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.

 

Advertisements

Just a few thoughts

Doctor Who: Legacy has released information today on the new features and content they will be releasing in the next couple of weeks. The two companions that are coming very soon are Handles and Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All. Completely awesome choices!

I probably should have put a pic of Vincent here, but I do so love David Morrissey.

I probably should have put a pic of Vincent here, but I do so love David Morrissey.

I was going to write a post on what constitutes a companion, which is a topic my husband and I discuss every so often. Why are Jackson Lake and Rosita Farisi considered companions, when Vincent Van Gogh isn’t? Both sets of characters appear in one episode, assist the Doctor with the main threat, and develop deep and important relationships with the Doctor (well, Jackson and Vincent do; can’t really say the same for Rosita). It’s really hard to define exactly companionship means. However, as I wrote the post, I realized it was a bunch of drivel and not worth my time or yours. So, maybe someday in the future, I’ll try again. But for now, just muse on the fact that blog writing is sometimes harder than it looks.

I’ve gathered a bunch of alternative media in the last few days, and as I work my way through them, I’ll talk about them here. Right now I’m reading Doctor Who: 11 Doctors, 11 Stories, which is a collection of short stories, one for each Doctor, written by eleven different authors. It was published in celebration of the 50th anniversary as eleven separate short books, but just came out in a single volume. So far I’m up to the Eighth Doctor, and while I plan to write a full review when I’m done, for now I can definitely recommend this book. The stories are enjoyable and entertaining, and well-written (except that I really couldn’t stand writing style for the First Doctor’s story – I gave up reading it and will have to go back to try again).

The other media that I’ve picked up is the Doctor Who Omnibus Volume 2 (second volume of the Tenth Doctor’s comic book adventures), an Eleventh Doctor graphic novel whose title escapes me at the moment, and a number of audios from Big Finish: The Light at the End (starring Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Paul McGann), Destiny of the Doctor (one audiobook for each of the Doctors, read by one of that Doctor’s companions), and The Kingmaker (Fifth Doctor adventure – couldn’t help it, I love historical stories). I just realized as I was writing this that I could download these at work and listen to them during lunch. Brilliant!

“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.