Like a breath of fresh air So far, Big Finish productions have really only stayed as to what would have been broadcast on TV, but this story is really...moreLike a breath of fresh air So far, Big Finish productions have really only stayed as to what would have been broadcast on TV, but this story is really the first audio to go beyond the parameters of the TV series. Fearmonger started to veer away from the series, but the return of the pure historical genre and the introduction of The Sixth Doctor’s new companion Dr Evelyn Smythe really show Big Finish beginning to branch out and not be constrained to the limits of the TV series. Colin Baker and Maggie Stables play off each other from the opening scene, and they instantly have a rapport that no other companion/Doctor team have had before. Compared to the argument filled team of Six/Peri or the exercise filled relationship of Six/Mel, the Six/Evelyn relationship, even this early, is like a breath of fresh air. The story itself is still pretty decent but is dwarfed by the characterisation. The idea of a nexus point swallowing all of time is a neat one, but some of the political intrigue and politics of court was lost on me, as I’m not particularly interested in that period of history. The characterisation is quite interesting, especially Jo Castleton’s Lady Sarah, Anah Ruddin’s The Queen and Jez Fielder’s William Leaf are better than most others. Some of the twists and turns are quite unexpected, and the episode cliffhangers work much better than some of BF’s recent efforts. The idea of a historical story outside of the William Hartnell era isn’t one that’s usually at home in Doctor Who, and just look at Black Orchid, but this really works, better than Phantasmagoria, which was a pseudo-historical story. To conclude, this story is a breath of fresh air that promises great things for this TARDIS team, and the reinvigoration of the historical genre. (less)
It wouldn’t be Cricket After The Sirens of Time, and its multi Doctor complexities, Phantasmagoria feels very simplistic, but after Sirens this feels l...moreIt wouldn’t be Cricket After The Sirens of Time, and its multi Doctor complexities, Phantasmagoria feels very simplistic, but after Sirens this feels like a breath of fresh air. The story ambles along at a steady pace, the first three episodes building up to a satisfying pay off in the final episode, and feels like a missing story from the early 80’s. Both Peter Davidson and Mark Strickson sound like they have never been away, and the cast all help to make this a successful audio drama. Even the music, at times, sounds like it comes from that era. Mark Gatiss’ script creates a very sound recreation that builds up the 18th century very well. This could also be down to the sound design/music (the first to be created by Alister Lock, the most well-known sound designer, together with David Darlington), or the excellent acting by the cast. The constant use of bell men also helps to set the mood. The story deals with a mysterious gambler, who appears to be kidnapping gentleman in London, all who have a connection to the Diabola club. The idea, while may not be the most original, is still very enthralling and this is one of the reasons why I do like this audio. If this had been done around 100 ish it would be a pretty poor audio, but as it is number 2, it works better. Peter Davidson is just as good as in Sirens, and Mark Strickson recreates his role brilliantly on audio, sounding not a day after Planet of fire. The cast all do very well and really give it their all. Gatiss plays Jasper Jeake, a very funny character who helps Turlough through most of the story. Hannah (played by Julia Dalkin) and Dr Samuel Holywell (played by Steven Wickham) make an interesting double act. Sir Nikolas Valentine (the stories villain) played by David Ryall sounds very like Philip Madoc, and this benefits the story well. All in all, a very average story which the cast bring much higher than some even more recent BF releases. It’s still early days, however. (less)
A Flying Start Doctor Who had been dead in the water for 4 years. The show was showing no signs of return, and only the books and comics were keeping t...moreA Flying Start Doctor Who had been dead in the water for 4 years. The show was showing no signs of return, and only the books and comics were keeping the show alive. However, in 1999 the show semi-returned in a new series of audios produced by outside company Big Finish productions, which were set up a year before, and had only produced one series of Bernice Summerfield adventures. This had been enough, and the BBC gave them the licence to produce original Doctor Who audios. The Sirens of Time was the first story in this new range. Sylvester McCoy, Peter Davidson and Colin Baker were the first to return to the fold, and were united for the first adventure, called The Sirens of Time, written by Audio Visuals (the precursor to Big Finish) writer, producer and Doctor actor Nicholas Briggs. He also directs and completes the sound design and music, as well as playing the Temperon, the legendary time beast of the story. The story also sees the invasion of Gallifrey (much better portrayed than in Invasion of Time). With no companions, the melting pot may have boiled over into a complete mess. Happily, I can say that Big Finish get off to a flying start, and in 125 minutes of audio drama still hold up well today. Peter Davidson sounds a little older, but still recognisable as the Fifth Doctor, and Colin Baker sounds much better than he did in his three seasons, much less brutal, but still with that sharp edge. Sylvester McCoy, on the other hand sounds very amateurish, and not like his TV self. However, he’ll soon settle in, and play the Doctor better than often he did in the TV series, but here it’s early days. The supporting cast do very well playing various roles, especially Sarah Mowat who plays four different characters in the four different episodes.
The story itself still holds up well to scrutiny from 2012. It mostly involves time being distorted by the Sirens of Time, relating to events surrounding the Knights of Velyshaa. The first episode (Sylvester McCoy’s) is very old-ball and sees an old women looking after a war criminal on an alien planet. With ships crashing into the planet’s surface and execution robots preparing to execute the planet’s prisoner, the main story takes up the bulk of the episode, leaving very little time for the story on Gallifrey, but the second episode (Peter Davidson’s) gets the balance just right between the two stories, and sees the Fifth Doctor involved in danger on a German U-boat. The third episode (Colin Baker's) is defiantly the weakest of the four, but still sees the story beginning to unfold. The fourth episode sees the three doctors meet up, and the story comes to possibly on of the biggest deux ex machinima’s of all time, however it still pays off well. So all in all, this story isn’t as good as future stories, however it is still worth its salt in 2012. (less)
Conveying a message The Fearmonger was the first Sylvester McCoy story without the burden of past Doctors as well. This political thriller also saw the...moreConveying a message The Fearmonger was the first Sylvester McCoy story without the burden of past Doctors as well. This political thriller also saw the introduction of Sophie Aldred as Ace. Both recreate their roles perfectly, and get some real character moments, such as The Doctor’s speech about Butterfly’s and Ace’s speech to United Front leader Alexsandr Karadjic. They really embody the characters again, and they really come across as very different to any other TARDIS team, even the Seven/Mel relationship. Jonathan Blum’s story was very relevant in 2000, with race riots in the north, and even more today with the BMP. The idea of racial cleansing is very similar to the ideas of the Nazis and there principles. Jacqueline Pearce’s Sherilyn Harper is the exact opposite to Hitler, not shouting and bombarding the German people, but smooching and charming the people. Mick Thompson (played by Vince Henderson) is the exact opposite of Harper, pointing the finger at anyone and everyone, very much like Hitler did back in the 20’s and 30’s. Roderick Allingham, Sherilyn’s number 2, plays the situation into his hand perfectly. It isn’t hard to see someone like him in either of the early 21st century goverments. The Fearmonger isn’t the main story drive, despite the title. It is just a reason for the violence and trouble stirred up in this story. The cast play to the stories strengths, and not one hams up the acting. The strong acting really helps to convey the tension of the situation, and this gives the story serious undertones at conveying a message to its audience, like The Happiness Patrol or Vengeance on Varos.
Compared to the 2 most recent releases, Whispers and Land, Fearmonger comes as breath of fresh air and well recommended. A classic story if I ever saw one. (less)
Red Yawn 1974. The Monster of Peladon. The last time the Ice Warriors appeared.
2000. Red Dawn. The return of the Ice Warriors.
The Doctor and Peri arr...moreRed Yawn 1974. The Monster of Peladon. The last time the Ice Warriors appeared.
2000. Red Dawn. The return of the Ice Warriors.
The Doctor and Peri arrive on the planet Mars, in the tomb of the great Lord Izdaal. A Mars exploration force from Earth is also here, to conduct a survey of an artefact on the planet. And thus sets the seen for a dull, slow story in which nothing happens. Justin’s story pace…well to be brutally honest, there isn’t one. It’s slower than a snail race, and duller than watching paint dry.
Some characterisation is sloppy to. My main quarrel is with Paul Webster, a git so up his rear end he’s worse than every villain before him (Whispers and Land villains included). However, there was a surprising twist involving Georgina Moffett (Peter Davidson’s daughter) and her character, but the Ice Warriors simply stomped around and there was little action. The Doctor/Peri relationship in episode 1 was brilliant. It just goes to show how good this TARDIS team could have been, but they were kept apart for too long, and this brought down the story.
Overall, while I like space opera in Doctor Who usually, this was very dull, and a poor reintroduction for some, usually very good monsters.