Doctor Who Big Finish and Audio stories review blog...

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09 Feb 2013, 5:07 am

REVIEW: The Veiled Leopard by Iain McLaughlin

SERIAL:
DWM06, 2X30 minute (approx) episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No


A number of Big Finish audio stories have been released free with Doctor Who Magazine, and a few of these have also been released free on Big Finish's SoundCloud account. One of these is The Veiled Leopard. Interestingly, it's also a Doctor-lite story, with two sets of the Doctor's companions, with Peri and Erimem (of the Fifth Doctor) and Ace and Hex (of the Seventh Doctor), in a story of their own...

Monte Carlo, 1966. Peri and Erimem are at the birthday party of the wife of industrialist Gavin Walker, who has obtained the Veiled Leopard, an Egyptian diamond that Erimem buried with her father long ago. The Doctor has assigned Peri and Erimem to stop its theft at the hands of society burglar Janus. Except another set of the Doctor's companions, Ace and Hex, are at the same party, and they're here to ensure the burglary takes place...

If there is any fault with The Veiled Leopard, it's the story. Okay, it gains points for interweaving two separate stories, and has a nice little resolution. But the story is not so much thin as it is emaciated. It's not bad, but I can't say that it's good. The best thing about it is the dialogue and characters, and even that's rather thin on the ground.

Character-wise, it's interesting to have these four companions, and Nicola Bryant as Peri and Sophie Aldred as Ace are good, even if I feel that Ace rather bullies Hex around a tad. Perhaps it's because I view her out of context of normal adventures, but I have to confess that Caroline Morris' Erimem, while okay, wasn't stellar, save for when she made comments on her Egyptian heritage (she's a companion of the Fifth Doctor created for the Big Finish audios who was, albeit briefly, a female pharoah). Philip Oliver's Thomas Hector 'Hex' Schofield is better, but still not quite right. The other characters are okay, but I found Lizzie Hopley's voice as Lily too close to Erimem and Peri's at times that it was hard to tell them apart in some dialogue.

Sound production-wise, the story does well. However, there is little in the story to stretch itself, as it mostly takes place in a crowded Casino, and there's no science fiction stuff, which is somewhat disappointing. However, one can here little bits of the scenes that one hears more clearly in the other side of the story.

Overall, The Veiled Leopard was a disappointment. Enjoyable, yes, but rather shallow and disappointing.


SCORE: 7.5/10

The next story will be Cuddlesome...


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13 Feb 2013, 12:48 am

REVIEW: Cuddlesome by Nigel Fairs

SERIAL:
DWM07, 55 minute (approx) special

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No


After the disappointment of The Veiled Leopard, I didn't know how I was going to continue with the next Big Finish story, another free download from the Big Finish SoundCloud site. Cuddlesome, however, is a story with an interesting premise: that of novelty toys gone bad. So would it turn out well?

Earth, in the modern day, and a blast from the past is occurring: the Cuddlesomes, toys famous from the 80s, are making a comeback. However, the old Cuddlesome of John Dixon attacks him shortly after he unearths it in a fit of nostalgia, and his housemate, Angela, finds herself getting an inadvertent housecall from the Doctor. Saving John from the Cuddlesome's infectious bite, the Doctor decides to find out about the Cuddlesomes. So too does reporter Miranda Evenden, who is investigating Cuddlesome inventor Ronald Turvey, and his mysterious associate, Mr Tinghus. But what does Turvey want to use the Cuddlesomes for? And, to the point, what does Mr Tinghus? A tale of revenge, nostalgia, toys, and an alien invasion is about to entrap the Doctor...

Cuddlesome, despite its relatively short length, is actually quite a good, darkly comic story, lampooning nostalgia and second childhoods, and while not very complex given the time period, there's two plot threads that work well. There's some nice humour, although the resolution, how it is done, is a bit out of the blue. Pity that. And sometimes, the catchphrases of the new Cuddlesomes grate a bit too much than they should, not to mention that the sentience of the Cuddlesomes and the implications thereof are only mentioned briefly, and not developed. But the story of homicidal toys is one that had its seeds in Terror of the Autons years ago, and only now was developed.

Peter Davison is, as always, a fairly good Doctor, and considering that the story is about 80s nostalgia, he's a good Doctor for the role. David Troughton is pretty good as the Tinghus, whose character, while pretty much a bog standard villain, does have some amusing dialogue, and Timothy West as Turvey is a good manchild character. The other characters are fine, but with the exception of Roberta Taylor's Angela (who, unfortunately, sounds more bored than someone in her situation should be), are not exactly noteworthy.

Just because this story was originally released free with Doctor Who Magazine, and later free via SoundCloud, doesn't mean that it isn't good. The music doesn't quite grab at me, but the sound effects are quite good, and the Cuddlesome effects help give an edge of uneasiness to their movements and voices.

Overall, Cuddlesome was a pretty damn good story. And seeing as it is free, I think it'd certainly behoove any Doctor Who fan curious about the Big Finish audios to download it and give it a go...


SCORE: 9/10

The next story will be Davros...


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16 Feb 2013, 2:27 am

REVIEW: Davros by Lance Parkin

SERIAL:
6W/A, 2X75 minute episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No


The second of the 40th anniversay villain stories was Davros, being the first story having Davros working independently of the Daleks. The purpose was to show how Davros can be an effective villain in of himself, but also shed some light on his past, something that would be further explored in the Big Finish miniseries I, Davros. But at this point in time, this review will concentrate on the Sixth Doctor's encounter with Davros, alone...

TAI is one of the most aggressive corporations in the galaxy, and the Doctor has been summoned by a journalist friend called Willis to seek for evidence about their wrongdoings. However, he finds that Arnold and Lorraine Baynes, the head honchos of TAI, have found the body of Davros. Lorraine, a historian who believes Davros to be unjustly maligned, is excited to meet her idol, while Arnold Baynes intends to put Davros to good use. And when the Doctor intervenes, he gets roped in as well. Davros claims to be trying to redeem himself in the eyes of the galaxy, and while the Doctor is sceptical, the Baynes don't care. Is Davros genuine in his attempts to reform, or is he up to something? What ghosts from Davros' past haunt him? And will the Doctor be able to stop him?

If there is a major problem with Davros, it is the length of the story. It is two 75-minute episodes, enough for two movies, and while it can't be said that all of it is boring, I feel that it could have been just a touch more interesting with enhancements to the subplots without Davros. More on the journalist Willis could have been done, and Arnold Baynes' ambitions weren't completely explored. But the story itself is interesting and fine enough, exploring Davros' character and past (with more and more insights into the nature of Skaro, prior to and after Davros' accident), and proving that he can act without the Daleks. Indeed, much of the story seems to be setting up things for the next chronological Davros story, the TV story Revelation of the Daleks.

Colin Baker is fine enough as the Doctor, though I feel that he is somewhat underwritten in this story, with much of it having him snipe at Davros. Terry Molloy gets to spread his wings as Davros, bringing subtlety and nuances to the character, and helping bring to life the past that had been written for him by Lance Parkin. Arnold Baynes seems to be an indecisive villain, writing-wise, but Bernard Horsfall, a Doctor Who veteran, brings him to life. So too does Wendy Padbury (formerly the Doctor's companion Zoe) as Lorraine Baynes, although her character, while fitting the nature of many apologists for atrocity-mongers, seems to be rather stupid for someone supposedly so intelligent. Eddie de Oliveira and Ruth Sillers as Willis and Kim Todd do fine, but I feel just a little more could have been given to the characters.

As usual, Big Finish's sound design is superb. However, there are a few blips, like with at least one sequence involving an earpiece's announcement being distorted strangely when it shouldn't. And at one point during the climax, Davros' voice was completely drowned out, probably when it shouldn't have. I'm not sure whether this was because it was on the Davros Boxset DVD for the audio adventures, but it's concerning.

Overall, Davros was a pretty damn good story. Not the best, and it tended to drag, but it provided new insight into one of the Doctor's sometimes overused adversaries, and fresh blood too...


SCORE: 9/10

The next story will be The Nightmare Fair...


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16 Feb 2013, 5:59 am

REVIEW: The Nightmare Fair by Graham Williams, adapted by John Ainsworth

SERIAL:
6Y/AA, 2X50 minute episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: Yes


The 23rd season of Doctor Who was cancelled in 1986 when the series was put on hiatus, wiping out a number of already commissioned stories. And the first of these, The Nightmare Fair, was to feature the Celestial Toymaker, and Blackpool's Pleasure Beach. Although never filmed, the story was later adapted as a novelisation by its writer, former producer Graham Williams, as well as an unofficial audio play for charity. And recently, Big Finish Productions began doing productions of the stories never produced, starting with the 23rd season that never was, starting with The Nightmare Fair...

Travelling to Blackpool in the 20th century, the Doctor and Peri are here to enjoy the sights and attractions, and to investigate a dangerous space-time vortex. And young mechanic Kevin is investigating the disappearance of his brother, and the police don't believe his stories of strange Mandarins and glowing giants. And behind it all is an old adversary of the Doctor's: the Celestial Toymaker. The Toymaker intends to enslave all humanity, through an exciting new form of game: an arcade video game. And he intends it to be the last game the Doctor ever will play...

The story is pretty good, but not spectacular. The return of the Toymaker was long overdue, and the concept of using video games to conquer the world is surprisingly underused in the series. Even so, it's a fairly simple story, with more than a few loose ends, like what the alien scouts are doing on Earth in the first place. Why did the Toymaker capture them, and risk the destruction of Earth? Nice and interesting, but not quite what I expected, though I had read the novelisation years ago.

Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are excellent as the Sixth Doctor and Peri, almost as if they hadn't ever left the series. David Bailie is pretty good as the Toymaker, but he sometimes overacts rather too much at times, making him less enjoyable than the late Michael Gough. Matthew Noble as Kevin is okay, and Andrew Fettes is fine enough as Stefan, although I expected him to be rather more thuggish after reading the novelisation.

As usual, the Big Finish stories have the best of production values. And for once, the music actually feels of the era, thanks to the synthesiser used for the music. The sound effects are mostly good. There are some times when the sound effects and music are a little cheesy, like with the growls used for the mechanic, and the very faux-2001 music used in the space ride. A pity they couldn't use the real deal in the latter case.

The Nightmare Fair is a good story, and it's good to have it dramatised. But it's not brilliant, which is a shame.


SCORE: 8.5/10

The next story will be Bloodtide...


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19 Feb 2013, 1:23 am

REVIEW: Bloodtide by Jonathan Morris

SERIAL:
7C/D, 4X30 minute episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No


Of all the monsters of Doctor Who, my personal favourites are the Silurians, given how sympathetic they can be. So obviously, one of my first Big Finish audio stories that I ordered was Bloodtide. And it also has an encounter with my favourite scientist, Charles Darwin, so all the ingredients are there for what may be a favourite story...

Millions of years ago, megalomaniacal Silurian scientist Tulok is sentenced to die on the devastated surface of the Earth with his creations. 1835, and Charles Darwin has arrived at the Galapagos Islands on the Beagle. So has the Doctor and his historian companion Evelyn Smythe. And the Governor of the Galapagos Islands has been condemning a lot of people to death, including a young fisherman driven insane by three-eyed devils. A group of Silurians have awoken, and they have designs on humanity in more way than one...

The story is a nice pseudo-historical, mixing Silurians and Darwin being a good idea, and it has some nice themes about the nature of evolution. Not stellar, but entertaining, and interesting, even if lacking in some historical accuracy, leaving aside the Silurian presence. A bit simple, too, but still good. It does lack some nuances to the Silurian characters, though, something that was present in other stories.

Colin Baker is excellent as the Doctor, and Maggie Stables as Evelyn is an interesting companion. Miles Richardson as Charles Darwin is good, suffering from the conflict between his belief in God and his scientific inclinations, while George Telfer's FitzRoy is pretty good. I find Jane Goddard's Greta overwrought and fake, and Julian Harries' Lawson not quite right. Daniel Hogarth as Tulok is a good, if somewhat one-note villain, while Helen Goldwyn's Sh'vak is perhaps more nuanced.

As usual, the sound design is quite good. Sound effects and music give a cinematic feel, as usual. The Silurian voice effects sound a little like a mix between that used in their debut story, and that of Warriors of the Deep, and work well enough.

Overall, Bloodtide is nowhere near the best Silurian story, but it is certainly an excellent one. Darwin plus Silurians doesn't make a perfect story, but it's still good.


SCORE: 9/10

The next story will be Unregenerate!...


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19 Feb 2013, 11:35 pm

Oops, I forgot that the next story was actually The Juggernauts...

REVIEW: The Juggernauts by Scott Alan Woodard

SERIAL:
7C/S, 4X30 minute episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: Yes


Making their debut in The Chase, the Mechonoids were designed to become the major rival to the Daleks. However, due to their unwieldy design, they never really took off. However, it was inevitable that a rematch would come sooner or later, and that comes in the Big Finish audio The Juggernauts...

Separated when the ship they had landed on exploded, the Doctor and Mel end up in dangerous situations. The Doctor has been timescooped by Daleks demanding that he helps them, while Mel finds herself on the human colony of Lethe, working under the stewardship of the crippled Professor Vaso. Vaso, along with Mel and other colonists, are reviving ancient Mechonoids, servo robots that Vaso intends to become a new technology for Earth, the Juggernauts. But Vaso is really Davros, having used the implants the colonists have to obscure his true identity. What does Davros intend for the Juggernauts? Why do the Daleks want the Doctor to stop Davros? And can Mel realise how evil Davros really is, before it is too late?

This story seems to be, to a certain degree, a rerun of Davros, and while not quite as deep as that story, is still less boring. We have Mel questioning the morality of the Doctor working with the Daleks and Davros perversely trying to help humanity, albeit on his own, twisted terms. We even have an intriguing ending involving Davros.

Colin Baker is good as the Doctor, as usual, and Bonnie Langford, for once, gets some meaty stuff to do as Mel, making her not just tolerable, but likeable in this story. Terry Molloy, as in the audio story Davros, gets a meaty role as Davros. The other characters are okay, though only Bindya Solanki as Sonali and Klaus White as Geoff are particularly noteworthy.

Sound design, as usual, is very good. Music and sound effects all work together to create the right atmosphere for the story. The only real complaint is the Mechonoid voices, although to be fair, they were hard to understand in The Chase, and while understandable, I had to use the subtitles of the DVD compilation this story to understand them.

The Juggernauts is not a deep story, but it's still an enjoyable one. Big Finish sets a relatively high standard for the series that I wished was consistently matched by the TV show.


SCORE: 9/10

The next story will be Unregenerate!, for real...


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20 Feb 2013, 6:49 am

REVIEW: Unregenerate! by David A. McIntee

SERIAL:
7D/A, 4X25 minute episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No


The sole Seventh Doctor Big Finish story I have in my collection at the moment is interestingly one that doesn't include any standard monsters. However, it has an intriguing story, so I heard, one that I was willing to give a go. Unregenerate! is a rather non-standard title, but it may turn out to be a pretty good story...

In the depths of an asylum, the Seventh Doctor, not far past his regeneration on Lakertya, sits babbling insanely. The asylum's security chief Rigan is sure that he is faking his madness, but Professor Klyst isn't sure. Meanwhile, Mel must track the Doctor down, through the mysterious Louis, who offers people improved lives in exchange for taking them for experiments when they are about to die. Those in charge of the asylum are conducting cruel experiments, experiments that have universe-shattering implications...

To say too much about the plot of Unregenerate! would be to spoil the story very badly, but needless to say that it's an excellent story with very good twists. Everything slots together virtually perfectly, and while a little simple, it's still excellent. Let's just say that this story is very like a very excellent new series story.

Sylvester McCoy is pretty good as the Doctor, although he does tend to be a bit hammy when insane, while Bonnie Langford is decent enough as Mel. Jennie Linden as Klyst and the other asylum staff are excellent, though I feel that a little more sympathetic writing could have been given to Gail Clayton's Rigan. Hugh Hemmings is pretty good as Rausch, and what he turns into, as is Toby Longworth as the cabby and Sam Peter Jackson as Shokhra.

As usual, the production values are excellent. Music and sound effects are good. However, one particular sour note is the engineering of Shokhra's gestalt voice. At times, like with the Cyberplanner's voice in Spare Parts or the Mechonoids of The Juggernauts, it is hard to discern the dialogue.

Unregenerate! is a surprisingly excellent story, for a story with no standard Who monsters. Despite being set during one of the lesser eras of the series, it's a very good story.


SCORE: 10/10

The next story will be Storm Warning...


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20 Feb 2013, 6:29 pm

Oops, I screwed up. Technically, the next Big Finish release shouyld be Shada...


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21 Feb 2013, 2:42 am

REVIEW: Shada by Douglas Adams, adapted by Gary Russell

SERIAL:
BBCi03, 6X25 minute episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: Yes

It seems to be the year of Shada for these reviews. Earlier last year, I read and reviewed Gareth Roberts' novelisation of the legendary incomplete story, and last month, I watched the available footage version, recently released on DVD. And now, I come to the collaboration between Big Finish and the BBC's Doctor Who website, and the webcast of Shada, an audio version of the story with basic Flash animation. Available with the DVD of Shada, and on the BBC classic series website for Doctor Who, it's time to review...

The Eighth Doctor travels to Gallifrey, persuading former companion President Romana, and K9, to accompany him to Cambridge on Earth. After all, the last time they were there, they had been taken out of time by Borusa's timescoop, and had forgotten what they had come to do. Retired Time Lord Professor Chronotis has sent the Doctor a message asking for his help in retrieving a book, a book that the evil Skagra is intent on finding. But what secrets does the book, The Ancient and Worshipful Law of Gallifrey hide? What link does it have to the infamous Time Lord criminal Salyavin? And what does Skagra intend with his mind-stealing sphere?

Although Douglas Adams never really liked Shada, I reckon that the story had the potential to be one of the best, and this version, while not the best (that honour goes to Gareth Roberts' novelisation), is certainly better in many regards than the story intended for TV. Although many niggling plot holes remain, this version does improve on the original scripts, with some humorous dialogue involving Skagra's lack of knowledge about Earth, as well as one joke involving the Krarg Commander's literal-mindedness. Gary Russell is to be commended for bravely adapting it not just for audio, but for the Eighth Doctor, a different Doctor to what was originally intended.

Although not intended for Paul McGann, he manages to make the dialogue originally written for Tom Baker his own, and Lalla Ward, the only actual cast member to have worked on the original, is excellent as Romana. So too is John Leeson, the definitive K9. Andrew Sachs is an unusual, but inspired choice for Skagra, his camp portrayal very different from Christopher Neame's, but all the more enjoyable for it, whileJames Fox plays against type well as the doddery Chronotis. Sean Biggerstaff as Chris and Susannah Harker as Claire are fine, but not spectacular.

As noted before, the audio plays for Doctor Who tend to have production values that exceed that of the show, or at least has that appearance. Shada is little exception, although I also had the advantage of the extremely basic and crude but interestingly drawn animation. The music is also interesting, almost like Paddy Kingsland's music for the TV version of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and the sound effects are good.

Shada is not perfect at all, but it's an excellent version of what could have been. A real pity then that it didn't quite reach the screen, although this is probably a better version...


SCORE: 9.5/10

The next story will be Storm Warning, for real this time...


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21 Feb 2013, 11:11 pm

REVIEW: Storm Warning by Alan Barnes

SERIAL:
8B, 4X30 minute episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No

Initially, Big Finish only did audio adventures with Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy. However, an exciting time for Doctor Who fans came when Paul McGann, years after he portrayed the Eighth Doctor in the 1996 TV movie, agreed to reprise the role for Big Finish. The nearest thing to a continuing series since the original series ended in 1989 and before the new series started, exciting times were in hand, but would his debut, Storm Warning, justify this?

October, 1930, and Britain's pride and joy, the airship R101, takes off on its maiden voyage for Karachi, India. But the airship has many secrets and stowaways. It's visionary creator, Air Minister Lord Tamworth, had made many modifications, and refuses to stop even for storm warnings. A mysterious passenger is present in Cabin 43, under the dubious care of Tamworth's South African valet, Rathbone. Adventuress Charlotte 'Charley' Pollard is stowing away under the guise of a steward, while the Doctor, fleeing from Vortisaurs in the Time Vortex, ends up stranded when the TARDIS, having landed in a ballast tank, gets flushed out. Mistaken for spies, the only way that the Doctor and Charley can survive is to make themselves useful, and that's by helping the mysterious passenger in Cabin 43, who is far from human. Why is Tamworth so driven to push the R101 to its limits? What are the Triskele? And what is Rathbone's secret orders? It is a tale of alien horror and wonder that may yet be moot, for the Doctor know that the R101 is destined to crash, with no survivors...

The story of Storm Warning is a nice, if not particularly complex story that is a pseudohistorical. As a debut story, it's certainly better put together than the TV movie, albeit lacking something of the epic nature of the TV movie. It lacks historical accuracy, and is more of a rollicking adventure than anything truly deep, but it has a sense of wonder that makes up for it. It also feels vaguely like one plot shovelled into another, with an ending that goes just a tad too long.

Paul McGann is not quite getting properly into the role of the Doctor, but he's certainly more subtle and settled in the role compared to the TV movie version. India Fisher is promising as Charley, although it is early days for her character. Gareth Thomas is a curious choice for Lord Tamworth, but he gives enough life to a character who does seem slightly bifurcated by the writing, while Barnaby Edwards is good as the rather singularly unpleasant and very unlikeable Rathbone. Helen Goldwyn as the Triskele also manages to fill multiple roles with some decent acting and voice distortion.

I don't know why, but while the sound design of this story is good, it doesn't quite feel as cinematic as other audio stories. Of the sound effects, the only one that I have real complaint about is the vortisaur sounds. They sound out of place with the rest of the story. But overall, the story sounds pretty good, with the music sounding like it came right out of a movie.

Storm Warning is not a great story, but it's a good debut for Paul McGann. Nice and interesting and average by Who standards.

SCORE: 8.5/10

The next story will be Sword of Orion...


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23 Feb 2013, 1:54 am

REVIEW: Sword of Orion by Nicholas Briggs

SERIAL:
8C, 4X30 minute episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No


The Big Finish audios have their roots in the Audio Visual Doctor Who audio plays, with Nicholas Briggs having played a key role, writing some, and even playing the Doctor. Some of the Audio Visual stories were reused for the Big Finish stories, and one of them was called Sword of Orion. This storyline was reused as the second story to star Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor...

In Earth's future, a war against androids is waging in the Orion sector. Humanity needs an edge, and it may have found it in a derelict battleship found near the Garazone Central. Landing in Garazone Central in order to find help for Ramsay the Vortisaur, the Doctor and Charley end up being forced to embark on a scrap ship that has mistaken the TARDIS as supplies. However, soon, the Doctor has even more reason to wonder about why this scrap ship is heading to the battleship. But the battleship's complement of Cybermen may not be the darkest secret of this situation, and the Doctor and Charley may not be able to get out alive...

Like Storm Warning before it, this story is a good, but not stellar story. Nice and atmospheric, but there are a few things that come out of the aether a little too much. And I feel that a lot more could have been done with the background of the Orion War, although given that the story is continued in the Big Finish spinoff Cyberman, it's a moot point. But for a Cyberman-centric story, they are not as prominent.

Paul McGann as the Doctor and India Fisher as Charley are pretty damn good, with Paul McGann finally settling into the role of the Doctor. However, of the other characters, only Michelle Livingstone as Deeva is particularly noteworthy. I feel more overt hints of Grash's identity should have been made, though.

As usual, the audio design of this story is quite good. The atmosphere in this story is quite good, with interesting, albeit a tad too cheesy electronic music at times, and some good sound effects. The Cyber voices are pretty damn good, sounding like the versions used in the 80s.

Sword of Orion is a rather average story, but not too bad one. A pity, but it goes to show that even fan-made unofficial ones aren't bad ones.


SCORE: 8.5/10

The next story will be Zagreus...


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23 Feb 2013, 7:35 am

REVIEW: Zagreus by Alan Barnes and Gary Russell

SERIAL:
8L, 3X75 minute episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No

For the 40th anniversary of the series, Big Finish decided to release something very special. One that would reunite all the actors playing the Doctor for Big Finish, as well as many companions as they could find roles for. For such a story, they needed something really special, something that would completely resolve the story that had been running throughout the Eighth Doctor stories.

In order to save the universe, the Doctor has materialised his TARDIS around a bomb of anti-time. While Charley's paradoxical existence has been resolved, the Doctor has been infected with anti-time, becoming an ancient demon from Gallifreyan nursery rhyme, Zagreus. Charley, attacked by the Doctor, flees, and is guided by the TARDIS, in the form of the Brigadier, through a series of historical simulations. There, she sees how beings from another timeline, the Divergence, threaten the universe, having been imprisoned by Gallifreyan founder Rassilon to prevent them from being a threat to Time Lord society. But Rassilon has his own agenda in mind, as does the TARDIS. What links Reverend Townsend, Provost Tepesh, and Walter Winkle to the Doctor? Can the Doctor ever free himself from the influence of Zagreus? Or will he fall victim to Rassilon's machinations?

This story is an epic, with elements of a pantomime in many regards, but a wonderful epic storyline. Although one needs to know a little of the story that immediately preceded it, enough of a preview is given at the start of the first episode that one can follow the story. It takes cues from the Alice stories. To talk much about what makes this story excellent is to spoil too much, unfortunately, but it fills its admittedly long running time marvellously.

The actors playing the Doctors all have roles that diverge from their characters as the Doctor, and clearly enjoy themselves doing it, even if they do also become the Doctor again at certain points. And India Fisher as Charley gets a meaty part to play, as does Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier/TARDIS avatar and Don Warrington as a very dark Rassilon. To list all the performances are good, but there are some surprising playing against type, just like the Doctor actors.

As usual, the sound design is excellent, and epic in nature, befitting the story. Music has a cinematic nature, and there's some nice musical cues that reflect The Five Doctors. Excellent sound effects too, although the Zagreus voice effect seems to be inconsistently used. And the effect of the Third Doctor/TARDIS messages is hard to hear at times for the audience, though whether this is due to the demands of the story or else the source material (the audio is taken from recordings for the fan film Devious) or even both is unclear. Even so, this does very little to mar a virtually perfect story.

Zagreus is a virtually perfect epic. It is a grandiose love song to the series, and should be high in the priorities of any Doctor Who fan interested in the Big Finish stories...


SCORE: 10/10

The next story will be Terror Firma...


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28 Feb 2013, 5:18 am

REVIEW: Terror Firma by Joseph Lidster

SERIAL:
8W, 4X25 minute episodes

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: Yes


The first Eighth Doctor story I ever listened to was on the Davros boxset. Terror Firma marked the beginning of a new era for the Doctor as one story arc ended, and another began. Even so, would it turn out well?

Having escaped the Divergent Universe, the Doctor, Charley, and C'rizz find themselves confronted by none other than Davros. Charley and C'rizz escape, with an increasingly unstable C'rizz falling in with the strangely inhuman Gemma, and Charley coming across a party held by Harriet Griffin, whose son, Sam, is suffering from voices and flashbacks to the past, and in denial about his missing sister. Davros seems to be literally of two minds, with the part that is Davros desperate to die, and the Emperor, who wants to conquer and destroy. And Davros has taken over the Earth, to take revenge on the Doctor. What connection does Gemma and Samson have to the Doctor's past? Will C'rizz succumb to the manipulation of Gemma? And can Davros force the Doctor over the edge of despair?

This is an interesting story, with Davros gone completely insane, and with some interesting twists and turns. Part of the story relies on knowing what went on before, especially the events of Storm Warning, as well as elements of the Divergent Universe stories, and the end. But it's an excellent story about despair and destiny, particularly for the Doctor, his companions, and Davros.

Paul McGann as the Doctor is pretty damn good, while Conrad Westmaas as C'rizz gets some meaty stuff to get his teeth into, and India Fisher is good as Charley. Terry Molloy gets to do a lot as both an unstable, pathetic Davros, and the strident, hammy Emperor. The other characters are fine enough, save for Julia Deakin as Harriet, who is irritating in the extreme, even when she shows her true colours.

The sound design, as usual, is pretty damn good. There are a few times when the dialogue just doesn't quite sound audible, and I wish there was a little more atmosphere. Even so, it is, as usual, a stellar example of the audio dramas Big Finish puts out.

Terror Firma is a pretty damn good story. Nice and good, not perfect, and a decent Dalek/Davros story.


SCORE: 9/10

The next story will be UNIT: The Coup...


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07 Mar 2013, 9:16 pm

Actually, I may leave off reviewing the remaining stories until I get more. :?


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25 Apr 2013, 5:41 am

Okay, I've got a bunch of stories now. When I will listen to them and review them, I dunno, but it probably will be soon. They are, in order...

The Elite

The Butcher of Brisbane

The Wrong Doctors

The One Doctor

Earth Aid

Night Thoughts

The Magic Mousetrap

Love and War

Max Warp

Dark Eyes


and the Doctor Who Unbound story Sympathy for the Devil.

I hope to listen to and review UNIT: The Coup, Bernice Summerfield: Silver Lining, I, Davros and The Davros Mission as well.


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