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.

Cold Blood Reviewed

After leaving Amy about to be dissected and the Doctor and Nasreen confronted by a Silurian City, Cold Blood ramps up the pressure on the Doctor with that same age old problem both the Third and Fifth have tackled with. Can Silurians and Humans share the Earth? And can the Doctor broker the deal? In the meantime Alaya’s sister, Restac, head of the military, has other ideas, and plans to wipe out the “apes” as vermin, and reclaim Earth for the Homo Reptilia. But, like all good Silurian stories, the heirarchy are in two minds, and want peace. But will the humans or the Silurians cause a war?

As an anti-Waters of Mars story when Time can be changed, this works wonderfully, and allows the narrative the conceit that perhaps, by the end, things will be different from the future we know. The Doctor seems to think so, and engages fabulously with Silurian leader Eldane and scientist Malohkek to try and create that new future.

What’s so great about this story is that it is the absolute distillation of everything both the Doctor and the series are about. Never judge a book by its cover, protect the underdog and always look for peace are the driving forces in the very bones of everything Doctor Who is, and this story taps into them, with surprise motives, villains and situations. No one is evil in this story, there’s no machiavellian motive for world domination and everyone has deep, real and definite motives for their actions. My critique of The Hungry Earth is now mostly negated, because as a prelude to this it works very well.

The cast from episode one are joined now by Richard Hope and Stephen Moore who create realistic, honest and earnest Silurians modelled on ones we’ve seen in the past and Neve McIntosh is fantastic in her duel role as the warmongering Alaya and Restac. And we get lots and lots and lots of Silurians this time! There’s even a nod to the old Sea Devil guns.

The human side don’t let us down either with textured and layered performances by all the guest stars with some surprising decisions by at least three of them too.

Ashley Way again directs an episode packed with action and suspense. A straightforward director, it works well in this instance. What will really impress you though is the set design and the Mill’s execution of the CGI aspects. The Silurian City is probably the most beautiful set ever seen in the series, from its root-roofed corridors to its Star Trekian main chamber it is realistically beautiful and grand and just this side of “alien”.

A lot was made of the lack of similarities in the make up for the new Silurians, and I still say they could have had another eye, but the acting really shines through in this new strain, and their motives and attitudes are absolutely Silurian, meaning that, despite the change in appearance, these creatures are totally recognisable as the Silurian Race of the past. It was jarring, but now can be seen as the gorgeous make up job it is.

The main cast again are superb, with Amy being independent and capable – up to a point – and Rory being brave but ultimately not as resourceful.

Matt, and I keep saying this, is so the Doctor it hurts. His desperation for the peace to be brokered is tangible and echoes Jon Pertwee perfectly. His delight at the apparent beginning of the “talks” is infectious. His problem solving again comes into the fore as, again, it’s all about how the Doctor saving the day. I worried about this at the start of the season, but it seems since Amy was almost lost to the Angels she’s not as cocky as before.

The last seven minutes of the story are given up to the series arc, when the Doctor pulls something jaw droppingly surprising out of the Crooked Smile, and the final scenes with the Doctor and his companions in the TARDIS are heartbreaking. That’s all I’m saying about that.

Cold Blood
apes a lot of old episodes just like The Hungry Earth did. There’s echoes of Draconia, and celery, and of course Doctor Who and the Silurians, but, cleverly, not Warriors of the Deep, which in Earth Reptile timelines hasn’t happened yet, and the Doctor explains the Silurians with reference to the previous adventure. There’s also an echo of Remembrance of the Daleks, or maybe that’s just me. It’s a theme now that with the advent of Earth Reptiles the worst of humanity appears in the best of it. And these motives are layered, and clever and poignant.

This episode is as good as anything the series has produced so far, and resonates the emotional content missing from a lot of it, but so part of the RTD era. It is fantastic.

Squeaky bum time, in fact.

Doctor-Who-The-Hungry-Ear-006

City of Spires review

While Big Finish has had an excellent run there has been a lot of familiar echos in the last couple of months. The Suffering had a plot very similar to The Hand of Fear. The missing adventure Point of Entry was very similar in overall plot to the Shakespeare Code. And now we have the 6th Doctor teaming up with a companion normally associated with a different incarnation. Thankfully this has a nice spin on it that keeps it fresh. Teaming Colin Baker up with India Fisher was not only inspired it was highly entertaining; and Frazer Hines looks set to continue this tradition. They may have only shared a single TV episode but they get a good rapor going very early in this story. Oddly Frazers Jamie feels a little rusty here; something that’s not been present in the companion chronicles. Mind you this isn’t the same Jamie, he’s older and wiser; and totally unaware of his previous time in the Tardis.

It’s an entertaining story that’s very well paced for the most part. The ending has a lot of strands pulling together and the cliff hanger feels a bit of a let down. Yes it’s good that we’ve got more adventures from this pair but it ends on a whimper despite all the intriguing plot threads hanging lose.

It’s a good cast in this story. Georgia Moffet has a role as a feisty and independent woman named Alice who helps out the Doctor while James Albrecht puts in a fine performance as the despicable Major Heyward. The John Banks Red Cap is quite fun as well.

The Overlord villian is nicely hidden for the most part and the final reveal gives us something thats not been done before but is in the tradition of monsters like Sli. The Overlord also has some nice ghastly moments; there is a definate yuk factor to it that helps make it stand out.

With the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and given that the episode features the misuse of oil and the abuse of nature its accidently a very topical episode, despite its historic setting.

It’s a solid if not jaw dropping start to what looks like it could develop into an epic series. Jamie and the 6th Doctor; this could be the start of a beautiful friendship…

3.5/5

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