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 Ruby’s Curse” by Alex Kingston

If you’re not a fan of River Song, you’re probably not gonna like The Ruby’s Curse, Alex Kingston’s first Doctor Who book and River’s first solo novel. It’s pure, unadulterated River Song, with all the pros and cons that come with that. The book’s been advertised as a sort of melding of fact and fiction, with River writing a new Melody Malone story only to have elements of that story bleed into her reality. And, honestly, it’s every bit as mind-bending as it sounds—in the best way possible. Doctor Who: The Ruby’s Curse is a love letter to River Song and her time on the show. It’s clever, thrilling, action-packed, and oh-so-meta. Is it perfect? No, but it sure is a lot of fun. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

Doctor Who: The Ruby’s Curse
by Alex Kingston
1939, New York. Private Eye, Melody Malone, is hired to find a stolen ruby, the Eye of Horus. The ruby might hold the secret to the location of Cleopatra’s tomb – but everyone who comes into contact with it dies. Can Melody escape the ruby’s curse?

1939, New York. River Song, author of the Melody Malone Mysteries, is forced to find a reality-altering weapon, the Eye of Horus – but everyone who comes into contact with it dies. River doesn’t believe in curses – but is she wrong?

From the top-security confines of Stormcage to the barbarism of first-century Egypt, River battles to find the Eye of Horus before its powers are used to transform the universe. To succeed, she must team up with a most unlikely ally – her own fictional alter ego, Melody. And together they must solve another mystery: Is fiction changing into fact – or is fact changing into fiction?

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The Angel’s Kiss” by Justin Richards

It may not be the most beloved episode of Doctor Who (or of season 7, even), but I’ve always had a soft spot for “The Angels Take Manhattan.” I love River Song and I love film noir-style detective stories. So, of course, I love an episode where River is a film noir-style detective. And in that episode, there’s a book that’s based on her adventures as this detective—Melody Malone. It’s one of my favorite elements of the episode; I mean, who doesn’t love a good book-within-a-show? Honestly, I’d love to read a novelization of the episode written like a Melody Malone novel. And, when I first came across Justin Richards’ “The Angel’s Kiss,” I thought that’s what I’d be getting—a recreation of the book featured in “The Angels Take Manhattan.” Unfortunately, that’s not what this is.

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Adventures – Ravagers”

It’s an absolute delight to be living in a world where Christopher Eccleston is acting in new Doctor Who stories featuring his Doctor. Like Paul McGann, Eccleston’s time on the show was brief but full of promise. So, it’s quite nice to see him return to the role after a nearly sixteen-year absence in a new series of audio dramas for Big Finish. Unfortunately, the first set of these stories, Doctor Who: Ravagers, isn’t the home run it could’ve been. It’s not a bad set, or anything, just an underwhelming one. It’s a three-part story that’s stretched across two-and-a-half hours and, honestly, the story just doesn’t support its length. But still—it feels like a story that might’ve aired during the Ninth Doctor’s era. Plus, Christopher Eccleston was always going to be the selling point of these sets and he doesn’t disappoint here. (3 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: Minor spoilers for Doctor Who: Ravagers follow. Major plot points are not spoiled, but read at your own risk.)

“Doctor Who: Ravagers”
(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.

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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: Dalek Universe 1”

If there are two things I feel are overused in current Doctor Who expanded universe material, it’s the Tenth Doctor and the Daleks. So, it’s kind of weird that I’d find myself so excited for Dalek Universe, the newest series of Tenth Doctor audio boxsets from Big Finish Productions. Truth is, I’m interested in it because it reminds me a bit of the (infamously missing) First Doctor story, “The Daleks’ Masterplan.” That story was, partially, an attempt to flesh out the Dalek universe, introducing The Space Security Service, multiple planets/governments, and a universe that’s constantly at war with the Daleks. It’s one of those Doctor Who things that has always begged for further exploration, and it’s bonkers to think that the show has never really returned to it. This is why it was so exciting to see Big Finish leaning into it as hard as they are with Dalek Universe. This first volume of Dalek Universe feels like a prelude for stories to come. It’s an exciting, sweeping space opera that reintroduces elements from Classic Who into the world of New Who. It features fantastic sci-fi ideas, David Tennant’s best Big Finish performance to date, and a captivating throughline that makes me eager to hear the rest of the series. Plus, if you’re like me and a bit tired of the Daleks, then fret not. The Daleks barely appear in this. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: There will be minor spoilers for Dalek Universe 1. Nothing major is spoiled, but read at your own risk.

Doctor Who: Dalek Universe 1
(written by John Dorney and Andrew Smith)
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…

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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 – Revolution of the Daleks” (2021 New Year’s Special)

It feels like ages since a new episode of Doctor Who has aired. I know season 12 finished airing this past March, but it feels much longer than that. After a year like 2020, it feels good to have a new Doctor Who episode to look forward to. And, let’s be real, a new episode of Doctor Who is always something to be excited for, even if you’re not loving the current run. Every episode of Doctor Who is a blank slate. There is a chance for that episode to be something great or, conversely, to be less-than-stellar. And that’s the joy of the show—you never know what you’re gonna get. It’s with this mindset that I approached the 2021 New Year’s Day special, Revolution of the Daleks. I enjoyed the previous New Year’s special, Resolution, so I was pretty excited going into this. Plus, there’s the added excitement of the proper return of John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness and the drama of two companions departing by the end of the story—Bradley Walsh’s Graham and Tosin Cole’s Ryan. Revolution of the Daleks had a lot going for it, but how did it fare as a story? Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks is a rollicking adventure. Filled with action, drama, a surprising amount of introspection, and plenty of heart, it’s an excellent special that should prove plenty pleasing. (4.5 out of 5 wands.) 

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

Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks (written by Chris Chibnall, directed by Lee Haven Jones)
The Doctor is imprisoned halfway across the universe. On Earth, the sighting of a Dalek alerts Ryan, Graham and Yaz. Can the return of Captain Jack Harkness help them stop a deadly Dalek takeover?

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who: All Flesh is Grass” by Una McCormack (Time Lord Victorious)

So far, the Time Lord Victorious event has been a bit of a mixed bag. The first novel, The Knight, The Fool, and The Dead, set up a solid premise but didn’t explore any of its ideas with the depth needed to make them memorable. The two comics were well-written and illustrated but short and seemingly-disconnected from the larger story. And, as of this review, I haven’t listened to any of the Big Finish audios, so I can’t speak on them. But those parts of Time Lord Victorious that I have consumed have left me conflicted. I really want to enjoy Time Lord Victorious—I like a lot of the ideas and many of the stories are solid on their own, but the whole event hasn’t felt like it was coalescing into anything yet. So, I hoped that this second (and final) novel, the conclusion of the storyline, All Flesh is Grass, would tick those boxes. And it sort of does—it deftly ties together the seemingly disparate elements of the story into an explosive conclusion. However, it also maintains all of the flaws of the first book and wastes the intriguing premise set up in that novel by devolving into another Doctor vs Dalek story. (3 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: There will be some spoilers for the book within. I wouldn’t consider any of them to be major ones, but your mileage may vary. Read at your own risk.)

Doctor Who: All Flesh is Grass by Una McCormack
A wasteland. A dead world… No, there is a biodome, rising from the ash. Here, life teems and flourishes, with strange and lush plants, and many-winged insects with bright carapaces – and one solitary sentient creature, who spends its days watering the plants, talking to the insects, and tending this lonely garden. This is Inyit, the Last of the Kotturuh.

In All Flesh is Grass we are transported back to The Dark Times. The Tenth Doctor has sworn to stop the Kotturuh, ending Death and bringing Life to the universe. But his plan is unravelling – instead of bringing Life, nothing has changed and all around him people are dying. Death is everywhere. Now he must confront his former selves – one in league with their greatest nemesis and the other manning a ship of the undead…

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