Showing posts with label Audiobook Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Audiobook Reviews. 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, 5 June 2016

Review - Doctor Who: The Glorious Revolution


Doctor Who: The Glorious Revolution
The Companion Chronicles 4.02
Written by: Jonathan Morris
Directed by: Nigel Fairs
Performed by: Frazer Hines & Andrew Fettes
Duration:
 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-425-2
Chronology Placement: Between The Seeds of Death and The Space Pirates

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.

Every Doctor Who fan has their ideal TARDIS line-up of Doctor and companions and for me it would have to be the team of the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe as seen “The Wheel in Space” up until the final black and white serial, “The War Games”. Watching those classic adventures is such great fun, as Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines share such wonderful chemistry as two chums journeying through time and space together – it comes as no surprise to discover that Hines and Troughton were good friends off-screen too, but the right delight is Hines’ pitch-perfect impersonation of the late Troughton as the Doctor. With this Companion Chronicle, writer Jonathan Morris investigates Jamie’s life after he was forcibly removed from the Doctor’s company by the Time Lords in “The War Games” and had his memory wiped clean. Back in the 18th Century, Jamie married Kirsty McLaren – a guest character seen in his debut serial, “The Highlanders” and had a huge family of children and grandchildren – blissfully unaware that he was missing memories of his time with the Doctor.

Morris’ tale quickly addresses this plot point by having a Time Lord from the Celestial Intervention Agency come to 18th Century Earth and remove the memory locks from Jamie’s mind. It was great to hear Jamie regaining his memories as they came flooding back, and Hines’ performance was simply fantastic. However, I was slightly disappointed that this Companion Chronicle chose to reverse the decision before its end – although considering that Jamie appears in more Doctor Who audio books in the Big Finish range, I’m assuming he gets his memories back on a permanent basis at some point. Andrew Fettes does a fantastic job as ‘The Visitor’, capturing the pompous nature of the Time Lords as he addresses a primitive mind to his own. Fettes also plays the character of King James II within the flashback sequence of the story, giving the story a feel of a full-cast drama even though it only features two performers.

The script plays about with the central conceit of having a companion retell one of their adventures with the Doctor by having events in the past directly influencing the events in the future as Jamie’s actions create an alternate future, much like Biff Tannen in Back to the Future – Part II. However, being Doctor Who, things get a bit 'timey-wimey' and the past, present and future collide with surprising results. I quite like this experimental approach to the whole Companion Chronicle formula, as writers attempt to make the framing sequences into something more valid and important than a simple introduction to an extended monologue. Here, Morris ties his framing device into his cliff-hanger, making for a very engaging two-part storyline.

I have to admit that the period of history in which the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe visit in this story was one that I hadn’t heard much of – the Glorious Revolution took place during 1688 and saw King James II overthrown from his crown and replaced by William III and his wife Mary II of England. As I listened, I did look up the event online, but I needn’t have bothered as Morris ensures that the character’s explain the importance of events through dialogue, so those listeners as aware of the event as myself could keep up to pace with things. With the heavier emphasis on science-fiction and monsters in Doctor Who nowadays, it was actually quite refreshing to listen to a historically-themed serial without some man in a rubber suit threatening our heroes. This one of the things that Big Finish manages really well, creating adventures that feel tonally accurate to the era in which they are set. This genuinely feels like a lost Second Doctor adventure, thanks to the excellent script and Frazer Hines’ superb re-enactment of both Jamie McCrimmon and the Second Doctor’s voices.

Overall, this was a solid Companion Chronicles adventure that felt authentic to the Second Doctor era and featured some top-class voice acting from both leads. Fans of historical serials should definitely check out this adventure as it focuses on an event seldom explored and you might find yourself learning about a whole new period of English history, like I did.


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

Score - 9.0 out of 10

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 fa├žade 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, 25 May 2015

Review - Doctor Who: The Doll of Death


Doctor Who: The Doll of Death
The Companion Chronicles 3.03
Written by: Patrick Chapman
Directed by: Lisa Bowerman
Performed by: Katy Manning & Jane Goddard
Duration:
 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-352-1
Chronology Placement: Between The Daemons and Day of the Daleks

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.

The framing sequence for this particular story has Jo Jones (nee Grant) returning to London with her husband, Clifford Jones, for a tour of the chat show circuits ahead of an environmental conference. Suffering from a case of “Montezuma’s revenge”, Jo finds herself alone in the hotel catching up with her blog about her adventures with the Third Doctor and UNIT, recalling a particular case revolving around some creepy dolls. I quite liked the idea of Jo writing a blog about her adventures with the Doctor, possibly tying in with “Rose” and the sequence where the obsessive Clive shows Rose examples of the Doctor throughout history.

It’s interesting to note that Jo’s characterisation here is very much in line with her subsequent appearance in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode, “Death of the Doctor”, strengthening continuity between the audio and televised adventures. Katy Manning portrays current-day Jo as a more mature incarnation of the character, less naive and helpless than her younger self. It serves as a nice bridge between her appearances in “The Green Death” and “Death of the Doctor”. Aside from Manning’s own nuanced approach to the character of Jo Grant/Jones, Marc Platt’s script manages to conjure up imagery of the other supporting characters of the era, particularly with his descriptions of the Third Doctor’s mannerisms, such as his awkward neck rub. It’s a well-observed piece of writing that helps the listener visualise the scenes through a 1970’s television lens.

Katy Manning does her best with a mostly male supporting cast, but there are times where her various male voices blend together. However, Platt’s script manages to account for this by clearly labelling which character is speaking and accurately replicating the speech patterns of each character to the point where it is fairly easy to distinguish between them based more on the dialogue and less on the voices. The secondary voice, Jane Goddard, steps in to portray Mrs Killebrew and the creepy doll voiced, Hannah, managing to add a slightly eerie aura to the character.

The titular ‘Dolls of Death’ are effective Doctor Who monsters, even managing to work well on the audio platform thanks to the haunting high-pitched “mama” sprinkled through the story, which conjures up unsettling images of the frozen expressionless faces of dolls as they awkwardly lumber towards their victims. The show’s writers obviously agreed that dolls made for scary monsters as they were used in the Season Six episode, “Night Terrors”.

I really enjoyed the central conceit of the storyline: retro causation, a curious time-effect which saw time folded in amongst itself and events occurring out of sequence. The best way to describe it is as a blend of the two Red Dwarf episodes, “Future Echoes” and “Backwards”. I loved the way that Marc Platt’s script became something of a mystery, teasing curious events in the first instalment and revisiting them from a different perspective in the second half with an explanation. For the majority of the story, the focus is on the interesting pairing of Jo, Benton and the Brigadier with the Doctor largely absent until a bit of exposition is needed. I really liked this line-up of characters as it evoked memories of the UNIT years and Platt manages to remain true to each of the character’s voices to further add nostalgia to the story.

Overall, this was a great audio adventure that not only remained true to the classic era of the Third Doctor but also revealed what had happened to Jo Grant/Jones since her departure, working as a wonderful prequel to her appearance in the Sarah Jane Adventures. Ironically, the scenes without the Doctor were actually the strongest elements of the story, removing the security blanket and having Jo, Benton and the Brig hopelessly lost in a backwards-moving timeline. Katy Manning does a great job telling the story, handling the majority of the narration and characters. As one of my favourite classic companions, I am looking forward to listening to more audios featuring Jo Grant/Jones in the future!

The Doll of Death can be ordered on CD and Download from BigFinish.com or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 8.8 out of 10

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Review - Doctor Who: Fear of the Daleks


Doctor Who: Fear of the Daleks
The Companion Chronicles 1.02
Written by: Patrick Chapman
Directed by: Mark J Thompson
Performed by: Wendy Padbury & Nicholas Briggs
Duration:
 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-264-7
Chronology Placement: Between The Wheel in Space and The Dominators

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.

I was particularly looking forward to this adventure for two reasons; firstly, it featured the return of one of my favourite companions from the classic series: Zoe Heriot. Her partnership with Jamie McCrimmon and the Second Doctor was quite possibly the best TARDIS combination I've seen yet, with all three characters working well together. The second reason was that it featured the Daleks who, despite their overuse, still manage to be one of my favourite villains from the series. The framing sequence for this audio adventure takes place in the future with an older Zoe recalling her memories of travelling with the Doctor and Jamie in the TARDIS, which were supposedly wiped away by the Time Lords at the conclusion of “The War Games” as punishment for the Doctor's escape from Gallifrey. However, it seems that all these years later, her eidetic memory has been working against their mind-wipe and fragments of her adventures are coming back to her through dreams, including her untold encounter with the Daleks whom she never met on-screen.

In terms of when the story recounted is set, it is fairly easy to place as there is some overlap with the end of “The Wheel in Space” when Zoe stows away on the TARDIS, and then this adventure seems to take place before the next televised adventure, “The Dominators”. I liked the way that the writer, Patrick Chapman, tied Zoe's encounter with the Daleks in with her first glimpse of them on the Doctor's thought projector, as well as addressing the naivety Doctor's statement at the end of “The Evil of the Daleks” where he claimed the creatures had “met their final end”. Considering how they also reappeared after the Time War, he really should learn not to brand them as extinct, as it often backfires.

Arriving on the asteroid Lavonnia, which has a city built into it underneath a “blister like dome”, the TARDIS crew discover that there are peace talks occurring between the humanoid Zantha Empire and the more amphibian Tibari Republic. The description of the marketplace and various alien creatures within it made me imagine a cross between the market in “The Rings of Akhaten” and the troll market from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. It isn't long before the TARDIS gang are noticed and become embroiled in a plot to disrupt the peace talks. The main villain of the piece, Professor Atrekar, reminds me of Mavic Chen from “The Daleks' Master Plan” in as much as he is yet another pawn in a Dalek scheme who thinks he can outsmart the deadly creatures and use them to achieve his own domination.

Despite their appearance on the cover and name in the title, the Daleks aren't the main focus of this adventure, only really making themselves known at the close of the initial episode to deliver a thrilling, but somewhat predictable “exterminate” cliff-hanger, and then as spectral pursuers during the second half. Elements of the story definitely fit into the Second Doctor's era of the show, especially the focus on Zoe and the astral projection scenes. I can almost imagine Wendy Padbury and Patrick Troughton in black and white, amidst a low-budget BBC space-station set, as they attempt to prevent the assassination of the Tibari Prime Minister. It feels very much in line with that era's “low-tech” storytelling approach, using dramatic suspense instead of showy action sequences and special effects.

In terms of performances, Wendy Padbury ably manages to return back to her “Zoe voice” and even attempts a Doctor and Jamie impression – capturing the tone of their personalities, rather than acting as an accurate recreation of their voices, which is understandable considering the difference in gender. I appreciated the effort in altering her voice when reading their dialogue to make it more distinctive and easier to follow, especially since she had the lion’s share of the narration as the story’s second narrator was Nicholas Briggs as the Daleks, bringing with him the same iconic voice that he has implemented on the characters since the series’ 2005 revival. As one of the least verbose enemies in the cosmos, this left Wendy with the majority of the air time, which she managed to command effortlessly, holding the viewer’s attention throughout. One minor nitpick was the over-the-top dramatic music that punctuated some of the scenes, which ended up removing me from Zoe's retelling of the story, however, as I became more engrossed in the tale, this seemed to subside, or feel less prominent.

Overall, this was a great Companion Chronicle, and as the second story in the range, it must have served as an excellent glimpse into the potential of the series, showcasing both untold stories of the early Doctors, as well as offering a peek into the lives of the companions after they've departed the Doctor. Out of all the departed companions, I think Jamie and Zoe certainly have the most scope for dramatic framing sequences as they try to recall their time with the Doctor, in fact, I’m aware that a later series of Companion Chronicle stories form a trilogy featuring Zoe attempting to overcome the Time Lord’s block on her memories, so I look forward to listening to that soon. The highest compliment I could pay the story is that it truly feels like an authentic lost story, however, the Daleks did feel slightly out of place as the antagonists in this assassination scheme, which felt a bit too “cloak and dagger” compared to their usual techniques.

Fear of the Daleks can be ordered on CD and Download from BigFinish.com or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 8.8 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"


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


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Review - Doctor Who: The Blue Tooth


Doctor Who: The Blue Tooth
The Companion Chronicles 1.03
Written by: Nigel Fairs
Directed by: Mark J Thompson
Performed by: Caroline John & Nicholas Briggs
Duration:
 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-265-4
Chronology Placement: Between Inferno and Terror of the Autons

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 release, The Blue Tooth, is narrated by Caroline John, who played Liz Shaw, a UNIT scientist. Unlike other companions of that era, Liz never travelled in the Third Doctor’s TARDIS and was almost his equal when it came to science. As such, the two never really ended up with the same close relationship that he eventually came to have with both Jo Grant and Sarah-Jane Smith. This audio drama addresses the decision by Liz to leave both UNIT and the Doctor behind, something that occurred off-screen between the transition of Season 7 and 8.

Faced with the rare opportunity of a few days off, Liz contacts her old university friend, Jean Basemore, for a catch up in Cambridge. However, when Jean doesn't show up for their meeting, it prompts an investigation into her disappearance that brings Liz herself into danger, and reintroduces an old enemy from the Doctor's past: The Cybermen.

Jon Pertwee's Doctor never faced the Cybermen on screen, possibly due to their over-exposure during the Patrick Troughton era. However that misdeed has been rectified in this story, which draws a lot of its plot from the aftermath of the Second Doctor story, The Invasion and finally puts the character of the 3rd Doctor against a Cyberman threat.

This story had a nice slow build-up with Caroline John taking most of the narration duties until the Cybermen themselves appear in the latter half, voiced by Nicholas Briggs (who also voices them in the current series of Doctor Who). John manages to convey the story well, although I found her delivery was a bit quick in places and disorientating, especially when describing action scenes. As the Cyberman are hardly the most vocal of enemies, Nicholas Briggs doesn’t feature too much in this audio adventure, making it seem more like a solo story. While Caroline John does attempt to use different voices for the Brigadier and the Doctor, they aren’t the most effective; however, it isn’t too jarring.

I particularly liked the script which really captured some of the subtleties of both Liz’s character and the 3rd Doctor. For example, the description of the Doctor rubbing the back of his neck whilst speaking to Liz was very accurate as it was a common trait of Jon Pertwee’s on-screen and it helped me visualise the scene perfectly. Within her narration, Liz comes across as an older and somewhat wiser version of the character she played in the 1970’s, aware of her shortcomings as an ‘academic’ with little time for frivolous things.

I loved the fact that the Cybermats are referenced, especially as they’ve made resurgence in the current series too. The evolution of both the Cybermen and the Cybermats is an interesting concept and even though the changes to their ‘methods’ are contained to just within this audio – it is curious to note that some of the ‘upgrades’ that featured here, such as the smaller insect-like Cybermats, eventually appear in the recent episode, Nightmare in Silver.

Overall, this was a fun story set within a period of the show which is ripe for exploration, as there is something of a blank space between Liz’s departure and the introduction of Jo Grant. I liked the continuity references in this audio, remembering that the Brigadier had encountered the Cybermen before and introducing Mike Yates as a newly arrived Captain. It is these little touches that make it much easier to fit these audio adventures in with the canon of the televised serials.

The Blue Tooth can be ordered on CD from BigFinish.com or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 8.2 out of 10

"Dental Danger with the Cybermen"

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, 2 June 2013

Review - Doctor Who: Old Soldiers


Doctor Who: Old Soldiers

The Companion Chronicles 2.03
Written by: James Swallow
Directed by: Nigel Fairs
Performed by: Nicholas Courtney & Toby Longworth
Duration:
60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-292-0
Chronology Placement: Between The Silurians and The Ambassadors of Death

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 release, Old Soldiers, is narrated by Nicholas Courtney, who played Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, one of the companions from the Third Doctor's era and senior member of the UNIT task force. The Brigadier is one of my favourite Doctor Who supporting characters so I was looking forward to hearing this, the only companion chronicles release made before Nicholas Courtney died in 2011.

The story takes place shortly after the TV serial, The Silurians, and deals with the aftermath of the Brigadier's decision to blow up the Silurian base at Wenley-Moor and how it affects both his relationship with the Doctor and his decisions in this story. I really liked how the writer, James Swallow, made use of the continuity of the TV show in his story and added an extra layer of depth to the Brigadier, allowing us to see the repercussions of that decision in a way we had never seen before.

The Brigadier is summoned to UNIT base in Germany located in the castle grounds known as Kriegeskind by an old army friend, Heinrich Konrad and is shocked to find him stricken by a mysterious disease. His second-in-command, the evasive Schrader proves most unhelpful in supplying the Brigadier with the details that led to Konrad's condition. Things take a more sinister turn however when midway through the night, the Brigadier awakes to narrowly miss a blade from a Roman Soldier cutting his pillow in two. It seems that the ghosts of Old Soldiers haven't taken form within Kriegeskind and are haunting those who occupy its walls.

I liked this story as it gave the Brigadier most of the focus, even after the Doctor appears on the scene. Nicholas Courtney manages to do a pretty effective Jon Pertwee impression, something he discusses in depth in the bonus track interview, but only uses it sparingly, often referring to the Doctor's lines in the character of the Brigadier, however when he does switch to the Doctor's voice, it captures many of his little quirks, such as the faint lisp and curtness of speech. I was very impressed!

Toby Longworth plays both Schrader and Konrad, who sound similar, although Konrad spends the majority of the audio-play gasping for his words, so it's never tricky to differentiate between the two. At first, I thought the fact Longworth played both characters hinted at a link between the two – possibly two halves of one man, or some kind of descendent, however it seems it was mainly because there wasn't much for both characters to do, so they combined the roles for the versatile voice actor.

Overall, this was a fun audio adventure, which told a nice two-parter and filled in some extra detail on the Brig's personality, particularly in those early Third Doctor adventures when he and the Doctor were at their most 'prickly'. The actual threat is quite visual and while one listens, it is easy to picture the action occurring with the recognisable images of ghostly Roman Soldiers and Nazi Officers roaming around an old castle. I'm not sure whether it would have been successful as a TV serial, but I think any fan of the UNIT era of Doctor Who will love this story!

Old Soldiers can be ordered on CD or Download from BigFinish.com or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 8.6 out of 10

"Ghostly goings-on with the Brig"

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


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...