REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The Wonderful Doctor of Oz” by Jacqueline Rayner

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if Doctor Who met The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, then look no further. Jacqueline Rayner’s The Wonderful Doctor of Oz is exactly what it sounds like. After traveling to 1939 LA to see the world premiere of The Wizard of Oz, the Doctor and her friends are shocked to learn nobody’s ever heard of the film, the book, or its author. Even more shocking is when a tornado carries the TARDIS (and all of its occupants) away to a suspiciously Oz-like land. To escape, the Doctor, Graham, Yaz, Ryan, and a stowaway named Theodore have to act out the events of the book and find the Wizard of Oz before the mysterious Wicked Witch gets to them. It sounds like it’s gonna be a big gimmick, but it’s surprisingly emotional. The Wonderful Doctor of Oz is a quick, fun read that exemplifies the endless possibilities of Doctor Who. (4 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: Mild spoilers follow. Read at your own risk.)

Doctor Who: The Wonderful Doctor of Oz
Written by Jacqueline Rayner
When a sudden tornado engulfs the TARDIS, the Thirteenth Doctor and her fam find themselves transported to the magical land of Oz. With a damaged TARDIS and an unexpected stowaway from the 1930s, their only hope of getting home is to follow the yellow brick road.

But when an army of scarecrows ambushes them, they quickly realise that everything is not as it should be, and they’re thrown into a fight for survival against a mysterious enemy. As each of her companions becomes a shadow of their former selves, only the Doctor is left standing.

Desperate to save her friends, she must embark on a perilous journey to seek help from the mysterious Wizard of Oz – and stop whatever forces are at work before she and her friends are trapped in the fictional world forever.

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The TV Movie” by Gary Russell (Target Novelization)

Most movie novelizations end up being a not-quite-final draft of the film’s script converted into prose. There’s the occasional deleted scene or expanded character backstory, but it’s mostly just a book version of the film, as you’d have seen it. Doctor Who: The TV Movie is precisely that kind of novelization. It’s well written, sure, and Russell’s prose adds a fair amount of depth to the story that a ninety-minute TV film simply can’t have. But it’s still a very safe, very standard novelization. It’s a little disappointing compared to how different some of the other recent Target novelizations are to their original stories, but I’m kind of okay with Russell’s adaptation being as faithful and safe as it is. I have quite the soft spot for the TV film, and Russell’s novel does a great job of capturing what works about the film. (4 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: This review features mild spoilers for Doctor Who: The TV Movie and its novelization. Read at your own risk.

Doctor Who: The TV Movie
(written by Gary Russell)
It’s December 1999, and strange things are happening as the new millennium nears. A British police box appears from nowhere in San Francisco’s Chinatown and the mysterious man inside it is shot down in the street. Despite the best efforts of Dr Grace Holloway, the man dies and another stranger appears, claiming to be the same person in a different body: a wanderer in time and space known only as the Doctor.

But the Doctor is not the only alien in San Francisco. His deadly adversary the Master is murdering his way through the city and has taken control of the TARDIS. The Master is desperate to take the Doctor’s newly regenerated body for himself, and if the Doctor does not capitulate, it will literally cost him the Earth… and every last life on it.

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who: Dalek” by Robert Shearman (The Target Collection)

Dalek is a perfect episode of Doctor Who. It’s got great character work, thrilling action sequences, and an expertly crafted and executed plot. The idea of novelizing the episode must have been a daunting one for Robert Shearman, the episode’s original writer and the author of this new Target novelization. How do you successfully translate the episode’s bone-chilling tension into prose? The answer, in Dalek’s case, is that you don’t. Instead, Shearman takes the opportunity to delve deeper into the story, stretching out the backstories of all of the characters and allowing the narrative a lot of room to breathe. This results in a compelling novel, but one that lacks the tension and focus of the episode it’s adapting. It’s a fun read—but a wildly different experience when compared to the episode. (4 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: There will be mild spoilers for “Dalek” ahead. Read at your own risk.

Doctor Who: Dalek
(written by Robert Shearman)
The Doctor and Rose arrive in an underground vault in Utah in the near future. The vault is filled with alien artefacts. Its billionaire owner, Henry van Statten, even has possession of a living alien creature, a mechanical monster in chains that he has named a Metaltron. Seeking to help the Metaltron, the Doctor is appalled to find it is in fact a Dalek – one that has survived the horrors of the Time War just as he has. And as the Dalek breaks loose, the Doctor is brought back to the brutality and desperation of his darkest hours spent fighting the creatures of Skaro… this time with the Earth as their battlefield.

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror” by Mark Gatiss / “Doctor Who: The Witchfinders” by Joy Wilkinson (Doctor Who Target Collection)

The Target range of Doctor Who novelizations has long held the ability to transform an otherwise average-to-bad episode of the show into a memorable and enjoyable book. Sometimes, what doesn’t work on screen is destined to work on the page, and granting the original screenwriter the opportunity to expand upon their script often yields exciting results. This is the mindset I approached the latest wave of the range with. Neither “The Crimson Horror” nor “The Witchfinders” are bad episodes of Doctor Who, but they are decidedly average ones, which means there’s quite a lot of room for them to be bettered in a novelization. While “The Crimson Horror” doesn’t really achieve this feat, “The Witchfinders” does. And, to be fair, both novels are immensely enjoyable and should prove pleasing to any Doctor Who fan who decides to read either story.

“Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror” by Mark Gatiss
Something ghastly is afoot in Victorian Yorkshire. Something that kills. Bodies are washing up in the canal, their skin a waxy, glowing red… But just what is this crimson horror? Madam Vastra, Jenny and Strax are despatched to investigate the mystery. Strangely reluctant to assist their enquiries is Mrs Winifred Gillyflower, matriarch of ‘Sweetville’, a seemingly utopian workers’ community. Why do all roads lead to the team’s old friends Clara and the Doctor? Who is Mrs Gillyflower’s mysterious silent partner Mr Sweet? And will the motley gang be in time to defeat the mysterious power that threatens all the world with its poison?

“Doctor Who: The Witchfinders” by Joy Wilkinson
The TARDIS lands in the Lancashire village of Bilehurst Cragg in the 17th century, and the Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz soon become embroiled in a witch trial run by the local landowner. Fear stalks the land, and the arrival of King James I only serves to intensify the witch hunt. But the Doctor soon realises there is something more sinister than paranoia and superstition at work. Tendrils of living mud stir in the ground and the dead lurch back to horrifying life as an evil alien presence begins to revive. The Doctor and her friends must save not only the people of Bilehurst Cragg from the wakening forces, but the entire world.

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REVIEW: Doctor Who 2010 Christmas Special – “A Christmas Carol”

For over a decade, the whole family could gather around the TV on Christmas Day and watch a new Doctor Who Christmas special. These episodes were rarely as all-around well-executed as the series’ best episodes, but they were always packed with holiday spirit and undeniably fun to watch. No Christmas special exhibited these qualities more than the 2010 special, A Christmas Carol. Being both Steven Moffat and Matt Smith’s first Doctor Who Christmas special, it had quite a lot to live up to—and boy did it. I’d argue that A Christmas Carol is not only a great Doctor Who Christmas special but also a great episode of Doctor Who in general. Loosely adapting Charles Dickens’ classic book, A Christmas Carol, the special is jam-packed with Christmas spirit, spectacular performances, and a suitably timey-wimey plotline perfect for the 11th Doctor. It is easily my favorite Doctor Who Christmas special. (5 out of 5 wands.)

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol (written by Steven Moffat, directed by Toby Haynes)
Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) are trapped on a crashing space liner, and the only way the Doctor (Matt Smith) can rescue them is to save the soul of a lonely old miser, Kazran Sardick (Michael Gambon, Laurence Belcher, Danny Horn). But is Sardick, the richest man in Sardicktown, beyond redemption? And what is lurking in the fogs of Christmas Eve?

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who – Adventures in Lockdown”

The pandemic has been exceptionally hard on the entertainment industry. It’s been difficult for everyone, but industries that rely on large groups of people gathering together to do or watch something have been hit particularly hard. Still, many individual pieces of entertainment found creative and innovative ways to continue making content during this time. Doctor Who might have found one of the more fun ways of doing things—publishing short stories and videos created by people involved in the making of the show. What started as a series of short stories posted on the Doctor Who website has turned into an anthology of 16 stories published in support of the Children in Need charity. Doctor Who: Adventures in Lockdown is not only a fun read for a good cause, but an example of how creative and varied the show can be. (4.5 out of 5 wands)

Doctor Who: Adventures in Lockdown (by Chris Chibnall, Steven Moffat, Russel T. Davies, Neil Gaiman, Joy Wilkinson, Vinay Patel, Pete McTighe, Paul Cornell, and Mark Gatiss)
While staying home was a vital safety measure in 2020, the freedom of the TARDIS remained a dream that drew many – allowing them to roam the cosmos in search of distraction, reassurance and adventure. Now some of the finest TV Doctor Who writers come together with gifted illustrators in this very special short story collection in support of BBC Children in Need.

Current and former showrunners – Chris Chibnall Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat – present exciting adventures for the Doctor conceived in confinement, alongside brand new fiction from Neil Gaiman, Mark Gatiss and Vinay Patel. Also featuring work from Chris Riddell, Joy Wilkinson, Paul Cornell, Sonia Leong, Sophie Cowdrey, Mike Collins and many more, Adventures in Lockdown is a book for any Doctor Who fan in your life, stories that will send your heart spinning wildly through time and space…

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REVIEW: “Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia Part One” by Steven Moffat and Jay

I enjoyed BBC’s Sherlock when it aired. Like any long-running show, it had its ups and downs; its good parts and its bad ones. While the last season of the show may not have been great, its earlier brilliance was not erased. In fact, I believe the show peaked in its second season. Those three episodes were Sherlock working on all cylinders. This is what interested me in this manga adaptation of the season’s first episode, A Scandal in Belgravia. Adapted and illustrated by Jay, this volume adapts the first half of the episode. As an adaptation, it’s fine. The artwork is neat and much of the episode’s wit is retained, but some of the show’s charm and visual flair are lost in translation. (4 out of 5 wands.)

Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia Part One (written by Steven Moffat, adapted and illustrated by Jay)
Fresh from confronting Moriarty in the end of The Great Game, Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and John Watson (Martin Freeman) are called to save the royal family from blackmail at the hands of Irene Adler (Lara Pulver), a dominatrix known as “The Woman”. Adler pulls Sherlock into a complex web of mysteries involving the CIA and the MOD, with secrets that could threaten to threaten international security and topple the monarchy.

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who: Out of Time” by Matt Fitton and Big Finish Productions

The Fourth Doctor is probably the most popular Doctor from the classic era of Doctor Who. Similarly, the Tenth Doctor is probably the most popular of the modern era. So, it only makes sense that Big Finish, who has the license to make audios with all Doctors but the 13th, would finally make an audio drama where these two beloved incarnations meet. The result? Out of Time, the first in a series of audios pairing classic Doctors with the Tenth Doctor. Written by Matt Fitton, Out of Time is a fun romp with two fan-favorite Doctors. Featuring great performances from Tom Baker and David Tennant and a fun and intriguing plot, it’s a great listen for all Doctor Who fans. (4 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: This review may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.)

Doctor Who: Out of Time 1 (written by Matt Fitton, directed by Nicholas Briggs)
The Cathedral of Contemplation is an enigma, existing outside time. It turns through history, opening its doors across the universe to offer solace to those in need.

Occasionally, the Doctor drops in – when he’s avoiding his destiny, it’s an ideal place to get some perspective. Only this time he’s already there from several lives earlier, so when dimension barriers break down, his past and present collide.

And when the Daleks invade and commandeer the Cathedral, two Doctors (Tom Baker and David Tennant) must unite to stop them – or face extermination twice over!

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REVIEW: “Regenerations” – A Doctor Who Charity Anthology

Doctor Who has a long history of charity anthologies. For decades, fans have combined their creativity and generosity into these anthologies, telling new stories in the Doctor Who Universe while raising money for numerous charities. The anthologies may technically be unauthorized, but they’re one of my favorite aspects of the Doctor Who fandom. Which is where Kenton Hall and Chinbeard Books’ latest anthology, Regenerations, enters. When Hall reached out to offer a copy for review, I jumped at the chance. I love Doctor Who anthologies and I love the War Doctor. And, having finished the book, it’s well worth the read. It’s a unique, clever Anthology that loving you played with Doctor Who canon while raising money for the charity “Invest in ME” – a UK-based charity that researches Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. (4 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: The publisher provided an advanced copy in exchange for a fair review. All thoughts are my own.)

Regenerations edited by Kenton Hall
The Time Lord formerly known as the Doctor has been fighting the Time War for as long as he can recall. His previous lives — all those triumphs and tragedies — have been boxed up and filed away, too painful to revisit. That is until something — or someone — begins tugging at the thread of the Doctor’s past. As familiar stories twist and shift, threatening the stability of the universe itself, the reluctant Warrior finds himself with only one option. He has to save the Doctor. 

A charitable anthology of twisted tales, raising money for Invest In ME .

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who” S12E10 – The Timeless Children

1210Finales are hard to pull off. Especially ones that have as much ground to cover as this one did. Where we last left off, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Ethan (one of the human survivors of the CyberWar, played by Matt Carver) were standing in front of the Boundary, a mysterious gateway between worlds/galaxies guarded by Ko Sharmus (Ian McElhinney), face-to-face with the Master (Sacha Dhawan) who is ready to explain what terrible secret he learned about the Time Lords caused him to destroy the planet. Meanwhile, Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ravio (Julie Graham), and Yedlarmi (Alex Austin) were trapped on the CyberShip with Ashad/The Lone Cyberman (Patrick O’Kane) and the rest of his Cybermen Army, headed directly toward Ko Sharmus’s planet. With that in mind, The Timeless Children had a lot to tie up: it needed to reveal the secret behind the Timeless Child; it needed to reveal what Ashad’s plan was and how he would be defeated; it needed to reveal who Brendan (Evan McCabe), the mysterious man shown throughout last week’s episode, fit into everything and how the Ruth Doctor (Jo Martin) fit in with the established history of the Doctor; and, most of all, it had to be a good episode. Did The Timeless Child succeed at all of this? Yes and no. It featured a lot of answers that opened the doors to even more mysteries. It uprooted everything we thought we knew about the show before somewhat-disappointingly reverting to the usual status quo. It’s solid, but its ideas need more exploration to really land. (Full spoilers ahead!)

Season 12, Episode 10: The Timeless Children (written by Chris Chibnall, directed by Jamie Magnus Stone)
In the epic and emotional series finale, the Cybermen are on the march. As the last remaining humans are ruthlessly hunted down, Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Yaz (Mandip Gill) face a terrifying fight to survive. Civilisations fall. Others rise anew. Lies are exposed, truths are revealed, battles are fought, and for the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) — trapped and alone — nothing will ever be the same again.

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