Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Time of the Daleks


Oh you want more?

I am a fan of Justin Richards' other Big Finish stories (particularly "Whispers of Terror") but this one really just doesn't work for me. This is Paul McGann's first interaction with the Daleks, in a mind bending time paradox story, that drags on a little too long, and is a bit too convoluted for my brain to figure out. The gist of the story is that William Shakespeare is disappearing from history (the Doctor mentions him and Charley has no idea who he is talking about). The Doctor figures out the cause for this potential rewriting of history is happening (mostly) in the 21st century a few decades from now. A British General (who has "temporarily" seized control of England (for the greater good) is engaged in time experiments and getting some help from... the Daleks!

The story is basically built around a time paradox involving the Daleks getting stuck in the time vortex. They send three Daleks to sort the mess out and they arrive in England. Once the Daleks attempt to escape and execute their fiendish plan, the Doctor intervenes, causing the Daleks to get stuck in the time vortex - which is of course how the story began. Rinse, lather, repeat. I know paradoxes don't really make sense to begin with, but this one really doesn't make sense to me.

My other big issue with this story is the science behind the time travel experiments. Basically, they have figured out how to time travel using a lot of mirrors and a lot of clocks - along with a Master Clock. Terrance Dicks once said in a DVD extra that you could have the most improbable science you want in Doctor Who as long as you make it sound plausible. (I am sure I am paraphrasing this horribly.) This rubbish with the mirrors just doesn't come off as plausible to me, at all, which disengages me from the story early on. Now, is this Richards' fault, or I am just a simpleton? Fans of this story can let me know how stupid I really am.

There are some good points. Listening to the Daleks quoting Shakespeare is at once both silly and creepy. At times one undermines the other, but usually the combination works quite well. There is certainly a lot of action here with gun fights galore. We also finally get the explanation as to why the Dalek was dropped right into the middle of episode 1 of "Seasons of Fear" - though I think it was silly that the other one was dropped off randomly into World War II. They should have sent that one into "Invaders from Mars" instead! Finally, the twist with Shakespeare is a cute surprise. Although the next Big Finish with Shakespeare (it will be a while before we get to that one) is far stronger and has a much better twist!

At the end of the story, the Doctor finally acknowledges that too many odd time anomalies and paradoxes have been swirling around them. He finally admits that it's time to do something about Charley. This leads nicely into the big season finale "Neverland". I appreciate some of the clever ideas in this story. Perhaps these ideas are just a bit too clever for me to appreciate, but I mainly just find most of this story ponderous to listen to.

Rating: OK

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Embrace the Darkness

"Embrace the Darkness" (written and directed by Nick Briggs) is, for me, a tale of two halves. The first half is a wonderfully creepy story of a base of humans on an alien planet assaulted by the terrifying indigenous life forms who drain all the light from their base and then horrifically burn out their eyes. The second half is where we find out that maybe these creatures aren't the monsters they seem and a set of alien invaders is on the way to wipe everyone out. The first half of the story is the more effective half. It's a genuinely scary sci-fi story reminiscent of Alien (or Aliens). The second half seems to move more slowly with a certain lack of urgency.

The opening scene of this story is tremendous. We join a base staffed by three humans on the fourth planet of the Cimmerian system. The planet is rich with minerals and seemingly has no local inhabitants. Since the Cimmerian system has a burnt out sun, the crew is there to set up some "Energy Projection Units" which will act as an artificial sun - making the planet ripe for exploitation. The three crew members have a nice informal relationship and in a short scene we hear some lovely banter between them. This serves to make them quite likable in a short period of time, which makes the horror which befalls them all the more effective. Just before they are about to activate the EPUs , tremors shake the base to its foundations. Then the lights begin to dim until they are in utter darkness. Then the locals arrive and the three visitors begin to scream in terror and pain. The actors really give it their all here, and the sound effects and music really help to make this scene terrifyingly effective. The Cimmerians' lone dialog in this scene, "Embrace the darkness," is delivered in a creepily menacing whisper. And, we're off to a fantastic start!

The Doctor and Charley are whizzing along in the TARDIS, when the Doctor spots a veritable armada of (fancier) Type 70 TARIDSes ahead of them in the vortex. He briefly mulls the idea of meeting up with them and saying, "Hello", but of course that's not really his style. So, he quickly changes course. They arrive in the Cimmerian system, which the Doctor notes is famous for having a sun which inexplicably went dark. They begin drifting forwards and backwards in time to see if they can figure out what caused this mystery. When the TARDIS accidentally fully materializes in the Cimmerian system, they are immediately intercepted by a craft piloted only by a computer AI named ROSM embodied by several robots who has been sent to rescue the three crew members on the planet. ROSM is at times both menacing and laughable as a ruthless, but also often inept AI. The main threat from ROSM is that he wants to kill Charley because she has all sorts of dangerous, unknown, malignant cells that ROSM detects in a scan. The Doctor explains this away as carcinogenic precancerous cells normal for the time period she is from, but astute followers of the season arc may wonder if there's more to it than that. These same fans of the story arc may also wonder why a fleet of TARDISes was in the time vortex seemingly in the Doctor's path...

The Doctor manages to dupe and distract ROSM enough for Charley to inadvertently elude termination by taking an escape pod to the planet. What follows is various encounters with the traumatized crew and the local inhabitants. As noted before the first half is lovely and creepy. The three crew are very well played by the actors who react to their trauma in varying ways. Charley also is threatened by these Cimmerians more than once but manages to narrowly avoid having her eyes burned out. In the second half of the story we find out these aliens aren't the sadistic torturers they seem, and they suddenly become quite chatty about who and what they are.

When the new alien threat arrives which will seemingly kill both the Cimmerians, ROSM, and humanoids alike is when the story takes a downward turn for me. First off, there seems to be a lack of urgency about their imminent death. The idiotic ROSM keeps insisting on tons of safety and flight checks which delays the humans escaping in their craft seemingly forever. The Doctor meanwhile is riddled with guilt over putting them all at risk by his actions and blames himself for the death of one of the Cimmerians, which is ridiculous. His actions are totally justifiable given the Cimmerians wait until the new alien invaders are about to wipe them out to bother communicating lucidly with their visitors. And, the Doctor has nothing to do with the Cimmerian's death! All of this just annoys me as the Doctor and the Cimmerians sit around for a long time chatting with each other, instead of dealing with the impending alien threat. All of this calamity could have been avoided if the Cimmerians had been a little more communicative in the first 3/4 of the story. Finally, when we confront the aliens near the end, the revelation of who they are is a nice twist, but it leaves the ending a little flat. Plus, the revelation lacks some explanations which makes the story seem a bit illogical.

Still, while I don't love the end of the story, it's pretty fun as a whole. The music and sound design do a really great job of establishing the creepy atmosphere. ROSM is a fun source of both threat and comic relief. While the second half doesn't work as well for me, others may appreciate the clever twist more than I do. Apparently, McGann was exhausted when they recorded this, but it doesn't come through in his performance at all - a testament to both McGann and Briggs. I wouldn't call this the high point of this great season, but I also wouldn't call it the low point. Briggs over the years has proven that he's very adept at producing these futuristic space opera type stories. He has a knack for nailing the atmosphere and sound effects. While this isn't his best story, it's perfectly solid and entertaining.

Rating: Good

Monday, December 10, 2012

Seasons of Fear

Here we have a time traveling (and time bending) romp where The Doctor and Charley travel to various points in time to thwart the plans of the villainous Sebastian Grayle. How exactly did they set out on this quest to stop Grayle, you ask? Well, the Doctor has (apparently) finally managed to get Charley to Singapore to make her date with Alex (which was her original planned destination when she boarded the doomed R101 airship). While Charley is off with Alex, a strange man named Grayle comes and speaks to the Doctor. He is here to gloat, letting the Doctor know that in his (the Doctor's) personal future Grayle will be responsible for his death. Grayle's masters were able to conquer the Earth - and then all of space and time, with Grayle's help. This is all in spite of constant interference from the Doctor which made him Grayle's most bitter enemy. Now having won, Grayle's masters have created this fake timeline just so he can taunt the Doctor over his impending failure and doom. It's a bit of a mind bending setup, and I assure you, your mind will be even further bent by the end of this tale. Written by Doctor Who stalwart Paul Cornell and his wife (though it may have been fiance at the time) Caroline Symcox, this is a really fun story.

Of course, the Doctor immediately corrals Charley and they set off to find out what Grayle's plans are (or were). At one point when Charley points out to the Doctor that this may be why and how Grayle ends up killing the Doctor, he of course brushes her off in amusing fashion. After a bit of Time Lord technobabble, the Doctor manages to find Grayle in 305 AD. Grayle is about to allow his alien masters to invade by means of a sacrifice. After the Doctor and Charley thwart his plans (but not before Grayle is given an extremely long lifespan from his alien benefactors) Grayle vows revenge. Our heroes then track him to the court of Edward the Confessor some 750 years later. Once again the Doctor manages to sabotage Grayle's plans to allow his masters to arrive on Earth. Once again the Doctor and Charley travel another 750 years farther in time to 1806, only this time Grayle's plan succeeds and the aliens land. And now, the Doctor's troubles really begin!

One of the fun parts of the story is figuring out who Grayle's mysterious aliens are. There is a lovely red herring thrown into episode one to lead you down the wrong path, although it's really just a link to a future story in the season. Grayle does give a lot of subtle hints about who these aliens may be. And then, a few minutes before their arrival a blatant hint is given about their identity. I confess I had no idea until I heard this more blatant clue, and even then I wasn't quite sure I believed it. When these aliens show up (and yes, of course they are from the show's past) it's a delightful, goose bump inducing surprise. It's true that I don't find the final fourth episode after the invaders arrival quite as engaging as the previous three, but the resolution is pretty satisfying in a Doctor Who, timey-wimey, break your brain kind of way!

The guest cast is highlighted by Stephen Perring playing the twisted Grayle. The development of the character is pretty interesting to observe throughout the centuries, as he gets more and more ruthless. It's also pretty fun listening to him get more and more angry as the Doctor keeps interfering in his plans. In the final episode you can really feel the difference between the Grayle of 305 AD and the Grayle who has lived for over 1500 years. It's a great performance by Perring. Also of note are Lennox Greaves and Sue Wallace (who we just heard in different roles in "The Chimes of Midnight") playing Edward and Edith. You definitely recognize Greaves' voice from the previous story, but both of these actors' performances are splendid and quite different from the butler and cook of the previous play.

Once again the production stands out as excellent. The music by Jane Elphinstone is particularly memorable. At the ends of the first 3 episodes, the same musical refrains are played which slowly but surely build up the tension to the cliffhangers. Also, it must be said that when the alien invaders finally arrived, the voice effects are just perfect and sound exactly like those used on the TV show decades ago.

This story also carries along the season long arc involving Charley's non-death on the R101. Throughout the story we hear the Doctor narrating the events of this tale to someone unknown. (This helps with some quick exposition at times, but also happens before a couple of the cliffhangers which really undermines them. Look, we all know that the Doctor isn't really going to be killed at the end of an episode - at least most of the time. But, having the Doctor discuss the cliffhanger a few seconds before it happens really removes any sense of danger.) The unnamed listener does speak a little near the end of the tale, and it certainly leaves the listener wondering who the Doctor is talking to and where the Doctor is. Of course, this all gets paid off later. But, the most fun happens in the story's final scene. Suffice it to say, a clear threat is established to the Doctor and Charley, and we finally know that the Doctor is going to have to pay a price for saving Charley's life. In other words, it is so ON! This story is yet another true highlight of an amazing season of Doctor Who. I can't quite rate it as highly as "The Chimes of Midnight" but this still remains one of my favorites.

Rating: Great

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Chimes of Midnight

Here we have the second story from Robert Shearman whose Big Finish debut, "The Holy Terror" was a magnificent classic. Could Shearman possibly match or even better his debut? The answer is a resounding yes. In most fans' lists of favorite Big Finish stories, "The Chimes of Midnight" tops or lingers near the top of almost all of them. It's a magnificent story which really gets the Charley arc going into high gear in this second season of 8th Doctor audios.

The Doctor and Charley arrive in a stately manor on Christmas Eve in the early 20th century. The story takes place in the servant quarters, where whenever the chimes strike the hour, one of the servants is murdered. Except after midnight, everything seems to go back to 10 o'clock, and the murders start over again, but they aren't played out in the same way. The Doctor and Charley are absorbed into this repeating drama as sleuths trying to solve the murders. Things are definitely not right here, and the whole thing may revolve around Charley! There's much, much more to the plot than this, but I really want to avoid spoiling it for anyone who hasn't yet heard this amazing story.

Much like "The Holy Terror" before it, this is a very dark, creepy story with some touches of black humor. There aren't really the crazy laugh out loud moments in this story, but you may chuckle a few times. It can't be stressed enough how incredible the production of this story is. Barnaby Edwards makes his Big Finish directorial debut, after appearing in several previous Big Finish stories, and does a tremendous job with this complex script. He and Andy Warwick who handled sound design create such a brilliant, spooky atmosphere, along with emphasizing all of the odd time anomalies with impressive sound effects. From the always present ticking of the grandfather clock to the eerie (and always identical) scream whenever a murder takes place, the listener just gets sucked completely into this story's world and the time flies by as you listen to it.

The cast is in top form as well. Lennox Greaves (who was in "The Shadow of the Scourge") is terrific as the stuffy butler Shaughnessy, and suitably menacing as Edward Grove. Sue Wallace is perfect as the high and mighty cook Mrs. Baddely. And, Louise Rolfe is haunting as the poor scullery maid Edith. Again Edwards does a perfect job of managing the cast as they play the characters who keep reacting to these murders in decidedly odd ways.

Shearman explores many themes of the serving class vs the upper class. Repeatedly the characters describe themselves as "nothing". The upstairs is described as a forbidden place and then it becomes quite literally forbidden when the Doctor tries to venture upstairs. The way these characters transition from charmingly odd, to completely menacing is amazing. It's a very complicated balancing act this story accomplishes, juggling the scares with the odd humor, but it's done here to perfection.

This story is amazing. Now having heard it a few times, I can say without reservation that it's one of the finest Doctor Who stories ever told. It stands alone as an incredible adventure (though knowing a bit about Charley's introduction definitely helps), but it also fits into the season long arc perfectly. Shearman, who wrote the story under incredible stress, was sure that Gary Russel would reject the script. Perish the thought! It stands out as the best story in a very strong season of Doctor Who.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Invaders From Mars

This is the second Big Finish Doctor Who written by Mark Gattis, and this time Mark also directed the play. The plot is based on a very clever idea of real aliens actually causing mayhem in New York during the legendary Orson Welles radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds". Some of this audio drama was presented in the form of mock news casts, which actually fooled many listeners into thinking there was a real alien invasion going on! It also has the novel idea of the invading aliens being technologically superior, but pretty much comically useless. The story has a mix of serious and silly tones to it. It's a fun story, but I can't help thinking that releasing this story right after the totally comedic "The One Doctor" didn't do this play any favors. This story also marks the beginning of the 2nd Big Finish season of 8th Doctor audios. While the quality of story varies somewhat from one release to another, this season really pays off the character arc of Charley, who we all know should have died back in "Storm Warning", but the Doctor saved her, changing history. The consequences of this really come back to haunt him. Back when this was the only new Who I was just blown away by this season, and this story gets it off to a nice, fun start.

Gattis assembled quite an impressive cast for this play. David Benson does a very impressive Orson Welles impersonation (to my ear anyway), and is very entertaining throughout. Simon Pegg (famous for many things - not the least of which going on to play the Editor in the new series story "The Long Game") and his co-star from "Spaced" Jessica Stevenson (who would go on to play Joan Redfern in the fantastic Series 3 Doctor Who story "Human Nature") were both brought on board to play Don Chaney and Glory Bee respectively. I would never, ever have recognized their voices with their different accents! It's funny that the first 8th Doctor story of this season would be set in America given how atrocious the accents were in the previous story "Minuet in Hell". It's true that there are some cringe inducing accents here and there, but the cliche'd New York accents largely work well in establishing the period and tone of the story, so it's far less annoying than in the aforementioned release.

Of course this story also reunites McGann and India Fisher as the Doctor and Charley, and their wonderful friendship gets explored more this season. It's funny how the 8th Doctor leaps right into the fray by impersonating the recently murdered detective Halliday, ticking Glory Bee, who in turn tricks him into finding Professor Stepashin. Another source of amusement is the evil and flamboyant villain Cosmo Devine, played by John Arthur. Devine is quite amusing, and it was certainly evidence of how Big Finish was pushing the envelope by having a homosexual villain (this was years before we had ever heard of Captain Jack). In fact, there are a few gay characters in this play! One notable cameo was by Katy Manning (who of course played Jo Grant). We'll eventually cover Manning playing Iris Wildthyme (although I am not exactly looking forward to it)!

So we have "War of the Worlds", mobsters with alien guns, Nazis, CIA, and real aliens! It's a lot to pack into this mad play. The aliens themselves are quite the double act. They are pretty comically inept, with one wanting to go off killing and destroying everything, with the other being the "smarter" of the pair wanting to catalog and learn about the planet. Of course, neither of them is bright at all, and it's amusing how quickly the Doctor works out that they are merely small time mobsters themselves trying to run a protection racket on a planetary scale. Devine's interactions with them and his (mostly successful) manipulation of them are quite amusing as well.

So, I enjoy this story as a whole, but I do sometimes find the mix of serious, scary, and humorous tones to sometimes clash and undermine the plot. I also find the musical bumpers, which are very reminiscent of radio dramas of the era to be somewhat of a distraction. I know they are using them to help set the period, but I find it takes me out of the story and makes it harder for me to take the less humorous parts of the story seriously. Still, while I don't enjoy this as much as Gattis' first story "Phantasmagoria", it's still a lot of fun, and kicks off a great second season of the 8th Doctor in style.

Rating: Good

Monday, November 26, 2012

The One Doctor

Certainly, there has been plenty of humor in the current and classic series of Doctor Who. This story, which was the first by Big Finish to reunite Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford as the 6th Doctor and Mel, is an outright silly story. It was brave of Big Finish to commission such an outright funny story where the plot is just a means to a comedic end. But, the story works brilliantly and is peppered with many laugh out loud moments.

The plot centers around a con-man (and his female partner in crime) pretending to be the Doctor. He and his "companion" show up on a planet where they create a hoax invasion which of course "The Doctor" repels. After much cajoling "The Doctor" reluctantly agrees to a substantial reward. However, before the two impostors can escape with their ill begotten loot, the real Doctor and Mel show up and then a genuine alien menace arrives and threatens the planet. It's up to the Doctor, Mel, Banto Zame (the fake Doctor), and Sally-Anne (Banto's partner in crime) to sort out the very real alien threat. The aliens demand, as tribute, the three greatest treasures of the Generios System. And so our four heroes are off to acquire these "great" treasures before time runs out and the entire Generios System is wiped out.

I don't want to go into any more details of the story, as I really don't want to spoil any of the gags, but suffice it to say, this story is hilarious. The Doctor's reaction to finding Banto pretending to be him (with certain key facts wrong) is hilarious. The competition between Mel and Sally Anne as effective companions is delightful. The Doctor and Banto's heated argument is fantastic. And of course the hunts for the treasures are loaded with general silliness. The four principal members of the cast, are just terrific. Christopher Biggins is fantastic as Banto. His fake portrayal of the Doctor is almost believable as a future incarnation. It's just a pushed a bit too far with the results cracking me up. You just can't help but love Banto! Claire Buckfield as the oversexed Sally Anne is priceless too. Her shameless flirting with the Doctor manages to occasionally rattle the mostly unflappable Doctor and irritate Mel to no end. The three quests fly by in a laughter filled blur. But, best of all, the payoff as to why real aliens would show up immediately after Banto repelled the fake aliens is completely logical (and still quite funny).

I'll reiterate that it was brave for Big Finish to do a story this silly, as it could have easily backfired and drawn the ire of fans who take Doctor Who so seriously (I admit to occasionally being among their number). I am sure it's gratifying to writers Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman that it's remained a very popular story. It's no wonder that Big Finish enlisted them to do a sequel that doesn't quite work as well - but we'll cover that one later. Suffice it to say, that "The One Doctor" proves that even completely silly Doctor Who stories can still rank among the best.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012


This is writer Lance Parkin's first Big Finish Doctor Who story, though he's written several Who novels both before and after this story's release. It serves as both a sequel and prequel to the TV story "Keeper of Traken": taking place after the events of that story for the Doctor and Nyssa, but being set thousands of years before those events on the planet itself. Apparently, it's a bit of a polarizing one, as Doctor Who Magazine once said it was the worst 5th Doctor audio ever! I like it fine, though it's no classic. It is a nice idea to explore a familiar alien planet's history for a change. Although, I could have done without the dialog between the Doctor and Nyssa where they hammer the point home for the listeners. Yes, we get it Big Finish!

The more interesting aspects of the story center around poking holes in the utopian Traken paradise and probing some various moral ambiguities. Traken is supposed to be the most wonderful, harmonious place in the universe. It's leaders (Consulars) however, are almost xenophobic and are ready to execute Nyssa, just so her "evil corruption" from being away from home doesn't spread! It's also laughable when the Consulars try to switch sides at the end when their planet is seemingly conquered. On the other hand, the soldiers serving the villainous Kwundaar seem to do terrible acts by his command, but they don't see themselves as evil. They're just following the will of their God - a God that will absolve them of their sins. While their religious justifications for their actions ring hollow (no surprise there) you tend to like their leader, Narthex, much more than the useless Consuls of Traken. He's a man providing for a family he clearly loves dearly. His conversation with his daughter prior to their invasion of Traken is actually quite sweet.

Kwundaar makes for an interesting villain. Throughout the story they give plenty of evidence that he is "godlike" in his power since he can completely read minds across time and space. He even can conquer the Doctor's natural psychic defenses. It does make the ending where the Doctor tricks him seem a bit unlikely, since in theory he would see the Doctor's plan ahead of time, but we'll just pretend he was too busy trying to take control of the source to notice. While this is on its face a Nyssa story, since she spends much of the story being ill, she really ends up not doing a whole lot in this story, other than being duped by the Doctor so she can unwittingly help him defeat Kwundaar. Disappointingly, we never get a very good explanation of who or what Kwundaar is. We just get a vague explanation from him that he is one of other "immortal beings". It's a cute touch at the end where the Doctor explains that other such creatures may be after them now due to Kwundaar signalling them somehow, thereby explaining the appearance of Omega, the Mara, and the Black Guardian in the 20th television season!

So, Primeval isn't brilliant or without some holes, but it's still pretty entertaining. It is fun trying to figure out how the Doctor is going to defeat a villain who can always know ahead of time what he's planning. When the villain inexplicably doesn't see the trick coming, it's a bit of a let down. Still, it is fun to get another go on Traken (unlike some, I really always enjoyed "Keeper of Traken" (Geoffrey Beavers' Master was terrifying to me as a kid), and it's amusing that Parkin gives us an explanation for Nyssa's psychic powers in "Time Flight" and her passing out at the end of "Four to Doomsday". The 5th Doctor and Nyssa are a great combination and Davison and Sutton's chemistry help make their stories more entertaining.

Rating: Good

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Not being a history buff, I had never heard of Colditz before hearing this story. While it has quite a few flaws which I'll get into later, it's still a terrific story and one of my favorite 7th Doctor stories. The premise is brilliant: The Doctor and Ace accidentally land in Colditz in 1944 near the end of World War II. They get captured and are mistaken for British spies. Just having an adventure where the pair try to escape from a Nazi war camp might have been an interesting enough yarn in its own right, but there's more to it. When the mysterious Klein appears, she seems to know a lot about the Doctor and his TARDIS. It turns out she is from a future, that doesn't sound like the correct future. She's from the 1960's where the Germans won the war, and has traveled back in time - in the Doctor's TARDIS!

This is a great timey-whimey story, and introduces the great villain Elizabeth Klein, who we would have to wait a LONG time before we heard from her again (though the wait was well worth it). The guest cast is very strong in this story. Big Finish regular Toby Longworth is good as the likeable German Schaefer. Nicholas Young of The Tomorrow People fame plays the honorable Flying Officer Bill Gower who serves as a leader for the Allied prisoners. The respectful "friendship" between Gower and Shaefer is an interesting subplot to the story. It's clear they respect and possibly even like each other despite being on opposite sides of the war. When Gower blackmails Shaefer, you can tell that Shaefer is shocked and hurt by the betrayal of trust, but at the same time, as Gower says, they aren't on the same side. Perhaps most important in the guest cast is the wonderful Tracey Childs as Klein. Klein is a wonderful villain - ruthless and devoted to her version of the "proper" future, but very sharp. At the end when Klein escapes, you knew they had to bring her back, but they sure did wait a while to do it. Childs would go on to be in "The Fires of Pompeii" featuring the 10th Doctor. On a related note, the other notable guest star is David Tennant (yes, that David Tennant) playing the comically inept German soldier, Kurtz. Kurtz serves primarily as a foil and threat for Ace, but more on that later.

The crux of the time paradox in this story is that somehow the Doctor and Ace's arrival in Colditz changes the future. This causes the Nazis to be triumphant in the war. Klein ends up working in the 1960's trying to figure out the mysteries of the Doctor's TARDIS. She ends up traveling back to 1944 to capture the Doctor (who was documented as arriving, but escaping Colditz) so she can bring him back to her future and force him to help her understand how the TARDIS works. As we find out at the end, she was actually manipulated by an alternate future version of the Doctor, who manipulates Klein into going back to 1944 so she can avert the changes that caused history to go on the wrong track. (Confused yet?) It's a delightful paradox, and much later, on a future release, we actually get to hear this alternate Doctor (played by Paul McGann, of course) trick Klein into making the fateful trip.

This is one of my favorite McCoy stories. For the most part he's at his best. Quietly, trying to figure out what's going on, while outwardly seeming totally in control while manipulating his captors (particularly Klein). Childs and McCoy have real chemistry, so I am glad they were finally reunited much later. The only down part of his performance is when he goes on an angry tantrum towards Klein about her "glorious Reich". I never find McCoy convincing when he does these angry rants.

The story also features the beginning of an attempt to have Ace seem a bit more grown up. Frankly, Ace drives me crazy in this story. You would think that finding out your in a Nazi POW camp might be a source of concern, but Ace never seems even slightly worried about her predicament. Her constant taunting and belittling of poor Kurtz, makes it hard for us listeners to take him seriously. Tennant's delightful over the top performance just adds to him being more of a comic figure. But, there are times where Kurtz is supposed to be really threatening Ace's life, but I never took him very seriously. At times I found myself rooting for Kurtz to shoot and kill Ace since she was getting on my nerves so much. When we find out at the end that it was Ace's CD Walkman (and not the TARDIS) that gave the Nazis the technology they used to win the war, it makes her survival through the story even more annoying.

The other real drawback of this story is its post production. I hate to rip on it, because this is usually something that Big Finish always gets right, but it's very distracting here. The music has some appropriate military style percussion, but its augmented with blaring synths, which feels very out of place with the setting. Also, some of the sound effects are just not up to par. There are a lot of conversations taking place in echo inducing corridors, but the reverb effect used is very unconvincing.

Still, despite some significant flaws with the realization of writer Steve Lyon's script, the story is very enjoyable. It's a very clever time travel paradox idea. The performances from the actors are top notch, and there's a lot of fun to be had here. Most importantly, it created the character of Klein who Big Finish has gone on to do more fun stories with.

Rating: Great

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Eye of the Scorpion

This story features the Doctor and Peri in a fun romp in ancient Egypt. Originally, writer Iain McLaughlin, wanted to do a story based on a real historical female Pharaoh, but found needing to stick closely to history didn't make for a good story. So, instead he went for a more sci-fi historical fiction tale of a would be female Pharaoh.

The plot centers around the politics of the ascension of Erimem becoming the new Pharaoh. There's some nice political wrangling over this, along with the sci-fi element of some sort of alien entity manipulating the "bad guys". Of course the Doctor and Peri show up (seemingly at random in the beginning) and start saving poor Erimem from repeated assassination attempts. The reveal for who or what actually caused the TARDIS to arrive here in ancient Egypt is a clever "timey whimey" explanation that would make Steven Moffat proud.

The two principal villains of the story are interesting foils for each other. Mercenary leader Yanis is a lot of fun screaming and lusting for battle. It's particularly funny every time he screams for his inept sidekick. Horemshep, on the other hand, is fun as the devious, power mad priest, scheming Erimem's demise and trying to keep Yanis' stab first and ask questions later attitude in check.The story does a good job keeping you guessing about the nature of the alien who is quietly controlling all of the bad guys. 

A real highlight of the story is when the Doctor is poisoned at the end of episode one and spends the entire episode unconscious. This leaves Peri to carry the episode, and Nicola Bryant pulls it off with aplomb. It's here that the relationship between Peri and Erimem is established. They quickly form a sibling like relationship with Peri as the older sister. It's really quite sweet, and gives Peri a more interesting role than just asking the Doctor questions. I always like the idea of historical companions as it's interesting to see their reactions to the future - even if it's just their future in our present. Caroline Morris is great as Erimem, as she gives Erimem a sense of strength and intelligence to offset her naivety. I find her a much more effective a companion than the hapless Jamie. The chemistry between Peri and Erimem is engaging from the start and it's little wonder Gary Russel decided to have her join the TARDIS as a companion. It's also a lovely surprise at the end of the story when she leaves with them. When the Doctor announces early on that he remembers the name of all the Pharaohs who ruled Egypt and makes it clear that Erimem isn't (or wasn't) one of them, you keep wondering what will befall the character to prevent her from ruling. I doubt many anticipated her becoming a companion to the Doctor would end up being the explanation!

All in all, I like this story. It's not one of my favorites, but it's certainly a fun time. I suppose part of me kept waiting for Sutekh or the Osirians to show up or be name checked at some point. There are some nice twists, and the 5th Doctor is well characterized in this story. For all the talk of Colin Baker's Doctor being galvanized by Big Finish, I tend to prefer Davison's performance in Big Finish to the TV version as well. He's a much funnier, quirkier, and in command Doctor than he was on TV. It's also nice for him to end up with a couple of companions who (gasp!) get along with each other. There's a lot of fun to be had with this new TARDIS team.

Rating: Good

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Project: Twilight

This is a pretty important Big Finish release. It's the first script written by duo Cavan Scott and Mark Wright. It is also notable for introducing The Forge and the delightful villain Nimrod. Once again we have the 6th Doctor and Evelyn paired together (two in a row with them is never a bad thing!) on Earth, this time in "modern" times in a gritty part of southeast London.

The original idea for this story was the idea of vampire mobsters in Las Vegas. Garry Russel wisely asked the pair to relocate things to London to avoid dodgy US accents that cranky American fans (like myself) would complain about. After some of the dreadful accents in "Minuet in Hell" this was a very wise decision.

One standout feature of this release is the fantastic atmosphere. It begins with the completely awesome music. The main melody is catchy and immediately adds to the creepy atmosphere you would want for a vampire story. There are also some shifts to a synthesized choir at times which really hammers home the mood of certain scenes. Generally, I think incidental music that you don't really notice works best for drama, but in this case, I notice it, and it enhances my enjoyment of the story. The sound effects are also magnificently realized in their often gory glory.

More high marks go out for the performances. It just goes without saying that Colin Baker and Maggie Stables are on top form as always, but the three principal guest actors are all terrific. Holly De Jong plays chief villainous Amelia. She has just the right bit of menace underneath her charming facade. And, when she bares her fangs (metaphorically speaking) she is just terrifying. Rob Dixon is fantastic has Amelia's henchman and muscle Reggie. When Reggie becomes infuriated at the Doctor, Dixon takes his performance right to the edge and is completely deranged in his anger. But, Dixon is equally convincing when schmoozing with customers, or laughing it up as he plays with his victims. When Reggie finally gets his (very unpleasant) comeuppance, it's immensely satisfying. Rosie Cavaliero is just heart breaking as Cassie. Even when she is calmly working as a waitress in her opening scenes, you can feel her character's desperation. When Cassie breaks down to Evelyn over her plight, your heart goes out to her. When she first wakes up after becoming a vampire, she is simply terrifying, and then quite vulnerable again when she breaks down, disgusted at what she's done and what she's become. It's no wonder they carried Cassie's story into a sequel.

You simply can't mention the guest cast without mentioning the incomparable Stephen Chase as Nimrod. Perhaps Big Finish's best original villain, Nimrod's voice is just unmistakeable and simply loaded with dark, aged, menace. He has returned in stories since this one, and is always fantastic. Oddly enough in this story, he is at his most likeable. While he is certainly more than sinister, he is written more as an anti-hero than a villain here. I really wouldn't have minded Scott and Wright continuing with the character down this path. But, I also can't deny how effective he is as a complete bastard in the sequel "Project: Lazarus" - but more on that one when we get to it.

Getting back to the Doctor and Evelyn, there is a fantastic scene where just after the Doctor discovers that Amelia and Reggie are vampires, he (completely unfairly) goes on a long, vitriolic rant on poor Evelyn who is guilty of nothing but wanting to know what's going on. The Doctor's feelings on the "ancient enemy" of the Time Lords is pretty much complete racism (if perhaps justified given his personal history), and this is Baker at his most furious. It's quite a rare thing to hear this from the 6th Doctor when targeted at Evelyn, and the performance from Baker is top notch. It's also lovely when the Doctor calms down and immediately apologizes to Evelyn. To her credit, Evelyn demands that he be more forthright with information in the future. Another masterful scene for Baker is when the Doctor is locked up and he knows that Evelyn is about to be killed (or worse). His absolute desperation at trying to get out of his cell is palpable. You can feel the incredibly strong bond that the Doctor and Evelyn have quickly formed, and you can just feel the anguish and helplessness. Kudos to director Gary Russel for pulling out all of these strong performances.

As noted earlier, this is the first of more stories to feature both Nimrod and the Forge. Sadly, we have never had a return of Amelia, whose fate is left unclear at the story's conclusion. I have enjoyed all of the Forge stories, but this is by far my favorite. It blew me away the first time I've heard it, and is one of the stories I have listened to again the most. The introduction of the Forge (which is a concept that you could easily accuse Russel T. Davies  - a Big Finish fan - of blatantly ripping off for Torchwood) was a fantastic idea, and gets explored much more in the sequels. This is also a very adult Doctor Who story that goes well beyond any boundaries the classic or new TV series would ever nudge.


Thursday, October 4, 2012


"Bloodtide" is the first story to be penned by Jonathan Morris, and compared to a lot of his future stories is a remarkably traditional, straigtforward type of Doctor Who story. The Silurians are the featured monster du jour, and unsurprisingly are well realized by the Big Finish audio wizards. This features the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn who are wonderful as always, though separated for much of the story. The most interesting aspect of this story is that the Doctor meets Charles Darwin in the 1830's on the Galapagos Islands and features a fictional version of how Darwin first begins to come up with the theory of evolution.

Darwin is played with aplomb by Miles Richardson who skillfully delivers the portrayal of youthful brilliance. Darwin's study of the wildlife of the islands is leading to his theory of evolution and listening to the devout man wrestling with his crisis of faith is riveting stuff. It's also funny how Evelyn and the Doctor at different times can't resist planting a few (of his own) ideas in his head. When Evelyn coins the phrase "survival of the fittest" for him his unimpressed reaction to the "odd expression" is amusing. Morris does his best not to pick a side on the creation vs. evolution debate - even throwing in the twist that mankind is a product of neither since the Silurian scientist Tulok was ultimately responsible for triggering mans evolution through genetic manipulation. This explanation for the Missing Link is a fun plot point.

The Silurians are well realized in the audio format. The voice effects are well done, and thankfully patterned after "Doctor Who and the Silurians" in favor of "Warriors of the Deep". The story does feel similar to "... the Silurians", but adding the disturbing facet of the Silurians actually eating the "apes" as food is interesting. When the Doctor and Captain Fitzroy discover the Silurian "larder" with dead human corpses hanging on hooks, it's suitably gruesome. Another fun addition to the plot is a redemption for the dreaded Myrka. Morris' version obviously benefits from not having to be realized visually, and is portrayed as a monstrously large version (Morris seems to differentiate this version by calling it an adult version, implying that the "pantomime horse" monstrosity from "Warriors of the Deep" was not fully grown. Thankfully, no one attempts to subdue the Myrka with a karate kick in "Bloodtide".) It is a little odd that the Myrka has a lengthy attack on the ship "The Beagle" and is unable to sink it, but ends up destroying the Silurian submersible almost instantly. I guess the electric properties of the creature had a more profound impact on the metallic Silurian vessel?

One other true highlight is when incarcerated, Darwin is discussing his crisis of faith with Fitzroy, who is unsurprisingly skeptical of Darwin's theories. They ask the Doctor his opinion, and it's another wonderful, quiet moment for Colin Baker's Doctor. He shrewdly avoids picking a side between science vs. religion and instead speaks of the wonders of the universe. It's yet another example of how wonderful Big Finish has been to this characterization of the 6th Doctor. This type of moment, is never done nearly as good during his television era, and it continues to enrage me at how much the production team failed this era of the show and largely squandered having such a gifted actor in the lead role.

Ultimately, "Bloodtide" is an entertaining, somewhat traditional Doctor Who story. It's fun hearing the Silurians again, and it's a fun yarn with some nice philosophical exploration. The pairing of the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn continues to build its reputation as one of the best Doctor/Companion pairings ever (and it keeps getting better from here). It's amusing that Morris' first story was so straightforward when you consider some of the Big Finish stories he would go on to write. It's timely to note that one of Morris' ideas when brainstorming for this story was the idea of the Silurians having sent a space ark out into space as an alternative escape for their population to hibernation. Can you imagine dinosaurs... on a spaceship?! No, that idea would never work.

Rating: Great

Sunday, September 30, 2012

They were Angels....

Thumbs WAY up from me for "The Angels Take Manhattan". My one nit to pick was the silly Statue of Liberty as Weeping Angel, which looked silly, and had the impossible idea that Lady Liberty could move more than an inch without being observed by ANYONE in New York. However, the baby angels were wonderfully creepy, and the end for the lovely Ponds/Williams was both sad and sweet. I will forgive Moffat and company if they can't resist the urge to bring them back for whatever they have planned next year for the 50th anniversary, but I really hope that they won't. It would be nice to have one of these sad endings not be cheapened later on by the "lost" characters returning later.

In anticipation of this episode, on Friday night I rewatched "Time of the Angels"/"Flesh and Stone". I really think this story is a bit underrated because it had to follow "Blink". I think it's a pretty great story in its own right as Aliens to Blink's Alien. This 3rd story was likewise an excellent one for my money.

I know Amy had grown stale for some fans, but I thought she was a lot of fun. Plus, I really loved Rory. I really wish they could have done more with the Doctor and Rory together (maybe even an adventure without Amy) as they too had a great dynamic, but it just didn't get explored as much as I wanted. Sad, that after only 5 weekends, I now have to wait 3 months for new Who. (And I really hope they don't delay the rest of the season after the Xmas special.) Farewell Ponds!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Power Cubed

I really enjoyed "The Power of Three" last weekend. It reminded me a lot of an experimental Davies episode, like say "Love and Monsters" - only MUCH better. I liked the idea of an invasion taking months and months before it got started. I loved the Doctor going stir crazy sitting still in the domestic life of the Ponds. I loved the return of Rory's dad, which is making me long for a kind of Wilf thing where somehow he becomes a companion of the Doctor. The villain was quite creepy and would love to see him/it return in the future. Most importantly, they really set us up for a heartbreak in the next episode. I can't believe we are about to have to endure a couple more months without new Who - it feels like these 4 (soon 5) episodes have flown by.

In other old news, in the 1-2 months before my move, I got so far behind in reviewing the audios I was listening to, that I put a Big Finish embargo on myself until I was all caught up. I really assumed I would get this all done before I moved, but as we all know, that just didn't happen. With tonight's upload of the "Dust Breeding" review, I have finally caught up. This means, I can finally resume listening to Big Finish again! So tomorrow I will start "Bloodtide" (Colin + Evelyn = ME HAPPY~!). I hope that the reviews will come from me a bit more frequently now, but I won't make any promises. I do really appreciate those of you who take the time to read the blog.

Dust Breeding

(With this blog it kind of goes without saying, but spoilers ahead. I generally try to avoid dropping big spoilers in these reviews, but it's impossible to discuss this story without revealing something. If you haven't heard this then I would just check out the rating and move on. Suffice it to say, you should check this story out. OK, the big spoiler is in the next sentence, so this is your last chance!)

"Dust Breeding" is perhaps most famous for bringing back Geoffrey Beevers in the role of the Master. Big Finish had plans to bring in Antony Ainley to reprise the role of the Master, but Ainley made big demands on money, script control, and casting control which ultimately made it impossible to bring him in. Frankly, while Ainley terrified me as a kid, his portrayal of the Master doesn't do nearly as much for me now. I actually find myself enjoying Beevers' portrayal in the "Keeper of Traken" much more (not to mention Ainley's good-guy portrayal of Tremas), and think it's a shame they didn't just carry on with Beevers in the role. Beevers has the wonderful, silky smooth, yet evil timbre to his voice, which makes him even more perfect to be the Big Finish version of the Master. The big reveal in the cliff hanger of part 2 is simply amazing and is something to hear.

The story has a lot of interesting ideas in it. Sentient dust from an alien weapon that spends centuries trapped in the painting "The Scream", the Krill from writer Mike Tucker's Doctor Who novel "Storm Harvest" (co-written with Robert Perry), the Master, and the Doctor showing up to save (ahem, steal) "The Scream" before its destruction. Actually, that last thing is somewhat interesting. It seems a bit out of character for the Doctor to sneak in and take a work of art before it's "historic disappearance or destruction". This seems like the kind of rationalization that the Meddling Monk or Braxiatel would use. Besides, it's not like the Doctor ever just sneaks in and out of somewhere without interfering. He would seemingly be involved and responsible for the events that caused the work of art to go missing in the first place!

Also cast in this story (in part to try to keep the reveal of the Master a secret) is Beevers' wife Caroline John. John, of course, was Liz Shaw in the first season of Jon Pertwee's Doctor. Here she is (sadly) not returning as Liz Shaw, but is instead recast as the nefarious art dealer Madame Salvadori. It would be safe to say that John's accent and performance are a bit over the top, although that isn't to say she isn't entertaining. Also returning is Louise Fualkner as Bev Tarrant who featured in Tucker's first Big Finish play "The Genocide Machine". I never found Tarrant to be a particularly interesting character, but she was included in this to have a surrogate companion for the Doctor without needing to introduce someone new to the Doctor and Ace, so it works fine. Speaking of "The Genocide Machine", the Daleks are also featured in this story (in a way). The old legend of the planet Duchamp 331 (where most of the story is set) is that the odd screaming always heard in the background is not the sound of "dust sharks" (the rational explanation), but that a Dalek saucer crashed on Duchamp 331 many years ago and the Daleks were sucked down into the omnipresent dust covering the planet. The sound (which is clearly the screams of Daleks) does add quite an impressive atmosphere to the outside scenes. It's quite a thing to hear to constant cries of Daleks - not something I've heard before or since.

The Master's plan is to bring the Krill, to lure out the sentient weapon (the "Warp Core" which was designed to destroy the "all powerful" Krill) and harness its power. As with many of the Master's plans, it doesn't all go quite as planned, and the Doctor intervenes. It's neat that Big Finish did not set this in the Master's past (before Traken), but explained that the Master had his stolen Traken body stripped away in his first encounter with the Warp Core and reverted back to his emaciated form. My one issue with the story is that when Ace, Bev, and the Doctor are trapped near these supposedly lethal Krill, they don't come off as being all that lethal.

That complaint aside, this is a pretty fun story, with a lot of good performances. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Johnson Willis' portrayal as madman Damien. It's quite good, and gets even madder when he joins with the Warp Core. Ian Ricketts is also enjoyable as the haunted, grizzled, and heroic Guthrie. I don't think I like the plot of this one as much as "The Genocide Machine" but hearing Beevers recreate his nasty portrayal of the Master is a delight, and this one is not to be missed.

Rating: Great

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


"Loups-Garoux" is the first story penned for Big Finish by Marc Platt, who wrote the popular, bewildering "Ghost Light" from the McCoy era of Doctor Who. This story features werewolves and a huge performance by Nicky Henson as the main villain, Peter Stubbe. It also features notable guest actors Eleanor Bron (who played Kara in "Revelation of the Daleks") and Burt Kwouk (Lin Futu in the woeful "Four to Doomsday", but more importantly Cato in the classic Pink Panther movies). The story features the 5th Doctor and Turlough, and I think it's probably the strongest Turlough story Big Finish has done. It's a very strong Big Finish debut for Marc Platt, and we'll definitely be hearing more from him in later releases.

The story centers around a group of mostly benign werewolves in Rio who are led by the matriarchal Ileana. Her son Victor (whose father was human) is "ill" (caught somewhere between human and wolf) and Ileana has hired the nefarious Dr. Hayashi to treat him. Suddenly, Ileana receives word from old flame Peter Stubbe and they all flee in terror of this sort of "King Werewolf". Henson is just tremendous as Stubbe. You can easily call his performance over-the-top, but I think he just nails it. He just exudes power, ancientness, and confidence in his voice. You can feel how amused he is by the fact that his beloved has the effrontery to run away from him, and have some "pups" around her for protection. Stubbe is both terrifying and charming and always seems to be laughing at all the other characters who he doesn't take seriously.

Of course the Doctor and Turlough get swept up in the events. Turlough gets a lot of good exploration in this story. When a few of the wolves prank Turlough with the "mirror trick" Turlough, rightfully is terrified, and it's fitting to think of Turlough being scared of seeing his darker side given his introductory role in the show as the villainous, potentially murderous companion. When he flees the train and meets Rosa, these quiet scenes between the two are really quite lovely. It's certainly implied by the story that they had quite a romantic night together, which is the sort of thing that they would never try on the classic series.

The story becomes a lot of fun once Ileana chooses the Doctor as her "champion" against Stubbe. The Doctor's horror when he realizes the full implications of what being her champion would entail is pretty amusing. I also really enjoy the way the Doctor defeats Stubbe, by physically removing his connection to the Earth. The lore Platt builds up for these wolves is pretty fascinating in general, from their connection to nature, and their manipulation of human perceptions. The performances are generally very good. I already mentioned Henson, but Bron really gives it her all too, and is quite committed even when making snarly growls as she threatens to transform at one point in the play. I'm not sure if I can listen to Kwouk and not think of him as Cato, so you'll forgive me for finding the scene where the wolves hunt him as hysterically funny.

After the run of McGann stories (which ended with a thud) it's great to hear the 5th Doctor and Turlough again. Sadly, it would be a while before Mark Strickson would return, but this story does more with his character than perhaps any other. Davison is of course teriffic here as always. I like the lore of these werewolves, and find it more interesting than the alien invader wolf we went on to meet in (the excellent) "Tooth and Claw".

Rating: Great

Sunday, September 16, 2012


I admit to being disappointed. I had high hopes for the bad ass cyborg vs. Sheriff Doctor. Not awful or anything, but definitely my least favorite of the first three episodes. The locations looked great, and it was shocking to see the Doctor actually drag Jex out of town and hold a gun to his face. But, ultimately, the ending just sort of seemed like a cop out. Oh well, it's preferable to "The Gunfighters" I suppose....

I seem to have failed utterly to get a review written this week. I'll try to do better this week as things are finally calming down around here. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dinosaurs... On a spaceship!!!

I admit I didn't have very high expectations for this one going in. It just seemed like it would be another dull romp like "Curse of the Black Spot" (my least favorite from last year). But, I was pleasantly surprised. The special effects were pretty impressive for the most part. I enjoyed the guest cast. I liked the idea of the Silurians doing an Ark much like their human counterparts would go on to do much later. I also liked the bad-ass way Matt Smith murdered Argus Filch... er the baddie at the end. So, fun all around.

Things are sort of settling down in the new house. My wife seems to have almost unpacked everything she is in charge of. While I, still have countless boxes of DVDs, video games, CDs (including Big Finish CDs), and electronics that need unpacking. Still, I hope to continue with the reviews this week if work doesn't drive me too crazy. Hopefully, at the very least I'll get "Loups-Garoux" and "Dust Breeding" reviewed this week. Thanks for your patience, if you have any left!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Asylum of the Daleks

So my wife and I have moved into the new house. While the move itself went well, and we are thrilled with the new house, there were many series of misadventures for me involving assembling, attaching, or fixing things. Oh, and despite spending the overwhelming majority of the past several days indoors, I also managed to get poison ivy for the first time in about 25 years. I also had an epic war with cable trying to get my internet and TV working at the new place. I finally got cable and internet going yesterday, so late last night I finally got to see the series 7 premiere of Doctor Who.

Briefly, I thought it was great. The surprise was quite unexpected, and it will be interesting to see how it ends up tying into the series later. As for the story itself, it was a lot of fun, and nice to see the Daleks be scary - even if they still can't shoot straight. I also wonder if there will be any long term affects for Rory or Amy from being exposed to the "cloud". So anyway, thumbs up from me, and I'm excited to see the remainder of the half season this month!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Quick update...

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. My wife and I have been busy preparing to move. I was hoping to get Loups Garoux and Dust Breeding reviewed prior to our move, but that just isn't going to happen. Hopefully I can get back to 2-3 reviews per week after things settle down in a week or two.

Oh and I will absolutely check in some time this weekend with thoughts on Asylum of the Daleks!!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Minuet in Hell

We conclude the fun first season of the 8th Doctor with a resounding thud. Of the first 20 Doctor Who releases from Big Finish, this is by far the worst. Even the presence of the Brigadier can't save this sorry story. Apparently, the production was pretty troubled: writer Alan Lear was very ill with chronic fatigue syndrome, the script was needed very quickly, and Gary Russel had to hastily rewrite most of the second half of the story. The recordings ended up being way too long, and some harsh edits had to be made. It's obvious that there were problems here as there are some very abrupt transitions from scene to scene throughout the play.

The story takes place around the birth of a new state in the USA. The new state has the dubious name of Malebolgia. I have no idea who thought this was a plausible name, or that the idea of a new state seceding from another was somehow going to happen in 21st century America. We are also subjected to some simply atrocious southern accents in this story. Canadian, Robert Jezek, is very unconvincing as a southern, religious politician named Dashwood. Morgan Deare (an American) sounds a lot like Foghorn Leghorn in his portrayal as Senator Waldo Pickering. Then again, since Pickering is nothing more than a cartoon character, perhaps that's appropriate. But what really makes this story hard to take seriously is the "demon" Marchosias who is not in the least bit threatening, and in fact comes off as more of a comedic character. Poor Nicholas Courtney is mostly wasted in this story. It's a huge drop in quality from his previous Big Finish story "The Spectre of Lanyon Moor".

There is one bright spot to this story: the sub plot with the Doctor losing his memory. The Doctor wakes up in Dashwood's horrific mental institution. He seems to be completely out of his mind and unable to remember who he is. Another recent inmate in the asylum, Gideon Crane, (improbably British) seems to remember more about the Doctor than the Doctor himself does! Crane is played wonderfully by Nicholas Briggs. As Crane seems to be more and more confident that he is in fact the Doctor, you almost become convinced yourself. When Crane and Becky Lee (a pretty transparent rip off of Buffy) are plotting an escape from the asylum you can't help but ponder the idea of Nick Briggs actually playing the Doctor! I also find Dashwood's quiet singing of "Dashwood to the White House...." to be pretty amusing.

In any event, the "demons" are defeated, the evil politician Dashwood is hoisted on his own petard, and the Doctor and Crane's respective memories are restored, but it's a mostly a tedious listen to get there. While it's nice that Nicholas Courtney got to act with all of the first eight actors to play the Doctor, it's a shame that his debut with McGann had to take place in such a mess of a story. At times, there are some funny moments in this story, and I think it would have worked better as an all out comedy. It's certainly hard to take a whole lot of this disaster seriously. 

Rating: Poor


Monday, August 13, 2012

The Stones of Venice

The first season for the 8th Doctor continues with possibly its best story. "The Stones of Venice" was actually the first McGann story to be recorded. Paul McGann and India Fisher show great chemistry right away, which is pretty remarkable. The story has a great introduction with the Doctor and Charley frantically escaping into the TARDIS from armed pursuers. It's nice to come in at the end of an off-screen, unrelated adventure. The Doctor promises Charley a holiday so he takes her to Venice. Of course, they don't simply get to enjoy some time off.

The story actually takes place in the future, but other than the amphibious Gondoliers (more on them later) it feels like it could have been set in the present, and feels even more like a story set in the past. Our pair arrives when Venice is seemingly on the point of destruction (via flood). This imminent destruction is apparently based on a curse. The ruler of Venice is Duke Orsino who has governed the city for over a century. Apparently, in his hubris he gambled away his true love, Estella, and she cursed the Duke (prolonging his life) and Venice. Then, she is believed to have drowned herself. Apparently, the imminent destruction of Venice is caused by this curse. Meanwhile, a nefarious cult has sprung up over the years that worships Estella and supposedly secrets her remains in a crypt. They believe she will return from the dead and save them and the city from destruction. The curator of the Duke's collected artwork, Churchwell, is despondent about the forthcoming loss of the Duke's sizable collection (which the Doctor notes seems to have art not from Earth). The Duke is indifferent about the imminent destruction of his city and artwork, but only longs to see his lost love one more time.

This is the backdrop where Charley and the Doctor find themselves when they arrive. They quickly meet the mysterious Ms. Lavish who lets them know that at dawn the flood will come and the city will be lost under the lagoon. (It becomes pretty obvious who Ms. Lavish is fairly quickly.) They also encounter the Gondoliers, an amphibious, web-footed under class who work as... well, gondoliers. They are eagerly awaiting the flood which will allow them to emerge from under the rule of men and live as kings of the underwater city. Frankly, the plot of the story is serviceable, but full of some plot holes. The Gondoliers are never properly explained. Are they some sort of evolution of men? Are they relatives of the Sea Devils or Silurians? Are they aliens? They are simply introduced with no real explanation. If your monsters are so uninteresting to not warrant any kind of explanation, then they simply come off as padding in the story. Their plot to distract the Duke with a fake Estella seems pointless, other than giving Charley some peril to be involved in. It's also silly when the cult leader, Vincenzo, and the Duke go to look at the remnants of Estella in the crypt. The Doctor and Churchwell both know that the sarcophagus is empty and at the end of episode three protest that they tried to warn them both not to open it. But, in reality, they didn't really make much effort to warn them. A simple "It's empty!" would have worked better than their vague "You don't want to do this." protests.

Still, this story really works, because the plot is more of a means to an end. We get some fantastic performances helped by stellar dialog from writer Paul Magrs. Orsino is wonderfully played by classic Who veteran guest actor Michael Sheard (perhaps best known in Doctor Who for playing Laurence Scarman in "Pyramids of Mars". As an unrelated aside, I improbably, actually met him once.) Sheard is wonderfully over the top here, wringing out every line of dialog with angst or anger. He's quite a lot of fun here. Also great is Mark Gattis as the evil Vincenzo. Gattis' name keeps showing up in the cast list of many of these earlier stories, and I am struck by how I almost never recognize his voice, unlike say the similarly oft cast Barnaby Edwards (who yes is in this as main Gondolier, Pietro) who I usually can spot after one line of dialog. Elaine Ives-Cameron (who was in the classic Doctor Who story "The Stones of Blood") is full of doom and gloom as Ms. Lavish. The cast clearly has a lot of fun with some very witty dialog.

The direction goes a long way in this story as well. Gary Russel does a great job of making you feel like you're in Venice. As mentioned earlier, we are supposedly in the future, but it doesn't really feel that way. It seems like Venice is largely the same as it is today (and was yesterday), which is kind of wonderful to hear. The party sounds like a riotous good time with the band playing jauntily in the background (and having fewer and fewer band members as the night wears on). It's interesting how you never feel any particular peril or impending doom as we get closer to the dawn. This is perhaps a good thing as it might make this story feel a little too much like "Fires of Vulcan". The final explanation of the curse is satisfying, and the romantic way the curse is averted makes for a nice ending.

Despite some of my misgivings with the plot, this remains the highlight of the first proper season for the 8th Doctor. It particularly shines bright given the absolute dreck that concludes the season. Again you can't help but be charmed by both the 8th Doctor and Charley. They seem to be having a ball together, and you can't help but feel like you're in on the fun. Bigger and better things will come for this duo in their second season together, but this story is a lot of fun along the way.

Rating: Great

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sword of Orion

The second story in the first season for the 8th Doctor features the Big Finish debut of the Cybermen. It strongly follows the format of the "base under siege" formula that many of the 60's Cybermen stories had. While better things would come from Big Finish for the Cybermen in the future, it's still a pretty fun story.

The most interesting aspect of this story is the idea of the war between humans and androids who have taken control of the Orion system. The twist involving the androids' involvement in the events on the abandoned space ship remains a highlight. The very human actions of the android in saving Charley add to the moral ambiguity about just who is in the right in this war (if you even think it is ambiguous). On the other hand, the subplot with Grash and Ike's smuggling operation adds little to the story, and could have been left out entirely

In addition to being our first Cybermen story, it's still just our second story featuring the 8th Doctor and Charley. McGann and Fisher have tremendous chemistry, and Charley seems to be having a ball at the "galactic bazaar" they start the story in. The guest cast are good with special attention to Bruce Montague as Grash. He couldn't sound more different from his performance as Head Librarian Elgin in "The Genocide Machine". Michelle Livingstone is also quite good as the ruthless Captain Deeva Jansen.

As for the Cybermen, the voice work from writer/director Nick Briggs is definitely based on the 80's Cybermen stories. Big Finish will go on to try different variants of Cyber-voices as the range goes on. Since the Cybermen spend the bulk of the story reviving from hibernation, they perhaps don't seem as threatening as in other stories. This is made up for somewhat by very effective use of a Cybermat. The Cybermat wreaks havoc on the human ship, and given the unimpressive visual realization of the Cybermats in the past, works quite well in the audio format.

The biggest criticism I could levy at "Sword of Orion" is that it's just not remarkable. It's fun hearing the Cybermen for the first time, but it doesn't do anything new with them. (This would be remedied greatly in the near future.) Still, it's a fun time, and McGann continues to charm as the 8th Doctor. The first season of the 8th Doctor is progressing along nicely.

Rating: Good

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Storm Warning

Before there was new Doctor Who in 2005, there were the Paul McGann Big Finish stories. While I was delighted by all the new Doctor Who featuring classic Doctors, I had an extra feeling of anticipation as I prepared to introduce myself to the 8th Doctor audios. This was new Doctor Who featuring the current Doctor. This was also the first "season" of Doctor Who from Big Finish.

"Storm Warning" does not have what I would call a great plot, but it does a terrific job of reintroducing the 8th Doctor, and introducing new companion Charley Pollard. Over the first two seasons of 8th Doctor audios Paul McGann and Charley would establish the kind of chemistry between Doctor and Companion not seen for a long time, and with a new vibe. India Fisher who was fine, but not overly remarkable as Perril in "Winter for the Adept" almost instantly becomes one of the all time great companions. The "Edwardian Adventuress" has a lust for life outside of the normal confines of her upper crust upbringing. She has the same zeal for travel and exploration that the Doctor does, so it's no wonder that they get along right away - even if Charley does think the Doctor may be completely crazy at first!

The story focuses around the doomed air ship the R101. I confess to not knowing a thing about this piece of history prior to hearing this story. The R101 crashed in France in 1930 on its maiden voyage, and writer Alan Barnes constructs a fun sci-fi story around this tragedy. This story also lays the seeds for a multi-season story arc for the Doctor and Charley that takes the series to some epic highs (and some ghastly lows). Over the course of the story, the R101 has a rendezvous with a UFO, and when we meet the aliens the story becomes a bit of a let down to me. The alien society just seems implausible and not particularly interesting with their factions of Creators and Uncreators with the Law governing both sides. It's also a big let down when the Creators are freed from their (literal) chains and end up being a pretty threatless alien monster.

But, there's a ton of fun to be had along the way in this story. McGann charms right away in his opening monologue in the TARDIS. I felt that the TV Movie was mostly awful with the exception of the incredible production values (I mean that TARDIS interior was just gorgeous!) and of course McGann himself. I remembered being devastated by the low US ratings which doomed the fledgling co-produced reboot (although it was obviously a blessing in disguise) because I really wanted to get to know this new Doctor. Well, he's finally back here! Listening to him talk to himself - and then chide himself for talking to himself is a delight. McGann sounds like he is having a ball and has the same boundless enthusiasm he showed in the TV Movie. (I also love the clever foreshadowing of "Mary's Story" in this which doesn't come to fruition for many years - although I doubt it was actually intentional back when Barnes wrote this.) McGann really is a bridge between the classic show and the current one, as his characterization feels more energetic and emotional like the new series portrayal, but the stories are structured in a more classic series format.

The guest cast is highlighted by Gareth Thomas (most famous for being Blake in Blake's 7, which I have actually never seen) as Lord Tamworth. Tamworth comes off like a pompous fool in the early goings, but there's much more to him. Barnaby Edwards is amusing as the villainous Rathbone, but at this point it feels like Edwards is in almost all of these early stories, so it's pretty easy to spot his voice early on. Maybe I'm just used to hearing him on the CD extras of the newer releases.

As mentioned earlier, the most significant plot element to come from "Storm Warning" is the fact that the Doctor saves Charley from the death she was supposed to have crashing on the R101. This tweak to history ends up having serious repercussions later on, but in this season we just get some hints about its seriousness when the Doctor broods about it. This story gets this new era (at the time) of Doctor Who off to a fun start.

Rating: Great

Thursday, July 26, 2012

RIP Mary Tamm

Like all Doctor Who fans worldwide, I was very sad to hear about the passing of Mary Tamm. It's very disheartening to think about how often it seems like we have to say goodbye to notable figures from the show's past. For Tamm to die at 62 is quite disheartening. Best wishes and condolences to her family and friends.

The Key to Time series (the only one to feature Tamm as Romana) is one of the first series of the show I watched as a child, and is certainly one of the most viewed seasons from my childhood. It's amazing how well most of the season still holds up today, and she was a big part of why. Her rapport with Tom Baker was a lot fun, and provided a lot of laughs. While I certainly also loved Lalla Ward's Romana, I can't help but wish Tamm had done more than one season. I'm happy that I will get to hear a season of her and Tom Baker reunited from Big Finish!

I started this blog a little over a month ago, and I've already had to do two of these RIP posts. I hope I get to wait a long time before another one is necessary.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Mutant Phase

Here is the third of the "linked" Dalek Empire stories and the first to feature the 5th Doctor. In theory, the three stories were also supposed to be linked and happening at the same time, but there is no link to be found to the previous two stories here. Of the first three Dalek stories, I think this is definitely the best, with only the somewhat befuddling ending letting things down.

What really makes this story work, is that it's a very different type of Dalek tale. While the Daleks are definitely still the villains of the piece, there is another monster that actually kills and terrifies the Daleks. This Mutant Phase represents a contamination of Dalek DNA, which mutates the Dalek creatures into a terrifying insect species which can natively travel through space. These creatures are so deadly they can pretty much swarm a planet and suck all of the life out of it.

The story takes place in three different locations and times. One is during the Dalek occupation of Earth in the 2150's (first chronicled in the classic serial "The Dalek Invasion of Earth"). Another is Earth in the farther future in 4250 where the planet appears to have been devastated (as we find out later, by the Mutant Phase) with very few humans left alive. Finally, some of the story takes place on Skaro in the far future with the Daleks under siege from the Mutant Phase creatures. Most of part one consists of the Doctor and Nyssa arriving on Earth in the 2150's. Nyssa is quickly stung by a wasp (which proves to be critical to the plot later on). It's a nice change of pace for the Doctor and Nyssa to escape quickly once the Doctor figures out where (and when) they are. Of course, they first have to escape capture from a Roboman and a Dalek. It's interesting to revisit this time, and it's fun for the Doctor to once again encounter some Daleks who actually don't know who he is. It harkens back to the show's earliest days.

Things really get interesting late in the first episode, when the story shifts to Skaro. Here some Thals are actually helping the Daleks try to understand (and find a way to eradicate) the Mutant Phase. It's fantastic when one of the Daleks begins to actually show signs of the genetic contagion and begins to mutate. The other Daleks go absolutely bonkers over this, and begin screaming their heads off in terror at what's happening in front of them. I never thought I would encounter a Dalek story where one of the episodes' cliff hangers involves the Daleks in peril! It really builds up the danger of these creatures since the Daleks are totally freaked out over them.

Nick Briggs wrote and directed this, and he's definitely the "Dalek expert" of Big Finish. I once again think his direction and music are outstanding. It sets a very sombre, tense, tone for the story as the Doctor in the far future devastated Earth keeps saying that things just don't seem right. This dark tone leaves a feeling of doom and that something really has gone terribly wrong. When the Doctor and Nyssa arrive in 4250 and encounter some of the few remaining humans, we are treated to a very creepy, disturbing performance from Mark Gattis as Karl Hendryk. Karl comes off as very sinister sitting in a nearly pitch black room and mumbling darkly about his devastated planet. It's fun when the Daleks come to capture the Doctor. He manages to make it to the inside of the TARDIS, but Nyssa and the remaining humans are stuck outside. When the Daleks begin exterminating hostages (and Nyssa only survives this by blind luck) which ultimately draws the Doctor out from sanctuary, it's another effective cliff hanger with the Doctor's quiet, "I surrender."

On the second CD the Doctor and Nyssa finally figure out what's going on. Somehow, the wasps from the 2150's managed to string and corrupt the DNA of one of the Daleks which ultimately leads to the Mutant Phase. The Dalek Emperor convinces the Doctor (and some Thals) to go back in time and prevent this from happening. Nyssa is appalled at the Doctor's willingness to go back and change "history", but the Doctor thinks he is actually setting things on the proper path. Of course, things aren't exactly as they seem. It's really quite funny when the Dalek Emperor of the future is trying to convince the Daleks on Earth that he's there to help him. It fits the Daleks' character perfectly that they don't believe him! The Doctor is great here too, completely undermining the Emperor's efforts. The ending then becomes one of those logic killing time paradoxes that's hard to wrap your head around. Even Nyssa flat out says that this is all bonkers in the story's final scene. The confounding, reset switch ending is the one sore spot that diminishes an otherwise terrific story. Still, the journey can often be more important than the destination, so this remains a very strong story, and still remains one of my favorite Dalek tales.

Rating: Great

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Holy Terror

"The Holy Terror" is the first Big Finish story written by Rob Shearman. After hearing his first few stories, some friends and I began considering him the "Robert Holmes of Big Finish". Later we would go on to call Steven Moffat the "Rob Shearman or Robert Holmes of the new series". In other words, his stories are generally top notch. It's interesting to read in the Big Finish Inside Story book that Shearman himself has a lot of issues with this script - considering how highly regarded it is by me and others.

We can't talk about this story without first mentioning its companion Frobisher. Originally, a companion to the 6th Doctor from the comics, I didn't know a thing about him prior to this audio. For those who don't know, he's an alien shape shifter who spends most of his time looking like a penguin! When not traveling with the Doctor, he's apparently a private eye in New York city! How completely, barking mad! Like (apparently) many fans, I was quite skeptical about a story featuring such a seemingly silly companion from the comics, but it ends up working out brilliantly. Frobisher is played with much aplomb by (Canadian actor) Robert Jezek (previously heard in "Red Dawn") even if I don't find his New York accent that believable (it's still light years ahead of he southern accent he will deliver in a future story.  More on that when we get to it). The truth is, this story wouldn't work nearly as well with any other companion.

The story takes place in some sort of medieval-ish castle. The opening scene sets one of the tones of the story right away when an old man is roused in a prison cell and told he was arrested in the middle of the night for blasphemy. When he is told about the painful death he is about to receive for his crimes, unless he wants to repent, he wisely repents right away! He is then freed (only after filling out several forms). This scene is hilarious, and it feels more like you're listening to a Monty Python sketch than a Doctor Who audio. There is a lot of comedy throughout the script, but there's much more to the story then just laughs.

The story explores the notion of the Emperor as a being of divinity, and what happens to the society's religion when one Emperor dies and another takes his place. It also explores the notion of how human language corrupts humans and how a god can be created by never allowing a new born to hear the language of humans. That by living in isolation, the child creates his own language and achieves a closer connection to the heavens because he would speak the language of God. (This idea actually intrigued King James I.) The consequences of one actually carrying out this quest for divinity end up beyond terrifying.

The Doctor and Frobisher end up stuck (after the TARDIS apparently goes on strike) in this castle where the people worship their Emperor as a god . There are tons of traditions around the cycle of crowning a new Emperor after the old one commits the sacrilege of dying (proving that they were not in fact, divine after all). These traditions are pretty hilarious, with the "proof" of the new Emperor's divinity, to the treatment of the former Emperor's widow. But, there's also a disturbing element to the pointless cycle this society is stuck in. Every time a new Emperor is crowned, the Emperor's brother tries to overthrow him. In this case, the new Emperor's brother Childeric, ends up making his child divine by never letting him hear a word of English, until it's time for his plan to usurp the throne. Once the child is unleashed, the story becomes terrifying.

I can't say enough about the cast for this story. They are simply magnificent. Sam Kelly is brilliant as Eugene Tacitus and is both hilarious and disturbing. Peter Guiness just oozes menace with his voice as the plotting Childeric. Stefan Atkins is hilarious as the unwilling new Emperor Pepin. And, let's not forget about the regulars. Jezek is just a riot as Frobisher, and the chaos he causes within the kingdom is a delight to hear. Finally, Colin Baker is magnificent as the Doctor. Any dislike I may have carried over for his TV characterization of the Doctor is now obliterated by this story. The scene when he goes back to confront the godly Boy is wonderful. He knows that if he is correct on his theory of who and what the Boy is, he will likely be killed. The interplay between the Boy and the Doctor gives me goosebumps as you can hear the controlled, utter fear in the Doctor's voice.

What's most amazing is how creepy and funny this story manages to be. That's what I think ends up making this story so brilliant: Shearman balances the two perfectly. It would be so easy for all the humor (and believe me, the humor is still around almost to the very end of the story) to undermine the horror, but it never does. You go from chuckling to shuddering from scene to scene, and the experience is fantastic. The ending is also pretty moving, and wonderfully ties back to the first TARDIS scene between the Doctor and Frobisher. If you've never heard "The Holy Terror", you have quite simply denied yourself one of the finest Doctor Who stories ever crafted.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Shadow of the Scourge

I never read much of the New Adventures books. A buddy of mine in college bought them and loaned me the Timewyrm series. I remembered liking Terrance Dicks' book in the series the best, but wasn't particularly tempted to keep reading them going forward. So, I wasn't overly familiar with Paul Cornell's work in the New Adventures prior to hearing this story. This is very much in the spirit of the New Adventures featuring the 7th Doctor, Ace, and Bernice Summerfield. This was my introduction to the character of Bernice (other than some of the previews for the Benny adventures found at the end of some of the early Big Finish releases). From hearing the Doctor Who audios that feature her as a companion, I have developed very mixed feelings towards her. While I don't think this story is nearly as good as "The Fires of Vulcan" which directly precedes it, this is still good enough to keep the unlikely streak of 7th Doctor stories I actually enjoy going.

This is a mostly fun pan-dimensional invasion story taking place in a hotel with three separate conventions going on. One of them involves a "spirit channeler" who is a fraud, but not quite a total fraud. Another has a scientist demonstrating his temporal accelerator. Finally, there is a group of cross stitch enthusiasts. These three groups are somehow the perfect combination to allow the powerful scourge to invade by taking over the bodies of some of the hotel guests. Of course, the Doctor has made some agreement with these invaders, which is a plot to ensnare them in a trap. And, unsurprisingly, the trap doesn't work and the Doctor himself begins to be take over by one of the scourge invaders. This puts the Doctor on the sideline for a good bit of the second disc, as he is locked in a battle of will which leaves Ace, Benny, and some other brave hotel guests to try to save him.

Possibly the best thing about this story is that it allows the Doctor's companions to really shine. This was my first real encounter with Benny, and she's really quite likeable and hilarious. Lisa Bowerman, who was one of the cheetah people in the final classic Who serial "Survival" is very entertaining as Benny. The scene where she infiltrates the group of spiritualists is hilarious. Benny also twice enters the Doctor's brain to aid in his struggle to avoid be take over by the scourge, which is both courageous and amusing. Ace, on the other hand, has a creative and extremely brave way of resisting the Scourge's ability to issue commands, that any human hearing them, is forced at a primal level to obey. You can't help but wince when Ace's solution is put into play. Ace then running around shouting a bit too loudly at everyone is pretty well done by Sophie Aldred. Ace is also a hoot on the first CD pretending to yell at the Doctor for "betraying" the Earth - playing along with his attempt to deceive the Scourge.

The Scourge themselves are a mixed bag. Their great power to control humans, and their feeding off of human's fear is interesting. Cornell does a good job of making it seem like the Scourge are fully in control, and that there's no way for the Doctor to overcome their plot. But, there's a downside to the Scourge: they like to talk.... a lot. There's way too much dialog between the invaders, painstakingly discussing their plans and also constantly repeating their enjoyment of "feeding on these humans fear". It gets very monotonous after a while and the smug tone with which they discuss these things, over and over again, begins to undermine their menace after a while. It also extends this story's length so that it feels a bit overly long. Finally, the resolution isn't altogether satisfying, and it's hard for me to get a grip on what the "rules" for how they overcome the Scourge really are.

Still, even with these flaws, it's generally a very entertaining yarn. Ace is about as likeable as she gets for me, and Benny is delightfully entertaining and funny in this one. This play doesn't really play to McCoy's strengths as an actor, as he is forced to overact greatly at times while trying to hold on to his sense of self when fighting the Scourge. The guest cast are all able as well, with Holly King as Annie and Lennox Greaves as Brian standing out (when they're human). Looking back this is probably my least favorite of the 7th Doctor stories so far - as well as my least favorite Cornell penned Big Finish audio, but it's still pretty fun, and fans of the New Adventures novels will probably get even more out of this than I do.

Rating: Good