My favorites from the expanded universe – Dec 2014

Fish Doctors

Fish Doctors

Last year, around November, I wrote a post listing my fifteen favorite episodes of Doctor Who. I then repeated the exercise in May, and it was very interesting seeing the changes in attitude and perception over the course of six months, considering that at least some of my initial enthusiasm for the show had worn off and I had seen more of the classic episodes. So I decided I would try to do the same post every six months.

This is not that post.

That’s mostly because it takes a huge amount of time to compile that post, and so I plan to do that tomorrow. In the meantime, I’d like to start another tradition here at Maius Intra Qua Extra, and that’s to list my favorites bits of the expanded universe, that is to say, from the audios, books, comic books, etc.; basically, anything that’s not the TV show. Now, I’m going to qualify this by noting that I have not seen even 5% of what’s out there, so this is a selection of favorite items from very small list of works. Hopefully, in six months, the list will have grown substantially.

These are not listed in any particular order.

 

Audio Plays

The Light at the End, by Nicholas Briggs: The Big Finish contribution to the 50th Anniversary celebration, this audio is simply brilliant. With five Doctors (and their companions!) getting trapped by a fiendish plan to destroy them, they band together and each do what they do best to unravel the plot and turn it around. The story is solid, riveting, and fun, the performances are perfect, and the entire feel is just so classic Doctor Who. I would honestly consider this the real 50th Anniversary story, not “The Day of the Doctor”, except, well, keep reading and you’ll find out why, if you don’t already know.

Of Chaos Time The (from Breaking Bubbles and Other Stories), by Mark Ravenhill: In one of four short plays featuring the Sixth Doctor and Peri, the Doctor finds himself running down a corridor with someone he doesn’t know, who apparently does know him and has been following his orders for some time. The Doctor is figuring out the puzzle right along with you, and it’s a spectacular adventure in temporal trickery.

The Chimes of Midnight, by Robert Shearman: In this chilling tale, the Eighth Doctor and Charley find themselves trapped in the servant’s area of a manor house in the 1920s on Christmas Eve, reliving the same hour over and over again. It’s surreal and creepy Doctor Who at its best. And remember, Christmas isn’t Christmas without Mrs. Baddeley’s plum pudding.

Revenge of the Swarm, by Jonathan Morris: This sequel (or is it prequel?) to “The Invisible Enemy” (a Fourth Doctor TV episode) finds the Seventh Doctor, Ace, and Hector encountering the Swarm again, this time going back in time to influence its own genesis. In addition to expertly wrangling the timelines to make the two episodes fit together, it has a lot of action and suspense, and pays homage to the original episode in multiple ways.

The Kingmaker, by Nev Fountain: The Fifth Doctor, with Peri and Erimem, travel to the past to find out what happened to the two princes that were imprisoned in the Tower of London by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but they get separated, with the companions in one time zone and the Doctor in another, three years later. The Doctor must unravel what has happened to his companions and try to find and rescue them, while they are forced to live through the intervening years. The puzzle, plot, and characterizations in this audio are top-notch. (This is the first audio I’ve heard so far that’s managed to make a nod to the modern show.)

 

Audio Books

Dead Air, by James Goss: This audiobook takes advantage of its medium, weaving a story about a sound-based enemy that revels in silence and darkness. Read by David Tennant and written in first-person for the Doctor, this story is intensely personal and dark, and Mr. Tennant does a fantastic job doing the voices of all four characters, of different accents, ages, and genders. If there’s any Doctor Who audiobook to get, this is it.

Shockwave (from The Destiny of the Doctor), by James Swallow: The Destiny of the Doctor is an 11-book set, one story for each Doctor. The final story, for the Eleventh Doctor, is based on all the previous stories, so if you want to read that one, you must read all the rest. However, the rest are all standalone stories. Most of the stories in the series are good, but this one stood out for me. Read by Sophie Aldred, the Seventh Doctor and Ace are trapped on a planet that’s about to be destroyed by a solar wave and must flee with the other humans. This book took great care to describe the surroundings and the action, heightening the tension and adding so much to the already riveting story.

 

Books

The Krillitane Storm, by Christopher Cooper: I didn’t expect this book to be anything but a nice adventure, and I was pleasantly surprised. The action is fast-paced and the alien incursion that the Tenth Doctor is investigating turns out to be anything but simple. In addition, this story explores the culture of the Krillitane, showing them to be a complex society and shedding light on the motivations of the Krillitane we saw in “School Reunion”.

11 Doctors, 11 Stories: This is a compilation of novella adventures by various authors, one for each Doctor. It’s now available as 12 Doctors, 12 Stories with the inclusion of the Twelfth Doctor story, but I haven’t read it, so it gets its former title here. Some of the stories are better than others, but in general, this is one great collection. My favorite of the bunch is the Eleventh Doctor’s “Nothing O’Clock” by Neil Gaiman.

 

Comic Books

The Forgotten, by Tony Lee: The Tenth Doctor finds himself trapped with Martha in a museum that contains only items relating to his long history. A mysterious figure steals his memories, which starts to kill him (“A man is the sum of his memories; a Time Lord even more so.”), and he remembers stories from his previous incarnations to get them back. This comic not only presents new short stories for each incarnation, but also has a great overall arc and a wonderful resolution.

 

Other

The Five(-ish) Doctors Reboot, by Peter Davison: This is what I think deserves the label of the best 50th Anniversary work. The story of Mr. Davison, Mr. Baker, Mr. McCoy, and Mr. McGann (at least for a little bit) trying to get into “The Day of the Doctor”, it’s superbly written and acted, and pokes fun at every trope and every person associated with Doctor Who. It shines with love for the show, its history, and its fans, and it’s simply delightful.

 

“Prisoners of Time”

A comic cover from the series

A comic cover from the series

I received my hardback copy of the graphic novel Prisoners of Time yesterday, and spent a good part of the early evening reading it. It’s a good comic, and I would definitely recommend this graphic novel to any Doctor Who fan (though not as much as I would recommend The Forgotten).

Spoilers ahead! (Maybe – I don’t really think I’m spoiling anything.)

First, if you’re put off by the $34 price on Amazon, you should know that it’s a compilation of twelve comic books and it comes in a very well-bound hardcover printing. Each of the first ten issues is an adventure of the first ten Doctors. Then, at the end of each adventure, a mysterious figure appears and kidnaps the Doctor’s companion, and that’s the overarching plot: who is this person, and why is he doing it? The eleventh issue brings the Eleventh Doctor into the story, and it and the twelfth issue are the resolution to the series.

In my opinion, the strength of the series is the set of Doctors’ adventures. Each one fills the entire issue, so you basically have a nice long story to see each Doctor. Each story is crafted carefully to match the feel and character of its Doctor. For example, the First Doctor’s story is an historical tale, the Third Doctor’s story has a lot of action, the Fifth Doctor’s story is a moral tale, and the Tenth Doctor’s story has quite a lot of running and dodging. In general, the art was excellent (here’s a link to the line drawings of my favorite page), except for the Eighth Doctor’s story, which had absolutely terrible art. It actually bugged me quite a lot, since the Eighth Doctor really didn’t get a fair shake on television, and here he got the short end of the stick again (though his story was just fine).

Oh, and the first three pages of the Tenth Doctor’s story brought a tear to my eye.

The overarching story, unfortunately, wasn’t the best. The villain really wasn’t very believable and required a number of pages of exposition to explain why he was doing what he was doing. (Perhaps, if they had shown a little bit of the exposition at each of the kidnappings, it would have been better, as the reader would have had the chance to try to figure out who he was.) The resolution of the story was a lot of fun, so that made up for the unsatisfying villain. The other unfortunate part of the series is that with the eleventh issue being part of the resolution, the Eleventh Doctor didn’t get his own adventure. In addition, because his entire purpose was to confront the villain, he wasn’t given his usual sparkling, schizophrenic dialogue, and the art did not convey the energetic, manic movements that define his character. He was the only Doctor that wasn’t written well.

In comparison, let’s look at The Forgotten. In that graphic novel, which, to be honest, is a lot shorter, each Doctor got an adventure, but they were each only a few pages long, with the story between the adventures about the Tenth Doctor trying to figure out what’s going on. The adventures were all well-crafted and suited to their Doctors, and then the overarching story was engaging. The villain himself was a bit contrived, but fit very well with the setting of the story (surprisingly, considering the difficulties the author had in rewriting the story, as the Tenth Doctor’s story in the TV show changed over the course of the comic series’ publication and he had to reconstruct the story to match). The actual confrontation with the villain and resolution were actually somewhat similar to Prisoners of Time, but less chaotic and more personal.

In general, The Forgotten did much the same thing as Prisoners of Time, but better; however, I think that if you read Prisoners of Time for the adventure stories and don’t worry about the entire plot, you’ll enjoy it a lot. Thus, I definitely recommend this graphic novel.

“The Forgotten,” redux

I mentioned a few days ago that I had written a post about the Doctor Who graphic novel The Forgotten but it (the post) was pretty terrible, so here’s a second go at it. This time, it’ll be more of a review, but without spoilers until you get to the section marked “Spoilers.”

The Forgotten is a Tenth Doctor story, in which he and Martha wake up in a museum without the TARDIS. They have no idea where they are or how they got there, but as they look around, they find that the museum is devoid of people but full of artifacts from the Doctor’s long history – including things as old as a Voord helmet – and even a room displaying all of the outfits and iconic tools/accessories (such a bag of jelly babies and a cricket ball) the Doctor wore throughout life. Soon after discovering this room, a mysterious figure wipes the Doctor’s memories of all but his current life. Like the Fifth Doctor once said, “A man is the sum of his memories. A Time Lord even more so,” and this memory wipe causes the Doctor to start to die. To combat this, Martha gives him an object from each of his incarnations and he uses it to remember them.

The story’s framework is about exploring the museum and figuring what it’s for, and eventually discovering the mysterious figure running it, but the fun part are the memories. The graphic novel presents one short story for each incarnation, and while it restores to the Doctor the memory of that incarnation, it also helps him solve the problems at hand. All of the stories are entertaining, and the characterizations capture each of the Doctors very well. The wrap-up of the overarching story is also very good, and there are some great surprises there. Probably the only thing I didn’t like about this was that they had to switch artists for one issue, and I wasn’t fond of his style. In particular, his Tenth Doctor has rather curly hair and doesn’t look like the Tenth Doctor at all. His style worked well for the Fifth Doctor story, but not for the Fourth Doctor’s.

If you like graphic novels (and if you think that comic books are lowbrow, think again – some graphic novels are great literature; I refer in specific to The Sandman by Neil Gaiman), I definitely recommend The Forgotten

And now some spoilers.

One of the absolute coolest things about The Forgotten is the story of how it developed, which is written in the back of the book. The comic was started when Martha was the companion, but due to the episodic nature of comics, the entire story lasted so long that the last issue would come out after Donna had already left the Doctor. Thus, the author, Tony Lee, had to rewrite the latter half of the story so that it matched the current TV show while already having published the first half. You can see this happening as you read the the graphic novel. There are small details that are inconsistent with the show (such as Martha claiming that there are two doctors traveling in the TARDIS) that make sense at the end, when you find out what happened. I’m sure that having to revamp the story was not a fun task, but I’m guessing that it made it more complex, and essentially more Doctor Who, in the end.

Delving deep

It’s now January, 2014, which means we have officially entered the long, dark wasteland of no new Doctor Who for over seven months. Previous to my addiction to this television show, I never watched any series with so much passion that I wanted to view it as it was being aired. We don’t keep cable service because we don’t watch much TV, so the few series that we keep up with were recommended by friends and we purchased them on DVD to watch them. This means, of course, we only keep up with a few shows and we see them about a year later than everyone else. Since starting to watch Doctor Who, we’ve moved into the modern age and now understand concepts such as Hulu, but we still don’t really watch any current TV. Well, we were watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but I’ve found it to be pretty insipid and have stopped following it.

But that’s all beside the point. The real point is that there aren’t any new episodes coming out for a while, and what’s a fan to do? We’ve been using Netflix to watch classic episodes (currently in the middle of “Genesis of the Daleks”), and also buying two episodes a month to fill out our collection (at that rate, we’ll finish the collection sometime after 2020). We’ve also started to rewatch the entire modern series from the beginning, and we’re at the end of Mr. Eccleston’s series right now.

However, there’s a lot more to do in the Doctor Who universe. The Big Finish audios are still going strong, and the original actors play the classic Doctors and their companions. I’m planning to pick up The Light at the End (all five classic Doctors!) tonight, as well as The Destiny of the Doctor, which is a set of audiobooks, one for each Doctor, read by former companions. I’ve also been picking up some of the novels from Amazon, using the Kindle app on my iPad. Some of them are pretty good! Amazon allows you to check out a few chapters of each book, so that you can decide if it’s interesting before actually buying it, and that’s really useful.

Two-page spread from "The Forgotten." Tell me this doesn't pique your interest.

Two-page spread from “The Forgotten.” Tell me this doesn’t pique your interest.

One other form of media that is often overlooked is comic books. There’s a huge selection of comic books available for the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor. I’ve only read The Forgotten (Tenth Doctor) so far, and it was very enjoyable (I wrote a post on it a long time ago, but it wasn’t very good; I should write a new one), and I just put in an order for Prisoners of Time (all of the Doctors). Otherwise, I can’t really comment on their quality, but I’ll post my thoughts when I read them. Oh, one more thing about the comic books: you can buy them on a tablet if you prefer not to keep comic books around. Personally, I prefer comics in graphic novel form, so that I have the physical copy but it’s not a bunch of individual issues, which I always lose.

So, that’s what I’m going to be doing for the next seven months. Oh, and playing Doctor Who: Legacy. Yes, it’s that fun.

The Forgotten

Having exhausted the available television episodes of the new Doctor Who series and only getting classic series episodes every so often (Netflix is only so fast), I’ve been experimenting with the other available media. I haven’t yet decided if I want to go through the trouble of listening to the Big Finish audio works, but I have been looking into the novels and comic books. I’ve read Only Human, which was good enough; while the story wasn’t particularly compelling, the author wrote the Ninth Doctor very well. I am now in the middle of Beautiful Chaos, a Tenth Doctor novel that is so far magnificent.

I’m less excited about delving into the world of Doctor Who comic books, if only because I have a slight prejudice against them. I very much enjoy graphic novels when they are excellent – my favorites include The Sandman and Marvel: 1602 – but I feel that when comic books are average, they really aren’t worth reading, and when they’re bad, they’re terrible. It’s very difficult to find information on which Doctor Who comic books are considered good, but when I saw the synopsis of The Forgotten, I had to get it.

It describes itself as a Tenth Doctor adventure with Martha Jones, and says that all ten Doctors appear in it. That’s all I needed to persuade me to order the book: if you’ve read my other posts, you know that I have a soft spot for tales which include previous incarnations.  The book arrived in the mail yesterday and I read it.

I’m going to say right now: Get The Forgotten and read it.

If you’re missing the Tenth Doctor, this will be a breath of fresh air. If you like previous incarnations, the comic is a treat. But the story is very inventive and well-told. I won’t reveal any spoilers, but I will suggest that you pay close attention to everything that’s said; if something seems like it’s out of place – that it doesn’t match with the history you’ve seen in the show – then it’s probably important.

The other thing that’s wonderful about this book is the title. When you finish the story and figure out just how it all fits in, you’ll see that the title is all-important. The Tenth Doctor realizes what he really had forgotten, before the book had started, even, and remembering now, he knows how it important it is and it shapes what happens to him next.

In other words, this is a fantastic story, well-crafted and imaginatively told, that brings out the Doctor’s history to the front and center, and is tightly integrated into the television series. It doesn’t get much better than that.