Doctor Who The Lodger Revew

The premise – and I’ll tell you that rather than the plot because this close to the finale all things are spoilers – is that the Doctor sets out to become James Corden’s Craig’s lodger, due to some drift compensation worth of The Ark in Space, but he’s not the only one staying in the house, and things, as always, take a sinister turn as soon as he arrives.

Despite the fact that this was written originally for the Tenth Doctor, there is no way David Tennant’s persona could have tackled – excuse the pun – this particular incarnation of the story because, well, the Doctor is just so gormless. Matt Smith plays it entirely for laughs in this pseudo-sitcom and does a great job mugging scenes from a likeable and affable Corden, but Roberts has got the Eleventh Doctor completely wrong. A faux-Starman, or pseudo-Mork, the Doctor’s social skills have been degenerated to those of someone who doesn’t know Earth at all. He’s far savier than this, the Doctor, and not knowing about football, social etiquette or the like just comes across as fake and silly. Sticking his finger in a jam pot in Fear Her is one thing, being rude or loud or bossy is another, but this script turns the Doctor into an idiot, whether by intent or design it doesn’t matter, and, despite the humour to be had, really debases the character. Matt is great – his comic timing and relationship with Corden, for once the straight man, is well crafted – but many will feel that there is a lack of dignity in the character, depite his typical heroics.

The football scene, well, I’ve nothing against that at all. If the Fifth can play cricket, then why not football, but it does seem a bit bolted on.

This episode, again, isn’t about the monster, it’s about the people and the ending.

James Corden and Daisy Haggard are engaging and believable as the every-day not-quite couple, but it’s a cliched sitcom device which, despite being done well here, isn’t really Doctor Who. There’s some humour to be had at the Doctor’s fish-out-of-water experience, but I really don’t think the same man who ingratiated himself into the Tylers, or spent three years with UNIT or even sent his granddaughter to Coal Hill School would be such a flounderer. It’s quite awfully misjudged.

Directorily, Catherine Morshead echoes the domesticity of Amy’s Choice but with a much more point-and-shoot approach more noticeable in her other TV work like Heartbeat and The Bill.

This episode may divide fandom – some nice continuity and some very decent revelations may placate many – but it tries the same experiment as Vincent and the Doctor and shows, perhaps unkindly, that Roberts just doesn’t have the writing chops of Curtis. My least favourite episode of the season, I’m afraid.

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Doctor Who The Companion Chronicles: Shadow of the past

But it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Was it bad? Hell no, its a great little tale with a nice ending and it really captures the feel of an early 3rd Doctor story. But after listening to the trailer I’d thought it was going to be a dark tale of something sinister in a UNIT vault and that’s not this story. So it was a slight swerve ball that disorientated me a little. Maybe it was me or maybe the trailer could have been cut differently. So what is the tale then? Well the vault does play a role; its the final home for a crashed alien ship but the tale itself is about what happens when UNIT originally found the ship when it crash lands on earth. Its very much a typical 3rd Doctor story, even when told in flashback you get the sense of boys own adventure that Jon Pertwee brought to the role. Its quite a brutal tale; we’ve got alien invaders up to no good and a Doctor who’s judgment may have been fatally compromised by the lure of getting out of exile.

Lex Shrapnel is the squaddie taking care of the remains of the ship and Liz has been called in to check that they remain safe. She recounts, to Lex, the tale of what happened. Partly to give him a sense of what he’s guarding but partly as a means of dealing with the survivor guilt Liz seems to have over what happened. A lot of people died stopping this invasion and Liz’s return to the vault triggers memories she’s buried for years. This gives the story a very interesting edge and both the actors work well with each other and ensure that its a well paced and dramatic story.

The music and effect work help to make the vault a claustrophobic place and lend a sense of urgency and danger to the action scenes. The story is clever and has a satisfying conclusion; its a suitable return to the Dr Who fold for Caroline John; I hope she gets to do more of these.


Available now at Big Finish

Doctor Who The Companion Chronicles: Solitaire

But how can you win when you don’t know the rules?

This isn’t your normal Companion Chronicle. The range started as a way to explore past tales with the companion giving their spin on events. But the range has been going for a while; its grown in experience and confidence and now its playing with the format. This Chronicle dumps the normal format and instead goes for a 2 person play. And it works perfectly. The doctor, while part of the story in a fashion, is sidelined from the start. Trapped as a ventriloquist’s dummy his role in the tale is minimal. Instead rather than narrate how the Doctor saved the day we instead see Charlie battle against the villain of the piece – The powerful and scheming Toymaker.

David Bailie is perfectly cast as the Toymaker. He was good in the previous Missing Adventure but hampered by that limited material. Here the script s far better. Its a more tighter and better thought out story and the setting, entirely within the shop, allows for a claustrophobic encounter between the two.

There is no need for actors to mimic the voices of others ( the normal weakness of the format). On the rare occasion the Doctor is heard it is through Charlies voice anyways as she operates the doll. Instead both actors tear into the material with gusto.

India Fisher more than holds her own against Bailie. Both are clearly having fun and both throw themselves into the story. Never once hamming it up or diminishing the material by playing it as anything other than deadly serious. The danger off the situation is felt throughout; even as the story twists and turns and roles are questioned.

Its a satisfying ending as well. Obvious in hindsight but it caught me unaware. Its been another strong month for Big Finish. They keep raising the bar but they also just keep jumping higher.


Available now from Big Finish

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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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