Doctor Who Klein’s Story/Survival of the Fittest- Review

Whilst not adding anything particularly important that we didn’t know to the mixture, the play helps iron out the character of Klein and by the end of this first story leaves the listener actually feeling pity for her and perhaps resentment to the Doctor.

10/10

Survival of the Fittest

It is quite amusing that prior to listening to this audio I had just seen the film Avatar. As a result I noticed many simularities here, although this is to the benefit of the play. The Doctor and Klein land on a mysterious alien planet populated by an insect race known as the Vrill who are in the midst of a crisis. Someone/thing has damaged the nest and has caused their Bee like society to break down. It is later revealed to be the actions of a group of colonists who have the planet set upon themselves. However, all is not what it seems.
One of the most interesting aspects of this whole play lies in the nature of the Vrill. The species communication by smell was an interesting feature, which has actually worked surprisingly on audio as it acts as a means of allowing vast amounts of description without appearing intrusive. Infact it often adds to the atmosphere. The Vrills voices are also quite unique and really capture their insect like nature well.
If I was to have one criticism of the play it would be that at times it can appear somewhat slow at times, which grows fustrating when theres major events elsewhere. However this is more than made up for by the brilliant cliffhanger at the end of the play which left this listener wondering what on earth will happen now. Next month cannot arrive soon enough!

8/10

The Three Companions – Episode 12

And so this charming adventure comes to an end. I must admit I found it a rather unsatisfactory ending with the Coffin Loaders defeat being overly simplistic. That said for those looking for an action packed ending with lots of fighting this will be bang up your ally. Once again the whole cast put in an excellent performance which truly merits the spirit of the play. It’s almost sad that the three wonderful actors will no longer be a part of the monthly range.
On a whole the Three Companions has been an interesting experiment, stretched out over a period of 12 months. Whilst I admit I have enjoyed each and every chapter I do feel as a whole this play would have worked best as a single release. Perhaps in the future for members of the Big Finish subscription service, Big Finish might offer this as a single download allowing one to listen to the play in one go without the need to switch between 12 disks. I do feel a listen from start to finish really does merit this play and helps the listener remember just how exciting and packed this play has been. If Big Finish choose to do another experiment like this I’d be more than pleased. I also hope to hear more from Marc Platt as this has shown just how truly wonderful a writer he is and I look forward to his next shot.

9/10

Doctor Who Cobwebs Review

Despite pending limitations of this set up it is clear the cast are enjoying this reunion. As others have stated it feels as if the cast never separated, there is clear comradeship between them, particularly between Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding. Mark Strickson also puts in a brilliant effort but it does feel he’s wanting a bit more to do due to this particular story’s limitations placed on his character. That said he sounds brilliant in audio and is a much welcomed return.

So what about the story? Sadly whilst the reunion of our trio is the selling point of this play, the story really isn’t all that special. Yes, as mentioned before, it is based in Nyssa’s future but bar that there really isn’t anything we’ve heard before. Nyssa is trying to stop an epidemic on a universal scale, the Doctor tries to solve a murder mystery from the past which seems to be linked to his possible future, and Turlough and Tegan fight some evil mad man who is trying to stop anyone getting in his way. All this is being over looked by Edgar, the research facility’s computer who frankly sounds more depressed than Marvin from Hitchhiker’s. The plot does have a few twists along the way but frankly the big reveal at the end is pretty much predictable, not to mention seems to be a direct close of the ending of Dalek War.

Whilst the story then fails to truly impress the listener, the acting somehow manages to add a bit more spirit to the overall production with some memorable performances from Raymond Coulthard as the ships creepy computer, to the dangerous Enforcement Officer Bragg played by Adrian Lukis, whose final scene in this play will send shivers down your spine as the nature of this trilogy is revealed.

All in all Cobwebs isn’t a bad play, it just feels to be a mediocre story for the event it’s trying to serve. That said this is part of a trilogy and thus had a lot of character development and scene setting to deal with so perhaps it can be excused come later releases. A good buy for anyone who’s a fan of the old Tardis crew but if you’re wanting something really different look elsewhere. A tried and tested story formula but nothing really new.

5/10

Doctor Who and The Ice Warriors Audiobook Review

But the star of the show is easily the narrator, Frazer Hines. Hines has an odd, staccato reading style which takes a second to tune into, but when you do he’ll sweep you away with a matter-of-fact and clear reading. Add to that his clear enthusiasm for the story and the era and an absolutely astounding impression ofthe Second Doctor – at times it sounds like the actual soundtrack featuring Patrick Troughton – and this audio offering is heartily recommended. If there is any fall back it’s the sheer length of the reading, but it is well worth the effort needed to listen to it, and an awarding venture.

Doctor Who – The Lost Stories: Leviathan

Colin Baker and Nichola Bryant are on top form and they are given some great material to work with here. This the first time the lost stories give a hint at the direction that Colins Doctor was going to take. He started cruel and unlovable and they had a multi year plan to win the audience around with a gradual thawing. Here we still have the doctor being a bit caustic but he’s much more sympathetic and has some cracking heroic moments. He could give David Tennant a run for his money in the sword fighting stakes.

Its a story with a lot of twists and gear shifts. You think you’ve quickly got it pegged as a historical but the out of place killer robot quickly upsets the apple cart. And by the end the apples have been pretty much launched into orbit as the tale spins through some pretty massive reveals. Its also a story that would have really strained the TV show; it would have demanded a massive budget to handle the on location work and sets. The story also gives itself re watch value; a bit like films such as Fight Club or 6th sense that watch very differently once you know the final twist. Perhaps you’ll see the main twist coming but I know it took me by surprise.

Its quite a challenging story for 80’s who. While Who challenged ethical behavior and made people question things this had been sidelined in the mid 80’s. This story looks at what a life is worth and who has the right to decide who lives and dies; brave stuff for what would be Saturday evening TV.

Its a big cast list and this can often lead to a confusing mess with so many voices demanding time. Not so here; all the cast work well together and while some are bigger parts than others it gels well. Sadly none get enough time to make a distinct impression but their many parts combine to make a bigger whole.

The music is good, a lot better than the first two lost stories that had an 80’s synth feel. This music fits into the story far better. The sound work is good as well and its put through its paces in this story which requires a wide range of different effects.

I’m hoping this is a sign of things to come. While the first couple of stories were good they felt that they needed to be tightened up and maybe needed another rewrite. This tale feels far more polished. If the rest of the series is like Leviathan then we’re in for a treat.

4.5/5

Available now at Big Finish

Doctor Who Companion Chronicles: The Suffering

Set in England in the year 1912 there are a lot of big events going on: The Suffragette movement is in full swing and there are some big discoveries as someone has just dug up the ‘missing link’. But you could be forgiven for thinking this story was set elsewhere, at least at first. Take one doctor, add a companion and a quarry. Mix in a bit of dead alien and female companion possession and what do you have? Well why it may sound like the hand of fear, and to be fair its exactly the same starting point, its a very different story.

This time the alien is definitely female and she has an ax to grind with all men. This fits in nicely into the Suffragette historical backstory and without revealing to much the alien story and the human one offer some nice parallels. The twist at the end is also a nice touch and the climax isn’t a cop out and is ver satisfying.

Itss a fun narrative with both companions taking turns telling the tale ( with the other helping out with voice duties). Both are easy to listen to and the soundwork eases us into that bygone age. The backwards and forward swapping are required as both companions are dragged in and out of the story. Either by physically or mentally absent from events ( Vicki gets possessed and acts as the host for the alien). The 1st Doctor is well served by both actors; they don’t try to get the voice but instead focus on the mannerisms which they nail perfectly.

This is quite a dark tale and some of it some people may find quite disturbing. Its far darker than most other releases and it touches on some really dark stuff that could be troubling for some. On the plus side it handles sexism ( even if only due to the time it was set) far better than Mission to Magus did. There isn’t anything cringeworthy here and its also interesting to get the insight of the characters from the future on the backwards attitudes.

Oh and the dead body on the bus was possibly slightly out of tone but it was some welcome comedy that helped the story from becoming to grime.

Its well worth a listen; its one of the best companion chronicles so far.

8/10

Available now from Big Finish

Death in Blackpool

And Death in Blackpool, the Christmas Special that opens (but also appears long before the rest of) the fourth series of the Eighth Doctor’s adventures, is every bit the iconic McGann story. Dramatic, funny, pacy, exciting… and a little bit flawed.

First of all, the stuff that works: it’s a cracking yarn, to begin with, ostensibly about a rogue Zygon trying to take over Lucie Miller’s body. In fact, it’s deeper than that, with the Zynog (yes, Zynog) storyline, on the surface the whole point of the piece, turning out to be little more than subtext to a greater love story. Lucie’s love for the Doctor and his for her, Pat’s love for Lucie, Hagoth’s love for Pat. If it were not so well written, it might very well be nauseating.

All the performances are good, with Helen Lederer as Pat a bit of a tour de force. Paul McGann, as ever, very cleverly underplays the Doctor, maintaining his charm throughout periods of petulance and selfishness. But it’s Sheridan Smith as Lucie who stars in this piece – more later.

There are also a swathe of smashing gags, including the best use of James Blunt in a humorous context this side of rhyming slang.

On to the stuff that didn’t work so well. Father Christmas, to my mind, needn’t be there. His role in the narrative is little more than exposition getting other characters from A to B: “Doctor! Pat! Lucie’s been XXXX by a YYYY! Come quick!” That sort of thing. If the character were not there, the Doc and Pat could have easily heard of XXXX and gone to YYYY in other ways. Father Christmas also has a little bit of a “is he/isn’t he” sub plot going on that is, frankly, pointless. If you think about it, there’s really only one satisfying answer to the “is he/isn’t he” question when it comes to Father Christmas, and Death in Blackpool plumps – probably rightly – for the other one.

In some places, also, it descends a little too far into silliness. Zynog! I ask you! What race in the galaxy would swap two letters of its own five-letter name, to create a new name for a new species that gets spawned from it? Okay, the Kaleds. I give you that. But Zynog just sounds silly, that’s my point.

Lastly, and more importantly, there is a question around Lucie that I need to spoiler-tag (select and roll over to see). This is Lucie’s final story, and when the Tardis leaves she’s abandoned in 2008, several months if not a year before her earlier self actually went for the job in London that originally found her allied with the Doctor. Apart from the scene in which she realises this, and narrowly avoids meeting her younger self, this is hardly touched upon. I’m left asking, what is she going to do for the next year, effectively with someone else’s identity? I don’t really mind what the answer is, but the lack of an answer leaves me dangling a bit.

Don’t get me wrong, Death in Blackpool is very, very good. A fitting end to the Auntie Pat trilogy, and a fantastic farewell to Lucie, with one of the most heart-rending final speeches from Ms Miller/Ms Smith that I’ve ever heard on Who. Forget Rose and her toy-boy, weep not for tragic Donna: this is the separation that hurts most. Because Lucie has to leave, and it’s down to the Doctor’s failings. A bittersweet love story.

Overall, Death in Blackpool is absolutely stonking. Well written by Alan Barnes, well acted throughout, and a joy to listen to. I listened to it twice – I never do that. Ever. And both times, I loved it. That must say something good.

 

Dead Air Audiobook Reviewed

This is nice to hear. I’ve missed ol’ Tenny, but again, like Last Voyage, it seems a bit like squeezing the very last drop out of a fabulously enthusiastic David Tennant.

Not a bad think, the Tennant-philes cry, and you’d be right. David is great in this – although I think the production deliberately go out of their way to give him regional accents to get his tongue around – and it’s nice, and quite unusual to hear the Tenth Doctor speak, it seems, directly to us. David also does a very good Dylan off of The Magic Roundabout. Or is that Bill Nighy being channelled?

Shorter than the usual releases, this is a compact, neat and fun story which does nothing wrong. A clever conceit, too, having an audio adventure about an audio monster. Hmm.

Dalek Origins

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writer: David Whitaker (from the notes of Terry Nation, allegedly). art: Richard Jennings

According to the first of these ‘Dalek Chronicles’, untold ages ago on a planet called Skaro the peaceful and deeply boring Thals, inhabitants of the continent of Davius, were caught up in a war with their hideous, squat, blue skinned neighbours the Daleks of Dalazar. How long this war went on for we have no way of telling, but as the chronicles open the Daleks are all set to finish it: by dropping a neutron bomb on the Thals! Their pacifistic leader, Drenz (who can’t have been much of a leader if his people were already at war without his permission)opposes this move, but is murdered for his trouble by War Minister Zolfian, who goes on to order chief scientist Yarvelling to create a powerful robotic war machine (presumably in case the neutrron bomb is a dud). Unfortunately, a fortnight later the Daleks’ plans hit a slight snag: a meteor storm devastated Dalazar, setting off the neutron bombs! Seemingly the only survivors, Zolfian and Yarvelling emerged from their shelter to find their home a devastated wasteland…but not an uninhabited one!

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Yarvelling’s war machine is alive, and not alone! The creatures, mutations which are now ‘all brain’, have sprung up in an incredibly short time and one has taken refuge inside the war machine. Unable to build more, since they unfortunately lack any means of using tools, the remaining mutants were pretty much stuffed until the arrival of Zolfian and the scientist. Dying of radiation poisoning, the last two survivors of the original Dalek race are pressed into service to build more Dalek war machines for the brainy blobs. As Yarvelling and Zolfian die, a new race is born-and the original Dalek mutant proclaims itself Emperor and orders a special casing suitable for his exalted position (the ponce).

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to be continued

Cyberman 2 Reviewed

So what have the Cybermen been up to? Well if the first series was the west wing we’ve definitely now moved into V. Instead of smiling visitors ( with hidden lizard faces) we have the special commando units. To the humans they are just augmented humans but to the small band of resistance fighters they are Cybermen. The story arc mimics V to a certain extent with the story told through the eyes of Hazel Trahn( played by Jo Castleton) an everyday cab driver. She initally believes the Vid reports and trusts that the special commandos are a force for good. Through bad timing she ends up on the run and ends up in the resistance where she makes some shocking discoveries about both the Cybermen and the fate of her missing family.

Cyberman gets to go where Dr Who just can’t. Sure in alternative worlds we can have the cyberman make a grab for power; or in our world they can briefly show up in force. But you couldn’t have them mass converting thousands off people like this; running the show from start to finish and making a major impact on the earth. From the start until the shock ending the Cyberman are calling the shots; perhaps still not overtly public but they control Earth. Perhaps surprisingly there is little focus on conversion, its happening but its mainly in the background.

Like the first series we’ve got a mix of Cybermen with the Invasion style Planner; the Cybermen ( now using the easier to hear Tenth Planet voices) and also hybrids ( like Tobas Vaugn). Nic Briggs does excellent work on the Cybervoices and they are come across as the ruthless emotionless monsters of pure logic that they were back in the 60’s. The hybrid Cybermen are also very good. Paul Hunt survives from the first series and his cyber conditioning is starting to break down. He keeps you guessing which way he’ll go as his emotions start to come back and his ending is quite tragic.

One of my few complaints about the series does however come with the cybervoices. They are very effective and all the cybermen sound the same. Except for occasions when known people get converted; then they have their voices modulated. But they stand out like a sore thumb. I can see why its done but it just jars and doesn’t work. It would be far more sinister if it were still Nic doing the voices.

The music and effects are good. The stompin of the cybermen never gets old for me. The theme music from series 1 is still there but sadly they voice saying “Cyberman” is gone.

Laim Barnaby( Mark McDonnell) and the android Samathan Thorn ( Hannah Smith ) also return; they had an excellent pair up last time and work well together again though they don’t get to much screen time together. How they get back to Earth from Telos is a gripping adventure that gives a nice counterbalance to the intense activities happening on earth.

While the story is excellent its building upon the first series rather than striking completely new ground. The new character of Hazel is good but some of the other characters feel a bit shoehorned. Ian Brooker’s character Yan often seems to just be a means of giving us an info dump or moving the plot along. Sadly this is combined with an annoying accent. The rest of the resistance are also two dimensional; which doesn’t hamper the story but is dip compared to other areas.

The ending was a real surprise. At first it seemed forced but after thinking about it it makes sense from a logical point of view. The epilogue is a pretty brutal book end but its also vague enough to leave options open for a third series. I did feel the epilogue undermined the reputation the cybermen had been given over the course of the first two series. At times they are unstopable killing machines but this seemed to negate that.

Its a big sweeping story and if you enjoyed the first series its well worth a look. It builds upon the back story of cyberman series 1 so its vital you listen to that first.
7/10

Creature from the pit review

The rest of the cast are awful charicatures, including a very stern K9, an out of sorts Lalla Ward (who at least admits it in the commentary) mug their way through four episodes of increasingly decent story which is let down terribly by awful production. The direction from Christopher Barry is uncharacteristically flat, actors hide behind plant pots to conceal themselves and a subplot concerning a group of hairy biker-alikes sounding like faux Fagans is a great idea badly executed. Costumes are mostly terrible dodgy bondage things, with masks, and the Huntsman with his whip, hands on hips and man boobs really is funny.

Myra Frances is gorgeous though, and demented as Adastra, and Bayldon plays “mental old man” very well, and Tom is clearly loving bouncing off them. When things go underground, good lighting is ruined by Matt Irvine’s embarrassing Erato – the titular Creature – which his own team describe as The Dick in the Pit – but this doesn’t make it a bad thing. Tom Baker has a ball with the phallic shaped monster and it really is achingly funny watching him and Bayldon tear the script to pieces.

And a decent script it is too. As expected from David Fisher this is a multi-layered and imaginative story with plenty going on. It’s just a pity not everyone was on the same page.

If you’re looking for dark, scary, meaningful Who, you won’t find it here. This is definitely on the Nimon-scale of slap stick. But if you like a laugh, and love Tom when he goes off on one, this will make you giggle.

Commentary for this is supplied by Myra Frances, Lalla Ward and Matt Irvine, one of whom is having a ball, one of whom is hoity but honest and one of whom tries to get out of taking the blame. I’ll let you guess who’s who. It’s quite a flat commentary though, surprisingly, and could have done with Tom stomping all over it, or perhaps an ajudicator.

The Extras too are a mixed bag. A fifteen minute biog and interview with Christopher Barry on the set of The Daemons is a bit slow and introspective, and has little to do with the story, but, well, it’s Christopher Barry, so respect. Team Erato talks to the culprits for the dick in the pit, with everyone blaming everyone else, saying how hard it was (yik) and how they never had enough money. What comes out from it is that the story was bigger than the budget, which, I suppose is nothing new. It just depends whether you give up the ghost or not. Finally there’s a funny little scene from set with Tom as the Doctor talking directly to the audience from Animal Magic, randomly. And very randomly, as is usual for Tom. It’s another thing, like his lucky number, which will make you laugh.

This is typical Season 17 fare. If you know what to expect, and are in the right frame of mind, you’ll enjoy the ride and laugh along. If it’s not for you, nothing in the world will make you enjoy it.

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