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WHAT THE FANS THINK: BLAKE’S 7
Review by Will Hadcroft / December 2020
I was seven and three quarter years old when Blake’s 7 debuted on BBC One in January 1978. My dad liked it and, once the Liberator turned up in the second episode, with its navigation computer Zen and unique teleport system, I loved it. I loved the theme music and title sequence, the design of the ship inside and out, the teleport bracelets (which I duplicated after seeing Lesley Judd on Blue Peter make one from the “rings” of an orange squash bottle), and I loved all the cast members.
So, when some 42 years later, I saw Pencil Tip’s What the Fans Think book on the series, I was instantly drawn to it.
The anthology takes the form of reviews of the series’ episodes. Some are personalized accounts of how the contributor felt when watching the first broadcast, while others take the academic approach.
Cathryn Evans, for example, considers how in “Orbit” Avon and Vila are contrasted against characters Egrorian and Pinder, and that the latter could be seen as projections of our heroes in a Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol fashion. She also highlights the way Orac often provides more information than is requested, or less information than is requested, but seldom just the information that is requested. The computer appears to be deliberately manipulating people for reasons only it knows. On occasion it appears to have a malevolent streak. It’s not just a self-aware Google.
So, this book is intellectually nourishing, rather than a cold episode guide.
At the end of each season section there are longer essays. My favourite is “Out of the Mouth of Drunks” in which Neil Chester considers received fan wisdom, and in particular Vila’s drinking habits. Out of the 52 episodes in which he appeared how many times was he actually seen to be drunk? The answer arrests you.
The true test of a book like this is if it makes you want to watch a specific episode because you’ve seen it in a new light. I’ve watched seasons one to three many times over, but have only viewed Season Four instalments on occasion (and some only twice). Inspired by the book, I re-watched “Traitor” from Season Four, and Sean C Coote is right—it’s not the greatest story from Robert Holmes, but it is an enjoyable one.
Anyone who loves Blake’s 7 will appreciate this volume, and those who are new to the series will find it makes an excellent introduction. It is intelligently written and attractively produced.
Will Hadcroft is an author and publisher. He made a name for himself with his Anne Droyd series of books for children and the teen novel “The Blueprint”. He published his autobiography “The Feeling’s Unmutual”, which was endorsed by Tripods trilogy author John Christopher and the Sixth Doctor himself, Colin Baker. He is one half of indie publishing company FBS.
GRAVE WARNINGS II: HOB HOUSE
Review by Rick Cross / December 2020
When You Walk Here, Don’t Walk Alone
It’s easy in this latter age, as a lifelong fan of horror entertainment, to chuckle and roll one’s eyes at the very notion of a haunted-house story. It’s among the oldest – and surely the most thoroughly mined – of horror subgenres after all, already as comfy as an old funeral shroud when the vampire and the zombie were still dewy behind the ears. It’s easy to think that’s the case… til you stumble across a new place of haunting, a new dwelling for the restless spirits of the dead… a house that holds evil, as Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT so memorably put it, “as a battery holds a charge.”
Hob House is such a place. And whatever walks there does NOT walk alone.
Hob House is the second Grave Warnings horror anthology from Pencil Tip Publishing. This sly and shivery collection of stories, edited by Craig Charlesworth and Richard Peevers, springs from an ingenious concept: Challenge a group of talented authors to deliver a series of spooky tales about the same accursed house, visiting its halls and darkest recesses across the centuries and down through the generations, pondering the lives and misfortunes of those brave or foolish enough to walk in its corridors and sleep in its dark embrace…
The result is seven tales of real breadth and ambition, a deliciously malevolent record of creeping horrors: from Hob House’s construction and earliest bloody incidents in the 1760s, through its 19th-century reinvention as a doomed entrepreneur’s funeral home, its torment of a gifted codebreaker during World War II, a contemporary true-crime podcaster’s ill-advised attempts to plumb its mysteries, and even its lingering, poisonous effect on surviving inhabitants in a drained and dying future.
Story authors Charlesworth, Peevers, Simon Blake, Greg Maughan, Peter Gouldson and Robert Mammone deliver fresh, compulsively page-turning tales, tapping into fundamental human fears that call to mind the weird works of Henry James, M.R. James, Shirley Jackson and Stephen King. And throughout their stories – each more inventive and atmospheric than the last – Hob House stands like a poison beacon, relentlessly calling for new denizens and new victims.
Chuckle in its dooryard if you must, erudite horror readers. Roll your eyes as you pass between the stone columns of its entryway.
But then go inside. If you dare, GO INSIDE.
You can order Hob House direct from Pencil Tip Publishing here: http://www.penciltippublishing.com/publications/grave-warnings-hob
Rick Cross is a NASA communications writer, the author of “Lethbridge-Stewart: Times Squared” (Candy Jar Books) and a contributor to “After Sundown (Simon & Schuster), What the Fans Think: Blake’s 7” and “Outside In Trusts No One” (ATB Publishing).
Review by Jon Arnold – July 2019
We Are Cult Website
One of Doctor Who fandom’s rites of passage is the marathon: a pilgrimage through Doctor Who’s entire televised history. It’s an endeavour beautifully recounted in the Running Through Corridors books, Rob Shearman and Toby Hadoke’s joyful romp through the show’s history over the course of one Who filled year.
While it’s no mean feat of stamina to survive the Everests of tedium such as “The Mutants, The Monster of Peladon” or “The Armageddon Factor” and keep going all the way to “Resolution”, it pales into insignificance beside the ultimate quest: the Target marathon. You need to commit more than 25 minutes here and there for that. I’ve never done the pilgrimage, but in halcyon pre-university days I once embarked upon it myself, running through the range in six months in celebration of its apparent completion with the Troughton Dalek stories, instead of revising for exams. Reader take note: always do the revision. It’s less fun but it’ll get you further in life. Also, never be such a naïve fool as to think the seeming impossibility of rights issues and authorial desire won’t clear up the last, pesky unadapted Saward Dalek stories in the future.
I never had the mad idea of documenting that pilgrimage though. Enter Nick Mellish, by his own account a naïve student at the start, who not only went for the marathon but has been writing a regular column about it in the fanzine Whotopia for the past thirteen years. Fanzine readers will know how remarkable it is not only for a zine unaffiliated to a fan club to survive that long, but for a single writer to complete the journey he started with the turn of a single page back then.
In celebration of this feat Whotopia’s editor, publisher and general bon vivant Bob Furnell has issued a collected version of Mellish’s columns via his Pencil Tip Publishing imprint. Sensibly, they’ve opted for the most logical structure of publication order, thus neatly bypassing the twin madnesses of Target’s retroactively imposed numbering and the jigsaw of mismatching pieces of chronological order of broadcast. Instead, publication order allows us to tell the story of the range via the fiction itself: how it changed and developed from reprinting three Sixties Hartnell novelisations, through the more straightforward novelisations of the late 1970s, to the more complex and ambitious adaptions of the range’s final years. It’s the other half of the story told in The Target Book, the front of house history to complement David J Howe’s comprehensive behind the scenes story.
It’s an approach which yields some fascinating results, with Mellish being particularly sharp on how stories being novelised in an almost random order leads to some jarring chronological shifts: the time traveller with days like crazy paving indeed. The early Target books remain sacred cows to some degree: Mellish comprehensively dismantles the reputations of “The Zarbi” and “The Doomsday Weapon” but conversely finds much to praise in other early work of Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke. It’s rightly noted how remarkable David Whitaker’s early adaptions were, making it even more of a tragedy that we were robbed of his return to the range by his untimely death. “The Cave Monsters” is held up as a gold standard of the early range, which tells you from the start that Mellish’s judgements are trustworthy and that some cows are sacred for good reason.
The other element brought out by the chronological approach is how writers change and develop across the range. Mellish is meticulous in noting the arrivals and departures of the range’s stalwarts, and their last entries are used to analyse their contribution to the range, so while you might think there’s little to be said about the book of “The Space Pirates”, the entry’s very much worth it for its assessment of Terrance Dicks’s overall contribution. Similarly, “The Rescue” is fascinating for its analysis of Ian Marter’s distinctive style. Talking of Marter, it leads to my only minor nitpick. While a stylistic decision to cover the notoriously bland mid-period books in a series of brief reviews is a smart and funny decision, it leads to “The Ribos Operation” getting short shrift where the mismatch between the tone of the original story and Marter’s more hard edged style makes it one of the range’s most fascinating failures.
The original run of columns covers only the television stories adapted by Target, but for those of us who might feel grumpy, he rounds up the odds and ends of the range in a series of appendices: the Companions books, the Missing Episodes, the audio adaptions and the twenty-first century books which have filled the holes in the original Target collection and brought four of the BBC Wales stories to the page. The assessments of those last four stories are highlights of the book, with the review of Rose being a clever look at how different the story is when written to introduce new viewers and when it’s being written in light of well over a decade of resounding success for a fan audience. You may not agree with Mellish’s overall assessment but like the best critics, even if you disagree with his verdict it’s very much worth reading for the general point, one which neatly brings him back to a running thread about the very earliest novels.
What’s wonderful to see is how Mellish has developed over the years into a consistently interesting writer capable of finding talking points in even the blandest of books, and how he’s always been the best type of critic where a love and engagement with his subject matter isn’t allowed to blind him to quirks and faults: Donald Cotton and Malcolm Hulke’s fine work doesn’t stop him exploring why certain of their books are deeply flawed. Mellish is a charmingly knowledgeable guide who wears his depth of knowledge of Doctor Who on page, screen and audio lightly. While there’s plenty of self-deprecation early on, it’s pleasingly less present as we go on: Target Trawl is a book which is a fulsome expression of the talent of someone who’s quietly been a sharp, intelligent presence on the fringes of fandom for years.
From the We Are Cult website Book Reviews
Sapphire and Steel Omnibus
Review by Nick Krohn
In case the reader missed it, Sapphire and Steel is a British television program that ran in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that focused on the adventures of two ‘time detectives’ who investigated and repaired temporal disturbances. Or, at least that’s what it seems like Sapphire (Joanna Lumley) and Steel (David McCallum) appear to be doing in most of their adventures. If that seems vague, it’s because the details are never given to the viewer. The ambiguities that pepper the series are the very foundation of its cult following, and now some three decades on, fan interest is still intense enough to merit the publication of books like The Sapphire and Steel Omnibus from Pencil Tip Publications, a collection of thoughts and recollections of the past of the franchise, and two enticing looks into its future.
The book begins with a history of Sapphire and Steel’s origins as a television program by Andrew Screen. It is detailed and thorough while being an engaging and brisk read, with information on nearly every aspect of production, including more obscure topics, such as the background music, which I appreciated greatly. The difficulties of producing the show’s many special effects is also addressed, giving us a glimpse into a simpler time, when there was no CGI, and complex effects had to be achieved largely through innovation and clever use of the equipment lying around the studio. Good use of sidebars in this section gives a brief rundown of key cast and crew biographies. Of particular interest was the view into the writing process, which was a white-knuckle affair with deadlines sometimes narrowly met, and often missed.
Four interviews are scattered throughout the book, one with David Collings, who played recurring character Silver, one with P.J. Hammond, the creator of Sapphire and Steel, Nigel Fairs, one of the driving forces behind Big Finish Productions’ latter-day audio stories, and finally with Neil Guy, a vision mixer on the original TV series. Of these, the last was the most interesting, mostly due to Guy’s detailed recollections of the show combined with his technical knowledge made it the most interesting read. The others, while interesting in their own right, don’t quite engage me as the Neil Guy interview.
A Newbie Watches Sapphire And Steel by Michael S. Collins is an amusing account of watching the show for the first time. I think long-time fans of the show will love this piece, because not only does the reader get to experience the creepy atmosphere of the show for the first time, or cringe expectantly at the show’s lower moments, but Collins also brings a fresh insight to the franchise as well. The addition of a viewer who sees through post-Torchwood eyes gives a nice dimension to the collection.
Remco Admiraal’s recollections of the brief life of Sapphire and Steel on Norwegian television paints a vivid picture of a fleeting, tantalizing glance at Sapphire and Steel’s creepy universe before Norwegian TV decided the programme was a bit too much for young eyes.
Vivienne Dunstan delves into Big Finish Productions’ audio adventures. Anyone familiar with Big Finish’s excellent range of Doctor Who audio dramas will be unsurprised to find Dunstan delivers a glowing report of their quality. I was unaware Big Finish had ever produced dramas of Sapphire and Steel, so I am very grateful for the tip and will be tracking them down as soon as possible.
A variety of writers review Sapphire and Steel’s television canon, and I was impressed with the depth of insight, and the balance each of them struck between a fan’s enthusiasm and objective criticism. If something about a particular adventure is not up to scratch, they will let the reader know. This excellent service to readers new to the series is much appreciated.
David Lim gives analysis of the main characters, which is a daunting task for a show known for revealing as little as possible about it’s characters. In spite of this, Lim manages to not only do the job, but offer some fresh insights as well. I was pleased to find a portion of the book I thought would be underwhelming actually was one of the more thought-provoking pieces.
Steve Miller gives an overview of the Sapphire and Steel comic strips that ran in the UK in Look-In magazine during the run of the show. This may be obscure to some readers, but as a die-hard fan of UK comics of the 80’s, (honestly!), I was thoroughly engrossed. This fleeting glance at the comics of the time is tantalizing, as the art in particular is legendary, even among those who don’t have a deep affection for the story.
After such an in-depth look into the past of the franchise, the Omnibus turns its attention to the present, and possible future, with two original pieces of Sapphire and Steel fiction. J.E. Remy’s original short story “The Memory Thief” builds on the strengths of the television series, easily evoking the quiet, creepy atmosphere one would expect from Sapphire and Steel as well as adding new layers to those strengths, resulting in a story that is genuinely frightening in the way that only Sapphire and Steel can be. I hesitate to go into details for fear of spoiling the story, but Remy accomplishes Sapphire, and Steel’s, greatest trick: to take something familiar and nearly mundane and infuse it with a paranormal dread that leaves the reader thinking differently about the real world.
“The Long Stroll” by Jon Wesley Huff is a short original comic that closes the book on a definite high note. Again, the dark, moody qualities of the television series are retained, with Huff’s use of light and shadow serving the composition of the panels nicely. In only a few pages, Huff creates a complete story with an interesting and satisfying ending, which is unusual for the franchise, but in this case, it is absolutely appropriate.
The Sapphire and Steel Omnibus is one of those rare publications that is useful and entertaining to both a newcomer to the series or a seasoned fan. The highest compliment I can give it is that after reading it, I spent a Saturday rooting through my video collection until I found my copies of Sapphire and Steel and read the book again, with the show in the background, and found the experience enriching. If you are a fan of Sapphire and Steel this book is an excellent addition to your collection, and if you are new to the series, it is a helping hand when trying to wrap your head around the stories for the first time. Either way, it is not to be missed. 8/10
Grave Warnings: A Short-Story Collection
Pencil Tip Publishing, 2016
Editors: Bob Furnell, Robert Mammone & Jez Strickley
Contributing authors: Sarah Parry, Hamish Crawford, Jodie van de Wetering, Craig Charlesworth & Hannah Parry.
Review by Paula Roberts / December 2017
Do you like horror thrillers the likes of Dean Koontz or Stephen King? Do you like to be enthralled by the mysteries of the spirit world? Do you crave tales that give you goose bumps? Then this anthology of short stories will both inspire and thrill you. In Grave Warnings there are five short stories from up-and-coming inspiring authors from around the globe.
Sarah Parry’s Deceased Estate will take you on a walk through an old colonial mansion with professional renovators. They find the old worn-down building is not quite dead or alive. Is it rats? Ghosts? Or is it just a local prankster? And what is the mystery about the front door? So many questions, not enough answers, too little time…
Craig Charlesworth’s Dumb Show, set in 1900s England, where one man’s life is altered forever when his new cheap rental has a secret. Or rather, a secret show. Should he tell? For when you are dealing with karmic spirits, nothing is ever as innocent as it seems, and the consequences of his actions will test him to his mental limits.
The Specimen, by local Australian author Jodie van de Wetering, will leave you feeling the heat and wanting more. A scientist discovers a new species of insect in the back of beyond, if only he knew what those mysterious lights were and why they affect him so. You will reread this tale repeatedly until you are bugged out.
Hannah Parry’s The Citizen, set in French revolution Paris, deals with a man whose lover only comes to him at night. The daily public hangings outside of his workshop door have him dealing with the big questions of life, and death. Can he ever find peace and love again? Is his lover real? Or is she just a figment of his imagination?
Hamish Crawford’s Vacancy is stunning. Follow one man’s life after he welcomes in a new flatmate who is not quite what he seems and which coincides with a mysterious run of missing person reports around his apartment building. When his friends and colleagues start to question him and his changed behaviour, he starts to question, just who is behind these strange goings on?
All in all, this anthology’s authors will stun you with precision, mystery and fear. With penmanship the likes of Dean Koontz or Stephen King, this will be one for your library. You will want to read it over and over again. Every single one of these five stories will leave questioning, second guessing your own answers and leave you wanting more.
As a lover of all things science fiction, fantasy and thriller, this anthology will be taking pride of place in my library, sitting right beside my copy of Stephen King’s The Mist. Perfect for reading whilst travelling, this book will fit in your bag, heart and soul.
Paula Roberts, Rocky Street Press
SAPPHIRE AND STEEL OMNIBUS
Reviewed by Chris Beiting
To American audiences, Sapphire and Steel is one of the ultimate British cult TV shows. Lasting only 34 episodes that aired between 1979 and 1982, it featured some major stars (David McCallum and Joanna Lumley) and garnered a critical reputation, but unlike Doctor Who or Blake’s 7, it never aired on American television (although it has been readily available on DVD in this country, first from A&E, and more recently from Shout! Factory). Moreover, apart from one guidebook, (Assigned!: The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to Sapphire and Steel), there has been almost no published material available about the show. Helping to fill that gap is the Sapphire and Steel Omnibus, edited by Bob Furnell and Jez Strickley.
The Sapphire and Steel Omnibus is an anthology of materials about the show, done by a variety of writers. There are essays, interviews, reviews, fiction, and even a comic. As one would expect, with such a variety of materials and authors, there is also a variety of quality. Where good, the Sapphire and Steel Omnibus is very good, particularly in its analyses of the episodes of the show, and in the interviews of some of the people involved in it. The Omnibus also covers some of the other media treatments of Sapphire and Steel, examining the Big Finish radio productions, the novel, the Annual, and some of the comic versions.
Where bad, the Omnibus isn’t actually terrible, but it is a little obscure, (an essay about the reception of the TV show in the Netherlands is likely not to be of too much interest to anyone outside the Netherlands, and the piece of fiction and comic may not appeal to all readers of the work).
There are also some maddening gaps in the way the material is presented. For example, while all of the episodes of the original TV series are carefully considered, (several times actually), the essay on the Big Finish audio dramas doesn’t even list the individual episodes, which seems a terrible oversight. Furthermore, I do take issue with a work which, when it considers the post-Sapphire and Steel careers of its actors and crew, sees fit to consider the David McCallum’s role on NCIS while not mentioning Joanna Lumley’s star turn on Absolutely Fabulous.
These quibbles aside, The Sapphire and Steel Omnibus is a welcome addition to a field where there is a dearth of sources, and will hopefully help garner some more attention to this moody, enigmatic, atmospheric cult TV classic. 7/10
Daniel Tessier – Aug 2017
Grave Warnings is a compact, evocative book of horror stories, with five authors penning short, punchy tales of terror. Although the title and cover to the book would suggest that this is a collection of ghost stories, it’s more varied than that. Although ghost stories do feature, the five tales cover an impressive array of styles and genres between them. If there is one thing that links the stories, it is that the true horror is often not at the hand of something supernatural, but is very human in origin.
The collection opens with “Deceased Estate” by Sarah Parry, a very effective story that sets the grim tone for the book. Parry cleverly shifts the storytelling from light and conversational to desperate and horrific, creating a chilling tale with a hint of a modern Lovecraftian vibe. In spite of the inhuman monstrosities it hints at, “Deceased Estate” is a warning on the perils of unchecked greed.
The theme of avarice continues with Craig Charlesworth’s “The Dumb Show,” the most traditional ghost story in the collection. A fun pastiche of Victorian-era short stories, Charlesworth’s story is a penny dreadful that sees money-hungry men try to use a haunting to their own financial advantage, even as one tries, or claims to try, to turn over a new leaf. The biting final scene proves that it is the living that present the most to fear.
“The Specimen” by Jodie van de Wetering is a brief interlude between the heavier stories, and introduces a man whose unwholesome pastime leads to his becoming truly lost to nature. It’s the shortest but most immediately potent story, simply and effectively told.
Hannah G. Parry presents “The Citizen,” an unassuming title for a disquieting and powerful story. Although it is a ghost story, “The Citizen” inverts the usual conception of a haunting in order to make her protagonist question his choices. It’s an unsettling tale of cowardice and brutality, emotions so easily entwined, set against the very real, very human horror of revolutionary France, when Paris was, not for nothing, known as the Land of Fear. This story is my personal highlight of the book.
Finally, “Vacancy” by Hamish Crawford brings us back to seemingly ordinary life, with a story that makes us question the protagonist’s sanity as he relates the story of how his life changed when he took in a new lodger. With only a hint at something supernatural, “Vacancy” draws on some of the same concerns as “The Citizen”: that we, as men, can commit acts we never thought we were capable of.
Grave Warnings is a pleasantly unsettling set of stories, and I look forward to more.
The Temporal Logbook (Furnell, Mammone, Strickley)
Reviewed by Dan Tessier / July 2016
Doctor Who fanfic collections – “fanthologies” – have been around for donkey’s years, but there’s been a lull since the series returned to TV. It seems that we’re now getting something of a resurgence in the form, following the War Doctor collection Seasons of War, and with several collections lined up. The latest, Temporal Logbook, comes from Pencil Tip Publishing, and is edited by Bob Furnell, Jez Strickley and Robert Mammone, all of whom have been part of the very long-running and acclaimed fanfic series The Doctor Who Project. It is also one of the best such collections I’ve read, featuring an exceptionally high standard of work.
Temporal Logbook takes a very simple, but undeniably effective, approach: twelve stories, one for each official incarnation of the Doctor, collected in chronological order. If there’s a theme for the collection, it’s the effect that the Doctor has on people’s lives, but beyond that, this is a broad and varied selection of stories mixing numerous styles.
The stand-out stories for me are the fourth adventure, “The Eternalist,” by Craig Charlesworth, and the eleventh, Michael Itig’s “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell.” The former has a fascinating central concept, that of a boy who can perceive all moment in time at once, developed into a gripping but contained story with a strong element of horror, and a pitch perfect representation of the fourth Doctor. It also has perhaps the best description of the nature of time I’ve ever encountered. In “Heaven and Hell”, the Doctor becomes involved in the life of Pete, an older gay man, whose life is being swallowed by regret. A powerful treatise on depression and hope, it’s an exploration of gay life in the UK that comes across as deeply personal. Really quite beautiful.
Relationships and personal demons feature strongly in the collection, with the more modern, emotionally aware approach given to older Doctors. The opening story, Michael Baxter’s “A Modest Intervention,” is an unusual tale for the first Doctor, in which the time traveller takes a puckish glee in matchmaking. Not the sort of thing we normally expect the first Doctor to be concerned with, but he does engage it with very good reason. The fifth Doctor encounters an intriguing and controversial figure in the person of Charles Dodgson. With “Impossible Things Before Breakfast” Hannah Parry has a wonderful way with Carrollian whimsy, tying it to a strong character piece, and making unexpected parallels between the author and the Time Lord.
Several of the stories are steeped in continuity, which is fine and dandy; this is a collection for fans, after all. It’s not continuity for the sake of a nod and a wink, though; it’s all in the service of a good story. J. E. Remy’s second Doctor story, “Breathe,” has a very Moffat-ish title, but is actually a full-on dive into the series’ mythology. Featuring Time Lords a-plenty, it investigates what happened to Salamander after he was swept away into the Time Vortex. “The Telemacad” is another story that follows up on a television serial. A third Doctor story by Benjamin Pocock, it’s set in ancient Greece and written in a pseudo-classical style, something which is hard to pull off without becoming trite or dull. Pocock succeeds in crafting an enjoyable tale, with portrayals of Three and Jo that are completely recognisable, even translated through archaic style. Hamish Crawford’s “Mud and Metal” is the missing adventure of the ninth Doctor versus the Cybermen, a fun tale with a touch of horror.
Other tales take what could be well-worn ideas and give them something new. “The Brain Drain” by Ian Larkin has the Sixey and Peri encounter a mind-sapping cyborg, but makes her the central character, and a sympathetic one at that. Sarah Parry’s “A Plague on Both Your Houses” has an excellent visual – the creepy, beaked plague doctors of the time of the Black Death – and uses it to create a gripping tale for the seventh Doctor and Ace. Some stories pair the Doctor with new companions, such as Nick Mellish’s enjoyable “Changed and Confused.” A story featuring the eighth Doctor and taking place on the edge of the Time War, it’s fairly slight, but has strong characterisation for the Doctor and his short-term assistant, Delaylia, a young Time Lady who is coming to terms with her first regeneration. Also, it has Voord in it. I like the Voord. Also featuring a new companion is the tenth Doctor story, “The Creature of Vengeance,” (a proper Doctor Who title there). This takes Ten and his unwitting travelling companion Sophie on a trip to Prague, for an adventure with Nazis and a memorable monster.
The collection ends with a story from the always excellent Meg MacDonald. “Many a Weary Foot” has a subtle nod to series continuity, featuring a lonely, withdrawn twelfth Doctor between the episodes Kill the Moon and Mummy on the Orient Express, who finds solace in an unlikely place. It’s a straightforward character piece, no monsters, no threats to history, and beautifully told, with an extra little something for fans of the modern era of Doctor Who. It rounds off the collection perfectly, showing us the effect that an ordinary human being can have on the Doctor. An excellent conclusion to a collection I can heartily recommend.
You can buy the book from Lulu.
The original version of this review appeared July 26, 2016 on Daniel Tessier’s blog “Immaterial”
SAPPHIRE & STEEL OMNIBUS
Review by Joe Leather – June 2016
The Sapphire and Steel Omnibus fills a huge gap where, unlike many “cult” TV series there is practically nothing published about the show. The book is a celebration of the show and manages to include interviews with the author and people involved in the production of the episodes – there is even a great interview with David Collings (Gold). The rest of the publication contains real gems for hardened fans and those generally interested in the show alike. There are well written articles alongside a small amount of fiction and even a super little comic strip. I was unsure about the quality when I saw this advertised – it came out of the blue and I know how little source material is available.
I am happy to say that the omnibus lived up to its title and exceeded my expectations. If you have ever watched any Sapphire and Steel, treat yourself to this book and get all your DVDs out ready – because you will want to watch them all again. If you are a serious fan, how could you not want to own a new slice of Sapphire and Steel memorabilia to add to your collection? I was so heartened to read a book written with such care and passion.
TYPE 40 TARDIS
THE TEMPORAL LOGBOOK
Review by Nick Blackshaw – August 17, 2015
The Temporal Logbook brings together a selection of stories from writers throughout Doctor Who’s fandom. We have a story for each of the ‘classic’ line-up of the Doctor’s incarnations (so those looking for a War Doctor story amidst this collection will be thoroughly disappointed). To begin with, A Modest Intervention by Michael Baxter sees the First Doctor taking a vested interest in scandal-hit Victorian society. Next, in J.E. Remy’s Breathe, the Second Doctor cannot even take time out to refuel the TARDIS at the Medusa Cascade when trouble emerges. And this patterns, we are given snapshots into the Doctor’s life throughout his incarnations including: The Telecamad, a not so straight forward trip to Ancient Greece for the Third Doctor, Impossible Things Before Breakfast sees the Fifth Doctor encounter a certain Lewis Carroll, meanwhile, Mud & Metal sees Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor encounter the Cybermen and rounding off at the end is Many A Weary Foot in which the current Twelfth Doctor reflects on his past adventures with a young girl lonely at Christmas.
This is a wonderful anthology of stories and cannot be praised highly enough. For such short stories (the average length being about 18 pages), their level of description provides vivid detail for the reader; the benefit these stories have is that the main characters are already established so the writers see that they can spend more time establishing a credible problem for the Doctor to solve. Meanwhile, with such a vast cross-media history to draw from, the stories give an opportunity to refer to past (and future) adventures and to past incarnations (even in the wrong order in true timey-wimey style!).
The one minor nag that you could have about the collection (in a positive way) is that some of the stories are held back because of the general nature of the short story; in other words, some of these have the potential to become full stories.
To wrap things up, Temporal Logbook is a wonderful addition to the Doctor Who canon (the 50th anniversary having legitimized Doctor Who media between the show’s original ending and its revival); its vivid stories build on the show’s rich history and creates wonderful little episodes for the reader to enjoy and you can see the relationship between the stories as well; they are different adventures all belonging to the same man.
TYPE 40 TARDIS – THE TEMPORAL LOGBOOK / AUTHOR: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: PENCIL TIP PUBLISHING / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
From Starburst Magazine Book Reviews