Showing posts with label 8th Doctor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 8th Doctor. Show all posts

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 8th Doctor # 5 (of 5)

Doctor Who: The 8th Doctor # 5 (of 5)
"A Matter of Life and Death"
Written by: George Mann
Art by: Emma Vieceli
Colours by: Hi-Fi

With this final issue of the Eighth Doctor miniseries, writer George Mann had the unenviable task of creating another standalone adventure through time and space that also served as a conclusion and thematically wrap-up to a miniseries of seemingly unconnected adventures. Balancing across a narrative double-edged sword, I was worried whether he would be able to pull off a satisfying conclusion to this laid-back jaunt through the past, present and future. Of course, my misgivings were proven wrong as Mann, along with series artist Emma Vieceli, delivered a strong finale to what has been one of the most delightful surprises of Titan Comics recent Doctor Who output.

With all the dexterity of a scripting ninja, George Mann starts off the adventure in a similar standalone fashion before revealing a shocking secret about the Doctor’s latest companion that throws the previous four adventures under a whole new light, even adding a dash of “timey wimey” goodness, thanks to a cameo from the Twelfth Doctor. Despite the juggling act of single issue plot-threads and the series’ over-arching loose ends, Mann never loses focus, with a strong script that keeps the reader on-board with every shocking revelation. Fans of the modern series will also notice a nice touch of foreshadowing with the Eighth Doctor’s solution to the Synth problem, mirroring the conclusion to “Forest of the Dead” and River Song’s eventual fate. The revelations surrounding Josie’s origins and her ties to the Doctor make perfect sense, really adding to the continuity of this mini-series and shedding new light on why these specific adventures were hand-picked by the Doctor.


Throughout the past five issues, Emma Vieceli has demonstrated an amazing skill as a storyteller, making use of varied panel shapes and sizes to add motion to her stories. She has been a fantastic addition to the Titan Comics roster of artists, accurately capturing the Eighth Doctor’s romanticism and energetic personality onto the page. Every issue of this series has been a joy to read, thanks to the joint efforts of Mann and Vieceli, as the writer and artist both work off each other’s strengths. When producing licensed material of a recognisable franchise such as Doctor Who, it is important to capture the atmosphere of the source material onto the page, and despite Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor only appearing twice on-screen, Mann and Vieceli have completely nailed his personality traits through his vocal tics and facial expressions. You can almost hear McGann’s distinctive cadence when you read Mann’s dialogue in your head – although, perhaps this is due to the wealth of audio adventures that McGann has starred in for Big Finish Productions.

While this series of adventures wraps up the loose plot-threads nicely, Mann wisely leaves the door open for more potential stories between the Eighth Doctor and Josie – something that hopefully Titan Comics will consider. While I doubt that the publisher could sustain another ongoing series alongside the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor comics, hopefully they will consider revisiting the Eighth Doctor for another mini-series once the upcoming Fourth Doctor miniseries comes to an end. Or maybe we will see the Eighth Doctor and Josie return for the next Doctor Who comics summer event? Hopefully, this experimental miniseries has proven to Titan Comics that there is an appetite for the classic Doctors out there, aside from the obvious ones, and we will see more obscure eras explored in future miniseries! I’m still pining for a Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe mini-series – complete with black and white artwork!


Score - 9.8 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor # 5 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 8th Doctor # 4 (of 5)

Doctor Who: The 8th Doctor # 4 (of 5)
"Briarwood"
Written by: George Mann
Art by: Emma Vieceli
Colours by: Hi-Fi

This penultimate episode of the Eighth Doctor miniseries teases readers with a brief glimpse at the architect behind the Eighth Doctor’s current series of adventures with a prologue featuring the Twelfth Doctor and Clara at an alien auction house. George Mann doesn’t offer any further clues as to how this ties into the Eighth Doctor’s current “to-do list” of adventures, instead saving that revelation for the final issue of the series. Once again, this storyline focuses on a standalone “done-in-one” adventure that continues to showcase Mann’s ability to compress a story that could easily span several issues into one installment without losing any of the pacing or detail.

Following on from the Vaudevillian adventures of last issue’s “The Silvering”, Mann offers up another pseudo-historical adventure taking place in 1932 with the plant-controlling Nixi, who share some similarities with the Krynoids from the Fourth Doctor classic, “The Seeds of Doom”. As evident from the lovely Rachel Stott cover, there’s a fair amount of vines and tendrils flying about the place as they infest and corrupt the English nobility. Emma Vieceli manages to capture the vicious nature of these plants as they swarm throughout the Briarwood townhouse and its grounds. Vieceli’s artwork continues to impress, creating a vibrant pace with her distinctive panel structure. I loved the designs of the Nixi imps, and was slightly disappointed that we didn’t get to see more from the creatures, although her artwork managed to convey the terror and menace represented by the vines. She remains a fantastic artistic choice for the Eighth Doctor, effortlessly capturing the right tone of voice for the character and the settings for these stories.


George Mann seems to have a knack for this historical stories and the genre seems to suit the Eighth Doctor’s personality to a tee. While it’s great to see the Doctor visiting alien worlds and far-future civilisations, I do enjoy these journeys into the past and seeing him mixing with different time periods. The Eighth Doctor, in particular, seems to have a Victorian feel about him so having two stories that are set around that era seems to be a logical decision from Mann. I’ve been a massive fan of the Eighth Doctor for years, thanks mainly to the Big Finish audios, and Mann certainly captures Paul McGann’s cadence in his dialogue, establishing an authenticity to the character which helps bridge the gap between canon and spin-off media. Tonally, this mini-series has been spot-on and I'd thoroughly recommend it to fans of the Eighth Doctor's Big Finish range of audio adventures as it feels like an organic development of their work.

While I've enjoyed these seemingly standalone adventures, I am excited to see how it all connects together in next issue’s finale and how the Twelfth Doctor comes into play. I also really like Josephine Day as a companion, with her distinctive hair colour and artistic temperament, so hopefully she will return as a comics-exclusive companion for the Eighth Doctor in a future miniseries. Given how fantastic this current run of stories has been, Titan Comics really should consider a follow-up – perhaps once the upcoming Fourth Doctor miniseries has ended? It's great to see Titan Comics step outside of the modern Doctors and investigate the entire Doctor Who series, and this mini-series certainly proves that there are plenty of new stories to be told with old Doctors!


Score - 9.6 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor # 4 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website. Be sure to put in a standing order for the upcoming issues in the series when you pick up your copy!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The 8th Doctor # 3 (of 5)

Doctor Who: The 8th Doctor # 3 (of 5)
"The Silvering"
Written by: George Mann
Art by: Emma Vieceli
Colours by: Hi-Fi

This third issue of the Eighth Doctor miniseries sees the Doctor and Josie travel back in time to Victorian Edinburgh to indulge in a magic show, and unwittingly discovering a nefarious plan to imprison people in a mirror dimension. The Victorian vaudevillian setting reminds me of storylines such as “The Crimson Horror” or the classic storyline, “The Talons of Weng Chiang”, which even gets a sly reference as the Eighth Doctor associates empty theatres with Giants Rats and Homunculi. I think that this time period is a fantastic era for the Eighth Doctor as it works well with his romantic personality and love for magic and illusions. It feels like a natural fit for this incarnation of the character – I'd love to see him interact with the Paternoster gang, but I guess that would cause some continuity headaches... although it was never established when the Doctor first met Madame Vastra and Jenny.

George Mann's script is practically flawless and once again he has nailed the Eighth Doctor's vocal tics and mannerisms to a tee, ensuring that this story feels authentic and true to that era of the show. Clearly, Mann has spent plenty of time listening to Paul McGann's voice on the Big Finish audios to recreate the same cadence in his dialogue – it's a wonderful touch and really helps me visualise McGann's distinctive delivery as I read through the word balloons. I'm really glad that this series is being written by someone with a genuine love for the character of the Eighth Doctor, rather than someone attempting to tell a Ninth, Tenth or Eleventh Doctor story but with Paul McGann's likeness.


Once again, Emma Vieceli does a tremendous with the art for this series, imbuing each of her panels with a tangible sense of light-hearted adventure that feels synonymous with the Eighth Doctor. One of Vieceli's strengths as an artist is the way she uses her panels to convey movement and pacing, and in this issue, she does a fabulous job at bringing the transition from the mirror world and the real world to life on the page. While some of the colours may have been a bit too bright and garish for a Victorian-set adventure, I loved the vaudevillian design of the Silversmith and Josie's choice of clothing for the period. Another stand-out moment for me was the introduction of the Silversmith's flock – a misshapen group of half-reflections that resembled a gang of circus freaks.

Upon reflection (pun intended!), I think this might be my favourite episode of the mini-series yet – not only did it feature one of my favourite time periods, but it also introduced a fantastic new villain in the form of the Silversmith and his army of reflections. I'm really enjoying the self-contained nature of these adventures, and while there are subtle hints towards a connection between all three stories thus far, it doesn't distract from the main plot. I'm actually quite disappointed that this is merely a five-issue mini-series as I think this would have worked fantastically in the same fifteen issue format as the other Doctor Who comic series, giving George Mann's carefully plotted story-arc some more room to breathe. This has been a fantastic re-introduction to the character of the Eighth Doctor, and I really hope that readers have supported this series so that Titan Comics could be persuaded to launch an ongoing series, much like they have done with the Ninth Doctor! In fact, I would even argue that a Eighth Doctor ongoing is far more feasible than a Ninth Doctor one, considering the brief window of continuity available to that incarnation.


Score - 10 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor # 3 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website. Be sure to put in a standing order for the upcoming issues in the series when you pick up your copy!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Review - Doctor Who: The 8th Doctor # 2 (of 5)

Doctor Who: The 8th Doctor # 2 (of 5)
"Music of the Spherions"
Written by: George Mann
Art by: Emma Vieceli
Colours by: Hi-Fi

This second issue of the Eighth Doctor mini-series follows in the footsteps of its initial chapter by offering readers another self-contained single issue storyline as Josephine Day embarks on her first adventure with the Doctor to another planet. This series continues to be very new-reader friendly, and even those who’d missed the first issue could pick this up and enjoy the story without feeling lost. George Mann does a fantastic job of making this series extremely accessible, especially for readers only familiar with the Eighth Doctor from the “The Night of the Doctor” mini episode a few years ago. However, there are plenty of nods to continuity for long-term fans, with subtle hints that place this adventure as taking place during the beginnings of the Time War.

One of the most outstanding elements of George Mann’s script is his exceptional ability to accurately capture Paul McGann’s cadence in his dialogue. Having listened to the Eighth Doctor’s voice in the Big Finish audio adventures for multiple hours, it is very easy to read the comic in McGann’s voice and it never feels out of character. I’m also enjoying the brand-new character of Josephine Day, whose artistic temperament fits nicely with the Eighth Doctor’s romantic outlook on life. With this story revolving around a war between the Spherions and the Calaxi, George Mann gets the opportunity to demonstrate the Eighth Doctor’s contempt for war and soldiers – a theme explored more heavily in the post-Time War incarnations.


Once again, Emma Vieceli pulls out all the stops on this issue, bringing the alien planet of Lumin’s World to life. I love her designs of the crystalline Spherions and the oppressed Calaxi, and the opening double-page spread throws the reader, Josie and the Doctor straight into the action with deadly crystal shards raining down from the sky infecting the unfortunate denizens of the planet with a crystal-forming disease. As with the first issue, Vieceli’s panel work is amazingly good, creating a genuine sense of tempo though her wonderfully choreographed layouts. As an artist, she is the perfect choice to represent the romanticism of the Eighth Doctor’s era, as well as the bohemian artist, Josephine Day. She has also done a tremendous job on crafting the alien landscape of Lumin’s world and its extra-terrestrial inhabitants, and I look forward to her take on Victorian London.

Overall, this was another fantastic issue in what is shaping up to be a legendary miniseries. Mann and Vieceli are doing an absolutely stunning job with one of my favourite incarnations of the Doctor, keeping true to core of the character and creating fresh new adventures that help bridge the Big Finish adventures set during the ‘wilderness years’ to the Time War and “The Night of the Doctor”. Fans of the modern era of Doctor Who that are curious about the first eight incarnations should definitely check out this miniseries for some of the best written and most accessible Eighth Doctor stories out there. I absolutely love the fact that Titan Comics is willing to explore the Doctor Who back catalogue and bring us miniseries' based on both the Classic and Modern eras - we just need them to get the rights to use the Daleks next!


Score - 9.8 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor # 2 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website. Be sure to put in a standing order for the upcoming issues in the series when you pick up your copy!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Review - Doctor Who: The 8th Doctor # 1 (of 5)

Doctor Who: The 8th Doctor # 1 (of 5)
"The Pictures of Josephine Day"
Written by: George Mann
Art by: Emma Vieceli
Colours by: Hi-Fi

As a Doctor Who fan, I've always been drawn towards the Eighth Doctor – partly because his solo outing in the 1996 TV Movie was during my teens, so he was “my Doctor” and partly because of the missed opportunity and untapped potential that followed when the series was put back on hiatus until the 2005 reboot. Despite only one televised appearance, the Eighth Doctor has featured in novels, comics and audiobooks – giving him a wide array of adventures and I have really enjoyed the Big Finish audio stories, particularly the Eighth Doctor Adventures with Lucie Miller. Set after those adventures and before his death in “The Night of the Doctor”, this five issue miniseries revisits the character of the Eighth Doctor in comic-book form and provides him with a new companion in the form of the blue-haired Josephine Day.

Set in a small village, the story recalls memories of the Fourth Doctor Adventure “The Android Invasion”, or even the more recent “The Eleventh Hour” which introduced the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond. There's a genuine feeling of quaintness about the issue, emphasised through Emma Vieceli's brilliant artwork, which has a lightness and almost romantic feel to it that perfectly suits the Eighth Doctor's personality. Aside from striking the right tone, Vieceli's artwork is also very technical as she makes use of small, narrow panels to increase the pace during key moments, providing a real sense of motion to the comic. Being unfamiliar with her previous work, I have to say she's a wonderful addition to the Doctor Who comics family, sharing the same “artistic DNA” to artists working on the other titles, such as Elena Casagrande and Eleonora Carlini.


It isn't just the art that perfectly represents the Eighth Doctor's personality, George Mann does an exemplary job in getting the character's dialogue right, to the point where it sounds exactly like Paul McGann during one of his Big Finish audio adventures. Mann's script captures the Eighth Doctor's absent-mindedness and knack for talking to himself perfectly, showing the character confusing his companions as he works one (or maybe two) steps ahead. As I mentioned before, the storyline is great too, evoking memories of “The Eleventh Hour” as the Doctor comes to a sleepy village and whisks away another companion. Initially, I was confused as to why the Doctor would own a house when he has a TARDIS, but reading between the lines it seems obvious that this was the home where the Third Doctor lived during his time exiled on Earth and working with UNIT.

There's also some great easter-egg references here for fans, such as George Mann's nod to his recent Twelfth Doctor comic story featuring Charlotte Bronte, guest appearances from the Ice Warriors and the Krotons and some references to the Third Doctor. While relatively standalone in nature, this issue does tease at an over-arching mystery driving this mini-series with a cryptic “to-do list” from one of his future incarnations, as well as the questions that Josie herself raises – with her knowledge of alien races and contact with animae particles. As a opening episode, this was a great success – accurately channelling all of the best elements of a “new companion episode” into comic-book form. I loved the art, I loved the script, I loved absolutely everything about it! Titan Comics are really knocking it out of the park with these Doctor Who mini-series, and I can't wait for them to delve even further back down the Doctor's chronology.


Score - 10 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor # 1 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website. Be sure to put in a standing order for the upcoming issues in the series when you pick up your copy!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Review - Doctor Who: Human Resources (Part 2)


Doctor Who: Human Resources (Part 2)
The Eighth Doctor Adventures 1.8
Written by: Eddie Robson
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Performed by: Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-262-3
Chronology Placement: After the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie and Human Resources (Part 1)

Business as usual? Not at Hulbert Logistics, where staff are facing a menace far worse than the prospect of the office Christmas party. Lucie’s made some new friends and the Doctor’s met some old enemies. But just who will become the Headhunter’s new apprentice? Welcome to the job interview from hell.

This concluding episode of “Human Resources” serves as a season finale for this first series of Eighth Doctor Adventures. Eddie Robson's script manages to deliver not just a satisfying conclusion to his Cybermen storyline, but also provides an engaging explanation behind Lucie Miller's “witness protection” in the TARDIS. Whereas the previous installment was largely set-up and intrigue, rich with an atmosphere that resembled Ricky Gervais' The Office, Robson focuses more on action and the threat of the Cybermen, who were revealed as the victims and not the masterminds of the Hulbert Logistics army.

Moreso than previous releases in this series, this adventure made use of the larger continuity of the Doctor Who universe, referencing both the Time Lords High Council and the Celestial Intelligence Agency. Not only is this a nice nod for long-term fans, but these organisations are introduced in a manner that makes them accessible to new listeners, familiar only with the “new Who” continuity. In fact, this whole run of stories has been a fantastic example of Big Finish's audio range and with the relatively blank slate of continuity with the Eighth Doctor – fans of the post-2005 series are able to enjoy these adventures without much knowledge of the classic series.

I really enjoyed the presence of the Cybermen in this installment, although their voices did take a bit of getting used to. As the current voice of the Cybermen (and Daleks) Nicholas Briggs provides a nice link between the old and new incarnations of Doctor Who, although these are Mondasian Cybermen and not the Cybus variants currently seen in the new series. Again, keen-eared fans will pick up references to previous Cybermen adventures such as, “The Tenth Planet” and “The Invasion”, adding a sense of history and nostalgia to proceedings.

While most of the drama was derived from the Cybermen and their retaliatory attack against Hulbert Logistics, Eddie Robson also provides a strong conclusion to the long-running mystery around Lucie Miller’s role as a companion forced upon the Doctor. I quite liked the misdirection around this particular plot point, with multiple revelations forming the bulk of the third act of this storyline. I was very impressed by how well it all tied together in a really satisfying manner, even resulting in two potential recurring enemies for our TARDIS team.

Once again, Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith were on fine form as the Doctor and Lucie, developing their relationship further and building a real sense of trust and camaraderie, which makes the listener accept the duo’s decision to continuing travelling together now that they are no longer bound to each other. As mentioned before, Nicholas Briggs plays the Cybermen to perfection, distinguishing them from the Daleks with a more calculated nature. I also enjoyed Katarina Olssen’s deliciously smarmy Headhunter, and look forward to seeing her return in future adventures – hopefully with more interaction with the Doctor next time!

Overall, “Human Resources” has been more than a worthy conclusion to this first season of Eighth Doctor Adventures. With a series structure clearly influenced by modern-day Doctor Who and relatively light continuity, this is a set of adventures that I would whole-heartedly recommend to any Doctor Who fan curious about previous incarnations after watching “The Day of the Doctor”. To me, this series is as essential as the television show itself and should be sitting pride of place next to every Doctor Who fan’s DVD box sets.


Doctor Who: Human Resources (Part 2) is available as a CD or Download from Big Finish, or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 9.8 out of 10


Sunday, 19 July 2015

Review - Doctor Who: Human Resources (Part 1)


Doctor Who: Human Resources (Part 1)
The Eighth Doctor Adventures 1.7
Written by: Eddie Robson
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Performed by: Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-261-6
Chronology Placement: After the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie and No More Lies

Lucie Miller's been head-hunted to join the staff of Hulbert Logistics, a respectable blue-chip firm in Telford. Great prospects, competitive salary - you don't have to be mad to work here! But wasn't she made for better things, like travelling by TARDIS through time and space? The Doctor, meanwhile, has been fired - into a confrontation with the most terrifying of enemies...

This two-part conclusion to the first series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures promises to reveal the truth behind Lucie Miller and why she was placed in “witness protection” with the Doctor. The mystery behind Lucie has been a recurring theme throughout each of the audio adventures, much like the references to Bad Wolf, Torchwood and Harold Saxon were throughout the initial three seasons of the reboot.

It's been impressive to watch Big Finish replicate the same format seen in the current incarnation of the TV show, with single episode adventures and a season-long plot arc. It certainly helps build a bridge between the classic adventures and the modern day approach. While I was initially sceptical of Russell T Davies' decision to scrap the multi-episode stories and cliff-hangers of the past, I have grown to appreciate this more modern approach to serialised television drama.

As the first episode of a two-parter, it comes as no surprise that this installment is more concerned with setting the scene and building up the tension, which it does fantastically. Eddie Robson's script manages to slowly peel back the façade of the seemingly ordinary Hulbert Logistics, teasing listeners with the promise of hidden menace behind the office gossip and PA announcements of Fantasy Football leagues. There's some excellent dialogue and banter between the characters here – something that has been prevalent throughout the entire series, but really shines through here.

I really enjoyed the way that Eddie Robson's script and Nicholas Briggs' stage direction helped conjure up an environment akin to that of The Office, swapping Slough for Telford and introducing a David Brent-esque embarrassing boss in the form of Jerry. It feels easily identifiable and relatable...well, until the weirdness starts. This approach of focusing on the mundane aspects of the extraordinary also reminded me heavily of the Hank Scorpio episode of The Simpsons, where Homer inadvertently gets a job working for a James Bond super-villain organisation and reminds completely oblivious to what's actually happening.

Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith continue to excel in their roles as the Doctor and Lucie, demonstrating a firm friendship that has evolved over their time together. I've always been a fan of the Eighth Doctor, mostly due to the fact he had all that unexplored potential after the 1996 Movie ended, and this series definitely capitalises on that missed opportunity, giving Paul McGann's Doctor some excellent moments and character development.

Overall, this is a stunning start to what promises to be an excellent conclusion. Despite being credited on the front cover, I liked how Robson saves the Cybermen up for the cliff-hanger reveal, giving the Doctor an additional foe to fight alongside Hulbert Logistics. I also expected them to be revealed as the puppet-masters behind Hulbert Logistics, so it was very refreshing to see them as “the victims”, rather than the masterminds. With strong writing, natural dialogue and a very tangible Doctor Who feel to proceedings – this could easily have featured on TV as a Ninth Doctor and Rose televised storyline – it feels just as worthy as any of the episodes seen in Season One of the rebooted series, and the perfect way to cap off this first series of Eighth Doctor Adventures.

Doctor Who: Human Resources (Part 1) is available as a CD or Download from Big Finish, or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 9.6 out of 10


Monday, 30 June 2014

Review - Doctor Who: No More Lies


Doctor Who: No More Lies
The Eighth Doctor Adventures 1.6
Written by: Paul Sutton
Directed by: Barnaby Edwards
Performed by: Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-260-9
Chronology Placement: After the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie and Phobos

What links a disintegrating spaceship to a posh garden party, where a wealthy couple are celebrating their love for each other in style? Gatecrashers the Doctor and Lucie think they know the answer. But they're not the only uninvited guests - ferocious alien warriors riding pterodactyl-like Vortisaurs are about to make their entrance!

The beginning of this audio-book is slightly disorientating as it opens up in the midst of an existing adventure, filling the listener in on the missing details as it progresses, and then there is a secondary source of confusion with the seemingly disparate narrative taking place during a garden party. Eventually, the two narratives do intertwine, and as expected from a Doctor Who story, there's a degree of “timey-wimey” stuff involved, but the unconventional narrative style might confuse and frustrate some listeners on the first listen through.

Nigel Havers guest-stars as the villainous time-criminal Nick Zimmerman, managing to bring a multi-layered approach to the character across both of the time zones, even endearing pity from the listener once the full extent of his dilemma is revealed. The story also introduces the Vortisaur-riding Tar-Modawk, aliens attracted to time energy who like any good Doctor Who enemy have their own catchphrase, “Give me your Time”. Thanks to the audio descriptions and their voices, it is easy to picture them as some form of orc-ish creature akin to the Urak-Hai from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, no doubt clad in spiky armour as they ride their pterodactyl-like steeds through the time vortex. They were great fun and I'd love to hear them in future audio adventures.

The supporting cast brought a lot to their roles, such as Julia McKenzie who played Zimmerman’s terminally ill wife, Rachel – the cause behind the time loop and emotional core to the episode. The chemistry between her and Nigel Havers was very effective and managed to convey the depth of their relationship in a short space of time. I also liked Tom Chadbon’s role of Rachel’s brother, Gordon, who becomes an unlikely accomplice to the Doctor helping him to break the time loop sending the Tar-Modawk back into the time vortex. The sound-effects guys deserve an honourable mention too, as they provided some really effective transition music to signify the shift between the events taking place in the time loop and those of the ‘real world’.

Despite my initial misgivings, I really enjoyed the mystery surrounding the time-loop and Rachel's 'condition', as well as discovering how Zimmerman landed in her past and eventually came to settle down and get married. The romance between Nick and Rachel worked fantastically well as an emotional cornerstone to the science-fiction trappings of the story, allowing writer Paul Sutton to explore the central concept of a man freezing the world in a perpetual time-loop to be with the one that he loves forever. I really liked the dramatic journey that Zimmerman underwent in the space of fifty minutes, beginning as an unrepentant bad guy, evolving into a doting husband willing to bend the laws of time to prevent his wife from dying.

In terms of the regular cast, the banter between Lucie and the Doctor continues to sparkle (“You're always looking at my bum, you”) and while there is a degree of flirtation between the two, it doesn't feel as serious as the relationship that the Doctor will eventually come to have with Rose Tyler. It does feel like their relationship and the characters as a whole take a backseat to the plot in this story, although the shock cliff-hanger of Lucie being kidnapped by the Headhunter suggests a more Doctor/Lucie centric two-part 'season finale' in Human Resources, as we discover the secret behind the seemingly ordinary Northern Lass and why she is under 'witness protection' with the Doctor.

In conclusion, while I applaud the brave decisions to both play about with the narrative structure and begin the story 'in media res', it feels like the process would have worked a lot better in a visual format rather than having to overcome the additional stumbling block of audio-only storytelling. Even though the story did eventually make sense in the end, my initial frustration did lead to me rewinding the initial tracks, and even checking to see whether I had accidentally downloaded them in the wrong order. Aside from that minor hiccup, it was a really interesting story that in some ways actually benefited from the mystery surrounding the narrative structure, as it could have been a bit formulaic and predictable had it used a more chronological approach.

Doctor Who: No More Lies is available as a CD or Download from Big Finish, or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 8.7 out of 10


Thursday, 16 January 2014

Review - Doctor Who: Phobos


Doctor Who: Phobos
The Eighth Doctor Adventures 1.5
Written by: Eddie Robson
Directed by: Barnaby Edwards
Performed by: Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-259-3
Chronology Placement: After the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie and Immortal Beloved

The TARDIS lands on Phobos, one of the moons of Mars - where extreme sports nuts of the future indulge their passion for gravity-boarding and wormhole-jumping. But there's something lurking in the shadows, something infinitely old and infinitely dangerous. It's not for nothing that 'Phobos' is the ancient word for 'fear'...

Opening with a slightly irritating damsel-in-distress, this audio adventure feels reminiscent of Horror of Glam Rock, with a mysterious creature preying upon a group of people, although there is more to this menace than meets the eye. The Doctor and Lucie soon become embroiled with the dangerous events alongside a healthy mix of supporting characters and the tale moves along at a nice pace, with key exposition dropped in nice, manageable chunks throughout the story.

The front cover artwork is very effective in helping the listener imagine the snowy environment of the Phobos Lunar Park, filled with ‘drennies’ seeking the next burst of fear-induced excitement, although the only ill-described aspect is the 'Phobians' themselves, which I found difficult to picture in my mind's eye based on the visual information provided by the characters in the story.

As with the previous adventures in this series, there is a nice mix of supporting characters, all with a decent amount of characterisation and back-story, making the drama feel more like an episode of the TV show than an audio-book. The sub-plot between Amy and Farl, the secretive couple on the run from Farl's Githian relatives was a nice misdirection and allowed for some drama unrelated to the main plot. Although I did find Farl's voice rather irritating (it sounded like a yawn) and the storyline seemed to be rather inconsequential, especially since it didn't feel resolved. As with the sub-plot of Ganymede in Immortal Beloved, it felt like it could have had more resolution if the story had been longer.

Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith continued to impress as the Doctor and Lucie, as their relationship continues to grow. There is still a little bit of frostiness between the pair (“I've literally known Savages with better manners”) but I like the banter they share. One thing I noticed was that Lucie seems quite quick to mention the fact that she and the Doctor are time travellers, with her accidental slip of the tongue with Amy in this adventure, and blurting it out to her Auntie Pat in Horror of Glam Rock. With the mystery of her 'witness protection programme' still unresolved, perhaps it could be related to her “loose lips” regarding time travel?

Despite my dislike of the character of Farl, there was a brilliant sequence between him and the Doctor, when the Doctor reacts to Farl's threats with an amazing monologue about the various dangers he has seen and experienced, which neatly foreshadows his trip down the wormhole with the fear creature, as well as being totally keeping with his character, bringing to mind some of the Eleventh Doctor's monologues (The Eleventh Hour and The Pandorica Opens) as well as his prior incarnations.

Even though the audio drama appeared to be a retread of the 'base-under-siege' trope initially, it actually had a more detailed and layered storyline with a clever plot-twist at the end regarding the motivations behind the attack. Listening through the story a second time, there are some subtle clues there which are easily missed the first time around.

Overall, this was a great little adventure which could easily have been an episode of the relaunched series, both thanks to its format and the characterisation of the Eighth Doctor and Lucie, which continues to feel similar in tone to the Tenth Doctor and Donna. The next audio drama is called No More Lies and the trailer seems to be very mysterious with what seems like a dinner party trapped in a time loop by some malevolent entity, which the Doctor and Lucie must tackle. As with Immortal Beloved, I'm not sure what to expect from this one, but hopefully it should be a great one!

Doctor Who: Phobos is available as a CD or Download from Big Finish, or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 9.0 out of 10


Monday, 19 August 2013

Review - Doctor Who: Immortal Beloved


Doctor Who: Immortal Beloved
The Eighth Doctor Adventures 1.4
Written by: Jonathan Clements
Directed by: Jason Haigh-Ellery
Performed by: Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-258-6
Chronology Placement: After the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie and Horror of Glam Rock

The Doctor and Lucie arrive upon a mountain-top just in time to stop two star-crossed lovers, Kalkin and Sararti, from taking their lives. Before they can delve too deeply into their motivations, an army led by General Ares appears and takes the two lovers into custody. Soon afterwards, The Doctor discovers the secret behind the faux-mythological society he has stumbled into – the self-decreed Gods of this Earth Colony have been using clones of themselves to transfer their personality into younger bodies, in order to maintain a semblance of Immortality. With two candidates in the young lovers, Kalkin and Sararti, the Doctor and Lucie realise that there are some fates worse than death.

Upon hearing the trailer and reading the sleeve notes for this release, I was worried that it would attempt to integrate the fantasy of Ancient Greece with the science-fiction canon of the Doctor Who universe. Rather than using the actual Gods from Greek myths and legends, the story gives them a neat twist by explaining that the strange names and labels are a deception, so that the Earth colonists can manipulate their subjects into treating them as God-like figures, as well as keeping them in the dark about modern conventions such as rifles, cloning and immortality.

The core concept of the story is that these false-Gods have been cloning themselves, in order to use the younger bodies as vessels for their minds once their older bodies die. The young Kalkin and Sararti are the current viable options for mind transfer should the colonist leaders Zeus and Hera die. The idea of using clones to achieve immortality is one that has appealed to me, such as in the classic Lupin 3rd anime, The Secret of Mamo. In some ways, the Doctor's regeneration can be seen as a perfected version of this process with him achieving near-immortality when he changes his body, but retains aspects of his personality and his memories, allowing him to live on.

Ian McNeice, plays Zeus, and manages to portray the selfish and greedy ruler well without resorting to pantomime villain levels of menace. He would later go on to portray Winston Churchill in Victory of the Daleks, who in some ways is a less severe version of the same character. Both are men driven by their own needs and are willing to do anything to achieve them.

One element that felt odd was the inclusion of Ganymede, the younger clone of Zeus, whose desire to become the host body for the tyrant's mind was cruelly denied due to his young age. The storyline didn't really pan out and seemed superfluous to the plot. The part was ably played by Jake McGann, but ultimately it felt like a 'Chekov's Gun' that had failed to go off.

This adventure showcased another side to the Doctor and Lucie's budding friendship, highlighting the element of distrust that Lucie has in the Doctor and his desire to do the right thing. The final sequence, which felt really out of character and full of plot holes, involved Lucie and Sararti attempting to hijack the TARDIS to destroy it. This idea, devised by Lucie, seemed ridiculous as it would have either killed the pair of them, stranded Lucie and the Doctor on the planet or at the very least, left the Doctor abandoned. It felt like a cheap way to attain some dramatic tension in the climax of the story, but it failed to properly attach itself to the characters and their motivations - it would have been more believeable if Sararti alone had wanted to kill herself, dragging Lucie along against her will.

Overall, this is an interesting storyline with a really strong start and middle, but a slightly rocky ending which doesn't quite work. I did enjoy the storyline, especially the concept of immortality through cloning and appreciated the twist to the Ancient Greek mythology within the story. The trailer for the next release, Phobos, seems to be a more action-orientated adventure featuring monsters on the Mars moon of Phobos, which brings a welcome change of pace after this more intellectual adventure.

Doctor Who: Immortal Beloved is available as a CD or Download from Big Finish, or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 8.7 out of 10


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Review - Doctor Who: Horror of Glam Rock


Doctor Who: Horror of Glam Rock
The Eighth Doctor Adventures 1.3
Written by: Paul Magrs
Directed by: Barnaby Edwards
Performed by: Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-257-9
Chronology Placement: After the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie and Blood of the Daleks - Part 2

Whilst looking for a bite to eat, the Doctor and Lucie arrive at a Motorway Service Station on the M62 during a terrible blizzard. Also en-route to the Service Station is star-making music manager, Arnold Korns, and his latest signings, Trisha and Tommy Tomorrow, ready to make their debut on Top of the Pops. However, outside in the snow and darkness is a dangerous threat – a pack of alien monsters that threaten to bring a sudden halt to the careers of these fledgling Glam Rockers…

The idea of a remote Service Station under siege by alien creatures is very reminiscent of the classic ‘base under siege’ storylines that were used during the Second Doctor’s era such as: The Moonbase, Fury from the Deep and The Ice Warriors. Unfortunately, the story doesn't have the benefit of a multi-part serial to build up the suspense and instead, throws itself straight into the action and is finished within the hour, which is the equivalent of a two episode storyline in the classic series. As a result the story felt like a mish-mash of ‘Classic Who’ storytelling, mixed with the format and modern approach of the current series, similar to recent stories like Cold War.

We’re quickly introduced to the cast of supporting characters: Flo, Pat, Arnold Korns, Trisha and Tommy Tomorrow, as well as a few extras who are effectively ‘Monster Meals’ with several lines. Each of the characters was easily identifiable by their voices, which is something that can cause issues if several characters sound similar to each other. I really liked the character of Arnold Korns, played well by Bernard Cribbins who managed to chew on the audio scenery when on-air. While I wasn’t entirely convinced by his change of heart mid-way through the story, I was impressed by Cribbins’ acting range in playing a different character to the one he would eventually play on-screen, Donna Noble's grandfather, Wilfred Mott.

I enjoyed Stephen Gately's performance as Tommy Tomorrow and while I initially thought, "Wow, a member of Boyzone playing an Irish musician, that's original", Gately actually managed to put a lot of originality into the role and played Tommy really well, giving him both depth and a mysterious otherworldly quality that I wasn't expected from reading the blurb on the inlay sleeve.

The tone of the story is hard to define as it’s a strange balance of both comedy and horror with the unusual setting and references to 70’s Glam Rock and the horror of bear-like creatures attempting to smash their way in and devour the humans inside. The death sequences seemed to be played for laughs with the over-the-top screaming and crunching sound effects used, along with the jokes prior to them, such as when Arnold observes Ron the Roadie making a run for it: “Maybe he’ll make it” and then we hear the sound of crunching as Arnold adds, “But then again…

I liked Paul McGann's performance of the Doctor and the dynamic between him and Lucie. There is more of his personality shining through her than did in his initial TV appearance, and I wonder if that is true for the audio dramas set prior to this series. I like his sarcastic approach at times and the way he attempts to deal with Tommy and the stylophone. However, there were a few moments that seemed a little out of character for the Doctor. For example, he didn't seem too bothered about the implications of Lucie meeting her future aunt and the paradoxical possibilities of such a meeting, but this may be explored in further detail in future audio adventures. I also thought it was a bit mean of the Doctor to acknowledge that Tommy wanted nothing more to travel the galaxy and promptly offer the same opportunity to Lucie instead. Surely, he could have given Tommy a give 'once around the block'.

Overall, this was a fun little adventure which took the Doctor Who trope of the base under siege and gave it an unusual setting in both time and space. The setting of a Motorway Service Station is really quite inspired as it is a very British tradition and evokes that feeling of isolation that a good 'base under siege' story needs. I also really enjoyed the Bowie-esque incidental music (and Glam Rock closing theme!), especially during Arnold Korns' speech to the rampaging monsters as he stays behind to buy the rest of the group time - it felt very much like David Bowie's Life On Mars as the music swells.

The CD closes with a trailer for the next adventure, Immortal Beloved, which sounds like a Romeo & Juliet love story set on an alien world with a Greek God twist. I'll be interested to see whether it comes across like a typical Doctor Who story or not.

Doctor Who: Horror of Glam Rock is available as a CD or Download from Big Finish, or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 8.8 out of 10


Sunday, 24 March 2013

Review - Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks (Part 2)


Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks (Part 2)
The Eighth Doctor Adventures 1.2
Written by: Steve Lyons
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Performed by: Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-256-2
Chronology Placement: After the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie

Trapped on the human colony of Red Rocket Rising, the Eighth Doctor has two Dalek threats to deal with. The true Daleks have arrived upon the planet under the false guise of friendship and offer salvation from the dying planet, but have in fact arrived to purify the Dalek bloodline and exterminate the Dalek-Human hybrids created by Professor Martez. In amongst the confusion and violence, the Doctor’s newest companion, Lucie Miller, has to work out who her friends really are – the strange pepper pot creatures offering salvation or the unusually dressed and slightly grumpy Time Lord with the police box…

The story continues immediately from the cliff-hanger of the last release, which is a little disorientating and abrupt. Considering how the classic Doctor Who television episodes used to have a slight over-lap of the  previous scene when presenting the resolutions of the cliffhangers - a similar approach here would have both preserved the classic Doctor Who feeling and helped refresh the memory of people listening to the story some time after the previous one.

I really enjoyed how his story delved into the darker side of the Doctor, something that the Daleks always seem to bring out of him. The scenes where he coldly exacts a plan to side with the true Daleks to wipe off the beginnings of a secondary Dalek race are very effective, especially when the Daleks praise him as being an 'efficient ally'. Paul McGann really manages to convey the history between his character and the Daleks, despite never appearing on-screen with them himself.

As with the first part, I found the cast to be really strong and it was somewhat easier to tell the difference in voices between Eileen Klint and Asha this time around, since the two didn't share many scenes. The relationship between Lucie and the Doctor is fleshed out a bit more as the begins to trust him a bit more and realises that he is 'the man with a plan'. I also liked the development in the closing scenes where they begrudgingly decide to travel with each other - I think this might be the only companion who didn't want to travel with the Doctor willingly, with is a definite breath of fresh air! I also like the fact that the mystery of her sudden appearance in the TARDIS has been teased and appears to form the basis of this 'season' of adventures. I definitely want to know more about her and the 'witness protection' she seems to be part of.

As a complete story, I can happily recommend this to fans of the TV show who may not have watched any of the classic episodes (or the fairly awful 1996 movie featuring McGann's Doctor in his only televised appearance) - This audio is really strong, both in script and performances and the whole production costs seem to be a cut above the other Big Finish releases, justifying their exclusion from the main range and the new-listener friendly approach.

The CD also includes a trailer for the next episode, The Horror of Glam Rock, which seems to involve the Doctor and Lucie travelling back to 1970's and getting stuck in a motorway service station with a deadly threat outside. I am intrigued to see whether the series continues to remain strong without the draw of a big-name enemy such as the Daleks and will definitely pick it up! 

Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks is available as a CD or Download from Big Finish, or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 9.6 out of 10


Friday, 15 March 2013

Review - Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks (Part 1)


Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks (Part 1)
The Eighth Doctor Adventures 1.1
Written by: Steve Lyons
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Performed by: Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-255-5
Chronology Placement: After the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie

Idly travelling alone in his TARDIS, The Eighth Doctor is interrupted by the materialisation of Lucie Miller, a nineteen year-old northern lass from 2006. Affronted by this intrusion into his home, the Doctor attempts to return her back to Earth, but is blocked by some kind of barrier, sending them spiralling onto the human colony of Red Rocket Rising - a planet that has been ravaged by asteroids and suffering from an Impact Winter. But things are set to get worse for the inhabitants of Red Rocket Rising and its recent visitors, when the Daleks arrive under the guise of rescue…

These Eighth Doctor Adventures form their own Range outside of the monthly Doctor Who releases and are set later in the 8th Doctor’s timeline than his other adventures with Charley Pollard. This range also featured on BBC Radio 7 and is set out in ‘seasons’ which make them feel more compatible with the relaunched series. In fact, the 8th Doctor and Lucie’s relationship is similar to that of 10th Doctor and Donna, even down to the very similar entrances by both ladies. There is a nice bit of banter between the two, added with the intriguing mystery of where she came from, and what she knows and can remember.

I really enjoyed the characterisation of both the 8th Doctor and Lucie – Paul McGann’s Doctor was seldom explored in his one and only TV appearance, featuring more heavily in book and comic strips during the series’ absence between 1996 – 2005. These audio adventures (and the earlier ones from the main range) are the closest thing to an actual canon appearance for the 8th Doctor and delve more into the personality of this incarnation of the Time Lord. I like his whimsical soul and the gentle humour he possesses throughout the story – he doesn’t feel as hardened as his subsequent incarnation, but judging by this Doctor’s alluded involvement in the Time War, he is set for more difficult decisions ahead.

Lucie, as I mentioned, feels similar to Donna in as much as she is a brash, opinionated and distrusting of the Doctor. While she fits the same age as Rose Tyler, she is totally different in personality and doesn’t seem as in awe of the cosmos as she did – even feeling disappointment at the state of her first alien world. She is a great companion to entice new listeners to the audios, as she does represent much of the New Series’ popularity, so it’s an easy transition to go from the series to this audio and not feel the cultural divide between ‘Classic Who’ and ‘New Who’ as much as some people do.

The Daleks are an obvious choice to use to draw people in to a new series and they are utilised well here – as with ‘Evil of the Daleks’ and ‘Victory of the Daleks’, they adopt a benevolent and peaceful façade to their victims, in order to lure them into a trap. I like this approach as it showcases the intelligence and cunning of the Daleks, which isn’t highlighted enough, in my opinion.

The side characters are pretty intriguing, although I did find it a little bit tricky to tell the difference between Klint and Asha at times as both actresses had similar voices and when they were talking to each other, I would occasionally get lost in who was saying what and had to replay those chapters. I’m not sure whether this is something anyone else would experience, but I found everyone else to have more distinctive accents or voices, apart from those two.

The sound effects and score are really good – I am a sucker for audio effects and love turning the sound up and getting sucked into the visual world that the sounds conjure in my mind’s eye. The score evokes the mood perfectly and in some places reminds me of the initial Resident Evil game – it’s strange how certain bits of music stick in your head.

Overall, this was a great starting point! As this is the initial release for the Eighth Doctor Adventures, it is frequently on offer and has introductory prices, so it is worthwhile following Big Finish on Twitter to see if they are having any sales on these discs, but I would recommend it even at full price, especially if you’re a fan of the current series and have never experienced the Classic Doctors properly – it’s very new listener friendly and doesn't feel tied up in either TV or Big Finish continuity. As long as you know who the Daleks and Time Lords are, you can enjoy this first part of Blood of the Daleks! I purchased the second part at the same time, so I shall be reviewing that shortly.

Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks is available as a CD or Download from Big Finish, or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 9.5 out of 10


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