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Earth 2 #18
Review By Paul Bowler
The World Army fleet and the New Wonders have retreated to their Arkham Base after Brutaal killed Steppenwolf in Dherian and was revealed as Superman, the formerly deceased hero of Earth 2, now returned as the herald of Darksied. The Arkham Base is now in ruins after the enraged Superman’s onslaught, the Red Tornado has been uploaded with a new identity, and the mysterious Batman of Earth 2 is about to unleash the prisoners held in stasis within the lover levels of Arkham as the forces of Darkseid and Apokolips begin their invasion. Yet even as Batman’s new allies prepare to enter the fray, the Flash bravely confronts Superman alone so the base can be evacuated, but soon all seems lost as the world cowers before its new masters…
Tom Taylor continues to build on the earth shattering events of last issue as Earth 2 #18 opens with Mr Terrific searching the wrecked Arkham Command Centre for survivors, only to find one of his comrades critically wounded. In order to give everyone a chance to evacuate, Jay Garrick decides to distract Superman. While the furious Man of Steel pursues the Flash halfway across the world, deep beneath Arkham the new Batman is confronted by Major Sato, who is determined to stop the Dark Knight from releasing the prisoners in the stasis chambers.
Last issue also saw Lois Lane resurrected as the Red Tornado, when General Lane gave the order for his daughter’s consciousness to be uploaded into the android. Although the General was killed by falling rubble when Superman attacked Arkham, the transfer was successful, and Lois now exists as the Red Tornado. It will be interesting to see how Taylor develops her character now she is an android; her resurrection is bound to have a significant effect on Superman as well. She could be a secret weapon designed to use against him, or perhaps her return might be enough to sway even this evil zealot’s fanatical loyalty to Darkseid?
Nicola Scott’s art for Earth 2 #18 is as impeccable as ever, with Trevor Scott’s inks and excellent colors by Pete Pantazis, who perfectly balances the muted tones inside the ruined base, with the vivid clarity of the Flash’s global supercharged attempt to outrun Superman, and the sinister pulsating purple hues of the stasis chambers. I really enjoyed the scenes were Superman was chasing the Flash, not only does it once more highlight Jay Garrick’s selfless bravery, you get a real sense of the speed and power involved as they race across land and sea.
Not everyone makes it out of Earth 2 #18 unscathed, there are some very distressing scenes, especially for one officer in the Arkham Command Centre, and Superman’s way of stopping the Flash is guaranteed to make you wince. However, all of this aside, it is the events unfolding down in the lower levels of Arkham that are what really intrigue and shock in equal measure this issue.
We have been teased about the new Batman’s identity for a while now. Though Earth 2 #18 doesn’t exactly spill the beans, Tom Taylor certainly serves up some very interesting clues about this version of the Dark Knight, especially when his confrontation with Major Sato takes a somewhat unexpected turn after the Red Tornado intervenes. However, the man beneath the cowl is a very tough customer indeed, and what remains unspoken in the Stasis Prison will give you much to ponder long after you have finished the issue.
If that wasn’t enough to get you foaming at the mouth for answers, then the prisoners Batman releases from their Stasis Chambers will definitely be a surprise, especially one of them, who I really wasn’t expecting. To top it all, the final stasis chamber, and Batman’s reaction to it, provides an effectively brutal and shocking conclusion to Earth 2 #18!
Earth 2 #18 was another great issue by Tom Taylor. We are given little time to pause for thought as the action unfolds, there is sense of real danger as Mr Terrific and Sloan have to coordinate the evacuation and get the injured to safety. Taylor has quickly established himself on this series with the carnage unleashed by Superman, as well as the return of Lois Lane, while also building the mystery surrounding Batman’s identity, and Khalid Ben-Hassin’s ramblings from last issue will no doubt yield some hidden meanings as we progress.
Although next issue may hold more clues, we will have to wait until the Earth 2 Annual #2 in January to find out more about the new Batman. Taylor does introduce some characters this issue, who will certainly add a lot of potential for the future, and the final moments for one character in stasis will leave you in no doubt that this Batman means business. Now Superman has obtained his objective and the invasion is about to begin, these are dark days indeed for the New Wonders. Earth 2 #18 is a terrific issue, Tom Taylor is doing great things with this title, maintaining the tone and style fans of the series have become accustomed to while gradually moving things forward by introducing new plot threads and characters, which together with Nicola Scott’s superb artwork, ensures that Earth 2 will keep us eagerly awaiting the next issue.
The Walking Dead #117
Review by Paul Bowler
The first battle of Rick’s war is over. While Rick’s plan left the Savoirs trapped inside their own base, surrounded by Walkers attracted by the gunfire, Holly bravely sacrificed herself to breach the Savoirs defences, and was then taken captive by Negan.
It was great to see Rick and his allies using the Walkers to their own advantage last issue, effectively pinning the Savoirs inside their compound, but Negan isn’t going to give up without a fight, as The Walking Dead #117 clearly illustrates just how resourceful and cunning the Savoirs leader can be when he’s backed into a corner like this. At first Negan thinks he has captured Andrea, someone who he can use to break Rick’s spirit, but Holly reveals she was with Abraham as she tells Negan and Dwight why she drove the truck herself to smash the gates and let the Walkers in.
As Rick and the others regroup, Robert Kirkman uses this interlude to show what effect Holly’s sacrifice has had on the others, while Michonne, Ezekiel, and Shiva deal with some more Walkers. Rick then asks Michonne to return with a group to their community to help Andrea and Carl, just in case Negan manages to strike at them before they can return. Michonne agrees, even though she is unsure that they should be dividing their forces at this time, while Ezekiel will remain with Rick’s group and help take out the rest of the Savoirs outposts.
The art by Charlie Adlard is excellent, there are some outstanding pages featuring the Walkers attacking Negan and his men as they try and beat back the undead horde, where they soon find themselves outnumbered and have to quickly retreat inside. It was a good move to bring inker Stefano Gaudiono to The Walking Dead for All Out War, his inks bring an added clarity and shade to the bleak environments, and the Zombies look even more menacing.
Robert Kirkman continues to show us more sides to Negan’s character. The Saviors leader delivers an expletive laden rant when his attempt to clear a path through the Walkers fails, knowing the urgency to get out and strike back is now crucial to their survival, Negan orders his people to figure out a way to attack the Zombies from a distance. What follows is a scene where Negan discover that one of his men, David, is about to assault Holly. Appalled by what nearly happened Negan’s justice is swift, and ruthless, as he punishes David for defying the rules. It becomes clear that Negan is looking at the bigger picture here, at how they will all have to work together when the war is over, and that sinking to such inhuman levels is completely unacceptable, even for him. While the Saviors leader remains highly unpredictable, Negan’s twisted logic indicates that he is not an adversary to be underestimated.
The Walking Dead #117 sees Rick preparing to divide his forces between dealing with the Savoirs outposts and protecting Andrea and the others, as she is sure to be the focus of any counter attack launched by Negan. Whether this is a good move or not remains to be seen, Rick could be spreading his forces too thin, and that could very well give the Saviors the opening they need to strike back when they least expect it.
This third part of All Out War has certainly seen no let up in the action, Robert Kirkman continues to build the suspense, and the art by Charlie Adlard and Stefano Gaudiano delivers some spectacular scenes where the zombies attack in force. The Walking Dead #17 is another really good issue, battle lines have been drawn, and with both sides are preparing to make their next move, All Out War is shaping up to be an epic event.
The Day of the Doctor
Review by Paul Bowler
It’s Saturday evening and a strangely familiar theme tune rings out as the day draws to a close, a policeman walks past a gate, the sign reads I.M. Foreman, and suddenly we are standing before Coal Hill School… Right from its opening moments, the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor instantly transports us back to the shows origins, drawing on the programmes rich mythology and subsequent rebirth in a new millennium for a record breaking simulcast event as fans around the world celebrated fifty years of adventures in time and space. This special feature-length episode of Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor sees Matt Smith’s 11th incarnation of the Time Lord teaming up with his predecessor, David Tennant as the 10th Doctor, and John Hurt as the War Doctor - a mysterious new incarnation of the Time Lord who came into being during the Time War.
Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), now a teacher at Coal Hill School, receives a message from the Doctor, and rides her motorbike to meet him in the TARDIS. Moments later the TARDIS is intercepted by UNIT and airlifted by helicopter to Trafalgar Square where the Doctor and Clara are greeted by Kate Stuart (Jemma Redgrave) and scientist Osgood (Ingrid Oliver). They go to the National Gallery, where the Doctor opens a sealed message from Queen Elisabeth I (who it transpires was once married to the 10th Doctor) that holds instructions which entrust the Time Lord to curate some very special paintings; including a piece of Time Lord art depicting The Fall of Arcadia during the Time War – a single moment of time locked inside a 3D painting – that has become known by two ominous names: “No More” and “Gallifrey Falls”.
Matt Smith gives a terrific performance as the Doctor in this special anniversary episode. His Doctor is right at the heart of the action, I thought the opening moments were the Doctor was suspended below the TARDIS as it was flown over the London skyline was fantastic, and later Matt Smith really gets to run the gauntlet of emotions as the Doctor’s actions during the Time War return to haunt him. Jenna Coleman is also terrific as Clara, now a teacher at Coal Hill School, the impossible girl now seems all grown up and even more confident than before, and the scene where she rides a motorbike into the TARDIS is great fun.
The painting offers us a glimpse into that darkest hour on Gallifrey during the last day of the Time War, as the Dalek armada encircles the planet and launch a devastating attack. The War Doctor emerges from the shadows after using a gun to blast the words “No More” into a crumbling wall to leave a message for the Daleks, before escaping in his TARDIS as Arcadia, Gallifrey’s second city, falls. The Time Lord War Council are shocked to discover the War Doctor has taken a sentient weapon of unimaginable power know as The Moment, a galaxy eater created by the ancients of Gallifrey, which he intends to use to destroy his own people and the Daleks to end the Time War. Travelling to a remote location, the War Doctor attempts to activate The Moment, but the devices interface, or conscience, assumes the form of Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and tries to convince him to choose another path…
The special effects used to depict the final day of the Time War, with Gallifrey surrounded by a vast fleet of Dalek warships, are absolutely magnificent. The Day of the Doctor is about as epic in scope and scale as Doctor Who has ever been. To see Gallifrey in ruins is also quite shocking; this once majestic world, now torn apart by Dalek firepower, with the city burning as the population flee in terror as Daleks close in to exterminate them is chilling.
John Hurt is magnificent as the War Doctor, a new incarnation of the Doctor that existed during the Time War, and was responsible for unleashing the Galaxy Eater and destroying his own people to end the war. This dark secret is one that the even the 11th Doctor is loathed to speak of, yet fate will force him, and his 10th incarnation, to confront this aspect of his existence, and ultimately work together to find another way to end the Time War. John Hurt gives a commanding performance as the War Doctor, painting a weary, tragic figure, who is forever condemned by the impossible choice he was faced with as he witnessed the fall of Arcadia.
Billie Piper makes a welcome return to Doctor Who as Rose Tyler, but not in quite the way we might have expected. She appears as The Moment, the sentient conscience of the Galaxy Eater, which has taken the form of Rose Tyler to communicate with the War Doctor. Billie Piper is excellent as the mysterious and somewhat playful “Bad Wolf” girl as Hurt’s Doctor calls her. It’s great to see Billie Piper return to Doctor Who, her role as The Moment/Bad Wolf was crucial to brining all of the Doctor’s together to change history. I also liked how The Moment got Clara to help the Doctor’s find another way to end the war, immersing them within Arcadia‘s final moments, with Clara finally appealing to her Doctor to “be a Doctor” and make the promise of his name a reality that would save his people from destruction.
Meanwhile, in Elizabethan England 1562, the 10th Doctor and Queen Elizabeth I find themselves under attack by a Zygon, a shape-shifting alien, who tries to confuse the Doctor by assuming the form of Queen Elizabeth I. Before the 10th Doctor can figure out who is who, three portals created by The Moment open across space and time and draw both the 11th Doctor and the War Doctor to 1562, where they meet the 10th Doctor and are promptly arrested by the Queens troops and taken to the Tower of London. The Zygons are using a stasis cube to travel into the future, where they have been stored inside the paintings held within a secret chamber in the Under Gallery, where they start to emerge and quickly attack Kate Stewart, and scientists Osgood and McGill (Jonjo O‘Neill). The Zygons duplicate their captives and, with their leader posing as Kate Stuart, get the unsuspecting Clara to accompany Kate to the Black Archive at UNIT HQ beneath the Tower of London.
With some guidance from the Moment, who only the War Doctor can see or hear, the imprisoned Doctor’s attempt to escape from their cell by using the software in their sonic screwdrivers to calculate a solution that would take centuries to complete individually. The computation is eventually completed on the 11th Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, which is four hundred years old, but in the meantime he has also inscribed the code of Captain Jack’s Vortex Manipulator onto the wall of their cell, and it is this message to the future which enables Clara to snatch the Vortex Manipulator from the Black Archive and prevent the Zygons from using it.
The Day of the Doctor has a great supporting cast, with Jemma Redgrave returning as UNITS’s chief scientific officer Kate Lethbridge Stewart; she gets some great scenes with the Doctor and Clara, and has to confront the Zygons as well. Ingrid Oliver is also good as the scientist Osgood, a really fun character, who quickly figures out what the Zygons are up to, and helps Kate escape and reach the Black Archive to stop the Zygons. There are so many references to the history of Doctor Who in The Day of the Doctor: far to many to mention here, some of my favourites were the opening scenes with the original theme and titles from the very first story in 1963, An Unearthly Child, the sign outside Coal Hill School where the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan, once attended tells us Ian Chesterton is now the chairman of the school governors, the time of the very first episode also feature on a clock face as Clara goes to meet the Doctor and the date and time is also the code for the vortex manipulator, Osgood wears a scarf just like the 4th Doctor’s, there are a number of references to the Doctor’s old friend Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, as well as the 10th and 11th Doctor’s eras, but I think some of the best nods to the past are in the Black Archive, were we see a notice board covered in pictures of the Doctor’s previous companions, and its great fun trying to identify them all.
The scenes set in Elizabethan England were also a lot of fun. This is the point in the story were the 10th Doctor becomes involved with Queen Elizabeth the I, he even ends up marrying her, and there are some great scenes as he has to confront the Queen and her Zygon double. Joanna Page was also really good as Queen Elizabeth I, especially when Tennant’s Doctor thought she was really a Zygon, and it was clever how the story gives us an idea of why the older Queen later hated the 10th Doctor when she appeared in the Shakespeare Code. This is also were all three of the Doctor’s were finally united in the episode, another fantastic moment, and I loved the witty banter between them. Matt Smith and David Tennant were brilliant as they tried to out sonic each other and later, as they continued to wind each other up, with John Hurt’s Doctor getting all the best lines as he wearily tries to keep up with his future selves and their youthful exuberance. It was fun to see the TARDIS interior changing when all the Doctor’s stepped inside, from the 10th Doctor’s “grunge” phase, the classic roundels then appeared in the Ward Doctor’s console room, before shifting to the 11th Doctor’s TARDIS interior, with the 10th Doctor saying Patrick Troughton’s classic line from the Three Doctors: “You’ve redecorated… I don’t like it!”
There were also some very serious moments, especially when The War Doctor asks them if they ever counted how many children died on that terrible day on Gallifrey. The 10th Doctor immediately states that is was 247 billion, and is aghast to think the 11th Doctor has seemingly forgotten and moved on over the last four hundred years, which of course we know he hasn’t, not really, but it makes for a wonderful scene that takes place in that most tried and trusted staple of Doctor Who, a prison cell, and one which ironically isn’t even locked! One could say this scene is perhaps the most serendipitous moment ever for the Doctor, as it illustrates how he has become imprisoned within the grief of the impossible choice he made as the War Doctor, condemned by his own hand and lost in a universe without hope for the salvation that was always waiting to be found.
After Clara travels to 1562 to team up with the Doctor’s and Queen Elizabeth I against the Zygons, Osgood rescues Kate Stuart and together they enter the Black Archive. Kate activates a nuclear device to stop their Zygon doppelgangers using the alien artefacts stored in the secret facility, but her Zygon double keeps overriding the countdown. With the TARDIS unable to breach the UNIT bases defences, the War Doctor gets them to use the stasis cube to transport themselves through the painting of Gallifrey Falls, which the 11th Doctor has managed to have moved to the Black Archive by making a time warping phone call from the TARDIS to McGill in the past. The Doctor’s emerge from the painting and uses the Vaults own defences to wipe the memories of all the humans and Zygons present so the countdown can be stopped and a peaceful solution reached.
I really enjoyed the inclusion of the Zygons in The Day of the Doctor. This is the first time they have appeared since their first and only television story, Terror of the Zygons in 1975. The new look Zygons are even more menacing than the originals, although their appearance hasn’t really changed that much here, they do dribble copious about of slime now and the human/ Zygon transformations are much better, but obviously it was a case of if it isn’t broke don’t fix it by the production team. It was also good that they played a significant role in the story, rather than being some token monster, and I hope they return again soon.
Still convinced he was right, the War Doctor returns to the point in time where he is about to activate The Moment. The ethereal form of Rose Tyler manages to delay the War Doctor long enough for the 10th and 11th Doctor’s arrive, and they stand with him so that he does not have to do this terrible thing alone. Clara is horrified by what they are about to do, the Warrior, the Hero, and appeals to her Doctor to find another way, and with The Moment also gently exerting her influence, the 11th Doctor changes his mind and summons all of his previous incarnations, including his future self (Peter Capaldi), and each Doctor uses their TARDIS to freeze Gallifrey in one moment of time, just like the painting, causing Gallifrey to vanish and the Daleks to be destroyed in their own crossfire.
Ok, now here is the bit where total fangasim hits, I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see all the Doctor’s unite to freeze Gallifrey in one moment of time. I had a feeling that Steven Moffat might find a way to included a few clips of the past Doctor’s, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect them all to turn up and play such an important role in the story. While it may seem like a bit of sci-fi cliché, or reset switch to do this to Gallifrey, but it is entirely plausible as we saw Time Lords from Gallifrey trying to escape from a pocket dimension to destroy Earth in the 10th Doctor’s final episode The End of Time. Seeing the Doctor’s team up to save Gallifrey in The Day of the Doctor was the icing on the cake for the 50th Anniversary, it opens up a wealth of possibilities for the future, and of course let’s not forget we were also treated to a glimpse of that future. Yes, Peter Capaldi, the next incarnation of the Doctor, also showed up to help save the day!
Afterwards the War Doctor, and the 10th and 11th Doctor’s return to the National Gallery to say their goodbyes, it’s a parting tinged with sadness as they all know they will have no memory of these events once they return to their own time. Once the War Doctor leaves in his TARDIS, he begins to regenerate, and the 10th Doctor departs after hearing about Trenzalore from the 11th. Sensing that the Doctor wants to be alone with the painting of Gallifrey Falls, Clara steps inside the TARDIS, just as an old man, the curator approaches.
Now this is the moment that totally blew me away, as the 11th Doctor looks up as the curator wanders into view… and it’s Tom Baker!! This incredible scene, were the curator tells him the painting is actually called Gallifrey Falls No More, and hints that Gallifrey might have been saved after all, is just magical. Whether the Curator was really the 4th Doctor or not, it was an incredible moment and this was the highlight of the entire episode for me. Tom Baker is simply wonderful in these scenes with Matt Smith as they discuss Gallifrey’s fate, this made the episode even more special, and then later in the TARDIS, as the Doctor describes a dream he has, were he is reunited with his former selves amongst the stars, and resolves to find Gallifrey and return home…
I thoroughly enjoyed The Day of the Doctor, it was a fantastic celebration of Doctor Who, and I loved every moment of it. Steven Moffat delivered an incredible story that provided some of the most exciting scenes ever seen in Doctor Who, director Nick Hurran ensured The Day of the Doctor was a visual spectacular, and Murray Gold’s musical score was phenomenal. Best of all was the fact that fans around the world could watch and enjoy this episode together, on TV, or in the cinema. The Day of the Doctor was a brilliant story for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who; it lived up to all the hype, and exceed all my expectations.
Happy 50th Anniversary Doctor Who!
Well, todays the day! The 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who is here, I’m so excited, I’ve filled the house to bursting point with jelly babies and I can’t wait to watch The Day of the Doctor tonight!
Its been a fantastic week, with An Adventure in Time and Space, interviews and clips galore on TV, Radio, and special web episodes. So, have a brilliant time everyone, and enjoy The Day of the Doctor.
Here’s to many more happy time and places.
4th Doctor, antimatter creature, Doctor Who, Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde, Elisabeth Sladen, Forbidden Planet, Louis Marks, Morestran, Philip Hinchcliffe, Robert Holmes, Sarah Jane, Season Thirteen, TARDIS, The Planet of Evil, Tom Baker, Zeta Minor
The Planet of Evil
Review By Paul Bowler
When the TARDIS emerges from the time vortex 30,000 years in the future, the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen) respond to a distress signal from the planet Zeta Minor, where a Morestran geological expedition led by Professor Sorenson (Frederick Jaeger) has come under attack by unknown forces. The Doctor and Sarah arrive and explore the strange alien jungle as a military rescue vessel from Morestra also lands on the planet, it appears that Sorenson is the only survivor from the doomed expedition, and after the TARDIS is transported to the Morestran ship the Doctor and Sarah are caught and blamed for the demise of Sorenson’s team.
The Planet of Evil (1975) marks the first solo outing for Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen as the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith following Harry Sullivan’s (Ian Marter) decision to remain on Earth after they’d defeated the Zygons. It is clear from the moment we join them inside the TARDIS that Sarah’s relationship with the 4th Doctor is far more light-hearted than with his previous incarnation. The Doctor treats Sarah more as an equal partner in their adventures, she’s independent, resourceful, and he trusts her implicitly to be there for him when he needs her the most. Its marvellous to see Sarah teasing the Doctor about his ability to control the TARDIS at the start of the story, her practical thinking enables the Doctor to continue his work while she returns to the TARDIS for him to fetch some equipment to pinpoint Zeta Minor’s position in space, and she even braves the jungle to rescue the Doctor after he miraculously survives falling into the blackness of antimatter pit.
It is from this black pit, where the delicate balance between two universes has been disturbed by the Morestran expedition to find a new renewable power source for their people, that Sorenson’s experiments to refine the antimatter crystals around the edge of the pit have incurred the wrath of the terrifying antimatter creature that dwells within its inky depths. The Planet of Evil is also our first clear example of how Season Thirteen was beginning to encapsulate the new direction that script editor Robert Holmes and producer Philip Hinchcliffe had envisaged for the series. The shimmering red antimatter creature seen in The Planet of Evil is no doubt inspired by the Sci-Fi classic Forbidden Planet (1956), writer Louis Marks clever script plays to the strengths of this premise, and with the adaptation of many more classic themes from Sci-Fi & Horror Films, these transposed elements of Gothic Horror would go on to become one of the defining factors of the Hinchliffe and Holmes era of Doctor Who.
The incredible jungle sets created for The Planet of Evil by Robert Murray-Leach at Ealing are truly remarkable. Never before had such a diverse alien environment been created for Doctor Who, portions of the set are even flooded to create a small stream. These filmed inserts as incredibly atmospheric, particularly in the first and second episodes as the expedition team succumbs to the transparent antimatter monster, and then later as the Doctor and Sarah explore the forbidding depths of the alien jungle. Zeta Minor seems to alter drastically in the hours of darkness, becoming even more oppressive and menacing, as the antimatter creature sweeps through the jungle like a crackling portent of doom. The alien vegetation is like nothing we have ever seen before, the slimy looking trees and dangling creepers have a putrid quality about them, almost as if Zeta Minor has become a corrupted reflection of the dark forces contained within the antimatter pit itself.
After the Morestran ship comes under attack by the antimatter creature the Doctor realizes that Sorenson’s work has potentially damaged the very fabric of the universe, unleashing primal forces beyond anything he has encountered before. He takes a small sample of Sorenson’s refined antimatter crystals with him in a tin, hoping it will protect him from the creature, which proves a wise move as the phantom-like monster rises from the pit and overwhelms him – sending the Doctor tumbling into the abyss as Sarah and the Morestran crew watch in horror as the images are relayed by their mobile oculiod scanner.
Its unclear quite what the Doctor experiences in the bizarre realm the antimatter creature seem to inhabit between the two universes, but his stature as a Time Lord seems enough to grant him an audience with this entity, enabling him to convince it to leave the ship alone so long as all of Sorenson’s antimatter samples are returned to the pit. While the ships captain, the indecisive Salamar (Prentis Hancock), argues with his more experienced first officer, Vishinskey (Ewen Solon), Sarah manages to slip away to see if she can help the Doctor. She arrives back at the pit and is relieved when the Doctor finally emerges from its sable depths, and with Vishinskey’s help, they return to the ship as it prepares to leave the planet.
The interiors of the Morestran spaceship provide a marked contrast to the alien jungle of Zeta Minor, with its sparsely furnished rooms and corridors, director David Maloney still succeeds in creating a palpable sense of dread as the ship begins to be pulled back towards the planet – especially when a savage creature begins to prey on the crew when the vessel is plunged into darkness. While the Morestran blindly follow every order Salamar issues, even standing their ground to defend the ship as the antimatter creature slaughters them, it falls to Vishinskey to ultimately provide the voice of reason. He quickly realizes that the Doctor and Sara are not responsible for the unexplained deaths. He openly defies Salamar on a number of occasions, demanding that he follows the Doctor’s advice to link the force field to the atomic accelerator to save the crew from the antimatter monster, and even leads a team to help Sarah retrieve the Doctor’s unconscious body from the pit before the ship departs.
Although his experience makes him a natural leader, Vishinskey’s many years of service has obviously left him battled hardened and chillingly efficient. When he oversees the funeral of a crewmember the first officer calmly explains to Sarah that while they may have to play the last rites, they don’t have to listen to them, before ejecting his fallen comrade into the silent void of deep space – to drift forever on a sea of perpetual darkness. Sarah may find the whole process deeply unsettling but Vishinskey reminds her that it is simply clean and efficient. He is from a future where the natural resources have begun to run out, possibly even a veteran of many conflicts, and is a prime example of how alien even our humanity might become one day in the face of such an ecological apocalypse.
It is perhaps ironic then, when Vishinskey saves the Doctor and Sarah from suffering a similar fate when Salamar tries to eject them into space – blaming them for all the deaths on board the ship. The Doctor has already deduced that Professor Sorenson has become monstrously hybridised by his experiments, causing him to mutate into a bestial creature that feeds on life energies to sustain it. Until now the Professor has been able to stabilize his condition with drugs, but when his supply is lost Sorenson is unable to stop himself from transforming into a grotesque anti-man and feeding on the life force of the Morestran crewmembers – draining them until all that is lefts is a withered husk.
This uncanny take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde (1886) may not offer quite such a startling metamorphosis, but it highlights the savage nature of the primal forces at work on Zeta Minor, and mirrors them in Sorenson’s gradual transformation into a salivating mockery of humanity. He has become consumed by his work, so obsessed with his goal to find a new energy source that he ignored the obvious risks to himself and his team, and the cost is his having to watch his own intellect slowly crumbling away as he gazes in horror at the molten fire that now burns inside his own eyes.
Tom Baker gives one of his finest performances as the Doctor in The Planet of Evil. Here we see how even the Doctor is weary of tampering with the forces Sorenson has unwittingly unleashed on Zeta Minor. When the Doctor confronts Sorenson in his cabin about the consequences of his actions, he reminds him that as scientists their privilege to experiment comes as the cost of total responsibility. The Professor tries to commit suicide by ejecting himself into space, but he is unable to control his bestial side, and transforms back into his savage self again.
With the ship being dragged back to the planet, Vishinskey assumes command of the vessel, but in a desperate bid to prove his worth Salamar takes the atomic accelerator and uses it to attack Sorenson in the ships hold. By using the accelerator on Sorenson in his unstable state Salamar not only signs his own death warrant, but also causes the professors body to divide and multiply, unleashing an army of rampaging antimatter creatures that attack the crew. In a last ditch attempt to advert disaster the Doctor leaves Sarah and Vishinskey in the relative safety of the command deck to find Sorenson. He uses a pistol to stun the rabid creature that Sorenson has become, before dragging him inside the TARDIS and returning to Zeta Minor.
Once the TARDIS materialises on the planet Sorenson breaks free of his bonds and attacks the Doctor. They race out of the TARDIS where they fight on the edge of the antimatter creature’s domain, but Sorenson loses his balance and tumbles helplessly into the bottomless pit. The Doctor throws the rest of Sorenson’s antimatter samples into the black void, honouring his side of the bargain with the antimatter monster, and when Sorenson is released unharmed the pair of them escape in the TARDIS as the creature slowly begins to rise from the pit.
The Planet of Evil is one of the best adventures from the 4th Doctor’s era. Tom Baker’s incredible persona imbues this incarnation with an indomitable charisma, effortlessly contemplating the fragile boundaries between the known universes one moment, then casually telling Sarah Jane how he met Shakespeare as they search the jungle, finally offering Sorenson the astonishing concept of harnessing the kinetic energy of planets in a discreetly mumbled afterthought before he departs with Sarah in the TARDIS for their next adventure. As the TARDIS spins away into space we look to the future, and are left marvelling at the wonderful adventure still to come.
The Walking Dead #116
Review by Paul Bowler
Rick has led the combined forces of Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom to the Saviors base where they confront Negan. While Rick wants to avoid going to war, Negan refuses to agree to his terms, and reveals that he also has a secret ally: Gregory, the Hilltop leader, who then orders his people to return to their homes.
The second part of All Out War begins with Rick having to face up to Gregory’s betrayal, as The Walking Dead #116 explodes into action when Gregory seriously underestimates how many of his people are amongst Rick’s forces. Rick gives Negan one last chance to surrender, before launching a devastating attack on the Savoir’s base, with Rick, Jesus, and Ezekiel leading their forces in the attack, using the busses for cover as they avoid Negan’s snipers.
All the noise attracts hordes of Walkers to the Savoirs base, exactly as Rick intended, and with Dwight secretly helping inside the fortress, it looks as if Negan and his forces are outgunned and about to be overrun by Walkers as well. The key to Rick’s plan is for him to drive a truck into the gates to let the Walkers into the Savoir’s camp, while Ezekiel and Jeseus lead the retreat back into their territory. However, Holly has other ideas, and isn’t prepared to let Rick take such a risk as he is too important to the new alliance. Determined to get revenge for Abraham’s death herself, she knees Rick in the stomach, and then takes the truck and crashes it into the gates.
The Walkers pour in through the gates as Holly staggers from the wreckage of the truck. She is almost killed by a Walker, but Negan isn’t about to let her get off that lightly, and smashes the Zombies skull in with Lucile and takes Holly prisoner. After they regroup, Ezekiel and Jeseus discuss what happened with Michonne, just as Rick suddenly returns, informing them all that there is no time for celebration, and that the war has only just begun.
Robert Kirkman has taken his time setting up these events, but The Walking Dead #116 finally kicks into high gear, as Rick leads his new alliance against Negan and the Saviors to unleash the opening salvo in All Out War’s first big skirmish. What a battle it is, although Gregory’s betrayal doesn’t really impact that much on Rick’s forces, but when Negan refuses to back down the bullets quickly start to fly and the Walkers begin to close in. I think it’s very clever how Rick uses the undead as a weapon against Negan like this, but his plan hit’s a snag when Holly intervenes and takes the truck herself and drives it into the gates.
Charlie Adlard’s art on The Walking Dead #116 is excellent, this issue is really dynamic and action packed, and its great to see huge numbers of Walkers attacking, and it seems ages since we’ve seen this many in one issue. For this storyline, Stefano Gaudiano joins the art team. Gaudiano’s inks bring an added level of sharpness and depth to Charlie Adlard’s pencils, and this action packed issue really benefits as a result.
The Walking Dead #116 is a great issue, with some really exciting action sequences, lots of zombies, and with the addition of Stefano Gaudiano’s ink, it look like All Out War is going to be one hell of a ride.
Review by Paul Bowler
Gotham has been plunged into darkness by the Riddler, leaving the city in the grip of a frenzied crime wave as the GCPD resolve to hunt down the Batman. With a major storm set to hit Gotham in the next few days, Batman investigates a series of grisly murder scenes as he waits for the Riddler to make his next move. Old wounds are reopened when Bruce clashes with Lieutenant Gordon, the Batmobile takes to the streets of Gotham for the first time, and a new enemy prepares to strike at Bruce Wayne from the shadows…
Batman #25 starts with an intriguing prologue in Nigeria before Snyder and Capullo’s Zero Year: Dark City returns us to the streets of Gotham, where the CGPD are going all out to capture Batman and his new Batmobile! After evading the GCPD, Bruce returns to the Cave to evaluate the Riddler’s plans with Alfred and find out what killed the two Wayne Enterprises researches. Both victims were injected with a formula that caused their bones to grow rapidly, tearing their bodies apart, and it seems the serum was developed by a former Scientist at Wayne Enterprises…
After a tense meeting with Lieutenant Gordon, where secrets about the murder of Bruce’s parents are confronted but left unresolved, Bruce goes to Gotham University to meet Lucius Fox. Knowing that Lucius was trusted by his father, Bruce asks him about the scientist who was hired and the formula he developed. As he learns the truth about the serum, Bruce is shocked by betrayal and a new adversary is revealed…
Batman #25 is a great example of how Snyder and Capullo’s new take on the Batman’s origin continues to thrill and surprise at every turn. This issue is much more than Batman roaring around Gotham in his brand new Batmobile, which is great fun, and Snyder and Capullo ingeniously orchestrate how the vehicle escapes the GCPD. The “new” Batmobile itself is very much a reflection of this younger Batman’s personality, as is the way he drives it, and I think Capullo’s early version of Batman’s iconic vehicle is absolutely brilliant!
We also get some great scenes with Lieutenant Gordon as he investigates the gruesome murder scene, and later when he almost stumbles on the entrance to the Batcave. This leads to a superb moment between Bruce and Gordon, where it becomes clear there is a lot of bad blood between them, due to Gordon’s involvement on the night Bruce’s parents were murdered. The dialogue in this scene crackles as Bruce makes no attempt to hide his animosity towards Gordon, and we are left wondering for now exactly what happened to cause such rift between them.
It’s no secret that Poison Ivy would be making her debut in this section of Zero Year, and Pamela Isley does indeed appear, but it is the unexpected introduction of another villain from Batman’s past that will surprise many. It’s great to see another of Batman’s villains redesigned by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, especially as it embraces so many elements of the past, while fitting in perfectly with Zero Year and their new approach to Batman’s early career.
The art by Greg Capullo is as awesome as ever, with inks by Danny Miki, FCO Plascencia’s colors, and letters by Nick Napolitano. With the Riddler’s attack on the cities power grid causing a blackout, Capullo makes the Gotham skyline seem even more menacing than ever before. The spectacular opening, where searchlights from the GCPD blimps cut through the darkness as they attempt to track the Batmobile, is really effective. You get a real sense of a city on the brink, with Batman maintaining order as he runs rings around GCPD, before we come to that aforementioned scene with Bruce and Gordon that really heightens the dramatic tension – and the excellent use of tone and color by Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia accentuate every scene perfectly. The gory murder scenes are also vividly detailed, with the corpses horribly twisted and distorted almost beyond recognition.
The back up story for Batman #25 by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, with art by Andy Clark, features a young Harper Row and her little brother Cullen who are left on their own by their father during the blackout caused by the Riddler. This is a great little tale, were Harper looks after Cullen when he is afraid of the dark, and it also nicely illustrates how Zero Year is about to spin-off into a number of other DC titles as Harper fixes a lamp.
Batman #25 is another exciting and compelling issue by Snyder and Capullo. Zero Year continues to impress, offering new insight into Jim Gordon and the events surrounding the Wayne’s murder, a fleeting glimpse of Pamela Isley, and the surprise appearance of an old villain from the past makes Batman #25 unmissable.