As the year draws to a close, Big Finish brings another bumper UNIT epic to warm the cockles. This time, an investigation of an energy buildup takes Kate and Osgood into conflict against one of the more insidious alien threats that the earth has faced – and once it’s time for a Silent Night, will anyone involved Remember Christmas, or anything else?
Just when you thought you were spoiled with the two-hour Torchwood Archive, here comes a bursting three hours of Cardiff goodness!
As the title and nicely-done disc art hints, Torchwood: Outbreak sees Cardiff at risk from a medical threat. But this is much more than an epidemic of sniffles – first they know you, then you love, then you kill…
With no vaccine or protection against the mysterious infection, the Torchwood team have to keep themselves safe as well as find the true nature and intent of the disease. Is this from nature, or could alien factors be at work? Or could there be a deeper conspiracy at play?
Although utterly fantastic and probably the best Third Doctor outing BigFinish had made so far, they can be said to have played a little bit safe with the Third Doctor Adventures Volume 1. Tim Treloar’s performance as the third Doctor was exemplary, and yet not 100% Pertwee – I said at the time that he was playing the Doctor, not impersonating Pertwee playing the Doctor. And that fitted in perfectly with BF’s own, slightly tentative approach to this untouched territory – they openly stated that they took the (largely disliked, okay, only by me) part-drama/part-prose route for the audio plays so that they’d be more acceptable to anyone offended by the replacement of Pertwee.
However, with this second Pertwee boxset, no such shrinking violetage has occurred. Explicitly asking the question of its audiences at various conventions as to whether the part-prose interpretation worked, Big Finish has taken their feedback on board and bravely – but rightly – decided this time to go down the full-dramatisation route. Similarly, Treloar has obviously been doing his homework in the intervening months, meticulously observing and learning the various tics and nuances of the actor whose performance he is reinterpreting here. I still maintain that he is playing the third Doctor rather than impersonating the actor who played the third Doctor; but bloody hell, he doesn’t half sound like him. While listening to the first box set there were moments I forgot that this wasn’t Pertwee’s own interpretation; with this new set, there was hardly a moment when I didn’t feel that.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already 10 years since Torchwood first hit TV, perhaps due in no small part to John Barrowman’s lack of aging. Like its parent show, it has worked in several guises across different media in that time, most recently having two six-episode seasons on Big Finish. And therein lies the challenge of celebrating it – with such a diversity of format (and not a particularly high character survival rate!) how do you reflect it all?
Cue Big Finish stepping forward, of course, and the bumper 2-hour The Torchwood Archive… but is this an archive worth digging in to?
For a man with no name, the War Doctor don’t half get around a bit. Yes, John Hurt’s grumpy soldier is back, joined once again by Jaqueline Pearce’s Servalanalike Cardinal Ollistra in a new Big Finish boxset: War Doctor Vol 3: Agents of Chaos.
This three-volume set continues the story of the Time War, and opens with David Llewlyn’s rather wonderful The Shadow Vortex: Ollistra sends the Doctor to cold-war Berlin to track agent of Skaro Lara Zannis, who is hell-bent on using the nascent post-war atomic science to usher in a new world order shaped like a million Daleks. Second is Andrew Smith’s The Eternity Cage, in which the Sontarans bluff and blackmail Time Lord and Dalek alike in an effort to grab a little Time War glory for themselves. And the set closes with Ken Bentley’s Eye of Harmony which has the Dalek Time Strategist basing his next campaign on a rewatch of Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS essentially.
For a one-off gag, or at least a one-story device, as Steven Moffat originally intended the War Doctor to be for the fiftieth anniversary show, this incarnation of everyone’s favourite Time Lord has a surprising amount of depth and character. In part, of course, that is thanks to the fact that he is played by a superlative actor who lives and breathes characterisation; but it is also due to the care with which Big Finish amongst others have taken the skeleton provided by Moffat and added flesh to the bones. Despite being a soldier embroiled in war, the nameless one as interpreted by BF spends most of his time eschewing violence and yearning for a time when everyone gets on with one another regardless of race, creed or the ability to get up stairs without an ominously humming base unit. But this is no criticism: Hurt’s Doctor has every right to the name he refuses, since, just like all the others, he is a flawed guardian of morality and justice.
And the overriding narrative is strengthened further through a range of other characters of depth: Pearce’s wonderfully Machiavellian Ollistra, of course; Dalek agent Lara Zannis is played adeptly by Who royalty in the shape of Neve Macintosh; Honeysuckle Weeks’s Heleyna similarly plays a character whose true trajectory is well hidden until the appropriate moment; and Timothy Speyer’s Kruger, the Stasi officer who first captures and then aids War (as the kids have it) is a joy, with a journey that goes from traditional East-European intelligence officer stereotype through proper companion material to at last a sympathetic hero with a back story that actually justifies the choices he’s made.
It all sounds, as ever, great – the sound design, as professional as ever from Big Finish, creates totally believable environments; and a cast of fewer than fifteen delivers what feels like all of Berlin and most of the rest of the universe to boot. The writing is tight, taught and efficient, making for satisfying and unputdownable (now a word) listening. Overall, this is a joy and well worth adding to any BF collection.
There are those who thought the retro-fitting of the War Doctor into Who canon was a mistake that should never have been attempted. I was one of them. Well, I was wrong in 2013 when Steven Moffat did it, and I’m even more wrong now.
As the US Fall TV schedule starts to kick in, it’s time to see when those of us in the UK will get to see it. There’s a lot coming up, with some of the highlights below (and don’t forget The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime 18th November):
|Once Upon a Time S6||Netflix||28/9|
|Black Mirror S3||Netflix||21/10|
|Class S1||BBC 3||22/10|
|Walking Dead S7||Fox UK||24/10|
|Supergirl S2||Sky 1||24/10|
|Flash S3||Sky 1||25/10|
|Arrow S5||Sky 1||26/10|
|Legends of Tomorrow S2||Sky 1||3/11|
|Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D S4||E4||Q1|
Another episode of Red Dwarf and another abandoned space station for the boys to explorer. While this has been a limit of the shows format at least this time it’s atmospherically realized and the big bad on the station, Professor Asciepius, is also a bit more gritty than the show normally conjurers up. The counter to this is the rather retro robot they find on the station which is so over the top it jars slightly.
Ahead of the launch of Sony Interactive Entertainment’s (SIE) PlayStation VR head mounted display (HMD) UK gamers are being given the chance to try the headset for themselves. Starting with EGX in Birmingham, SIE’s “Future of Play” tour will visit six locations around the UK between now and 30th October. (more…)
Coal Hill acts like a beacon across all of space and time to any being who might want to use it for mischief….you’ll have to be on your guard.
The wait is over! Today BBC Three confirm the new YA drama, Class, written by Patrick Ness, will drop its first two episodes on BBC Three on Saturday 22 October.
Peter Capaldi will join the cast of exciting new talent in the opening episode of the series, For Tonight We Might Die. Coal Hill School holds some very dark and deadly secrets in its shadows….but who will survive? (more…)
50 years ago, the Cybermen first marched onto our screens. We ask the costume designer who gave them life about their enduring appeal…
“People often come up to me and say, ‘I think your Cybermen were the most frightening,’ says costume designer Alexandra Tynan, who gave the original Cybermen their distinctive look for 1966’s The Tenth Planet. “I looked at them yesterday, when I re-watched The Tenth Planet, and I thought, ‘I suppose they are a bit scary.’ At the time, they got a lot of press, some of it very negative. Angry parents said that we were scaring the bejesus out of their kids. Am I personally responsible, with my Cybermen, for a whole generation of disturbed people? The number of adults who have come up to me and said, ‘Your Cybermen terrified me when I was a child,’ and I have apologised a thousand times…” (more…)