In the post-story bonus features for Last of the Colophon, writer Jonathan Morris says he wanted to script a story that followed in the Hichcliffe-tra...moreIn the post-story bonus features for Last of the Colophon, writer Jonathan Morris says he wanted to script a story that followed in the Hichcliffe-tradition of paying homage to old horror films. In this case, Morris says he realized that the series had never done a Doctor Who take on The Invisible Man and so he decided to give it a try here.
In the world of audio, creating an invisible character is a lot easier than realizing one on our television screens. We're only limited by the budget of our imaginations, but it does mean that we have to get a lot of characters standing around and describing actions occurring.
It's not helped that this one feels not only derivative of the Invisible Man but also of a lot of other Hinchliffe/Holmes era stories. It's got the Doctor trying to take a holiday, the last survivor of an alien race with a different agenda than he or she originally lets on, a madmen trying to escape and get free to rule the galaxy and a series of puzzles to be solved to keep the villain of the piece at bay.
It's not necessarily a bad story as much as it's the feeling of "been there, done that."
The story also includes Gareth Roberts of Blake's Seven fame in the role of the main villain. Again, this is one of those things that were it not for the packaging and special features, I'd hardly have been aware of. I suppose this is good or bad, depending on your point of view.
Sadly, this ends up being the most disappointing of the current run of fourth Doctor and Leela stories I've listened to, so far. Here's hoping they improve things with the next couple of entries.(less)
In the post-"Deadly Assassin" world, most stories featuring the Master attempted to hide him in plain sight until at least the first cliffhanger.
That'...moreIn the post-"Deadly Assassin" world, most stories featuring the Master attempted to hide him in plain sight until at least the first cliffhanger.
That's not the case with "The Evil One" where the marketing material and packaging advertises that Geoffrey Beavers will be resuming the mantle of the Doctor's old foe. Wisely writer Nicholas Briggs turns into this skid and puts the Master center stage well into the first installment of this story and doesn't necessarily try to hide his presence from the audience.
It helps that the scheme the Master has launched this time is an intriguing one, involving manipulating Leela into wanting to kill the Doctor. Manipulating her mind through her dreams and memories, the Master plants seeds of doubt about the true nature of the Doctor and Leela's friendship and relationship, going all the way back to her first appearance in "The Face of Evil."
Don't be surprised if you, like me, want to dust off your DVD of that story and give it another look after listening to this one.
Putting a burden of guilt on Leela over the death of her father and making her question her role and the Doctor's in those events is nicely done and continues an interesting thread that's been developing over the course of this run of fourth Doctor stories. It also gives Louise Jamison some strong material to work with as Leela --and she delivers in spades. As the supplemental features point out, these stories allow the writers to give Leela a bit more character development that was allowed on our TV screens at the time. And it all works well. (less)
Before I started listening Everything Is Perfect When You're a Liar, I had no idea who Kelly Oxford was. I was drawn into the (audio) book by the titl...moreBefore I started listening Everything Is Perfect When You're a Liar, I had no idea who Kelly Oxford was. I was drawn into the (audio) book by the title and that I like to listen to memoirs while working out (in this case swimming laps) since if I get distracted for a moment, I won't necessarily miss a crucial detail that plays a huge role in the resolution of the story.
After spending several hours with Kelly, I have to say that it's highly unlikely we'd be friends. Or that I'd even be one of the millions of people that follow her on Twitter. Maybe she's funny, witty or zany over there, but in this collection of essays, I found her smug and with an over-inflated opinion of herself and her own importance.
It's one thing to help create a mental picture of someone by comparing them to an 80's celebrity icon. It's another for EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the book to get this treatment, ensuring that it goes from being clever to being annoying somewhere around the third or fourth portion of the audio book. It also doesn't help that essay after essay brags on a)her looks (usually done by other people) b)her cleverness (again done others) or c)both.
And for all the time I spent with this memoir (because for some reason I felt like at some point it HAD to get better), I never quite got how or why she chose this as the title for her book or if there's be an essay in there that tied everything together. In fact, it finally occurred to me in fifth or sixth segment that Oxford's books felt more like a collection of blog posts than an actual book of essays with a theme or at least a thread running through it.
And I was fully prepared to give the book a single star until I got to the chapter in which Oxford talks about her going back to school and her internships working with brain-damaged and elderly patients. This chapter helps humanize Oxford and make actually begin to like her. Her reactions, observations and reported interactions actually began to make me see there was more to her than the girl who blew all her money so she could get a free plane ride home from a local charity. (If there's one thing that really started to stick in my craw as the book went along, it's how Oxford's self-absorption never seems to have any consequences for her....or at least any she tells us about).
For that chapter alone, the book rose one star to two.
Other that that, not much to recommend here. (less)
Given that The Crooked Man is from the pen of John Dorney, it shouldn't be a surprise that I enjoyed it as much as I did. And that's despite having an...moreGiven that The Crooked Man is from the pen of John Dorney, it shouldn't be a surprise that I enjoyed it as much as I did. And that's despite having an reveal in the last five or so minutes that I guessed long before the Doctor and company deduced it (or at least that they confirmed it in the course of the story).
The Doctor and Leela arrive in a sea-side town for a holiday but discover that a macabre series of murders is taking place. Investigating further, they soon discover there's a link between these murders and a local family -- the sinister and creepy Crooked Man of the title.
The idea of world of fiction having the ability to crossover into reality is nothing new for Doctor Who (see the Troughton era serial "The Mind Robber") so it's a huge credit to Dorney's script that it manages to feel interesting when done here. And while there's a twist in the last five or so minutes of the script that's telegraphed fairly early on by the story, it's still one that is entirely earned by the story.
This one is filled with witty one-liners for Leela and some well excecute dialogue by the rest of the cast. It's interesting to see a thread developing over this run of stories for the fourth Doctor and Leela and it will intrigue me to see if and how the audios can or will pay it off. (less)
After the success of "The Elite," I found myself eager to dive into the next lost adventure from the fifth Doctor era.
Unfortunately, "Hexagora" isn't...moreAfter the success of "The Elite," I found myself eager to dive into the next lost adventure from the fifth Doctor era.
Unfortunately, "Hexagora" isn't quite up to the high standards the first story set.
The Doctor takes Tegan home to visit some friends, only to find out that one of her good friends (and former boyfriend) has apparently been kidnapped by aliens. Using the TARDIS, the trio of the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa follow the trail to an alien world that is getting ready for an Ice Age and that seems to have human beings at various levels of technological development.
It seems what's going on here is that an alien race is kidnapping humans from Earth at various points in history and bringing them to this world to...well, to reveal too much more would ruin some of the reveals of the later episodes of this one.
Along the way, the Doctor encounters the queen of the planet to whom he quickly becomes engaged (she needs him for his scientific knowledge). This doesn't set well with a couple of her other husbands though no one will tell us exactly why they're so upset about this. Tegan and Nyssa land get into your standard companion trouble and there's a lot of chasing around audio corridors, especially during the middle two episodes when it feels like no much is happening.
At four episodes, "Hexagora" feels a bit too padded. The fact that the the cliffhanger to the first and third installments is pretty much the same doesn't help matters.
The story boasts a performance by Jaqueline Pearce feels like it should be better than this one. Pearce does her best and delivers a solid performance (as do the TARDIS crew) but it feels a bit wasted on a script that isn't really delivering.
The first of several "lost" stories from the twentieth anniversary season of Doctor Who, "The Elite" is a story that it's easy to imagine fitting into...moreThe first of several "lost" stories from the twentieth anniversary season of Doctor Who, "The Elite" is a story that it's easy to imagine fitting into the Peter Davison era.
Writer John Dorney takes a premise pitch from writer Barbara Clegg and expands it into something rather interesting and entertaining. The TARDIS materializes in a domed city where the young people are engaged in constant war games for the pleasure of their ruling class known as the Elite. At the center of why this is happening is a nice little in-story twist that, quite frankly, worked better than it had any right to do so (even if looking back, it should have been a bit more obvious from the cover illustration).
Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton all easily step back into their roles as the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa and the story (shockingly) gives each character enough to do to keep the interest up and not feel like one companion is relegated to a sideline story that may or may not have an impact on the final resolution of the story. As I said before, this one could easily slot into season twenty without feeling greatly out of place, though I doubt the effects budget of the time could necessarily render it quite as well as the theater of my imagination does. It's a perfect example of what Big Finish can do extremely well -- create stories that evoke my nostalgia for a particular era of the show all while using the magic of audio to create a theater that the television screen couldn't or wouldn't necessarily be able to do.
And then there's the music that scores the story. The best soundtracks are those you notice for all the right reasons (say for example, most of the work of John Williams). And this score is one of those.
One of the more entertaining, compelling Big Finish stories I'v listened to in a while and it really gave me a lot of hope that the lost fifth Doctor stories could be something really special.(less)
For the first fifty or so minutes, Council of War is an entertaining, compelling story. Then suddenly, the entire story hinges on what can only be cal...moreFor the first fifty or so minutes, Council of War is an entertaining, compelling story. Then suddenly, the entire story hinges on what can only be called a deus ex Doctor and the entire thing collapses under its own weight.
Benton is sent by the Doctor and the Brigadier to a town of Kettering to investigate ghost sightings and disappearances by members of the town council. Posing as just-appointed councilmember, Benton attends the council Christmas party, meeting Margery Philips, self-proclaimed feminist and recently elected fellow councilmember.
An alien ship appears above the town and before you know it, Benton and Margery are swept up to an alien world, where Margery is on trial for (as of yet) unexplained crimes. It appears that Margery's career in politics was a successful one, leading to her writing a book heralding the value of peace and non-violence. The alien race in question stumbled across said book, adopted it as the cornerstone of their society and had a decade or so of peaceful existence. And then an alien race with weapons showed up and demanded their subservience. The original aliens blame Margery for this and have put her on trial for the alleged crimes against their species.
Margery and Benton (each takes turn narrating the story and, for the most part, it works) argue that whether or not she's to blame is irrelevant and that the alien race needs to stand up for themselves. However, the only weapons they have are show pieces in a museum and Benton's walther-PPK. Benton hatches a plan to use the museum pieces to distract the aliens while he uses a device the Doctor whipped up to stow away on board the alien craft and create some havoc.
To this point, the story is going well though I will admit I started to become concerned the longer the story continued as to whether or not there would be enough time to properly wrap up the story in an interesting, believable way. And, unfortunately, these fears are realized when the story takes the easiest way possible out of the situation and left me feeling a bit empty and like I'd just wasted an hour or so listening to the story.
At several points in the story, allusions are made to the Bond stories and movies (there's even a reference to Benton looking a bit like George Lazanby). It seems like the authors may have been trying to go for a Bond-like feel to this entry in the Companion Chronicles range. I'm guessing that makes the Brig M and the Doctor Q on some level...but I digress. Like I said before, the story works well until the last five or so minutes where instead of sticking the landing, it feels like the authors realized that had five minutes left to wrap this all up and went for the most convenient, easy, get-out-of-alien-invasion-free card they could find.
I know that several single disc releases have run three episodes and perhaps Council of War might have benefited from a bit longer running time. (less)
After the promising ending to "The Kings of Sontar" I'll admit I had high expectations for the next fourth Doctor adventure.
And I'll admit upon first...moreAfter the promising ending to "The Kings of Sontar" I'll admit I had high expectations for the next fourth Doctor adventure.
And I'll admit upon first blush, I was a bit disappointed by how easily it seemed certain developments from "Sontar" were swept aside. But pondering it further and taking the opportunity to listen to the story again, I feel like my first feelings of disappointment were misplaced and that maybe, must maybe I'd missed what this series of audio stories are trying to do in terms of the fourth Doctor and Leela. And if the stories can pay this off (and if that pay off can come without the Daleks being involved), I could see myself being a lot more pleased than I was after my initial assessment.
Avoiding a close run-in with a missile, the TARDIS materializes on board a planet that is kept in perpetual darkness. A scientific research team is there, studying a newly created species of plant life. But there's a reason the team is doing so on a planet where there is little or no light -- a secret that quickly comes to light (pun not intended, but it works). Before you know it, the story unfolds as a fast-paced, two-part base-under-siege story as the Doctor struggles to understand the implications of what's going on and Leela fights to defend herself and the rapidly dwindling supporting cast from becoming what plant vampires.
Barnes' story works well enough on the surface. Like another story I recently listened to, the ending comes a bit out of left field and feels a bit too rushed and like Barnes is trying to wrap things up too quickly or within the time constraints placed upon him. It's a shame because had the story been given another five minutes to breath, it might have worked a lot better.
And there are some interesting implications to the philosophical disagreement that came up between the Doctor and Leela in the last story and the role the Time Lords play in sending the Doctor on this mission. If this season of stories is about exploring Leela's reaction to how the Time Lords use the Doctor to do their dirty work, this could be a very interesting turn of events. (less)
While I was disappointed by how the previous season of fourth Doctor adventures ended, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued the st...moreWhile I was disappointed by how the previous season of fourth Doctor adventures ended, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued the start of a new run of fourth Doctor and Leela stories. I guess since John Dorney is behind the script for the first installment, "The Kings of Sontar," that shouldn't come as too big a surprise. Dorney is one of the most consistent writers for the Big Finish range and this latest story continues his streak.
The fourth Doctor and Leela are sent by the Time Lords to Dowcra base, where an elite group of Sontarans led by augmented Sontaran Strang has aspirations of ending the war with the Rutans and setting about conquering the universe. There's a threat to the universe as we know it with the Doctor squarely caught in the middle, trying to figure out if and how he can and should stop it.
The story itself unfolds in a fairly expected fashion for the first fifty or so minutes. And then characters make a few decisions that lead up to a electric scene in the TARDIS and some intriguing conflict between the Doctor and Leela. Dorney builds on some of the established conflicts between these two from their television days and gives this run of stories the potential to be something interesting and special. Whether or not the range can pay-off what's put in place here remains to be seen but it certainly has this listener intrigued and interested in a way I haven't been since the initial excitement of Tom Baker coming to the range wore off.
Baker and Louise Jameson slip easily back into the familiar roles of the Doctor and Leela and it's nice to hear David Collins back in Doctor Who.
I can only hope that Dorney will be on board to help wrap up this run of Big Finish stories. Or that maybe, just maybe we can have a run of stories that don't feature the Daleks as the pivotal enemy behind things. AT this point, I'm scared to look ahead at the upcoming installments and art work for fear of having things given away -- or being disappointed to see a season-ending Briggs story.
Why must every run of Big Finish stories end with the Daleks?
When the range first brought the Doctor's greatest nemesis back in audio form all those...moreWhy must every run of Big Finish stories end with the Daleks?
When the range first brought the Doctor's greatest nemesis back in audio form all those years ago, I was excited, intrigued and couldn't wait to hear them. Now I find myself rolling my eyes and thinking, "The Daleks again?!?"
Perhaps the classic series knew what it was doing when it operated under the less is more theory of Dalek stories. Having a bit of space in between stories featuring the Daleks (or even the perception that there is some space between them) helps make the Dalek stories seem a little more special.
I get that Nicholas Briggs loves the Daleks and I get that he's really good at doing their voices. I just find myself wishing that every Big Finish arc I listened to didn't all end up with the Daleks somehow behind the plot.
And so it is that we end the latest round of Tom Baker audio dramas with a whimper and not a bang. I can see what the stories are trying to do by trying together a lot of threads from the course of the seven installments that make up the Tom Baker/Mary Tamm season together. But honestly, looking back over the stories the ones I enjoyed the most were the stand-alone titles and not the ones that attempted to give the season an overall theme or arc. Baker quickly settles back into his role as the Doctor with a flourish and Mary Tamm does a fine job as the first Romana. This comes as little surprise me to me since I've listened to the two bounce off each other on the DVD commentaries for season 16 and they've still got chemistry in spades).
"The Final Phase" tries hard to wrap things up but I can't help but feel like it would have been better served if this story and the preceding "The Dalek Contract" had been done as either an extended run two-part story or possibly three episodes. The events that take place here feel padded at four episodes and like there's a lot of verbal running up and down corridors taking place to fill time. Or maybe it's just that I don't necessarily find the a verbal sparring match with the Daleks all that interesting. (Terry Nation was on to something when he realizes that long exchanges of dialogue by Daleks can become inherently uninteresting after a certain point. Hence why he have Davros and the superlative "Genesis of the Daleks.")
Tying in threads from the earlier two-disc release, this two part story doesn't have anything revelatory or new to say. The Daleks are going to betray Cuthbert and their alliance? Check and saw that coming. The Daleks want to lure the Doctor into a trap and will hold various people prisoner to do so? Check and again, saw it coming. In the end, this wrap up to the season feels more like "been there, done that" that in really bringing any closure or wrapping up the season.
It's a shame that this is the final time Tamm will reprise her role as the original Romana. As I said before, Tamm is great. It's just the material that lets her down. (less)
This year's Big Finish extra release explores one of the more controversial and debate-worthy characters from the original run of Doctor Who -- The Va...moreThis year's Big Finish extra release explores one of the more controversial and debate-worthy characters from the original run of Doctor Who -- The Valeyard..
The Doctor is recalled to the station and asked to defend the Valeyard on a series of charges. But has the High Council stacked the deck against the Valeyard even before the trial begins and does that answer tie into the "true" identity of the Valeyard?
For years, the Valeyard was declared off-limits by the BBC for further explanation. But with the series continuation, the question of if or when the series might be allowed to delve into the Doctor's darker side has been one that has cropped up from time to time (especially after the Dream Lord made his appearance in series five).
"The Trial of the Valeyard" is geared directly at hard-core classic Who fans, full of speculation and piecing threads together along with winks, nods and Easter eggs galore for long-time fans. I'm not sure if writer Alan Barnes was aware of how things would play out with the 50th anniversary special and the Doctor's regeneration order, but if he wasn't, he and Moffat must be on the same wave length or drinking some of the same Kool-Aid.
And yet for all the answers and connecting the dots, Barnes still leaves us with new questions about the identity of the Valeyard and just how the revelations here could or should play out within the establishing continuity of the show. With the recently released "Night of the Doctor" bringing some of the Big Finish continuity into the official canon of the series, I can't help but wonder if some of the ideas put forth here might not be included in future installments.
If they are or if they aren't, this is still a fun audio adventures with plenty of rewards for the obsessed Who fan in me. (less)