Doctor Who Audio Review: The Man, The Myth, The Doctor

The Myth Makers is a Doctor Who serial starring William Hartnell and was originally aired in 1965. This is one of the stories with missing episodes, so BBC released the soundtrack with linking narration provided by Peter Purves, who had portrayed one of the companions, Steven Taylor. Maureen O’Brien makes her final television appearance as Vicki. Michael Leeston-Smith directed this story which was written by Donald Cotton. Adrienne Hill also makes her debut as Katarina.

The Doctor and his friends arrive in Troy during the Trojan War. The Doctor is presumed initially to be a manifestation of the Greek god Zeus. The TARDIS crew is split up between the two factions at war. A giant wooden horse plays a key role in the outcome of the war.

I have never seen or heard the episode as it was originally aired. This episode isn’t one of the greatest of this era, but I do not regret adding this to my collection. There are some noteworthy aspects to this one. This story leads into what was one at one time the longest serial, The Daleks’ Masterplan. Purves provides his usual engaging narration. It’s still a little hard to follow the events of the story. Hartnell still sounds pretty good although this is getting pretty close to the time where he was getting too ill to continue in the role. I have come to appreciate these particular companions from the First Doctor’s era the more I have seen or heard them. Both actors still participate in the Big Finish recordings of new adventures.

It’s not one of the greatest efforts from the Hartnell era, but there is still some enjoyment to be found here. Particularly because it is so hard to obtain these days,

Film Review: A Troll Just Out For A Stroll

Troll is a monster film that explores Norwegian folklore. The screenplay was written by Espen Aukan with Roar Uthaug serving as director. The cast includes Ine Marie Wilmann, Kim Falck, Anneke von der Lippe, and Mads Sjogard Pettersen.

A paleontologist is brought in by the Norwegian government to help investigate the strange deaths of several miners and protesters that occurred in something burst from the ground. The paleontologist’s father happens to be an expert in folklore and quickly identifies the giant creature roaming the land as a mountain troll. The military and government are trying to figure out how to stop this enormous wanderer from destroying Oslo. A very familiar sort of plot in a rather unconventional locale.

The film was somewhat better than I expected. Not much in way of new ground being broken though. The performances were not terrible. The father-daughter drama was not too out of place. The special effects were not bad. I am not sure if the actual mythology was accurately presented. The monster was convincingly hideous. and ferocious.

I ended up liking many aspects of the film, but I am under no illusion that this is going to be considered a masterpiece. It’s just another monster movie that was fairly amusing but not much more than that.

Book Review: The Gray Man Just Can’t Get A Rest

Relentless is a thriller novel written by Mark Greaney and features freelance CIA troubleshooter and assassin, Courtland Gentry, otherwise known as the Gray Man. He is also known as Sierra Six and couple of other peculiar monikers.

Court has been seriously injured, but that does not keep his handler from sending him on another mission. An agent has been captured in Venezuela. When Gentry is sent in to see if he can help, he finds some information that takes him to Berlin where a Russian agent he happens to love is having some troubles of her own. Killers from all sorts of agencies are coming out of the woodwork, and the Gray Man has to hold his body together well enough to function at his usual lethal capacity.

This novel is not the first in the series, but it is the first one I have read from Greaney. It was actually pretty good. The page count almost makes it to 700. There are times that the story drags in the middle. Greaney does have a fairly intriguing character, but he does at times seem similar to the other killer protagonists in the counterterrorist genre. Greaney is just solid enough of a writer to inspire me to revisit the world of the Gray Man, but I am not sure I am going to be keeping that close of an eye on the series.

There are few better ways to welcome the Yuletide Season than with a new Sherlock Holmes novel. James Lovegrove returns to 221 B Baker Street to relate how Holmes and Dr. Watson faced The Three Winter Terrors.

Doctor Who Audio Review: From Tinseltown To Ribos

Silver and Ice is a Doctor Who audio boxset from Big Finish Productions which contains two new adventures with Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford returning to the roles of the Doctor and Melanie Bush. Samuel Clemens serves as the director. Nicholas Briggs returns to the Cybermen and a couple of other roles. Jasmin Hinds, Jenny Spark, Dan Starkey, and Vivienne Rochester are included in the cast.

Speaking of Dan Starkey, he is the scriptwriter for the first story, Bad Day in Tinseltown. In a town called Brightedge, which is supposed to represent some Old West locale, is on the verge of becoming some sort of entertainment mecca. When the Doctor and Mel arrive, it does not take them long to discover that the Cybermen are also there, and they are not interested in the fun and games. No surprise there!

What is surprising is how underwhelming I found this episode. I was distracted by the exaggerated American accents put on by some of the actors. Although I tend to enjoy pairing of McCoy and Langford, even their efforts were not quite enough to keep me significantly engaged. Doctor Who has attempted to recapture the atmosphere of the Old West, and this effort was not an improvement over the past forays into this setting.

The Ribos Inheritance by Jonathan Barnes is an improvement, but not quite as much as I had hoped. The Doctor and Mel return to Ribos, which was where he had recovered the first segment to the Key to Time in a previous life. Ribos is supposed to be in the midst of their Suntime, however it is still in the grip of bitter cold. For once, the eccentric steering of the TARDIS is not to blame. David Rintoul has taken over the role of Garron, the cosmic con artist previously encountered by the Doctor. Garron was originally played by the late Ian Cuthbertson in the television serial, The Ribos Operation.

I sort of found Garron’s inclusion to be somewhat unnecessary. Rintoul does fine in his performance and can almost sound like Cuthbertson. I think the episode would have worked better with a whole new cast of characters even though the Doctor would be in surroundings that he would find familiar.

McCoy and Langford continue to perform well together, and I don’t mind revisiting the early days of the Seventh Doctor. The mixed metaphor gag returned once or twice.

Anyway, this set isn’t the most exciting to me. It’s not an abysmal listening experience, but there is not much to leave an impression.

Film Review: An Evening At The Hawthorne

The Menu is a black comedy horror film directed by Mark Mylod and written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy. It contains a pretty impressive cast which includes Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Judith Light, and John Leguizamo.

A rather eccentric and diverse group of diners gather at the Hawthorne for a unique culinary experience hosted by a peculiar celebrity chef. This restaurant is located on a remote private island. As the courses are served, secrets are revealed as the evening turns into something more macabre. There are humiliations and mutilations served up throughout the evening as the chef, played by Fiennes, has a final course planned which will leave no survivors.

Well, this turned out to be a pretty unique cinematic experience and a welcome one. This film takes all kinds of bizarre turns which did not always make the most sense, however the performances overall were compelling enough to keep me engaged. Fiennes, as expected, is absolutely riveting as the vengeful chef, embittered by the loss of his passion for his craft. All of the diners with the exception of one have played a part in his lost devotion to his artistic profession. The revelations are well planned throughout the film.

In spite of the outlandish plot and the occasional murky moments, the film does the job with keeping the audience in suspense and increasing that tension to a satisfying height. None of the performances turned out to be a weak link.

Overall, this film has far more strengths than downfalls. Although I doubt that I would enjoy the courses presented at the Hawthorne all that much, the film itself manages to satisfy a different sort of appetite for some entertainment with a whiff of originality.

Book Review: Jane Hawk Closes The Window

The Night Window is a thriller written by Dean Koontz and closes out the saga which features ex-FBI Jane Hawk’s fight against the Tech Arcadians, who like to infect people with nanobots and compel them to do vile, unspeakable acts against loved ones and others. After five novels, it comes to an end.

There are all kinds of chase scenes going on. A young movie director is being stalked through the winter night by a billionaire megalomaniac who is the head of the dastardly Arcadians. Jane Hawk is joined by a former colleague who has a bit of a crush on her in spite of her still being a grieving widow. Another hitman who likes to perform random acts of cruelty is on her tail. Koontz has quite a few threads running together until what is supposed to be the exciting conclusion.

I may still be reading Koontz more out of a sense of nostalgia than any significant enjoyment these days. He’s still a talented writer, but I am sort of finding too much repetition in the types of characters he presents. I like Jane Hawk, but she just seems to be another archetype strong female protagonist who is just a little too badass to be believable. Of course, this is basically a science fiction thriller, but still…I am having a hard time finding anything that unique about her for this genre.

Koontz knows how to create a sociopath, but even the various mercenaries and assassins are kind of blending together in my memories.

Overall, this novel landed a couple of notches above mediocre. There were a few moments that were pretty gripping, but I wasn’t kept riveted with any amount of consistency. I hope some of the projects Koontz are able to keep as engaged as his earlier works. Hopefully, Jane Hawk is able to live out a long, peaceful life in the fictional realm with her son, and Dean Koontz come up with something a bit more unique and thrilling in his next release.

I recently saw the movie, “The Gray Man” with Ryan Gosling and was not impressed with that, however I am still interested to actually read something in the series of novels from which it was based. Mark Greaney is the next author on tap as I learn how Relentless the Gray Man can truly be.

Doctor Who Audio Review: Reluctant Allies

Agents of Chaos is the third volume of Doctor Who audio set featuring John Hurt as the War Doctor. These continue the efforts of this once unknown incarnation of the Doctor during the chaos of the Time War. There are three episodes in this one. Nicholas Briggs continues to voice the Daleks and also directed this compilation. Jacqueline Pearce also returns as Cardinal Ollistra. Helen Goldwyn, Honeysuckle Weeks, Barnaby Edwards, Neve Mcintosh, and Dan Starkey are included in the cast. Of course, Big Finish Productions are the masterminds behind this offering which was first released in October 2016.

David Llewellyn starts off with his script entitled The Shadow Vortex. The War Doctor is sent to East Berlin in 1961 to track down a Dalek agent, however a dangerous experiment is about to have disastrous results. The War Doctor must first elude the attentions of MI6 and KGB. It’s a pretty good start, and I like the cat and mouse chase between the War Doctor and the Dalek agent known as Lara Zannis. It’s noisy and kicks off this collection cosmic war stories with a promising storyline. Of course, Hurt gives an excellent performance. I wasn’t all that keen on his introduction in the fiftieth anniversary special on television, but he has grown on me.

Andrew Smith continues the fun with The Eternity Cage in which the War Doctor has just learned that Cardinal Ollistra was just kidnapped by the Sontarans. On the planet Rovidia, The War Doctor learns the secrets of the Eternity Cage and learns of an unexpected traitor among his small group of allies. Smith has been associated with Doctor Who a long time, and he deserves to continue in that vein. The story is a little hard to picture in the mind at times, but it’s still pretty good. Weeks shines quite brightly here as the Cardinal’s assistant with a secret of her own. Dan Starkey returns to voice the Sontarans, and he once again hits the right radically militaristic notes.

Finally, Ken Bentley closes this book with Eye of Harmony. The Dalek Time Strategist has a powerful force he can unleash, and the War Doctor still has a chance to stop, but he is trapped in a damaged battle-TARDIS with time, predictably, running out.

This whole set was pretty good. The reveal of the traitor was well handled. All of the cast performed well. John Hurt continues to live up to his status as a legend. As mentioned before, I am not instinctively a big fan of the War Doctor, however Big Finish has sort of helped me raise my respect for this character. Although the War Doctor is supposedly the more ruthless of the incarnations, there are plenty of moments that have him more recognizable as the Doctor, however he does not claim that title during this time. This collection is enjoyable in spite of sometimes confusing action sequences.

Doctor Who Audio Review: From Tyre To A World Of Ghosts

The First Doctor Adventures Volume Three is a Doctor Who audio boxset released by Big Finish Productions. This is another in the range of sets featuring David Bradley’s version of the First Doctor. Since it is pointless to wish for William Hartnell to still be alive and well enough to return to the role, one will have to find some satisfaction with Bradley’s interpretation. Fortunately, Bradley is a talented fellow and does well in the role. He is joined by Claudia Grant, Jemma Powell, and Jamie Glover returning as Susan, Barbara, and Ian, respectively. There are two stories directed by Ken Bentley.

The Phoenicians is written by Marc Platt. The guest cast is comprised of Ajjaz Awad, Jo Ben Ayed, Orion Ben, Youssef Kerkour, and Raad Rawi. The Doctor and his companions arrive in ancient Tyre and encounter King Pygmalion. The king is feuding with his sister, and the TARDIS crew get split up again. The story is sort of standard for the era this represents. Platt is a solid writer though. Even if there is little new ground broken here, it’s still a fun story. The actors were all good. Bradley is pretty good as the First Doctor. The story is not the most magnificent of offerings, however it’s solidly entertaining, and it presents another piece of historical perspective seen through the eyes of our favorite time travelers.

Guy Adams is the writer of Tick-Tock World. The guest cast is comprised of Carole Ann Ford, Mina Anwar, Susie Emmett, and Belinda Lang. Ford is, of course, the original Susan, so it’s rather surprising and amusing that she is joining this new cast who represents her era of the television series. The TARDIS has disappeared, and the Doctor and company are marooned in a strange place that is between time and space. There are other survivors, and a mysterious ghost-like woman watching, waiting for a terrible prediction to come true. This was a very intriguing story from Mr. Adams. I liked this one a little more, and I enjoyed Ford’s making an appearance. It’s a somewhat strange, confusing story that works out quite well.

Both stories have plenty of merits. The performances of this particular main cast are improving with each of these releases. Of course, both writers have contributed significantly to Doctor Who over the years, and they continue to come up with impressive ideas that Big Finish effectively brings to life. This third volume of this range is a fine contribution to the vast catalog of stories.

Doctor Who Audio Review: A Few More Adventures With Charley Pollard

Charlotte Pollard: The Further Adventuress is a Doctor Who audio boxset from Big Finish Productions. Paul McGann and India Fisher are reunited to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the introduction between these characters. There are four episodes that have been directed by Ken Bentley.

Alan Barnes begins this set with The Mummy Speaks! which takes place in 1841 Paris. The Doctor and Charley Pollard attend the Carnaval de Paris and encounter a 4000-year-old mummy that speaks and participates in breaking into houses. This actually turns out to be one of the more comedic episodes. It’s a solid start to the set. McGann and Fisher demonstrate that the chemistry that charmed the fans in the early days of Big Finish is still as formidable as ever.

Lisa McMullin continues the ride with Eclipse. On a planet called Pteron, the Doctor and Charley encounter a swarm of moths that go on the attack. They learn that the Hellstrung may have a legitimate grievance against the settlers. This episode was actually quite interesting because of some interesting revelations as to what drives these creatures. There is an effectively disturbing transformation that was well presented in audio form.

Eddie Robson follows up with The Slaying of the Writhing Mass which has the Doctor and Charley getting caught up with a group of time tourists who are trying to witness an event in which a legendary cosmic entity is destroyed. They find that not everything presented in the telling is quite right. This one was a little hard to follow at times. It’s not bad, but I would probably consider this one the least enjoyable in this collection.

Finally, Nicholas Briggs returns to pen the script for Heart of Orion, which is a follow-up to another audio play entitled Sword of Orion. The Doctor and Charley learn the fate of an android ally after they respond to a distress call which brings them back to the Garazone System. They find that many people have gone missing, and their old friend may have something to do with it. This one was a strong finish to the set, which is consistent with Briggs’ accomplishments. The earlier story had the Cybermen, which Briggs chose to avoid in this one. I like the Cybermen, but I felt that Briggs made the right call on not having them involved again.

For Big Finish fans, this hits the right notes of nostalgia. India Fisher still puts in a compelling performance. Paul McGann delivers as well. There are no masterpieces in this set, but it still is quite enjoyable, largely because of the reunion between McGann and Fisher. I wouldn’t mind revisiting this particular TARDIS team further.

Book Review: The Beginning Of Coda For The Enterprise

Dayton Ward kicks off the trilogy Star Trek: Coda with Moments Asunder. Gallery Books, the latest publishing house releasing Star Trek novels, has decided to have this range come to an end since Paramount has decided to bring back Jean-Luc Picard, whose television future is quite different from the direction taken in the print version.

So, Wesley Crusher, who was last seen transforming into a trans dimensional Traveler on the television series, has returned. A mysterious alien force is threatening to destroy all sorts of realities, and Wesley returns to the Enterprise after a future version of himself has already died. Captain Picard and the crew begin their investigation and find old adversaries behind the chaos. Their discoveries don’t prevent catastrophic losses for those on board the Enterprise.

The plot sounds like an utter mess, but it actually is quite compelling. Ward really goes for the jugular when it comes to challenging one of our favorite Star Trek ensembles. I sort of question the necessity of this path for the novel range just because a new television series has launched, but Ward once again demonstrates why he has been commissioned so often to contribute to this series.

This turned out to be quite a shattering start to this trilogy, and there are still two more novels to go.

Next up, I am finishing another small series written by Dean Koontz. Jane Hawk returns for her fifth and final fight against the vast organization that is trying to control minds on a frightening level in The Night Window.