash-up of Nineteen Eighty-Four meets His Dark Materials.

The events surround a 1977, authoritarian government controlled London (called Lund, here) - instantly, we love all the subtle changes between our own world, and Walker's. Located to the north of the River Tames (again, nice little change) is the dark and dingy district called Battlebridge. The author describes Battlebridge in darkly poetic detail:

The filthy back street warrens were easy to get lost in and unwary travellers finding themselves in those streets would undoubtedly be robbed, if not dispatched with a certain degree of bloodthirsty enthusiasm. For those not in the know, the Battlebridge canals, flowing through the manor like veins in an arm, were simply a no-go area for outsiders.

Walker, Simon J.. Battlebridge (p. 41). Kindle Edition. 

For those in Battlebridge, it's a real struggle for survival and our protagonists find themselves at the heart of this struggle. Dripping in mystery, and peppered with memorable characters and beautifully described locations, it's a deep, yet surprisingly straight-forward read. Normally where alternate universes or multiverses are concerned, the reader can easily get lost in the detail, but this particular author holds your hand throughout, and the best part is you don't even know it's there.

There's something incredibly fresh in the overall feel for a book of this genre; it doesn't ever seem cliche or that it's treading old ground. There's a gradual build in the pacing that culminates in a surprising and ultimately memorable ending (which we won't spoil here) that has you desperate to find out what happens next for our characters.

Final point of note is the wonderful prologue and epilogue which have a warm, almost campfire quality to them that reminded us a little of Peter Falk's character in The Princes Bride. Whilst the main bulk of the story leaves you hanging, so does the epilogue in its own brilliant way.

This book is the first in a trilogy called the Battlebridge Sequence, and all three titles are available now via Amazon.

+  Battlebridge is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @JDiarist (Simon J. Walker) on Twitter.

1 April 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Robert Valentine

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: March 2021

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

"The Universe is in a state of crisis, facing destruction from the results of a strange spatio-temporal event. And the Doctor is involved in three different incarnations - each caught up in a deadly adventure, scattered across time and space.

The whole of creation is threatened - and someone is hunting the Doctor. The three incarnations of the Doctor must join together to confront their implacable pursuer - but in doing so will they unleash a still greater threat?"

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

I remember the launch of Big Finish Production’s Doctor Who plays vividly, listening to Talking ‘Bout My Regeneration while playing Super Mario 64 and being pretty intrigued as I died yet again in the bloody sinking sand. I was treated to The Sirens of Time on CD by my dad and copied it to an audio cassette to listen to in the car while being driven up to Coventry for Battlefield 3, a Doctor Who convention I attended with an old school friend. I couldn’t resist sneaking a quick listen the night before though, just a couple of scenes with Peter Davison. It all felt so exciting: new Who, at last!

It was years later that I had money of my own to spend and I eagerly jumped into the Big Finish fray. Paul McGann became one of my very favourite actors to play the role; writers such as Jacqueline Rayner and Robert Shearman blew me away; Dalek Empire was incredible; and companions like Evelyn and Charley intrigued me. Of course, for every high there were lows that hit rock bottom hard, as anyone who’s endured Dreamtime can attest to. Broadly speaking though, it all felt very fresh and exciting, bursting full of energy and new ideas and monsters and concepts.

Let’s be fair, Big Finish was never going to keep that momentum up, especially not 275 releases into its monthly range, but even so, it’s curious to see how Big Finish has changed with time. Gone is the newness that once was, replaced by releases crammed with old enemies or planets or characters. Gone is the sense of special brevity, replaced by spin-off series all over the place. Gone is the wide pool of writers, increasingly narrowed down to the same people time and again. Frankly, gone is a lot of the magic that made Big Finish so brilliant.

Here we are then with The End of the Beginning, the final play in the monthly range; a play which tries to claw back some of the range’s past glories and does, in part, succeed in doing so.

Robert Valentine has written a play here consciously structured in part like Sirens was all those years ago: a sole Doctor in parts One to Three and then all of them united at the end. Valentine previously wrote The Lovecraft Invasion for the monthly range (very good until they added in some ‘damage control’ scenes, which rank up there with the worst thing Big Finish have ever done to kill a release dead) and so he undoubtedly feels like a slightly odd shout for the man to handle the final outing, though at the same time it’s rather nice that a less familiar voice is handling it. It makes it that bit more unexpected, and of course outside of the inner reaches of fandom Nicholas Briggs wasn’t a huge name when he launched the range with the first play all those years ago. No, Valentine is a fine choice to be ending things with.

We begin with the Fifth Doctor and Turlough in the desert, with what was probably my favourite episode of the bunch. Peter Davison and Mark Strickson give it their all and the guest characters are sketched out well.  Next up it’s time for the Sixth Doctor and Constance Clarke. I wonder if Flip was originally meant to be along for the ride but then they couldn’t secure her for one reason or another? Either way, she is rendered out for the count in a coma and instead our heroes are joined by Calypso Jonze from Valentine’s aforementioned The Lovecraft Invasion. I’m mixed on this. When reviewing that play, I said that I wouldn’t mind seeing Calypso back but I fear I was wrong with that assertion. Here, Calypso felt tired and done; the joke and character beats worn thin. Also, for a release winding up a range of 275 plays, chucking in a character that’s only been in one play and expecting everyone to keep up feels a bit strange and maybe a bit self-indulgent on Valentine’s part. Perhaps it was always the intention to have her in and Flip out but it sticks out for me, and not in an especially good way.

After this, we’re onto the Eighth Doctor and Charley in an adventure set in 1999 (see what they did there?) Do you remember the days when the Eighth Doctor was in the monthly range of plays and not relegated to box sets only? It’s been a while. Big Finish + Vampires mostly makes me think of the Seventh Doctor and the Forge, though I suppose Vampire Science worked well for the Eighth Doctor and this episode is certainly enjoyable enough, largely as India Fisher is, as always, brilliant. Paul McGann meanwhile sounds a bit like he’s stuck in a submarine, his microphone quality feeling decidedly sub-par compared to everybody else’s.  There’s a rather touching scene at the end though between him and Tim Faulkner’s character Highgate, which works really well. Two small performances in a big world that winds up being utterly touching. Ah McGann, there’s a reason you and Fisher were two of my favourites.

Throughout these episodes, we’ve had mysterious artefacts slowly being collected, a teacher from the Doctor’s past, Gostak, popping in, and a sinister character, Vakrass, last of the Death Lords of Keffa, making appearances. Things are all tied up in the final episode and, oh lordy lou, if the twist with Vakrass isn’t one of the best things Big Finish have given us in bloody ages then I don’t know what is. Genuinely, I laughed and felt utterly surprised and there, just for a moment, I was flung back to the very early days.

Gostak of course turns out to not be the wise teacher the Doctors remember but his evil plan (something to do with time), its unravelling (something to do with trickery) and its eventual disposal (something to do with… something) are pretty forgettable.  It’s been 72 hours and I’m genuinely drawing a blank, despite remembering other plot points really clearly.  I’m not sure it needs to be otherwise though, as the highlight here is meant to be the Doctors all joining forces. Valentine handles this well enough, though the companions feel like spare parts. Sylvester McCoy jumps into the fray here briefly, too, and I mean briefly. The play would have been far better served to neither mention his name in the cast list or feature his image on the CD cover, as it simultaneously raises your expectations for him to be in it in a substantial role (he isn’t) and ruins what would have been a rather nice surprise cameo.

We end things with some nod-nod-wink dialogue that has bypassed subtlety completely, being less about the Doctor going off on more adventures and more about Big Finish’s ranges continuing. Colin Baker gets the final word, which is amusingly apt, and that’s that.

How does it fare as a play? It’s okay. Not the best, far from the worst. It gets by though, and everyone seems game. How does it fare as an end to the range? Less well. It’s in a weird halfway house between being a celebration and nothing out of the ordinary. That’s entirely Big Finish’s own fault though. They’ve played around increasingly with multi-Doctor outings to the point where it’s just not special anymore. There is nothing about the various Doctors uniting here that feels celebratory or special. It just feels like more of the same from Big Finish... and that’s a crying shame. It shouldn’t be the case; it should feel special. But it doesn’t, at all.

Maybe that’s in The End of the Beginning’s favour? Maybe by robbing it of an air of being special, it means there’s less pressure to feel the weight of importance and more time to just take it for what it is. Maybe. The jury remains out.

What The End of the Beginning is, is an enjoyable enough way to kill a couple of hours with a couple of nice moments, one brilliantly unexpected character beat, and some questionable elements which totally fail to land. I’ll take it.

While a good title, The End of the Beginning does not really sum up Big Finish: that beginning died a long time ago; things are very different now. In many ways the monthly range is unrecognisable to what it once was, and so it’s set to shift again. What will the future hold? We’ll know before too long.  It won’t be me reviewing it; I’m hanging my hat up here and letting someone else get on with the business of listening to all things Big Finish from now on. I wish them luck though, and hope beyond hope that, a teensy bit of that past magic rears its head once again. Now that would be something worth celebrating.

+ The End Of The Beginning is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!

** This was Nick's final review for us at Doctor Who Online and we'd like to take this opportunity to thank him for all his many years of content for us. Nick joined DWO on 23rd September 2013 for his first review for 'Fanfare For The Commen Men', and has provided reviews every month without fail.

He will be sorely missed by us all at DWO, and we would like to wish him well in his future projects. Please do take a minute to check out Nick's blog here!

- Seb 

1 April 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: John Lloyd (adapted by Nev Fountain)

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: March 2021

Reviewed by: Robert Emlyn Slater for Doctor Who Online

"Earth - a small, insignificant planet. Entirely devoid of intelligent life. 

At least, that’s according to the legal documents. The Doctor, Romana, and K9 find themselves at the centre of the most unusual trial. 

An intergalactic corporation wants to bulldoze the planet for a development project. Only a previous court’s preservation document is standing in their way. The Doctor has been summoned as an expert witness. If he can prove Earth contains intelligent life, the whole world will be saved. 

But with a fortune at stake, it was never going to be that simple."

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

As a huge Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fan, when I heard that this lost adventure by Hitchhiker’s partial co-writer John Lloyd, featuring one of my favourite classic TARDIS teams, was coming to Big Finish audios, it’s safe to say that I was very excited. Reading this month’s Doctor Who Magazine interview with Lloyd and finding out what was in store just increased my anticipation further, so I went into this play with very high hopes indeed. 

The Doomsday Contract was originally developed by TV comedy producer John Lloyd to be made as part of the show’s seventeenth season back in 1979. However, after being asked to rewrite it one too many times, Lloyd decided to give up on it and go to work on Not the Nine O’Clock News instead. Script editor Douglas Adams passed on the story to Allan Prior, however, his version of the story was also ultimately rejected, and eventually, after a stint spent in development hell, the story was cancelled and forgotten about. Until now, that is. 

Adapted by Nev Fountain, The Doomsday Contract is about the Doctor, Romana, and K-9’s holiday being cut short by a court summons. The case? To prove that the Earth does in fact contain intelligent life. If the Doctor fails, the planet will be bulldozed by an intergalactic corporation in the name of a development project, a plot point that is, of course, very reminiscent of a certain radio series by a certain Douglas Adams

However, in true Doctor Who style, things start to go a bit pear-shaped, and what was originally a simple courtroom drama quickly turns into a lot of running down corridors being chased by killer children, giant slugs, and what seem to be medieval peasants. Yes, you did read all of that correctly. 

As you would most likely expect, this is a very funny story. It is essentially Doctor Who meets Hitchhiker’s and is full of plot points, characters, and ridiculous anecdotes that you would find within the pages of a Douglas Adams novel. You can tell that John Lloyd was going for a Hitchhiker’s vibe with this adventure, and I’m glad to say it absolutely works. 

Although I found the first part of the story to be a little too slow for my liking, things definitely start to pick up a bit when the Children of Pyxis turn up, and never really let up until the court’s final judgement has been passed. 

As discussed in the behind-the-scenes feature (and in Lloyd’s interview with DWM) the Children of Pyxis were one of the elements that had to be dropped from his initial storyline due to the production team being less than keen to depict children with weapons on prime-time television. However, in this new version of the adventure, the juvenile assassins are reinstated as part of the story and make for menacing little baddies. There really isn’t anything creepier than killer children in my eyes. Especially killer children who don’t realise that what they’re doing is wrong. 

I did find it slightly disappointing at how easily dispatched the Children of Pyxis were by the Doctor, Romana, and K-9 though. I’m not a huge fan of the ‘sonic screwdriver saves the day’ trope the modern series seems to have popularised, so it was a bit of a letdown seeing that aspect of the show turn up in this otherwise fantastic audio drama. 

There were a couple of other instances where the characters were given an overly easy get-out-of-jail-free card too. One instance was when Romana and Kovaks (Spencer Banks) were trapped in a wine cellar hiding from killer slugs, and the other was when the Wadifalayeen turned up to kill the Doctor, only for us to find out that they owe him a blood debt from an unseen previous adventure. Whilst these ‘lucky’ coincidences and escapes for the Doctor and his friends did border on overly-convenient, for the most part, they didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the story. 

The guest cast for this drama was also excellent. I particularly enjoyed Richard Laing’s snide, almost cheerfully evil villain, Skorpios, and was a big fan of Nicholas Briggs’ Foreman of the Lost Jury. Both characters could easily have been plucked straight from an adventure in the Hitchhikers’ universe and dropped into the world of Doctor Who

Jeany Spark and Julian Wadham were also welcome additions to the cast and definitely played a role in making this story as enjoyable as it was. 

This TARDIS team, consisting of Romana, the Fourth Doctor, and K-9, is, as I said, easily one of my all-time favourites, and I had a great time listening to them bounce off each other once more. The Doctor and K-9’s little jaunt into the Witness Protection Micro-verse was a big highlight for me, whilst Romana’s heist plot was also just as enjoyable.  

Overall, I was very impressed with this story and loved how silly, funny, and downright ridiculous it was at times. Tom Baker is clearly having a lot of fun with the material that he’s been given, and the absurdity and comedy of the story definitely satisfied my Hitchhikers cravings for sure. 

If you are a fan of when Doctor Who is a bit sillier than usual and doesn't take itself too seriously, or if you’re just a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in general, then you won’t be disappointed with this story in the slightest! 

+ The Doomsday Contract is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!

25 March 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Gerry Davis (adapted by John Dorney)

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: March 2021

Reviewed by: Robert Emlyn Slater for Doctor Who Online

"The Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan return to Space Station Nerva in search of the TARDIS. Instead they find peril, disease, and… Cybermen!

These cybernetic monsters have devised a plan to eliminate the greatest threat to their existence. And if the Doctor and his human compatriots do not play their part in this scheme, they are to be destroyed." 

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

Written by Gerry Davis, co-creator of the metal monsters from Mondas, and adapted by John Dorney, Return of the Cybermen is the story that never was. Initially intended to be made as part of the show’s 12th season back in 1975, Davis’ script was heavily rewritten by then-script editor, Robert Holmes. The reworked adventure aired as Revenge of the Cybermen in the end, and Davis’ original story was lost in time — until now. 

Thanks to Big Finish, Return of the Cybermen finally gives us a chance to see how Davis’ version of the story could have turned out if it hadn’t been so heavily changed 47 years ago. Bringing back the ever-popular TARDIS crew of the Fourth Doctor, Harry Sullivan, and Sarah-Jane Smith, Return of the Cybermen gives us an interesting and exciting side-step into an alternate Doctor Who universe, where we get a glimpse at what could have been in April 1975.

In short, this audio drama is about the Doctor, Sarah-Jane, and Harry returning to Space Station Nerva in search of the TARDIS. However, a deadly plague has swept throughout the station, killing most of the crew. When Cybermats attack the TARDIS team, the Doctor must face down his old enemies, the Cybermen, and make sure that they don’t get what they want. To smash the space station into an inhabited asteroid that is rich in gold. 

Return of the Cybermen is also significant in the fact that it sees the debut of Sadie Miller as Sarah-Jane Smith and Christopher Naylor as Harry Sullivan. With Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter sadly no longer with us, it’s down to Naylor and Miller to make us believe that they are the characters that we know and love already. It’s safe to say that they absolutely succeed in doing that. 

Sadie Miller, Elisabeth Sladen’s real-life daughter, undoubtedly has a tough job here in being asked to recreate the character her mother bought to life so beautifully, but I’m very happy to say that she is more than up to the task. Nicholas Briggs says it best in the behind-the-scenes feature at the end of the play. Whilst Miller may not sound exactly like Elisabeth Sladen, there are definitely moments during the story where the vocal resemblance is almost uncanny. It does take some getting used to, but Sarah-Jane is definitely in there, and that’s all that really matters. 

It’s a shame, however, that for a significant portion of the story, Sarah-Jane is out of action due to falling victim to the Cybermen’s plague. It almost reduces her to a damsel in distress, which is something I would expect more from some of the stories from the 60s, rather than from the mid-70s. 

Christopher Naylor also does an excellent job of capturing the voice and spirit of Harry Sullivan in this piece, and his banter with Sadie Miller’s Sarah-Jane is a joy to listen to. 

And, of course, Tom Baker is, as he always is, on top form, bringing a lighter, perhaps even sillier version of his Doctor to proceedings here. Hearing this TARDIS team back together again after so long was a wonderful experience, and one that I hope happens again in the not-too-distant future. 

The story rattled along at a nice pace, and I never found my attention drifting or waning. The first half of the story is a game of hide-and-seek of sorts, with the Doctor and Harry searching for the Cybermen aboard the station, whilst the latter half of the play is a race against time as everyone tries to thwart the metal monster’s plans. 

A particular highlight for me was the scene in the oxygen tanks, which was claustrophobic, creepy, and had me on the edge of my seat. The Cybermen advancing on the Doctor and Harry in the enclosed space, and the rising panic as they tried to escape was brilliant. And the reveal of the Cyber Leader smashing through the wall and revealing his plan gave me chills. He was menacing and sounded unstoppable, and that’s all down to Nicholas Briggs’ fantastic performance. 

Listening to the behind-the-scenes feature after the play, it was obvious how much of a passion project this release actually was for Briggs, with him acting, script editing, and doing the sound design too. 

I was particularly impressed with the sound design (again, the oxygen tank scene being a highlight), and the music seemed to have been dragged straight from the 1970s. Briggs well and truly knocked it out of the park with this one. 

Return of the Cybermen is an enjoyable, interesting look at what could have been, with great performances from the whole cast, Tom Baker, Sadie Miller, and Christopher Naylor in particular. Briggs’ Cybermen were a menacing presence throughout, and Kellman (Nickolas Grace) was a great villain for the Doctor to come up against. 

I for one would love to see some more alternate takes on classic stories if they’re going to be anything like this one. I’m also hoping for more adventures with the Fourth Doctor, Miller’s Sarah-Jane, and Naylor’s Harry Sullivan in the near future. The sixth series of The Lost Stories is definitely off to a good start! 

+ Return Of The Cybermen is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!

24 March 2021

BBC Studios has announced that it will be introducing a range of standard packaging releases to its popular Doctor Who: The Collection series of box-sets. The first titles to join this standard packaging range will be Season 12 and Season 19, which are available to pre-order now.

Doctor Who: The Collection offers fans the opportunity to build their own home archive of classic content, and has proved hugely popular with collectors and fans of the TV series. The new standard packaging range is being introduced in response to this success, offering fans a second opportunity to fill gaps in their collection, and enjoy the classic era of Doctor Who.

New releases within the Collection range will be marketed as Doctor Who: The Collection Limited Edition Packaging, with the standard edition range marketed as Doctor Who: The Collection.

Releases within the Doctor Who: The Collection Limited Edition Packaging range will continue to offer fans bespoke, premium packaging featuring a beautifully presented box containing the discs and a full-length, premium-printed booklet which includes illustrations and in-depth, behind the scenes insight.  

Releases within the new, standard packaging Doctor Who: The Collection range will feature a standard, plastic Blu-ray case inside a slipcase, with a condensed, standard-printed 12-page booklet featuring disc-breakdowns and selected illustrations. The new range will include all of the watchable content and special features included in the Limited Edition Packaging release, and will be available ongoing.

Season 12 sees Tom Baker’s first outing as the Doctor, and features five stories over 20 episodes, including The Ark in Space and Genesis of the Daleks. The Doctor is accompanied by Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) and was first broadcast on the BBC between December 1974 and May 1975.

Season 19 introduces fans to Peter Davison’s first series as the Fifth Doctor, and sees the Doctor and his companions Tegan (Janet Fielding), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) and Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) face off against The Master, the terrifying Mara, the Terileptils, the Plasmatons, Monarch and the revamped Cybermen, in seven stories across 26 episodes.

The Collection - Season 12 is released on 31st May 2021, RRP: £51.05
PREORDER this title from Amazon.co.uk for just £37.99!

The Collection - Season 19 is released on 31st May 2021, RRP: £51.05
PREORDER this title from Amazon.co.uk for just £37.99!  

[Source: BBC Studios]

17 March 2021

In 2015, Doctor Who aired an episode penned by Mark Gatiss called 'Sleep No More', which featured the very first transgender actor in the series' long history. The character of 474 was played perfectly by the very lovely Bethany Black and marked an incredibly poignant moment in TV history. It was important not only for including a transgender woman for the first time on British TV, but for the fact the show did it in a matter-of-fact, "so what?" style.

A couple of years prior to this, a friend of mine called me to tell me that they were in fact transgender, and as a matter of openness and honesty, felt they wanted me to know. I remember thinking at the time how brave this person was to choose to tell me, and what they must have been going through, not only in their own struggle, but also in the decision to include me in their news.

In 2018, Channel 4 aired a TV drama series called 'Butterfly', which focused on 11-year-old Maxine, who realises she is a transgender girl. The three-part series was an eye-opening window on what it means to be transgender and how it not only affects the individual, but those around them too. My heart literally sank at the thought of the struggles that so many brave boys, girls, men and women must be going through the world over. It had a profound affect on me and my own understanding, and I felt helpless not knowing what I could do to make some small difference.

Collectively, these three separate moments helped me to understand a much bigger picture that not only affects society as a whole, but much closer to home in Doctor Who fandom itself.

It became apparent that Doctor Who - this TV show we all have such a wonderful connection to - can also be a platform to highlight issues, themes and causes in our real world, whilst still delivering our weekly slice of SciFi. Since Jodie's casting as The Doctor (perhaps moreso than ever), racial discrimination, LGBT+ and environmental issues have been covered, and whilst a select few (namely a small pool of middle-aged white men) took issue of climate change being "thrown down their throat", the broader messages the show is teaching our children - and indeed us older fans - is incredibly powerful.

The fact the Doctor is now a woman (after 50 years of being a man) is, in a way, the best possible way of showing the TV-watching public the power of acceptance and change. Change, after all, is at the beating hearts of the show. Now I'm not suggesting the Doctor is transgender, but I am saying that whoever they become, like all the many incarnations prior, can just be accepted - no questions asked. Isn't that such a fantastic concept? Isn't it the best lesson for us all to take stock from? Be accepting of each other - understanding of each other, and, as Doctor Who fandom can be so brilliant at; supportive of each other.

Doctor Who's fandom in 2021 is wider and more diverse now than at any point over the past 58 years it has been on our screens. As many of you reading this will know, we have an active Twitter channel with a good number of followers and over the past few years, we have watched a number of transgender fans embrace their true selves. The love and support those fans have received from the Doctor Who community has been a testament to how amazing this fandom can be.

We at DWO are by no means experts on transgender issues, but we are in full support of this wonderful section of fandom, and whilst we are still learning and educating ourselves, please know that whoever you are or whoever you want to be, we and many others like us are here for you and that this is a safe space in fandom for you.

Sebastian J. Brook; Site Editor

Below are a few organisations providing help and support for the transgender community:

+  TransUnite: https://www.transunite.co.uk
+  Mermaids UK: https://mermaidsuk.org.uk
+  Glaad (USA): https://www.glaad.org/transgender/resources
+  National Center For Transgender Equality (USA): https://transequality.org

[Source: DWO]

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