Category Archives: doctor who

My Week in Writing (22/04/18)

It’s been a bit of a slow week. I haven’t made much progress on The Green and the Gathering Tide or on any of my projects for the simple reason that I’ve been writing Lord of the Rings fanfiction. Hopefully it’s at least good fanfiction.

However, a little progress is still progress. I’ve also been rejected by the last few magazines I submitted short stories to, so I’ll most likely be submitting next week.

In other news, I’m now almost at the end of The Two Towers in my re-read and I’m at a part which has full-time hobbits so I’m happy again. Theoretically I’m also reading The Blind Assassin but I haven’t picked it up all week.

And I’m twelve episodes into the thirteen-part radio series. I plan to finish it at work tomorrow afternoon and I’m looking forward to it – I assume the final episode has the Scouring of the Shire, which I haven’t seen/heard dramatised before.

I also listened to Turn of the Screw from Big Finish, a short that I’ve been very much looking forward to – though I confess, not quite as much as I’m looking forward to this month’s Erasure which I’ll be listening to next weekend!

I’m also in the process of applying for some very exciting job vacancies, so I shall optimistically say ‘watch this space’.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under big finish, books, doctor who, Lord of the Rings, Weekly Update, writing

My Week in Writing (18/03/18)

I’ve been visiting my mother this week and she’s still very tired from her surgery, so things have been pretty quiet. I read a lot: Wide Sargasso Sea on the train south and The Last Unicorn on the journey back north, plus two mini Penguin classics, The Break-Through by Daphne du Maurier and The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson. (I’m going to have to look up some more Shirley Jackson!)

I also read issue 10 of Shoreline of Infinity and as usual enjoyed it immensely! And I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the first time – I’m not sure how I’ve managed to miss out on it before, it’s a really excellent film.

I reviewed We Have Always Lived in the Castle and Wide Sargasso Sea on Goodreads and I made a start on reviewing Scourge, the novel I’m reviewing for an upcoming edition of Shoreline of Infinity.

I finished listening to Shield of the Jotunn, a Sixth Doctor story from Big Finish. Fairly run of the mill stuff, but some solid Doctor Who and I’m always keen to hear more of companion Constance Clarke.

The Green and the Gathering Tide is now coming up on 213,000 words and still rising. And this week I finally sent the first book in the trilogy, Phases of Being, to my mother to read – no one has read the whole thing before so I’m a bit nervous!

Next week, I’ll be at the Edinburgh Creative Salon, and hopefully finally – finally – going to see Black Panther.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under big finish, books, doctor who, Weekly Update, writing

Big Finish Review: Sixth Doctor Short Trips

He’s back! I confess: I was a little worried when 2017’s Short Trips lineup from Big Finish contained no stories for old Sixie. His place in the lineup seemed to have been taken by an assortment of (very good, for the most part) New Who based stories, and pleased as I am that BF are producing New Who content I was a concerned that some of their Classic content might fall by the wayside.

But for January and February of 2018 they put out two Sixth Doctor stories in a row, one for each of his TV companions (and there’s another one coming in August for BF’s own companion Constance Clarke). I listened to them more or less back to back, and had a great time…

61

The Authentic Experience by Dan Starkey

Peri is a soldier in an unknown war, teased by his fellow soldiers for his sensitive nature and love of plants. He doesn’t remember how he came to be in the army, or even where his home is.

The Doctor and Peri Brown land in a drab, grey city in the future, drawn in by a temporal disturbance. They quickly track down the source… a travel agency.

I called the reveal in The Authentic Experience very early on, but fortunately the story doesn’t hinge too much on surprise. Once the initial mystery is solved it blossoms into something fun and globe-trotting and delightfully creative.

This is author Dan Starkey’s second Big Finish writing credit, and first solo story. (You may know him as Strax.) A really delightful Short Trips debut. The strengths of the Doctor and Peri’s relationship are showcased in spite of the story being light on characterisation.

The central idea of The Authentic Experience may not be the most original but it’s well-executed and, by the end of the story, made into something truly mind-bending.

62

Mel-Evolent by Simon A Forward

One morning in the TARDIS, Mel finds the Doctor brooding in the TARDIS theatre. (She didn’t know the TARDIS had a theatre.) Exploring she sees, reflected in a mirror, her own face, but somehow twisted and sinister.

Something has invaded the TARDIS. Something has stolen Mel’s face. Something very old and very malevolent.

Mel-Evolent goes to some strange places. Like the best Sixth Doctor and Mel stories it’s superficially comic – the image of an evil version of Mel, one of the sweetest, most upbeat, most harmless companions the Doctor has ever had, borders on the absurd – but beneath the comedy and the trappings of fantasy there’s a sense of real fear.

The imagery is gorgeous, an eerie and surreal blend of science fiction and fairy tale. The reveal about the origins of the ‘Witch Queen’ is simultaneously some classic Doctor Who stuff whilst also being genuinely surprising and unsettling. The ending may take you by surprise.

The 2018 Short Trips lineup promises some really exciting and novel stories, including I Am The Master, written and performed by Big Finish’s original Master Geoffrey Beevers, and Erasure, an exceptionally niche story featuring the Fourth Doctor, Adric, and CIA Co-Ordinator Narvin of Big Finish’s Gallifrey.

But the quality of the range as a whole is best judged through more classic, more run of the mill stories like The Authentic Experience and Mel-Evolent. And both of these were a delight to listen to. Season eight off to a very strong start.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under big finish, doctor who, review

Review: Doctor Who: The Early Adventures 4

Big Finish’s Early Adventures range has been running since 2014. The series acts, in many respects, as a follow-up to The Lost Stories, audio adaptations of unproduced Doctor Who scripts and story outlines.

 

Between the Lost Stories and the Companion Chronicles Big Finish have a lot of practice recreating sixties Who, and they’ve produced some really phenomenal stories over the years. The returning cast members are always a delight, the recasts (Elliot Chapman as companion Ben Jackson and Jemma Powell as Barbara Wright) are on point and some of Big Finish’s most celebrated writers have written for the Early Adventures.

In short, I had high hopes for this series, but it turned out to be something of a mixed bag. Season one’s An Ordinary Life and season two’s The Black Hole were, in my opinion, instant classics. But scrolling over the first three seasons, I find myself struggling to remember what even happened in some of the stories.

So: let’s talk about season four.

ea1The Night Witches by Roland Moore

Landing in 1942, in the midst of the Eastern Front, the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie are captured by the Soviet 588th Night Bomber Regiment – better known as the Night Witches. As per usual, they’re presumed to be spies and swiftly locked up.

But in a strange twist of fate, Polly turns out to be the spitting image of Tatiana Kregki, the Night Witches’ ace pilot – and while all they want to do is go back to the TARDIS to safety, the uncanny resemblance draws the Doctor and all his companions deep into the war effort.

The Night Witches is in many respects representative of the series as a whole: perfectly enjoyable to listen to, but it smacks of unfulfilled potential. The Night Witches make for brilliant material for a historical Doctor Who serial, but that’s really all there is to the script. The Night Witches are themselves – which is to say, fascinating and kickass – while the lead cast tries to survive and escape.

The script continually hints that there might be something deeper going on – some strange, timey-wimey explanation for Polly and Tatiana’s resemblence – but nothing comes of this. I spent the whole story waiting for a twist or pick up which never came.

That said, I still had a good time. The Night Witches were worth the price of admission, and I’m always here for this particular TARDIS team.

ea2The Outliers by Simon Guerrier

In the distant future, the Doctor and his companions find themselves in a strange underground city. The ordinary suburban houses are brand new and ready to be lived in. The streets are flooded. Something is living in the water.

The Outliers is a story in the vein of The Macra Terror, one of Patrick Troughton’s best loved stories – which is to say, it’s eerie, social conscious, and utterly bizarre.

The twist – such as it is – about what’s in the water is spelled out fairly early, but any predictability is more than made up for by the time-bending sequence which follows the reveal. It’s both poignant and fascinating from a sci-fi point of view – and there’s some delightful continuity porn to boot.

This isn’t a subtle story, in terms of its storytelling or its politics, but then again neither was The Macra Terror. Fully in-keeping with the era and genuinely unexpected.

ea3The Morton Legacy by Justin Richards

In London, Ben and Polly find themselves in the right place but the wrong time. It’s the 1860s and they’re as far from home as ever. The Doctor thinks that he can make a controlled jump a hundred years forward and get them home… but before he can put this plan into action, the TARDIS is stolen.

It’s been spirited away by Josiah Morton as the newest addition to his collection of antiquities and to get it back they need to befriend him – but Josiah Morton has just been accused of murder.

I was excited for this story most of all, for one very simple reason: the plot summary is uncannily similar to 1967’s The Evil of the Daleks, one of the best-loved Classic Who stories and (for all its faults) a truly epic ride. The TARDIS stolen by an antiquarian… in the 1860s… who has a beautiful daughter who Jamie falls in love with… I was so sure the resemblence must be significant.

But as it turns out, it’s entirely irrelevant. Apparently the TARDIS just got stolen by two separate Victorian antiquarians on two separate occasions!

I was expecting something interesting, possibly involving alternate timelines, possibly involving daleks. What I got was a solid enough story in which the final twist is that the events depicted were actually entirely prosaic.

It’s an enjoyable murder mystery and I may well enjoy it more on second listen. But as it is, the whole thing just felt rather uninspired and lifeless.

ea4The Wreck of the World by Timothy X Atack

Attempting vital repairs in the deepest of deep space, the TARDIS is caught, impossibly, in the gravitational pull of a vast, unknown object.

Almost before they know what’s happening, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe collide with the remains of an ancient colony ship. With Zoe lost inside, the Doctor and Jamie set out to rescue her, only to find that they’re not alone.

This is the World, the first colony ship to leave earth. It never reached its destination. The colonists are all dead. And the Doctor and his friends are about to learn why.

The Wreck of the World is by no means a perfect story, but it has the quality that was missing from the previous three. I’m not sure exactly what’s different, but there’s a spark here that the Early Adventures is usually lacking.

Maybe it’s that the author actually seems to love the central characters and love writing them. This is Timothy X Atack’s first story for Big Finish and perhaps testament as to why they need some new blood.

The story itself I’m not in love with – for such a hard sci-fi setting, the big reveal seemed to belong more to the realm of fantasy to the point that I found it jarring. But it’s fast-paced (despite the narration), genuinely poignant and also very funny. And it has Jamie singing Hey Johnny Cope! What’s not to love about that.

Verdict: this is, overall, a stronger run of stories than series two. I’d recommend all of them to a friend bar The Morton Legacy. At their best, these stories deepen the characters and their relationships and that’s exactly what all good expanded universe stories should do.

Unfortunately, with the exception of The Wreck of the World, every one of them bored me to some extent. It’s partly the narrated full cast format, which slows the scripts down enormously, and partly that the first three stories feel, to be blunt, phoned in. It’s a difficult quality to pin down, but given how long Big Finish have been making Doctor Who – nineteen years this year! – it’s not hugely surprising that some of their stories might feel a bit, well, tired.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under big finish, doctor who, review

My Week In Writing (28/01/18)

I’ve not had the most eventful week! Worked three days, attempted to make arrangements to take time off work to see Hamilton in mid February with limited success. I went to the Edinburgh Creative Salon at Summerhall, which this month was very puppetry-focused so not my thing but interesting.

I finished reading It Devours! which I enjoyed very much and started reading Alias Grace which so far I’m struggling a little to get into but we’ll see how it goes. I also listened to (most of) Planet of the Rani from Big Finish.

I’m coming up on the halfway point of this (hopefully final) edit of The Summer Masque. Only six chapters to go – hopefully smooth sailing from here.

The Green and the Gathering Tide is now just shy of 192k and now over the halfway point. I’m on an arc I’ve been looking forward to for a long time concerning a shapeshifting detective.

I’ve also now officially made contact with my agency to tell them I want to move on. No response as yet, I intend to follow up by phone call asap.

Next week, I’m going to the Literary Salon at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, and I plan to approach 200k on this seemingly neverending novel I’m writing.

Leave a comment

Filed under big finish, books, doctor who, Weekly Update, writing

Big Finish Review: December Short Trips

I’ve talked about Big Finish’s monthly Short Trips range twice before (The British Invasion and A Heart On Both Sides/All Hands On Deck) so I shan’t reiterate myself. Suffice to say I bought my 2018 subscription a couple of months ago and I’m very excited for this year’s lineup, especially I Am The Master, a short story written and performed by Geoffrey Beevers (who’s been reprising his Master for Big Finish since 2001) and Erasure, performed by Sean Carlsen of Big Finish’s Gallifrey range.

Last month Big Finish put out not one but two Short Trips: their regular monthly story and a special release, the winner of their annual Paul Sprague Memoral Short Trip Contest. I listened to both stories this week, so here’s what I thought:

short2Landbound by Selim Ulug

Ronald Henderson, once the captain of a cargo ship, now a pub landlord, meets the Doctor one day in Whitby. The Doctor saves him from a mugging – and so begins a strange and rocky friendship.

I confess: having entered the Short Trip Contest myself last year, it’s difficult for me not to go into the winning story with a touch of resentment. I came away from last year’s Forever Fallen grudgingly impressed and wondering how they were going to top it. Unfortunately I came away from Landbound somewhat frustrated.

As a concept for a Third Doctor story it’s solid – the Doctor grounded on earth befriending a landbound sea captain haunted by memories of the impossible sea monster that destroyed his ship. The first act of the story was very effective – but to be honest, felt to me complete, the remaining 15-20 minutes of runtime seeming more of an extended epilogue.

And the ending, ultimately, did not ring true for me. By the last scene I fully expected this to be a story in which the Doctor makes a mistake that he can’t make right – but then he did, and with no effort at all.

That said, I’m just not a big Third Doctor fan in general. If you are a fan of this era it’s definitely worth checking this one out – it slots very nicely into seasons 7-10 and setting the opening scene in the aftermath of The Silurians was a masterstroke.

I feel a little weird giving this story a bad(ish) review, having admitted to entering the contest. But the honest truth is, I very much wanted to like it, and I didn’t.

short1O Tannenbaum by Anthony Keetch

And now for something completely different: Big Finish’s annual Christmas Short Trip, this year read by Peter Purves.

The Doctor and companion Steven Taylor land in a beautiful pine forest, where they find a charming cottage, a frightened little girl, and dying old man. In the cottage there is a Christmas tree. Daddy, the girl tells them, cut it down that morning. Then he went back into the forest for firewood… and he hasn’t come back.

O Tannenbaum has the kind of simultaneously simple and utterly bonkers concept that’s characteristic of Doctor Who. It’s an uneasy, spooky story with a final twist that turns out more heartwarming than you might expect – in the spirit of the season. (Is the history of the Christmas tree the Doctor recounts to win the day true? Probably not, but what does it matter?)

Peter Purves is my favourite reader for First Doctor stories. His William Hartnell voice is stellar and he never fails to capture Steven Taylor’s character, even fifty years on. Some actors you have trouble picturing them exactly as they were in the sixties; Peter Purves you’ll never question.

I’d call this Big Finish’s best Christmas Short Trip to date, but given that there’s only been two that hardly seems fair! I do, however, think it’ll be hard to top come Christmas 2018.

Leave a comment

Filed under big finish, doctor who, review

My Week In Writing (19/11/17)

stats19Well: I hit 50k this week! I’m on track to finish at 100k but trying not to get too invested – 3,333 words a day is a big time investment on working days and doesn’t leave much time for anything else so I don’t know if I can keep this up till the end of the month. Staying focused, though.

I’ve updated my NaNo profile with a new (much better) title and an excerpt, so go check that out.

Yesterday I had a look through some previous drafts for this same novel. They were all varying degrees of painful to read. Hopefully this one will age better!

Annique is currently at 45k and I’m adding to it whenever I can find the time. Aiming for ten minutes a day which is enough for me to do 500 words so I probably ought to be able to add to it more often.

This week I got caught up on Steven Universe. Enjoying the most recent arc more than certain previous arcs but still nothing like as interested in this show as I used to be. Still hoping it’ll pick up again, given how good it can be.

I’m almost finished season two of Stranger Things, which as ever I’ve been finding a bit mixed but maybe I should save that for a full review sometime.

Plus I am, naturally, still watching and still loving Dirk Gently, which so far has kept on getting better and better. Should be able to watch the newest episode after work tomorrow and very excited!

I listened to The Ingenious Gentleman Adric of Alzarius, the newest Doctor Who short from Big Finish. My expectations were pretty high, given how good their last Adric Short Trip was, and it did not disappoint. Really creative, really poignant stuff. Where was all this high-quality Adric expanded universe material back when I was into the Peter Davison era, I ask you.

And yesterday I went to see Thor: Ragnarok which is an absolute delight (the jokes! The colours! Loki!) and I’d thoroughly recommend it.

Next week, I’m hoping to meet and exceed my previous NaNoWriMo record (80,000 words) and keep going. Got some big plans (Thor was unexpectedly inspiring). So basically, more of the same!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under big finish, doctor who, films, NaNoWriMo, Weekly Update, writing