Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review - The GBCCPS Season 2

Following the success of the first season, 2012 saw the return of The Companion Chronicles Prose Series but this time with a twist - they would no longer be Companion Chronicles but Epistles of the Enemy, and told from the viewpoint of the Doctor's foes rather than his friends. BF of course had attempted something similar with Mastermind, given a certain character fits the format like a black velvet glove but while the Master appears in four of the stories, he only actually narrates one. There are fewer stories (apparently a Voord-based epic was unable to be used) and unlike the previous year there is no attempt to make sure there's a story for every Doctor

Stories from the villain's POVs - more fun than it sounds...

Fimbulvinter by Meg MacDonald
Fimbulvinter is a term from Norse mythology and basically means "Winter Is Coming", which is appropriate in this tale of the child Doctor and Master growing apart following their viewing of the Untempered Schism and exploration of Gallifrey's mountains. The story is told of the view of a strange wild animal they encounter and their very different reactions. A very downbeat and brutal tale.

Fish Fingers & Mustard by Paul Parncutt
An out-of-control TARDIS crashlands in a Leadworth backyard, bringing two very different characters together in a tale of mutal mistaken identity. I can't praise this story enough, or go into any further detail without ruining the plot twists but this is a brilliant melding of the RTD and early Moffat eras as the two main story arcs seamlessly wind into each other. Brilliant.

I, Zygon by Al B Dickerson
One of the surviving Zygons from Broton's group meets up with the Fourth Doctor again and tell his story. An excellent character piece that shows how truly strange and alien the Zygons and their technology are, but has sadly been overwritten by their return in Day of the Doctor. Even so, I'd wholeheartedly recommend this as the definitive take on the Zygons and a must-read for anyone who wants to try and do the shape-shifters justice. Worth looking out for.

Cold Fusion by Samuel Marks
The Eighth Doctor investigates a Silurian colony under a seaside town and unwittingly unites lovers from two different species. A rather silly, unengaging story that treads the same sort of ground as the Paternoster Gang. Perhaps before Madam Vastra was introduced on TV, this would have been mould-breaking and original but as it is it the most dispensible story in the series.

The Rise and Fall of Richard Knight by David Hogan
An excerpt from the diaries of a businessman who unwittingly aided the Master and fell foul of the Third Doctor, Jo and UNIT. A nice quintessential Pertwee tale, but the understandably-biased narrative means it can be easy to miss precisely what Knight did wrong. A clever, witty little story.

How We Killed A God by Steve Fiori
On her deathbed, Madam Kavorian reflects on the scheme to kill the Doctor when she gets a visit from the very much not-dead Eleventh Doctor. A clever tale filling in a few unanswered questions and doesn't contradict the later Time of the Doctor, but the portrayal of Kavorian as a noble demon rather than the lip-smacking sadistic witch grates badly.

You Are Not Alone by Fionna MacDonald

A vignette by the Jacobi Master as he uses the chameleon arch, abandoning the Time War when he hears the Eighth Doctor has perished. Impressively written and well-thought out, especially given the author is a young girl with learning difficulties.

The War of Jenkin’s Ear (And Other Stories) by Nic Ford
The Kandyman hunts down the Seventh Doctor in a bar at the climax their endless feud. Like the Doctor, you'll probably be wondering "what endless fued?" and the Kandyman is more than happy to fill in the gaps in this demented and warped anthology celebrating all that fandom recoils from - Season 24, Vervoids, Nimon, time-travelling carrot cake... If by the end of this story you're not demanding the Kandyman return to the TV series then you obviously haven't read it. I loved this one.

Silencing the Beast by Meg MacDonald
Following his ordeal on Midnight, the Tenth Doctor sends Donna away while he deals with a voice in his head determined to break him. A genuinely unsettling character piece, though while it may not have anything to do with the Dream Lord, it's impossible not to imagine Toby Jones' sneering tones while reading. No answers are given and no closure is offered. Highly-recommended.

Anagram of the Kaleds by Nic Ford
Just as last year, Ford again decides to provide a comedy skit rather than fit with the format but at least it's fun and entertaining. This sees the creation of the Daleks as a 1970s workplace sitcom with the first Kaled mutant a sarcastic ex-lollypop man and Davros his accident-prone supervisor. If you thought Genesis of the Daleks needed more velcro, custard and wise-cracking squids, this is for you.

The Rallax Operation by Al B Dickenson
Another massive tale, thankfully split in two and with a more engaging narrator. The Tenth Doctor bumps into Garron and Unstoffe and things pretty much go to hell from thereon. These stories have often blended Classic and NuWho together, but it's hard to beat this version with Garron fearing the wrath of "the rhinos" and Unstoffe frightening the Doctor by knocking on a window four times. The story ends up with a cast of characters that form a band more worthy of television exploration than anything Torchwood has managed to offer. A great way to round off the series.

Highlights: Fish Fingers & Mustard, Silencing the Beast, TWOJEAOS, The Rallax Operation

Lowlights: How We Killed A God, Cold Fusion, Anagram of the Kaleds

With fewer stories, the slant towards the New Series is far more notable and the emphasis on the Doctor is obvious but thankfully none of the stories go for the cheap trick of saying a villain was really the good guy all along even when the Doctor is portrayed as a sinister, nightmarish. Nonetheless, the strike rate is hugely impressive and thankfully lacks the recurring motiffs and repetition of the previous season. Frankly, this is a format Big Finish is missing out on.

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