If you were to poll classic Doctor Who fans on which adversaries from the original run they'd like to see back, odds are the Swarm wouldn't make the tIf you were to poll classic Doctor Who fans on which adversaries from the original run they'd like to see back, odds are the Swarm wouldn't make the top ten. Nor the top twenty or thirty.
A poorly realized (visually anyway) adversary from the 70's story, "The Invisible Enemy," the Swarm isn't the most threatening, interesting or even well regarded foe the Doctor ever faced. But maybe freed of the limitations of the television series and with the virtually unlimited special effects showcase of the imagination, maybe the Swarm could flourish in the world of audio.
Unfortunately, not so much.
Leaning heavily on the catch phrase from the original story, "Revenge of the Swarm" is a tale of two halves. The first half finds the Swam has hidden itself inside the TARDIS all these years, waiting just the right opportunity to show itself again. That opportunity comes with Hex/Hector, who has recently become (literally) a new man. (If you're a bit lost here, you're not alone. I hadn't listened to any of the stories leading up to this one and I'm sure I'm missing some of the nuances of Hex/Hector's story.)
Before you know it, the TARDIS is headed back to Titan Base and the Swarm is working to make sure that it comes into existence. Yep, there's time paradoxes in this one and the question of which came first -- the giant prawn or the egg? And that doesn't even take into account that the second half of the story takes place in a virtual reality like world that requires paying a lot more attention that I'm used to doing on these stories in order to follow things.
My hope heading into the story was that it might take a campy monster from the 70's and put some new, entertaining twist on it. That didn't happen. Add in a lot of confusing details about the Hex/Hector drama and a storyline that seems to be chasing its own tail a bit too much and you're left with a disappointing entry from the Big Finish range. ...more
Every once in a while, my wife and I like to recommend a book to each other that's outside our usual reading comfort zone. She tends to try and get meEvery once in a while, my wife and I like to recommend a book to each other that's outside our usual reading comfort zone. She tends to try and get me to read a novel from one of her favorite genres -- the world of romance.
And while this one isn't quite the supernatural romance I'm sure she was hoping I'd read, I have to admit it was fairly satisfying.
Julia Boyd is a bit jaded when it comes to love. Spurned by her college boyfriend, Julia has found a lot of frogs and no prince. But maybe her friend Alex could be that knight in shining armor who breaks down her sarcastic barriers and finally wins her heart.
Barbie Bohrman does a nice job of giving Julia and Alex a slow burn, building up the sexual tension between the two. It also helps that for the first half of the novel, Julia has a nice cast of supporting characters to give her advice and to serve as a sounding board for her frustrations at her attraction to Alex (turns out Alex was once the object of interest for her best friend, who is now happy in a different romantic relationship). The flirting eventually leads to something more between she and Alex -- and it's once the two get together that I feel the novel lost something of its edge.
I will admit I listened to this one as an audio book and that may not have helped things necessarily. Chapters of steamy romance may not not be best experienced in the audio book format. But it's kind of a trade-off since the reader gives the first-person narration of Julie such a flair up to that point.
Another part of it could be that once Julia and Alex give in to their feelings, the supporting cast virtually vanishes into the background. And maybe that's meant to mirror how new couples can disappear into each other when they first get together, but I couldn't help but hope the supporting cast might get more page time in the novel's last half than they did. ...more
When it comes to Jim Gaffigan's Dad is Fat, I feel like my lack of love for the book isn't so much about the book itself, but more to do with me.
I'veWhen it comes to Jim Gaffigan's Dad is Fat, I feel like my lack of love for the book isn't so much about the book itself, but more to do with me.
I've enjoyed Gaffigan's stand-up material and a lot of it is well-translated to the page (or in my case the audio book). But I was probably mentally not in a place to truly enjoy jokes about the daily trials and tribulations of raising five kids.
Gaffigan's stories of trying to raise five kids in a two-bedroom New York City apartment are utterly charming and amusing. Gaffigan is even self-deprecating enough to appreciate the absurdity of certain things.
And yet I just couldn't love the book. I tried.
It's not you, it's me, I kept thinking. And it probably was. ...more
Every time I delve into the extra features on an 80's era Doctor Who DVD release, I'm a bit saddened that John Nathan Turner passed away before he couEvery time I delve into the extra features on an 80's era Doctor Who DVD release, I'm a bit saddened that John Nathan Turner passed away before he could fully participate in a couple of extras from his tenure as producer. I'd be fascinated to see what his thoughts on his (at times) controversial tenure were like as well as have some insights from his role as producer for the show during the turbulent era when the ratings declined and the show was cancelled, brought back and then put on hiatus that final time, leading to the wilderness year.
It would be interesting to hear Nathan-Turner get a chance to defend himself or at least respond to various criticisms laid at his feet in various commentaries and extras from that era.
The closest we'll get is this two disc set of Nathan Turner reading his own memoirs that were originally published in Doctor Who Magazine. Listening to it, I'm struck by how much of a gentleman Nathan Turner was and his insights into certain creative decisions made during his long run as the show's producer. Also of interest are his take on certain segments of the fandom who were extremely vocal about the perceived shortcomings of 80's Who.
Nathan Turner proves to be far more a gentleman in discussing a certain script editor and his departure from the show than the script editor has been in certain interviews during that time. It's interesting to see him take the high road and relate what happened from his perspective without necessarily taking others to task or getting into a game of "He said, he said" about the whole thing. We may never fully know what went on behind the scenes, but at least we get to hear JN-T's side of things.
What comes across in the memoirs is first that JN-T loved Doctor Who and second that he grew weary of his growing niche at the BBC being the producer of the show for so long. The second disc seems to be a lot of JN-T's attempts to step aside as producer and bring in some new vision to the show, only to have it implied that without him, the show won't go on. And while there were clunkers from that era, it's hard to imagine the show stopping before getting to some of my favorites like "The Caves of Androzani" or "The Curse of Fenric." Even JN-T's thoughts on averting "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" from cancellation make like him a bit more, if only because I consider that story an underrated classic.
For good or bad, JN-T was a big influence on Doctor Who and this audio memoir is a solid one. It probably won't change the mind of those who are determined to dislike his era, but it certainly will give the rest of us an intriguing look inside the production of a tumultuous era in the show's history. ...more
When she's chosen to be one of three exchange students with the recently discovered alien race the L'eihrs, Cara Sweeney sees not only a chance to getWhen she's chosen to be one of three exchange students with the recently discovered alien race the L'eihrs, Cara Sweeney sees not only a chance to get a full ride to college but also the change to jump start her career as a journalist. But that Cara didn't expect was rampant xenophobia from her friends and planet or that her exchange student Alix might have a different agenda than promoting peace and understanding between the two cultures.
Oh, and she also didn't expect that she'd start to fall for the alien living under her roof.
Melissa Landers' Alienated starts off with a very interesting premise and story line, tackling some interesting threads and showing us the unintended price that Cara is paying for making the choice -- she loses her boyfriend and her best friend in the rampant xenophobia overtaking her community. But somewhere around the third or fourth disc of this audiobook, things began to quickly go awry and I found myself enjoying the story less and less. It's probably about the time that both Alix and Cara begin to fall for each other. It's not because Landers doesn't spend a time in the first half of the book setting these two unlikely heroes up as a couple. It's because once the Cara starts trying to making food palatable to Alix's alien palate that things the story begins to lose track of the interesting questions that drove the first half of the novel and slowly begins to center on just attracted these two are to each other.
Dropped from the story is the thread about how Cara's mother was saved by L'eihr technology and how that could impact Cara and her family's acceptance of Alix and his fellow student ambassadors.
About the only thing that kept me going for the final half of the novel was the mystery of what Alix and his exchange program counterparts are devising to inflict upon humanity in order to destroy both sides willingness to form an alliance. Unfortunately by the time we get around to any answers, I'd long since lost interesting and found myself doubling the audio rate on my iPod simply to get through the book. The answers aren't anything I hadn't already sussed out from the novel's early stages and by the time I got to the final disc, I was ready for the whole thing to be over and done.
Which is a shame because, as I said before, the story starts off well with some interesting questions. The novel ends of a cliffhanger of sorts but I can't say that I'm curious enough to want to pick up the story when the next installment hits shelves....more
There are certain monsters and villains that lend themselves well to audio and some that don't. The Zygons probably fall somewhere firmly in the middlThere are certain monsters and villains that lend themselves well to audio and some that don't. The Zygons probably fall somewhere firmly in the middle since their ability to disguise themselves as various people in the story can be more easily realized in the audio landscape. But then again, the Zygon voices also suffer from the same thing that the Dalek voices do -- they can be a bit grating to listen for an extended period of time in an audio release.
And so it is that we come to Zygon Hunt, the final release of the current fourth Doctor adventures and a story that worked far better than I initially thought it could or would. I'll say that the story suffers a bit in comparison to how superbly the Zygons were used in the fiftieth anniversary story, but overall I can't help but feel that this current run of fourth Doctor stories has gone out on a solid note, even if it never delivered on the early conflict between the Doctor and Leela that we saw in The Kings of Sontar.
The Doctor and Leela arrive on the planet Garros where they meet up with expedition that is hunting the Zygons for sport. But the question quickly becomes who is hunting who and just how does this play into the Zygons' plan to conquer the Earth? As I said before there are doppelgangers and questions of loyalty abounding in this story, but once those big reveals are stripped away, I'm afraid the overall story does quite hold together. Part of it that the supporting cast aren't really all that interesting or memorable so it's hard to really care much about who is human and who is a Zygon in disguise.
Overall, I feel like the latest fourth Doctor season started out on a high note and that it was all a downhill slide from there. Certainly Zygon Hunt isn't as disappointing as the last two entries in the range, but I still came away feeling a bit letdown overall by the season. ...more
After directing an entry in the Companion Chronicles line earlier this year, Louise Jameson tries her hand at writing with The Abandoned.
And while heAfter directing an entry in the Companion Chronicles line earlier this year, Louise Jameson tries her hand at writing with The Abandoned.
And while her directing debut was a winner, I'll have to admit that her script debut is a bit hit or miss. There are some intriguing ideas here, including an exploration of the nature of the TARDIS and some depth to the relationship of the Doctor and Leela that we couldn't necessarily see in the classic era, but I'm not sure that the story as a whole translates well into the audio arena. Jameson is quite good as Leela and gives herself a lot of stretching to do. But there are moments during The Abandoned that I felt might work better on the TV screen or printed page -- whether it be a straight text story or a comic book adaptation.
That puts the fourth Doctor adventures third season at two stories in a row that had some promise but didn't quite gel together for me. It also makes me begin to doubt very much if the range will deliver on the promise from the early installments of the season that had me eager to hear the next story. I feel like the range has dropped the ball a bit. ...more
Perusing reviews of Lies My Girlfriends Told Me, it appears the books is a bit polarizing among readers. There are some who call is "ground breaking"Perusing reviews of Lies My Girlfriends Told Me, it appears the books is a bit polarizing among readers. There are some who call is "ground breaking" while others are quick to dismiss it as your standard teen angst novel.
My thoughts on the subject are that yes, the novel is full of teen relationship angst and that it's not necessarily as ground breaking as some reviewers would have you believe.
When Alix's girlfriend Swanee passes away of cardiac arrest during a run, Alix's entire world is shattered. But not nearly as much as when Alix sneaks into her girlfriend's room and discovers her cell phone full of voice-mails and text messages from LM. Seems that Swanee had more than her fair share of secrets, including the fact that she was in a relationship with not only Alix, but also this mysterious LM.
Driven by a need to find answers, Alix quizzes Swanee's younger sister, Joss for clues and eventually begins to answer back the mysterious LM's texts. Alix eventually founds out that LM is Liana, a cheerleader at another school who Swanee assured Alix she'd broken up with when they got together. Confused, Alix seeks out Liana, wanting to find answers and possibly get some closure. But things get complicated when Alix and Liana share a connection, becoming friends and possibly more.
Lies My Girlfriend Told Me has teenage angst that comes off the page (or in my case through your earbuds) in waves. Alix's conflict about the Swanee she thought she knew and the real Swanee helps drive the novel and helped keep me interested during the first half of the book. The story shows us just how manipulative Swanee really was (she gets Alix to drop all of her friends, see her parents as terrible people for wanting her to help out around the house and not buying her a car, etc.) and it's a nice character arc for Alix to slowly realize that while she loved Swanee, that Swanee wasn't necessarily the great girlfriend in the world. We also see Alix come to realize that Swanee's family has some fundamental problems that she wasn't aware of when Swanee was alive (Swanee's mom reveals that she encouraged her daughter to date as much as possible while she was young. It feels almost as if Mom gave her approval of how manipulative Swanee and her sister Joss are of other's feelings).
A little teen angst can be a good thing, but there are times when it feels like Lies My Girlfriend Told Me seems to be pouring it on. Early on, I realized that Swanee was being emotionally manipulative of both Alix and Liana (she convinces Liana to buy an expensive engagement ring, promising that she'll buy one as well while she has no intention of doing so. She also promises both parties they will go to college together and have their own apartment). Seeing both girls come to terms with this is the novel's most interesting character arc and one that is well earned by the Julie Anne Peters.
Where the novel stumbles is in its portrayal of Alix (at times). There were moments I wanted to reach through the ear buds and tell her to wake up and realize that she was being a perfect little snot to her friends, family and those who care about her. I get that Peters is trying to help us understand just how much Swanee manipulated Alix, but there are times when Alix's feeling of entitlement became a bit cloying and annoying.
There's also the elephant in the room of that fact that Lies My Girlfriend Told Me is a main-stream young adult novel that centers on romantic relationships between people of the same sex. There were times as I listened to the story that the story worked and there were time I felt like this book was being as manipulative to readers (or potential readers) as Swanee was to Alix and Liana. Part of it comes from a lack of really significant or interesting character development. I kept finding myself hoping for a bit more development or understanding of what made Swanee the way she was or why these girls found her so irresistible. Unfortunately, we don't get any answers to this.
And while Alix does go on a bit of a journey, it doesn't necessarily seem like an earned one. Nor does her change feel natural enough or reasonable enough to support some of her parents' decisions (allowing her to take care of her little brother for the weekend, buying her a car) in the novel's closing pages. It felt like this was a bit of wish fulfillment on the part of Alix and Peters with a sudden turnaround in Alix's life that isn't earned. And don't get me started on how easily forgiven Alix is once Liana learns the truth about how they met.
All in all, what started out as a novel with an interesting hook turns out to be little more than a standard YA angst and wish fulfillment novels. It's not as ground-breaking as some would want you to believe, but it's not entirely worth dismissing. Go into it with lowered expectations and you'll probably enjoy most of what Peters is trying to do here. ...more
Listening to the audio version of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, I couldn't help but recall Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
SkiListening to the audio version of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, I couldn't help but recall Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Skimming a couple of other reviews on Goodreads, I see that I'm not the only one.
This isn't a bad thing, mind you. As an homage to Chocolate Factory, Mr. Lemoncello's Library works fairly well. But it also stands on its own as an enjoyable, entertaining book.
It certainly had me entertained as I listened.
Kyle Keeley is one of several students selected to spend the night in the brand new Lemoncello Library. Mr. Lemoncello creates the greatest games -- video and otherwise -- in the world and he wants to give back to his home town, which has been without a library for several years now. He builds a state-of-the-art facility that he hopes will appeal to old school and new school users. And to generate some excitement he makes his new library the showcase for his new game.
The goal is to find a way out of the library by using the resources contained within. There's no overriding threat of danger or death to the game, just the desire to get out first and win the fame and fortune that comes with it.
Reading this book, I found myself wanting to find a way to play some of the games invented by Mr. Lemoncello. And while the characters and plot aren't necessarily ground-breaking, it's still a fun, diverting book that I could see myself sharing with younger members of my family or my kids (someday). ...more
While I don't begrudge Big Finish creating their own little pocket of continuity within the Doctor Who universe, I still find it a bit frustrating wheWhile I don't begrudge Big Finish creating their own little pocket of continuity within the Doctor Who universe, I still find it a bit frustrating when the script assumed you've listened to not only every release from one particular range, but also every release from the entire range of stories. Or that you've got an encyclopedic knowledge of that range of stories that you can easily call upon in order to understand the current story.
I'm doing well enough to keep my encyclopedia knowledge of televised stories up to date, much less that based on audio and literary adventures.
And so it is that I probably didn't enjoy Destroy the Infinite as much as others who are more familiar with the range probably did. I came to find out from the extras on the disc that this story is a prequel to a previously released sixth Doctor story, Spaceport Fear. It seems that the alien race known as the Eminence made their first appearance there and that events in this story help set up that one. On the one hand, I'll give Nicholas Briggs and Big Finish props for using the nature of time travel in a similar way to what the television series has tried to do. But on other hand, when I got to the end of this story, I was expecting it to be touched upon in the next several fourth Doctor stories and it never was.
It all led to my being more frustrated than entertained by this story -- and curious to see out Spaceport Fear and see what happens there. ...more
In the post-story bonus features for Last of the Colophon, writer Jonathan Morris says he wanted to script a story that followed in the Hichcliffe-traIn the post-story bonus features for Last of the Colophon, writer Jonathan Morris says he wanted to script a story that followed in the Hichcliffe-tradition of paying homage to old horror films. In this case, Morris says he realized that the series had never done a Doctor Who take on The Invisible Man and so he decided to give it a try here.
In the world of audio, creating an invisible character is a lot easier than realizing one on our television screens. We're only limited by the budget of our imaginations, but it does mean that we have to get a lot of characters standing around and describing actions occurring.
It's not helped that this one feels not only derivative of the Invisible Man but also of a lot of other Hinchliffe/Holmes era stories. It's got the Doctor trying to take a holiday, the last survivor of an alien race with a different agenda than he or she originally lets on, a madmen trying to escape and get free to rule the galaxy and a series of puzzles to be solved to keep the villain of the piece at bay.
It's not necessarily a bad story as much as it's the feeling of "been there, done that."
The story also includes Gareth Roberts of Blake's Seven fame in the role of the main villain. Again, this is one of those things that were it not for the packaging and special features, I'd hardly have been aware of. I suppose this is good or bad, depending on your point of view.
Sadly, this ends up being the most disappointing of the current run of fourth Doctor and Leela stories I've listened to, so far. Here's hoping they improve things with the next couple of entries....more
In the post-"Deadly Assassin" world, most stories featuring the Master attempted to hide him in plain sight until at least the first cliffhanger.
That'In the post-"Deadly Assassin" world, most stories featuring the Master attempted to hide him in plain sight until at least the first cliffhanger.
That's not the case with "The Evil One" where the marketing material and packaging advertises that Geoffrey Beavers will be resuming the mantle of the Doctor's old foe. Wisely writer Nicholas Briggs turns into this skid and puts the Master center stage well into the first installment of this story and doesn't necessarily try to hide his presence from the audience.
It helps that the scheme the Master has launched this time is an intriguing one, involving manipulating Leela into wanting to kill the Doctor. Manipulating her mind through her dreams and memories, the Master plants seeds of doubt about the true nature of the Doctor and Leela's friendship and relationship, going all the way back to her first appearance in "The Face of Evil."
Don't be surprised if you, like me, want to dust off your DVD of that story and give it another look after listening to this one.
Putting a burden of guilt on Leela over the death of her father and making her question her role and the Doctor's in those events is nicely done and continues an interesting thread that's been developing over the course of this run of fourth Doctor stories. It also gives Louise Jamison some strong material to work with as Leela --and she delivers in spades. As the supplemental features point out, these stories allow the writers to give Leela a bit more character development that was allowed on our TV screens at the time. And it all works well. ...more
Odds are you've seen Judy Green in a movie or television show. She's been cast in supporting roles in some of the most popular shows and movies of theOdds are you've seen Judy Green in a movie or television show. She's been cast in supporting roles in some of the most popular shows and movies of the last decade, including Arrested Development, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, or 13 Going on 30. She's even headlining the new FX series Married this summer.
But that doesn't necessarily mean that she's a household name (just yet) or that you're likely to recall any of these roles should you meet her on the street. Greer embraces that awkward moment as the title for this book of essays on her life and career, I Don't Know What You Know Me From.
Read by Greer, the audiobook looks at her life and career with a sense of humor and honesty. The most enjoyable chapters are those focusing on the behind the scenes in Hollywood, with just the right amount of self-deprecation on Greer's part. Wisely, Greer doesn't go for muck-racking or telling dirty secrets of those she's worked with. Instead, she paints a picture of what it's like to work in Hollywood -- both the positive and negative. The chapters where she reflects on the joys of working on a project during the day but missing her family during the downtime are among the most memorable and interesting.
At the end of this collection, you'll come away knowing a bit more about Greer and her life. And maybe, you'll start to remember just a few of the many memorable roles she's played during her career. ...more