Showing posts with label 1st Doctor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1st Doctor. Show all posts

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Review - Doctor Who: The Rocket Men


Doctor Who: The Rocket Men
The Companion Chronicles 6.02
Written by: John Dorney
Directed by: Lisa Bowerman
Performed by: William Russell & Gus Brown
Duration:
 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-581-5
Chronology Placement: Between The Web Planet and The Crusade.

One of Big Finish's most popular Doctor Who audio ranges is The Companion Chronicles, which focuses primarily on the adventures of the first three Doctors, as these Doctors are no longer with us. Rather than full-cast audio dramas, these adventures take the form of a two-person performance, with one of the Doctor's companions narrating an "unseen" adventure and a second supporting character taking part at times to add some variation and prevent it from becoming a monologue. They also tend to be shorter than the Big Finish's full-cast audios, typically with two half hour episodes on one CD.

This particular audio adventure features the First Doctor and his second group of companions: Ian, Barbara and Vicki. Told from Ian's perspective, this tale focuses on the romantic attachment forming between Ian and Barbara – an element of their relationship that was seldom explored in the televised adventures, although there have been references to them being together in spin-off materials. William Russell reprises the role of Ian perfectly, capturing his logical nature and his 'action man' status during those earlier adventures, contrasting against the Doctor's more cerebral solutions to problems. Writer John Dorney takes note of the differing personalities between Ian and Barbara – as he is ruled by his head, and she listens to her heart. It is clear to see how the pair eventually end up together, and Dorney does a great job at interpreting Ian's feelings and explaining why he doesn't begin a relationship with her during his adventures with the Doctor.

Dorney's script is absolutely razor-sharp and I love the way that the story is told in a non-linear fashion, embracing literary techniques such as flashbacks and flashforwards to induce suspense. Ultimately, the adventure is relatively straight-forward: a group of space pirates invade the tourist resort of Jobis and take the Doctor's companions hostage; but Dorney's heavy use of narrative trickery ensures that the story becomes more complex and engaging. He ends his first episode with a wonderful cliff-hanger that would have lost its edge if the tale had been told chronologically. Another aspect of his script that stood out for me was the way that he linked each transition by repeating the same words or phrases. It really helped emphasise the change in time period and almost became a game in itself to discover how he would link the two sections together.

The titular Rocket Men have proven to be something of a popular addition to the Big Finish universe, appearing again in the aptly-named Companion Chronicle, “Return of the Rocket Men” and then clashing with the Fourth Doctor and Leela in “Requiem for the Rocket Men”. I really liked the 1950s-inspired design of the characters and they seemed like an enemy that could definitely have appeared in the First Doctor's era. When Ian and the maniacal Ashman fight to the death in the cloudy skies of Jobis, you could almost visualise the Doctor Who production team of the time attempting to bring the battle to life with strings and close-up camera shots. Ultimately it works better as an audio adventure, allowing the listener to conjure up the fantastical imagery of the Jobis sky and the humongous manta-rays that float past. I was really impressed with this adventure and John Dorney's amazingly engaging script – I shall definitely seek out more from this writer in the future!


The Rocket Men can be ordered on CD and Download from BigFinish.com or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 9.2 out of 10

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Review - Doctor Who: Mother Russia


Doctor Who: Mother Russia
The Companion Chronicles 2.01
Written by: Marc Platt
Directed by: Nigel Fairs
Performed by: Peter Purves & Tony Millan
Duration:
 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-290-6
Chronology Placement: Between The Gunfighters and The Savages

One of Big Finish's most popular Doctor Who audio ranges is The Companion Chronicles, which focuses primarily on the adventures of the first three Doctors, as these Doctors are no longer with us. Rather than full-cast audio dramas, these adventures take the form of a two-person performance, with one of the Doctor's companions narrating an "unseen" adventure and a second supporting character taking part at times to add some variation and prevent it from becoming a monologue. They also tend to be shorter than the Big Finish's full-cast audios, typically with two half hour episodes on one CD.

Mother Russia takes place towards the end of the First Doctor's era with his companions, Steven Taylor and Dodo Chaplet present. With references to a recent stay in the Old West, it seems like this story occurred shortly after the TV serial, The Gunfighters, which saw the Doctor and his companions arrive in the cowboy town of Tombstone, eventually becoming embroiled in the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral. As commonly seen during this period in the show's run, the story features a strong historical tone with the Doctor, Dodo and Steven travelling back to the Russian Revolution and witnessing Napoleon's invasion. However, unlike most of the historical serials at that time, this one also includes a science-fiction twist with a crash-landed shape-shifting creature causing havoc amongst the TARDIS team.

As mentioned before, The Companion Chronicles always have some kind of dialogue exchange between two voices to tell the story, often adopting the format of an interview or confessional to achieve a conversational feel. In this instance, the framing device is quite mysterious and it takes a while to grasp what is going on and who the second character is, but upon a second listen through, it makes much more sense and demonstrates a novel use of the framing device to add an additional layer of mystery to the storyline. However, those who prefer their adventures to begin with a sense of clarity might be slightly frustrated.

I really enjoyed the opening sequence as the Doctor, Dodo and Steven ingratiate themselves into the local community, slowly becoming at home in the Russian countryside. Peter Purves' wonderfully introspective monologue during this sequence really brings the character of Steven Taylor back to life, which is really something considering it had been decades since he last played the role. The audio-book introduces new information about the supporting character, such as his insecurities about not fitting in anywhere, as well as demonstrating the sometimes fractious relationship with the Doctor, evidenced in serials such as 'The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve'. Both Purves' delivery and Marc Platt's script do a brilliant job at realistically developing the friendship between him and Simeon, making the tragic ending to his story even more sad.

Adopting the two-part format, the story includes a thrilling cliff-hanger as often appeared in the multi-part serials of the Classic Who era, with the TARDIS seemingly de-materialising and stranding Steven and Dodo in 19th Century Russia. It's a really effective cliffhanger, as during this period of time, the navigational circuits on the TARDIS were broken (and wouldn't be restored until The Three Doctors) so the Doctor wouldn't have had the means to accurately control the TARDIS and return to Steven and Dodo if it had fully left.

I really liked the whole mystery behind the shape-shifting alien as it adopted Simeon, The Doctor and Dodo's likenesses in an attempt to trick Steven into giving it the medical kit from its crashed spacecraft. I thought that the subtle clues in the narration gave alert viewers cause for suspicion with the snappier-than-usual Doctor and Dodo's determination to get her hands on the medi-kit. In fact, I am surprised that Steven didn't realise that his friends had been replaced by the creature considering he was aware that it had replicated Simeon's identity already. Despite this, the sequences still managed to deliver a sense of auditory paranoia in lieu of the visual unease that would have accompanied the TV show during those moments when the imposter Doctor and Dodo were on-screen.

Overall, this was a great little historical adventure which captured the mood of the First Doctor era, particularly serials such as The Time Meddler and The Myth Makers. Peter Purves' performance was really strong, quickly re-establishing the character of Steven Taylor, as well as bringing with him a fairly accurate First Doctor impression with every well-placed “hmm”, “ahh” and “dear boy” serving to recreate William Hartnell's mannerisms. While I'm not too familiar with this period in history, the storyline makes it fairly accessible and it would be quite a fascinating adventure even if the alien threat was completely absent from the plot.

Mother Russia can be ordered on CD and Download from BigFinish.com or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 8.4 out of 10

"Shape-shifting strife for Steven Taylor"


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