Doctor Who: Out of Time 2

Not quite a sequel to Out of Time, the previous Big Finish audio drama with the same title. There’s no continuation of the plot from that story, but the idea is the same–a matchup of the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) with one of his predecessors. And since I never can resist Doctors meeting Doctors, here we are again.

Out of Time 2

Paris 1809.  The story begins with the 5th Doctor (Peter Davison) on a tour of the Barrière d’Enfer (that is, the Gates of Hell), the catacombs under the city where the bones of the dead are stored.  He was aiming at London 1851, but some kind of time anomaly bumped the Tardis and he ended up here instead. The tour guide, Joseph Delonne, is an aged man who has lived above the subterranean catacombs all his life and claims to know more about them than anyone else. His own father, he says, was killed when their family home collapsed into the vaults beneath in the late 1700s.

Also on the tour is a 51st-century Time Agent, Tina Drake, who seems to know exactly who the Doctor is without being introduced. “Blue box, robot dog.” She’s tracing the same paradoxical time anomaly that disrupted the Tardis back to its source in this particular time and place.

The two break away from the tour group to do a little exploring on their own. Their attention is drawn by an anachronistic flashing red light at the end of tunnel which turns out to be a button to open a secret door.

Inside, they find a troop of about 100 Cybermen in suspended animation. One who seems to be the leader immediately awakes and tells the Doctor that they have been expecting him for some time.

Tina escapes by jumping out with her vortex manipulator, but the Doctor ends in a vault where he is frozen in time.

The 5th Doctor

“Catacombs, Cybermen, trapped in a stasis cage for 135 years, this” — As he sums up the adventure later.

Paris 1944. The 10th Doctor was aiming at 1922, but ran into that same anomaly “bump” and ended up in the midst of the Nazi Occupation. Fleeing the Gestapo, he seeks a hiding place in the French Resistance underground HQ in the catacombs. As he later describes it: 

“Nazis, Josephine Baker, catacombs, this.”

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The Lone Centurion

Like the Paternoster Gang and the Diaries of River Song, this is another set of Big Finish audios based on a secondary but popular character from Doctor Who.

First, a bit of backstory.

Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) was traveling with the 11th Doctor when he was not merely killed, but his entire existence erased so that no one but the Doctor remembered him. Not even his fiancée Amy Pond, although she was sometimes very sad without knowing why.

But Rory wasn’t gone very long. A couple of episodes later, when the Doctor and Amy were at Stonehenge in 120 AD waiting for a large and mysterious box called the Pandorica to open, Rory returned as an Auton in the form of Roman centurion–plastic body, but looking just like the old Rory and containing a human mind that remembered being a British man in the 21st-century. Let’s not go into the hows and whys of that. It’s a bit complicated.

The fatally injured but not-quite-dead Amy ended up being placed inside the Pandorica for more than 1800 years, held in stasis until the giant box was opened by her younger self and she was healed. The Doctor jumped straight on ahead to arrange this event in 1996, but plastic Centurion Rory opted to remain with the Pandorica in Roman Britain and protect Amy through the passing centuries. By the time they met again in 1996, the Lone Centurion had grown into a figure of legend.

So, what was Rory up to between 120 and 1996? This trio of comedic audio stories fills us in on the early days of his adventures, beginning in Rome.

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Doctor Who: The End of the Beginning

Not to be confused with The Beginning of the End, which is a film about giant grasshoppers crawling on photographs of Chicago. This Big Finish audio drama is about the Doctor in four regenerations in four different time periods,  but all of them eventually facing the same cosmic crisis.

The End of the Beginning

A brief prologue introduces us to the Kethlar Death Lords—an “ancient order of ruthless warriors”—who were engaged in a great war eons ago. Only one survived their final battle and, while floating aimlessly through the millennia, he “declared war on the Universe.” This survivor, Vakrass, is the narrator of this opening piece, and provides occasional bridging comments between the three short dramas that follow.

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Ginger Mayerson

GingerLast night, I received news that my very dear friend, as well as my editor and publisher at Wapshott Press, Ginger Mayerson, died on March 26.

It was only in February that I learned she was seriously ill with lung cancer. She told me then that she didn’t expect to live out the year. Even so, I’m stunned that it came so soon.

I spoke to her last in February. I’m sorry we didn’t get to talk again, but I am glad we had that last conversation.

Ginger and I first became online friends in 1996. We met on alt-startrek-creative, both of us writing fanfic for Deep Space 9.

When Ginger published the online zine for the Lincoln Heights Literary Society, I wrote articles and book reviews for her. When she moved on to found the Wapshott Press and was looking for authors, I gave her a few short stories for anthologies, and later my fantasy novels and mysteries. She was always one of the most ardent supporters of my writing, and she brought a number of other writers and poets to public attention.

We only met a few times in person. She came to Maryland to visit me when other business brought her to the DC area and we met in Windsor when we were both traveling in England. We went to the castle, had tea at the Crooked House, watched a game of cricket, and walked along the Thames.

I’m going to miss her.

Ginger is admonishing the geese and swans

Doctor Who: Expiry Dating

And two other audio stories featuring River Song (Alex Kingston) and the 10th Doctor (David Tennant). It’s especially noteworthy that this set was recorded during these months of social isolation. Each of the actors involved recorded their own part from a “studio” set up in their own homes.

Expiry Dating

Expiry Dating

Given the method of recording, it seems appropriate that much of this first story in the CD set is in the epistolary style. It’s a delightful follow-up to the 10th Doctor’s first encounter with River Song in Silence of the Library.

After receiving a “message in a bottle” from River on a piece of psychic paper — which allows for immediate response — the Doctor engages in a correspondence/conversation with this mysterious woman who claims to know him so intimately even though he’s only just met her. He’s interested in finding out who she is, without giving away “spoilers” regarding her fate at the Library.

10th Doctor

“Who are you? How do we know each other? How do I know I can trust you?”

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Excerpt from “The Tattered Red Cloak”

"Odd Goings-on..." Cover

 

From Odd Goings-on at Ferndell Farm and Other Stories, a collection of short non-murder mysteries set in the 1920s, featuring detective Frederick Babington:

 

The Tattered Red Cloak

It was fully dark by the time they reached the Abbotshill village green. The air had grown crisp with nightfall, but the sky was full of brilliant stars. Only a crusting of old snow lay on the rooftops and on the grass. The green had been swept clear. A bonfire blazed high at the end nearest the Millwheel Inn and the children were dancing in a ring around it as if it were Guy Fawkes’ Night.

Everyone within five miles of Abbotshill had come out for the festivities tonight. All the village shopkeepers and neighboring farm-families were in attendance. Makeshift booths covered in colorful bunting had been set up to sell toasted buns, roast chestnuts, hot cider, mince pies, and other light but warming refreshments. The Rose and Crown Tavern, which sat on the opposite side of the mill pond, was open to offer the usual drink for those who wanted something more intoxicating. A band of musicians from Ipswich played in front of the tavern and a few couples had already assembled for the first dance.

Although his aunt had dismissed the dance as beneath the gentry, Freddie saw that many of his own relatives weren’t above taking part in this rustic amusement. In addition to Amyas and Virginia Barlow, Freddie recognized Virginia’s stolid older brothers Julius and Gervais Babington dancing with their respective wives. His elderly relatives Prunella and Hugh Proudhome stood to one side, not joining the dance in this chilly weather but enjoying the sight of the young people enjoying themselves. Ruby and Wilbur Chodeley kept a careful eye on their little daughters near the bonfire; their son Will and the Proudhomes’ grandson Alec had begun to toss squibs into the blaze to startle their elders and delight the younger children.

*Pop!*

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Doctor Who: Out of Time

While most of my purchases of Doctor-Who-related audio dramas from Big Finish have been about companions whom I’ve wanted more stories about, I remain a sucker for any interactions between Doctors; I’ve been that way since I first saw The Three Doctors as a child. I enjoy the contrast of personalities and the sparks that fly whenever a given Doctor clashes with his previous or future selves.

So when I learned about this one, featuring two of the most popular Doctors from the original and new series, I just had to have it. I was hoping for a lot from the interaction, and was not disappointed.

Out of Time

The Cathedral of Contemplation is a unique example of trans-temporal architecture: a massive structure that rotates carousel-like outside of Time itself, with doors opening to different times and places as it spins. This makes it irresistible to the 10th Doctor (David Tennant — Dr 10, as I’ll be calling him hereafter), who is at this point traveling alone after the loss of Donna Noble and before he faces his next regeneration.

He’s welcomed at the Cathedral by the Abbess in charge; she makes some curious remarks about a “coincidence” and, even though he doesn’t recall ever being there before, tells him that he always visits when he’s in trouble. Well, “someone else, and all of them you.”

The Abbess says that the Doctor can go anywhere he wants within the Cathedral, except for the Panoramic Gallery, which is what he’s come specifically to see in hopes of picking up some new travel ideas. The door to the gallery is locked, but he’s not going to let a little thing like that stop him from getting in. He twiddles the lock with his sonic screwdriver as soon as he’s alone…

Meanwhile, Dr 4 (Tom Baker) is painting in the gallery, working on frescoes with an assistant, a young woman named Jora whom he’s met at the Cathedral. She’s run away from her military after a traumatic battle and is in hiding.

While they’re taking, some sort of strange temporal disturbance occurs at the door, and a man comes in. “Oh, hello.”

“Do I know you?” asks Dr 4.

He doesn’t recognize the visitor, but the visitor certainly recognizes him.

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Excerpt from “Pearls”

"Odd Goings-on..." Cover

 

From Odd Goings-on at Ferndell Farm and Other Stories, a collection of short non-murder mysteries set in the 1920s, featuring detective Frederick Babington:

 

Priscilla’s Precious Pearls in a Pie

He had dreamed of lost and stolen jewels since the very beginning of his work as a consulting detective. Here they were at last—an iridescent pile of matched pearls, each slightly smaller than a pea, bundled into a lady’s practical-sized handkerchief. Each had a tiny hole drilled through its center, the interior of which appeared to be tinted slightly red.

“I had them cleaned,” Mrs. Hillingdon explained. “I took them to the same man who does my dentures. He’s a marvel at removing tea and cherry-juice stains. I’m afraid I’ve always been too partial to cherry pie for my own good. I insist on my cook baking one for my birthday every year instead of cake. I never cared for cake. Imagine our surprise when we found what we thought were so many pits—Mrs. Parmiggen never leaves pits! But these were pearls, a necklace worth of pearls. Now, how on earth did they come to be in my birthday pie, and who could they possibly belong to? Answer those questions for me, Mr. Babington, and I’ll believe you’re the greatest detective since Sherlock Holmes.”

Freddie smiled at the hyperbole. Mrs. Hillingdon was a widow of a certain age, a good-humored woman of moderate means but no pretensions, somewhat stout, somewhat grey. She had come from Woking to present him with a handkerchief full of loose pearls and a most intriguing puzzle.

“I hope I’ll be able to live up to your expectations,” he answered. “None of your friends or relatives owns a string of pearls?”

“No, nothing so fine as these. You can see for yourself that they certainly aren’t Woolworth’s. Someone must surely be missing them, and yet I’ve seen nothing about a theft in the newspapers. Much as I would love to keep them as lost property, I can’t in good conscience. I must do what I can to locate the owner.”

“And you believe that must have gone into the pie as a necklace?”

“Yes, although the string was broken. We found bits of it baked onto the crust. I had those thrown out once we were certain we’d recovered all the pearls from the pie, but I did keep the clasp. I hoped it might help to identify who these belong to. There are initials and a date on it.”

“Yes.” Freddie plucked out the small gold oval that also lay within the folds of the handkerchief. It too had been cleaned and the two hooked pieces joined together.

He walked to the window of his study and held the clasp up to the light to see the engraving better—and received a surprise more astonishing than the mystery that Mrs. Hillingdon and her birthday guests had received.

“As a matter of fact,” he announced, “I can tell you exactly who these pearls belong to.”

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Doctor Who: The Movie

Paul McGann as Doctor Who

I had mixed feelings about this made-for-TV movie when it first aired in 1996.

On the one hand, it was the first new Doctor Who since the original long-running series had finally been cancelled in 1989. I’d stopped watching it by then anyway, but had fond memories of the Doctors I’d watched growing up and would have liked to see the show come back again.

On the other hand, the movie was made by Fox TV in cooperation with the BBC and Universal Studios with the prospect of introducing a new version of the series in America.

While a few British series have been successfully adapted into US versions, the odds are against it. What made the UK show successful is more often altered out of recognition to suit US television standards, or simply doesn’t translate from one country to the other. For example, there have been at least two attempts to transplant Fawlty Towers, both of which crashed and burned. The science fiction/time travel element of Doctor Who might survive, but much of the charm and whimsy of the character would be lost.

So I watched it with a certain amount of hope and trepidation.  And it was okay. I liked Paul McGann’s Doctor, but there were a couple of things in the story that really irritated me.

The movie received good ratings when it aired on the BBC, but not so great on Fox. There was no new series at that time; Doctor Who would have to wait until 2005 to return to television.

I thought little more about this movie for 20-plus years unless I had some reason to list actors who played the Doctor. But since I’ve been viewing and writing reviews of old Doctor Who episodes recently, I thought I’d give it another look.

It’s not as disappointing as I remembered it being in 1996. Viewing it again after 15 years of modern Who, I can see it as the transition between the old and new series. One of the things I disliked about it still bothers me. The other… well, the Doctor does that all the time these days and I’ve gotten used to it.

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Odd Goings-on at Ferndell Farm and Other Stories

Storylandia, Issue 35

Where to buy: Amazon; Kindle; ePub and other formats available upon request.

Sample pages

Finding the late Mrs. Taggart’s missing jewels had made Freddie Babington famous. People with problems began to come to him, hoping to engage his services as a private detective. Freddie expected his new career to involve thrilling cases such as restoring diamond necklaces to Duchesses and secret plans to government ministers, perhaps rescuing a kidnapped heiress or two. Most of his cases were more mundane–but every once in a while, a client with a truly strange and interesting problem came to his door.

Excerpt below:

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